Monday, 19 December 2016

A Farewell to Saudi Arabia

I came for a year and now, six years later, I’m leaving. So this morning, as I breakfast outside our villa in the quiet green of the compound, I wonder how best to capture the essence of my life here in just a few words. It’s much more than having to wear an abaya and headscarf whenever out of the compound, something I hated with a passion when I first arrived. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Living Simply in Cyprus

Red dragonflies hover above the water. In the distance, beyond the pool, the land undulates. There are plantings of olive trees and I can hear early morning roosters. 

After last week’s hectic schedule, up at 6.30am and back to our hotel each evening about 6.00pm, our plan now is to relax. And this place is perfect. We are in a small guesthouse in the little village of Maroni, just a short drive from Larnaca airport. Some days we venture out, but on others, we’re happy to simply enjoy the cool and calm of this beautiful spot. 

Friday, 16 September 2016

Starting with Petra: Two Days in Jordan

Farouk meets us after breakfast. He’s going to be our guide for the next two days. As we walk towards the Siq, the path through the gorge into Petra, he tells us about himself. “I’m one of sixteen children,” he says. “My father is a Bedouin, he still lives in the desert.” We listen as he carries on. One thing we learn very quickly about Farouk is that he does a good monologue. “I was the only one in my family to leave the desert and move into the city. I went to Jordan University.”  Some time later, after stories of childhood hospital visits, a random meeting with King Hussein, and the eucalyptus trees he’s planted in his garden so everyone can see where his house is, we reach the end of the Siq. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

A Dress from the Souk

This is a story of Riyadh as it was many years ago. It's set in Souk Hiraj, an open air market running either side of Thumairi Street in the centre of old Diera.

Spencer W Tart, Watercolour Print, Ladies' Market, Middle East Art

At Souk Hiraj, Bedouin women sit cross-legged on the ground under large umbrellas. Second hand dresses are piled beside them and fall untidily out of old tin trunks. Scattered among the jumbled clothing are traditional jewellery and face masks decorated with beadwork, fringes, woven bands and coins. The air is filled with the distinctive fragrance of small bunches of basil, rosemary and jasmine, tucked into women’s dresses and held in place under headdresses. Behind the ladies’ market, goats and sheep wait noisily in pens to be sold. Still further along Thumairi Street is the men’s market where almost everything imaginable is for sale: thobes, bishts, old swords, guns, miswak. Cries of “Taille, taille,"  fill the air, each vendor trying to out-shout his neighbour and convince all and sundry that his wares are the best and the cheapest. There are children everywhere. Boys and girls play soccer with an old tin can. The roads are pot-holed and muddy and the dust covers everything.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Egypt's Aswan Sharia as-Souk - Everything you Ever Wanted and More Besides

After our cruise we stopped in Aswan. Aswan’s in an area of upper Egypt bordering Sudan, known as Nubia. We stayed in the Old Cataract Hotel, the very place where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile. The hotel had a wonderful colonial feel to it and was a great base for further exploring. First we went to the old souk, which felt similarly steeped in the past. Here’s our afternoon visit.