Saturday, August 8, 2009

Whale Sharks in Musandam, Oman

As I can now testify, there's nothing more spectacular than seeing a bona-fide whale-shark while diving.. well maybe the great white sharks in Cape Town come close! After decades of diving; however, while diving off Lima Rock in Musandam, Oman - a giant whale shark came along came along and decided to join us for our dive. Fortunately I had my SeaLife underwater camera on me and was able to get this footage of the gigantic, yet gently creature:

Monday, May 25, 2009

Qatar 2009

Having just accepted a lecturer position at Qatar University, I got a sneak preview of my future life by attending the Qatar TESOL conference in March 2009. Although the three trip was primarily a business function, I managed to sneak in a couple of sightseeing moments to catch a glimpse of the world's second richest country per capita. Unlike the United Arab Emirates, which has several urban and tourism hubs - Qatar is a much smaller country that just about centers almost entirely around it's thriving capital city, Doha.
Talking to fellow expats in the UAE about the prospects of moving to Doha, the general synopsis is that Doha is very much like Abu Dhabi or Dubai used to be some 10-15 years ago. This assessment is not too far from the truth. No doubt Doha is developing; however, it's yet to reach the somewhat insane proportions of its nearby neighboring cities to the east. Doha's splendor pretty much revolves alongside its corniche. One unique aspect of Doha's corniche is that the high-rise development is almost exclusively contained in the northern side of the corniche. The southern part is mainly made up of low-rise and more traditional structures. These include the spiraling Islamic Center building, the bustling souq, the new Museum of Islamic Arts which offers fantastic views of the new city as well as the nearby pier packed with traditional dhows.
With seemingly unlimited funds for development, the skies the limit for Qatar. Doha has changed a great deal over the last decade, what it will look like a decade from now is anybodies guess.
To keep up with my latest escapades in Doha, check out my main site:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Charlatans - Live @ Chi's, Dubai, 2009

Do you have any seemingly unshakable habits that seem to stick with you throughout the years? Well one that I’ve had for the last decade and a half has been to pick up every single release from English indie-band the Charlatans. Given their ability to consistently revamp their sound with every release, it’s a hard habit to kick. While living in California, I had previously seen the Charlatans twice before in 2002, attending their concert at the Fillmore in San Francisco and then the Coachella Festival later the same year. Both gigs were part of their Wonderland tour. I was afraid that by trading music-crazy San Francisco for the more conservative United Arab Emirates, surely I had seen my last Charlies gig. However, the band countered by making their fantastic new CD You Crossed my Path available to download for entirely free and then following that by playing a one-off gig at the Chi nightclub in Dubai.

The Charlies certainly didn’t disappoint this time roaring through a set that contained a large chunk of songs from their new album. Tracks like “Misbegotten”, “Mis-takes” and “Bird” mixed in superbly with classics like “North Country Boy” and “The Only One I Know” - wowing the raunchy 2,000 strong-crowd, who were mostly made up of expats living in the UAE. The only downfall to the night was perhaps that the while the Charlies played a lot of songs off their latest CD, they completed neglected their two previous releases Up at the Lake and Simpatico, which were both unreleased when I had seen them previously. The hits are obviously what the majority of the fans came to see but it would have been great to have heard something more recent like “Blackened Blue Eyes” or “Loving you is Easy”. But those were just minor blips for what turned out to be a great night thanks to one of my all-time favorite bands. This was my third Charlatans show and hopefully will not be the last….

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Yemen 2008 - around Sana'a

Sana'a is a portal to many fascinating day trips located within its surrounding wadis and mountains. Unfortunately a permit and hired car are required for many of these. However, these are not difficult to obtain. Perhaps the most popular and easily accessible of these destinations is the Dar al-Hajar, or better known as the 'rock palace'. Located in the nearby Wadi Dhahr, the rock palace, which spirals majestically several stories high from a conveniently placed rock is one of Yemen's most treasured attractions. It is also not necessary to obtain a permit in order to travel to Wadi Dhahr from Sana'a.
Further northwest from Sana'a are a trio of picturesque villages; Thilla, Shibam and Kawkaban. Thilla sports a mountaintop fortress, Husn Thula - from which spectacular views of the surrounding environs can be seen. Shibam is located at the base of a cliffside with the village of Kawkaban perked spectacularly at the top. After visiting all three of these, my driver and I made our way to Manakhah, another village located in the mountains about 100 km southwest of Sana'a where we overnighted at the animated Al-Hajjarah Tourist Hotel. A night's stay included dinner; however, this was only the appetizer to the entertainment that was later offered. The next we hiked from Manakhah through the mountains to the nearby village of Al-Hajjarah.
To see more photos from this collection, check here:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Yemen 2008 - Sana

The flight from Dubai to San'a may have been less than two hours; however, despite the fact that both cities are located within the Arabian Peninsula, the contrast between the two places could not have been greater. In both cities' national museums, they sport photos comparing how the cities look not, compared to the past. Dubai of course looks nothing like it did some 30 years ago. In Sana's national museum though, the photos show just how little things have changed since cameras were first invented. In fact, many of the structures located within the walled old city are now over 400 hundred years old, making Sana's sensationally preserved old city a UNESCO world heritage site.
My hotel, the Felix Arabia was centrally located within three traditional Yemeni houses overlooking a courtyard. Like in neighboring Saudi Arabia, alcohol is difficult to find in Yemen. However, this problem is alleviated greatly once one discovers the local's favorite vegetable, khat - a stimulant which is chewed daily by Yemenis and found all over Yemen. One can spend hours chewing on khat while exploring the labyrinth-like old city with its many striking houses and shopping in the many souks. Perhaps the most bustling of these souks is the Souk al-Milh, which runs from the old city's main entrance Bab al-Yaman.
For more photos from this trip, check here: