December 30, 2007

Al-Baal Café ends the year...

...with the beautiful song by greek duo Kostas Hatzopoulos and Katerina Nitsopoulou also known as Anemos.

Miazis me fotia (tr: you look like fire) she sings in greek with a hint of middle-eastern and medieval sounding tunes playing in the background. I absolutely LOVE it, and I am sure you will too.

Purchase the CD A Mediterranean Odyssey for more amazing tunes like Miazis me fotia.

December 29, 2007

Rain over Rawalpindi

One persons death can have such a great impact on the world. I spoke with a friend in Pakistan who tells me about streets with not a single car on them at 8 pm in the evening, not a store open, and flights not going in the major cities of Pakistan, like Lahore. Riots, violent attacks on any car that dare go out in the street for whatever errand.

Benazir Bhutto was a strong personality if anything and with her death, whatever indescrepancies she has been associated with, they will be forgotten and instead the last memory of her in her signature white "duppatta" (headscarf) waving and smiling to her supporters, defying all threaths to her life, will remain in even her opposers mind.

I have been phoned by swedish media asking me to comment on her death and if there were going to be any memorials for her by the pakistani community in Sweden. Her death and funeral has been all over swedish media. People really were affected by her, in whatever way, she did leave a lasting mark.

As I wrote earlier, as a child growing up she was an inspiration to me as a Muslim girl looking at a strong, intelligent and charismatic Muslim woman, defying all rules of traditional conduct. And perhaps her last sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice for her country forces us to think that perhaps she did care about the future of Pakistan.

Initial reports on her death said that she had died from a bullet wound, or some sort of shrapnel from the bomb, in her neck. Now all of a sudden the official version has changed dramatically. She died from a fall in her car somehow banging against the sunroof?

Few believe that theory. I doubt we will know for sure what version was the real one.

The future of Pakistan? People I talk to are worried, sad and depressed. They fear something worse is waiting. We can only pray and hope things calm down.

The hunt goes on to find the culprits of the murder of this mother of three, daughter of the east, reunited with her father and main inspiration.

In the news:

Email only to be used "If I am killed"

Oxford friends remember "fiery and fun" Benazir.

84 flights cancelled.

BB manuscript rushed into print

December 12, 2007

Happy Birthday & gTunes!!

It's been exactly one year since I started
and today, 11 000 vistors and more than 1000 posts, two Photobloggies 2007 Awards nominations, 20 photographers from diverse backgrounds and more than 40 themes of photography later, the blog is still going strong and has become a hub of psoitivity and photographical exchange on the web.

To celebrate the past year, a sister blog called gTunes has been set up where all the fabulous Global Tunes that have been playing on will be collected with info on artists, videos and pictures.

So if you haven't visited or gTunes yet, now is the time!

October 19, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Returns...

..and so does mayhem. More than 100 human beings with families, jobs and lives, killed in Karachi. The spread of extremism is just increasing day by day, the longer the war on terror goes on and the longer one ignores the socio-economic reasons for the spread of extremism, the bloodier Pakistan will get.

I avoid writing about politics in general because I am no politician, no conoisseur of the political life and thought. I have a general naivity or dismay for politicians...not the desired ingredients of a commentator on politics.

Having said that, I don't have to be a plumber to know a clogged drain.

I always liked Bhutto. The few years I spent in Pakistan as a young girl while she ruled as PM, I saw her as a positive figure, a Muslim woman (the first Muslim female leader in the Muslim world) amongst men, charismatic and elegant.

But the truth of the matter was, Pakistan under her and subsequently Nawaz Sharif was a big disaster with corruption allegations left right and centre. In NWFP where I lived time stopped. And the rich got richer, and corruption flourished. Looking back on it now I am reminded that she, as a woman, never did a single thing to change the faulty Hudood ordinance for rape victims (the one where supposedly a woman has to produce four witnesses to prove a rape case). She had two terms as PM to do something about it and never did.

In an interview she says:

“I am a female political leader fighting to bring modernity, communication, education and technology to Pakistan.”

Musharraf however, being the dictator he is, did something about it and the law was modified earlier this year (with the help of Dr. Hassan Hanafi of Cairo University whom I met with earlier this year). Whether he did it to score browny points or not, I will never know.

Democracy, yes. It is important, it is vital and it should be the goal. I hope to see it in place in Pakistan again. But Pakistan has had it for decades and each leader that came hid behind it and sucked Pakistan even more dry than before, and as Bhutto steps out of her plane with a decade old corruption charges against her, waving her heavily bejeweled hands, sparkling with gold (after her 8 years in Dubai), a feeling of worry hits me.

Have the cleaners come back to Pakistan?

