I’m not dead.

So don’t send the cart round yet – might be a bit difficult, anyway, since I’m writing this from my hotel room in Cairo. I have spent the last six weeks in Romania, Kiev, London, Cairo, Romania again and this last week I have been back in Cairo where I will get a bit of a break from aeroplanes and airports until Easter. (Orthodox-type.) As you can imagine, it was all a bit intense with that schedule, and I didn’t get much chance to take many decent photographs, but I snatched a few with my iPhone. (It wasn’t just the schedule that was intense – in the first week in Romania we had to drive 600 km in a blizzard to get to our meeting because our flights were cancelled – then 600 hairy km back on snow/iced up, treacherous roads, at best speed to get to a meeting in Bucharest… during the second trip to Romania we covered about 1,500 km in four days, of which more later.

This is the grounds of the hotel in which we stayed after our drive through the blizzard. It is in Suceava in NE Romania – Romanian Moldavia, though the next day we headed into Transylvania where most of our work took place.

St Sofia square outside the hotel in Kiev – the statue is Bohdan Khmelnytsky, a Cossack ‘Hetman’ who won liberation from Poland for the Ukrainians, or, at least, the Cossacks.

The Cathedral of St Sophia in, duh, St Sophia Square, Kiev.

Bugrit! This is the cathedral of St Sofia. The first pic is the cathedral of St Michael at the other end of the square.

Next to St Michael’s is this – rather impressive, innit? It’s the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry building.


I was staying in a business-class hotel. Right next door was he building shown in the last two pics – and there were people living in it!

Moving right along, this is the Mall in Cairo to which the hotel I’m staying with is attached. Quite impressive – it was the biggest in the Middle East until the big one in Dubai was opened. It’s in Heliopolis district and the complex is called Star City.

This is right opposite the hotel – and my room – and today is Friday, so we’re getting the muezzin wailing every hour on the hour. Actually, this one is quite tuneful, but that is no consolation at 4 o’clock -ish in the morning when the first call to prayer goes out.

And this is what much of Cairo is like outside the CBD and the more up-market areas. The litter in the streets here is appalling, even in the better off areas. Out on a market visit the other day I saw a street which was, literally, covered in garbage from kerb to kerb – and it wasn’t unique. The Company offices are in the complex where I’m staying, but I have been doing much of my work in an office in one of the distribution depots. It’s right next to a street market which hasn’t been bad until the last couple of days when the heat has ramped up a bit and the smell has to be experienced to be believed. It wasn’t helped much when they decided to empty the communal cesspit, which took two days with the covers off…

I was going to write a bit about the Romania trip, but this is long enough, I guess.

58 thoughts on “I’m not dead.”

  1. Bravo, I am assuming from the first pic that the horse dropped dead after such an arduous trek through a blizzard, which is why it’s not featured?
    Smells of Cairo probably rival anything Calcutta had to offer, although the danger in Calcutta was during the monsoons when the sewage drain covers floated off, and you could be walking through what you thought was a shallow puddle, and diappear completely from sight…

  2. Soutie, unfortunatelym ahem, the Company I do most of my work for sent in a team of Company managers to handle Libya 😀 We have a pretty good emergency response system, as I think I mentioned in a previous post.

    CWJ, there are a lot of horse-drawn carts in use outside Bucharest and a pain in the, erm, fundament they are when you’re driving – especially in a blizzard when you can’t see the damn things until the very, SH*T! VERY! last moment…

    Cristopher, I know, the ennui is sometimes just too great…

  3. Good to hear from you bravo. What a madly eclectic bunch of pictures!
    I just love that baroque architecture.
    I’m so glad you go to all these places and let us know why we/I shouldn’t want to!

    Not actually sure why nearly all muslim areas seem to be awash with garbage, exactly the same in Brum in ‘their’ part of the city. In fact I’ve never seen any muslim place that wasn’t smelly and dirty, quite disgusting.

    I do hope you get a rest for Easter, perhaps ‘getting religion’ for a fortnight? A rest cure in a monastery? Or better yet, hop home to Cyprus?

  4. Good, no point killing yourself. So easy to get more and more busy, cramming more and more into the day and we ain’t getting any younger.
    Then falling off one’s twig with a dreadful sudden splat!
    And on that cheery note I’ll away to do the greatest job of the day, grind the coffee beans.

  5. Blimey, Bravo. You do get around. Great pics and blog. I love the Kiev Cathedral. Colour scheme by Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen? 🙂

  6. Everywhere is near everywhere in Cyprus Toc 🙂 I live in a little village up in the mountains, but it’s only an easy 45 min drive to Larnaca, why, you planning a trip?

