Doha, Qatar. A brisk walk through a very dull town.

I had forgotten why I took this picture. I now remember that it wasn’t because of the building in the background, but because of the cars: all 4WD vehicles. It is rumored that the average Qatari has a 4WD for going to work, a sports car for going to dinner and a special desert car for the weekend.

This picture, taken at the corniche, shows a spa with the picture of the Qatar emir – which is shown all over. I took this photo mostly because of the full moon over the Persian Gulf.

Before Qatar struck gold with natural gas, pearl fishing was one of the main industries (referred to in Jules Verne’s “20000 leagues,” if my memory doesn’t fail me). This sculpture, with a man-high pearl, can be found in the port. There isn’t much art in the streets, not untypical for an Islamic country, although that doesn’t leave much to see and enjoy.

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The bells of the church in Martina Franca (in southern Italy – Apulia)

The sun has just gone down and the bells for mass at seven are merrily calling the congregation. Very efficiently, you will agree.

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Is there any sight in the world more beautiful? Sunset over the Mediterranean next to the isle of Capri

We traveled to the tip of the Amalfi coast, and just as we arrived, the sun hit the horizon. Isn’t this simply amazing ? And is that a green ray? The spot where I made this movie is a secret travel tip, but per your request I can provide the map coordinates to this very secluded spot and the excellent restaurant located there ;-) (do ignore the sounds of the jerk with the tractor that you can hear in the background ;-)

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Guess which town I visited in the fall? Pölser, kjötbullar & …oumph!

A bit of rain, a small room underneath the roof in a quaint hotel in the old town – that was Stockholm! Cyclists raced through the streets, endangering tourists and themselves, an amazing sight! I had a chance to try out “oumph”, a soy-based veggie substance that tastes surprisingly good, but as far as a quick internet search revealed, it is currently only available in the Nordics :-(

All in all, of you have a chance, try to visit this amazing capital!

Bonsai in the national botanical garden of Tokyo

When traveling to foreign countries I always attempt to find a few attractions off the beaten track. Botanical gardens are such a spot; as a biologist by I have visited gardens in places such as Paris, London, New Mexico, Hawaii … and now in Kyoto.

In a corner of the Kyoto Garden is an absolutely impressive collection of bonsais. In fact, it has inspired me to start growing a bonsai myself. I’m still in the information stage, so very little progress to report except that growing a bonsai  doesn’t seem to be trivial. I will keep you posted!

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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.

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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