Sofia & The Feast of St Barbara


HX Report has followed the progress of baby Sofia since her birth on 10 February 2017.

Sofia is the daughter of Lebanese parents R&E who are friends of MB, all earning their crust in Doha, Qatar. It’s MB’s intention to chronicle the life of Sofia in the years ahead as she grows up in the crazy Middle East, against the backdrop of regional shenanigans. Read More

It’s The Weekend


The Holy Trinity Abbey Church, Adare, County Limerick, Ireland

The Holy Trinity Church in Adare is some 800 years old and has a very interesting history. Read More

The Wedding of David & Myriam (1)


The Church.

MB mentioned in a recent post that he was again amongst the Lebanese for the wedding of a work colleague. The ceremony took place on Sunday last in the 900-year-old Christian Maronite Church of St Jean Marc in Byblos, in the modern-day town of Jbail, Jbail being situated on the Lebanese coastal highway approximately one hours drive north of Beirut. The beautiful old stone-cut church lies in the port area of the ancient habitation, next to the Crusader Castle which was built around the same time.

The church was constructed in the year 1115 AD, according to MB’s research, as the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, and is today dedicated to St John Mark, the patron saint of Jbail. It is thought that St JM was the founder of the first Christian community in the locality.

As a location for a wedding ceremony, perfect!

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Moscow – The Kremlin


Diplomatic relations between Russia and the Western nations are at a particularly low ebb at present, the worst in many years. It, therefore, comes as no surprise to HX followers that MB has made a recent trip to the heart of the Russia to try to mend some fences. And when one travels to the capital city, one knows that fence-mending doesn’t happen in ornate cathedrals, hotels or fancy metro stations. No Siree. If fence-mending is your game, then there is only one location in Moscow to head for.

The Kremlin.

MB received word prior to travel that Vlad Putin was busy and was unlikely to get a chance to press the flesh with MB. MB took the news on the chin as one would expect, and soldiered on regardless. But in the end, the paths of the two men did indeed cross, as the ‘main man’ emerged from the Kremlin complex one evening in his nuclear bomb-proof car, accompanied by some serious looking dark-glassed 4x4s, as MB was walking past. Needless to say, the Russian President gave MB a thumbs-up as both men made eye-contact. MB responded in kind with an air high-five. Mr Putin smiled. So did MB.

A day or two later, MB found himself not outside the Kremlin walls, but within. Do not ask MB how he manages such magical diplomatic feats, as he is not at liberty to say. Anyway, informing all the Kremlin security staff that he had the personal permission of Mr Putin to photograph at will, MB ran amok with his Canon 7D, and photographed anything that moved. And much that didn’t.

Seriously, a visit to the red-walled Kremlin complex is a huge thrill. The area called Cathedral Square from the outside is stunning, and one can also enter the inside of the churches to see the ornate Orthodox-style religious decoration. If ever HX followers wish to travel in the footsteps of MB, just shoot MB a private message, and he will immediately take the permission of Mr Puttin to get you inside. Guaranteed.

On the occasion of MBs visit, a class of young military cadets were celebrating their graduation, so many family members and guests were in attendance, as can be seen in some of the below photos.

Expect international diplomatic relations to start improving dramatically. Real soon!


Traffic is stopped (1st photo) to allow Mr Putin’s entourage to exit the Kremlin onto the adjoining public street (2nd photo)

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The Kremlin Complex:

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The Kremlin Palace (event hall):

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Cathedral Square, etc

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Moscow – St Basil’s Cathedral


Although it is known by other formal and former names, St Basil’s Cathedral is known as such throughout the world and is the jewel in the crown of Moscow’s Red Square. It was commissioned by the dastardly Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the Russian conquest of Kazan and Astrakhan, and was built between 1555 & 1561. It is not known with 100% certainty who the architects were, but they are commonly considered to have been two in number, named Barma and Postnik. The building is unique in world architecture, with nothing similar in existence. Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge – Atop


Atop.

