Happy International Women’s Day

MB has picked a photo from September 2012 for the day that’s in it. MB’s daughter MB2 and friends celebrate a schools football victory. Sadly, in some parts of the world, such a photo is not possible. For no good reason.

Here’s hoping for a better future for all.



Weekly Photo Challenge – Story


If ever a picture could tell a story, then a picture of Reardon’s pub back at the HX crossroads could tell a plethora of them. And that’s an understatement.  Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge – Out of this world

Out Of This World.

No, it’s not Wakanda! The night skyline of the Westbay area on the Doha Corniche is impressive and otherworldly. Most of the architecturally spectacular buildings are office blocks owned by big local companies or government organisations. The building on the extreme right on the below shot is the Sheraton Hotel.


Weekly Photo Challenge – A face in the crowd

A face in the crowd.

The Appearance of Christ Before the People or The Apparition of the Messiah is a famous painting by Russian artist Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov. (1806 – 1858). The painting hangs in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, and MB had to good fortune to visit the gallery and view the painting during his May 2017 trip to Russia’s capital city (where he grabbed a few shots!).

There are many faces in the crowd by the banks of the River Jordan in the famous painting, which depicts many stories from the Bible; John the Baptist, Apostles John, Peter and Andrew, and others. The artist has also included a self-portrait in red headgear sitting not far from John the Baptist who has his hand and staff raised in the direction of Christ. For further info on the painting, take a read of the Wikipedia link.

Herewith: two shots of the painting from MBs trip, both giving a sense of scale and size of the painting which took the artist 20 years to paint.


Weekly Photo Challenge – Sweet


Sweet home HX
Where the skies are so blue


Weekly Photo Challenge – Beloved


MB delves into the world of Middle East politics for this weeks photo challenge. The topic is one he has covered previously, but the photo not. Read More

Aleppo Soap

MB attended a Farmer’s Market in Doha today and had the pleasure of coming across a market trader selling 100% genuine Aleppo Soap. As far as MB was aware, the soap industry of Aleppo ceased completely because of the war and it’s no longer possible to buy the real thing. Maybe some Syrian reader can confirm, or otherwise, MB’s statement.

Soap from Aleppo is generally considered the oldest soap in the world, dating back at least 2,000 years. But nobody really knows when production started. It was considered a favourite of Queen Cleopatra of Egypt and other royalty of that time.

The recipe remains the same for the most part as it was a few thousand years ago. The main ingredients are olive oil and laurel oil. When the soap is cut into blocks in the factory, it is stored for approximately 9 months before sale. This allows a number of chemical changes to take place and a reduction in the moisture content, resulting in a very lightweight but durable soap that is browned on the outside while remaining green on the inside. The blocks in the below photo is, in the opinion of MB, only some 25% of the weight of more normal everyday soaps.

On asking the French lady market trader (Mrs Noor) today how she managed to procure fresh Aleppo Soap, she informed MB that she and husband bought a full steel container load of it back in 2012, before the war stopped exports, and eventually, production. She expects that her remaining stock will run out in the coming months.

Syria and its soap have much in common it would seem.

For those who might be interested in contacting Mrs Noor and/or purchasing some products online, she can be contacted on any of the following: noor@noonnabalsy.com (email), http://www.noonnabalsy.com (website), NOON Nabalsy Paris (facebook), noon.ethic.organic.skincare (Instagram).

Aleppo SoapsIMAG1191

Mrs Noor also sells a variety of other cosmetics, all produced by small-scale artesian producers from a wide variety of countries. Her stories of each producer are as fascinating as the products themselves.IMAG1190


Weekly Photo Challenge – Variations


The endless variety that one thing can contain – is one of Ben’s suggestions for a take on this week’s Variation theme. Ben chose a shot from the Gouda Cheese store in Amsterdam.

MB has also decided to use Amsterdam for his theme shot, selecting another product synonymous with Amsterdam, and Holland generally – Tulips.

Just across the street (and canal) from the Anne Frank house lies Amsterdam’s Tulip Museum. MB and daughter MB2 happened to spot the Museum only on account of the fact that they could not get into the AF House due to the huge numbers of people already in the never-ending queue. But the Tulip Museum turned out to be the silver lining on the AF dark cloud. It’s a real pleasure to visit and to learn the history of the tulip, brought by invading Ottoman Sultans back to Turkey from Kazakhstan and elsewhere, then brought to Europe by diplomats based in the Ottoman region. The Dutch then made it their own, so to speak.

The fact that Amsterdam had a large wealthy middle class at that time (for reasons MB will not get into here) permitted much trading and investing in tulip bulbs, the iPhone of their day. The years 1634 to 1637 saw a frenzy of such investment which was referred to at that time, and since, as ‘tulip mania’. People were investing approximately 50% of the price of a premium townhouse in Amsterdam on a single tulip bulb, whose particular colour might have been considered rare at that time. Three years passed before everybody work up and smelt the coffee tulips.  By then, large personal fortunes had been lost in the world’s first recorded financial bubble, as bulb prices collapsed to a fraction of their previous worth.

