At end of 2014 the number of forcibly displaced people in the world was estimated by the UN to be over 50M. The highest number since WW2. Africa, as ever, is one of the race leaders. But in the last 4 or 5 years it’s Syria that’s won the gold medal. 0.25M or thereabouts dead as dodos. Some 2.5 to 3M have fled the country and some 6.5M people are displaced within the country itself. A huge proportion of the countries housing stock is totally destroyed. Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge – Ephemeral

For MBs HX blog followers who are not native English speakers (& for a few who are) the word ‘Ephemeral’ means short-lived or temporary or brief. Capiche! Read More

The War In Syria

Last night MB watched an elderly Syrian lady cross an Istanbul street on her hands and knees as her two children begged for money nearby in the cold Spring night. Her feet are too sore or too diseased to stand upright.

By the end of 2015 Turkey expects to have 1.7M Syrian refugees within its borders who are fleeing the fighting back home, where over a quarter million people are already dead as a result.

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Sudan – Reality

Sudan is not about flash weddings. Or flash anything. It mostly the opposite. Read More

The characters you meet

MB is in Doha airport heading to God knows where. He arrived too early on account of not taking proper look at his fligh ticket earlier today and not being able to remember the departure time from two days back when he booked the ticket. It’s a man thing. 

Some Phillipinos are nattering away in their native Tagalog a few meters from where MB is sipping his coffee. They are the Spanish of Asia in that regard. They love to talk. And talk and talk. And then some more. Like Spanish students during Summer back in Ireland. Who arrive to learn English for a few weeks and take over all the public spaces in the major cities at evening time. Talking at ninty miles per hour. Non stop. Incessantly. In Spanish! 

A man is asleep in a chair directly in front of MB. His luggage is next to him and in his sleep he is dreaming that nobody is stealing his luggage. Which is a safe bet in low-crime Qatar. Looks Turkish. 

He is stretched out on his seat as much as the small seat will allow. If he stretches one millimetre more he is likely to slide right off the seat and onto the floor. Only the man’s overweight pot belly is maintaining the present equilibrium. He needs to spend some time in the gym by the looks. If he does and loses that belly, then he will have to take a different posture when sleeping in small chairs in airport departure halls. Otherwise he is likely to go sliding.

A few days back MB was sweating it out in the gym. Trying to lose a few kilos he has recently gained. Gained on account of being too tired in the evenings to do anything other than flop down on the couch in front of the TV with laptop on lap. Where it was designed to fit and named in honour. And eat some chocolate. Because it’s good for MB allegedly. And because it’s tasty. But mainly because MB is a 100% chocoholic.

A German lady was also using the gym at same time. MB had greeted her a week earlier when nods of the head were exchanged. Which is all you can do when someone is wearing headphones and engrossed in the subject matter of their listening. MB did not know then that she was German.

But on this morning, she greeted MB’s hello with an hello in reply. In a clipped German accent. MB noticed that she had a can of some cleaning chemical spray. Like a ‘Mr Sheen’ or some such for cleaning glass or furniture. MB assumed she was not a cleaner. In these parts cleaning is the exclusive preserve of dark shinned individuals from dirt-poor third world countries. The German lady was far removed from such a non Germanic status. In her Nike training gear and blaupunk head speakers. Which cost more to buy than any of the apartment block’s dark skinned cleaners might earn in six months. Allah u Akbar.

Anyway. MB likes to stretch his calves as part of his routine and as there isn’t convenient apparatus present to do so, MB normally places his foot on top of one of the weight machines. The ones with soft seats where you can do all manner of lifting while sitting down. So MB did his usual. First one leg and then the other. Fifty seconds each, of stretching the calf muscles to snapping point.

MB had the misfortune of facing the direction of the German lady as he lowered his leg to the ground on completion. German lady removed the head speakers from one ear only. In a ‘Deutschland uber alles’ sort of way, and addressed MB. Very much in a ‘Deutschland uber alles’ way. “Do you have to put your foot on ze seats when you do ze exercise?” said frauline deutsch to member-of-a-lesser-race MB. “I normally do” explained MB, which wasn’t really any explanation at all. Silence in th gym. Frauline Deutsch replaced her headphone and MB moved on to his next effort. No further words were exchanged, apart from those already uttered that now defined the relationship of MB and FD.

