Thursday Doors, 28/9/17. Looking for pots but finding doors…

Hello, I’m back! During a long, hot summer of re-organizing and sorting bits of my life, blogging took a back seat. Just keeping my hand in with a couple of weekly photo challenges, it’s time to drop back into Thursday doors.

I’ve just completed a trip around Oman (again), shell collecting being the reason but along the way, there were always some sidelines during the 4,400 km journey.

Driving back from Muscat to the border crossing at Al Ain on the journey home, I decided to stop again in the town of Bahla to try to find the elusive potteries that I had never found before on my previous visits.

The Muscat to Ibri route, via Nizwa and Bahla, takes you through the Hajar mountains, immersed and dwarfed by spectacular scenery.

I introduced Bahla on one of my previous Monday Window posts in 2016 but, I had no idea then that I hadn’t seen the half of it. ( Feel free to visit the post link to find out more about Bahla and the fort)

Bahla Fort, walls, and plantations…

As we drove into town at mid-day Friday, but also part of a public holiday weekend, I realized the chances of finding an open pottery were very slim. There was no-one around to ask, every establishment was locked up and it was also prayer time.

Closed doors in town… (click on the pictures to enlarge)

No matter, we will return and we decided to try and find it anyway from directions I had picked up online. So we headed into the small streets and around every twist and turn I found an amazing selection of the traditional Omani doors and gates that I so enjoy finding and recording, as in many cases the doors are deteriorating, buildings are slowly crumbling, unrestored and modern doors, whilst decorative, somehow don’t have the same appeal.

We did find the pottery, as anticipated, it was closed. I foresee a spend on my next visit.

Cool places under the Palm trees, a Falaj ( traditional water system) and the pottery, down a little narrow street, but closed…

Rather a lot of doors from Bahla, enjoy… (click on the pictures to enlarge)

After so many doors and no pots, it was time to head home, out of Bahla through the imposing entry and back alongside the Hajar mountains…

Linking with Thursday Doors, hosted by Norm Frampton. Pop on over to see for yourself what other lovely doors have surfaced this week….

 

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Weekly Photo challenge: Layered…

In Oman, you get the chance to see how our Earth is layered and wonder how it happened all those millenniums ago… was it a swirling maelstrom of fire and upheaval? Was it a gradual happening?

Driving through the landscape you ask yourself a lot of questions…. a photo from the incredible road from Hasik to Ash Shuwaymiyyah in the Dhofar region of Southern Oman, layered with strata…

 

Layered

Skywatch Friday, 31/8/17. A Cyprus sunset…

Sunset at Paphos harbor. The oddly shaped silhouettes are part of an installation for Paphos’s hosting of European City of Culture 2017. They are the local school’s creative interpretations of the Lemba lady from the Chalcolithic Period.

Linking with Skywatch Friday

Weekly Photo Challenge: Corner…

On our road travels, I take a lot of photos from the car, sometimes they work, but many times they fail, blur, motion, an unexpected head intruding into the shot and so on… but, on occasions, there are some I keep, just because I like the effect and maybe I can work on it in the future.

This was one I kept.

Racing through Al Ain, in the UAE, trying to get to the border on a Thursday night to beat the weekend visa queue on the Oman border, I snapped out of the car window as we hurtled into the city.

I think it’s a stadium and now I can use this shot for this challenge, we were cornering at high speed!

 

Corner

Thursday Doors, 10/8/17. To Apostolos Andreas Monastery, Cyprus…

 

Cyprus has been a divided island since 15 July 1974 when a coup d’état was staged by Greek Cypriot nationalists and elements of the Greek military junta in an attempt at enosis, the incorporation of Cyprus into Greece.

This action precipitated the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, which led to the capture of the present-day territory of Northern Cyprus the following month after a ceasefire collapsed, and the displacement of over 150,000 Greek Cypriots and 50,000 Turkish Cypriots.

