A Colombian’s View of the Middle East

Rebeca Nigrinis is a Colombian artist whose paintings are well known by their bold lines and bright colour combinations. Inspired in her Latin American background and the Middle East influence, she has developed a unique style combining the vibrancy emanating from the vivid colours of her Caribbean background, with the exotic beauty of the Middle East. Rebeca’s work has received many accolades and several awards. Please enjoy some of her artwork below, that is currently on display at the Hormuz Grand hotel in Muscat.

Coogee to Bondi

There is an awesome clifftop coastal walk from South Coogee to North Bondi that Heidi and I love to do whenever we are back in Australia. Total distance is around 8km if you start at the South Coogee Boardwalk at the bottom of Cuzco Street, and finish at the North Bondi RSL Club. If you get a chance you should check it out. The scenery is spectacular.

Coogee.

Coogee Beach is one of the calmer beaches on the Eastern Suburbs. The smaller waves make it more family friendly especially for people with small children learning how to swim. Giles Baths at North Coogee is a natural rockpool that can be a little rough during strong surf conditions.

The South Coogee Boardwalk from Cuzco Street

 

South Coogee

 

North Coogee

 

Giles Baths

Gordons Bay.

The natural design of the bay provides protection from the waves and offers excellent swimming and snorkeling opportunities. Many residents keep small runabout boats on the beach for fishing and fun. The walk out of Gordons Bay in the north has a lot of stairs so wear comfortable shoes 😉

Gordons Bay from Dunningham Reserve

 

Gordons Bay

Clovelly.

I am not a huge fan of Clovelly. In my opinion the excessive concreting around the beach has ruined the natural beauty of the cove. It is a great place to learn how to scuba dive though.

Clovelly Beach

Bronte Beach.

Bronte is another small wave beach that is family friendly. The Bronte to Coogee Aquatic Reserve, stretching from South Bronte to North Coogee, is approximately 100m offshore and offers excellent scuba diving opportunities. It is an environmentally sensitive area and fishing is prohibited. If you are lucky you may meet one of our iconic blue gropers who, despite their size and appearance, are harmless to humans.

The view of Bronte Beach from Bronte Park to the south.

 

North Bronte Beach

Tamarama Beach.

Nicknamed ‘Glamourama Beach’ back in the 1980’s when Elle McPherson was spotted bathing there, Tamarama has around 80m of shoreline and better surf conditions than Coogee or Bronte. Tamarama is prone to strong currents though so please ensure you swim between the flags and know your capabilities in the surf.

The view of Tamarama Beach from Gaerloch Reserve to the south.

 

Tamarama Surf Club

 

North Glamourama.

MacKenzies Bay.

One of the smallest beaches in NSW, MacKenzies Bay is a bit of an enigma. Every seven years a mysterious sand dump arrives at MacKenzies Bay turning it into a beach. According to Bondi folklore no one knows exactly when the sands will arrive and it certainly doesn’t last long. In 2007 the sands washed in in May and were gone by November. The phenomenon occurred again in October 2016 and made news around the country. Unfortunately I have not had the privilege to witness this event first hand.

MacKenzies Bay Sans Sand

Hunter Park.

The small bay that proceeds your arrival at Bondi is called Hunter Park. Swimming is not advised because of the rocky outcrop, however it does make a great backdrop for the annual Sculptures by the Sea event.

Hunter Park bay

Bondi.

At last you arrive at Sydney’s most well known beach. With great surfing, swimming and sunbathing, Bondi has become synonymous with Australian lifestyle. Like all Aussie beaches however, Bondi can be just as hostile. On the 6th February 1938 huge unexpected waves crashed into the 35,000 visitors on the beach washing many people out to sea. Around 250 people we rescued by surf lifesavers in what would later be known as ‘Black Sunday’. Incredibly only five lives were lost, but this is a stark reminder that you should never turn your back on the surf.

There are hostels, hotels and apartments for accommodation, fantastic restaurants and cafes and plenty of nighttime activities to enjoy. Bondi, Tamarama and Bronte are home to some of the oldest surf lifesaving clubs in Australia and at the south end of Bondi stands the Bondi Icebergs Club with great facilities and an excellent menu, albeit a little pricey. At the end of our walk Heidi and I enjoy a beer at the North Bondi RSL, sitting on the outside deck and watching the world go by. If you see us there someday come and say g’day.

Bondi Beach from Marks Park in the south

 

Bondi from the southern end

 

Bondi Beach from the deck of the North Bondi RSL Club

Nizwa Fort

The consolidation of political power and religious authority in Oman during the 1600’s produced new requirements for fortified buildings, including the lodging of the Imam.

Fulfilling this purpose, Nizwa Castle (built c1650) became the pulsing heart of the Imamate. Within its walls the Imam entertained important visitors, held public audiences and conducted the daily affairs of state.

A secret escape tunnel – the exact location of which is now lost in history – once led from the Imam’s private rooms to a safe location beyond the Castle’s outer wall.

High, crenelated curtain walls with loopholes and downward-angled arrow slits provided protection form musketeers and archers.

Castle guards wore outfits similar to the one below.

The Castle’s massive inner and outer gates were hewn from hardwood and reinforced with iron spikes.

A holding cell located between the fort and the castle made it possible for prisoners to be detained without passing through the main part of the Fort or Castle where they might learn of their defensive secrets. A jail for women was located outside the main gate.

Large quantities of dates were stored inside the castle as a defensive measure in case of a long siege. Date sacks were stacked in rows, one on top of the other. Pressed under their own weight, the dates oozed thick, honey like juice (‘asil) which was channeled into jars in the floor. Dates for everyday use were stored in a large earthenware jar (khars). Such jars had narrow necks to minimise exposure of their contents to sunlight, dust and pests.