FD then finished with the treadmill and moved to the first of the gym lifting apparatus. Grabbing the can of cleaning spray, and a small cotton towel that appeared like an apparition in her hand, she proceeded to give the apparatus a thoroughly good spraying before applying some elbow grease to deliver one of the cleanest pieces of gym equipment known to humankind. Over the next 30 minutes FD repeated the same routine before using each of the other five or six pieces of equipment she used. And giving a particularly vigorous cleaning to the piece that only minutes earlier had supported MB’s muscular stretched calves. Casting a disapproving Germanic glance at MB as she did so.

Only a god damn German could treat a gym like an operating theatre though MB, displaying a rare moment of racial intolerance, as FD finally tired of her exertions and signed out. To MB’s relief.  MB decided there and then that he will return to the gym at exactly the same time next week when he will surely encounter FD again and falsely inform FD that MB suffers from chronic asthma. And could she please desist from spraying harmful chemicals in the gym, lest MB have and asthmatic attack and die. Right in front of FD. Which would put the gym out of action for a day or two and result in FD having to explain to the local police why she killed MB. MB is really looking forward to that encounter. 

A few days after the Irish/German diplomatic gym incident, MB found himself in Kuwait city. An Indian driver from a partner Kuwaiti company picked MB up at the airport. MB sat into the front seat like he always does. To engage the driver in some banter and get the local low-down. Which can be useful out these parts.

Turns out Indian driver was a Muslim called Mohammad. He was an intelligent man with a good sense of humour and had animated discussion with MB about the latest games in the cricket World Cup. He suggested the batting order that India should adopt in the next match. Like most Irish people MB knows little or nothing about cricket but did his best with what little knowledge he possessed. The conversation moved on to life and work. And the struggles that men meet. 

Mohammad’s monthly salary is USD 590 per month. He must pay his Kuwaiti visa sponsor 180 per month leaving him with 410. From that he must pay for his own accommodation and food. And then try to send something to his wife and family back in India. Mohammad is actively looking for a new job. He hopes and dreams that he could get an extra 150 per month. If he can achieve this, then life will be good for him and family. Comfortable and with less financial stress at any rate. Maybe good is too strong a word.

There are hundreds of thousands of Mohammad’s in the region. In same lowly positions and in same position of stress and strain. This is what low, or no, levels of education and the ways of the world dictate.

There are not so many ladies, or men, in gyms wearing thousand dollar headphones spraying cleaner chemicals all over the gym equipment. Thank god for small mercies.

Mohammad in the company car in kuwait.

A Week Of Women – Day Nr 7

Fathers & Daughters
It’s the same the world over. Any daughter can wrap her dad around her little finger. Fact! This dad proudly posed with his ‘boss’ for MB on a beach in Sri Lanka. August 2013.


Weekly Photo Challenge – Fresh


Fresh dates at Souk Waqif, Doha, Qatar.


A Week Of Women – Day Nr 6

Dubai lady. Look under the cover!

Just because an Arab Muslim lady wears an abiya, like the lady in the below pic and like many other women in the Arabian Gulf, does not mean that she does not have the same hobbies and interests that a lady back home might have. MB took this shot at a food demonstration in the gourmet food and restaurant section of Galarie Lafatette in Dubai Mall. Her similarly dressed cousin was giving the demonstration at the time and a friend of MB was hosting the event.

As you can see she likes her style, within the confines of her culture, and has a high end canon camera. If MB may be a tad critical – her photo shooting technique is poor and that photo will have come out blurry for sure!


A Week Of Women – Day Nr 5

MB spent much of 2012 & 2013 in Saudi Arabia. He lived in a small hotel across the street from the Imam University. He often met the young Imams who would come in to have a coffee and study their religious books and notes before exams. MB spoke to many of them and was often invited or encouraged to join the religion of the ‘final word of God’. Most were grim people for whom smiling seemed forbidden. The Saudi version of their religion considers many things forbidden. Things that most people the world over take for granted. Like music and singing. Like the mixing of male and female. Like photography. Even smiling it seemed. It often struck MB that the Saudi Imams lacked a soul.

