Array ( [total] => 65 [pageSize] => 24 [page] => 0 [results] => Array ( [5562] => Array ( [iID] => 5562 [tTitle] => Circling the Caspian and Black seas by train [tSlug] => circling-the-caspian-and-black-seas-by-train [iTime] => 1423177200 [iUpdate] => 1423177200 [tDescription] => Iran, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan celebrated being connected by a new railway line in December last year. The connection avoids Uzbekistan, where cross border train travel (at least for individuals) hasn't been possible for years. This means that, just maybe, with Turkey completing the tunnel under the Bosphorus this year, it will be possible to circumvent the Black and Caspian seas by train without every leaving a train or train station. Well, or the train ferry on lake Van in Turkey. Sadly, it's not possible to circumvent either sea by train, individually, as there are no tracks crossing the Caucasus. So, here's how to do it. Just because we have to start somewhere, let's start in Istanbul and go clockwise. A. Istanbul to Moscow 1. Istanbul Sirkeci to Budapest Keleti. I took this train in the other direction in 2006. Back then, the connection was direct. Now, according to (link to the website, their search results expire), it's a 35 hour journey and requires three changes, in Kapikule, Plovdiv and Sofia. 2. Budapest Keleti to Moskva Belorusskaja. There several connections for this journey. The fastest takes about 28 hours and only requires two changes, in Breclav and in Warszawa Wschodnia. This connection will go through Belorus, where the longer journeys actually go through Ukraine, which currently probably isn't the best of ideas, anyway. Back in 1999, I traveled the Warsaw to Moscow connection. B. Moscow to Tehran This stretch involves the newly constructed Uzen (Kazakhstan) – Kyzylgaya (Turkmenistan) – Bereket (Turkmenistan) – Etrek (Turkmenistan) – Gorgan (Iran) line. However, whether this new line will also be open for people as opposed to only for goods is not yet really clear. It does seem that Kazakhstan Temir Zholy, Kazakhstan national railway company, does not provide scheduled services between Aktau and Uzen, a distance of some 120km. Nor are there any timetables available, currently, for the newly constructed line. 3. Moscow (Kasanskaja or Kurskaja) to Aktau. Connections take about 60 to 85 hours, depending on Moscow station you start at. From Belorusskaja, the fastest connection takes about 70 hours and requires two changes. The fastest connection starts elsewhere but require three changes. 4. Aktau to Uzen. Perhaps hop a freight train, as it seems there's currently no scheduled service between the two. 5. Uzen to Gorgan. This is the newly finished connection between Kazakhstan and Iran. For this connection, too, it seems there are currently no scheduled services. Perhaps you have to hitch a ride on a freight train here as well. 6. Gorgan to Tehran. An 11 hour connection that runs about twice a day. C. Tehran to Istanbul Turkey is introducing high speed trains, meaning this journey has shortened considerably. 7. Tehran to Ankara. This train used to go all the way Istanbul (which is the one I took in 2006), but now takes some 36 hours to travel as far as Ankara, which includes a switch to a ferry on lake Van and then on to another train on the other side of the lake. 8. Ankara to Istanbul. Currently, high speed trains cover the distance between Ankara and Istanbul Pendik (on the Asian side) in about 4 hours. This year, the Bosphorus tunnel is expected to open, which should see the high speed trains go all the way to the European side of Istanbul in a mere three hours. Awesome. Time to pack the bags. The existing alternative route It was of course already possible to circumvent the two seas in a more roundabout manner. However, this involves going through Uzbekistan, which hasn't allowed people to travel across borders by train for a while now. Below what this would involve, replacing section B, above. a. Moscow to Tashkent. Amazingly, there's a 65 hour direct connection between these two cities. b. Tashkent to Bokhara. Takes about 6 hours. Here, you'd have to cross the border into Uzbekistan, probably by car, as the distance is a bit too much to walk. You would have to make your way to Turkmenabad. c. Turkmenabad to Ashgabat. Both in Turkmenistan, this trip takes about 15 hours. d. Ashgabat to Serakhs. Currently, it appears, for freight only. Which is a pity, as Serakhs, in Uzbekistan, and Sarakhs, in Iran, are within walking distance of each other. And there is a railway connecting the two cities. e. Sarakhs to Mashhad. A few trains a day take about three hours to cover the distance between the two cities. f. Mashhad to Tehran. Several trains a day connect these two cities, taking between 8 and 12 hours. So there you have it. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 5063 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1401 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462218975 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 6 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 0.228811 [fLongitude] => -78.2641 [tLocation] => Main square [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20150206 ) [5001] => Array ( [iID] => 5001 [tTitle] => One generation [tSlug] => one-generation [iTime] => 1287352800 [iUpdate] => 1287352800 [tDescription] => My father died in late 2005. He had been in Iran for some 26 years, while I wasn't, only occasionally having been in contact over that period. Because I was born in Iran, though having a Dutch passport, my Iranian legal status was a bit murky. As this specifically related to my potentially having to enlist in the army, upon entering the country without the proper paperwork in place, 'just' going over for a visit wasn't much of an option. I started getting the paperwork in order a few years before my father died. This required, first, having a pre-revolution Iranian birth certificate converted to a modern one, then acquiring Iranian identity papers, which then allowed me to get the right papers for visiting Iran, minimizing the risk of being detained upon arrival or, indeed, having to enlist. After I was set to go, having planned my trip for January 2006, my father's aunt called me in November 2005, saying my father had fallen ill and had been admitted to hospital. I bought a plane ticket and went to Iran, arriving a few days after said call. My father died the day before I arrived and I effectively went over to bury him, which was probably the most emotional event in my life. During this period and for a while after, I wrote a series of letters to my father, in Dutch. Amongst my father's few possessions were a few hundred photos, almost all rather old, dating back at least to his own military service, with a few possibly even older. Most of the photos were shot during the 1960s, though there were probably quite a few shot during the 1970s. A lot of the photos I uploaded together with the 'letters to my father'. Additionally, I also added the photos I took myself during my four week visit in 2005. The photos from 2005 I have now, finally, moved to Flickr (or rather, my current slow internet connection allows me to upload a few per day), complementing some of the first photos I ever put up on Flickr, being pictures from my second trip to Iran in 2006. Almost all the photos my dad had I have now incorporated into the matrix you see below.
One generation
Asking the few people I could, it was rather impossible to make heads or tails of my father's eclectic collection of pictures, though quite a few of them contain identifiable landmarks and some contain recognizable individuals. Most of the pictures were slides, with many of the slides never having been put into a frame. The quality of many of the slides had deteriorated significantly. For the matrix of photos on this page, I took the collection of pictures and constructed something of a narrative, putting the photos in rough chronological order, starting with, what I think is, my father's time at school, or perhaps university, followed by his military service, being greeted by Shah Reza Pahlavi. This is followed, first by some photos of my father's sisters and then by a large series of group photos. This is followed by pictures from some kind of world fair in Iran and touristic images of Persepolis and Esfahan. The focus then shifts to work-related images. My father was a civil engineer, and several of the images relate to waterworks, seemingly both in Iran and, probably, in the Netherlands. Then, images of my father with, what might have been, a Dutch love interest, not my mom, taken in, probably, Rotterdam and, perhaps, de Keukenhof. This is followed by photos of my mom and dad at Madurodam. After this, there's a series of images taken on what seems to have been touristic outings to Scandinavia, Hamburg, Berlin, Saarbruecken and London, before the story returns to Delft. Most of the last row is taken up by photos of myself as a kid, pictures sent to my father after my parents' divorce. The last photo was taken in Saarbruecken. Next to me are one of my father's brothers, his wife and their kid. The 484 photos, from start to finish, roughly run through one generation. Starting with my dad and finishing with myself, both roughly at the same age when the first and last photos were taken. [iCategory] => 10 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3765 [iClicks] => 855 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1018 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462232521 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 1 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 8.47522 [fLongitude] => -13.27 [tLocation] => Home [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Photography [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 10 [categories] => Array ( [10] => Array ( [iID] => 10 [tName] => Photography [tSlug] => photography [tDescription] => All my photos worth looking at reside on Flickr. Check out what Flickr thinks are my more interesting products and notice that most of them are of a sexual nature.

Also check out my blog listing the world's photomarathons. [iOrder] => 4 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => thumbnailed [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=5001 ) [4926] => Array ( [iID] => 4926 [tTitle] => It's time for the African renaissance [tSlug] => its-time-for-the-african-renaissance [iTime] => 1281736800 [iUpdate] => 1281736800 [tDescription] => The flight to Senegal had about 98% Africans, all traveling with, what seemed to be, way too much baggage. Then again, it seemed they knew what they were doing, as the MeridianaFly lady who was checking carry on luggage at the gate, didn't pick out anyone I noticed. The Meridiana flight to Dakar leaves at the ungodly time of six in the morning. My eticket didn't mention it, but checking the carrier's website, specifically this flight was said to have its check in desks closed no later than 75 minutes before departure. I had planned to take an airport shuttle in the middle in the night, going to bed early and catching some sleep. But as I still wasn't snoozing at 12 midnight, I figured, hell, why not take an earlier shuttle and hang out at the airport. At least there, if I'd fall into a deep sleep, I would probably still not miss my flight. Getting on the shuttle bus, leaving at 1230 from the central train station, felt like getting on local bus transport in Africa. Way too many people were trying to get on, all pushing and shoving at the entrance. A good thing the conductor gave preference to those already having purchased a ticket. I got on, but many didn't. Though I suspect Malpensa shuttle chartered a second bus from somewhere later on. At Malpensa airport, wifi was expensive, though I accidentally bumped in to an open network which. While charging my devices, downloading torrents and watching House, three Tunisian Frenchies came up to me, asking if I could pull up a YouTube video from a mate of theirs, from their banlieu in Paris. A bit of a challenge, everyone left happily a few minutes later. "Thank you, Apple man!" Flying MeridianaFly was my first intercontinental budget flight. Food was limited to the type of Sandwich regular airlines serve on short hauls, but legroom was fine. On another up, they also do a Freetown - Banjul (The Gambia) return for 250 USD. If we fail to make it to Morocco for Christmas, for reasonable money, then perhaps... The Gambian renaissance Flying into Dakar, the one major landmark, the Renaissance Monument, is easily spotted, having been built right next to the airport. Celebrating African independence (from their colonial overlords), it was built by North Koreans for no less than 30 million USD. And to show what the new Africa is about, the country's president requires a third of the proceeds to go into his pocket because of him claiming to own intellectual property rights.
