Saturday, 23 December 2006

Walking through Doha again

Got ready to sail off to my ship on wednesday morning, but after all what happenned it would have been a miracle if i actually got on that i was delayed again till tomorrow, this time they were planning to put me on our supply boat Zakher princess and sending me straight to the Bluefin together with our chief navigator as he was delayed, this plan changed later to going on the pinging vessel Stanford services later to get to Bluefin when the sun is laready up so that we won't wait too long till they send the FRC for us.

So i took another day in Doha, and went out for another long walk to the coast but this time taking another route and walking during the day, the sight in the morning is even more gorgeous, you see how blue the sea is and how beautiful with the sun shining warm and bright and with the great palms along that coast...what can i say? just perfect!

As usual i got home quite tired, and i spent the late afternoon sleeping, and that was a good sleep, i felt so good after it.

Later that evening i went out for a simple junk dinner at Burger King, came back, had a nice hot bath then ordered cheese cake and tea to my room, the amount of tea they got me raised my mood even was really a lot !

Thursday morning right before going for breakfast, i got a call from our chief navigator to check what were my plans for the day, after we were informed that we're moving to the port at around 4. I had my breakfast then went around the shops near by to get some things that i needed, got back to the hotel then called him, we went out for a walk...again to the sea-side, sat there for a while then went back, had lunch and went up to our rooms to relax for a while and get ready to go, met down in the lobby at 4 and waited for our agent...then our journey to the Bluefin began...

Tuesday, 19 December 2006

Walking through Doha

Back to work, back to staying away from home.

This trip i flew to join my crew in Doha, Qatar...After a lot of visa/ticket problems, and coming to and from the airport, and switching airlines, and getting the ticket the night before flying (taking into consideration that the flight is at 9:30, i.e. i'm supposed to be there at 7:30!!!), i finally landed in Doha...And after the taxi came one hour late, and the hotel booking wasn't ready, i finally got a room, caught my breath and went out to see Doha.

Although there are a lot of Indians, Pakistanis, Philippinos and so on in Doha, it still has its own Arabic Gulf taste, and you still feel that this is an Arabic city, i see it as a mixture of Dubai in the new areas, and my home town in Jordan: Irbid (yes, that small town) in the old areas, but still it's nice, it's not a wow thing, but not a city that makes you depressed either. And another thing i noticed here, women and girls are great rarety in the streets, i saw only 3 or 4 walking in town, and 2 of them were foreign, but you find a lot of them an el Corniche or in the malls though. But it gets quite creepy in other streets, for example when a bus full of workers pass by, and suddenly they all turn to look at me .

I started walking from my hotel towards the shore on a long street called wadi Musheireb, passing old markets and going into a place of the city that makes you feel like Ataba in Egypt but of course much less crowded . At the end of that street (where it actually changes name to Al Muthaf st., =the museum) you find a traditional big white building that serves as the Qatar National museum and looks quite nice, a lot of sweet roundabouts with traditional gulf symbols like essence pots, fishing boats, water pots, pearl shells...etc

Getting to the shore isn't a big transition feeling as you actually don't see the water straight away so it comes to you quite gradually, walking along the shore (on El Corniche st.) is a real pleasure, it's made in a very beautiful way, you have a pedestrian wide path right next to the sea then small beautiful green areas separating it from the main street. It's a long street, well, very long, but it's worth it to walk it from the start right to the end.

The most empressive part for me was the old market, with all these really touching beautiful old buildings, and small streets and lanes in between, just gorgeous, they're also restoring it so it looks just like a story from "A thousand and one nights", you start hearing Shahrazad in your mind, and waiting for people with swords and on horses to appear .

So my trip walking took about 4 hours, after which my feet stopped carrying me, i started dragging them, and when i manage to do that, find myself walking zigzags,but i enjoyed it, made a lot of photos, had a nice chinese meal, took a taxi and got back to my hotel. I'm writing this while i talk to my mother, making sure everything's fine with me here , will finish that and straight to bed, tomorrow is a long day, i'm joining my vessel and the journey won't be that short, wish me luck

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

Erik in Cairo part 6: Tahrir to Maadi...WALKING!

Last day, Cairo has been explored to the most, all important (and even not important) places visited...This day has been mostly spent walking!

I met up with Erik somewhere between 1 and 2p.m. parked the car and we went walking along the Nile, walked from Ramsis Hilton in Tahrir square, passed Garden city...Manyal...Other old parts of Cairo...till we reached Maadi and kept walking to street 9. As usual, having a cup of tea (or coffee for ErikImage) was a really good idea after this long walk...caffeinaholics Image. Nice outdoor cafe with nice weather around, chatting and laughing...actually i don't remember when was the last time i laughed that much! About the "simple country guy", i still do every time i remember about it and just can't stop ImageImageImage.