For the information of HX followers – anyone considering a trip to Holland to view (or photograph) Holland’s famous tulip fields, April or May are the recommended months to do so.

Shot from the museum:


Dolores O’Riordan – Let it linger

Thanks to DH for this post on the untimely passing of Dolores O’Riordan from the Cranberries. As a young child, Dolores sang in the church choir in Ballybricken parish church, 5 minutes drive from MBs HX locality. Both DH & MB hail from the same area as Dolores back in Ireland. Coincidentally, both are now based in Doha, Qatar.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.


dolores o'riordanStars die all the time, you remember where you were when you hear the news, the feelings that generally register are nostalgia, shock, end of an era that kind of thing. It passes. But this doesn’t, this lingers.   Psychologists say after splitting up with a partner, that it takes half the whole time you spent in a relationship to get over it. If that is the case, it’s going to a while for us to get over Dolores O’Riordan.

Take every female stereotype you ever knew in the music world, cast them aside and what you’d be left with was Dolores O’Riordan. Apart from her unique voice and obvious song writing talent, she nailed the delivery. She owned what she did, created it, stood behind it and won the world in the most beautifully honest way that she wore fame as a coat she put on when she felt like…

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Silence


A derelict 400-year-old HX church and a bunch of graves in early-morning mist. It doesn’t get more silent than that!


Weekly Photo Challenge – Weathered


There’s the trunk of an old tree a few hundred meters from MB’s mom’s house in south-west Ireland. It looks very much the worst-for-wear, weathered to a bare totem pole-like stick figure on the edge of the grassy field. Even most of the bark is now stripped bare. Where once upon a time birds might have nested or sung from the denseness of its branches and leaves, that possibility is now no more unless mother nature performs one of her regrowth miracles.  But no sign of that yet. The tree itself, or ninety percent of it at least, succumbed to a storm some years back leaving only the forlorn and desolate looking trunk as a memory of greater and greener days.



Weekly Photo Challenge – Growth


MB took his awesome ‘8 Ducks A-Swimming’ photo one early misty morning back in HX-land over the Christmas holiday.

And what has the shot got to do with this week’s challenge MB? ie – Growth.

Well, not a lot lads to tell you all the truth. It features eight ducks a-swimming, and one can see some rushes protruding through the lake surface, growing, as it were. And remember, Spring will soon be here, when the mammy and daddy ducks will produce cuddly little baby ducks who will all grow up and continue the cycle of duck life, ad infinitum, unless Trump presses his ‘my button is bigger than your button’ button. Then the ‘ad infinitum’ thingy will be no more. And anyway lads, we shouldn’t always be bound by rules!

It’s far too early in the year to be turning the Photo Challenge into some sort of political statement MB, don’t you think?

Ok, ok lads. Let’s leave sleeping ducks lie for the moment, and just let’s concentrate our brains on the truly awesome nature of the photo.

Agree MB, it’s truly a wonderous shot. Truly ‘awesome’, to use your own phraseology, which should please you no end!

It does. Thank lads. You are an awesome bunch of followers!

Happy 2018 to one and all.



The Prayer

The Prayer

Followers will find a version of ‘The Prayer’ on Youtube by Andre Bocelli & Celine Dion. The version MB now gives you is by HX ladies JD & NOS from the Christmas Carol service at Grange Church on Sunday evening last. MB knows which version he prefers.

Weekly Photo Challenge – 2017 Favourites

2017 Favourites

MB was in the Grange Stone Circle at 6am this morning, on account of the fact that it was Winter Solstice Morning. And where else would any self-respecting inhabitant of HX-land want to be at such a time on such a date? Correct – The Grange Stone Circle.

Go only knows how many photos MB took this year in Russia, Lebanon, Qatar and Ireland. So he is not going to tax his brain or work his index finger to the bone by flicking back through them all to pick a ‘2017 favourite’. He will, instead, give just one shot to this week’s photo challenge from his visit to the stone circle this morning.

As followers would expect, MB took many awesome shots at the circle. Any one of a dozen or more of them could easily win a NatGeo photo competition or a Pulitzer, if MB could be bothered winning such piffling awards. But MB is bigger than mere awards and is just humbly happy to share his general awesomeness with faithful followers, free gratis, without compensation, or medals or pats on the back. However, he just might review that ridiculous position in 2018, if he could figure out how to milk his followers monetize his blog site. But that’s another matter. For another day.

MBs favourite photo from this morning (one of), caught a lucky split second one might think if one did not know MB so well. MB managed, by his sheer general awesomeness, to capture another photographer at the exact moment he fired his flash next to a candle that was burning in a small jar on the ground (thanks to friend MR, for that great candle!).

And there you have it lads. A brief history of one of the most awesome photos that any of you will see in 2017. Or 2018.

Will you send it to Nat Geo MB? No way lads. It would be completely wasted on them.

So happy Christmas to all. Thanks for all the crack in 2017. Have a great 2018.


The lake this morning