Size matters
Not that any proceeds are yet being taken. A guard at the site told me the monument won't actually open until December, when visitors will be able to take an escalator to the top of the creation, which is higher than the Statue of Liberty. I did get a glimpse of the insides. I was puffing away, in the shade, next to the entrance, when, what was later claimed to be the 'owner' (though he was white and seemed to be Spanish), went in to show some peeps around. What I assumed was a North Korean was guarding the door on the inside. Oddly, the flags in front of the monument have all been ripped to shreds. And why is it pointed almost, if not exactly, due west? Besides the monument, there really isn't very much to see in Dakar. It's just another African city. Though more interesting than some. The layout and style are more similar to other African coastal cities like Maputo or Dar, more interesting than out of the way places like Lusaka or Gabarone. And, surprisingly, there's quite a bit of public art in and around the city, the culmination of this of course being the African Renaissance monument. In the city, the downtown area being very active, the few main streets have plenty of more proper shops, including nice enough restaurants, bakeries, cafes and clothing and shoe stores. It seemed that many, if not all, of the more upmarket ones, were ran by either Frenchies or, perhaps, north Africans. Unfortunately, due to Ramadan just having started, many of the eateries have adjusted their opening times. Capes After visiting the monument, I hobbled over to the the African continent's western cape. The tip of this peninsula is actually occupied by a Club Med, meaning that you can only see the tip, not go there, having to settle for nearly the western tip of the African continent. True, the southern tip also isn't very inspiring, but at least you can check it out. Without being harassed by local traders who play the pity card. Originally expecting these two visits to cost me the better part of the day, still early, I headed into the downtown area, where, after walking around for a bit, I ended up sipping beers at the Savana hotel, near the southern tip of the Dakar peninsula. Afterwards, I discovered that most of the tip is occupied by one of the many urban ruins in town, a former, but still quite impressive, army barracks.
Overlooking Dakar
Zigzagging through town, I ended up at yet another remnant of the horrible colonial past. Though Senegal's government, that is, its president, feel it proper to spend 30 million USD on a piece of painted and cemented bronze, the art nouveau facade of the Dakar train station is still standing, yet the rail link with Mali was discontinued over thirty years ago. Of course, the TAZARA's only reason it still exists is because of China's economic interest. The SA to Mozambique rail link suffered the same fate as the Mali - Senegal connection. And then there are the defunct or nearly defunct SA - Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe - Zambia and Kenya - Tanzania connections. And the Sierra Leone railways also defaulted over thirty years ago. Perhaps these people simply enjoy being packed like sardines in crappy busses to travel along potholed roads. Ah, the mysteries of Africa. Another touristy site is the Lac Rose, or Pink Lake, quite a bit out of town. Because of certain algae deposits, the lake has turned an odd shape of pink. I had wanted to go, but after realising the distance from town as well as checking out some of the photographs, I'm not as impressed. Once were slaves Which leaves a visit to the island of Goree. The Dutchies might catch it, indeed, named after the Dutch island of Goeree, after the Netherlands took over the island from the Portuguese, some 400 years back. The island, some 2k from the Dakar shore, was a very minor slave trading outpost and is a UNESCO world heritage site. A pity the island's main buildings are all in ruins. On the boat over, two locals tried to curry my favor for business. One woman selling jewelry, one gentleman wanting to be my guide. However, the island is so small, guides aren't really necessary. Plus, overhearing one guide to a few of his tourists, it sounded like he was significantly overstating the slave trading history of the island. It's generally more fun to explore on your own anyway, though that also typically means you get to fend off more gold diggers.
Overlooking Goree
It's intriguing that Dakar's main cultural sights are all remnants of a past that's not pur sang Senegalese. The renaissance monument was built by Koreans, the western cape has been appropriated by Club Med, the island of Goree is a dilapidated colonial outpost and much of downtown was built by the French. That's not to say the Senegalese are not building. In fact, much of Dakar seems to be one huge construction site, plenty of private construction going on, as well as a few government funded creations. Some sources claim that Dakar has 300.000 street kids. An awful lot, as the population is estimated as between 1 and 2 million. However, there are quite a few about. These, as well as plenty of others, make a point of talking to anyone who's considered to be a walking wallet, so I've already heard a number of times that Senegal and Iran have a great connection. I'm not too well versed in the political links between Senegal and Iran but, for one, many of the taxis are actually, surprisingly enough, Iranian. And what's with the horses and horse carts? Not something I've seen in other African countries. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 6782 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1015 [iOldID] => [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462204944 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 44 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 14.7221 [fLongitude] => -17.495 [tLocation] => African Renaissance monument [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20100814 ) [954] => Array ( [iID] => 954 [tTitle] => Bloody Iranians [tSlug] => bloody-iranians [iTime] => 1259708400 [iUpdate] => 1259708400 [tDescription] => On December 10 at 10:30am, a court hearing is scheduled at the Palace of Justice in The Hague. The case which will be dealt with in court was brought by the "actiegroep Iraanse studenten", a group of Iranian students in the Netherlands, against the Dutch government. The issue at hand is that since July 2008, the Dutch government has banned Iranian citizens from parts of certain university graduate programs, mostly involving nuclear or rocket propulsion studies. This edict is not only extremely stigmatizing, it's also ridiculous and pointless. Obviously, it's also discriminatory. Here are some of the locations and studies off limits to Iranians in the Netherlands. + The nuclear research reactor in Delft. + Masters degree in chemistry and physics related to studying subjects related to developing rocket fuels. + Masters degree in aeronautical engineering related to the study of rocket propulsion systems. Professor Ashley Terlouw (Dutch politician Jan Terlouw has a daughter called Ashley, but I could not confirm it's the same person), who became 'hoogleraar' (professor) at the Radbout University in Nijmegen in September this year, researched and presented a paper with her acceptance of her position, on fear and legislation ("angst en regelgeving"), related to the distinction the Dutch government makes on the basis of nationality, decent and religion, focusing on the sanctions against Iranian citizens mentioned above. She found that "the study of the Sanction Regulation has not only shown that the legislator has in this case answered the question of effectiveness instrumentally, but also that the instrumental approach does not satisfy". Terlouw goes on to say that "the responsible ministers have ignored the stigmatising and other effects the sanction regulation has for Iranian citizens in the Netherlands and its inkblot effect towards other employers and organisations" and that "the effects of the regulation are probably also determined by the general political climate in the Netherlands, the many discussions in the media and politics on migrants, Muslims, Islam and the government's use of the term allochthonous people for large categories of Dutch people". The word 'allochthonous' might need some explanation. In Dutch, the word 'allochtoon' refers to a Dutchie who was born abroad or of whom at least one of the parents was born abroad. I'm allochthonous, as will be my children. Indeed, the Dutch queen and the future King and Queen of the Netherlands are all allochthonous. The result is that, generally, there's a distinction between allochthonous people from the west and elsewhere, though Indonesians and Japanese are grouped together with the westerners (how's that for logic?). The problems with the sanction relate to the implicit consequences. Terlouw: "Because the Dutch government has made regulations aimed at citizens having the nationality of an Islamic country, this probably does feed the fear of Muslims; it gives a signal that all Muslims have terrorist aspirations." Terlouw defines the sanction as an example of irrational regulation: "Regulation on the basis of fear will - if this fear is not analysed and dissected into elements that can be reduced to real danger on the one hand and irrational feelings on the other hand - only be effective by accident and the chance of undesired side-effects is great." with the crux of her research being that "categorically excluding Iranian students and scientists from certain fields of science and locations could be effective by accident, but it is not proportional and there are alternatives that result in no or less distinction". The obvious danger of a sanction such as this is the sliding scale which has been deployed to support a regulation which is dubious to begin with. Terlouw: "Fearful people are inclined to regard [...] persons with another nationality, origin or religion as the source of [...] danger. Complying regulation strengthens this effect. The results of the research of the [sanction] show that when the government lays down rules on the basis of nationality and origin, there is a risk that also other organisations than the government and the norm addressants will regard those involved as a dangerous group and treat them as such, also outside the bounds of the specific regulation. Moreover, among the members of the groups involved, such rules result in fear and uncertainty about their own identity and position and in loss of confidence in the government." (My emphasis.) Of course, I'm more attentive to this issue because it affects me personally. As Terlouw points out, it's easy to suspect that I'm not to be trusted by and am stigmatized by definition. Perhaps, some day soon, Iranians, or those considered to be Iranian, will have to sow a green patch on their jackets for them to be allowed out on the street, only having access to certain shops to buy their goods. Hell, why not start the pogroms now? If you want to attend the court case, you are required to be present at least 30 minutes before the start of the session and should be able to present a valid ID card. