Sunday, February 28, 2010

Down on the docks on Deira Creek in Dubai

The guys working on the docks loading the massive wooden dhows with goods bound for Iran, across the Gulf, across to Pakistan and India and down the African coast to Somalia, Kenya and Zanzibar and even further afield, are loaded by migrant workers who mostly come from Pakistan. Many of them seem top come from a particular city beginning with an 'M' , the name of which I will try to remember (Seems to be Mardan!).

They are mostly very busy guys, not given to sitting around and having their photos taken by a western European but every now and then they were happy to stop and pose. I have quite a few more to post in the coming days.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Gathering the dried fish

Gathering the dried fish, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Just behind the massive complex of the Fujairah oil storage and shipment depot, there is a patch of flat land, on which small fish are laid out to dry in the sun. They are later gathered by teams of people from India (mostly from Kerala) who sweep them up and put them into white plastic bags for collection by the traders.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Bangladesh Cricket Club, Fujairah

I came across this cricket game when driving into the city of Fujairah. The pitch was dirt, but a full size and had been measured up for Twenty20. I made a U-turn with the car, as you can in UAE but by the time I was back, the pitch was empty. As it happened, the one innings had finished. I got talking to the chap in the photo below, the umpire as well as the one here in blue. Before the team took to the field, it was suggested that I take this team photo, which I did willingly.

This teaqm, the Bangladesh Cricket Club of Fujairah had scored a respectable 152 in the twenty overs and had to defend this total against the Indian Social Club of Fujairah. They didn't start too well as there were about 12 runs scored off the first over. After about ten overs I went off to try to get the photo developed and, sure enough, found a place which could print them within five minutes. I arrived back with two overs to go and about 15 runs to be scored. They got a wicket with the first ball and about three more in the last two overs. About three runs were needed off the last ball to draw, but they scored just the one, giving the BCC their first win of the season.

There not being too many British guys turning up to watch their matches, and still fewer giving the team a team photo, I was looked upon as their lukcy mascot and was allowed to give the man-of-the-match award (an old bottle of aftershave and a cup) to the chap second from right in the first row, who had put in a wonderful bowling performance.

A very rewarding way to spend the end of an afternoon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The two adidas 'boys'

The two adidas 'boys', originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is me with Ahmed, who looked after me so well during my time in Jeddah, showing me the city in which he lives and joining me on my expeditions to the Old Town, a place he had not been to before. Apparently,for most people, if you live in Jeddah, the Old Town is seen as a place to avoid, but Ahmed enjoyed meeting the Somalis and Yemenis as much as I did!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Janko Tipsarevic's best lucky charm is...

… Is me!

I skipped off the last half hour of work today as I had just clicked onto the website of the Dubai Tennis Championships and noticed that Janko Tipsarevic was playing his first round match and was due to play later on the same court in the doubles after another doubles match with Novac Djokovic. I remembered this chap doing very well three years ago at Wimbledon against Roger Federer. Moreover, the website said that the tickets for the rest of the tournament were sold out.

Within half an hour, I was there and managed very luckily to get my hands on a ticket. It had been sold out today but a man was trying to get rid of his ticket as his wife couldn't make it, so my luck was in.

I arrived with Tipsarevic 4-5 with serve against in the second set, one set up. After I arrived he won almost every single point to take the second set 7-5 and it was over in 15 minutes. It was amazing to be so close (front row) to professional tennis players hitting the ball so fast, just over the net, putting spin and different bounces on the ball. It looks good on TV but live it is even more amazing.

Next stop was Center Court where I saw Nikolai Davydenko and he won 7 of the last 8 games to take the second and third sets. Amazingly fast he was.

Then I had the incident with the missing Blackberry but recovered it after a while and watched the first set of Lladro against Tsonga which went to a tie break, which Tsonga just won. Lladro, who had just won the singles and the doubles in Marseille two days before retired immediately, which was a pity as it was a close match.

