Tag Archives: Middle East

Welcome to Jordan: Exploring Amman

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Welcome to Jordan

While Amman perhaps doesn’t offer the kind of exhilarating souk experience with an overwhelming array of spices, artisanal ware and relentless bargaining we often imagine of Arabic cities, it has a subtle charm of its own.

The old part of town, in central Amman, is where the souks lie, beneath Continue reading

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Atheist in the Holy Land: An Observer’s Experience

Before I visited, I considered Jerusalem only as a city for revelling at the abundance of religious sites. The reality, however, is vastly different Continue reading

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Adventures of a Pilgrim: Mecca

The two predominant travellers to Saudi Arabia are expats and pilgrims and I fall into the latter category. Although there has been a slight growth in leisure tourism, religious tourism is a thriving industry, bringing in Continue reading

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Bastakia: Art, Heritage and Crafts in Dubai

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series The Emirates

A stroll through Dubai’s Bastakia Quarter is like a stroll back in time, or a walk through a movie set. If you take the chance to step away from Dubai’s bustling, shiny shopping malls or its luxury beaches for a walk through this historical neighbourhood, you will find peace, beautiful architecture, and Middle Eastern art and heritage.

A beautiful mosque stands at the edge of the Bastakia Quarter. Photo © Kathryn Parsons

Bastakia in Bur Dubai is easily reached by heading to Al Fahidi metro station and walking up Al Satwa Road towards the creek. Once you reach Bastakia, immerse yourself in the area by walking around the tiny alleys and seeing what you discover! The neighbourhood is home to the Coin Museum, the Coffee Museum, various art galleries, craft shops and cafes set in sunny courtyards. Most of my purchases during my visit to Dubai are from Bastakia — there’s a wonderful incense shop where I brought some oud crystals for burning and an art shop where a lovely man wrote my name in Arabic and framed it. There are also shops filled with Iranian pottery, handicrafts and jewellery.

Often named ‘Old Dubai’, Bastakia is also home to the remnants of Dubai’s old wall, constructed in 1800 from gypsum and coral. The neighbourhood has recently undergone restoration and is now a completely pedestrianised heritage centre, so it’s a perfect, peaceful place to see traditional Middle Eastern buildings and visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding. Here you can also go upstairs for great views of the neighbourhood.

Shops, cafes, galleries and museums are hidden in the narrow winding allies. Photo © Kathryn Parsons

My favourite part of the Bastakia Quarter is the Arabian Tea House Restaurant and Café, and not just because the food is delicious — this courtyard café is dreamy! In my opinion, there’s no better word to sum up the atmosphere as you sit down under the white canopies amidst the trees and flowers, order a cool minty lemonade filled with ice, and enjoy your surroundings. They also boast a selection of over a hundred different kinds of tea from all over the world, and an impressive variety of dishes to keep you going throughout the day, from traditional breakfasts, to barbecue, to hearty salads and afternoon teas.

Mosaic graffiti spotted in Bastakia. Photo © Kathryn Parsons

One of the best things I found about visiting Bastakia was that it was an ideal place to visit with others or alone. I first went with a group of people, which was ideal for meandering around the lanes, checking out the art and enjoying a nice lunch — even if we did occasionally lose somebody to the next alluring alleyway or art gallery! But it was also great to visit the quarter alone. The second time I went, I was visiting my sister who worked in Dubai at the time, so I had a few days to entertain myself. Aside from being invited to lunch by two men on the metro who were on their way to their mother’s house, I spent the afternoon in uninterrupted peace walking round Bastakia. I got to spend as long as I wanted pondering the interesting graffiti, sampling the scents of each incense and, best of all, drinking coffee and writing alone in the serene courtyard café.

Featured image © Kathryn Parsons

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What Trump Will Do in Syria

Rarely has it occurred that the president of the United States has not had to deal with international issues. During and since its ascension to global superpower status, the United States has had the ability — and some would argue responsibility — to intervene in other countries’ internal affairs. Since the end of the Cold War, the United States, often at the behest of NATO or the United Nations, has done just that. It has intervened for the sake of stability and humanitarian principles through military means in Somalia, Kosovo and Iraq (the first time, in 1991), and through diplomatic means in North Korea and Iran.

As the Syrian Civil War now rages on into a seventh, bloody year and with more people dying every day, is now up to Donald Trump to decide whether or not to intervene in Syria.

Two destroyed tanks in front of a mosque in Azaz, Syria. © Christiaan Triebert

So far it doesn’t look good. Trump neglected to send a delegation to the recently concluded Astana Peace Talks in Kazakhstan, which took place between Russia and the Syrian government and Turkey and the rebels. Though Trump has said notoriously little with regards to actual policy, he has made statements that would suggest his intentions.

“America First”

Trump made it abundantly clear during his inauguration address that he would put America first. By this he means that American interests would be his top priority. This seems to suggest that Continue reading

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