Here are a couple more images of the interior of the fort.

The majority of the text was supplied from the different signs in and around the castle and fort.

 

Old Omani Cannon

Photographed at the restored fort in Nizwa the plaque behind it reads:

Omani 3-pounder cannon.
Early 17th Century, cast bronze.

This superb and unique cannon is almost certainly of Omani construction. It was probably cast at Sohar. With its intricate cartouches, it provides a talking point for Arabic scholars. It is mounted on a replica 19th-century Omani carriage found in a gun tower at Al Akdar.

Floating Footy at Kho Panyee

So by now you’ve probably seen the below video from Now This News doing the rounds on social media

The soccer pitch itself is located in the fishing village of Kho Panyee in Phang Nga Bay off the coast of Phuket, southern Thailand. According to our tour guide the village was founded by two Malaysian families (Wikipedia suggests that the families were Indonesian) as a refuge from which to practice their Islamic faith. Nowadays more than 1,500 people live in the village built on stilts, allegedly descendants from the original families that settled there late in the 18th century.

Unfortunately, on the day we visited the weather was inclement and the floating soccer pitch was in a state of disrepair. The locals were only interested in selling us the same cheap and tacky trinkets that were available at every other marketplace around southern Thailand, and the overall feeling within the village was one of depression and bitterness.

Thankfully we were able to visit the little primary school that was filled with colour and laughter, but if you are planning a trip to Kho Panyee I would suggest doing so on a sunny weekend.

Khao Ta Poo

AKA – James Bond Island, Khao Ta Poo was made famous by the 1974 movie ‘The Man With The Golden Gun‘ and has been a popular Thai tourist attraction ever since. Situated approximately 40m offshore from Ko Khao Phing Kan island in Phang Nga Bay, the limestone structure was once part of the island, but has eroded over millions of years to form the rock occasionally referred to by the locals as crab’s eye island or spike island. Khao Ta Poo stands approximately 20m tall and has a 4m circumference at the base. Swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving is not recommended due to the very frequent movement of tourist boats.

Patrol Boat 813

The Fate of Patrol Boat 813

Patrol Boat 813 was built in 1994 and operated under Marine Police Station 1, Division 8 Marine Police Bureau, Pak Nam Sub-District, Mueang District, Ranong Province in the Kingdom of Thailand. The primary role of Patrol Boat 813 was to protect and secure the VIPs of the country and on the morning of the 26th December 2004 Patrol Boat 813 was anchored approximately one nautical mile offshore in front of the La Flora Resort in Khao Lak whilst Thai Prince Khun Poom Jensen was jet skiing.

Several hours earlier the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph struck off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The subsequent tsunami swept the Prince from existence and washed Patrol Boat 813 almost two kilometres inland killing the entire crew. Other members of the Royal Family were lucky to escape with their lives by sheltering in the upper floors of the resort.

Today the boat stands where the tsunami placed it and is kept as a sombre memorial to the estimated 227,898 people killed by the monstrous waves.

Jebel Sifah

Sifah Marina Panorama

Sifah Marina Panorama

Down the coast, to the east of Muscat, is the resort town of Jebel Sifah. It’s a great place for a weekend, especially if you are a golf aficionado or water sports fanatic. The area is being steadily built up with accommodation, restaurants, bars and boutique shops, so you can expect this little gem to be ‘discovered’ more and more as the year goes on. Heidi and I happened to visit on the same weekend as the SifahStock 2018 Music Festival was on. Who doesn’t love 12 hours of back-to-back music 😉

Ghost in the Machine

A trip to Melbourne for a job fair in 2016 reminded us that posh western hotels, with English speaking staff, can be just as frustrating as any foreign hostel or lumpy mattress disaster.

Ok, so the room wasn’t ready. No problem, we’ve all had this experience before I’m sure. But it was after we finally completed our check-in that things went downhill

Firstly another M Green gets a key to our room. We found this out when the porter showed up to deposit his / her bags. No worries, the front desk will fix it, leave it with them.

A ‘clerical error’ means that the ‘full buffet breakfast’ on the reservation confirmation won’t be honoured. Hmmm, good thing I don’t eat breakfast and there is complimentary coffee in the room. Oh, its instant coffee. Well then its a good thing we are in Melbourne, a city known for its excellent cafes.

When we return to our room there is a letter for the other M Green and items that don’t belong to us. Sigh, back down to reception we go once again. Back and forth with the concierge in an effort to show that I am in fact a different M Green to the one they think I am. Acknowledgement leads to an upgrade with full ‘Club’ privileges, except breakfast. Oh well, a win is a win – right?

Nope. The upgrade causes our credit card to be charged twice for the stay leaving us seriously short of funds for the trip. Another frustrated adventure to reception results in a free bottle of wine, which was really nice, however the cleaner left the wine glasses soaking in our bathroom sink the next day and forgot to remove them from the room.

What else can go wrong? Stupid question. After approximately ten job interviews during the first day it became abundantly clear that I was not going to secure a job as a teacher without experience and I was not going to get experience without a job as a teacher. Classic catch 22.

Back to the room, check for other M Green’s belongings, wash wine glasses, spend remainder of the evening rewriting CV and researching management positions within the schools that are attending. One school in Dhaka, Bangladesh looks promising. Just a small problem, I need to have teaching qualifications in order to be employed.

Last day at the hotel. The other M Green has already checked out, but didn’t pay our bill 😉 Still no breakfast, but Club privileges have us enjoying a cocktail on the top floor. A lucky discussion with a gentleman from a Swiss school has encouraged me to rewrite CV once again and focus on my management skills. Six weeks later I was on a plane to Oman for a job interview.

All’s well that ends well.

Melbourne

Melbourne