Then some Cairo exotics: Our most respectful subway! We surely weren't planning to go back to Tahrir walking again especially with me starting to shiver from the cold at night and we took the subway, it was ok when we got in but of course, it started getting more and more crowded along the line, looking at the distance we were standing from the door, Erik doubted that we'll be able to go out, he didn't know that we actually ask each other about going out at a certain station Image.

By then guess what? of course we were really hungry and it was time for a decent meal, more coffee/tea and again loads of talking and laughing.

Then the time came...yes, to drive Erik to the airport, after such an enjoyable week, it was quite hard to let him go, he flew back to Norway, i drove back home, both really happy about the enjoyable vacation looking forward to meeting each other again soon (although next time, it's going to be for work) in Doha, Qatar.

Erik in Cairo part 5: The new Cairo - Heliopolis

Monday was the day Erik decided to walk around Heliopolis, the (realtively) new Cairo, didn't do much that day apart from walking all around, having Shawerma for lunch...i mean dinner Image, and having just good time together.

He also gave me a really beautiful gift Image, but i'm not telling you what it is Image.

Later i took him to City Stars for a cup of coffee (and a cheese cake with strawberry syrup), and had a long nice chat.

It was one of these days that you just happen to relax in and enjoy your time, then go home in the best mood ever Image

Sunday, 26 November 2006

Erik in Cairo part 4: Old Cairo and a very nice dinner

Saturday started with Egypt's most famous Azhar mosque , we went in, walked around and a nice man there told us the history of the mosque through the years which was quite a lot of new info for me as well, the mosque is really impressive and just hearing how active it was through the years teaching seroiusly all the students from around the world different arts and studies of language and Islam makes you feel the hugeness of this place.

Next we went around the Hussein mosque and into Khan el Khalili, Cairo's most energetic bazaar, with all the souvenirs, jewellery, spices and much more all around it and of course crowds of people, then we went into a place that had loads of old mosques and building, and from that moment i was exploring new places in Cairo as well, although i've been living in Cairo for 7 years now, i've never been there, we found a mosque (of Sultan Barqouq) dating back to the 1300s, that was really impressive too, the decorations of it dome and ceilings are still as new and going inside, you can see how old the place is and the contrast between that and the decorations is really dazzling!

After that i decided to go see the Gayer Anderson museum, a lot of people recommend that and i wanted to give it a try, by the time we arrived there it was already closed, but at least now i know where it is and now i saw Ahmad Ibn Toloun mosque famous for his outside spiral stairs on the minaret.

I also drove around Amr Ibn El-As mosque (for the first time in my life as well), this day was probably more interesting to me than to Erik, i'm really happy that i saw these places, but Erik likes it too, he appreciates the idea of seeing all different faces of the city, and when i tell him that some places he would have never seen with a normal tour guide, he smiles at me and says "well...isn't that what the Hayek travel agency is all about? Image Taking you where no one else will?".

After driving for a long time, we both needed a caffeine dose Image, and i needed some rest from Cairo traffic. I made a small call and within a couple of hours we were enjoying our dinner cruising the Nile on the Nile Peking, great food, great atmosphere, great view and great company, what else can a person wish for? Image And the fact that the Nile Peking actually cruises was a surprise for Erik...a pleasant one i believe.

Erik in Cairo part 3: The Citadel, Azhar park and more

Friday was just a normal weekend for me, while it was a busy day for my dear Norwegian friend.

He started his day going to the citadel, told me that he's quite impressed by the number of weapons he saw in the military museum up there, he saw that mosque with columns from different places (of which one came from an old church and still has a cross on its top).

Erik was also very impressed by Mohammad Ali's mosque, he went inside and he really liked it there, i personally like the big amount of lamps ad lanterns there...just beautiful.

Then he walked to the Azhar park, went around inside and somewhere there got with some kids who played around, asked where he was from and so on. He enjoyed it a lot there and looked very happy when i saw him later that evening...we also think that his T-shirt had something that attracted the kids Image.

At last i took him for the long promised Cinnabon, i probably needn't tell you that he enjoyed it just as much as i promised Image.

I also took Erik for a walk in our biggest, poshest mall, City Stars and then for a view from top of Mokattam platform, which was quite a view actually (although it would have been greater with less smog...Cairo the clean, no comment!).

My point of view, that was quite a rich day with quite a variety of places to see, did Erik enjoy it? hmmm...Ask him Image

Thursday, 23 November 2006

Erik in Cairo part 2: The Egyptian museum and Koshary :D

Another pharaonic day we had today Image, met up at the Egyptian museum, remember me describing it as really huge? (check topic "Out and about in Cairo"), today we managed to go all around it: both floors, all extra rooms and also the two rooms of the royal mummies.

