Top 5 impressions from Cairo

I had about two hours off, so I grabbed the opportunity for a walk through the city center of Cairo. Very few tourists about, but many Egyptians who used the day for shopping – this was a religious holiday, and most Egyptians had a day off.

Below: a beautiful old mosque hidden deep in the narrow streets drew many local visitors. I tried to enter as well, but the doorman shouted “tomorrow!” And banged the door shut in my face. I presume they were just calling it a day. I checked my watch and it was almost five.

Below: in the absence of a guide or guidebook, neither purpose, name or history of the sites that I passed could easily be determined – yet their beauty was unchallenged. There is satisfaction in letting a town work on you, without constantly studying facts or staring into a smartphone.

Below: a boy selling bread in the street. He had a devastatingly loud whistle to get attention – this didn’t work too well, as he wasn’t selling much.

People out for a stroll and shopping. Merchants of the same trade share the same street: one street is full with dealers of carpets, another street for electric appliances, and yet another alley for shops that focus on metal pots and pans.
The city is overflowing with people, millions and millions. The pictures do not bring this across, but Cairo is all about people, people and people.

Originally posted 2017-10-07 06:35:26.

Dull Doha. Qatar – three days immersed in the Middle East.

I reported before on intriguing capital. Below the lobby of the hotel where I was staying. The room was freezing cold, air ongoing full blast, but the hotel was pleasant enough. Although: the breakfast buffet had a price tag of $30 – but how much can a man eat for breakfast? I discovered that Qatari cheese is very salty and rubbery, it is regarded as a delicacy but it takes getting used to.
I learned a lot from my colleagues how the state of Qatar ticks and functions. It is intriguing how this society differs so much from ours, with strict Islam rule implemented. This in intriguing and interesting for the first few days, but stay longer than that and it will become challenging.

Below: the skyline of Doha. Skyscrapers are being built at rocket speed (like all over the world, the new pastime) but the country itself is mainly desert. With 300,000 Qataris and 2.5 million expats, the demographics are exceptional. There are a few additional cities, but they are in the desert, close to the natural gas fields and intended for the laborers. Here’s a tourist secret: Doha is the most mind-numbing boring city that I have visited (and I have visited a few). My impression is that the Qataris hide and party with their families behind the walls of their country estates; the migrants forlornly wander the boring streets trying not to think about alcohol: there isn’t any. I neither drink nor miss alcohol, but even for me Doha offered a new perspective on boredom.

Below: to defy the Saudi boycott, which was omnipresent, the Qataris have put up portraits of their Emir to show their solidarity. The Arabs had hoped that the Qataris would topple their Emir, but that turned into a “no way, Jose.”

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Originally posted 2017-10-03 16:06:57.

Photos from Egypt – more about my trip to the country of the Pharaos

The top photo shows a new development area with mansions being build for (upper) middle class; a social group that seems to be growing in size. However, as the picture elsewhere in my blog http://www.clemenssuter.com shows, not everybody is benefiting from economic opportunities – which aren’t really marvelous: the Egyptian pound dropped in value by half (!) in 2016. The picture at the bottom shows travelers from many different origins at Kuwait airport. The plane to Cairo suffered terrible delays, I arrived in Cairo at 2am.

Read more here: http://www.clemenssuter.com

Originally posted 2017-09-24 21:00:16.

A trip to the Middle East. Impressions from Qatar and its underwhelming capital Doha.

Here more about Doha and Qatar. Some background first: Qatar is an emirate on the Arabian Peninsula. Saudi Arabia is the next door neighbor, with Qatar itself sticking out into the Persian Gulf like a thumb, bordered by the sea on three sides.

First impressions

it was VERY hot and unexpectedly humid. Qatar is a desert country and I thought it would be hot and dry. Not so: the humid air sweeps in from the Persian Gulf and is unbearable on most days.

Qatar is very tidy and modern. The people ate industrious and friendly, yet a bit aloof. There’s a reason for this: if you talk with a Qatari, you are in many cases chatting with a multi-millionaire.

Some Qatar facts

2.5 million people live in Qatar, of which 10% call themselves Qatari and have the hard-to-get passport. An Emir rules the country. Large natural gas reserves drive the economy. The vast majority of people come from other countries: they want to find work with better pay than in their home country. Taxi drivers and technologists, you meet people from all kinds of backgrounds and places. Most seem to enjoy living there: one taxi driver that I met came from India and had been in Qatar for 15 years, his wife and family lived in Delhi.

