Posted on March 7, 2020
Posted on March 29, 2019
Approximately two years back, with the permission of parents E&R, MB started to chronicle the life of baby Sofia. Post Nr 1 was on the occasion of her Christian baptism. The idea was, and is, to record her life and its bigger moments, against the backdrop of the political situation in the Middle East. Two more posts followed subsequently. Read More
Posted on January 26, 2018
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: firstname.lastname@example.org (email), http://www.noonnabalsy.com (website), NOON Nabalsy Paris (facebook), noon.ethic.organic.skincare (Instagram).
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.
Posted on April 15, 2016
On receiving this week’s Photo Challenge from Michelle at the WordPress website, MB started a trawl through his photo library for something suitable. He came across a really nice shot of some street pigeons eating bread crusts on a footpath in front of Lake Geneva in Montreux, Switzerland. It would have got lots of ‘likes’. He came across another cutie shot of a monkey in a forest park in Goa, India, eating a banana while holding her baby. For sure many ‘likes’ would have clocked up. There were many others that would equally have brought smiles to the faces of observers.
Then MB came to some pics he took in Istanbul on his last visit to that city in the Spring of 2015. And he saw some pics of Syrian refugees begging on the streets so that they might enjoy some occasional food, ‘dinnertime’ being a long forgotten concept. And but for the generosity of passers-by, which obviously fluctuates up and down, even ‘occasional food’ becomes even more occasional.
Turkey has some 2M Syrian war refugees at this stage. The refugee camps are places of horror, and hence many refugees prefer the indignity and awfulness of begging on the streets of the major Turkish cities, in all weather conditions, in preference.
The EU has recently promised Turkey some USD 3B to cater more easily with the refugee influx, but more critically from an EU point of view, to stop the refugee tide flowing into Europe from the Turkish mainland. A Turkish friend said to MB recently that we can expect about 10% of the cash to go to the migrants and about 90% to be syphoned off by Prime Minister Erdogan and his cronies. If you know anything of Turkish politics then you will know that such predictions mightn’t be too far off the mark. Incidentally, a Syrian acquaintance of MB’s in Doha, hailed the re-election of Erdogan some months back as “a great day for Islam“. MB nearly wept on hearing. Erdogan wraps himself in the Islamic flag for sure and plays the Islamic card very well. It doesn’t surprise MB one little bit that Erdogan’s major support base comes from the lesser educated sectors of the Turkish population.
And so MB comes to the end of his ‘preachy’ introduction to this weeks photo challenge. Please forgive the departure from the more pleasant norm. A little commentary follows on each of the pics.
MB is not expecting many likes!
The angelic faces of the two babies caught MB’s attention in particular. The shot was taken in the heart of Istanbul’s tourist area, approx 100m from the famous Blue Mosque and other iconic Istanbul attractions. A grotesque contrast if ever MB saw one.
This is not a nice photo, in the sense that it doesn’t convey anything nice. In fact it is very un-nice. MB is sure that when this young couple got married only a few years back, the world seemed full of great promise and all things good. Then their country and their region were engulfed in war. MB noticed that the father never lifted his eyes from the downward direction. He would raise his hand to beg money on hearing passers-by get close or on seeing their feet, but the shame of his new found refugee/begger status didn’t allow him to look strangers in the eye. The look on his wife face is even worse, and speaks a thousand words and more of her new-found situation also. To say that she is beginning to look more animal than human is not an exaggeration. What a world we live in.
The awful irony of this photo is that the two signs behind this hungry mother and child refugee beggar duo, on a hot Istanbul street, are advertising health supplements in the adjoining shop. The mother has positioned herself and child in the shadow of the tree trunk to avoid the sun’s heat and allow her child to get some easier sleep. She would raise her hand to passers-by for donations.
Posted on October 23, 2015
Like many, MB has watched the refugees streaming into Europe on his TV screen over recent months. He didn’t realise until today that he actually knows some of them personally.
