[Picture of Kuwait University Students: 1960's (black and white) vs Present (colour)]
Recently, as part of research for my short story, I've talked a lot with the older generation about how life was back when they were growing up in Kuwait. This picture (taken during the golden years of Kuwait) reminded me of their stories and made me feel nostalgic for the Kuwait of the '60s - even though I was born in the '70s... Read post in Google+
[Photo - Darkness on Stairs]
I can't bring myself to delete this picture from my phone. The staircase is that of a building in St Gallen, Switzerland, where a friend of mine lives. The building is one of those old elegant European buildings. There are four or five floors - one (sometimes two) apartment to each floor - and one small window on the ceiling to light up the staircase. My friend lives on the top floor where everything is well lit. Things, however, get darker as you walk down the stairs... Read post in Google+
[Photo - Serious Man on The Wall of China]
Here's a picture from when I went to China in 2005. For those of you who think I'm a serious man - think again. Read post in Google+
A friend of mine sent this incredible photo and claims it's of a place in Norway. Can anyone confirm? I'd really like to know where this picture was taken.
Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, aka Le Corbusier, was 'an architect, designer, urbanist,and writer, famous for being one of the pioneers of what is now called modern architecture.' (Wikipedia, May 17 2012).
I went to visit his grave today (see picture) at the cemetery in Roquebrune, a small medieval village in France perched up on a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. The view from the cemetery was spectacular, the water was deep blue and, in the distance, massive cruise liners docked at the bay in Monaco. Check out the sign on the cemetery gates. I can't figure out what it means...
Although I knew that Le Corbusier is buried here I was surprised to learn that Coco Channel owned a villa nearby and that even Winston Churchill used to stay in that same villa!! Read post in Google+
[Photo of the Historical Part of Zurich, Switzerland]
This is a picture I've taken recently when I traveled in Switzerland. The historical part of Zurich is very atmospheric and lively with its cafes, restaurants, bars, interesting stores and art galleries. I could easily see myself staying there over a holiday, scribbling down ideas for stories as I cafe-hop and take lengthy walks in parks and along the city's lake. If only Zurich wasn't so bloody expensive...
I'm preparing an album of photos I've taken while I traveled in Switzerland. Will share when its ready. Read post in Google+
['Arabified' Business Names]
When foreign commercial businesses open in Kuwait their name is usually 'Arabified' and displayed alongside their original name. For example, the sign for the British retailer Marks & Spencer displays 'Marks & Spencer' along with its Arabic version. Both are pronounced the same (more or less).
Sometimes, though, the Arabified version of a business name is hilarious. A few examples:
(1) The French restaurant Paul. It's one of my favourite places for French pastries and coffee, but the Arabic version of Paul is equivalent to urine. Not a pleasant thought when you're there drinking coffee...
(2) The British retailer BHS. The Arabic alphabet has the equivalent for B and S. The nearest letter there is to H is one pronounced 'CH', as in church. Put those letters together and you get BCHS. I leave it to your imagination to read it the way I hear it ;)
I saved the best for last. Attached to this post is a picture I've taken in Austria while on my ski trip. Next to the yellow 'Post' sign is one that reads 'Bawag'. It's the sign for a bank in Austria. The word Bawag exists in Arabic - it means 'crook.' Need I do more than point out the role that banks played in the world's current economic situation? I was howling with laughter in the middle of the street...
The preferred type of vehicles in Kuwait is an SUV. You'll see plenty of saloon cars (Nissan Sentra, Toyota Camry and the like), but gas guzzlers abound, as well as sport and luxury cars. These days, though, another type of car has emerged: the gentrified London cab! These are typically black (see picture). Apparently, the gentrified cab is available to the public for purchase, but it's also used by a high end cab company in the country.
I took the picture of the burgundy colored London cab this morning (sunday morning) on my way to work (our weekend is on Friday and Saturday) . It was an awfully dusty day... Read post in Google+
[Bosnia and Herzegovina: 20 Years After the War]
There have been a lot of articles this month on the Bosnian war and the siege of Sarajevo by Serbian forces from 1992-1995. I didn't read any of the articles, but their headline made me think back on when I visited Bosnia in the winter of 2010. The picture attached to this post is of the old town in Sarajevo – a very atmospheric part of town in its Ottoman style and, literally, the city’s beating heart.