A hot and humid view from the hotel.

Above: An early morning view from the hotel. Persia / Iran is on the opposite side of this body of water.  Kuwait is on the left, and the Emirates are on the right.

Below: The high-rise opposite of the hotel. None of these buildings are older than 10-15 years. Qatar is booming, and constant renewal is underway.

View from the Hilton

Experience the heat

Below: All buildings are air-conditioned. I entered my hotel room, and it was stunningly cold. I put the air-conditioner up to the 27C (it was on 18C originally), and after a few hours the temperature was halfway OK. On the other hand, as I walked out of the hotel lobby, the heat and humidity hit me like a hammer, it felt like 50C. That was only on the first day, the following day was a bit better. Or did I get used to it? In any case, I wondered what the high of summer would be like. Locals said that depending on the time of year, a hot and very dusty wind blows from Africa, the Khamsin, which can cause a sense of nausia.

Leaving the hotel. The heat was excruciating.

Taken  together: an intriguing country. I was glad that I visited for work, as I am not sure what sites a tourist would want to visit. Qatar is a desert country, with not much to see. A newly built island of high rises and businesses in the middle of nowhere. Anything old is replaced.

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Originally posted 2017-09-23 21:50:16.

Is Doha the Amazingly Deadliest Boring Capital in the World? A Journey to Qatar. Dull, drab, disappointing, Doha.

During my many stays in the Middle East, I also visited Doha, capital of Qatar.

Some background: Qatar is tremendously rich from the abundance of natural gas. As a result, it’s capital Doha has developed into a business and conferencing hub. It is a very strict islamic state, leaving little space for fun and games. To everybody’s surprise they will host the 2022 World Cup (I always wonder about the things money can buy). Soccer fans best bring a book.

The movie below I made on my way from the airport to the hotel. The links direct to photos I took and more details about country and capital.

Doha has been hailed as one of the most boring towns in the world, and there is considerable truth to this rumor.  The town has very little history left, it is new and fully focused on business. There is no extensive historic center. The town is very car-centric (many, many SUVs) and as a pedestrian you quickly feel very lonely on the broad boulevards; you do not meet many other people on foot, and windowshopping is severely hampered by the absence of, yes, shopwindows (there are many malls, if you go for that sort of thing). The Souk is a tiny market, completely new and unwelcoming, with stores that sell tortured exotic animals and mini-dogs. The climate is hot and humid: a stroll is only possible after sunset. As an Islamic country, there is no (or little) alcohol for sale – but even I as a teetotaler can only say that the town is absolutely underwhelming; I can’t blame the absence of alcohol for that deep feeling of loneliness and despair. I was visiting on business with a calendar full of appointments and I was preoccupied enough, yet during my quick tours through the city I was, well: disappointed. Perhaps some of you readers have different experiences to share. Perhaps an interesting museum or cinema that I missed? Pole dancing? A hidden bar? Table tennis tournaments?

The boycott by Saudi Arabia was in full swing, but it didn’t seem to have affected the Qatari much. They even imported 4000 Friesian cows from Australia and put them in an air-conditioned hall, to make sure enough milk could be produced, which they got from Arabia up to that point.

Women stay mostly at home (probably playing with the mini dogs), and the men tend to take their SUVs out for a spin at night; driving endless circles through the town. I got bored just watching them occupied with this non-activity.

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Citizens (men only) giving the four wheels a lackluster spin. At least the weather is in their favor.

Read more about travel in my books.

Originally posted 2017-09-23 17:45:18.

More photos from our trip to south England

Below the study of Charles Darwin, perhaps the greatest scientist of all time. We visited his family home Downe House, located south of London.

Vacation in England is incomplete without the occasional shower. You can see some of the raindrops on the window of our small caravan. Beautiful sunset though.

We visited Brighton – I have chosen an atypical motif. Or is it? Not so sure as Brighton is a surprising city.

Cream tea is a traditional!

Originally posted 2017-08-28 11:40:48.

About the EU. Inspired by a taxi ride through Kansas City.

I have been struggling with the memory of an unpleasant experience. It went like this: I visited Kansas City on business, and on the last day I had to go back to the airport by taxi. The driver was a young man, probably in his early thirties, intelligent and engaged. I always chat with the taxi and Uber drivers. The conversation was pleasant enough, until at some point the driver noticed that I was from Europe and brought the discussion to Brexit. Today, Brexit is practically over and done with, but at that time the initial discussions between the UK and the EU were in full swing; Teresa May was still Prime Minister. I indicated that these negotiations weren’t easy, as both parties naturally had wishes, at which point, this young man said (watch my lips!): “The UK has the very right to leave the EU. The EU is fascist that they want to define the rules for Brexit. The EU is a fascist state.”