Posted on September 3, 2015
Posted on August 15, 2015
The War in Syria has created some 10M refugees from a total population of 23M. Approx 6.5M are internally displaced and some 3.5M have fled the country. Millions of houses and apartments are now reduced to rubble. 250,000 to 300,000 people have died as a result of the extremely complicated civil war war which has many participating actors. More than the combined dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Read More
Posted on August 14, 2015
Suddenly, one early afternoon in February 2012, MB found himself face to face with a Hezbollah street demonstration in Beirut, in support of President Bashar Al-Assad in neighbouring Syria. Read More
Posted on March 28, 2015
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
Posted on March 26, 2015
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.
Posted on July 30, 2014
Posted on September 13, 2013
Marhaba all (Hello Crossers)
It’s good to have music in this mad mad world. It makes us happy or sad or cry or lifts our spirits. It can make us relax. And in this mad world it’s good to relax. So click on this one, and come back to MB.
Read a few blogs on the Syrian crisis of late and decided to write about some conversations MB has had with Syrian friends & colleagues in recent days & weeks.
Posted on September 10, 2013
Posted on June 6, 2013
Marhaba & Hello from MB
Firstly lads, an apology from MB. In last week’s blog MB used an Arabic word that he though was acceptable translation of the English word ‘prostitute’. It was subsequently pointed out to MB that the word used is a street-slang swear word, not suitable for common usage (as in MBs blog) and likely to cause offense. The Egyptian lad who originally gave me this word failed to point out this important fact! This is not MB’s style as you are all aware. So big apology to all, especially to MB’s Arab lady followers of which there are thousands – not!
Met this kid on the street selling newspapers and magazines. Streetwise as hell, huge confidence, great attitude. He will be Prime Minister of Lebanon some day
The news from all over the Middle East of late just seems to get darker and darker. Acceptance of others views and beliefs seem to be shrinking. Saw interviews on the net recently with various Sunny clerics who were preaching the need to destroy (kill) their Shia neighbours, who also read the same Quran holy book. On the grounds that the Shia are somehow heretics who must be put to death for having a slightly different interpretation of the book. Bit like we use to do in Europe when we burned heretics and witches at the stake. Inshallah the Middle East does not have to wait 300 or 400 years to see basic human tolerance and decency prevail. As usual, as in most places, the majority of people are decent and reasonable, but an intolerant crazed minority can cause havoc and misery for all.
Was talking to a Syrian friend few days back and he told me that he had other Syrian friends around to his house recently. His friends are supporters of Bashar Al Assad, the Syrian Prime Minister and his government. I expressed surprise that the trouble in Syria with tens of thousands of people now killed had not affected his friendship with his friends. I am aware that he regularly posts anti-Bashar pieces on Facebook and has been advised by friends inside Syria that it would not be safe for him to return home. He replied to the effect that he could not allow Bashar Al Assad to affect 40 years of friendship he has enjoyed with his friends, regardless of their views, and they would continue to be his friends. In the midst of much blood and darkness and death, my friends attitude was a bright light. A small light for sure, but hopefully one that spreads far and wide in the future. Most have now come to conclusion that in the case of Syria there are even darker days ahead. Let us pray not.
Met a Lebanese man in recent days through work, and in response to MB’s ‘min ina anta?’ (‘where are you from‘ in Arabic) he informed MB he comes from the city of Tripoli, where a number of people had been killed in gun battle in recent days as result of troubles spilling in from neighboring Syria. Meeting him reminded MB of trip to Lebanon in early 2012 and the fantastic few days enjoyed there with family. And the friendly people encountered. In memory of that trip, and in big hope that Lebanon at least will be spared the trouble of the region MB is giving you some pics this week from that trip. Hope you like.
Thank God for music. Played this a few times last night. Switch to full screen. Amazing:
Lots of poverty throughout the Middle East and absence of welfare benefits make it even tougher than in the West. Stopped to speak to this man for few minutes, who was begging for money.