Bosnia was one of the best surprises during my eight-month journey across Eastern Europe. It’s a gorgeous country with very welcoming people. Sadly, one can’t mention Bosnia without its terrible past, which looms over the country and covers it in shadow. One doesn’t have to go far to see the legacy of this history – head out of the capital Sarajevo and you’ll see desolate villages and come across towns like Srebrenica that, if you didn’t know any better, make you think the war just ended the day before. Actually, one doesn’t have to travel that far – the capital itself is divided in two: one part is governed by the Federation of Bosnia (the main political entity in the country) while the other by Republika Srpska (the second main political entity in the country). Although there’s no official border to mark this split, you can easily tell which part of Sarajevo you’re in by looking at the streets signs: if the signs are written in the Cyrillic alphabet, then you’re in Republika Srpska; if the signs are in the Latin alphabet, then you’re in the Federation of Bosnia. It’s a tragic state of affairs that has left a profound mark on people. While travelling in Bosnia I came across a university student studying to become a primary school teacher; an imam – a mosque’s worship leader – that looks like a rock star (with shades, neatly trimmed thin beard, jeans, sports jacket and cigarette in hand!); and a human trafficker who left during the war, got imprisoned in France and eventually deported back to Bosnia for his illegal activities. Their stories are all profound and give shape to the country’s struggle to get back on its feet.
Despite the country’s troubles, it is a fascinating place to visit. The country has a fascinating history that stretches from the medieval ages, to Ottoman rule, to Austro-Hungarian rule and Yugoslavian control. Of the cities I visited in Bosnia, Sarajevo is by far the most charming. Although it looks a bit backwater, there’s an incredible energy in that city and an unusual romanticism. It’s the only city where I’ve seen a cathedral, a synagogue and mosque all next to each other on the same street. Boxy Ottoman houses give way to elegant Austro-Hungarian buildings followed by cold Soviet style towers. On top of that, Bosnians (the ones I met, at least), despite their economic difficulties, have a great sense of humour! More so, they party hard - like there’s no tomorrow… Read post in Google+
[Photo: Rainy day in London]
Ahh... London. Arrived yesterday and the weather is just as it should be: cool, cloudy and rainy. A nice change from the sun and heat of the desert... Read post in Google+
[History Thursday - The Hill of Crosses]
This mystical sight is near the city of Šiauliai, in the north of Lithuania. It is self-explanatory: it's just a hill covered with crosses. But what I found fascinating is its history, namely how its purpose changed over the course of time. I visited the Hill in September of 2010. The description below is largely taken from an article I've written on the site.
Although it isn't known exactly when the practice of planting crosses on the hill first started and why on that particular hill, it is believed that Lithuanians started the practice out of religious reasons and sometime during the 18th century. The political climate then changed - in the late 18th century Lithuania became part of the Russian Empire and crosses were put up on the hill in remembrance of those who lost their lives fighting for independence. Lithuanians eventually won their independence, but lost it again - first to the Germans during WWII then to the USSR in 1944. During Soviet occupation, from 1944-1990, crosses were planted on the hill as a sign of national identity and protest against Soviet occupation. The Soviets, intending to strike a psychological blow, bulldozed the hill, but Lithuanians kept coming back and and planted even more crosses! The Soviets were eventually shown the door, the crosses remained.
According to Wikipedia the number of crosses was estimated at 55,000 in the year 1990. There probably are over hundreds of thousands of them by now. After walking up all around and all over the Hill I sat down on a nearby bench to eat the sandwich I prepared for this trip. The sky was a lazy blue and the soft chime of metal rang in the air from small crosses ruffled by a breeze. Around the statue of Christ, at the foot of the hill, was a small Polish congregation that quietly recited what sounded like a liturgy. There were a few others around the Hill - elderly people. Some standing alone while others with their significant other. All of them looked pensively at the confusion of crosses, listening to the soft chime in the air and remembering.
[Classic cars, English double decker bus & odd bikes]
What a surprise - today there was an exhibition of classic cars and motorcycles in Kuwait. The exhibition took place at a marina lined with cafes and restaurants. It's a very popular place among locals and expats. Today the marina was even more busy than usual because of the bikers that came from all over the Middle East.
Here are a few pictures I've taken of classic cars and some strange looking bikes at the exhibition.