The it was back to Court One, where Tipsarevic and his Serbian partner Victor Troicki were 6-6 against their French opponents when I arrived. Tie break, which the Serbians almost immediately won, before storming to win the final set 6-0, making it 10 games to 0 which I had seen Tipsarevic win in one evening!

The Serbians in the crowd were vocal and funny and very happy to see their men through - and it has to be said, the Serbian men tennis players are far more handsome than the women tennis players are pretty!

I am liking Dubai more but I cannot hate the hotel more than I do already. I spent an hour in my room looking for my passport, which turned out had been held by reception for ‘scanning’ purposes (it was 3 am when I arrived and I could not remember..). Unbelievable!

Now I cannot even post this frigging blog – ‘requested URL is not supported’.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fuad on Rakan

Fuad on Rakan, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Fuad is from Yemen and is one of many renting out horses to visitors for a quite walk or trot or even canter along the beach at 10 riyals a go (about 2 euros)

Fridays are quiet. People go to the Mosque and tend to sleep the rest of the morning. Life outside gets going in the afternoons. We spent Friday afternoon on the Corniche (all seafronts in the Middle East seem to be called Corniche), and also havinga delcious fish dinner at a beachside restaurant.

The grey sandy beach is very busy, cars and SUVs parked next to the sea shore, families picnicking on the beach for the promenade, children playing on swings and slides, people renting horses out for a ride as well as fast and furious dune buggies, being rented out to the smallest of children. All very lively and colourful.

Saudi Arabia was great, now in Dubai, which blocks flickr...

Saudi Arabia has the name for being conservative and all-controlling, while Dubai is full of Russian prostitutes and European women showing off their breasts and their legs... yet... access to flickr is perfectly tolerated in Saudi Arabia, in Dubai it is blocked. I have been to very many countries and have never had my access to flickr blocked. Not even at work!!!

This was me in the Old Town of Jeddah, trying on the local Saudi gear, although the salesman, next to me comes from Yemen.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Four Somalis in Old Jeddah

Four Somalis in Old Jeddah, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It seems as if I am known in Old Jeddah as 'Hargeisa', being the only Somali from Hargeisa in the city!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Somali women in Old Jeddah

Somali woamen in Old Jeddah, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Like the charming area around Sultanahmet in Istanbul, the Old City in Jeddah has been largely abandoned by its original inhabitants who have moved into modern apartments, with more space and better sanitation.

The area is now home to many poor Somalis who have come to Saudi Arabia, fleeing the civil war and never-rnding violence in their own country..

They women mostly dress in black, but the stall sellers tend to wear more colourful clothes.

We spoke to quite a few Somalis (mostly the young men) and they tended to come either from Baidoa or Mogadishu. We did not meet anyone from Somaliland, where I was born and they took a bit of convincing when I told them that I am also a Somali, with my white skin!

P.S. It turns out that this woman is probably from Nigeria!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

With the friendly Yemeni guys in Jeddah

In a country where you never hear music, they got these instruments out of their wrappers, tightened the strings and started playing for me.

Yemenis really are so friendly and fun!

I wil be presenting my fellow Somalis later but I thought I would start with these happy people! Jeddah is great!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Charles by my eyes

Charles by my eyes , originally uploaded by cin2011.

When I was planning my trip to Saudi Arabia, I had two flickr friends in Saudi Arabia, obne here in Jeddah and the other I knew not where, so I sent an e-mail to tell him I was coming to KSA and where does he live? Well, it turned out that he lived in Al Khobar, which just happens to be the city where our main office is located!!!

I spent two days in Al Khobar, up on the north coast, near all the oil wells and next to Bahrain. I was surprised both evenings to receive a telephone call at about 9 pm and it was my friend! He had texted me but I never received any of his texts!

The first evening we sat outside the hotel, where I was half-freezing in just my shirt, the second was spent in the Arashid Shpping Mall - quite an experience bto see all teh Saudis in such a modern setting.