October 18, 2007

A cracked olive branch

I had dinner with a friend of mine the other day. She had been to see her relatives in Betlehem over the summer and served a bowl of green olives from her Grandmother's 30 year old plantation. As she served me some she told me that this is the same plantation that doesn't exist anymore after it was bombed by the Israeli Military last summer.

We ate those olives like they were the last olives on earth. "I'm really sorry," was all I could bring myself to say. I didn't know what else to say to her, and she herself said nothing more on the matter.

She doesn't hate Jews or Israelis, and we often talk about the situation "down there" and more than often is she critical of "her own" people, in particular the new trend of being a "hamsawiyyeh" (follower of hamas) or not being one.

But I cannot help but react to the stories I hear from her and many other friends who visit or try to visit their family in Palestine. The harassment at the airport in Tel Aviv, not even being sure if they will be let in or not. The resentment that is created cannot be good for the future of the land?

I want to understand.

October 17, 2007

11 000 year old paint

Those of you who have followed my blog from the start know how much I love Syria and its people, food, culture and language. So I am happy to present to you what is believed to be the oldest wall painting in the world, 11 000 years to be exact, found in Jaadet Al-Maghara. Like the article in NG suggests, it does look like modern art!

"Researchers uncovered the prehistoric artwork while excavating the dwelling near the Euphrates River some 280 miles (480 kilometers) north of Damascus (see map)."
-National Geographic Online Continuation of story...

*Photograph by Directorate of Museums and Archeology/HO/AP

October 16, 2007

Main Vari Vari

In 2005, Bollywood produced a historical film by the name of Mangal Pandey : The Rising. It refers to what the British historians (many of them til this day) called The Mutiny in 1857, but which in reality was a revolt against the opressive rule of the British Raj.

The music which can be credited to A.R. Rahman (whose website in itself is a treat!), is truly a delight to listen to and one song and video in particular stands out; Main Vari Vari (click to listen to it).

But it is best heard together with the amazing classical indian dance video with english subtitles.

A fellow blogger has uploaded the whole movie to his/her blog and can be watched here.

How many villas can a person have?

Founder of SOS Children's Villages, Hermann Gmeiner
together with children in Poá, Brazil
Photo: Alexander Gabriel

Henning Mankell, one of Sweden's most popular authors, whose books have been translated into many languages, decided that it was time to do something about the 800 000 orphaned children in Mocambique, so from his own quite large pocket he extracted 15 million Swedish crowns, which is roughly 1,5 million Euros. Together with one of my favorite organisations SOS Children's Villages, he is building a village for 150 orphaned children in a country he has spent almost 25 years living in off and on.

According to Svenska Dagbladet Mankell was surprised that more people with larger fortunes didn't do the same.

"How many villas can a person have?" he replied.

You can follow Charles Kiyimba, official SOS Children's Village Blogger as he with words and pictures unfolds the reality and everyday going ons at the Children's Village Gulu in Uganda.

October 15, 2007

Don't be such a turtle!

In Tanzania or Tanganyika as it is called in Swahili, a large population of Muslims live. Being almost half of the country's population, Ramadan of course does not go unnoticed.

Not every Muslim Tanzanian fasts, and for those that pretend to be fasting while secretly eating anyway, the Swahili speaking Tanzanians have given the name of Kasa which means Turtle. Perhaps because the turtle is both on land an in water and has a shell to hide under?

Human before Muslim

There used to be a blogger by the name Human before Jewish on blogger many moons ago. She lived in New York and on her blog Jews of different opinions met, along with me, and it was a learning experience for me to be able to listen in on how some Jews feel about being Jewish or being Americans or Israelis. The fears, the moments of joy and celebration, the suspicion, the voices of calm and resoning all collected in one spot.

I suppose it is not different for a non-Muslim joining a gathering of Muslims. One may find similar ingredients in the conversations and thoughts of the people in that particular gathering. We are all different, yet the same. But we should all be Human, and view everyone else as human, before anything else we or they may be.

This particular blogger stopped blogging unfortunately but her spirit is still with me and the more one sees of the world today the more important it feels to have to say; I am human before Muslim.

*Photo taken at the exhibition "I am an immigrant, I am a Muslim" in Stockholm.

September 10, 2007

Ramadan Kareem Blog!

Join us at the yearly running Ramadan Kareem Blog for pictures, views, polls, recipees and discussions on everything Ramadan in different parts of the world!

September 02, 2007

Blogs, Breaks & Ramadan

I have, as is evident, taken a break from Al Baal Café and will do so for a while. I will be back after Ramadan sometime in October God willing as with everything else in life.

Meanwhile I have two other blogs that I am/will be running.

I started Global Themes photo blog a few months after Ramadan ended last year and it is now a thriving meeting place for people who love photos, seeing the world and meeting people they normally may not have "met". I have placed my heart and soul in it, and everyone who has worked on it with me are wonderful people. Thank you guys and gals!

