Riham's Blog


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Travel category.

Those docks that I love

Wherever I go, there is always one area about each place that I love, that makes me happier than any other. The reasons behind each choice aren’t always clear, and it’s not always the best or prettiest area of the city. In Dublin, the grand canal square has taken this special place. What’s interesting is that it seems to be the case for several other people I know. I guess the reason behind this particular choice is that it is in fact a beautiful area.

During the day

I tend to express this love by taking a photo (with a crappy resolution due to bad mobile camera) every chance I get. Since I work and live in the area, this seems to happen quite often.

What can I tell you about it?

Another day shot from a different angle

Apparently, this area was not the best or the safest in Dublin over 10 years ago. A friend’s parent lived in Dublin at the time, and she informed him that whenever she passed by that part at night, she’d have to hurry in fear of being robbed or at the very least confronted.

The red sticks coming out of the ground all face (and lead to) the Grand Canal Theatre. They all light up at night, and there are some green parts around the ground. This was designed by an architecture and urban design firm called Martha Schwartz Partners. A friend told me that these sticks were supposed to represent trees, and the green lights on the ground is supposed to be the grass. This did not really click in my head; why would trees be red? As it turns out, these were just supposed to create an exciting and vibrant atmosphere for when people  go into a premiere or an event at the theatre. This makes more sense, especially since the ground is also a shade of red, which creates a red carpet kind of thing.

Yet another angle at a different time of the day

That area also seems to be paradoxal to me with the rest of Dublin. Dublin’s buildings are small and seem more traditional, while this is the only place I can think of that has a more modern feel. That particular idea reminds me of one of the places in New York that I absolutely loved. It was a a rock in Central Park that I loved as soon as I saw it for a similar reason. It was so rough and high, overlooking the park where you can see all the trees and the nature. Yet if you just look up, you see all the skyscrapers and towers, a “concrete jungle” even. The contrast was so interesting and beautiful.

As you can quite clearly see, a small part of the city is over thought and overanalyzed in my mind. When that happens, a rant needs to take place.

Well lit at night, unlike the rest of Dublin, which goes asleep way too early.

 

 

 

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New York, I love you.

If you lived here, you'd be home now.

I came here today hoping to write a post about Dublin. This post was supposed to help me readjust to life here, remind me why I am in fact happy in Dublin.

See, a little over a week ago, I went to my dream city New York, and I instantly absolutely fell in love with it. All the thoughts that it might be disappointing because of all the expectations I had built up for it were not true. Then I came back to my dear old Dublin, with one idea in mind: this is not the city I want to live in forever. I do love Dublin, I would be lying if I said I did not, but seeing New York confirmed that it is not the city for me. So I decided to write about New York instead to explain why I loved it so much. It is a cliche to love New York, it is expected to be in awe in front of all what it has to offer, and everything I will say has definitely been said before, but I want to say them again nonetheless.

  • City with a soul – One thing that people often criticize about cities in the United States is that since it is relatively a new country, you can’t see ancient history in it, you can’t walk and visit where old civilizations have previously lived. This is also often said about Dubai, since that city is actually very new. When I was in Dubai, I agreed with everyone that said that it was fake, and I didn’t really have a problem with that; I liked the city nonetheless. However, when it comes to New York, I did not think it was fake, and I certainly did not think of it as being empty. You can definitely sense a certain culture in this city, maybe not in the same way you would if you were walking in Rome for instance, but there is something to it. It feels like it’s more than just a city where everything is big and well-lit. It isn’t like Dubai where the common principle is “The bigger the better”, but it feels like New York is what it is. The other cliche about it that “everything is possible” is something I did feel there, hopefully not because that’s what pop culture has been feeding me my whole life. Every building and every person on the street sends a vibe that says “You can do whatever the hell you want.”
  • Rough & intimidating – This city is not your typical welcoming city. It is certainly very rough and can be extremely intimidating. It is crystal clear that it is not for everybody and you can see that from your very first steps. Everything moves fast, everyone moves fast, no one stops for you, no one gives you all the time you need. Buildings are big, streets are noisy, advertising, billboards and commercials are literally everywhere. It is definitely a city that moves fast, and you can easily be left behind if you are not moving at the right pace, both physically and mentally. It is overwhelming, and I absolutely loved that. Who needs serenity when you can have exciting?
  • Overwhelming feeling of familiarity – I’ve heard this from a couple of people before I went there, I heard it from my friends there and I thought it while I was walking those streets. You really feel like you know this city, like you’ve been here before. It makes it a lot less intimidating. You’ve seen it on TV, you know these landmarks. On my third day there, I was able to locate myself easily, my sense of direction was working perfectly fine in a massive and supposedly unknown city. In addition to that, on my third day, it felt like we had been there for a long time. The week I spent there did not go really fast as is usually the case on vacations, it felt long because I was in a city that I kind of knew, if that makes sense.
  • City of opposites & extremes – How many extremes can you fit in one city? It is just amazing how many there are. From the posh areas, to the less fancy areas. You can totally see it clearly on the buildings and how the streets are. From the people walking with the Chanel bags and the Manolo Blahniks, to the homeless literally sleeping on the ground. The fabulous gay men, to the crossdressers. The fancy restaurants, the disgusting fast-food places, to the carts selling Middle Eastern food everywhere. The guys running half naked, to the old lady wearing the craziest thing and walking on the street, not caring if people are looking, especially since most of the time, they’re not looking because they simple don’t care. Not to mention listening to two local New Yorkers discussing one of the many famous hobos, who choose a certain subway station or a park as their preferred location. They are known to push you as soon as they see you, and when I said that this sounds terrifying, the response is “It is the first time.” People know and accept that. They live among these contradictions and find them normal.
  • One stereotype corrected – New Yorkers are actually nice. They walk fast, they shove you on the street to get to their destination, but if you need help and you ask for it, they will help you and be nice to you. It isn’t like Beirut where every single person on the street will jump to your rescue without you even asking, but contrary to what stereotypes say about them, they are nice when you ask for help and won’t totally ignore you.
I could go on forever with reasons why I fell in love with this city. But all I have to say is that I do not like it when people assume that I am saying this as a crazy tourist who was merely in awe. I don’t like hearing people tell me that of course you’d love it on a vacation, but living there would be different. I realize it is a rough city, and I realize that it is not for everyone, and I also realize that it is most likely stressful to live there. But it is not Times Square that I loved, it is everything that this city represented. The stress, the hurry, the noise, the pushing, the roughness and the beauty.

Vintage Radio Museum

I haven’t blogged in a long time, but I went to a place that I felt deserved to be recognized from my part, which is the Vintage Radio Museum.

Who would have thought a museum could be located there?

It is located in the Martello tower in Howth, Ireland. You would think something this cool would be known among people who live in the town, but you would be wrong. I had heard of it from a friend, and I figured it’d be pretty easy to locate. I was able to find it on the map of the town, but when I asked people for directions to its exact location, they had never heard of it. Eventually, I was able to find it. There was a small sign followed by a pathway going upwards, that leads you to a very plain tower. The reason it was not painted or changed is because that would require approval.

This is what they used to make morse code. It would get printed on a different paper which would be deciphered by recipients!

When you walk in, you feel like you’re going into an old basement full of things that you no longer use, or that you went to your grandparents’ house. Everything in the museum was so well preserved and valued for what it is, and the guide (I don’t know what else to call him) just comes up to you and starts telling you the history of the radio, by showing you the radio from that period at every step. He doesn’t want you to come in and take a look at some old stuff, he wants you to know exactly when they were used and why, he puts it into context and is open to so many questions and discussions.

The best part was also listening to songs and speeches using a gramophone, or seeing him tune the radio using an eye that is on it. You get to see gramophones that need swinding in order to work, and you get to actually listen to them in action!

A radio from 1920s

Colored radios!

The radio came with Marconi, who was basically rich enough to get this “hobby” of his up and running. The americans developed it more later on and came up with colored radios, which were held by ladies like purses!

The radios started coming in sets later on, including the radio and a record player. They took up lots of space in your house, which I guess would serve as decoration as well!

From the radio set: the record player

From a radio set: the actual radio

An undercover radio! It has wires in the back, and was used in France when they were occupied.

It is just amazing to actually see all of this, and realize that this only dates back to 100 years ago. We often take for granted how much things have changed in that field. These radios couldn’t catch too many stations, which I would assume were often used for war propaganda. Yet here we are, some years later, with hundreds of options as to how to listen to music, get news and listen to talk shows. The museum was also full of old flyers and ads about this that even make this all the more fascinating.

 

Well, some things haven't changed. Who doesn't like waking up to music?

The old equivalent of "I read it on the Internet!"

50 years of Radio!


“Non Alcoholic Spirits”

What's wrong with this picture?

This was something I saw and took a picture of when I was in Jeddah last week.
Many people have already seen this or heard of “Saudi Champagne”. I have too, but it isn’t until recently that I saw it on a menu at a restaurant, or seen “red wine” or “white wine” around Saudi Arabia.
The terminology they are using is very surprising and interesting at the same time; “Non alcoholic spirits” along with the names of the actual alcoholic drinks.

I stay in Saudi Arabia country for a few weeks a year, which used to be months, and I am aware of the fact that the “real stuff” could be available to those who look in the right places. But publicly, everyone knows that alcohol is not allowed in Saudi Arabia, that they follow Islamic law which states that alcohol should not be consumed. So why call those drinks “wine” and “champagne” to begin with? I understand beer, but wine and champagne are somewhat different from those drinks offered. So why not just call them for what they are, some sort of juice and some other ingredients?