My friend, Usman turned out to be excellent company, very well spoken with lots of humourpus stories to tell, many about life in The Kingdom. After our meal - I had Iranian he had Chinese, we went out and took some photos of each other. I will upload a couple later on.

Anyway, this is another opportunity to thank Usman for his wonderful company and friendship and I hope we will see each other again, inshallah.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Multiracial Saudi Arabia

Multiracial Saudi Arabia, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I was very very lucky to meet a dear flickr friend here in Al Khobar this evening. I will nto mention his name but wil say he is half-Afghan, half-Kurdish and was brought up in Pakistan and has been living here for a number of years. I was already in bed, when the telephone went to say he was down in reception and, five minutes later, I was there too. Great to see in real life a face only revealed through photos on flickr, in a plave as seemingly remote as Al Khobar!

He wanted to sit outside to chat, even though it is quite cool this evening (as my father said it would be at this time of the year) and a couple of hours later we were still chatting until I said it was time for bed (well, I think both of us were pretty frozen by then). Can't go into too many details but he spoke about his incredible life and what it is like to live in Saudi Arabia as well as giving insights to how it is for foreigners living in this country as well as some of the things the Saudis themselves get up to.

One nice joke they say about the Saudis is that the first thing a baby says to his mother is 'where are my car keys?', which may only seem funny when you have actually been here and seen how young some of the drivers are and seen how crazy many/most of them are!

Anyway, it was a lovely way to end a day which had had me get up very early to catch a taxi for the 400 km trip across the desert from Riyadh to Al Khobar, where our main office is. I had hoped we could stop at teh camel market to give away some of the photos I had printed but there was a bit of a language barrier and it didn't happen. As it was, I slept most of teh way in the back of the massive car which was driving at 150km down the 6 lane motorway on petrol which costs about 7 eurocents a liter!

Had to work at the end of the journey too, before being taken out by a couple of Indian coleagues to an Indian restaurant.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine's Day, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here is a photo of a remarkably beautiful Egyptian man at the camel market - whose name I cannot remember. He again had beautiful eyes, his pose resembling that of a heart, for Valentine's Day.

At the fruit wholesale market in Riyadh

Just lost the comment which I had written, so I will try again:

I was saying that I had been trying to get a photo of the chap in the middle (and I am sorry but I cannot remember your name) by himself but every time we had the shot set up, his friends would have gathered around, like this.

Anyway, thsi was at the wholesale fruit and vegetable market in the south of Riyadh, not our original destination which had been the ruins of the old city. However, when we got teher we saw taht there was a lot of rennovation work going on and it turned out to be closed, which was disappointing. Well, it was only a bunch of stones and bricks and sand, with soem date palms. Coming to this market was a lot more fun.

Not when we arrived there as it turned out to be deserted, just a few kids kicking a football around. Another disappointment?

No, they were all at the mosque (just as they had been when I was taken out for lunch at an Indian place by my colleague) and soon enough they were out and the place was almost bustling. Fortunately not bustling enough for pepole to get interested in our cameras and be photographed.

After an hour or so, we left with bags full of tangerines and shiny apples, sugar cane pieces and two half kilo bags of dates, none of which we had asked for or were allowed to pay for.

I much prefer this side of the city than the northern part where I am staying, the area of tall buildings, big fast cars, wide roads, drive-in malls and business districts and it was good to get into the vibe of the city.

After this we went a bit closer to the centre to an area full of little shops, alleyways, markets and so on, an area full of a mix of people from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Yemen, India, Bangladesh, Somalia, Sudan, Central Asia and China. Wonderful!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

At the camel market in Riyadh

At the camel market in Riyadh, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This is my first time in KSA (The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia). I am here for work and I am here only for a week but I hope to be out and about as much as I can with my camera. After a light morning's work, I went out with a taxi and a new Italian friend and we headed off to the Souk Gemal, camel market. Really, the BIGGEST market I have ever seen, soread out over miles and miles,. Big animals, camels. I tried to get up onto this one, but no-one could understand that I need a leg up (not as supple as I used to be) so every time I tried to get on the camel was already on his way up. Oh well, at least, I managed to get this photo out of it.