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3149 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 971 [iOldID] => 1333 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461622220 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -15.7724 [fLongitude] => 28.1892 [tLocation] => CIDRZ office [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20091202 ) [947] => Array ( [iID] => 947 [tTitle] => Get your Iranian films here [tSlug] => get-your-iranian-films-here [iTime] => 1254693600 [iUpdate] => 1254693600 [tDescription] => A employee of a friend of mine asked me for a list of good, or at least interesting, Iranian movies. Happily, I obliged, assuming it'd be easy to conjure up such a list. The reason for him asking was a talk we had on the movie Persepolis which I think was enjoyable, but also fits the stereotypical image the west has of Iran. Finding a nice collection of Iranian movies turned out to be harder than I thought. So here's my own. + A House built on Water, about the clash between generations in Iran, where a son returns to Iran from abroad but also returns as a drug addict. Meanwhile, the movie also incorporates subtle gay themes. + Ten, about a woman taxi driver's clients in Tehran. Though not too great as a movie, it nicely shows another side of Iran. + Children of Heaven, a bittersweet tale of a poor family in Tehran where the two kids somehow have to get back a pair of shoes one of them lost. + The Wind will Carry us, where an engineer from Tehran tries to deal with life in the provinces. There's a series of films I have in my collection, but still have to find the time to watch. + The Color of Paradise, about the relationship between a blind son and his father. + Baran, focussing on a relationship between a young Iranian boy and a young Afghan girl. + The Blackboard, about traveling Kurdish school teachers, moving around with blackboards on the backs of their bicycles. But this is just my list. Why not try IMDB. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3425 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 734 [iOldID] => 1326 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461976109 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 51.9926 [fLongitude] => 4.35874 [tLocation] => Bot-Boender residence [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20091005 ) [926] => Array ( [iID] => 926 [tTitle] => Food and fun in Malaysia [tSlug] => food-and-fun-in-malaysia [iTime] => 1248559200 [iUpdate] => 1248559200 [tDescription] => To our surprise, smoking is still allowed pretty much everywhere in Kuala Lumpur, outside and inside. Restaurants that don't allow for smoking inside are the unusual exception. Even at the breakfast table of our hotel it's possible to puff away at your heart's desire. Though that doesn't mean the packets of smokes on sale don't carry the same nasty pictures as in Thailand, which now has a nearly total ban on smoking inside of cafes and hotels. The worst, one I've not (yet) seen in Thailand is a picture of a dead, aborted I presume, baby, with the message that smoking causes miscarriages. Prices are significantly higher than in Thailand. Though restaurant food is affordable compared to European standards restaurants are typically 50% to 100% more expensive than in Thailand, it's particularly the beers which can make the restaurant bill pricey. Yesterday, we had some excellent food at the very pretty The Old China Cafe, where the jug of beer we had ended up taking up half the bill. Walking upstairs in the restaurant, to check out what the background story in the menu claimed was an 'antique gallery', I stumbled upon something of a reception for laid-off actors. Walking in, all eyes quickly focused on me and I was invited to join for drinks and snacks. I stealthily made my getaway. It's not unreasonable to compare Kuala Lumpur, KL, with Bangkok, both capitals of South East Asian tigers Thailand and Malaysia which, together with Indonesia, experienced GDPs growing well above 7% per year in the 1980s and 90s. However, KL is surprisingly small, with less than 2 million inhabitants, while Bangkok has over 8 million. The downtown area of KL is manageable on foot, with the major sites in a 2 by 2 kilometer square. Also, the racial makeup of the city and, so it seems, the country, is completely different compared t Thailand, resulting in a very different cultural outcome, noticeable in everything from religion to architecture to food to cultural focus. The dominant religion of Malaysia is islam, with some 60% of the country practicing it, brought to present day Malaysia by Indian traders from the 15th century onwards. However, with invasions and takeovers by, in succession, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British, and also the introduction of foreign labor as well as the migration of many regional adventurists, some 20 percent of the country practices Buddhism, some 10 percent is Christian, with about 6 percent being Hindu. Indeed, about 60% of the population is ethnic Malay, 24% is Chinese and some 8% are Indians. However, walking around KL, it seemed the percentage of Indians is much, much higher, not in the least witnessed by the existence of Little India, at least rivalling Chinatown in size, if not being significantly more active, economically and culturally. Islam isn't as prominent 'on the streets' as it is in most middle eastern countries. However, Malaysia does deploy the sharia, at least to some extent, and in one of the newspapers we bought, a critical article was headlined with "Is whipping the answer", after a woman was sentenced to six lashes for drinking alcohol. On several occasions, walking around KL, I was reminded of Tokyo, much more so than Bangkok. A visit to Kuala Lumpur isn't complete without a view of the clubhouse where it all started (hashing, that is) in 1938, the Royal Selangor Club, though it's now an exclusive members only clubhouse (I nearly creamed my pants when stumbling on the original Hash House.), and a visit to the Petronas Twin Towers ('the highest twin towers in the world'). Tickets to the skybridge of the Petronas towers, about 170 meters off the ground, are free, but 'only' 1700 are given away each day, from 8:30AM onwards, when the ticket booth in the basement of the towers opens up. After a few beers at the rooftop bar of the Backpackers Travellers Inn, we had too short a night's sleep, but still managed to get up at seven this morning, and after breakfast got our asses over to the towers to queue up at 8:45. When all the tickets had already been given away. On a cloudy and rainy Sunday morning. Apparently, tourists start to line up at 7 in the morning. Yes, even on a Sunday. As an alternative, you can go up the KL tower, the fifth highest communication tower in the world and at 421 meters, only some 30 meters lower than the Petronas towers. The tower's marketing materials still claim the tower is the fourth tallest, but with the recently built Borj-e-Milad in Tehran, at 435 meters, the KL tower slipped a place in the list. The viewing deck on the KL tower is more than 100 meters higher than the public gallery on the Petronas towers. On the other hand, the price to get in is a scandalous 38 Ringgit, some 8 euros. If you're wondering (or even if you're not), of the ten tallest towers in the world, only two are in Europe, and both of those are in Eastern Europe (in Moscow and in Kiev). Interestingly, the tower is also used as an Islamic falak observatory, to look for the crescent moon to mark the beginning of Ramadan. With a lot of the architecture in KL, the Muslim influences are apparent. In the KL tower, Iranian craftsmen from Esfahan were responsible for multiple typical islamic artistic designs, including several muqarnas. Kuala Lumpur has partnered with three sister cities in Iran, Mashhad, Esfahan and Shiraz. When we arrived, the yearly towerthon, a race to the top, using the tower's staircase, had just ended. Later, in unrelated news, we forgot to pick up our umbrella, which we weren't allowed to take up, from reception. I suppose this is the fate of umbrellas. If umbrellas were people, suicide rates amongst umbrellas would probably be the highest in the world. After the rather impressive views from the KL tower and visiting the attached mini zoo which, amongst other things, housed huge spiders which were fed with baby mice, we strolled around town, taking in some of the more major sites. The city is only just over 150 years old, founded in the mid 19th century by adventurists, after tin was discovered at the confluence of the Klang and Gomback rivers, now in the heart of KL, them naming the area 'muddy confluence', that is, Kuala Lumpur. So, with the strong British influence at the time, the city was spaciously laid out and obviously had strong British colonial influences. Perhaps most surprisingly is the central square, independence, or Merdaka, square, which is a grassy field, and a former cricket ground. Then again, this was a British colony. Also, the city has quite a few very attractive, though sometimes rather dilapidated, art deco architectural gems. We're staying in the D'Oriental Inn. Pretty decent, and an actual hotel, not a hostel, while being affordable. Pleasant, after getting a whiff, last night, of the Backpackers Travellers Inn. We even received a welcome drink. Orange or mango juice. In a tiny glass. Excellent! Oh, and free wifi of mildly acceptable quality. On the downside, we're pretty much in the middle of KL's version of the Chiang Mai Night bazar. Another superb meal was had just off Asian heritage row, at Kasim Mustafa. We went in for a quick snack, but left with tummies filled with garlic nan, cheese nan, sauces and two huge chicken skewers. Super yum. Airfares, give me low airfares I recently was made aware of, which claims to offer, you've guessed it, low airfares. A grand idea and using a different concept than simply being yet another search engine for airline prices. It's hard to compete with the likes of Expedia. The concept is to compare existing booking engines, in a way not too dissimilar to what does for hotel bookings. However, there, results from the different providers are all compared on one page, whereas simply spawns windows with the search results on different booking engines for the flight you're interested in. And then only a maximum of three. What's worse, it has issues recognizing the locations you type in, unless you select them from an autocomplete dropdown, which sometimes takes its time appearing. As a test, I tried searching for flights between Bangkok and Johannesburg. First of all, for Bangkok I had to select one of the two airports there, whereas most booking engines allow you to select 'all airports' in a given city. Second, as said, I could only compare three engines out of the (only) five had available (but not Expedia). Third, two of the three booking engines returned no results and even complained about my search criteria. I was left with search results from only one booking engine. To be fair, I also checked for domestic American flights. After all, the online travel industry is still dominated by US based companies. Checking for flights from New York to Miami, I now was able to select 'all airports' for New York. Also, my range of available booking engines now totaled 11, but I was still only able to select three. Now, however, my web browser Safari blocked one of the three websites, leaving me with two. Both offered a range of options, but both were offering pretty much the same range, with the cheapest ticket coming in at 169 USD. I have to say, a return flight from New York to Miami for under 170 USD is cheap, but using was not much of a help. Indeed, if I'd checked Expedia, which I would have done under normal circumstances, I would have found an airfare of 169.20 USD, making use of pretty much pointless. The site uses the same system for hotel bookings, making it very similar to the afore mentioned However, here, too, only three booking engines can be compared at a time. A test for hotels in Chiang Mai resulted in one of the three booking engines not recognizing Chiang Mai, while none of the remaining two were able to beat the prices which came up with, though all three had the same hotel listed as the cheapest available. also allows you to book vacations and lists news, which simply seems to be an aggregated RSS feed. Overall, the site seems to have been put together in too short a time, without too little thought, providing too few benefits. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 9047 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 939 [iOldID] => 1305 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462048877 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 66 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 3.15281 [fLongitude] => 101.704 [tLocation] => Menara KL Tower [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20090726 ) [925] => Array ( [iID] => 925 [tTitle] => Exploring Chiang Mai [tSlug] => exploring-chiang-mai [iTime] => 1247608800 [iUpdate] => 1247608800 [tDescription] => Benno went home yesterday, after spending a good week here in Chiang Mai. The silly bugger is currently running up a 24 delay in Bangkok. Luckily, work didn't occupy me as much as I had feared earlier, so we were able to do quite a few things over the past week, including a Thai cooking course, this time at a different school, and a two day trek with Chiang Mai TIC travel close to nearby Chiang Dao. The trek was surprisingly tough, where on the first day we had to trek for three hours or so, ending up in a small Lahu village on top of a mountain with superb views. We were lucky that both the sun wasn't shining much and the rains didn't sweep us off our feet. Particularly the last 30 minutes or so the incline was so steep and the ground so muddy that, had it rained, we would have been unlikely to be able to get up. Music Riding on the back of the recent free-Iran wave, Valley Entertainment is giving away a Bob Dylan cover of I shall be released, sung by Mahsa Vahdat and Melissa Etheridge. The song isn't too bad, but I'm less impressed by tying the commercialism to the recent Iranian revolts. The same record company has a much more funny record on sale, Lullabies from the Axis of Evil. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3479 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 936 [iOldID] => 1304 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462068134 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 46 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 19.1919 [fLongitude] => 98.8764 [tLocation] => Lahu village [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20090715 ) [923] => Array ( [iID] => 923 [tTitle] => Iranian elections [tSlug] => iranian-elections [iTime] => 1245362400 [iUpdate] => 1245362400 [tDescription] => I've been quite surprised, and worried, while feeling ambivalent, about what's going on in Iran at the moment. As opposed to most other muslim countries, Iran has something of a facade of democracy. However, as the religious council has to approve every single presidential candidate, the people's choice is, obviously, still quite limited. Now, with Mousavi, the defeated candidate in this year's election, being slightly more liberal and certainly more photogenic, the world at large seems to think that because Iran's middle class is very vocal and has an idea on how to use citizen media, Mousavi must be the answer to all Iran's democratic woes. Mousavi's Wikipedia page puts him up as an extensive liberal, but this has to be taken with a grain of salt. His candidacy for the presidency, too, was vetted by the religious council and the views as listed here would have never allowed him to stand. Ethan Zuckerman has an excellent post on the Iranian election and citizen media. It resulted in my throwing in my two cents worth:
Note that the voting results for 2005 were actually almost identical to this year's: 61.69% for Ahmadinejad and 35.93% for Rafsanjani, though Ahmadinejad scored less than Rafsanjani in the first round of voting. However, with, then, some 64% turnout, this year's turnout of 85% is astounding. Perhaps, in the light of some 30 towns having a voter turnout of over 100%, this can be easily explained... Also, on vote rigging, Rafsanjani, in 2005, complained of voting irregularities as well, which, in the light of Mousavi being seen as a proxy for the Rafsanjani family, starts to indicate that this year's election could simply be something of a rerun of the previous one. But back to citizen media: Indeed, Mousavi's support is significant, but, if anything, not likely enough to be a significant majority of the population, though perhaps the most vocal and, surely, visible. In 'the west', the lower classes of society typically don't often make the news, then when they, en masse, vote for a right wing candidate, everyone is suddenly shocked at not being able to see this coming (Le Pen, Wilders, BNP, Haider). Clearly, Ahmadinejad has quite some support. We just don't hear much about it.
A good article with lots of background information, followed by a second article, appeared in the Asia Times. Both were written by M K Bhadrakumar, a former career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. Excellent analysis, though his mentioning of Twitter in both articles feels out of place. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2787 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 22 [iVoters] => 6 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 560 [iOldID] => 1302 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461976516 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 18.7936 [fLongitude] => 98.9943 [tLocation] => Baan Chinnakorn [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20090619 ) [912] => Array ( [iID] => 912 [tTitle] => A week in Brighton [tSlug] => a-week-in-brighton [iTime] => 1238968800 [iUpdate] => 1238968800 [tDescription] => Managed to get through the week quite well, though with too little sleep and comparatively little partying. For the amount of sleep anyway. Brighton's rather fresh, though when the sun's shining, it's also very enjoyable. In the sun, hordes of Brightonians lounge on the pebble beach at the end of each day. On Saturday, Felicia and I visited the Brighton Museum and art gallery. An interesting exhibit compared classical paintings in pairs, where visitors were expected to write their views of the paintings on postcards, to leave them with the paintings at the exhibit. Brighton, besides being considered the gay capital of the UK, is also a prominent destination for hen and stag parties. We saw quite a few on Saturday, including a cluster of Oompa Loompas. Also, I've run into some five or six film shoots. And what's the deal with all the Iranians? Instead of a hotel, we were staying in an apartment. Not only is this significantly cheaper, we also had loads of room. Two large bedrooms, a sizable living and a roomy kitchen. And free hi speed internet (at some point, I was clocking in nearly 1MB per second using bittorrent). However, on my last night, I had to move to a hotel. I didn't want to go for the cheapest option available (25 Pounds per night), wanting some comfort. I ended up at the Old Ship Hotel, close to the pier, at 40 Pounds per night. There's nothing really wrong with the place, but the rooms are small and internet is expensive, at an additional 15 Pounds per 24 hours. Also what I don't get is where these places still get the nerve from to charge horrific amounts for phone calls. A note on my desk told me that a 5 minute call to Australia would cost me 32 Pounds. Using Skype, this would be probably less than 50 cents. A 5 minute phonecall to a UK cellphone is less: 15 Pounds. Only. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3288 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 927 [iOldID] => 1290 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461924168 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 26 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 50.829 [fLongitude] => -0.14087 [tLocation] => Brighton train station [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20090406 ) [911] => Array ( [iID] => 911 [tTitle] => From Jo'burg to Brighton [tSlug] => from-joburg-to-brighton [iTime] => 1238450400 [iUpdate] => 1238450400 [tDescription] => I'm leaving South Africa behind for a while. I'm off for a week to Brighton, followed by three to six months in Thailand. Yebo. Back to HDN, to work on improving, an online toolkit (that is, a collection of publications), around orphans and vulnerable children. Can't wait for the Brighton Rock. Supposed to leave on Sunday night, after an excellent hash party thrown by Rouzeh, Virgin's flight to London Heathrow was cancelled because due to some bad planning, no pilot was available in Johannesburg to fly the plane to the UK. Though it's understandable for people to make the occasional mistakes, only a week earlier the exact same thing had happened when an Alliance colleague (my project is run through the Alliance) suffered from the same mistake. I finally arrived Monday night, missing the Brighton hash. Sharing an apartment with Felicia, I've got a view of the sea from my room. Brighton is surprisingly affordable. Meanwhile, after Christo had gone off to Holland for over three weeks, he came back last weekend, meaning we had another stab at winning the weekly quiz at the Keg in Sunninghill. With 'quizmaster Lloyd' we hadn't yet, since my return last year, managed to get a prize but this time, we somehow turned the tables and won. And that was with minimal cheating. We won foldable chairs with a built in drinks container. Techie stuff I've been using Xoopit for a while now, which is a handy add-on to Gmail. For example, they list all participants of an email discussion in one handy list and index all your received files. One thing that was long overdue for Gmail was the linking of your contacts to existing social networks. Finally, Xoopit has done it. Besides the list of contacts from any one conversation, you now also get to see their latest Facebook status updates. Granted, there's a long way to go (why only list Facebook?), but it's a start. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4808 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 926 [iOldID] => 1288 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461811151 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 50.8315 [fLongitude] => -0.156727 [tLocation] => Alliance office [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20090331 ) [910] => Array ( [iID] => 910 [tTitle] => New year [tSlug] => new-year [iTime] => 1237762800 [iUpdate] => 1237762800 [tDescription] => 21 March, the start of spring, marks the beginning of the Persian new year. Rouzeh threw a small party, which saw myself, Elvis (that is, Peter) and his fiancee Patience enjoy a relaxed evening at Rouzeh's place in Pretoria. For Iranians, the new year is called 'Nowruz', meaning 'new day', though the Farsi transliteration, due to the many Farsi dialects, knows some 20 different varieties. The term Nowruz first appeared only in the second century AD, but at least since the Achaemenid era, possibly from as early as 600BC onwards, did the official year start with the spring equinox, which occurs around the 21st of March, the beginning of spring, when, in the northern Hemisphere, the length of the day starts to overtake the length of the night. It's not unlikely that the geographical spread of the Achaemenid empire resulted in the current widespread celebrations of Nowruz. Not only is Nowruz celebrated from northwestern China through central Asia to the Crimea, it's also observed in parts of Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo and Macedonia. Furthermore, the Jewish Purim festival is said to derive from the Persian new year and, of course, the Romans, up to around 150BC, celebrated the start of the new year at the start of spring as well (though they started at the ides of March, the 15th, which incidentally was also the date Caesar was killed), hence September being called the seventh month, October the 8th, etc. Incidentally, when the Romans realigned the start of the new year to January, the month was named after the two-faced god Janus, one for looking back and one for looking forward. Nowruz was, most likely, first celebrated by Zoroastrians. Though that religion, considered to be the 'father' of all monotheistic religions, only entered historical records around the time the Achaemenids are known to have started to observe Nowruz, the religion's founder, Zarathushtra, considered by the ancient Greeks to