Since Ramadan is coming up soon , sometime in mid-september, we will be running the Ramadan Kareem Blog once again this year. An idea fellow blogger Kaya had of creating a blog where people could share recipees grew fast into a platform and living room where people from all over the world shared photos and stories on what Ramadan and fasting is all about for them. Fellow blogger Destitute Rebel and myself spent a lot of time setting it up, marketing it and running it last year and had several thousand visitors joining us. I hope you can join us and contribute!

All the best dear bloggers and readers, have a blessed Ramadan those of you who partake in it, and may God accept your fast and deeds, Amen.

July 14, 2007

Fabulous Fujairah!

On my last trip to The UAE I visited Fujairah and did two amazing dives at Dibba Rock. Clownfish, barracudas and turtles galore! Not to mention beautiful coral reefs, in contrast to Dubai's "dead sea" due to all the construction work.

Fujairah is growing! it said on posters next to the road. Sweden's Fritidsresor now flies its holidaymakers to Fujairah and when I visited Fujairah's Tourism site I was pleasently surprised by fabulous music. Have a listen. One can only hope that Fujairah's waters are spared from excessive construction work.

July 09, 2007

The New 7 wonders

I did a post on the naming of 7 new wonders of the world in January of last year. This year on July 7th 2007 (777 oohh!) 7 new wonders were named. Among them Petra in Jordan, The great Wall of China, Taj Mahal in India, Machu Pichu in Peru and the Collosseum in Rome.

In my previous post I wrote down the seven wonders of my world, asking you to come up with the seventh wonder. Here is a recap of them, and the invitation still stands so start your mind machines and get creative!

The seven wonders of my world:

1. The rickshaws in Pakistan: tiny, three wheeled yet carries up to a total of 4 grown ups, still maintains a high speed and manages to re-arrange your entire organ content, ending up with your heart literally in your throat, for a mere price of 15 rupees.

2. The taxi cars of Cairo: some have doors, some don't. Some have windows, some don't. And should they have windows, they don't have the device needed to wind it down. But they all come equipped with your own state of the art driver who manages to make even atheists call to God for help once in their life.

3. The donkeys of Petra: I lay my life in their hands and surprisingly I survived. Taking a ride on a donkey up a steep, narrow mountain is something of a death wish, but these donkeys knew exactly where to go without needing their master show them. Props to the donkeys! Which is more than I can say for Jordanian cab drivers...

4. PIA (Pakistan International Airlines): or Perhaps I'll Arrive... I once took a flight from Lahore to Islamabad that later was bound for London but after landing in Islamabad, picking up a few passangers, it went back to Lahore again. Why? They said they had to fill the tank...need I say more?

5. The Pakistani People: Whenever the son or daughter gets married and it's time to "move out", they always amazingly enough manage to find the only available apartment or house in that city at that time, directly placed in front of their own. Sometimes it's so close that you can actually look into each others living rooms and wave!

6. Microsoft Word: Can you believe that the word "Kaaba" (I also tried Kaba) doesn't exist in its "dictionary". The most famous and holy building for Muslims. Instead I got the suggestion of "Kaibab" and "Kabala". However when I try writing the Jewish words "Kibbutz" and "Bar Mitzvah", there is no problem whatsoever. I am happy for the Jews, don't get me wrong. It's great to be represented with words that are of significance to your faith or culture. Still, it sure makes you wonder. Microsoft... Get a grip.

As for the seventh wonder, I invite my readers to come up with suggestions... now be fair...

*Weird* Tag

When you blog, no matter how serious or non personal your blog is, you must be prepared for the occasional tag to break the pattern and lighten things up so Um Ibrahim, thank you for this one.

6 weird things about me:

1. I have three passports, two nationalities, one of them a country I have never set my foot in and have no "ethnic" ties to.

2. I love old books and visit every sunday market both here and abroad with a mission to "rescue" all old books, and take them with me to my growing library.

3. After a few days in a country I usually start understanding and speaking the language there. It quite freaks me and the people around me out. Last time was in Bosnia.

4. Before I drink water from a tap I have to fill the glass and pour it over the tap imagining that the tap is clean now so the water too is clean...compulsive behavior?

5. I love eating cold pasta with ketchup...

6. My sister and I have had our own secret language between us (that changes all the time with new words) since childhood that has rubbed off to our friends and family, so now everyone is talking "weird" around here.

June 28, 2007

Female Doctors & The Eternal Muslim Plea...

Having worked in the health care system in an immigrant dominated suburb in Stockholm, one picks up on a lot of things going on with people behind closed doors and text book replies.

One of the main issues for patients visiting a doctor has been the lack of female doctors to meet the huge demands of a large immigrant population, some perhaps not used to going to a doctor of the opposite gender.