As informed you last week lads, MB will be heading home in few weeks for the HX Festival (3 local festivals actually). If you are of a mind to travel then take a look at the itinerary for this year’s event. Specifically this is the list for the Lough Gur Festival, but there are two other Festivals taking place in the neighboring villages for Bruff & Knockainey. Mentioned daughter of JFK in last week’s blog Caroline Kennedy – who will attend the Bruff event to dedicate a local building to the memory of her great-grandfather, who left the village in 1852. MB will have to use the grease gun on the Canon 7D before he goes back, it’s going to be hectic few weeks & photo opp heaven:
So hopefully see some of you at the festival, inshallah.
Like this one!
Beware the lady in the Burka who wants a hug!
Spare a thought lads for the misfortunate Indian lad who got the surprise of his life last week when a lady in a burka (abiya) suddenly hugged him in the lift. Obviously he assumed that the Arab Muslim lady was so overcome by his Indian masculinity that she threw religious caution to the wind and just gave in to her animal instincts. He later discovered this was not the case:
No lads, we did not have earthquake. MB is just playing mind games with you all, with his incredible camera wizardry!
ABU DHABI: They say a hug costs nothing, but for an Abu Dhabi resident it proved otherwise.
Indian expat Noushad lost Dh29,000 when an abaya-clad con woman stole his bulging wallet after locking him in an unexpected embrace in an elevator recently. The incident happened in broad daylight in the Al Raed Automatic Laundry building in the capital’s Tourist Club area.
The corniche/harbour area of Beruit. Has undergone huge redevelopment in recent years. A must-see location.
Sharia law – Husband to be whipped
The law in Saudi Arabia applies to women and to men. The judges really do not care about male or female. Justice comes from Sharia law which is based on the teachings of the holy book:
Manama: A judge in Saudi Arabia has upheld a flogging sentence against a husband for slapping his wife even though the wife later said that she forgave the husband and wanted the case dropped.
Beruit & Lebanon generally – Incredible food. Maybe the best MB has come across in all his travels. This pic is from the rooftop restaurant at Le Grey Hotel in the corniche.
The man was sentenced to 30 lashes and 10 days in jail and ordered to attend special sessions on marriage counseling and on how to treat and deal with spouses.
The court in Al Qateef in the Eastern Province said that the wife could witness the flogging in retribution for the physical pain her husband caused her.
The famous Rafiq Hariri Mosque. RH is Assassinated former Lebanese leader. Assassinated by Hezbollah according to recent UN report.
More English words from the Arabic
More educational stuff from MB lads, who continues to amaze you weekly with his eclectic mix of photos, wisdom and general ‘stuff’. Awesome!
The Lebanese consider themselves extremely sophisticated and a cut above the other Arab nationalities. These local girls spoke French as their language of first choice as they lunched next to MBs table. They informed MB that they are equally comfortable in both languages.
These 2 would not be out of place at some restaurant in Paris. Classic Lebanese sophistication!
Gay Games 2018
Yes lads its now down to 3! London, Paris or……………………….. Limerick! Organisers have short listed Limerick, along with 2 no-hope non-entity cities to host the 2018 Gay Games. Am sure Amsterdam & Orlando will be sick as parrots to get booted out. With approx 10,000 participants it should be a fun week in HX if Limerick wins the hosting. 2018.gaygames.org if any of you want to participate lads.
The grave/shrine of Rafiq Hariri
Federation of Gay Games announces finalists in bidding for Gay Games X
Limerick, London, and Paris continue in race to host the world’s largest sport and culture festival open to all
Today the international Federation of Gay Games announced that groups from Limerick, London, and Paris would continue in the bidding process to host Gay Games X. The three finalists garnered the most votes from among the members of the FGG’s site selection assembly, who for the first time designated this short list by online instant runoff voting. Unsuccessful in the vote were groups from Amsterdam and Orlando.
Occasionally give you link to other blogs I come across that catch my interest. Liked the following:
Letter to my 16 year old son
If any of you followers wonder what the HX land is like lads, I give you link this week to our local community newspaper called the Vale Star. It’s focus is almost entirely on local sporting and community group activities. Some of you Arabs might enjoy a quick scroll through it. Gives good idea of life in rural Ireland.