  7. Forgot this one, btw. While I was in UK I had to visit Southampton. We stayed here:

    Oops, wait out – don’t know what happened to the pic.

    It’s the White Star Hotel – originally the offices of the White Star Line. You could have bought a ticket on the Titanic here 🙂

  8. bravo22c :

    Everywhere is near everywhere in Cyprus Toc :-) I live in a little village up in the mountains, but it’s only an easy 45 min drive to Larnaca, why, you planning a trip?

    I have thought about a return visit many times, just never got round to it. I can still visualise it though, in particular the Sun Hall cabaret and the Copper Kettle. Probably all before your time. 🙂

  9. bravo22c :

    Yes, Tina, I’ll be in Cyprus for Easter and I think I have a couple of weeks off…

    Which Easter do you mean, Western or Eastern? 🙂

  10. Christina, you need to get out a bit more – you have a very skewed view of the Muslim world. Oman is as clean as Singapore or Disneyworld – they have municipal workers sweeping the bougainvillea petals off the dual carriageways in the Capital Area. Driving the 1000 miles south to Salalah through the Empty Quarter, the highway is dotted every few kilometers with large Municipal rubbish bins as a facility for those living in the desert to act responsibly with their litter. Fortunately only high-end tourism is encouraged – they don’t want the sort of dross found disgracing the UK on cheap package tours. The new QE called into Muttrah Harbour a few days ago, which is a nice way to visit the country, if you have some spare leisure time, and plenty of spare cash. I would recommend the Bustan Palace Hotel 🙂

  11. Fortunately only high-end tourism is encouraged – they don’t want the sort of dross found disgracing the UK on cheap package tours

    An unwise remark, CWJ.

  12. Bearsy :

    Fortunately only high-end tourism is encouraged – they don’t want the sort of dross found disgracing the UK on cheap package tours

    An unwise remark, CWJ.

    I have to agree Bearsy. 😦

  13. Just to liven up Saturday morning, Bearsy 🙂 They leave that end of the market to Dubai.
    The Omanis make no bones about it – they do not want half-naked tattooed and pierced drunken Brits and backpackers disporting themselves on their pristine beaches and upsetting the natives. It helps that it is expensive to reach, and once you are there, almost all the hotels are five star. In short, they do not set out to attract the RyanAir package tour groups.
    An Englishman called John Ovington, who was Chaplain to King James II, visited Muscat in 1663 A.D. and wrote, “These Arabians are very courteous in their deportment, and extreme civil to all strangers: they offer neither violence nor affront in any way; and tho’ they are very tenacious of their own principles, and admirers of their own religion, yet do they never impose it upon any; nor are their morals evened with such furious zeal, as to divert them of humanity and a tender respect…in fine these are a People naturally temperate and just, and endued with those excellent qualities which Grecian philosophers and Roman moralists endeavoured to inspire into their subjects, tho’ they missed their aim.”

  14. We have plenty of the unwashed littering the place up in summer, more’s the pity. I am delighted that sun, sea and sand are available to most these days, but, by Dog, I do wish the working class – and I use the term proudly – would recover their manners.

  15. Quite so, Bravo. It is not a matter of wealth or class: it is the lack of manners and consideration for their hosts, which makes me embarrassed to be British on occasion. Removal of passport should be a much more commonly used deterrent for unacceptable behaviour, at home or anywhere else, now that they can jump on a RyanAir and create mayhem in Prague, Mallorca, or wherever it is they go to get totally smashed for a fortnight…
    Harrumph – time for your afternoon siesta, Colonel. Come along now, and don’t make a fuss 🙂

  16. I see that my polite, low-key admonishment did not penetrate through your conceit, CWJ, so I shall be more explicit and stronger in my word-choice.

    Boadicea and I had planned for a ‘comfortable’ retirement, but through no fault of ours, the fall of the UK pound against the Australian dollar has removed 40% of the value of the pensions I had worked hard for. The “global financial crisis” also removed more than 25% of my equally hard-gained Australian superannuation. The result is that we have become so poor that we are already forced to accept the first level of Australian federal income support.

    However, even if we had still been enjoying the level of income that we had planned, we would still be ‘poor’ in your terms.

    Poor does not equate to arsehole.
    The use of of low-cost airlines does not equate to ‘dross’. Your blithe contempt of those who do not share your financial advantages is offensive to the millions of civilised people who are in our unfortunate position.

    Your response to Christina ignores the fact that the average Muslim is a disgusting, arrogant, unwashed, superstitious, belligerent peasant who likes to kill young girls while keeping his wives wrapped up in a binbag. Your rich Muslim acquaintances may have a veneer of civilisation, but they would cut your throat without a thought.