For 900 years, since the middle of the 6th century approx, the Hagia Sophia Greek Orthodox Bassicila in Istanbul (known as the Ayasofia in Turkish) was the largest cathedral in the Christian world – atop the pile, so to speak. It then became a Mosque for 500 years, until it was converted into a museum in 1935 by a secular Turkish government. Its dome roof is still studied by architectural and engineering students worldwide, and it was a groundbreaking structure in its day, and even beyond.

If you follow Turkish politics in more recent times, then you will be aware that the Hagie Sophia has become one of the meats (there are many) in the internal Turkish conflict sandwich. There is much demand from Islamists that it reconverts to a Mosque, and in recent months a Muslim performed Islamic prayer on the floor of the building. There are also some other smaller buildings with the same name, but in different towns in Turkey, which are also the similar targets of the Islamic brothers. To the best of MB’s knowledge, some have already fallen.

Prime Minister Erdogan is a master fox in the overall political scheme of things, playing and relying very much on the less educated strands of society, who are also more prone to the urgings of the Muslim Imams. Turkish politics are in a huge state of flux at present, and it remains to be seen which way Erdogan will eventually go on this Hagia Sophia matter. If he wins the constitutional election next month, he will become an all-powerful President, and may very well not bother too much with this issue thereafter. Inshallah.

MB is now thinking back to a conversation he had a few short years back with a young Istanbul tourist guide who had taken part in the mass demonstrations in Taksim Square/Gezi Park of 2013. There were multiple groups involved in the protests and many seemed to have different agendas. MB’s young Turkish friend explained that all the groups, albeit from different strands of society, had one common bond. They did not want any further Islamisation of Turkey.

MB recently discussed this point with a Turkish friend in Qatar. He was of the opinion, given recent history and particularly the fact that Erdogan has used the recent military coup attempt to castrate the more secular opposition to his government, it will only be a few short years before Turkey becomes akin to Saudi Arabia in many Islamic respects. MB spent two years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, (2012 to 2014) and has visited Istanbul multiple times so he can speak with a little authority on the subject. Suffice it to say, that many, if not the majority, in Saudi Arabia wish they could have what Turkey presently enjoys in terms of social life and culture. It’s sad, to put it mildly, that Erdogan should be taking his people in the opposite direction.

OK! MB knows this is just a Weekly Photo Challenge post, but he recently thought of posting something on the current Turkish situation. Today’s theme just opened the door, and MB decided to walk right in!

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Let there be music


Unknown to most in MB’s homeland is the fact that in the majority land area of the Middle East, music is forbidden. In the local lingo, it’s haram. Allegedly, according to those of such beliefs, it’s not God’s will that people should sing or play or listen to music. Read More

Rome


From the movie GLADIATOR

Marcus Aurelius: Are you ready to do your duty for Rome?

Commodus: Yes, father.

Marcus Aurelius: You will not be emperor.

Commodus: Which wiser, older man is to take my place?

Marcus Aurelius: My powers will pass to Maximus, to hold in trust until the Senate is ready to rule once more. Rome is to be a republic again.

Commodus: Maximus?

Marcus Aurelius: Yes. My decision disappoints you?

Commodus: You wrote to me once, listing the four chief virtues: Wisdom, justice, fortitude, and temperance. As I read the list, I knew I had none of them. But I have other virtues, father. Ambition. That can be a virtue when it drives us to excel. Resourcefulness, courage, perhaps not on the battlefield, but… there are many forms of courage. Devotion, to my family and to you. But none of my virtues were on your list. Even then it was as if you didn’t want me for your son.

Marcus Aurelius: Oh, Commodus. You go too far.

Commodus: I search the faces of the gods… for ways to please you, to make you proud. One kind word, one full hug… where you pressed me to your chest and held me tight. Would have been like the sun on my heart for a thousand years. What is it in me that you hate so much?