Many in the Middle East were recently very surprised to discover that Hezbollah are involved in Syria, fighting on the side of Bashar Al Assad and his government forces. MB came across a Hezbollah demonstration in support of Assad on his visit last year and wrote about it in his blog at that time. Absolutely no surprise to MB that these guys got involved.
Big news in Iran last week lads. A judge can now sentence those guilty of adultry to death by other means “where the possibility of stoning does not exist”. That phrase is not actually defined. So presumably it will apply in the sandy areas where there are insufficient suitably sized rocks. One can only but have sympathy for the lads throwing fist fulls of sand in the past for days on end as they tried in vain to stone (sand) the sinners to death. But no more. Mashaallah!
It was interesting to read in the article that if a sinner can free him or herself before death they are pardoned. But a man is only buried to his waist whilst a woman is buried to her shoulders, lest any of the rock athletes should see her bare breasts during the stoning games. Hardly seems fair.
Pics of Bashar Al Assad at the Hezbollah demonstration
Let the hunger games begin!
Cheers to DH!
Demonstration was good natured and noisy that day, with the soldiers smiling and joking. Suspect that would not be the case now.
Ok lads. Another week down. Planning a good sleep tomorrow on the Muslim holy day. Take care all. Have a nice weekend. May the sun shine!
MB supporting SMEs in Beruit
The famous bombed out and bullet ridden Holiday Inn Hotel in Beruit. Still standing to this day and testimony to the war of the 1970s. Let us hope no repeat of that fiasco for modern Beruitis. Inshallah.
Category: Beruit, Beruit Holiday Inn, Burqa, gay, Gay Games, Hezbollah, Holycross, homosexual, Humour, Hunger games, HX, Iran, Irish man in the Middle East, Jordan, Le Grey, marhaba, Middle East Life, Music, Muslim, Photography, Poverty, Rafiq Hariri, Rafiq Hariri Mosque, reluctant Immigrant, Sharia, Shoe shine, Stoning, Syria Tagged: Beruit, Beruit Holiday Inn, Burqa, gay, Gay Games, Hezbollah, Holycross, homosexual, Humour, Hunger games, HX, Iran, Irish man in the Middle East, Jordan, Le Grey, marhaba, Middle East Life, Music, Muslim, Photography, Poverty, Rafiq Hariri, Rafiq Hariri Mosque, reluctant Immigrant, Sharia, Shoe shine, Stoning, Syria
Posted on April 18, 2013
Warm greetings to you all lads
Weather improving at home, and getting hotter out here by the day. Late 30s most days at hottest time (bit of weather talk from MB).
In future lads MB will try to introduce some single subject blog posts. MB is attempting to get his blog to appear on a section of the website where good stuff gets posted by the blog site owner gurus for all bloggers to see (it’s called ‘Freshly Pressed’), but its impossible to get onto this with a blog like the HX, as it has too many topics and is just too general. Even though it’s still awesome. As you all keep telling MB lads. Thanks.
So it’s MB’s intention to make one of the blogs just like it is at the moment, and put a single mega sexy topic (if MB can think of something decent) onto another separate post, that just might catch the eye of the mandarins. Maybe every second week lads. MB still mulling it all over in his brain.
Only in this way lads can MB get up to tens of thousands of followers and sit back watching the advertising revenues pour in. MB can then spend one day each week writing, 2 days (if MB really wants to work hard that week) taking photos (in Africa or China) and take 4 days rest, as the good Lord no doubt intended for MB. Inshallah.
So lads, you will all agree that sounds like a plan. We do not know how it will pan out and we just never know what’s around the corner. Best of luck MB. Thanks lads. MB will not forget you all when he is stinking rich. Ya right!
This week’s pics
Still using MB’s pics from Dubai World Cup race night lads. Last 2 weeks MB gave you flavour of the people. This week MB gives you flavour of the occasion & the venue. Featured people hanging from the sky. Aerial display plane doing tricks in the dark of night. Fireworks. The fantastic Meydan stadium. Truly incredible occasion. Get there sometime if you can lads. Big recommend from MB.