    But who needs Muslims as enemies when our own “upper class” noun removed by Boadicea, look down their sneering noses at their less fortunate brethren.

    Last sentence removed Boadica

  17. Bearsy. Interesting that you took a hit of 40% on your pension funds – mine was the same as a result of the previous financial crisis 😦

  18. Bearsy, when the red cloud has cleared, please try reading more carefully: “the sort of dross found DISGRACING THE UK on cheap package tours”. My criticism is not of cheap package tours, or those travelling on them – only the drunken “arseholes”, to use your emotive term, DISGRACING THE UK on cheap package tours. I have used Easyjet and Ryanair myself on occasion, although I have never been on a package tour, cheap or otherwise, as I have never seen any which appealed which I could afford. I would have thought the exchange following with Bravo would have clarified my comment, even if the original was misunderstood. I didn’t respond at all to your initial admonition as it seemed obvious to me that you had snatched the wrong end of the stick, and you would figure it out eventually, from the exchange with Bravo.
    Thank you for sharing once again your views on the followers of a religion espoused by 23% of the world’s population – I am sure you are right, or at least that you are sure that you are right. I don’t think it does the site any credit having such comments posted, but that’s Boa’s call. The Muslims we know, for the record, are right across the social spectrum and from a number of different countries. But let’s not let facts like that stop us jumping to our own prejudicial conclusions about our “virtual” contacts. Personally I would be wary of sounding like a potential candidate for the Rev Jones of Florida’s global Koran-burning Fest.
    I am not qualified to comment on your pension arrangements, but it sounds like an appalling situation to be in, not eased by the knowledge that many others are in a similar position, in Cypru, Spain, and so on. Exchange rate fluctuations between the USD and GBP affect our situation in the same way, but not to the same extent as the AUD/GBP scenario. The Zimbabwe situation for British pensioners living there is particularly bleak – their pensions are completely worthless. Incidentally, anyone whose pension arrangements relies on share values will have taken a broadly similar hit, but unless you bailed out at the bottom of the market, the market is back up to broadly where it was before the collapse. This does not apply of course to those relying heavily on interest income from deposits, who will have seen, as we have, a dramatic reduction in interest income from 5% to 0.05%. So you are far from alone in your financial suffering, although I doubt if that helps at all.
    As an aside, those attacking the oil companies and banks do not seem to appreciate fully the enormous part their share values play in propping up the Pension Fund industry in the UK. Anything which lowers their share values, whether it is windfall tax or any other scheme, will come back to bite us all on pension valuations.It is undoubtedly part of the reason that the UK banks which had failed were not allowed to collapse, along with concerns about customers’ deposits.

  19. Bearsy, you forgot to include psychopathic, mediaeval, smelly and dog hating in your most correct description of ‘your friendly neighbourhood ragheads’!

    Financially too many of the middle class have taken such hits. Everyone I know have hauled in their horns, us included! Any investments are a total joke.

  20. As a frequent user of easyjet, and to a lesser extent Ryanair, I would certainly not want to be compared with those Brits who make me decide to change nationality on the spot. But as cwj points out, it is not a matter of wealth or class. It is a matter of consideration for others. And it doesn’t depend on age either. We frequently come across Brits of about our age (not in the first flush of youth!) who are an embarrassment. I tend to point out that these people are English and I’m a Scot, which works very well in most European countries. Unfortunately it’s usually true that the embarrassment is not caused by Welsh or Irish people, or even my fellow countrymen. What is it about English people abroad?

    Bearsy, I do so agree with your description: “the average Muslim is a disgusting, arrogant, unwashed, superstitious, belligerent peasant who likes to kill young girls while keeping his wives wrapped up in a binbag.”

  21. CO, I don’t like using the adjective “medieval” for Muslims. It is an insult to the Middle Ages. I think the intellectual development stopped long before. Look at the architecture and gardens of the Alhambra or the Mezquita, then look at the streets of present-day Baghdad or Tripoli. Was it really because Ferdinand and Isabella drove the Moors out of Spain that Muslim culture came to a standstill, I wonder.

  22. This seems to have moved away from the original post – Good to see you’re still in the Land of the Living Bravo!

    On the question of travellers – there have been occasions when I have waved my Australian Passport to avoid being defined as British, and my British Passport to avoid being identified as Australian. I have sat with Americans who have cringed at the antics of their fellow countrymen, and I have no doubt that there are plenty of Germans, French, Italians, and others who feel similarly appalled at the behaviour of some of their compatriot travellers. No one nation has a monopoly on ill-behaved, loud-mouthed ‘tourists’.

