Hurghada: Vibrant city of culture  

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Egypt took a pasting from the media this year; as well as the rioting. Actually, most of Egypt is completely safe. Unfortunately, the media painted a picture of what is in reality just a few specific areas. Even Tahrir Square ; the site of previous demonstrations, is a diminutive part of Cairo: a city with a total population of over 18 million.

On the Red Sea Riviera sits hapless Hurghada where the weather is glorious all year round and you can watch the sun mellow into an ever-changing blaze of neon flares as the the skyline melts to the horizon from the comfort of your own balcony. The third largest city in Egypt, its tranquil beaches and incredible diving spots are a world away from more troubled areas.

Hurghada started life as a sleepy fishing village, up until relatively recently; about 15 years ago. Foreign investment and the craving for winter sun has led to thriving nightlife in what's now a fun-loving scuba central. However, walking through Hurghada's own national park at Al-Mahmeya, you're transported to another time completely as you pick your way to peace.

Wandering the streets of El Dahar; Hurghada's downtown old city, a flavour of its Bedouin past fills the air with bright, cultural street festivals , which happen throughout the year. Again, steeped in history: the modern, more urban  Bedouins participate and try to engage visitors to teach them of the various Bedouin traditions. 

Mostly rich poetry recitals, whirling sword dances provide entertainment; harking back to bygone days. Workshops to teach traditional tent knitting playing Bedouin instruments captivate and entrance visitors with the friendly attitude and intense commitment. Traditions such as camel riding and camping in the deserts can also be arranged on expeditions to take a short breather from the

With its own airport and excellent transport links, the whole Hurghada area is comparable to the Sharm-El-Sheikh of the past and as such commands a more vibrant and community based life.

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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Istabul's marvellous history

Steeped in history, modern day Istanbul is as shrouded in legend as Byzantium was back in 657BC. Majestically straddling two continents: Istanbul is a marvel of architecture. Gazing upon the city is enough to lapse into the slow pace of days gone by. Its persistent minarets climbing like dawn's rosy fingers to an azure sky; resplendent palaces hugging the water's edge and exotic gardens boasting opulent Pavilions beckon visitors in their droves to this unique city.
Here, we have a whistle stop tour through Istanbul's recent incarnations: leading it to be the jewel it is today.
Legend dictates that Byzas, son of King Nisos from Megara (near Athens) founded Byzantium in 657 BC when he sailed northeast across the Aegean Sea. Having consulted the Oracle at Delphi to ask where to found his own city, the Oracle said he'd find it "opposite the blind". He had no understanding of this initially, but coming across the Bosporus, he realised. On the opposite, eastern shore was a Greek city named Chalcedon, which is modern day Kadıköy. The blind were thought to be the city's founders; who had neglected to notice the finer location of Byzantium: only 3 km away. Byzas swept in and built his city there on the European coast; naming it Byzantium after himself. It was primarily a trading city, due to its location at the entrance of the Black Sea. The Byzantine empire later conquered Chalcedon, across the Bosporus on the Asiatic side.

New Rome and Constantinopolis

Siding with the wrong party during a struggle for the throne in 191 AD, and after a two year battle, it was occupied and razed by Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. New city walls were built and new buildings adorned the port area.

By the 4th century AD the Roman Empire was pretty sizeable, and the capital Rome lost its central position. Istanbul was coined Nea Roma or New Rome. Unlike its antecessor, the name didn't really stick.

Famously named after Emperor Constantine the Great who settled on Constantinople's site, due to its strategic positioning between the two continents. Constantine established a Christian city to replace Byzantium. Due to his position of power, most people named the city Constantinopolis, after him. This name persisted into the 20th century, throughout the Ottoman and Turkish era. 

Under Constantin, numerous churches were built across the city, including the Hagia Sophia which was the world's largest cathedral for over a thousand years. Other improvements to the city undertaken by Constantine included a major renovation and expansion of the Hippodrome. Constantinople's location ensured its existence would stand be preserved; for many centuries, its walls and seafront protected Europe against invaders from the east and the advance of Islam.  During this era, contrary to Istanbul boasting cheap property in Turkey, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in the world, at times.

Contemporary culture and ancient history fuse to make modern day Istanbul one of the most eye-catching, trendy cities the world has to offer. Having long since had regal status: housing four of the biggest Western empires over the years, modern Istanbul is a city of culture and multiculture. With many developments offering investment property in Istanbul, the Eurasian city is an increasingly popular spot for Boutique hotels and second home owners. Its vibrancy, mixed with a relaxed atmosphere makes Istanbul a fantastic option for those considering buying a second home in Turkey.
Higlights of Istanbul lie in its very diversity. Today there are as many Ottoman minarets as contemporary art galleries, exquisite boutique bars and restaurants vying for your attention: making it a city with an indescribable and incomparable energy.

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Of Grapes and Man  

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

These aren't the places tourists see. Stinking pools of congealed sewage mud that form ripples as aesthetically beautiful as any desert shot. Crumbled buildings hidden under layers of detritus the town has no use for. Piles of fetid fruit mulching the ground in the corner of the fruit farm, and the inevitable frame of flies festering around it.