September 2009 and MB was on duty at the skittles stall at the local village fair back home. A friend of MB appeared with one of her colleagues and partook in the skittles competition (an old Irish game involving knocking over some timber pegs with larger timber logs). If you look closely at the pic you will see a silver cross hanging from her neck. And you might guess that maybe this friend of MB is a religious nun. Bingo. Correct. She is a member of the FCJ Order (the Faithful Companions Od Jesus) who ran the local village school over the years. Sister V has taught in the school and lived locally for most of her life. She is a great supporter of local events. Likes to smile. And as you can see from the pic she has soul. I wish some of those Saudis could get to meet her!


Happy St Patrick’s Day!

MB was too busy this week to post anything on the occasion of St Patrick’s Day – 17th March. So here follows a brief history of Patrick’s life and the connection of Patrick to MB’s HX locality. Read More

A Week Of Women – Day Nr 4


All over the third world you will see thousands and thousands of motorbikes and scooters in daily use, as people seek the cheapest possible means of motorised transport. A woman may be attracted to a man who owns a bike rather than one who does not. In many countries the law on safety helmets is extremely lax. The below photo was taken by MB in Nepal where the law requires only the driver to wear a helmet. The huge level of poverty means that more often than not a second helmet is not acquired. Consequently many many women die in vehicular accidents. Kathmandu, the capital city reports some 130 serious accidents every day and thousands of minor ones.


A Week Of Women – Day Nr 3

Traveled to Nepal in 2012. Spent an entire day trekking through the hills in an area called Nagarkot, about a one hour drive from the capital city Kathmandu. During that day and on other occasions on other days, MB witnessed the females doing most of the manual labour in the fields. Where heavy work was concerned, men were practically invisible. Maybe because many of the men go to the capital to find work. Or emigrate to the construction sites of the Arabian Gulf. Qatar, as MB has noticed in recent months, is wash with Nepalese men working on the sites. But not sure really.


A Week Of Women – Day 2

The Henna Lady

MB went to a wedding in Sudan in August 2014. One of the many wedding parties that takes place as part of the overall wedding festival is the Henna party. There are two separate parties in truth – one henna party for the bride & one for the groom. Each party is like a wedding party in itself. Food, music, dancing and loads of family & friends in attendance.

At the end of the night when the music stops and the crowd drifts off, close family members and close friends remain on to receive a decorative henna tattoo on the hand (men) or hand and arm and a lot more elaborate for the ladies. The procedure involves placing some henna oil on the hand. A portion of henna mud is then held in the palm of the closed fist. Oil & strips of henna mud are then dressed over the knuckles as shown in the pic – where MB’s white Irish skin is visible. The lady who did MB’s henna was an aunt of the groom, and a superb job she did. Following day MB had and orange coloured tattoo which turned jet black over the following 48 hours.

Thank you Mrs Henna lady!


A senseless death…

Originally posted on don of all trades:

We arrived at the Children’s Hospital Emergency Room at the same time.

He and his partner parked and I pulled up to their left and did the same.

I got out of my car and watched as the officer hurried from his seat and opened the back, driver’s side door.

When the officer grabbed the boy from the back seat of his police Tahoe, I knew almost instantly.

There was a split second though, before instantly I guess, where I didn’t know. For that split second, the officer looked like any dad grabbing his sleeping boy from the car and putting the boy’s head on his shoulder to carry him inside to sleep comfortably in his own bed.

For that split second, it was a sweet moment.

The officer, an around fifty year old white guy, clutched the little boy over his left shoulder gently, but with a clear purpose. The boy was small, a…

View original 1,156 more words

A Week Of Women – Day 1

A Qatari lady wears a face mask called a ‘burqa’ – not to be confused with the same word used in Western countries to describe the head to toe black dress that is also worn in these parts – that ‘burqa’ name comes from Afghanistan. The ‘burqa face mask is often work by elderly ladies in the Gulf region. The younger ones are are much less likely to wear one, preferring sun glasses by ‘Prada’ and others.



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