I am staying in Riyadh, which, to be honest, doesn't seem to be my kind of city, with its big roads, drive-in restaurants and shopping malls. It probably has it's charms and I have only bene here a day.

Off now to look for either a Somali or Yemeni restaurant.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Amongst the meat racks

Amongst the meat racks, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

This chap, photographed in Damascus, near the meat market, has a smile which reminds me a lot fo Roger Federer (as had the receptionist at the hotel I stayed at last week in Poland).

I am on my way now to Riyadh in Saudi Arbia, stopping off to change planes in Paris. Just like in Amsterdam, the sun is shing and it is about minus 5 degrees outside. Perfec t winter weather. In Riyadh, on the other hand, things are warming up and it could be 30 degrees warmer. This is why I left my wonter coat in the lockers at Schiphol, for Fred to pick up on the way back from school on Monday.

Anyway, we will be hearing a lot about Riyadh and Saudi Arabia in the next days (I hope). Just to say now that I will go going the following week to Dubai where I will be able to visit the new Meydan racecourse - big race on 25th February. But alos, there is teh Dubai Tennis Championships, where Roger Federer is expected to play, along with Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Nikolay Davydenko and Andy Roddick. I hope I will be able to get tickets to see at least some of these great tennis players!

But first, I have a plane to catch....

Five reasons not to vote for the Christian (Democratic) Party

Check out my drums, originally uploaded by steblina.

We have council elections coming up next month and we are starting to receive leaflets from the political parties, yesterday from the SDA (Christian Democratic Party). They gave us five reason supposedly to vote for them, and they are immediately five (or four) reasons NO to vote for them:

1 Safety: the ABSOLUTE priority

Sounds like a right-wing loony party from the 1970's - safety is important, but hardly the MOST important thing.

2 Livaeble city

They want to destroy all street art

3 Hospitable scity

They want to encourage cars to coem into teh city and reduce partking tariffs

4 Itegration

An excuse for Islam-bashing

5 Decent local government

They don't want to spend any money

Not a lot there for me and, to be honest, I would never look to that slippery party for anything anyway.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Colour in Agordat

Colour in Agordat, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

After having my tooth seen to on Tuesday, I went to the mouth hygienist yesterday to have the plaque removed and the teeth polished.

I asked the lady who did my teeth where she was from and she said Eritrea (which I had already guessed) and she then told me she was from Agordat - which is a place we had visited five years ago - as she had! I told her about the nightmares with the buses and lack of petrol and she remembered, saying it WAS very bad then. Much better now, it seems. Maybe with money from a friendly terrorist state? Hmmm...

And, now I have my visa. I will be flying to the country on the other side of the Red Sea tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

At the farmyard - a magnificent turkey cock

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Lesbian fairytale

Ivy, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

No idea why I am uploading this photo today, but it was a nice reminder of last year's winter when it was also cold, but slightly more freindly than this winter.

Very cold again today as I cycled to Amstelveen to go to the dentist who seems to have fixed my troublesome tooth. A filling had fallen out and created a whole. Food had become trapped in there and had created irritation on my gums, which has led to the toothache I have ben suffering from the last coupel of months. He fixed the filling, so I am hoping that the toothache is also fixed, of not, it must be something else.