My over thought out and analyzed theory is that since everything that is forbidden is usually desired, calling this simple beverage “wine” or “champagne” will make it more popular, as consumers will feel that they are drinking something similar to what is forbidden. Another theory I have is that by calling them these names, it makes alcohol less “forbidden”, seeing as examples of alcoholic drinks are available in the country, but adapted to their cultural norms.

However, here is what probably happened: Some company was trying to come up with a new drink to put in the market. The result was a dark red liquid. Someone joked saying “Oooh.. it looks like wine!” Looks were shared, a light bulb lit above their heads, and the rest was history.


So, what was Dubai like?

I was in Dubai for five days last week, and it was my first visit. People say Dubai is artificial, but I thought it was part of what it is. It was a pretty cool city to be in. There’s lack of any “touristic” sights, but a lot of activities to do nonetheless. I would just like to share some things I saw/liked/hated/noticed in no logical order.

You can take the kid out of Lebanon, but you can’t take Lebanon out of the kid – Credit to whoever said that expression in front of me, as it allows me to share a funny story. Now I have been to other countries and taken taxis there, so I am aware of the fact that the whole “taxi drivers choose whether or not to drive you” thing is specific to Lebanon. However, one tends to forget. A cab stopped for my friend & I, and before she had the chance to get in the car, she saw me asking the driver if he would take us. A “what the hell are you doing? Get in!” was uttered, and embarrassment was felt!

Everything is big – Ever since I stepped foot in that city, the one word that came to mind and pretty much stayed there for the whole trip was the word “Grandiose”. Everything is huge, everything is exaggerated, so much space everywhere. Large highways, high towers, ridiculous ideas for towers.

Malls are not meant for shopping – Following up on the previous point, malls are huge. I’ve seen some big malls, but none of them compared. There was so much to do, so much to see in each one, that it got overwhelming at some point. I do not know how to shop like that. There were some things I wanted to buy, but I barely stepped into any shops. This was mostly the case in Dubai mall. Finding shops is impossible, walking from one to the other takes a whole lot of walking and a whole lot of time. And who needs to shop anyway when you have fish to see? Emirates mall is much easier for shopping, as it is much smaller. Another interesting thing I found was how the high brand names are located right next to other shops. It felt like it makes you more likely to purchase from them. If you can afford that top from Zara, why not that brand name from the shop next door?

Everything is possible – It just seems like there is (well, for now was) nothing they stopped at. Ski in a shopping mall? Done. Aquarium in a shopping mall? Done. A (sort of lame, actually) glass boat ride in the aquarium in the shopping mall? Done. Water that dances around to music every 15 minutes? why the hell not. I love that and hate that at the same time. I like the fact that they tried to push it as further as they could, but also dislike it because it was bound to explode in their face.

Is Dubai smelly? – I’ve heard this from more than one person, and read it in different reviews and articles about Dubai. However, I honestly did not feel it.

Atlantis – This was probably my favorite part of Dubai. I don’t know if it’s the fact they had an amazing international buffet, or if it’s the child in me who had never been to water parks. This hotel may have been going for “fancy”, but to me it screamed FUN. I love the sea, but I am not a beach person. After all the water park fun was had, my friend and I headed to the beach part of Aquaventure. It was extremely quiet. I laid on the chair that actually covers you from the sun light (dream come true) and fell asleep. That NEVER happens. Fun, relaxing, just amazing!

Palm island – I am very much against the idea of the Palm Island, and I don’t know what happened to the project of creating a cedar version of it here in Lebanon, but I’d hate for that to happen. However, the houses on that island are just amazing. They have a back door right on the beach, and the actual buildings are extremely beautiful.

Towers are impressive – If Dubai’s towers impressed me that much, I can hardly wait to see what I would think when I visit my dream city/NYC. I loved staying in a tower, I loved driving (well, being driven?) around them.

Burj Khalifa, not as impressive – For some reason, I was not impressed with Burj Khalifa. It is extremely high, sure, but it also isn’t very wide, which seemed to reduce of its “grandeur”. I have visited Petronas twin towers in Malaysia before, and they were much more impressive. The tour inside the burj though was pretty interesting, and showed how luxurious it actually is.

Expensive city – Usually, on vacations, you get in a mood where you feel like money doesn’t matter, and you indulge in whatever you like. At least I do. However, I do not think this was the case for Dubai. Everything is more expensive than in Beirut, and money gets spent extremely easily. If I were living there, I’d probably be spending at the same pace. It is true what they say, Dubai is not a city where you can save money.

They still have dance floors! AKA Night life – First and foremost, to me, pubs win clubs any day of the week. Everyone says that nothing compares to Beirut’s night life, but I just really liked that you can actually dance in Dubai’s clubs when you go dancing. In Beirut, the “dancing” is mostly shaking your body around tables that are stuck to each other, while you are way too close to the strangers on the next table. I liked that the one place we went to had a dance floor, I hadn’t seen that in a while (but I’m not much of a clubber so what the hell do I know?). Pubs however win so much. Extremely crowded, with drinks that have interesting names!