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Monthly Archives: April 2009

I’m in Dubai again today.  Although I thought I had imagined it last time, the place is really very quiet.  The airport was virtually empty with no queues for immigration and taxis.  The roads are, in Dubai’s standard, deserted!

The above is a view that I’m very familiar with.  I stay at this hotel many times during the year.  The main road, Sh Zayed Road, usually has bumper-to-bumper traffic most of the day – and the early part of the night.  The swimming pool is always, and I do mean always, so busy that I never thought of going down for a quick swim.  During the busy afternoon time on a glorious sunny day, there were four people there.

I’m sure Dubai will pick up again.  I pray it’s soon.  They deserve it with all the hard work that has gone into it.

 

On my flight to Dubai earlier this evening, I saw Ahmadi shortly after take-off. I’ve always liked how ‘different’ Ahmadi looks compared with the rest of Kuwait.  For me it’s the hints of green and the many red roofs that give it its charm.  This is the first time I see Ahmadi by night – from a height.  It still has a different look about it. 

Most towns in Kuwait are modern blocked areas with a co-op supermarket somewhere in the middle.  It’s nice to have one area that’s not from the same cast.

This is what it says in Wikipedia:

It was also home to several thousand mostly British Ex-pats and their families from 1947 through to 1970, and possibly beyond. The original town layout was from an American pattern. Streets laid out at right angles to each other – 1st Street, 2nd Street and so on. At right angles were the avenues. The town was built on a slope facing the sea, which was about 7 miles (11 km) away. The street that ran across the top of the hill was called “main street”. It housed the upper eschelons of the KOC. It ran down the hill in order of KOC rank. Within the town was the Hubara Club – a complex of buildings with a swimming pool, meeting rooms, restaurants, squash courts, tennis courts etc. Employees of the KOC would use this club every day to meet and chat. Their children spent most of their time here. Towards the bottom of the ‘hill’ was the ‘souk’ or shopping area; banks a cinema, which is now been closed down and a few shops.

My best friend invited me to the stables to watch some show-jumping and take a few snaps.  The races were moved to the Equestrian Club, so we only saw the resting horses where we were.  I took a few photographs of the horses in the dark stables, but without a flash and very low light, this was the most interesting worth sharing.

It’s a nice place all round with a great feel of professionalism.  I hope to find some time to go again to take some ‘action’ shots.

A couple of weeks ago, I bought what in my opinion is the queen of Nikon lenses. The Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 is my first fixed lens  – which I always thought were for grown-ups – and I’m still getting used to it. I’ve been spoilt by the choice a zoom lens offers – with this lens I have to move a little more which is a great way to learn more about composition.  

Whilst I find myself bopping my head back and forth like a chicken, the results are best described as graceful.  For my non-photographer friends, a lens with these credentials, of a low f stop and Nikon quality, would cost thousands of dollars.  For some reason, this particular one – which not so different in quality especially for non-professionals – is probably the best value for money out there.  I love it and highly recommend it.

I took these shots this morning.  Click for the larger versions.

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I visit Dubai almost monthly and I’ve never seen it this quiet.  The airport, the roads, the shops and restaurants – all seem to be looking for disappearing trade.  Taking into account the financial crisis around the world, and how much Dubai relies on foreign trade, it’s not a surprise.   The place has been exploding into something much larger than its own foundations, and this was simply unsustainable.

There are challenges and many projects are being shelved, but this is a breathing time for Dubai that is well overdue. There is also a shy positive feeling when you talk to business leaders.  I saw a manufacturing company, a petroleum terminal manager and a banker.  All agreed that this is not a collapse but a correction.  A correction that Dubai has needed for some time.  A moment for reflection to avoid going too far (more than now). 

Signs of progress are as visible as the cancelled projects.  I saw a train moving on the tracks at Sh Zayed Road.  On Monday, there was a visit  by the leader of the UAE to all the major Dubai projects.  It was a clear signal to the region, and the world, that Abu Dhabi stands behind what Dubai is doing.  Sure, they will probably buy a nice portion of it, but I hope it’s a clear indicator that this magnificent ship on the Gulf will continue to sail.

‘Sprint’ is probably the fastest most  powerful pigeon we have.  However, he tends to spend some nights away from home.  I have no idea where he goes… Unfortunately, it means I can’t use him for Project Bird’s Eye.  

I have added a new page.  I chose Neubronner as the name of the loft, named after the pioneer of aerial photography using pigeons.  Have a look and check again for updates.  I hope you find it interesting – even if you have no interest in pigeons.  

I’ve been thinking and planning this since last summer. I can’t wait for the potentially fascinating findings.