    I know very few Muslims, and have only travelled in a few Islamic countries: most of which have been extremely backward both economically and hygienically.

    I’ve also seen the state of areas in London which have become ghettos for immigrants – and I see absolutely nothing despicable about stating that I found those areas to be pretty awful. I did, however, think that it was despicable that my daughter warned me to keep quiet because “It was their area now”…

    On the whole, I don’t care what people choose to believe. But when they demand that I ‘respect’ those beliefs and demand to overturn the laws and customs of my Society in line with those beliefs then I object – and I will continue to object. I see nothing despicable about criticising beliefs that keep one half of humanity in subjugation to another nor do I see anything despicable in criticising a religion that tries to silence criticism by violence and is intent on converting the whole world to their despicable beliefs.

    I’d like to remind those who feel that criticism of religious beliefs is not acceptable that most religions have adapted to at least the 20th Century – Islam has not. Continued silence about the dark-age beliefs of this religion give them a respectability that they do not deserve.

    Who is silent – Consents.

  23. I agree with you, Boadicea.

    Perhaps you would like to be more precise with your criticism,TR, instead of hiding behind the “You know what I mean”.

    CO, perhaps “pre-medieval”? Though I like Boadicea’s use of dark-age.

  24. Not really got time for this, Sheona, arguing and debate I leave for the experts. But as you think I’m hiding I’ll give you an explanation.

    While agreeing there are fanatics in all walks of life, bracketing all Muslims as “smelly, disgusting, psychopathic” to repeat just three words thrown at them on this thread is unfair or despicable as I said. There are subtle differences in every individual.

    Boa- “I know very few Muslims”. Believe it or not I know quite a few.

    Since the age of four, my son has been best friends with a little Muslim boy. In time I have got to know the boy’s family. The father is an intelligent man with a wry sense of humour and the mother is one of the nicest people you will ever meet; she is constantly smiling.
    Even though they are devout Muslims (adhering to Ramadan etc.) they are completely assimilated. The boy is a staunch supporter of the Scotland national team. Once he was photographed at a match on the cover of the Sunday Herald wearing a “See You Jimmy” bunnet after one of our glorious defeats.

    As I said I keep clear of contentious issues, on this occasion I was taken aback by some of the comments. I felt it right to present an alternative viewpoint that not all Muslims are dirty, wife-beating murderers stuck in a time-warp. I think I owe it to that nice family and I’m sure there’s many others like them.

    Oh well, that’s me all typed out, I’m not used to long-windedness. They are terrific photos, Bravo, when all’s said and done. Need to go now; I’ve a stack of films to get through.

  25. TR

    You are basing your interpretation of Islam on a few families, in much the same way as those who describe them as ‘smelly, disgusting, psychopaths’ are basing their view on the frothy-mouthed mobs screaming for their ‘rights’ and their ‘laws’ in Western Societies.

    Both are, in my view, extremist views – the one sees nothing but good and the other nothing but bad.

    Whether one likes it or not, Islam does teach that women are second class citizens. Now that may not bother you – since you’re on the ‘winning side’. But it bothers me that a large group of people, both male and female, are being brought up to believe that I am a second-class citizen… and furthermore, expecting the laws and customs of my Society to be changed to accommodate those beliefs.

    I am sure that many people have ‘good experiences’ of Muslim families like the ones you know – but it does not change the fact that most Western Governments are kowtowing to those who scream loudly and are subtly changing the way it deals with its citizens so that those who want to highlight the problems of a multi-cultural society are branded by a variety of names and silenced.

  26. I find many of the unashamedly racially-orientated comments here disgusting and unworthy of any respectable chat-site, let alone the chariot. Generalisations about any ethnic or social group are irrational and childish, revealing only the writers’ xenophobia and lack of humanity.

  27. Islam is not a race, neither is muslim. Islam is a backward, oppressive, repressive and wholly derivative system of organised superstition. Muslims are adherents of its tenets.

    >Generalisations about any ethnic or social group are irrational and childish…<
    But it is OK, for example, to demonise the social group who smoke tobacco…or who express opposing views to a system of organised superstition…or object to the imposition of personal values by unrepresentative bureaucrats…or,

    Well, you get the idea.

    I have yet to travel to any country which is not a muslim majority where the muslim minority is not generally seen as a pain in the butt.

  28. Janus, I think you are wrong in using the words “racist” and “xenophobia” since the question here is about a religion, Islam. I think that the islamophobia in Britain and other western countries is justified. After 9/11 and 7/7 in London and the discovery of various violent plots since, fear is rational. I do not want my family or friends to be killed or injured while going about their daily business.