be the father of both magic and astrology, might have lived around the year 1000BC. The reason for celebrating the new year on the first day of spring, however, is shrouded in history, besides being a reasonably obvious choice as a point of yearly rebirth. One myth, related in Ferdowsi's Shahnameh, tells of the legendary king Jamshid, who had an elaborate throne constructed, after which he was celebrated by all the world's creatures, calling the day of the celebrations Nowruz. Historical indications to back this up include Persepolis, known to Iranians as Takhte-e-Jamshid, the throne of Jamshid. There, processions etched in stone are considered by some scholars to represent the bringing of gifts by peoples from all over the king's empire. Perhaps more interestingly, the king Jamshid might symbolize the transition of the Indo-Iranians from animal hunting to animal husbandry, basically commemorating the time when Iranians settled on the Iranian plateau after traveling from Europe, around the Caspian sea, to what is now Iran. Those in Europe who celebrate Nowruz as the start of the new year are typically ethnic minorities who entered Europe during the Turkish rule of south-east Europe. This includes the Bektashi in Albania, an Islamic Sufi order. But they aren't the only ones. Some pagan Europeans celebrated the start of the new year with the start of spring until the late middle ages. Perhaps not so surprisingly, Islam has had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Nowruz. As it originated before the arrival of the prophet, that is, Muahammad, it's sometimes considered un-islamic. Khomeini, in his first post-revolution speech, declared that Nowruz would not be celebrated as long as the world suffered from injustice. Which, I suppose, would be as long man lives. Nevertheless, the two-week celebrations surrounding the new year in Iran are still the most important holiday there, even though leaders like Khamenei and Ahmadinejad both have tried to downplay the festivities, but with little success. In Iran, new year's celebrations and traditions are comparable to everywhere else. They involve drinking and dancing, but also jumping over bonfires, to cleanse oneself, the cleaning of the house, buying of new clothes and, interestingly, the purchase of flowers. Gifts are exchanged and families are visited. Jumping over the bonfires is done on the evening before the last Wednesday of the year and it's called 'Red Wednesday' and celebrates the light winning over the darkness, an obvious reference to Zoroastrianism. Also, according to tradition, the living are visited by the spirits of their ancestors in the last days of the year. Kids, re-enacting these visits, wrapped in shrouds, run through the streets banging on pots and pans, knocking on doors, asking for treats. The link to fireworks with new year's celebrations seems obvious and I suspect there might be a link with Hallowe'en as well, though that is said to derive from the Celtic festival of Samhain ("summer's end"), possibly also the beginning of the Celtic new year, and the Christian All Saints day, which doesn't seem to have a clear historical origin. Probably the most interesting part of Iranian Nowruz celebrations are the haft sin, Persian for seven 'S's, a group of seven items starting with the letter s. An Iranian family celebrating Nowruz will collect these seven items and have them on display for the new year. These seven items symbolize the Seven Bounteous Creations from Zoroastrianism. These are sky, water, earth, plants, animals, man and fire. As Zoroastrianism sees the physical world as a natural matrix of these seven creations in which life and growth are interdependent, mankind has been tasked, as the only conscious creation, with caring for the universe, with the final goal being harmony and perfection. However, three thousand years of tradition can't be left unchanged. Now, the seven 'S's and their representations are: Obviously, it might not always be too easy to get the right items together and some 'S's are sometimes replaced by others: And other items might show up as well, not necessarily starting with the letter s, but typically having some obvious symbolical, historical or spiritual meaning. A cute add-on is sometimes a gold fish, in a bowl (which Rouzeh did have), symbolizing both life and the fact that the sun is leaving the zodiacal sign of pisces at the start of spring. Another interesting add on are decorated, painted, eggs, with the egg being a symbol of rebirth, which was later adopted by early Christians as a symbol of Jesus' rebirth. Indeed, sculptures on the walls of Persepolis show people carrying eggs to the king, Jamshid. And, if you're wondering, the introduction of the Easter Bunny derives from the Saxon celebrations surrounding the spring equinox, where the spring goddess Eostre ('Easter') was personified by the hare. Then, on the thirteenth day of the new year, with the twelve constellations of the zodiac controlling the months of the year and each ruling the earth for a thousand years, after which the sky and earth collapse in chaos, it's time to sing and dance, typically at family picnics. The sabzeh, grown for the haft sin, is thrown into running water, to exorcise the demons from the household. A related tradition is the process of lying to someone and then making them believe it. And then there's the gentleman called Haji Firouz, Symbolizing the Sumerian god of sacrifice, killed at the end of each year, being reborn at the begging of the next, he usually has a face, painted black, symbolizing good luck, and is dressed in red. Though the earliest historical records point to the Iranians being the source of Nowruz celebrations, some scholars believe that the they, as a whole, might have been borrowed by the Indo-Iranians from the Mesopotamians, whose land they occupied from the first millennium BC onwards. And you thought it was only the beginning of spring. So, the fish is still alive. Rouzeh wasn't able to find sprouts, though I offered to find some Brussel's sprouts for her. We played Scrabble till late and we didn't jump over any fires. 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[iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20090323 ) [900] => Array ( [iID] => 900 [tTitle] => Sushi, hash, quiz and Gene [tSlug] => sushi-hash-quiz-and-gene [iTime] => 1231974000 [iUpdate] => 1231974000 [tDescription] => Finally, I managed to crawl my way up to Best of Asia, the sushi bar in Pineslopes which serves 3 for 2 on Tuesdays. Sadly, it was only Christo who joined me, Elvis having 'other plans' (his girlfriend is visiting) and Tim being sick at home with Linda as his private, pregnant, nurse. The sushi, was exceptionally excellent. And I was welcomed by the owners upon my arrival. Clearly, I somehow made an impression. A week later, Christo and I were joined by Razia and Christian. And on both occasions, the sushi aftermath was celebrated at Elvis'. That's what friends are for. But the first journey to Best of Asia was long. My car, a Brian, stalled on the way there. A friendly Afrikaner towed me to a nearby garage, where some magic temporarily fixed a carburetor/choke issue. The first hash of the new year was a busy one: No less than 5 virgins, including a ballet dancer from Chili and a belly dancer from Zimbabwe (Rouzeh). In fact, Rouzeh clearly enjoyed herself enough to join me the following week for a short hash weekend in the field, over at Buffelspoortdam, which was only slightly disturbed by the skies opening up. Quizzes have also started again. Not yet at the Keg in Sunninghill, but yes in the Irish Club in Linden. We came in a decent second. Well, that is, I and a mom with her two kids and a guy which reminded me of Gene Hunt. Also, I finally met Muhammad, a 22 year old Iranian who runs the Spar as well as the liquor store around the corner. Not bad, for someone who entered the country just two years ago. And on one more small note, as I was shopping at Checkers in Cresta Mall, a huge rat scuttled from the bakery section to the salad section. No one seemed to notice as I watched it scrambling under the counter. Helpdesk In unrelated news, Mojo helpdesk have made their interface like Gmail's and made it excellent in the process. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4940 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 913 [iOldID] => 1274 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462052213 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -26.1389 [fLongitude] => 27.9847 [tLocation] => The Irish Club [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20090115 ) [4277] => Array ( [iID] => 4277 [tTitle] => Craig Murray - The Catholic Orangemen of Togo and Other Conflicts I Have Known [tSlug] => craig-murray-the-catholic-orangemen-of-togo-and-other-conflicts-i-have-known [iTime] => 1231714800 [iUpdate] => 1231714800 [tDescription] => Murray, who wrote the important Murder in Samarkand, on his stint as the British ambassador for Uzbekistan, highlighting the link with the international opium trade and British and US support for Uzbekistan's dictatorial regime, has now followed up this book with a prequel, primarily on his time in Ghana. Murray has had quite some issues with publishing his new book and, besides now managing to get the book listed on Amazon USA in Hardcover, scores of Murray supporters also offer the book as a PDF. Indeed, you can get it for free, right here, in three parts. + Part 1 (cover) mirror 1 mirror 2. + Part 2 (introduction) mirror 1 mirror 2. + Part 3 (book) mirror 1 mirror 2. I couldn't find the book as important as Murder in Samarkand, but it's an entertaining read, focussing on Murray's time, mostly working as the British High Commissioner to Ghana, roughly from 1998 to 2001, which was publicly characterized by the Arms to Africa affair. Part of the critique on Murray's earlier book was the intertwining of spilling political beans with spilling private beans, mostly involving Murray's sexual escapades. Possibly to poke fun at his critics, it's his relationship issues he starts the first few paragraphs of this book with. The book works for Murray's candid approach both to himself and his experiences. Clearly, what he went through both in Ghana and, more importantly, Uzbekistan, and the emotional breakdown which followed, resulted in him getting to know himself to the fullest. And The Catholic Orangemen..., as a biography or memoir works because Murray is not full of himself. He's aware of this, touching upon it in the preface, where he points out that contrary to typical biographies, Murder in Samarkand showed the author, warts and all, as opposed to presenting a near perfect image of himself, which autobiographies and memoirs often end up doing. As far as revelations go, this book's not nearly as impressive as its predecessor. It's the small details which make it juicy. Descriptions of warlords, national leaders, politics behind politics and whatnot. But also, Murray has clearly become a better writer since his previous book, using his tongue-in-cheek style with gusto. In one example of a minor revelation, Murray makes the point that the Ghanaian Kwameh Nkrumah, post-colonial Africa's first independent head of state, was also post-colonial Africa's first dictator and the creator of the model which started the long series of anti-democratic rule with Nkrumah being, in many ways, the model for Mugabe, who both studied in Ghana and met his first wife there. Murray shows that, besides the West's dumping of subsidized goods and hurting the local economies, Africans have also destroyed their regional trade for the protection of corrupt private interests. With his interest and knowledge of Ghana, he goes into a bit more detail on J.J. Rawlings, long time dictator and elected president of Ghana (but not since 2000, shortly before I arrived in the country). Joy FM makes a brief appearance in relation to the 2000 Ghana elections and Murray mentions the (then?) director, Sam Attah Mensah, whom I briefly met when I spent time working at Joy FM in early 2001. The chapter on the Ghanaian elections of 2000 I found very intriguing, with some very interesting but little reported on details on how the peaceful handover of power to the opposition really happened and nearly wasn't very peaceful at all. Champs bar gets another mentioning, which is where we used to play weekly trivia quizzes. The version of the book I read is a prerelease. This means that there's still a few small things in it which need to be edited out, but nothing major. It's amazing that Tim Spicer has been able to block the publication of the book. He's by no means a major player in the book and Murray doesn't seem to reveal anything out of the ordinary about him shows that Spicer most likely violated UN regulations, by Spicer having had the intent to supply weapons to the conflict in Sierra Leone. With Spicer heading Sandline, in cahoots with Executive Outcomes, both mercenary firms not totally unlike Blackwater, this isn't too surprising, but could make Spicer eligible for prosecution for breaking a UN embargo. A supposedly Iranian girl, Adrienne Ramainian also makes an appearance and Murray makes clear she's extremely beautiful. The Daily Mail published an excerpt of the book with a photo of Murray and a very good looking girl which, in a copied excerpt still carries what I suspect is the original caption, identifying the girl as Ramainian. As Google has no results for the girl's name but these two pages (and, give it a day, this very page), I also suspect that the name Murray gives the girl is not her real name. And, in fact, judging from the photo, I would not be surprised if she's actually Indian. It's a very enjoyable book, easy and entertaining to read. Not as shocking or revealing as Murder in Samarkand, but more appealing. More personal, if you will. It's a bit like reading a high profile blog without the pretensions but with the juicy details. Fungibility Remarking on most international donors' relatively new policy of supporting budgets, not projects, Murray points out the administrative inability of African middle management, the more corrupted African governments (that is, more corrupted than Western governments) and the mediocre monitoring by the donors, as reasons for this change of funding being a failure. Money pumped in by donors for a particular line item on the budget means that money originally allocated for that line item can now be pocketed by the high level administrators. Fungibility. The only way around this, I suppose, is to have donors manage whole areas of developing countries and avoid the intermingling of funds, responsibilities and objectives. However, obviously, creating a shadow state opens up a whole different can of worms. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 4505 [iClicks] => 689 [iRating] => 4 [iVote] => 5 [iVoters] => 1 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 911 [iOldID] => 3913 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462104075 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -26.1407 [fLongitude] => 27.9941 [tLocation] => The Buxt residence [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20090112 ) [632] => Array ( [iID] => 632 [tTitle] => Strep! [tSlug] => strep [iTime] => 1203202800 [iUpdate] => 1203202800 [tDescription] => On my last day in Uganda, I started to get an irritated throat which hasn't gone away since. I tend not to be one for drugs and doctor visits, but ended up going today anyway. In stead of getting better, the pain was getting worse and I had started feeling more and more sick. Turns out I've got strep throat (in Dutch: Tonsilitis, keelontsteking). I started my antibiotics cure today. My week's been very busy. Besides a full schedule at HDN, I've also run into a series of outside projects which I didn't really expect to end up with. Downside: little free time. Upside: a year of relative riches. Felicia said it well earlier in the week that, as a freelancer, it tends to be "feast or famine". Persian blogs I do not claim to run a Persian blog, but I do claim that Kamangir's list of 100 most popular Persian bogs/sites is rather odd. The BBC website tops the list and DW as well as a series of other websites, obviously not Persian, not even with a Persian bias, make the list. The list seems to be compiled based on linkage. But if we look at Alexa ranking, a quick search didn't reveal one site, except for the obviously non-Persian ones, which was more popular than the one you're now reading. Perfect I met miss teen Thailand 2007. Soooo cuuuuute. And I don't even think it was a guy! And I touched the MacBook Air. I almost creamed my pants. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3968 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 547 [iOldID] => 1004 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462169554 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 4 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 18.7689 [fLongitude] => 98.9753 [tLocation] => Central Airport Plaza [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20080217 ) [611] => Array ( [iID] => 611 [tTitle] => The end of Israel [tSlug] => the-end-of-israel [iTime] => 1196377200 [iUpdate] => 1196377200 [tDescription] => Ahmadinejad: "Israel will not survive" Olmert: "Israel might not last" It's good to see that these guys are finally agreeing on something. And have you already watched Cherry Chocolate Rain? [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3338 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 10 [iVoters] => 2 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 560 [iOldID] => 983 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461902129 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 18.7936 [fLongitude] => 98.9943 [tLocation] => Baan Chinnakorn [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20071130 ) [566] => Array ( [iID] => 566 [tTitle] => Google maps, Soweto uprisings and Iranian TV [tSlug] => google-maps-soweto-uprisings-and-iranian-tv [iTime] => 1187647200 [iUpdate] => 1187647200 [tDescription] => Google today upgraded Google Maps. It's now bloody easy to include a map on your site.

View Larger Map
Above, you're looking at geotagged artworks in Delft. The datafeed comes from That took me less than one minute. True, as a user using this new technique (embedded maps) you're more restricted than doing everything yourself (like I do on several of my sites), but your development time also goes down to near zero. It just ain't fair. Soweto uprisings . com on MSNBC Yah, we're cool. You might know I've done some nice work, together with Ismail Farouk on Soweto uprisings . com, an online mapping application, documenting the June 16, 1976 uprisings in Soweto. Recently, the site was mentioned in an article on MSNBC. The article is decent enough, but also generalizes too much, something journalists writing on 'Africa' often end up doing. The article also isn't 100% accurate, as it says that "... by the end of the day (June 16), scores of children were shot dead." In fact, at the end of the first day (that is, June 16), it is generally accepted 23 people had died, including 3 whites. I don't think the other 20 all were children. Anyway, the site's getting coverage on, according to Alexa, the second most popular website in the world. Iranian TV I was asked to plug an online Iranian TV station aimed at the 18-35 age group. It's rather entertaining, if you have an interest in Iran. They're still ironing out some glitches on the website.
[iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 8922 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 6 [iVoters] => 2 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 421 [iOldID] => 937 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462192775 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -26.0287 [fLongitude] => 28.0151 [tLocation] => Shingara Sands [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20070821 ) [549] => Array ( [iID] => 549 [tTitle] => Eating bugs [tSlug] => eating-bugs [iTime] => 1182117600 [iUpdate] => 1182117600 [tDescription] => Lots of them: crickets, silk worms, beetles and then some. And.... wait for it... I ate them. Fried, not raw. Actually, it's much worse than it sounds. With them being fried, the only thing left is their external skeleton, the hard bits. And they taste like overly used cooking oil. But they still look like bugs. And that's disgusting. Going native Besides eating the fried bugs, you can also go native by submitting yourself to a Thai massage. I had one on Sunday and although it's said to be painful, I could only describe it as being quite enjoyable. And, no, that's not because of the happy ending. I wasn't even offered one! Then again, the lady doing the massage was past her sell-by date anyway. Also, we visited the night bazaar, the most touristy place in town, where you can find German, Dutch, Italian restaurants, as well as McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, Subway and whatnot. And DVDs for 80 baht (around 1.60 euro), PS2 games for 120 baht and more clothes than you can wear in a lifetime. What's for dinner in Thailand? Part 12 Well, the bugs, obviously. And street sushi. At 10 to 20 eurocents per sushi, it's hard to beat. And not all bad. The most popular Iranian on the web? In a recent post, I mentioned my website was slightly less popular than Reza Pahlavi's website. Reza Pahlavi being the son of the last shah of Iran, and to some the last hope of Iran being able to some day resemble a 'modern' state again, that is not all too bad an achievement. But! According to Alexa, my website is now more popular than the former king's son's. A quick check on the interesting BlogsByIranians seems to support this. Are you now looking at the most popular (semi-)Iranian blog on the internet? Unfortunately, hosted blogs (Blogger and such) don't let themselves be measured with Alexa. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 6495 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 5 [iVoters] => 1 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 545 [iOldID] => 920 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462231396 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 31 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 18.7903 [fLongitude] => 98.9875 [tLocation] => Sunday street market [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20070618 ) [3612] => Array ( [iID] => 3612 [tTitle] => Come, it's already dusk [tSlug] => come-its-already-dusk [iTime] => 1172098800 [iUpdate] => 1172098800 [tDescription] => Part of the Iranian Film Festival at Rosebank, in Johannesburg. Directed by Ensieh Shah Hosseini, like Puran Derakhshandeh, the director of the other two films we saw at the festival, a woman. The movie is good, has several decent storylines intertwining and a few interesting characters. The leading female, a gypsy widow after her husband died at sea, is a bit too angry during the whole movie, but she's quite pretty, so that's okay. The story is mostly about her being trapped, as part of her tribe, at some unnamed island in the Persian Gulf. She realises, almost too late, she actually has a chance of escaping with an engineer from up north. As with the previous two movies we saw at the festival, the translator should have done a much better job to make the dialogues and the more delicate details of the story understandable for the audience. Here's the write up from Mohammad Ahmadi's website, the cinematographer:
A young gypsy woman who has fled her tribe falls in love with a fisherman in a remote island and they make a promise to get married but on their wedding night instead of himself the fisherman introduces his friend as the groom. The woman is compelled to marry him and not long thereafter her husband drowns in the sea. Having regained her freedom she decides to take revenge against her disloyal lover.