In the suburb in question, Wahabi inspired Islam seems to be spreading more and more. The influx of Somali refugees, many (but of course not all) of them having lived in Saudi Arabia, has affected the spirit in this particular suburb. Seeing women in Niqab on a daily basis is nothing strange here. I must add though, most of these women don't work and it doesn't seem like it's part of any future plans.

To become a doctor, all of you surely know, hard work is needed. Night shifts and working in environments with men and women, female and male patients.

These women (with the encouraging tune of their husbands) who for religiously claimed reasons won't see a male doctor even if it has to do with examining a throat, are no where to be found in medical schools or nursing schools but rather make themselves scarce when the subject is brought up and it is not uncommon to get the reply:

"It's not islamic for a woman to stay away all night
(referring to night shifts), or to examine male patients."

But a female doctor, they must have.

From Stockholm to Yemen. In Tarim, an area near Hadramout, there are no female doctors to be found, at all. Well, apart from the imported female Russian doctors. But no woman will go, or rather, no husband or father will allow them to visit a male doctor. So I ask myself: from where are these female doctors supposed to rain down on us?

June 24, 2007

A hommage to the Markets of Sharjah

The Fruit Market. If you are looking for Pakistani Mangos or
Dates from the UAE there is an abundance of them here.

The Fish Market. Here a fisherman sells a catch of reef sharks.

The Meat Market. A long line of stores all selling halal meat.

The Plant Market alongside a road. Buying plants is an expensive
business due to the cost of growing or importing them in
the otherwise very dry and much too hot UAE climate.

The Vegetable Market can be found right next to
the Fruit and Meat Market.

The Animal Market. If you need a camel, horse, cows or
some sheep, this is the place to go to.

There are many more Markets in Sharjah worth mentioning, like the Iranian Market or the Pet Market, but that will have to be for next time! On any trip to the UAE I recommend a visit to these markets to get a feel of what everyday life is/was like in pre-Shopping Mall crazy United Arab Emirates.

June 18, 2007

Team Work

Local fishermen in Alexandria, Egypt together pulling a fish net with the catch of the day.

June 05, 2007

Silence is man and Speech is woman...?

On one of the most widely seen arab-muslim channels, Iqraa, a man by the name Sheikh Jassem al-Mutawah explains the differences between Man and Woman.

I was very surprised to see that a channel like Iqraa, known for its moderate and contemporary elements would allow such a man camera time to voice what is no doubt a Wahabi inspired Saudi view of Women.

Watch what he had to say, with english subtitles.

Ps. His words are not lost in translation. His arabic corresponds to what has been translated.

June 02, 2007

Omani Dancers

The energy in this crowd of Omani dancers visiting the Sharjah Heritage area was amazing. I, together with the polish woman and her friend, was one of few women there so I had to respectfully make my way around the crowd. I got nothing but smiles from this happy crowd of dancers who swung themselves around in all kinds of ways to the tunes of the drums and bagpipes.

May 31, 2007

Smoking Scents & The fate of Local Tradition

A local woman burning incense inside the clothes of
a Polish journalist, to cover them in lovely scents.

In Sharjah, during the Heritage Village exhibition of "local life" both past and present, I met this lady in red. She is a Polish journalist and one of the women responsible for a lot of the work behind the exhibition. The world you meet is not one of fast cars and big mansions but of fishing, music and dance, honey, perfume and handicraft. A lot of cultures have been affected by globalization and modernization but as she put it quite bluntly;

"I know more about the local traditions of the UAE than most locals do today".

Fluent in Arabic, she walked around talking to the women of the countryside and Ras Al Khaimah, many who knew her well from her frequent visits to them. The women smiled as she approached them. Apparently the red dress she was wearing was traditional bridal wear and it reminded them of their own weddings.

How is it that the fate of local UAE tradition and its future is partially held in the hands of a Polish Journalist?

May 28, 2007

Al-Baal Café introducing...


If you haven't heard of one of West-Africa's most popular Salsa groups, then you have certainly missed out...big time. I was introduced to this group in the late 90's by a friend who was working in the Ivory Coast at that time.

Salsa has been popular in Senegal since the 40's and 50's interestingly enough, and the group combines African and Salsa rythms singing in languages like French, Spanish and Wolof. To get their unique sound they mix Cuban musicians with African voices from Benin, Cuba, Haiti and Senegal and the result is a musical fiesta worth celebrating.
Currently playing on ABC: "Senegal" by Africando.

Listen and purchase downloads of the songs here.

May 27, 2007

A minox to Mecca... the name of an exhibition photographer Aasil Ahmad held in Toronto, earlier in May, part of the A light unto the Nations exhibition with Muslim and Jewish photographers.

View the online photo gallery of what is a rare peak, due to photography in general being forbidden during the Pilgrimage, into what happens during the annual Pilgrimage to Mecca.

