Qatar Blockade – Update

Way back mid-June, MB published one of the most succinct, informative and entertaining reports on the Qatar/Gulf crisis seen in world media. Peers gasped for breath. Read More

Qatar Blockade – MB’s trying to sort it out!

Followers will, no doubt, already be aware of the ‘Qatar Blockade’, to give the subject matter its Twitter hashtag handle. On Monday morning last, Egypt, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar, along with some other Islamic power-houses such as Maldives and Libya Eastern Region. All flights between Qatar and ‘The Others’ were cancelled indefinitely on the following day with travel bans imposed on citizens. The land border with Saudi Arabia (the only land border that peninsular Qatar actually has) was closed with some red & white ‘danger’ tape and plastic bollards, like you see on construction sites back in Ireland. ‘Danger – Do Not Enter’ signs suddenly appeared all along the frontline. “WTF?” shouted all the normal (powerless) citizens of the Arabian Gulf who, to a man and woman, hadn’t a clue what was going on.

And there you have it, dear followers. You are all as wise as all the locals on this matter. Tweets from ‘The Donald’ soon revealed that he was in the thick of it, and in all probability had rubber-stamped the whole escapade, which is still unfolding. ‘The Donald’ was in Saudi Arabia a few weeks back and departed with USD 100B in weapons contracts, while Ivanka gladly accepted a USD 100M donation to her ‘Female Entrepreneurs Fund’ from the Saudi King; her without the headscarf. Tramp. Trump.


While all the expats were scratching their heads and scratching their butts trying to figure it all out, Mr Mohammad & Mrs Fathima Al Qatari made an immediate bee-line for the supermarkets and cleared all the shelves of perishable goods. Generations of dealing with Arab volatility has thought the Qatari lads and lassies a thing or two about dealing with a crisis. Monday and Tuesday saw some of the longest queues in Qatari supermarket history. Fresh milk was gone by Monday evening, leaving only UHT Goats Milk for dim-witted expats like MB, when they finally cottoned on to the fact that shopping is what one does when a crisis strikes. Food shopping. Comfort shopping. Any kind of shopping. Even MB got a little caught up in it all, buying a dozen organic eggs on Tuesday evening, rather than his normal half. How comforted was MB?! Struth!

MB heard only today that there is no chicken available in the shops, him not being the greatest of chicken fans and unaware of that particular chicken fact. The desert sand does not provide much sustenance for your average chuck, so the chicken farms of the Gulf are primarily located in Saudi Arabia where an odd bit of muck and dirt resides; Islamic chickens one and all no doubt. The chicken trucks are therefore presently stacked ten-a-chicken-breast at the blockaded Saudi border, as MB writes this chicken missal.

For the information and ongoing education of HX followers, the Arabic word for chicken is ‘dajaj’ (some word), and MB swears that almost 75% of the items on every restaurant menu in Qatar have the ‘dajaj’ word included somewhere. Dajaj this and dajaj that and dajaj the other. It’s akin to spuds back in Ireland. A must-have dish with every meal, in whatever format suits the moment. More dajaj please. And can I please order some desert dajaj? And a dajaj to go. Shukran.

So is there a threat of invasion MB? Well if there is lads, let’s hope it’s an invasion of chickens, or eggs. But which will come first MB? That’s the proverbial question lads!

Anyway, MB is not fearful of invasion. The HX Blog has numerous followers in Saudi Arabia and UAE, from MB’s sojourns in those regions. So the fact that MB is known to be presently residing in Qatar, means in all probability, that none of the hostile governments (of some 120M population) will risk sending troops across the border of Qatar (of some 2M population). Or if they do, it will only be to meet with MB to negotiate the terms of their surrender.

And that’s the story to date lads. MB will keep you all a(chicken)breast of developments, even before they happen.

Watch this space. Yesterday!

20170608_174331Lulu Supermarket today. Doha, Qatar. UHT Goats Milk. Yuk!






Weekly Photo Challenge – Partners


Fishermen unload their catch at Ajman Fish Market, United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Late Friday afternoons provide a great spectacle at the Ajman docks as thousands of fish are landed and laid out on the concrete paving by species and size. Traders from the adjacent market then bid for their requirements by an open auction process. Retailers, hoteliers, restauranteurs, or members of the general public like MB, are then able to buy the fish in the air-conditioned market as they wish, and a team of workers is on hand to gut and clean the fish if you require. There is also a small shop at the end of the market, run by a Syrian gentleman named Mr Hussam, who will cook the fish for buyers by smothering in his secret (& delicious) sauce/spice/herb mix and wrapping in tin foil, before popping into the flame oven.