At the end of the movie, in a dialogue between the woman and her disloyal lover, the delicate situation is explained, but not translated, and the non-Farsi speaking audience was clearly confused by the odd conclusion to the story. In the festival programme, the name of the movie was giving as "Come, sun is setting". However, the film itself opened with the translated title "Rush, it comes". The write up in the festival programme also strongly suggested we were watching another movie as scheduled:
This is the story of the riparian people who do not easily give up struggling with the difficulties of daily life. These people are a shining example of friendship and devotion. In this film, the audience witnesses how a man's love eventually leads to his self-sacrifice.
Trying to find information on the film, online, hoping to learn the actual title and some background information, it turns out there's practically nothing online, not even on IMDB. Usage of the term 'riparian' in the festival write up was typical for the translator of the movies: occasional use of correct English words practically no one has every heard of. Riparian means something like:
Relating to or living or located on the bank of a natural watercourse (as a river) or sometimes of a lake or a tidewater.
But this definition doesn't help, at all, in the context of the movie. As the women in the movie, in public, wear wooden masks to hide their faces, the island on which the film is set is most likely near Minab, close to Hormoz Island and the straight of Hormoz.
Foto by elena senao
There is one great(above) and one not so great picture on Flickr of women wearing these masks. Interestingly, ethnologists believe the masks are leftover fashion items from when the Portuguese ruled the region. The masks, interestingly enough, are believed by ethnologists to be leftover fashion statements from when the Portuguese ruled the region. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2575 [iClicks] => 446 [iRating] => 4 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 427 [iOldID] => 2899 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462168621 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -26.1466 [fLongitude] => 28.0417 [tLocation] => Rosebank Mall [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20070222 ) [3611] => Array ( [iID] => 3611 [tTitle] => streets of iran . com [tSlug] => streets-of-iran-com [iTime] => 1172098800 [iUpdate] => 1172098800 [tDescription] => I think this will be my last stand alone mapping website for a while. Streets of iran . com is a collection of street photography from Iran. I started of the collection with photographs from 75 murals, wall paintings, in Tehran. These things are everywhere, seriously. The site was discontinued in August 2009. All the photos are available through the Streets of Iran group on Flickr. [iCategory] => 6 [tURL] => [iViews] => 17550 [iClicks] => 1384 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 334 [iVoters] => 93 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 1475 [iOldID] => 2898 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462188980 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 1 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 13 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 35.701 [fLongitude] => 51.4063 [tLocation] => Vali Asr metro station [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Own stuff [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 6 [categories] => Array ( [6] => Array ( [iID] => 6 [tName] => Own stuff [tSlug] => own-stuff [tDescription] => Erich Fromm said that "creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties" and, without giving freedom to my creativity, I'd die. [iOrder] => 2 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => sparse [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => bf:blogitem=2898 ) [511] => Array ( [iID] => 511 [tTitle] => Sweets of Iran [tSlug] => sweets-of-iran [iTime] => 1167433200 [iUpdate] => 1167433200 [tDescription] => There seem to be more different types of sweets in Iran than you can shake a stick at. And there all so good! Well, most of them anyway. Here's a few. Additions are very, very welcome. + Abnabat qeichi (آبنبات قیچی). From Mashhad, Qom, Yazd. + Badam sukhte (بادام سوخته). Sugared almonds. From all over Iran. + Baklava (باقلوا ). From Yazd. + Bastani (بستنی). Ice cream. From all over Iran. + Dates (خرما). From Bam. + Faludeh (فالوده). From all over Iran. + Fresh dates (رتب). Also a type of packaged but very juicy dates. From the south of Iran, typically Bam or Kerman. + Gaz (گز). A nougat like sweet. From Esfahan. + Gush-e fil (گوش فیل). From all over Iran. + Halva (حلوا). From all over Iran. + Jakh dar behesht (یخ در بهشت). A type of ice cream. From all over Iran. + Joz-e qand (جوز قند). From all over Iran. + Kachi (کاچی). A soft type of halva. From all over Iran. + Kolombe (کلمبه). From Kerman. + Lavasak (لواشک). Not really a sweet, but a very sour thin layer of processed fruits. From all over Iran. + Masqati (مسقطی). Fom Shiraz. + Nabat (نبات). From Mashhad. + Nan-e berenji (نان برنجی). From Kermanshah. + Nan-e nokhodchi (نان نخودچی). From Kermanshah. + Noqa (نوقا ). More commonly known as nougat. From Tabriz. + Noql-e pir-e zan (نقل پیر زن ). From Mashhad, Qom. + Pashmak (پشمک). A more solid type of cotton candy. From Yazd. + Pistachio (پسته). From Rafsanjan. + Qottab (قطٌاب). A pastry made of eggs, yoghurt, flour, almonds, and cardamom. From Yazd. + Ranginak (رنگینک). From the south of Iran, typically Abadan and Kerman. + Reshte Khushkar (رشته خوشکار). A rice based sweet. From the north of Iran. + Sholl-e zard (شلٌه زرد). From all over Iran. + Sohan (سوهان). A brittle pistachio based sweet. From Qom. + Tut (توت). A marzipan like sweet. From all over Iran. + Zulbia bamie (زولبیا بامیه). Sugared bread sticks. From all over Iran. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 42891 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 804 [iVoters] => 234 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 421 [iOldID] => 881 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462222989 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => -26.0287 [fLongitude] => 28.0151 [tLocation] => Shingara Sands [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20061230 ) [504] => Array ( [iID] => 504 [tTitle] => On a train from Tehran to Istanbul [tSlug] => on-a-train-from-tehran-to-istanbul [iTime] => 1165705200 [iUpdate] => 1165705200 [tDescription] => When buying my train ticket, I was assigned wagon 1, seat 1, but when I arrived at the international train terminal in Tehran, every passenger was assigned a new seat. The journey would first go through Tabriz (in Iran) to Van (in Turkey), where a ferry service would take us to Tatvan, on the other side of Lake Van, where it would be a slow zigzagging trip through Sivas, Keyseri and Ankara before reaching Istanbul. Research had strongly suggested the ferry was a train ferry, but only the luggage cars were actually put on the boat. We had to get off the train, on the ferry, for five hours, before embarking the Turkish train on the other side of the lake. The adjusted seating arrangements I had gotten upon departure had different seating for the Iranian and Turkish trains, but although this worked fine on the Iranian train, it was complete chaos on the second train. Although my little group stayed together, we had to hunt for an empty carriage in the middle of the night. Interestingly, my little group consisted of four young Iranian males travelling independently and for some reason, all similar travellers seemed to have ended up in the same coupe. I was one of the few passengers on the train with a significant amount of luggage, as I was unaware of the luggage train. Very convenient, because with my luggage and the four guys, our coupe was completely full. On the Turkish Iranian border, everyone had to get out of the train, when all passports were reviewed in a relatively slow manner, before, with a stack of reviewed passports on hand, one by one, names were called off for individuals to retrieve their passes. On the Iranian side, after everyone had received his passport, I was called into an empty room and violently gang raped. Well, not really. It turned out that upon my arrival one month before, I should have filled in a form. A friendly man filled in in for me and I was on my way. On the Turkish side, the procedure was similar, but now using my Dutch passport, I was the first to receive my pass back. Here, upon spotting I was Dutch, an Iranian started talking to me in broken Dutch, saying he was going to try to get back to his family in Rotterdam, even though he didn't have the right papers to do so. There was a clear relief when the train started moving after Turkish border controls. The younger girls threw off their scarves and started wearing more fashionable clothes, people started smoking cigarettes and relaxed and everyone seemed to be smiling. Several of the travellers had confined in me that they'd rather leave the country behind forever. On the Iranian train and on the ferry, what seemed like half an orchestra was constantly playing classical Iranian music. Much better than the crying baby I had to endure from Tatvan to Istanbul. 36 hours. The whole ride took 70 hours, the single longest journey I've ever done. And I think I'm cured from every wanting to do this one again. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 10545 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 8 [iVoters] => 2 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 506 [iOldID] => 873 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461825497 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 1 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 38.5825 [fLongitude] => 42.9125 [tLocation] => Lake Van [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20061210 ) [502] => Array ( [iID] => 502 [tTitle] => What Iran needs [tSlug] => what-iran-needs [iTime] => 1165532400 [iUpdate] => 1165532400 [tDescription] => In the end, under the current circumstances, Iran is a bit of a degenerative society. On the whole, things don't get better, they get worse. At least in comparison to the global community. Because there's practically no outward focus, indeed many things 'western' are being blocked as much as possible by the government, there is also very little social pressure to improve. Here's a few things I think would help Iran. + Less government intrusion into people's everyday lives (obviously). + A better managed road network. Gas is damn cheap, around 8 cents the litre, so everyone drives all the time. Roads, particularly in Tehran, are clogged almost 24/7. One typical property of the road system is that many crossings aren't crossings at all, but two T-crossings with the two horizontal bars of the T alongside each other, with the main road the through road and the two side roads 'hooked on'. As a result, when you're coming from a side road, you can only go right. If you want to go left, you have to first go right, then wait for a loop in the road that lets you do a 180. Indeed, if you're coming from a side road and you want to go straight, you have to first turn right, wait for the loop, and then, at the same crossing you started out at, turn right. I'm sure this takes the pressure off from the intersection in question,but it also creates an annoying chaos around that same intersection. Why not turn them into regular crossings or create flyovers or diveunders? + Less and clearer internet restrictions. Obvious, but there's more. I can understand, a bit, if a government would want to block pornography. But the opaqueness of Iranian guidelines are such that in some places in Iran, a particular website is blocked, whereas in other places it isn't. + Dustbins. Iranians tend to throw garbage on the street or in the gutters that run alongside most streets. It's tough to actually throw something in a dustbin as there are so very few around. It's a pain to walk for miles, literally, with, say, a cigarette butt. + Supermarkets Every Iranian city has rows and rows of mom-and-pop stores, tiny 'supermarkets' where you can buy the bare necessities. This also means that you almost never have a choice or have to visit several to find the things you actually need. As a result, Iranians don't go out for the weekly groceries, they go out every day, or several times a day, to get the things they need for the next meal. And this, of course, is very time consuming. + Cafes. Outside of the few malls, mostly in northern Tehran, there are no cafes as you know them from, say, central Europe. And the ones in the malls tend to be flashy and modern, although reasonably tastefully decorated. For the rest, you'd be lucky to have light bulbs instead of neon lighting and soft chairs instead of metal or plastic ones. + One or more OBCZ. That is, an official Bookcrossing zone. There's an extreme shortage of foreign language books. Partially because some or banned, sure, but mostly because Iranians generally simply don't care for them. Then, for expats, or the Iranians who are interested in them, the only alternative is to get them straight from abroad. At an OBCZ, people can leave and pick up (typically second hand) books. Books are registered with the Bookcrossing website, which makes it easy to track down what books are currently available without having to go to the actual physical location. True, Iranians won't be too much helped by this as they strongly prefer talking over reading (and when they've finished talking about everything there is to be said, they just start over again... and again...). + A more extensive metro/tram network in Tehran. There are currently two metro lines and one connecting commuter line to the town of Karaj and they're extremely popular and quite good. Traffic in Tehran is terrible but using public transport is a challenge. More trams and metros would at least partially solve the problem and would make commuting life much more practical and enjoyable. + Building rules, regulations and restrictions. Modern architecture in Iran is amongst the worst in the world. Besides everything being virtually identical, lots of it is also half finished and looks like it can fall apart at any time. It's truly amazing that a country with such an impressive architectural history has accepted today's building standards. + Mr. Delivery. Traffic, in Tehran at least, is so awful, going for a takeaway is not a practical option. Secondly, the really decent restaurants are few and far between. Ergo, a Mr. Delivery is just the thing to have. If you're wondering, a Mr. Delivery lets you call a centralized office where you can order your food from certain restaurants which is then delivered to your door. I'll put in a few more if I think of them. On a slightly less related note, recently, the Iranian government started handing out bonuses to tourist agencies bringing in foreigners. Twenty dollar for every American, ten for every other western tourist. Now, Americans are required to have their fingerprints taken when entering the country (just like Iranians when entering the US). These two measures strike me as a bit counter productive. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 3769 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 25 [iVoters] => 8 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 505 [iOldID] => 871 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1461626321 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 38.0722 [fLongitude] => 46.2286 [tLocation] => Train station [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20061208 ) [501] => Array ( [iID] => 501 [tTitle] => Final notes [tSlug] => final-notes [iTime] => 1165446000 [iUpdate] => 1165446000 [tDescription] => I fully have the intention to come back next year, preferably late summer and/or early autumn so that, finally, I can experience some good weather in the areas where it matters. But I have to admit that, at several occasions, I've had the strong feeling that it's going to be a while before I'll return to Iran. Don't ask me why, it's just a feeling. An Iranian friend of mine had heard that the exception which allows me to visit the country three months every year will be abolished as of early next year, but a call to some ministry in Tehran refuted that. However, I don't think that that's the end of it. Then again, I can only cross that bridge when I come to it. Although I would prefer crossing that bridge while not, already, in the Iranian army. It doesn't have too great a reputation, you know. Only as little as 20 years ago, about a million of them just died. Well, all right, that was in the middle of a war, but still. But also At one a clock at night, there's a distant part of Tehran where, on the slow lane of an empty highway, people are selling paintings. And a historical bit I recently spoke to a Dutchie who'd been travelling in Iran and had talked to a few people who claimed that the Shah's downfall was mostly due to him not suppressing, killing, enough people. Hundreds, in stead of thousands and that, if only he'd been a little bit more cruel, Iran still would have had a shah. Besides the numbers being nonsense, the Shah's secret police, SAVAK, had 1000s of people killed, what I think the reason for these people to transfer the blame is to put responsibility for the current state of affairs on someone else's shoulder. This country is in the state it's in, because of the actions of a generation who struggled for power during the revolution and the following hostage crisis, around 1980. The blame for those people's failure to bring enlightenment lies, of course, purely and only with those people, but at the same time with everyone else in Iran as well, as every other individual, not striving for supremacy in one of Iran's governing bodies at the time, was also responsible by letting these same people get away with corruption, intimidation, murder and general incompetence. And by putting the blame on the last Shah, very conveniently, everyone's hands are suddenly washed clean. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2681 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 391 [iOldID] => 870 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462162426 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 5 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 35.7805 [fLongitude] => 51.364 [tLocation] => House of Nader and Parvaneh [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20061207 ) [500] => Array ( [iID] => 500 [tTitle] => An assault of the senses [tSlug] => an-assault-of-the-senses [iTime] => 1165359600 [iUpdate] => 1165359600 [tDescription] => Tonight, my aunt Parvaneh made an astonishing four main dishes, with a whole bunch of side dishes to boot. She, together with her husband Nader, also threw a party. And although I really tried my best, as all the dishes, none of them kebab, were extremely delicious, it was a good thing we had some visitors. But it was a challenge. Shortly after seven, Nader and myself were the only men, a full EIGHT WOMEN having joined the festivities, half of them of marriageable age, all with beautiful deer-caught-in-the-headlights-eyes. It was something of a relief that, about an our later, two more men had joined the festivities, even though, at the same time, four more women had arrived as well. I swallowed hard, a few times, and did my best to not look at the most babelicious of the girls, too much. In any case, she was 16 anyway. It was a joy to find that everyone spoke passable English while some, most particularly the young girls, spoke English extremely well. It didn't take too long before I, being something of an oddity, was surrounded by a group of youngsters who's average age was only barely more than half of mine. Although, of course, mentally, spiritually, they were all way ahead of themselves. You understand. Actually, as with my 18 year old niece, I found that many of the youngsters, here, are awfully mature. And, indeed, perhaps this is because the youths don't get a real chance to revolt, to find who they themselves are, and have to go from child to grown up, without a period of revolt in-between, being forced by circumstances to be mature much earlier than in European societies. The cutest of the girls was dressed like something of an alternative hard rock chick from the eighties, complete with the 'careless' hairdo, baggy pants and leather spiky straps around her wrists. This made me wonder, as it had earlier, that, perhaps, Iranians, or maybe upper middle class Iranians, are somehow stuck in a time warp, a sense of fashion which was frozen shortly after the Iranian revolution of 1979 and seems to have its focus on popular western culture from the 1980s. If you stumble upon a cluster of furniture stores in Iran, specifically if it's outside of Tehran, chances are you'll find chairs and tables your grandparents would have been proud of owning but my parent's generation were on the verge of finding too tacky, but here, now, of course, are all made of plastic or resin. It's like the mark of decency, respectability, but also fashion, was exported to Iran somewhere in the middle of the 20th century and never had the time to evolve. [iCategory] => 12 [tURL] => [iViews] => 2958 [iClicks] => 0 [iRating] => 0 [iVote] => 0 [iVoters] => 0 [iRedirect] => 0 [tISBN] => [iLocation] => 391 [iOldID] => 869 [tCover] => [iAccess] => 1462230415 [iHot] => 0 [tTemplateName] => default [iHideMap] => 0 [iForSale] => 0 [iImages] => 0 [iFullImage] => 0 [fLatitude] => 35.7805 [fLongitude] => 51.364 [tLocation] => House of Nader and Parvaneh [iPrimaryCategoryFeatured] => 0 [tCategory] => Blog [iCategoryFeatured] => 0 [iPrimaryCategory] => 12 [categories] => Array ( [12] => Array ( [iID] => 12 [tName] => Blog [tSlug] => blog [tDescription] => Find my upcoming travel plans over at Dopplr and a listing of major (and some minor) travelogues over on the travelogues section. [iOrder] => 1 [iActive] => 1 [tType] => article [tTemplateName] => default [iFeatured] => 0 [iPrimary] => 1 ) ) [flickrTag] => 20061206 ) ) ) Keyword: Iran ::