You've been hit by...a smooth Muslim!

Who said Muslims don't have humor? I certainly didn't. I stumbled upon a site called Maniac Muslim and a rather hillarious remix of Michael Jackson's Smooth Criminal. Ya3ni are you ok?

Watch the video here

May 24, 2007

Expedition Linné

Carl von Linné is being celebrated in Sweden and across the world in many different ways. Swedish Television made a fanatstic documentary where three youth travel the world in search of the plants that Linné or his disciples discovered and named. On their journey they realise what damage man has done to the dwellings of many species. It is in swedish and english but the pictures are telling. Here is the link.

Burj Al Chocolate!

English Prudence Emma Staite is the genius behind this 17 kg edible chocolate replica of the famous Burj Al Arab in Dubai. It took her a couple of days and long hours to make this at the Burjuman Mall in April, this year. I asked her what she would do with it once it was done:

"I might auction it off for charity. Must be some rich local who can pay a good sum for it." She jokingly added, "Maybe he wants a wife too?"

May 22, 2007

Al Baal Café in Gulf News

Well well, isn't that nice? Some fellow bloggers and my ABC post on Automatic Room Refreshners have been highlighted in

Rambo, Apples & Sweden

Ever wondered where Sylvester Stallone's character Rambo got his name?

Me neither... However I stumbled upon some interesting information in correlation to Sweden celebrating the 300 year jubilee of our Botanist, Physician and Zoologist Carl Von Linné (also known as Carolus Linnaeus), the man who organized and gave names to the world's plants, animals and gave us the name of Homo Sapiens.

In 1639, a swedish family living in Ramberga left for America, like a lot of Swedes have done for centuries. With them they brought the seeds of swedish apples. Upon arrival they took the last name of Rambo. Most likely a referral to their original home in Ramberga.

They planted the seeds and the apples were subsequently named Rambo. Carl Von Linnés student, Pehr Kalm travelled to America in the mid 1700's and found the tree and spoke to a descendent of the Rambo family who described the apple as very suitable for the making of cider.

A couple of centuries later in America, the scriptwriter of the movie Rambo was trying to come up with a last name to his character. His wife walks in the door with apples and a bottle of cider made of Rambo apples.

The rest is, unfortunately, history.

May 21, 2007

War & The need to be tidy

On my trip to Bosnia last summer, I came to terms with war in the heart of Modern Europe. I stayed with my friend and her family in Hadjic outside Sarajevo on an estate situated on top of a hill overlooking green valleys and Sarajevo.

I noticed how tidy her father was, and everything had to be in a certain place. He noticed that I was looking at him in wonder and he went on explaining why he had become so tidy:

"During the 4 year siege on Sarajevo by Serb forces, we seldom had electricity so one learns to organize ones life in a way that should one even be blind, one can find things. The comb, nail cutter, glasses, everything has to be at a decided place and never move an inch from it."

May 20, 2007

Global Themes goes (dot)org!

The Photo Blog I started a couple of months ago, Global Themes, can now be accessed at!

If you haven't been there yet, now is the time to click on to a photographic journey with weekly themes ranging from Antique, Eye-brow raisers, Places of Worship, Transportation and Water.

Join our fabulous photographers from all over the world at Global Themes!

May 14, 2007

How Greek became Bosnian

Bosnian singer Amira performed last night at Södra Teatern in Stockholm to a small intimate crowd. The singer who is not yet 30 years old, has the soul of an old woman in her young voice and with a clear tune sings the traditional Balkan Sevdah whose songs are called sevdalinke. I particularly enjoyed the song Sambaranfil (which is a samba version of the song Karanfil meaning carnation).

The word travels
Sevdalinke can be described as songs of yearning, love and heartache. The word sevdah which comes from the Turkish word sevdah meaning amorous yearning, which in turn comes from the Arabic word sawdha meaning black gall. It was believed by ancient Arab and Greek doctors that the black gall in the human body was responsible for creating a sense of melancholy and irritable mood. Thus in Greek the word for melancholy is the word for black gall, melan hôlos.

In her latest album Rosa, Amira sings traditional Sevdah from Macedonia, Bosnia and Serbia. Listen to the first song of her CD here.

To read about Sevdalinke and listen to other songs click here. I recommend U Trebinju gradu.

May 13, 2007

Squirt Attack

As I finished my meal at Beit al Mandy in Sharjah I went to the bathroom to wash my hands. All of a sudden I heard a squirting noise and felt something moist smelling good. It scared the hell out of me seeing as I was alone and had no idea where that came from!

As I looked up I noticed this little device on the wall. Being from Sweden where we do not have what seems to be a timed room refreshener, timed to squirt every 20 minutes, I felt like a country girl arriving in the city for the first time! Well you learn something new everyday, ey?