A separate Turkish Cypriot state in the north was established by unilateral declaration in 1983; the move was widely condemned by the international community, with Turkey alone recognizing the new state. These events and the resulting political situation are matters of a continuing dispute.

The Green line divides the North from the South, supervised by UNFICYP. Turkish Cypriots are in the North, Greek Cypriots are in the south and whilst the Turkish regime opened up several crossing points in April 2003 to allow movement across the Green line for both sides, the situation today remains unresolved, despite many years of negotiations to open up the island to joint rule.

Apostolos Andreas monastery is situated just below the tip of the Karpass peninsula in Northern Cyprus. The monastery is dedicated to Saint Andrew and is an important site for the Cypriot Orthodox Church. It was once known as “the Lourdes of Cyprus”, served not by an organized community of monks but by a changing group of volunteer priests and laymen. Both Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities consider the monastery a holy place. As such it is visited by many people for votive prayers.

Now the Green line crossing points are open to all, the roads are vastly improved and the journey much easier. On my last visit 6 years ago, I found it sad to see the monastery in such a dilapidated state but there has been renovation funding from Church of Cyprus, EVKAF Administration and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the buildings are now under a restoration program which appears to be partially completed.

Linking with Thursday Doors, hosted by Norm Frampton. Pop on over and check some more doors today…

Random Moments, 8/8/17, Aquarium fever…

In the summer in Dubai, the only options for recreation are inside, in air-conditioning.

Malls, cinemas, a ski-slope, hotels, brunches etc. all figure quite highly at weekends.

But, not having small children to occupy and entertain, or a desire for a long, lengthy brunches every Friday, the lure of the above fizzled out pretty quickly.

We would try to head out of town most weekends, crossing the border to Oman frequently to haunt our favorite beaches in search of the eternal missing link shell we hadn’t yet found.

But in order to do that in a comfortable climate, an 8-hour overnight drive was needed to get to the areas of Oman that were cooled by the Khareef season (Monsoon).

This wasn’t always feasible, so we tried to spend summer weekends collating the shell collection, photographing and recording data for our ongoing and seeming eternal project to update the Eastern Arabian data for shells. An immense task that will take us through retirement!

But, on some weekend days, flat-fever was inevitable so we would head off out into the 45+ degree heat to shop for food and quite often pass by the aquarium shops.

It made me feel as if I had feet in the sand on those scorching days where Mad dogs and Englishwomen really should be terribly sensible.

Surfing around the aquarium, checking out the fish and coral tanks would give me the outdoor connection and the Philipino guys who ran the coral, fish and mollusk tanks came to know us well.

We have an aquarium, so would often buy new reef fish and they tolerated me and my camera on those hot August days very kindly.

A few Aquarium shots, under-sea life is mystical, even in a tank….

The fish are Blue Tang,a species of Indo-Pacific surgeonfish, fancifully portrayed, aquarium lighting is always blue-toned so a little masking helped with outside fantasy in the heat.

The corals…well, I wish I knew more, but they are ethereal underwater, so beautiful and if there was ever a precedent for saving the world’s reefs to preserve these most intricate life forms, I hope this could add to it…

 

 

Random Moments, 6/8/17, Dubai in fog on the daily drive…

Every work day in Dubai, my route took me up Sheik Zayed Road, the main artery through the city.

If I left home at 6.45am I would be in work at my desk by 7.30 at the latest, insha’Allah, إنشاءالله (God willing)

If I left it too much later, then it was anyone’s guess, insha’Allah, what time I would arrive depending on the volume of traffic, accidents and traffic diversions. Luckily there was no pressure at work to clock in, all management had to drive these roads too. You just needed to make sure you didn’t abuse the potential excuse.

