I completed my sabbatical with a brief stopover in Qatar’s capital city; a chance to experience a new culture and my first stay courtesy of a http://www.couchsurfung.org host. I arrived early enough to see much of the city in my first day. There are countless skyscrapers with more half-built, as the desert state aims to compete with Dubai in the coming years. Qatar has the highest average income per person in the world, with little taxes, meaning that the Qataris benefit from sizeable disposable income. Doha is a city where consumers are king and queen, with several enormous malls housing designer labels and everyone driving around in the latest luxury 4×4 Land Cruisers. Continue reading
A trip to India is an all out assault on the senses and intensely challenging at times for the lone traveller. There are massive gaps between the super-rich and gutter-poor, seemingly justified by ancient cultural hierarchies bound by religion. Life sometimes seems to have little value, especially in the big cities. Begging is commonplace. Religion is an integral part of Indian society, with several different religions often co-existing peacefully alongside one another, something that India should be commended for, although there are still occasional fundamentalist attacks.
Tipping is virtually mandatory (well, to foreigners, anyway) and is usually accompanied by my favourite phrase: “Whatever you like sir” followed by hurt puppy dog eyes if the tip is too small. Continue reading
The Pope’s London Visit
I work next to Westminster Abbey so I’m well used to staring at visiting dignitaries who are attending memorial services through the windows and from the balcony of our office. Yet the London visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the Abbey today was unlike anything I’ve seen before. The preparations started on Monday when the crowd barriers were put in place along a stretch of road, only for the workmen to realise that they were all facing the wrong way and had to be turned around, much to my amusement! On this day I also saw an old woman decked out in a pope photo t-shirt, carrying a pope photo bag to match. God knows where she was going [bad pun, I know].
There was also a large double-tiered gantry built for photographers and TV crews opposite the Abbey and a makeshift TV studio built on the roof of the enormous Methodist hall. Continue reading