Foto Friday – The Shisha Hut


MB has posted some pics from his August 2014 trip to Sudan in recent posts. For this week’s Foto Friday he gives you one of his favorite pics from that trip.

YSL and friends had just taken MB on a tour of a very poor shanty town (maybe not the correct term but MB can not think of better as he types) on the outskirts of Khartoum called Soba. It was then time to smoke some shisha in a nearby shisha hut. MB is not a smoker. Never was. Never will be. But on this occasion, he puffed some shisha with YSL and friends just to be sociable, and thankful for the effort they had all made.

The shisha hut was just that. A hut with a frail timber frame and some bamboo leaves (or similar on the outside. And some light paper fabric on the inside. The AC was great!

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Foto Friday – Ladies Night


The Middle East gets more bad publicity than good by a long way. And certainly, many locations out here are the victims of religious bigotry, lack or low levels of education, and extreme intolerance. The life of Middle East ladies also comes in for much negative comment, resulting from lifestyles imposed by traditional or religious cultures that seem out of place in the ‘modern’ world.

But there are many locations in the Middle East where ladies can enjoy normal social lives outside their homes. Qatar is one such place and the shot of the three ladies below was taken one Friday evening at MB’s local souq. MB knows, by their dress style, that the ladies are not Qatari locals. If they were, they would be wearing full-length head-to-toe black abiya (burka) with or without face-veil (called ‘niqab’ in Arabic). The same is generally true of all ladies who are locals of the Arabian Gulf – UAE, Saudi Arabia, Yemen. So the below three ladies are probably from the Levant or ‘Sham’ (Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine).

One can see designer handbags in the shot, and all three ladies are smoking shisha from shisha water pipes (see the standing pipe next to the lady on the right). Even though more religious Muslims consider shisha, or smoking generally, to be haram (religiously forbidden), you will witness shisha-smoking in almost every restaurant in the entire Middle East, haram or not!

All three ladies are also wearing Muslim headscarves (called ‘hijab’ in Arabic), much like our mothers or grandmothers did in the past in Western Europe, as MB likes to remind Westies on occasion. But you will also occasionally see more modern Levant or Arabic North African Muslim ladies not wearing any head cover at all in public. But MB thinks it’s true to say that they are the exception to the general rule.

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Middle East Lifestyles – What about the ladies?


And so to the question from Coffeegrounded a few weeks back:

Are women not allowed to gather at cafes during the evening hours?
I live in pure ignorance of the Middle Eastern Lifestyles, mainly for fear that if I search to read about it I will be considered a person of interest…while living in a my native country that espouses freedoms galore.

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Photo Story – 7 of 7


Middle East Living
The modern lifestyle of many Middle East Arabs is far from healthy. Night time can often involve hanging out in cafes or restaurants to watch a televised football match while smoking flavoured shisha. There is a misconception among many that because the smoke is forced through the water pipe that it is somehow less toxic. But research shows that the sweet smelling smoke is even more harmful that normal cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoking itself is also far more extensive than back in MB’s homeland.

The historic activity of nomadic desert migration is long since replaced by the wandering from the Baskin & Robbins oasis to McDonald’s to Dunkin Donut and others in search of the nightly fix. Very often the Arab driver will honk the car horn outside the restaurant of choice and the restaurant workers will rush out to take the order. They will return again minutes later with the high carb food, ensuring that Mohammad didn’t even have to take the short walk from car to counter before he wolfed it down.

The climate of course isn’t conducive to physical activity for much of the year. But there are at least 5 to 6 months when the weather is excellent for an evening stroll or jog, or any other kind of sporting activity you care to mention. There is no historical culture of sport however, so participation levels by locals are very low, as much as MB has observed. The Dubai marathon each year for example, has thousands of participants, but native numbers are lamentably poor, despite the best efforts of the Government to encourage local participation. The present nightly summer temps are in the mid thirties but the only joggers that MB sees on his nightly outings are fellow Westies.

Eating habits are also a cause of concern. The month of fasting from sunrise to sunset that is called Ramadan actually witnesses many Arabs gaining weight, as they gorge themselves at the evening ‘Iftar’ meal and the body is just unable to burn off the calories consumed during the following very shortened working day of that month. Eating to excess is commonplace even throughout the remainder of the year, as the traditional evening meal involves many and varied starters which must each be sampled, followed by large plates of meat and rice with various yoghurts, and a desert course. Then a creamy mocha or cappuccino to wash it all down following by the obligatory puffing of the hooka pipe. The incidence of diabetes, for all the above reasons, has risen dramatically in recent years and regional health authorities speak of a diabetes epidemic in the coming years.

All in all, many similarities with many western countries as you can see!

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Cool Sudan!


Final Sudan shots! Read More

ME Culture (8)


Shisha. The Arabs love it!

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