If you ever get to visit Dubai or Abu Dhabi and have a few hours to kill, MB highly recommends a visit. And if photography is a hobby, then so much the better. FYI – Ajman is one of the seven Emirates of the UAE.


Photo Story – 3 of 7

Burj Al Arab Hotel, Dubai.

The architects were commissioned to produce a hotel that would double as an iconic design/structure for Dubai. The final selected design mimics the sail of a dhow (traditional arabic) boat; and so ‘The Burj’ was built (‘burj’ is the Arabic word for ‘tower’). At 920 ft tall it is the 4th tallest hotel in the world. Many architects moaned about it from an architectural point of view at the time. Many Islamic conservatives complained loudly that the helipad and the tall spine together form what looks like a Christian cross when viewed from the sea and wanted the helipad demolished. Sheikh Mo (Dubai ruler) told them to get real!

The hotel is touted as a 7 Star hotel, but not by the owners Jumeirah Group (who incidentally sponsored Irish golfer Rory McIlroy until his deal with Nike a few years back). The 7 Star title seems to have stuck after it appeared in a newspaper article written by a British journalist who was invited to one of the opening events.

The hotel design has proved to be the iconic structure envisaged by owners, and the image of the hotel has been used the world over to successfully promote brand ‘Dubai’.

You can not just wander in for a coffee or beer. You must book something online to actually receive your security pass to enter the building. The 7 course afternoon tea option at about 90 USD per head is the most affordable!  MB took this shot from the 80th floor of a nearby 100 storey tower he was working on 4 or 5 years back.



Weekly Photo Challenge – Off-Season


The grandstand and hotel at Meydan horse racing track in Dubai is a hive of activity from November to March. Outside of that period the hotel still operates at a reasonable but reduced level of occupancy. On the track only maintenance works take place to keep all ship-shape for the following season.

Off Season

Weekly Photo Challenge – Symmetry


Ajman Fish Market – UAE (Ajman is one of the 7 Emirates of the UAE)
The fishing boats (generally manned by fishermen from the state of Gujarat in India) unload their catches onto Ajman quay every Saturday afternoon and lay them out symmetrically in terms of size & species. The fish traders from the adjoining market then bid for lots through an auction process as the auctioneer with his microphone walks through all the lines of fish one by one.

Lots of symmetry in this one. The buildings behind. The roofs of the boats. And the fish. Lots of fish!


Not Easy

In Europe people take freedom of travel for granted. Want to go to France? Of Holland? Or Germany? No problem. Go online or pop into any travel agency in your local town or city and buy a flight ticket. Jump on the plane and off you go. Arrive, flash your EU Passport briefly to the Immigration official, and head on out to the open streets. Easy peasy.

With similar language, religion and culture for the most parts, one might think that the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region is tailor made for freedom of travel and open access to work. But for historical, political, security and other reasons it’s not. Very not.  Read More

Weekly Photo Challenge: Nighttime

Dubai Marina


My Sudani Visa

MB writes this account as he sits in a ground floor apartment just down the street from the Embassy of Saudi Arabia. In Khartoum, Sudan. Continent of Africa.

Two days earlier:

Read More

Waldorf Salad

Today, MB had a Waldorf Salad. At the Waldorf Astoria. Not at Fawlty Towers. Read More

Photo 25/30: Mountains

The Idea
Have decided to post a photo per day for 30 days, each based on a word or theme. Feel free to offer a word or theme challenge to MB in the comment box below.

Photo 25/30
If you travel from Dubai towards Oman you will come to the mountainous region of Hatta. The weather is generally cooler than in coastal Dubai and is pleasant change for the flat desert terrain of most of the UAE. The Hajjar mountains are mainly rocky slopes with almost no vegetation.


Mad As A Hatter

Morning all


Read More

ME Culture (6)

Ajman Fisk Market, UAE.

The majority of the fishermen come from India, from the state of Gujarat. The market takes place every Saturday afternoon and is a huge spectacle.
The fish are sorted on the boat decks upon arrival at the port into baskets of similar type fish and then laid out on the yard for the traders to inspect & purchase by public auction. The public buyers have a choice to get the fish cleaned and gutted by a team of men in green plastic coats in the market building, and also to have the fish cooked in a small fish cooking shop that makes its own spice mixes to suit the fish taste.













Black & White

Steaming fish and worker at the fish ovens, Ajman Fish Market, UAE.


ME Culture

A beach in Sharjah, UAE.