A google search of Alzira shows the old city walls and the Plaça Major with its coffee-tables-on-concrete kind of trendiness. These walls nod to the city's Moorish history. The coffee tables to its modern Europeanness. But the back streets and industrial areas illuminate its current plight.

Eerily deserted processing factory shells have become a wasteland for drying palm fronds, and yet more litter. The car parks are as empty as a gesture of help from a checkout girl in my hometown. A routine question. Half built housing complexes are riven with weeds and fog trees, which seem to have evolved a strong survival gene, much like the horseradish in England, but tastier.

Nowhere here are the tapas bars and neon signs of Brits abroad resorts.

Yesterday, as I walked to the central park, I was stopped by a young man from Madrid. He explained that there was no work there, so he'd come here to look for work in the country. On a fruit farm, I guess. After a few minutes, we were joined by his slow, drunk seeming friend, clumsily stumbling over to try and stroke my necklace. (If it all goes wrong, we'll meet by the river)...

Sound familiar? Me too. But this isn't a scene from 1930s Dustbowl America, but a growing town only 30 minutes from Valencia in 2012. It's served by a tube for fuck's sake!

As I was out walking in the wrath of the evening sun, I chanced upon an overhanging vine, and scrumped some grapes from a farmer's field. Hearing the siren of hounds as I clip-clopped over their bridge, I fled for my salvation, accidentally smuggling some ants. In my head, I practised the Spanish to negotiate with the farmer, and offer some work in exchange for the fruit. We had become good friends.

Of course, he didn't chase after me for a few over ripe grapes.

It led me to thinking, though, about how many tourists don't see this side of Spain. And the truth of the financial collapse. And as usual, I questioned if really this isn't exactly what we need? Do away with the economy. Start from scratch. And there'll be no more tourists, for people will have to work for their keep. And there'll be no class system, for we'll all work together.


There'll always be scrumping, though. And therein lies the problem. We have evolved in such a way that survival of the fittest has been modified as a capitalist ideal. And there will always be some avaricious bastard who'll scrump your crops and sell 'em off...

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Rust never sleeps - Vignette  

Sunday, December 11, 2011

I miss you today. It wasn't a conscious decision. I didn't wake up underneath the cool blankets of opportunity, and think "I'd better spare a thought for Billie."

It just happened that way.

I heard the day start before I saw it. Like microwave popcorn, sporadic and untimely, rain spattered on the metal ledge beneath my window and stirred me from staggered sleep.

Sometimes days, weeks even, pass and I'll not think of you at all. And others the rusty nicotine stains gnarling at my fingertips will nag my mind. Or the freckles on the shopkeeper's arm. Or the blaze of deteriorating metal atop her weary head. Or a turbid tea-stain singed into Formica.

In times like this I try and excavate my mind, recall what was there before. It seems like I've hit an obfuscation; an oubliette and there's no other colour but the persistent rust that taints the edges of everything I look at.

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a slice of life  

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My love for words is starting to change tack somewhat, and I've decided to try and make them earn their keep. They course through my veins, wake me at night and demand attention. Some nights, it'll be the call of the thick dictionary that wakes me; beckoning me into its world and distorting diphthongs into, and sometimes out again, of decorum.

I've decided to start a copy-writing business, which is likely to be a long and drawn out procedure. I've sought guidance online. You can get anything there these days (!)

As part of the process, I'm meandering through old posts, and previous publications, and came across a very early researched creative piece I wrote, following a shooting in Iraq. Through it, I found Khalid Jarrar's blog, and began to discuss our similar views on political movements during that time.

I wrote Circles for Khalid a while ago, after we discussed the breakdown of my relationship. We lost touch, since he got married a year or so ago, but I'll always be grateful for his permission to quote him, when I wrote this story:

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

One of the themes I visit throughout the poem is an image of integrity sinking in the mud. Integrity was the name of a trawler who met her ends sinking into the river mud in Penryn. In her day she was an impressive mistress. I was taken with the metaphor of someone losing their integrity as the poem unfolds.

I am swimming
making circles in the water
Watching splinters of wood wash downstream
in the moonlight
making trails like
through a
rippling sky

I see their source
poking through the mud.
Battered, stinking

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Moon is glinting.
Her fuzzy power
lighting spokes under cobwebs.
Several saddles scattered across worktops
where the weary man's worn hands
s l o w l y.
His fingertips experts
but not in the villagers' eyes.

“Old Man Sid the Cycle -
Psycho more like.
I heard he took another one.”
“Young Betty's been a-walkin' lately,
Sid's had her ol' bike away.”

He works into the night. Gnarled fingers
creaking like
the shed door in a
Arms speckled with rust.
A rugged face with crags
you could climb up
shields the grim toy of
his smile;
aged and crackled
like the veneer
painted on the table top.
He's happy in his work.
At night he dreams of a harbour
filled with bicycles. Each child
pays ten pence
to throw one in.
A rusting graveyard of spokes and tyres
the colour of the river
he inhabits.

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