Marcus Aurelius: Shh, Commodus.

Commodus: All I’ve ever wanted was to live up to you, Caesar. Father.

Marcus Aurelius: [Marcus Aurelius gets down on his knees] Commodus. Your faults as a son is my failure as a father. Come

[Gives Commodus a hug]

Commodus: [Commodus hugs Marcus and cries] Father. I would have butchered the whole world… if you would only love me!

[Commodus begins to asphyxiate Marcus while they hug, Marcus grunts]


MB recently traveled to Italy with family. It was his first visit to the country of pasta and pizza, and much more. And it included a two-day  visit to the eternal city – Rome. Previously, MB would have selected Istanbul as his Nr 1 city on the planet. But Rome now occupies that position.

Rome is described somewhere as the city of a lifetime, as it will take a person a lifetime to understand it all. It is truly an architectural assault on the senses, with some incredible structure around every corner one turns. Huge culture and history abound, from pre-Christian to Roman Empire to Christian to modern. And food………… Such food!

As ever, MB had his gladiatorial weapon of choice in hand – his camera. The following are some of the results:

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Of Camino De Santiago (and Onimac!)


Introduction by MB

The Camino De Santiago is a famous route of Christian pilgrimage that ends at the shrine of St James, in Santiago Cathedral in Galicia, NW Spain.

Read More

Happy St Patrick’s Day!


Ok. So MB wished you all a happy St Patrick’s Day in an earlier post of today. So what the hell what?! No harm wishing you all again, on the day the chosen people celebrate their big day. Ok?!

Read More

Trip Home – New Church


New Church (Teampall Nua – in the Irish Gaelic language).

New Church lies on the HX to Lough Gur road and sits on the edge of the lake shore. There is a great view across the lake to Grange House from the church grounds which MB has featured in some photos included in recent posts.

From the loughgur.com website:
“New Church replaced an older chapel which was used by the Earls of Desmond. The present structure dates from 1679 – a simple rectangular building. It was endowed with a chalice and patten which bear the inscription:

“The guift of the Right Honourable Rachel Countess Dowager of Bath to her chapel-of-ease Logh Guir, Ireland 1679”

The famed poet harper Thomas O’Connellan who died in 1698 in Bourchiers Castle is buried here in an unmarked grave as is Owen Bresnan (1847-1912) local poet and historian who composed Teampall Nua and Sweet Lough Gur side.”

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Teampall Nua, Lough Gur, County Limerick

Photo Story – 4 of 7


The Islamic religious holiday of Eid Al Adha is the nearest thing that Muslims have to a Christmas. It’s a great family occasion and a big meal is consumed. It is a religious duty of all Muslims to sacrifice an animal at this time, normally a sheep or a goat. Cows, cattle, camels and others are also used when groups or extended families may pool together for the purchase of larger animals. The sacrifice is to honour the story from the holy book when Abraham gave thanks to God for sparing his son, after God had earlier tested Abraham by asking him to kill him. Abraham then killed a sheep as a sacrifice in thanksgiving. The same story appears in the Christian Bible, albeit both books state different sons names (Ishmael in the Quran and Isaac in the Bible). Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge – Inspiration


Inspiration.

The natural beauty of MB’s homeland is always an inspiration every time he’s home to get out the camera and start clicking.

This shot is one of MBs from the New Year’s early morning mass by the frozen Lough Gur lake on 01.01.2010, which was a 10th anniversary celebration of a similar mass held to welcome the new millennium on 01.01.2000. MB attended that one also but alas did not have a camera. The priest inspires the flock on this particular morning with his sermon and all are inspired by the beauty of the surrounding nature.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Doors (2)


Doors.

A statue of Pope John XXIII stand outside one of the front entrance doors at St Anthony’s Church, Istanbul.

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Intricate


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Church of the Holy Saviour at Chora, Istanbul. Visitors view the famous intricate ceilings frescos.

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