I must admit that I was speechless for several seconds. I then tried to explain to him, that from my viewpoint, the EU was founded as a reaction to the terrible wars and fascism of the twentieth century. I explained that the EU is a union that focuses on economic, political and societal unification, all with the sole purpose of defending democracy and human rights – to never let fascism happen again. And the EU has been quite successful at that too, as no war within the EU territory has occurred since 1945  (note: wars have happened outside of the EU boundary over the years, but luckily many of those countries later joined the EU).

He still wasn’t please with my answer, and pointed out that it was fascist to dictate the UK the rules by which they would leave. This shocked me too, as this is the same naivety that many pro-Brexit Brits suffered from. I told him that the EU is one of the largest markets in the world, with approximately 450 million people (living in 27 countries). To get access to that market has big benefits for any third party, and the UK would need to comply to certain rules and restrictions to be rewarded that access. He still didn’t agree. I provided an example, a thought play. Let’s suppose, I said, that New Jersey would decide to leave the USA, what would happen? First of all, there is no clause in the constitution of the USA that would allow this, so the US president would send the army to force New Jersey to stay within the USA (similar as what happened during the US civil war between the north and south). In the EU, the constitution actually has such a clause. However, let’s presume that New Jersey would be allowed to leave: at that moment it would lose all its privileges. No free travel across the border to the neighboring states, no protection by the US army. Sure: no payment towards the central government, but in return also no subsidies or financial benefits from that government, so no access to other US universities, nor to healthcare services or using US insurance. Most importantly: no free trade with the remaining 49 states of the USA. New Jersey would need to negotiate this. Naturally, the USA (as it is much bigger market than New Jersey) would set the agenda in their interest, and dictate many of the rules. The UK may have 67 million citizens and a higher GPO than New Jersey, but still: the EU won’t simply give the UK access to their market for free.

Obviously, the driver rejected this idea immediately. His argumentation was simple: New Jersey was part of a country, my suggestion that it would leave the USA was ridiculous. Whereas the UK was an independent country. And independent countries are allowed to leave with all benefits, hence the EU was fascist. Well, I said, that is what many people in the UK believe, but they will have a brutal awaking.

To be honest, he did have a point, as perception drives reality. The EU (more in wikipedia) is a federation in development, the final step towards a United States of Europe has not been completed. This is illustrated by the paragraph mentioned above, which allows nations to leave the Union. In a real country such a clause is unthinkable.

People see the EU as an assembly of individual countries, but at the same time as a single unit. the view depends on what the situation is, and this is confusing as hell. Examples? The EU is seen as a single unit considering one of the best personal data protection laws in the world (GDPR) that forces all companies (such as Facebook, Google or Alibaba) to comply to if they want to do business with the EU. The EU also aggressively prosecutes monopolies by businesses. The EU has also established very strong human rights, across all nations, but this is already less tangible for the average citizen. Sure, the EU is best known for their unifying laws, such as the curve of bananas – which actually was a request from the banana producers themselves, and would have been implemented in affected countries anyway. In the USA or China, such laws exist too.

On the other extreme, sports is still the responsibility of the member states, rather than of the EU. So Olympic gold medals are counted by country. I didn’t do the math, but I suspect that the EU would blow most other countries out of the water if it comes to the number of Olympic gold medals. The EU has the best skiers through Germany, Austria and the Nordics; the best ice skaters through the Netherlands and the Nordics, the best sailors from French, Belgium, Greece, Italy, Portugal (to name a few) – and the best soccer players from practically all countries. But does anyone in the world count Olympic medals this way? Naturally not, many will say. after all, the EU isn’t a country.

What are the causes for these views within the EU itself? Even within the EU, many people do not feel like Europeans, but feel like Belgians, Italians or Austrians. Europeans still feel very national. Whereas Russians, Americans or Chinese are constantly and efficiently infused (yes: indoctrinated) with patriotism, this is largely absent on an EU level. The EU is a very fact-based organization, with little room for emotion. In addition, Europe does a poor job advertising its merits to the ordinary people.