    The very fact that, as Boadicea points out, some Muslims have turned the areas of Britain in which they live into no-go areas for the native Britains is deeply worrying. The teaching of children that non-Muslims are not acceptable and can be killed is appalling. I am sure there are pleasant families, like the one TR mentions, just as there are screaming mobs killing both non-Muslims and their co-religionists. The fact that there is no forceful condemnation of Muslim acts of violence from the very silent majority is what demonstrates that Muslims have no loyalty to the western country in which they are uninvited guests. This alone qualifies them as fifth columists and not to be trusted. The old excuse that the violent terrorists are not really Muslims is a tired cliché, since the Koran is full of incitement to violence.

    The reaction of the French electorate to Marine LePen shows that western nations have had just about enough of this cancer. I probably do lack humanity, Janus, or rather my humanity is restricted to my love for friends and family and country. Xenophobia is a standard charge to throw in such cases. Just remember that phobia means fear and what you are condemning is a justified fear of an encroaching ideology.

  29. Bravo and Sheona have beaten me to it! Islam is not a race – it is a ‘religion’ and a way of life. One cannot choose one’s race – but one does choose one’s religion and way of life. And I see no reason why I, or anyone else, should not criticise those who choose to follow a set of beliefs and a way of life which is so contrary to the culture of Western countries – especially when so many of these people have chosen to live in Western societies.

  30. Spot on Boadicea. The Visa Queue test applies. Stroll through the Embassy Section of any major city just before office hours and see where the queues are longest. If islam is such a terrific system, why do so many wish to get out to a better different one? (Apropo the UK, once here, why try to recreate the tshi-hole you’ve come from.)

  31. Janus – I am new as you know to blogging and internet communication. One difficulty I have struggled to adjust to is not being able to see or sense the NVC side of what people write.

    The Chariot is full of intelligent people engaging in debate where expression of opinion is embraced and encouraged. I don’t like any religion or any royal family, but I wouldn’t judge others for their views, even if I think they’re wrong. I enjoy your blogs more than most and admire your usual calm humour.

    Bearsy’s and CO’s language aside, this site is over all very respectful of everyone’s right to opinion, however uncomfortable they may be.

    I challenge you to look at your own beliefs and opinions and say that none of them could be interpreted as xenophobic, racist or any other negative connotation.

    I get very uncomfortable with Islamophobia for many reasons, but at least the Chariot allows counter points of view. Please, engage as you usually do and use your intellect to argue rather than judge us all as racist (and for the record, I totally agree Islam is not a race, much as they’d like to be. The bottom line is they only believe in an imaginary friend which is just as illogical as having a royal family and party politics…in my very humble, non aggressive, non converting opinion!)

    This is a great site, let us keep it that way. As some famous fictional character once said… judge not lest ye be judged.

    (is there a smiley for one’s tongue firmly in one’s cheek?)

  32. And, as sure as eggs is eggs, along comes this:

    The violence came as the hardline Islami Oikyo Jote, a coalition of Islamic groups, enforced a nationwide general strike on Monday, demanding the government institute Islamic law and scrap policies aimed at giving women greater rights to property, employment and education.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/bangladesh/8426149/Dozens-injured-as-Bangladeshi-Islamists-protest-womens-equality-laws.html

    Backward, oppressive, repressive.

  33. I note Janus does not practice what he preaches!
    I very much doubt rural Denmark is exactly over-run with the burkha brigade.
    Perhaps his relatives left in the UK may have widely differing opinions!
    Most whites do who have to live with them cheek by jowl.

  34. I should not be here.. should be getting stuff together for tomorrow… I loathe the wide sweeping generalisations about Muslims here. But I also loathe censorship, and people using the word ‘racist’ as a means of shutting down debate.

  35. christinaosborne :

    I note Janus does not practice what he preaches!
    I very much doubt rural Denmark is exactly over-run with the burkha brigade.
    Perhaps his relatives left in the UK may have widely differing opinions!
    Most whites do who have to live with them cheek by jowl.

    Another wildly irrational conclusion! You may be surprised therefore to read that my living in rural Denmark is not prompted by xenophobia as perhaps your residence in WASP Amarica is!

  36. An interesting comment on the ‘Terry Jones debate elsewhere:

    but his murky little story does highlight the way non-Muslims are being pressured to weigh their beliefs, statements and actions in terms of whether they will be approved of by the violent followers of imams in Mazar-e-Sharif, or others closer to home.

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