At times Dubai suffers intense humidity and I’d love to see the tower blocks shrouded in mist in the early morning. It made for some nice atmospherics to view, sitting in the queues to exit Sheik Zayed road at Defence roundabout (or maybe the name changed, the roundabout changed out of all recognition into one of those confusing( at first) daisy-loop exits which now appear all over the main highways in Dubai)

My route took me past Business Bay where the Burj Khalifa ( currently the world’s tallest building) is situated. The surrounding area is full of architectural delights so I would be quite happy when I was stuck, stationary in interminable traffic queues to get the chance to just shoot an angle on my iPhone. I don’t think I was alone in this indulgence.

I played with the photos using Snapseed for iPhone (not in the car, of course) and I loved the fantasy of the results.

It turned a foggy Dubai into a real-life Gotham City for me.

These are a few from a very humid September/October 2015.

And one day when I got into the lift, there was just me and this little fellow, quadrupled. Sadly the 6 seconds only let me photograph him, I wonder where he went to…

 

 

 

 

 

Random moments, 4/8/17, Blue ones…

Today WordPress tells me that it’s three years since I created my blog. Where has the time gone?

At this point, a grateful thank you to all those who are following me, your likes and comments are always most welcome and hugely appreciated and inspire me to carry on.

I didn’t really do anything with the blog until January 2016 when I thought I’d best get started and joined into the Blogging-U courses and I seemed to spend January, February and March 2016 with my head down in all sorts of wonderful courses which gave me the confidence and desire to start blogging and I dived into the April 2016 A-Z challenge with great enthusiasm.

For most of 2016 and early 2017, I followed weekly challenges diligently, posted about my travels when I could but since April 2017, I’ve not been quite so motivated.

Dealing with a personal loss, doing quite a bit of travelling and I haven’t caught up with the photo organisation for my travels since April, as, even though I no longer work, I seem to have too much to do or maybe I take longer to do too much!

When I was working I was far more attuned to a schedule and deadlines.

I suspect it’s time to add some daily task scheduling into my life to make sure I don’t let my days drift away. However, I haven’t drifted for many years so I’m quite enjoying the feeling, especially in the Cyprus summer heat where it’s too hot to be rushing around.

Whilst I am tediously trying to lose the iCloud from my life and re-organise photos in another cloud storage, so I am not constantly reminded by Apple my storage is full and to pay yet more money to preserve my data, I’m coming across some random photo moments.

So, to keep my hand in and re-motivate myself, I’m starting some “Random moment” posts from my life and travels over the past few years.

Here are a couple of slightly surreal shots taken at the Dubai Mall in August 2015, when the outside temperature hit 50, taken through the aquarium window, viewed from mall walkways.

The 10-million litre Dubai Aquarium tank, located on the Ground Level of The Dubai Mall, is one of the largest suspended aquariums in the world.

It houses thousands of aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. Over 300 Sharks and Rays live in this tank, including the largest collection of Sand Tiger Sharks in the world.

The main Aquarium tank, which measures 51 metres in length, 20 metres in width and
11 metres in height.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction…

Sometimes, it’s just capturing the beauty of nature for a brief moment that gives me the greatest satisfaction…

Utetheisa pulchella (Linnaeus, 1758), photographed on the Akamas peninsula, Paphos district, Cyprus, June 2017.

Satisfaction

Weekly Photo Challenge: Unusual…

Before the storm, Zanzibar, June 207.

Living between the Middle East and Cyprus, it’s unusual to see skies such as this in both regions

More often than not, the Middle East’s skies are obscured by a layer of sand and haze is the norm. Cyprus has clear and gloriously blue skies for most of the year, wonderful sunsets during the summer, but when it comes to a storm the skies are usually overcast.

The dramatic African skies gave portent of the deluge to come and when the rain finally came, the results were torrential…

Unusual

 

 

 

Thursday Doors, 20/7/17, Stonetown, Zanzibar, a little taster…

Eid 2017 holiday break, a time to visit Zanzibar and Tanzania.

Adjusting the holiday plan on the fly, the delights of the north of the island of Zanzibar had been covered in two days and a third night was overdoing it, so we added in a night in Stonetown, the old capital, and hub of the island.