Staying in the frame of gardening, this collection was captured on Friday afternoon. The weather was beautiful and my mother’s garden: gorgeous.  

It’s not a surprise that I love plants.  My late grandfather (father’s side) was perhaps my first influence.  I don’t remember him much as I was very young when he passed away, but I spent all of my early childhood playing in his gardens.  This was in Rawdha, which incidentally means ‘Garden’ in Arabic, and my memories are of trees… Many tall trees.  There was no lawn, not many flowers – but a wall of trees surrounding the house inside the main walls and out.  The sound of leaves on windy days still takes me there!

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This time last year, I saw an interesting medium-sized tree at Mishref co-op with strange flowers all over it.  I think we need more flowering trees in Kuwait. 

I didn’t know its name, and usually at this point I would have taken a small cutting. However, there were a few boys playing there and I didn’t want to encourage any plant attacks…  In May last year, I described it to a man at the garden centre  – olive leaves and saffron flowers was my description – and he gave me a small shrub.  I was convinced it was the wrong one – but I’m so glad I trusted him. 

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This is Mr Haitham Elarab from Syria.  He is a master at making ‘Igal’ or ‘Egal’ and he learned this from his late father.  I walked into his shop this afternoon after having lunch at Souq Waqif.  Although the souq is a tourist area, with many shops selling antiques made last week and useless ugly house decorations, they do have a few shops that in my opinion, are little gems.  The three that I remember well are a shop that specialises in making Uud, the gulf’s number one musical instrument; a photo shop that sells images of the area and has a small studio to take photos of foreigners in local dress (he has a fantastic collection of antique cameras – but not for sale); and this tiny Igal shop.

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A little struggle as I scare the lovely horse with my camera…

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Every frequent traveller has a way of making travel easier.  Good airlines have good entertainment systems – at least for long-haul flights.  It’s not so much the time on these long flights, but more on the short hops.  I’m in Doha today.  The flight from Kuwait was less than an hour.  However, driving to the airport, parking, checking in, waiting in the lounge, security, boarding and waiting for the take-off… and all this before the 55-minute flight.

Essential travel companions for me are a laptop (not the work one), a book, and the unbelievably versatile ipod.  Although I only converted to Mac recently, I’ve had an ipod since the very ‘beginning’ when I replaced my portable CD player.  I have everything on it, Quran, audio books, music, documentaries, and more.  But what really keeps it alive is the podcasts I subscribe to.  One of my favourite genres for killing time is Comedy.  The BBC offer Radio 4’s Friday night comedy which changes by season.  It’s my way of keeping myself up-to-date with things in London, a place I consider home. In Kuwait it keeps my sense of belonging to London alive.  During travel, it’s a home away from home.

The second (and final) selection of matchboxes.  Mostly of hotels, and roughly grouped into continents.  Some of the matches missed out in the first post (EAT) were added here and there… 

Above: Movenpick (Heliopolis-Egypt), Sheraton (Doha-Qatar), Le Meridien (Casablanca-Morocco), Crowne Plaza (Farwaniya-Kuwait), The Residence (Tunis-Tunisia) & Sheraton (Muscat-Oman).
 

The Bellagio (Las Vegas-USA), Sacred Sea Room (Las Vegas-USA), Aladdin (Las Vegas-USA), Luxor (Las Vegas-USA), MGM Grand (Las Vegas-USA), Stratosphere Tower (Las Vegas-USA), Best Western (New York-USA), The Doral (Miami-USA), Pacific Time (Miami-USA) & again Luxor (Las Vegas-USA).

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Albannach (London-UK), Bbar (London-UK), Diverso (London-UK), SportsWorld (London-UK), Capo (Copenhagen-Denmark), Cafe Rouge (Kew-UK) & Oxo (London-UK).

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I was inspired by Mathai‘s photograph of corn to look for something to capture inside the home.  I couldn’t believe that I managed to leave these alone for so long.

Since the beginning of my working life, I collected match boxes from restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels.  Whenever I remembered, wherever I happened to be, I asked for one and placed it in my pocket.  I still don’t know why I started this – but on this rainy Friday evening – I’m so glad I did.

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Take any weekday, take out the six or so hours of sleep, driving around, social visits, shopping, exercise (all three minutes),  and you will quickly find that we spend most of our lives at the office.  I’m very thankful that my office is a nice place to be – especially when I think how long I spend there.  I do my work and my blogging from this room and it has become my little empire.

As nice as my office is, I love the feeling of clearing a long to-do list and walking out of the office, closing the door and turning around.

Thank God for weekends!