Similar to the previous occasion MB attended 3 years ago, it was a real ‘spectacular’, giving great PR to brand ‘Dubai’. MB’s skill with the camera is on full view for all to see. You are really awesome MB. Don’t mention lads.
MB wants you all to be aware lads that you are part of the wordpress.com community. This is the website that hosts the HX blog and allows MB to compose the brilliance week after brilliant week. Approx 370M people around the world are reading blogs each month hosted by wordpress.com. We (you) were in the news this week when the site came under a hacker attack which attempted to plant malware on all (your) computers.
Ok lads. You will all remember the brilliantly witty & amusing piece MB did last week on the Munch painting The Scream. Well lads, be pure coincidence, the website also featured another blog on the artist Munch last week that MB discovered mere minutes after he posted his own.
MB decided he would say hello to a fellow blogger, ‘chew the Munch fat’ so to speak, and left comment in the comment box, complete with link to MB’s blog which MB thought might be of interest to all Munchers.
But just to prove how nerdy the art nerds really are lads, the blogger comes back all high ‘n mighty ‘n all, and tries his pathetic best to insult MB in front of the whole art blogger community. MB’s initial thought was just to tell Art Nerd to f**k off, but decided to take pity on the nerd, and merely explained that MB’s piece was ‘tongue in cheek’. Art Nerd did not have the good grace to reply lads so presumably he did not understand the phrase ‘tongue in cheek’. MB suspects he is American.
Art Nerd also informed MB that he too had written humorous piece on The Scream. What a joke lads. MB made the mistake of finding and reading the ‘humorous piece’ and discovered that there is more humor at a Saudi beheading.
Well, having looked at your blog I’m pretty sure you can’t have seen much of Munch’s work to draw your conclusion, but respect your right to express your opinion.
I have also written a more light-hearted assessment of The Scream entitled ‘The Scream – doesn’t it make you want to scream’ after one version sold for $120 million at Sotheby’s, New York in May last year. (Yes Mr Art Nerd, I mentioned that in my blog which you said you read!)
You might want to look at that.
So lads, whats the moral of the story? MB does not really have a clue. And is still trying to think of one.
The End lads!
God rest the victims in Boston and bring some comfort to the families. Three dead and 150 approx injured. Loads of news time. And an inhuman Godless crime.
70,000+ Killed in Syria in 2 years, maybe a million homeless. Disappearing from the news. A few pieces from MB. Irish charity ‘Goal’ is on the ground doing its best.
The whole story got lots of coverage in the Arabic newspapers in Saudi, but MB could not get the full story on any English site. The chucking out of the Religious Police guy is posted on YouTube but MB has not seen.
Only in Saudi Arabia!
Tasty chicken available at the fast food outlet
Dubai Police Cars
The Dubai police will not be outraced by boy racers. No Siree. No way. In recent weeks lads we have acquired a:
Only in Dubai!
We are starting to see the early stages of a recovery in the property market. 400 queued for the latest bargains:
Was given to you all by the Arabs lads. From the bbc:
Reluctant Emigrant – Earthquake
There were 2 large earthquakes in Iran in recent days lads and DH is blogging about her experience of ‘the earth moving’ in her Abu Dhabi home. She was probably wondering what next, on a normal day. Little did she realise that just around the corner was – earthquake!http://thereluctantemigrant.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/earthquake/
Ok lads. Gotta go solve world hunger and other stuff. Have a good weekend y’all. Take it easy.
MB (taking a quick look around the corner!)
Category: camera, Dubai, English arabic words, Humour, HX, Ireland, Irish man in the Middle East, Meydan, Meydan race course, Middle East Life, plane, reluctant Immigrant, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tasty chicken Tagged: camera, Dubai, English arabic words, Humour, HX, Ireland, Irish man in the Middle East, Meydan, Meydan race course, Middle East Life, Plane, reluctant Immigrant, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tasty chicken