I would have left Zanzibar with huge regrets if we hadn’t made the change.We are really not sun bed loungers at our age, I want to see it all whilst I can and recover once back home!

There is so much history in Stonetown which connects with the Middle East, in one way that is, thankfully, now not part of modern life. Zanzibar was famous worldwide for it’s spices and it’s slaves.

During the 19th century, Zanzibar was known all over the world as “A fabled land of spices, a vile center of slavery, a place of origins of expeditions into the vast, mysterious continent, the island was all these things during its heyday in the last half of the 19th century.”

A chequered past, Portuguese rulers from 1503 for two centuries, then in 1698 Zanzibar became part of the overseas holdings of Oman, falling under the control of the Sultan of Oman.

A lucrative trade in slaves and ivory thrived, along with an expanding plantation economy centering on cloves. With an excellent harbor and no shortage of fresh water, Stone Town (capital of Zanzibar) became one of the largest and wealthiest cities in East Africa. Of all the forms of economic activity on Zanzibar, slavery was the most profitable and the vast majority of the blacks living on the island were either slaves taken from East Africa or the descendants of slaves from East Africa.

The slaves were brought to Zanzibar in dhows, where many as possible were packed in with no regard for comfort or safety. Every year, about 40 to 50, 000 slaves were taken to Zanzibar. About a third went to work on clove and coconut plantations of Zanzibar and Pemba while the rest were exported to Persia, Arabia, the Ottoman Empire and Egypt.  Tippu Tip was the most notorious slaver, under several sultans, and also a trader, plantation owner and governor. Zanzibar’s spices attracted ships from as far away as the United States, which established a consulate in 1837.

The United Kingdom’s early interest in Zanzibar was motivated by both commerce and the determination to end the slave trade. In 1822, the British signed the first of a series of treaties with Sultan Said to curb this trade, but not until 1876 was the sale of slaves finally prohibited. Under strong British pressure, the slave trade was officially abolished in 1876, but slavery itself remained legal in Zanzibar until 1897.

The British Empire gradually took over; the relationship was formalized by the 1890 Heligoland-Zanzibar Treaty, leading to independence in 1963, but a revolution in 1964 created the People’s Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba. Several thousand ethnic Arab (5,000-12,000 Zanzibaris of Arabic descent) and Indian civilians were murdered and thousands more detained or expelled, either their property confiscated or destroyed.

On 26 April 1964, the mainland colony of Tanganyika united with Zanzibar to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Zanzibar remains a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania.

This is my kind of place, history around every corner, lives being lived in amongst the faded glory and, what was so nice, to stumble across and be a part of such fun Eid celebrations. So many happy people, out and about, dressed up in such vibrant outfits and enjoying the holiday. We were welcomed everywhere, but more on that another day, another post.

The doors of Stonetown are famed and fabled. It was yet another door heaven, every step revealed one that couldn’t be passed by. Delving into the the door history of Stonetown, it appeared the greater the wealth, the greater the doors to show it off. But there is so much detail, too much to add here without the reader’s eyes glazing over. This link from the Stonetown Heritage society is well worth a read if you would like to know more about this fascinating city of doors.

Enjoy these glorious doors from Stonetown’s past….please hover over the photos for captions.

 

This is only the first night’s door collation. There are more to come.

Apparently, there are 800 worthy Stonetown doors. I think I found a few that won’t be included in any official concatenation, but the rest of my shots are saved for those days when my Thursday has few doors…

Grateful thanks to Wiki and a variety of links for the condensed (really, it is whittled down) history of Zanzibar I have inserted. If you a serious door lover, it’s well worth googling “Doors of Stonetown” as there are numerous links and images.

Adding my offering into Norm Frampton’s excellent Thursday Door challenge… pop on over, hit the blue button and see doors from a multitude of places, plus some interesting backgrounds…