Tag Archives: Photography

Scenes from a Bahrain Sunday

I have clambered out from beneath a mountain of report writing, exam marking and planning. And now “hello fresh air!” I have a whole week off to breathe.

The winds have been wild; sandstorms blew sand from furthest Arabia into every corner, crevice, nook and cranny. We are sweeping sand and dust away and with it the cold wintery air. I heard from a wise man that the winds signal change and that a new season is around the corner.

I got a bit down, doldrum like. Bahrain was feeling small, dusty, dry and too quiet. I was dreaming of my perfect Sunday; a walk in a frosty park over leaves that used to crunch and past skeleton trees mourning their leaves; of a warm coffee shop with muffled chatter and a book shop with tables piled high, the smell of invited hope and paper. I was dreaming of a friend and a hot pot of tea. A week of time stretches before me and it winks at me with space and possibility. I am strange, alone in my house rather than at my desk, with peace and quiet rather than a classroom that twitters with teens. It tastes bitter sweet to have this time; like a dipped toe in a another’s life. I wish to spend it with friends who pop round for coffees and catch up but they are an ocean away.

So as always, to shake off the cobwebs I went out to find the pretty. Yes the grass is always greener, isn’t it? I know that the walk in the London park would be too cold, the friends would be busy, the books too expensive, the gallery closed. Princess told me, with all her wisdom, that we need to be happy with what we have. Thanks to The Prophet’s Birthday we all had a bonus Sunday off so we headed off to see something different.

Here then are my weekend moments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Bahrain, Finding the Pretty, When the rose tint fades

A trip around the corner, and back in time.

The weekend was busy and involved a fair amount of ferrying children from one place to another. Thursday night, normally reserved for a definite couch slouch, found us hosting a casual dinner party with candles and after dinner drinks in the garden that went on way too late. The moon was winking when I went to bed, ” you need to wake up early, tomorrow” it sniggered as I plunged head first into my duvet. Friday morning Trooper had her Duke of Edinburgh ( bronze) practice hike. This involved 70 teenagers let loose in the desert with a map and a packet of crisps. She needed to be delivered to school at 6.30 am. Initially I had optimistic ideas of an early morning walk, an efficient run around a grocery store and back home for coffee all by 9am. Obviously, considering the too late to bed thing, this was not to be. By 3 pm, having woken from a brief nap I had the feeling I was wasting my day and needed a jolt to bring me back to life.

“Let’s go somewhere we have never been before” I suggested. I am tired of the same tried and true arteries I drive up and down all week, rarely venturing off my beaten and safe path.

So we did.

We found an ancient Portuguese Fort that I see in the distance when I am on one of my safe highways, but had never visited. It was close enough to be there and back in an hour but far enough to feel I had stepped back in time and seen a different corner of Bahrain.

And we were there in time to catch the sunset.

It is important to sometimes take the other road, the one you always wanted to see but never found the time. Maybe right around the corner is a slice of magic and you never knew.

 

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Oman in Photographs

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Filed under Photography, Travel

Oman and desert nights

The Desert. Oh Arabian Nights!

I wanted the real desert, not the desert of oil pipe lines and gas flares. I wanted golden dunes and mysterious silence, camels and glamorous bedouin tents, not the scrubby rolled stone and boiled sand that makes up our tatty desert. No, I wanted the desert of Lawrence of Arabia.

And I found it. It didn’t come cheap, but we stayed at Desert Nights Camp and it was an experience to remember. The road getting there was a little hairy, especially in a low, basic Yaris but I take my hat off to Toyota, because even with all the sand we collected under that car it still ran on and on and got us there and back without a hitch.

The camp is in the middle of nowhere. Literally. It is only 11 km from the nearest village but it might as well be on the moon for the desolate silence, the soft footed and gormless camels, the dramatic stars and the dune scape. Within minutes of arriving both girls were up a dune and running down as fast as they could. A little later we were driven up a mountainous dune for the sunset and we all ran back to camp giggling and feeling the fun and freedom of running over a mountain of sand. Handsome and Trooper Sand boarded the next morning ( think snow board, then think sand) and all three of them took a hair raising excursion on an ATV for an hour. There was a short camel ride, tea and dates in the shade, a game of cards outside by the fire, shisha under the stars, wrapped up in a warm shawl.

It took my breath away.