A lot of the things you see there are really impressive! All small pieces and stuff, different tiny vessels, jewellery, statuettes etc...Some of the stone sarcophaguses were quite amazing! they looked just like new, Erik was fooled by some of them, thought they were models not originals, until he started reading the notes on them Image, the symbols curved on them look so clear and sharp like they were made yesterday! All the colours they used are quite interesting too and quite well saved, and i needn't talk about almost everything in Tut Ankh Amon's room, especially the world famous mask of him.

The mummified (i love that word, it sounds so funny Image) kings and queens are something to see, just thinking of dead bodies surviving for thousands of years in the shape you see, well...that's quite impressive! Almost all of them still have their teeth! (one of the queens had her pet baboon mummified next to her too). But the mummies that impressed me the most were those of animals, you just must see the two crocodiles and that huge fish in the animal mummy room on your right hand side, that's a real sight!

Another interesting thing about mummification was the four vases that were used by pharoes to store the internal organ of the mummified person, just imagine all the people sitting around the dead, getting all that from inside him and storing it into vases, and they had four vases, which make you think that for examlpe, one was for the heart and lungs, one for liver and kidneys, one for the brain and the eyes, and the fourth for whatever they decided to keep from the rest of the organs Image . I also think the vases were actually designated for certain organs because in most cases they had as covers the heads of four pharaonic gods that repeated for each set, e.g. the head of Isis contained the liver and kidney, the head of horus had the head and eyes, and so on Image.

After finishing with the museum, i took Erik for a walk around, first along the Nile to the Qasr el Nile bridge, for two reasons: 1-It's probably the most famous bridge on the Nile. 2-The feeling you get standing in the middle of actually feel it vibrating under you with the passing cars, the bigger the car the sounder the vibration, freeky? Image but cool!

Crossing the bridge to the other side, we went into the Cairo Opera House, went around it, made some photos of course (although i'm quite disappointed with myself these days, i make so little photos, maybe coz i'm so used to what i see) and went back, walked into down town looking for Koshary El-Tahrir that i thought i saw there somewhere, but i couldn't find it, i think i'm starting to imagine things that don't exist or exist in another place Image . So i just deicded to go to the one i guaranteed to find, the one in Nasr city.

Koshary time! i actually missed that dish, really missed it...For me, i always consider taking a foreigner (including Arabs) for Koshary is a risky move, it's quite a specific dish and quite a lot of people don't like it, so i was quite happy with Erik's reaction to it, he quite liked it and started wondering why they don't have something similar to it in Norway as fast food Image. I'm starting to think we can get him to live in Egypt without much trouble Image, especially considering his impressive pronounciation of Arabic words!

So another sightseeing day over, regardless of the crowded Thursday night streets, my mood is boosted up to its maximum, and even those same street didn't succeed to ruin it Image.

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Erik in Cairo part 1: The Pyramids of Giza & Egyptian food

Erik arrived in Cairo early on Monday and i met him that same evening...

He spent his first hours in Cairo walking around and he also managed to watch the sunrise on the Nile.

On Monday, i met him at around 7p.m. after looping around Zamalek for a while till i found the spot i was looking for, especially with the way the streets are organized (!!) there, the same street can have one direction at the start, the opposite direction in the middle that switches again in the end!

We drove around for a while but it was so crowded (as usual) so we didn't get to far, it was from Zamalek to Tahrir and back.

Then it was time for dinner, for a real Egyptian dinner...Of course Abou el Seed in Zamalek, and a Norwegian man tasted Egyptian Hamam Mahshy (stuffed pigeons), Molokheyya (this has no translationsImage) and Tagen of shrimps, not mentioning the salads, the place has a special atmosphere that's really old Egyptian style, arabic music is playing and the dinner was really nice, Erik enjoyed his experience with the food (but so did i Image), although the place was really loud, we had good time.

Tuesday was time for some history, one of the seven wonders of the world...probably the greatest of them all...the pyramids, we arrived there and of course the first thing we found was loads of people attacking us with offers to go around the area on horses or camels and promising all the discounts and calculating how much we'll pay if we took their offer and how much if we don't and so on and so forth.

We managed to get rid of them at last and started walking around the giants, we walked all around the pyramids, took some photos, went up and down and around, of course decsended to the sphinx, took some more photos Image.

Two things that really impressed Erik were the desert, it was the first time he sees it right in front of him, and how the pyramids where so closely surrounded by buildings and people living there (and i think i can totally understand him).

Then it was time for a nice meal, a cup of tea and lots of chatting. Then we started feeling quite exhausted and decided to call it a day...a really nice day Image.

Sunday, 5 November 2006

Scandinavia part 7: Leaving it home!