May 11, 2007

The Hitchhiker's guide to the UAE

Hitchhiking in the UAE is forbidden. Should you find an old man from the subcontinent walking down a highway in the middle of nowhere under the scorching sun and give him a lift, be ready to pay 500 dirhams.

Going to Fujairah
On my way to Fujairah, we did just that. He was walking where no taxis go, especially on a friday, so we stopped our car and asked him to jump in. To be honest, police are rarely in the remoter areas so there is less chance of being fined whereas in the city you are most certain to be. He was an older man in his late 60's or early 70's from the sub-continent.

Baba (a name of respect used to older men in the subcontinent), where do you want to go?
Ras al Khaimah, someone from my village has come. Where are you going?
We are headed to Fujairah. Have you ever been there?
No, what should I do there? I don't go many places.

He was going to walk all the way to Ras Al Khaimah under the sun, which would take hours, just to see a person from his village who probably brought with him letters from his family, (stamps are not a cost many workers can afford).

Baba, how long have you been in The UAE, and is your family with you?
I have been here 28 years, and my family has never been here, they are in Pakistan.
But why not?
I have tried getting a Visa but with no success, and it is expensive.
Baba you are not in an age to be working, how old are you?
Well I have to work, my two sons can't find work and I have a daughter and wife to look after. I don't know how old I am, maybe 50?

He really had no idea how old he was, something not uncommon for people from villages where there is no sense of time structured in dates, months and zodiac signs. He worked on a date farm for 28 years in this country and he still cannot afford to bring his family to visit, to spend money on going to visit neighboring towns in the UAE unless someone from the village comes with a letter and some news of the life he left behind him.

In Sharjah
So why do people hitchhike in cities? There are cabs and busses?
On a friday evening, when everyone seems to leave Sharjah to go to Dubai, and the workers have their one day off, the streets are flooded with men having their "Friday night out" which consists of standing straight on a pavement or street talking to friends, or for those who can afford it, sit at a restaurant where tea costs 1 dirham watching the cricket game on a small tv. Taxis are scarce in Sharjah in the less affluent areas and you see a crowd of 20 people circling one taxi negotiating over who saw it first and what passengers were headed the same way.

Black Cabs
A solution to this lack of transportation available is the occurrence of giving people a lift but in return asking for money. The law forbidding hitchhiking have these people in mind. But is it that simple?

Some of the cars that gave lifts in Sharjah were cars owned by people who must be in a profession that earns them a good living to afford a car like that. So why do they need the extra cash?

Costs of living have become so high in The UAE that many people have sent their families home to Pakistan or India, and those that haven't have to find ways of keeping the children in schools and paying for rent . By giving someone a lift from Sharjah to Dubai, he gets his fuel costs paid seeing as he was headed that way anyway. A way to keep the costs down.

May 09, 2007

A UAE local

Binding red and silver thread together, this bedu woman from Ras Al Khaimah was employed like many other locals to showcase her country's heritage at the Sharjah Heritage Village.

May 08, 2007

Time for a Tag

It has been a long time since I did a tag (and this is by no means a hint to tag me more!) So ClayFuture here it goes:

A - Available or Single
Available for dinner, ice cream, anything that is related to food.

B - Best friend
The greatest blessing in the world. And thankfully I have one.

C - Cake or Pie

E - Essential Item
My glasses

F - Favourite Color

G - Gummi bears or Worms
Gummi bears

H - Home Town
Stockholm & Peshawar

I - Indulgence

J - January or February
February is the most depressing month in Sweden, January anyday! New beginnings.

K - Kids
Yeah, what about them?

L - Life
is a beach and then you dive!

M - Marriage
we'll see :)

N - Number of Siblings

O - Oranges or Apples

P - Phobias, Fears.
Fears: To loose a loved one.

Q - Favourite Quote
If it weren't for hope the hearts would shatter.

R - Reason to Smile
My best friend.

S - Season
Summer, please I just want some damn sunshine!

T - Tag Three People

U - Unknown Fact About Me
I'm a certified diver.

V*W - Worst Habit

X*Y - Your Favourite Foods
Paratha, Dhai balla, anything Pasta, Tsabhe with Injeera (eritrean dish), grandmas pancakes, Fatayer, Zeit wo Zatar etc.

Z - Zodiac

May 07, 2007

Must eat Mandy

As far as I have been told there is only one restaurant in Sharjah (The UAE) serving Mandy, atleast in the special way they do it at Beit Al-Mandy.
You can find the restaurant in Dubai as well but without the special seating arrangements. It's a popular restaurant among locals and families. One sits in small booths on soft carpeted floors with closed doors.
I ordered Mandy and got a delicious round plate served with rice, chicken, onions and tomato/mint chutney with yoghurt. I am not sure wether it is a local dish or not but I do know it is best eaten with ones hands!