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Oman: land of contrasts and magic

Oman is a country of contrasts. Muscat runs like a sliver along the coast, ancient forts and highways, palm tree dotted roads, decorated roundabouts and shiny sky scrapers; blue tiled mosques, a winding labringth of a souk and five star hotels all face a lapis sea. Behind this sliver lies a majestic and imposing mountain range, brown in some lights, red or grey in others, barren rock that winks at the sun. And if you take a road that cuts like a glaring wound through the mountains you will arrive at a desert the likes of which only live in the Arabia of legends. An infinite and harsh landscape of undulating dunes, as high as mountains that stretch on and on ad-infinitum, like rolling ski hills with no snow. And the sand is red, gold, thick with gold dust; footsteps are erased minutes after we walk, as if we had never existed. And then back through the rock, sharp gashes through stone until, once again we spy the sea, glinting in the sun.

Deep in the mountain ranges of Oman live tiny villages with communities of people who walk for hours with a donkey to get supplies and news of the world. There is a first world that hold hands with the third here, and a modern land that holds history in its palm. It is a place with ancient traditions and a time line that stretches back to the days of slave trade and a port that saw people come and go from Iran and India to the eastern coast of Africa. There are windows that I saw in the island of Lamu, off the coast of Kenya and faces that I knew had the Indian sub continent in their past.

We spent 5 days in Oman, four nights in Muscat and one in the desert, also known as the Wahiba Sands.  Hotels are pricey in Oman, especially as there is a general refusal to put a family of four in one room, demanding that we get two. So the likes of the splendid Chedi and Al Bustan were out but we decided to stay at the Intercontinental who were very accommodating in giving us a room with two Queen Beds. Or so we thought. Turns out there was an entire Italian Opera company staying at the hotel at the same time as us; the brand spanking new Oman Opera House had invited them to perform Carmen ( although not a ticket could be had for love or money.) So the Italians filled the hotel to the brim and had taken every last room. Oh what is a family to do? The hotel kindly popped us into the Royal Suite, complete with a living room, dining room, kitchen, three TVs and three bathrooms.

So between living like Kings and hearing the bellowing voice of a practicing Tenor down the hall, sharing a line for the breakfast cappuccino machine with loud Italians still wearing traces of theatrical makeup from the previous night’s Opera, and walking on the beach with the sharp and powerful mountain range behind, we felt we were in a story book.

Oman is like that. Stories swirl in the air, between the tiny walls of the souk and the camel’s tread in the desert, or the echo of a cave in a Wadi, it is a place that leaves its magic hanging, long after you leave.

Particularly if you purchase Frankincense and one of the lovely burners that are sold in the Souk. Frankincense and its accompanying cloud of fragrant smoke is the scent of Oman, and now we have it at home, for with a strike of a match and a magic bean of the golden stone, we too can remember some of the magic.

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Velvet and chocolate

I miss Europe. The ‘other’ world, Third, Second, Developing, what ever you want to call it doesn’t always fit so well. And of course it is that unease, that ill fitting life that makes me wide eyed ( though not so bushy tailed) most of the time. We grow by leaping, or falling, through the hoops out of our comfort zone. But every now and then, I long for the Great Shiny West. And it is not all about shiny shoe shops and the perfect cappucino, nor is it a longing only for order and tameness. No. I think it is a yearning for a beauty that feels familiar.

I come from both a literature and history of art background. So keep me a way from a museum, a film house, a gallery or a good second hand book shop for too long and I start to show symptoms. Like wise I need interesting architecture, a sense of history that seeps out of bricks and monuments, alley ways and cobbled roads. Like a nun who I presume does not miss sex, having never had it, I am fine for a while without it. But then I get a taste for it, as I did in Berlin and I am all lust filled once again, with nothing to press against a wall.

So I turn and look around  for a different beauty to satisfy me.

I found a cafe that is a delicious cross between Toulouse Lutrec Paris and Arabia.  It’s all velvet and tinkling crystal and chocolate.

It helps.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West, personal, Photography

Last look at Berlin

We stumbled across the most extraordinary jumble sale/rummage sale/garage sale while lost some where in the East. We saw two mannequins propped against a most gracious old building. They looked as if they had been tossed off the set of a horror movie and indeed their pasts turned out to have been equally dramatic. Turns out we had walked into the sale of the Opera House. Sets including fabulous chandeliers, fake harps, velvet chaise longues and even a large ship were for sale alongside lace, tuile and chiffon ball dresses. They entire sale was housed in a slightly crumbling but romantic space complete with spiral staircase, velvet rouched curtain and yellow walls. It was like walking into a Lars Von Trier meets Versailles set.  In my mind it summed up Berlin. Under the skin of practicality and organized decorum lies an artistic soul that burns and trembles. I wondered if it was because of or despite the fanatical order that such creativity is allowed to ferment.

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Filed under Great Big Shiny West