I arrived in Oslo from Kristiansund on 1st of November just to find my flight to Amsterdam is cancelled, and by the time i got to the KLM service desk, the Lufthansa flight that left 20 minutes after my original one was fully booked which left me with no option but switching to a later flight, the only option i found was to fly on Autrian airlines next morning 7:00 through Vienna (of course!), so first of all i have more than 12 hours free with nothing to do, and second, i have to get my luggage out of SAS, this was done quite without problems, i just went down, waited for a while and they got them out on the belt again, i took them, put them into storage and decided to go to Oslo.

I got out at the central station and headed for Karl Johans gate to do some shopping and ended up buying a sweater for my sister, one for my father and makeup for me and my mother Image, i kept walking around, bought myself a chocolate then started walking through the streets heading nowhere till i got to National Theatre so i decided to head for Aker Brygge, i walked along it, turned around, found a nice pizza place and decided to stop for dinner, i had a nice meal, then i decided to see if i can catch any internet there, and here we go, they had a free wireless netwrok, i checked my mails, wrote a mail to a friend, had a cup of tea then started walking back to the central station to catch the last train back to the airport.

I arrived at the airport at about 1a.m, found me a nice bench, ate my chocolate, read a little, then slept till 5a.m., got up, washed my face, got my luggage, and checked in, my journey back home started, all went ok in the middle, and i finally reached my dear Cairo at 3p.m. My dear warm Cairo, my home, my family...

Scandinavia part 6: Kristiansund, Norway

My last few days in Norway, 4 really interesting days, i spent on this island city, Kristiansund.

This is where i had my small boat training, yes, i've been driving small boats for 3 days and that was cool! especially the FRC (fast rescue craft), this babe is hot! and really fast if it needs to. And by the way i came first on class Image

Kristiansund is a little city located on three small islands on the north west part of central Norway, it's a nice quiet place, and i think quite famous for fishing, Kristiansund's most famous though is still Klipfisk (which is salted, dried cod) and don't ask me what it tastes like, i didn't try it. It's a really nice place to walk around, and the view of the icy mountains behind its green places looks just beautiful (although probably at this same moment Kristiansund is all white with ice as well) . There's quite a big shopping mall there, although not as rich as the one's in Oslo or even Asker. There are also a number of small restaurants that you may try, a must in Kristiansund is a walk to the banks of the island and along the coast, and one of the best spots for that is Klubba, west of Kirkelandet, there's a very nice path leading to the fjord, you'll really enjoy the walk there, and you end up looking from a high place at other islands, at the fjord and at the icy mountains in the horizon, just pure pleasure to the eye!

I arrived in Kristiansund on the 28th of October, in the afternoon, the weather was incredibly beautiful, it wasn't really warm but the sun was shining all around, and not a single cloud in the sky (which is quite wierd for Norway), that day we put our luggage in or rooms an went out walking, we kept walking till we reached the fiskebasen on Gomalandet where you end up looking at the open sea hitting its waves on the rocks under your feet, the sight of the water running back to the sea through the cracks in the rocks is really cool, we stayed there for a couple of minutes that really boosted life into us again, then it started getting colder and colder and we started walking back in direction of the hotel, stopped for dinner at a pasta place then returned to the hotel.

Next day was the first day of the course, the course itslef was cool, we just got familiarization with the boats and got the chance to drive each of them, we finished quite late so all we did that night was having dinner together and back for a good night sleep Image.

Next day with the work rotations on the boats was loads of fun, we finished early enough to go shopping with Aurelia in the mall that was right next to the hotel although we bought nothing that day, that day we had free dinner in the hotel because we agreed to give away our rooms for the new people coming as hotel had no free rooms for them and move into one double room (for which we got two free dinners Image).

Last day the weather turned mad, it started snowing and the wind was quite strong which was quite annoying, our training was replaced by simpler examples in the port, but we did go out for man overboard rescue and for going fast in an FRC, we were just riding the waves! so we called it FRC surfing Image and that was REALLY COOL! We had our exams, i did my four knots correctly, and scored highest in the exam Image. We went afterwards to get the sweater Aurelia chose for her father, and then had dinner and went out to find a place to play pool, we had loads of fun, i played 3 times and won the 3!

Next day was our flight home, but it was almost at 3, so we had the whole morning for oursleves, i went out for Klubba, it was windy and snowing all the time, the whole place turned white but i had a nice walk and loads of fun (i don't see the snow that often anyway, so i enjoy the moment), then we went with Aurelia and Pierre (our french colleague) to an internet cafe nearby, till it's time to leave for the airport and i had some really good hot chocolate Image.

One very good thing in Kristiansund is the free trend! You go into that bar called Kontoret Bar (right next to Rica hotel) and the pool is for free! You go into the internet cafe next to the mall called Onkel and the internet is for free! I loved Kristiansund for that Image.

As usual we had to run for our plane (which isn't much of a surprise for me, i've been doing that a lot for the last 6 weekends Image) but we managed to get on the plane to Oslo, my next flight to Amsterdam was cancelled as well, but that's another story...