May 05, 2007

The oldest Mosque... the UAE can be found in Fujairah. Al-Bidyah Mosque is believed to be 580 years old. The construction reminds me a lot of the clay mosque in Mali. The simple lines, the feeling of being a building that sprung out from the earth beneath it.

The Imam of the mosque is a stout Bengali fellow. As I entered the mosque I stood in the doorway and was quickly welcomed in with a smile. "It's ok, pictures are allowed."

Men prayed on one side of the tiny praying space, and women on the other side. Equal space, side by side.

May 04, 2007

Inside Al-Bidyah Mosque

The Imam welcomes the visitors.

The stairs are his pulpit.

May 03, 2007

Muslims, the new Communists of America

"Deprived of my own freedom, and from my cell in a U.S. prison, I foresee the day when true fraternity and a bond of humanity will overcome the ugliness of exclusiveness, injustice, and occupation. When Palestinians and Israelis live side by side, celebrate their common traditions and heritage and rejoice with the peoples of the world in the spirit of universal peace and understanding."

-Sami Al Arian

He has spent 1533 days in prison and counting, even though the Jury acquitted him of the most serious charges of terrorism filed against him in America. Why?

Al-Marhoum Mosque

This beautiful mosque stands by a roadside in Dubai. I came there at prayer time and there was barely a soul using it besides the usual three or four men from the sub-continent. The work put down on making this mosque more than just a hastily erected monument is inspiring.

Going Solar

It's all about using what you have. One thing The UAE has is sunlight, lots of it all year round. I saw these parking metres both in Sharjah and Dubai all run on solar power. Parking metres use up a lot of energy seeing as they run 24 hours a day all year round. In Sweden there is talk of trying to develop some sort of a sleep mode on the parking metres, much like that of computers to try conserve energy but nothing beats using solar panels.

May 01, 2007

The UAE in patterns

The Sub-continent meets the Gulf in this pattern.

Al-Baal Café on The UAE

I've returned from my trip to the UAE with fond memories, lots of pictures and stories to go with them. I will be sharing those here on ABC. The pictures however will not only be restricted to the usual ones you see when people mention Dubai or the UAE. I will be showing you places which many people haven't seen, don't want to see or simply just haven't had the chance to see yet.

I have had an amazing time. It is a beautiful land which amazes me one way or the other everyday. A lot of good initiatives and projects can be found here. However it is also host to many contradictions and eye-brow raisers which force one to at times question humanity and oneself.

April 14, 2007

Al-Baal Café taking a Tea Break in Dubai

I'm off on my camel for a break, bit of travel and work. I should be back to blogging in May however I might drop a post or two while on the road.

Meanwhile I am featured on the 8th Carnival of Islam in The west with a few of my posts. There are some fab posts featured on it by other muslim bloggers from all over the world. Fellow blogger Baraka from the States is hosting this month's carnival.

So take care dear readers and enjoy the good to be had in life and the people around you, and not to mention the fabulous pictures on Global Themes!

Al-Baal Café playing: Fhear A Bhata, a scottish folk song sung by Andy M. Stewart of Silly Wizard.

If all of us were happy, and none were sad,
And all of us were good, and none gone bad,
would we know what we were feeling, would it have a name?
How do we know we aren't hurting if we've never felt pain ?

Fhear A Bhata (The Boatsmen)

April 13, 2007

How Pakistani Are you?

Arey, you are 49% Pakistani!

Not bad, but not good enough to call yourself a real Pakistani either! You seem more London than Lahore, so why not try wearing a shalwar kameez for a week and maybe that'll bump up your rating...

How Pakistani are you? (first class number one!)
Create a Quiz

This has got to be the most hillarious test ever. Whether you are Pakistani or not (I reckon you can substitute Pakistani with any type of desi), it's worth taking it for a good, long laugh. I am quite happy with my results, after all I am half Pakistani.

*I got this off fellow blogger Baraka's blog

April 12, 2007

What's your global footprint?

We're all talking about global warming but do we know exactly how we are contributing to it?

A very interesting website called My Footprint will tell you just what your ecological footprint is. The results are disturbing and after taking the test myself I was told;

"If everyone lived like you, we would need 6,2 planets."

And I don't drive a car, don't use public transport more than maximum twice a week (I walk or bicycle). I fly a lot though. Don't eat meat products that often yet dairy everyday. Apparently the meat and cattle industry contributes to global warming immensley.

What's your footprint?

April 11, 2007

The Black Bird

Should the black bird come, let it not be too soon,
let the day begin, let it atleast pass noon.

As evening approaches, and it knocks on my door,
I may not answer, but I'll leave a note on the floor.

"Come back again later, I am not ready yet,"
but death cannot read, and it will not forget.