So, by not going to the office (and working at home instead), I avoided going to tgeh office by trarin and a good thing too! Apparently, some 'confused' man was seen at Den Bosch station calling out that he loved God and hated al-Qaeda and, by the way, had left a bomb at the station. The station was immediately closed and all rail traffic through the centre of Holland was delayed for hours - about seven hours. Sniffer dogs were flown in by helicopter, the whole are was checked, some official spokeswoman from the Dutch Railways confirmed that explosives had been found, the station was cleared, rains cancelled and re-routed and at the end, nothing was found. Thousands of people were delayed (in the freezing cold) and the 'official' confirmation that explosives had been found, turned out to be a lie. And all because of one 'confused' man. Oh oh... At least no-one died.

Later on, they tell us in the new that they want to use helicopters more often to track down people who have broken into someone's house (apparently such crimes have been in the increase recently). The great thing about Holland is that it you do evcentually get prosecuted and sent to prison you are out almost before you have blinked. Maybe it is a sport, like fishing, catching a fish and throwing it back so you can catch it again.

In the meantime, I am just about to watch the end of another BBC lesbian thriller/novel adapation/fairytale which we have on DVD, namely Tipping The Velvet. Nice to be watching something other than the detective DVD's which we watched so much last year.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Time to get back out into the countryside again...

It has been a miserable few days here, mist at the weekend and now ver very cold weather, grey, dry, windy, feeling the coldest it has felt all winter. Biting cold. Some person had taken away my woollen gloves by mistake but anyway, I try not to wrap up too much in order to toughen oneself up, but still it felt like my fingers were going to fall off.

Anyway, today was quite an odd day as I was on a visa trail, which started oiff wioth me receiving an official invitation and had me going to the office to pick up an official letter of guarantee, then go to the Rottedam Chamber of Commerce to have it signed, the rushing back to Amsterdam to get to the visa office before it shut. All well in the end until the chap at the visa office noticed that the invitation had changed from being one to be dealt with by the Embassy in The Hague to London. In the morning it was The Hague and in the late afternoon it was London, someone had changed something.. so with me leaving on Friday we have a bit of a race aganst time to get the visa in place.

I must say that getting the visa is the worst thing about going to Syria. However, having found a local visa office, just about 2 kms from the house, I wonder whether it might have just become a lot easier.

Here is a photo which I have been longing to upload, from our recent trip to Syria. It is a bit similar to other bedouin on donkey photos, taken from teh ground, which I have taken, but I find each of them are fascinating!

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Time for another Orange Revolution?

Ukraine goes to the polls to chose between an ex-criminal/streat-fighter, ex-President and a woman who got herself rich through gas contracts. from what I gather, nobody has any expectation that either of tese two candidates will do anything to help the ordinary Ukrainian. Instead, they will use their position to further their own (or their backers') interests.

This, five years after the Orange Revolution, a revolution which seems to have completely failed. What will it take to change the system there? Will it take a much longer period of time?

Yesterday, we watched the last episode of The Devil's Whore, which followed the fictional story of Angelica Fanshawe during the time of the English Civil War. Here we saw the good King Charles I, a victim of his own time, face civil war and his eventual beheading only to be replaced by Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell, who himself would prove to be as much a tyrant as Charles ever might have been.

It seems as if this is the way the world works, at least in the short term, the benefits of such revolutions often being enjoyed by citizens a couple or more decades or generations from when the events took place. Let's hope that the Ukrainians don't have to wait too long.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Hunks without trunks

Perched on the pier, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Hunks without trunks?

They maybe hunks but they do have trunks!

It seems that looking for 'hunks without trunks' on google images leads you very quickly to this blog, for some reason. It actually links in to a blog from 2006 from a swimwear contest in Bangkok as part of their gay pride celebrations.

So, what else attracts people to this blog? well, that one about Robbie Wiliams being gay is still bringing people in, though less now that Robie is married and is not so popular as he was before. Is Robbie married? Who is Robbie Williams?

And what about Rhianna being lesbian? I don't suppose she would be.

Anyway, we have 'Antonello da Messina' as a perennial favourite, Japanese Bird, footballers, horse mating, itaian people and eritrea as being quite common.