Interestingly, many Europeans project their anti-government sentiments on the EU. This is what happened during the Brexit referendum in the UK: research has shown that the pro-Brexit voters in reality didn’t know or feel much about the EU, but they did want to punish their own (British) government. So, the more the UK government argued that the EU was the best choice in the referendum, the more the population rejected that idea, and wanted to punish them for past and present sins. This led to the 51% majority (17M of the entire population) that voted for Brexit. Not an overwhelming majority (of which, due to advanced age, apparently 6M have in the meantime died). In the USA, this mistrust of the central government is also well established (most US Americans probably do not realize that their state government plays a big legislative role too – and if not the governor, than the local mayor – somebody has to set up the playing rules).

The EU is still on its path towards full federation, and (to me) this is the best way forward. The EU lives from solidarity among the member states, and this has lead to peace, prosperity, human rights. But until the EU arrives at that point, the perception of the EU will have its ups and downs. During dramatic events such Brexit, the refugee crisis or the Corona pandemic, many people immediately ask: “will the EU survive this?” Probably if somebody sneezes in Zimbabwe, somebody, somewhere will ask “Oh, is this the end of the EU?” Nobody would ask that about the USA, China or Russia (although we actually know from history that no nation can survive forever).

The reality is that EU is going strong. Admittedly, the refugee crisis has not been resolved satisfactorily, this is where the solidarity breaks to pieces (also think: Trump’s wall).  Still, I wager that the EU exited Brexit towards a stronger position. The Corona Pandemic led to more solidarity among the member states, and daring decisions for more federalization.

To the taxi driver in Kansas City: No, the EU is definitely not fascist. On the contrary.

On the ferry between France and the UK

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Originally posted 2020-06-07 22:10:58.

France. Photos from our trip to France and The Provence

We spent a few days in the south of France – the weather was in our favor, and we could make several  leisurely walks, drink coffee and have some excellent food. Especially beautiful is that time of day when the sun starts to go down (and the tourists are at dinner) to wander the small streets of the old villages.

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Venasque – one of the many beautiful villages in the Vaucluse valley

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Crossing the Rhone by ferry

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Buddy’s new girlfriend

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A Jules Verne inspired merry-go-round

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Sunset on our last evening

Originally posted 2017-06-13 04:58:59.

Five reasons to get the complete series of TWO JOURNEYS today.

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This series consists of three independent books. In TWO JOURNEYS, Alan finds himself to be the only survivor of a global pandemic. During his travels from Japan to Berlin, he soon finds out that danger lurks around every corner. In FIELDS OF FIRE, Alan crosses the Atlantic Ocean and the continent of America to rescue his family and to find more clues about the cause of the pandemic. And finally, in the novel REBOUND, Alan and his friends strike back to save the future of humankind.

Thrilling stories, full of inquisitiveness, compassion, bravery, and comradery.

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Apple Books Reviews for TWO JOURNEYS. Another reason to get the complete series!

Here’s more info about the last book in the series: REBOUND.

Originally posted 2022-04-17 20:33:00.

Images and Photos – check out my Pinterest channel for some beautiful pics

If you are a Pinterest user, and if you regularly browse imagery (for relaxation or work, or both ;), I invite you to follow me on Pinterest! Here are my categories and boards:

  1. I am very interested in Orientalist Art. These are paintings that provide a western-world view of what the orient should look like, and they have thus very little to do with the reality of the Orient, past or present. Having said that, this artform does remind me of the books that I used to read as a small boy, and has a great personal sentimental value for me. I collect related imagery here: https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/clemens-orientalist-pics/
  2. If you are interested in my paintings, you can find all my original work at this link below. Perhaps, if you are the owner of one of my paintings, you may find a photo in that location, feel free to leave a comment! https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/clemens-orignal-paintings/
  3. During my travels across the globe, I occasionally take a shot of a graffiti. I collect these pictures on the board below. I am on the look-out for graffiti that is either mind-blowing, simply beautiful, or… a bit absurd.   https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/clemens-photos-of-graffiti/  
  4. All the images from my blogposts are automatically collected in this board: https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/pics-from-clemens-blogposts-wwwclemenssutercom  This is all original work by me; I do not use stills from other sources  – I hope :-( warn me should you be the owner of one of these pictures, mistakes happen.
  5. I also collect some of my travel pics on this board https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/clemens-travel/ and some pics of our dog Buddy here: https://www.pinterest.com/clemenssuter/our-dog-buddy/ 

Find my books here at amazon.com.

Find more of my art-related blogposts: https://clemenssuter.com/tag/art/ 

 

 

 

Originally posted 2019-09-07 20:20:00.