*picture taken at the Vatican in Rome

April 08, 2007

Hindi in the American Ghetto?

Globalisation and all, word etymology can be an interesting phenomenon at times.

The Brits in India during the time of the Raj (colonial times), had encountered a practice known as thagi. This was in no way representative for Indians nor was it a widespread "phenomenon" yet the Brits used the occurence of thagi in their campaign to stress the difference between themselves and their Indian subjects in order to justify a need to stay on and "civilize" a nation they sought out to declare uncivilized at all costs*.

The thags were a group of people who worshipped the goddess Kali and they would steal from and strangle their victims, as a sort of offering. Thus during the 19th century in Britain a thug came to be knows as a particularly nasty kind of ruffian.

From 19th century Britain to 21st century Brooklyn, where one is "positively" self-declared as a "thug for life". Ironic.

*Ideologies of the Raj by Thomas R. Metcalf

April 06, 2007

Loneliness á la Sweden

Easter Holiday is celebrated all over Sweden and one thing you can be sure of Swedes doing these days is shopping for groceries for all the dinners usually spent with family.

An old man approached the woman at the cashregister with his groceries. After scanning them all in, she announced the total sum of 152 swedish crowns (15 euros). The old man took up his wallet and said;

"Only 152? I was hoping it would have been more than that. If I had family I would have surely bought loads of things."

April 05, 2007

Chinese Calligrapher

Haji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang is a master of Arabic Calligraphy. He has taken it to another level incorporating his Chinese heritage into the way he writes Arabic.

Born in 1963 in Eastern China's Shandong Province, Haji Noor is one of roughly 20 million Chinese Muslims. The first Muslims came to China in 631 AD, sent by the second Caliph Uthman and settled peacefully with the natives due to the mutual values shared by the Muslims and the Chinese at that time; tolerance, respect and compassion. The Muslim settlers embraced the Chinese way of living which can be seen in the today more than 35 000 mosques, built in accordance with Chinese traditions.

Haji Noor has held workshops upon invitation all around the w
orld including Harvard and Cambridge University as well as the Zaytuna Institute in California (founded by American Muslim Hamza Yusuf.)

To order handmade originals by Haji Noor online visit; Zaid's Online Store (that is where I ordered mine)

View Haji Noor's online galleries; Gallery 1 and Gallery 2

April 04, 2007

Battling faulty sharia law

"Islam is like new wine in old bottles."

I met with Dr.Hassan Hanafi, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cairo. The Pakistani Government recently approved a bill that argued for a change in the old sharia law that stated that for rape a woman would need four witnesses.

Dr. Hanafi's writings on sharia and islam helped provide the necessery facts needed to refute such a faulty sharia interpretation (one that only Pakistan had), and he was consulted by President Musharraf throughout the whole process. The only time four witnesses is needed is to prove zina (adultery). And for that to be proved, the witnesses have to see both organs meet. The design of this law is basically such that it is next to impossible for four people to see the organs meet. Thus next to impossible to ever accuse anyone of adultery.

April 02, 2007

Sweden's first working Minaret?

A small city in Sweden, Västerås, will be the first to allow Swedish Muslims to use a Minaret in the traditional sense, calling out to prayer five times a day.

The Minaret they will be using does not belong to the Mosque. Instead they will be using the tower of the city hall (which actually looks like a Mosque), previously home to ringing bells that apparently annoyed the people living there.

5 times a day as of yesterday April 1st, Imam Mahmut Ongun will be calling to prayer.
The City Council of Västerås, led by Roger Haddad feels that the 5 calls to prayer a day will be a refreshing change for the inhabitants of Västerås.

Right... this is what you could read and listen to on the Swedish Radio website yesterday, April 1st. Swedish Muslims are now confused over whether this article is in fact an April fools joke or if it is true. Well how about that people?

March 29, 2007

Joseph Ki-Zerbo 1922-2006

"We are not exploited because we are black, we are black because we are exploited. The day we are seen as equals, people will stop seeing the colour of our skin."

Joseph Ki-Zerbo was the first African professor of History in Paris having studied at both La Sorbonne and the Paris Institute for Political Studies. Born in Burkina Faso, he later came to be involved in politics, wrote many books, among them a standard book on African History, established the Centre for African Development Studies and dedicated his life to free his continent from colonialism and later on postcolonial chains that have helped suffocate the sense of worth and respect in the peoples of Africa. He spent some time in Uppsala, Sweden due to the political unrest that sometimes erupted in his home country.

Ki-Zerbo retells a story of an african woman, something very striking which can be seen in peoples of many nations that have been colonized whether it is Senegal or India;

"An african woman went to see her doctor. He told her that he would have to make a small operative incision but assured her he would give her local anaesthetic. The woman became very scared upon hearing the word local and said, "no doctor, please, I want french anaesthetic."