I would have prefererd it to be my wit drawing in the crowds. Anyway, I neglected the blog a bit last year, with the result that my monthly score of visits was down to around 4,500. Good to tell you though that with more effort from my side, we managed to get back up to 6.000 in January for the first time in over a year!

Thank you all very much for looking in and I will try to keep up with my postings.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Forgetting the role of the banks

They not only took risks which almost brought down the workd economic system and threw the world into recession. They not only had to get rescued by the governments around the world. They did not only have to pay themselves massive bonuses all thorugh the period, using money taken from the governements.

But the banks now seem to be having sport by undermining countries one-by-one. Those problems I mentioned about Greece yesterday seem to have been exploited by the banks who are now the ones which are undermining the Greek economic system and speculating against the Greek government bonds in a battle which they will, no doubt, win.

And now it seems they have their eyes set on Portugal and, no doubt, after Portugal, Ireland.

And then they have the cheek to ask why they should not be paid their bonuses. Incredible!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Oh those Greeks!

On the walls of Tirana, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Sorry, but Greece has the dunce's hat at the moment. The country is almost bankrupt, has a massive budgte deficit and is bringing thevalue of the Euro down by the day.

All of a sudden there are a number of articles in the papers talking about the Greek problem. A lot of it seems to be in the mind of the modern Greek, which after the country's freedom from the Ottoman Empire seems to think it is the descendant of the Ancient Greeks.

A lot of attention to the problem which this country has with its neighbours, particularly Macedonia and Cyprus and also Albania (the subject of this photo).

Seeing as the rest of us are going to have to help this troublesome land yet again (on top of all the EU money which has already been spent in structural funds), maybe it will be a good idea to tell Greece that they need to start being kinder to their neighbours and work towards solutions, rather than having a big mouth and creating all sorts of trouble.

I have nothing personally against Greeks, I know some very nice, friendly, outgoing, modern Greeks, but as so often, the government does not represent the country very well. Also, they seem to suffer the most from the rotten system of government in that country. I read that the average family has to pay almost 1,500 euros a year as bribes to government officials to get things done.

Time for change. Let's hope the EU doesn't chicken out like it did recently with those other Balkan countries of Romania and Bulgaria!

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Light coming through the roof

Light coming through the roof, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Back in Amsterdam today, after waking up at 5, catching a plane at 6.40, arriving at 8.30 and getting home at 10, so only five hours, totally relaxed and I had three seats to myself in the plane so I could continue my much needed sleep.

Back home, a busy day of work, which carried on until 8, but not before I got my hands on the new pair of secateurs (the old one seems to be lost) and going outside into the bright (and almost warm) February sunshine to prune the vine. A bit late but better now than in a month when, if the weather improves, the sap might start pulsing through the now-dead shoots.

Also managed to get a haircut with my local Syrian barber (whose name I always forget).

Now watchinh the first instalment of The Devil's Whore, based on the so-called true story of a certain Angelica during the reign of my favourite king, Charles I, of course! Having a telephone pause as an ex-colleague of Fred has phoned, giving me the time for thsi blog.

Why this photo? Well, it was taken during the very mild winter of 2008, on the very same day as today, 3rd February.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Squared-up in Istanbul

Squared-up in Istanbul, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Here is a fun picture from Istanbul, back in September when I spent a weekend there with my sister Fiona. What you cannot quite see is that a lady was holding this vine leaf at the top of the photo in order to tempt the young kid into getting up onto his hind legs. He did, but my camrea was between shots both times, so I missed it. Never mind, the photo looks better now it has been square-croppped.

Monday, February 01, 2010

A wintry night in Warsaw

A wintry night in Warsaw, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

I am back in Warsaw for a couple of days, and three nights, work only, so not much chance to take photos, so I am showing this one from 2008. There is lots of old snow, piled up by the side of the roads and it must be about half a meter thick,.if not more. A bit dirty though.

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