Real or Fake? Does it Matter?

We recently returned from a wonderful trip to Athens and Crete for the Eid Al Adha holiday. I had never been to Greece before and was excited to see all the sculptures I had studied in college and roam around the buildings of the ancient Acropolis and Knossos. In Athens, our hotel was a stone’s throw from the Acropolis and in Crete, our 3-room inn was the old wine making building on a small winery.

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view from our room

 

The question of what is “real” and what is “fake” art dawned on us while admiring the six graceful Caryatids carrying the roof of the south porch of the Erechtheion.

We realized from reading the signage that we were admiring fiberglass copies and not originals. The five replicas had been cast in 1979 because the originals were deteriorating from the acid rain and city pollution. To preserve the maiden columns, the originals were taken inside to the Acropolis Museum and replaced with the replicas.

A sixth Caryatid had been taken by Lord Elgin in 1801-1804 and bought by the British Museum in 1816. By being stolen or protected, depending on one’s point of view, she didn’t face as much damage as her friends did.

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It bothered me that the columns were “fake”. It bothered me that I was not gazing at the real sculptures. But, with the five caryatids preserved in the Acropolis Museum and the 6th taken away a century before, visitors could still see the beautifully carved faces and flowing draperies on the originals. And, we could appreciate this beauty more closely in a museum than out in the field.

The same questions arose at Knossos. Knossos is an ancient palace complex on Crete founded near two rivers about 8 kilometers inland from the Mediterranean Sea. The civilization thrived from around 3,000BC to 1,450 BC with its peak between 1,700BC – 1,450BC. Art and culture flourished during this time. Frescos depict women in luxurious clothing and jewelry being served by maids. Processions of men carry platters of food and drink in intricately decorated vessels. Carved stone seals depicting plants, animals and geometric shapes were used to indicate ownership.   Games were found. And the famous bull jumping frescos showed one way the population enjoyed their free time. All these we examined and enjoyed in the Herakklion Archeological Museum – not on the site. The site had copies and fragments of copies on the walls.

 

 

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Knossos was abandoned in the 1,300BC’s for unknown reasons and it became the story of legend.

Then, in around 1,900AD, Sir Arthur Evans “discovered” the palace. Within a few years, much of the site had been excavated and rebuilt. Evans brought his European background to his assessment and re-creation of the site. When encountering a second floor, he assumed it was a piano nobile, like that found in Italian palazzos and made sure to added palazzo elements, such as coffered ceilings, to the structure. Find a carved stone chair, assume it is a throne and call the space the assembly room for the ruler.

Everywhere you turn in the Palace of Knossos, you see concrete infill. You see painted columns and portions of frescos designed and re-created by Evans based on the fragments he found. You wonder if the walls you walk between really existed. You wonder if ramps and stairs led to the intended spaces.

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a re-creation of columns, fresco and pediment

Does it matter? By visiting this ancient site, you get a sense of what the spaces were like and what they felt like. You experience the size and scale of the complex. You get a feel of what the spaces felt like and see the original locations for frescos now housed and preserved in the Herakklion Archeological Museum. Does it matter that the stones on the floors and walls weren’t where they originally sat? Does it matter that the columns aren’t the originals?

I struggle with this question. It feels to me that it diminishes the place and the experience.   It feels less real and less valid. But isn’t it important to preserve these sculptures, frescos and spaces so future generations can appreciate the past?

As we have considered this further, there is a range of issues here. If the Greek cultural authorities choose to move ancient sculptures into a controlled museum environment and replace them with copies, the sense of wonder associated with the Erechtheion site may be diminished, but the trade off in protecting the sculptures makes sense. Taking a Caryatid without permission, even if the result is that it survives in high quality condition is a more dubious proposition. And the fanciful recreation of archeological spaces at Knossos and the placement of replicas in positions known not to be original definitely undermines the visitor experience – exactly the opposite of what Sir Arthur Evans intended.
In the end, the preservation of cultural sites is about choices and cultural norms at the time of each intervention.   Even during their periods of active use, these sites were constantly being modified, so there is no single “original” or “real” state in which to preserve them.

(We visited the Lassithi Plateau, which produces abundant fruits and vegetables and is known for its windmills.  The other photo is from the port in Chania)

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A Printing Adventure

Exploring new parts of Abu Dhabi is always an adventure.

 

Al Saif Printers

Al Saif Printers

I took on the renovation of a condominium near our house when I was in DC over the summer and loved getting back into the puzzle solving of a project. With some additional design work necessary, I brought the drawings back here to Abu Dhabi and finished them up in my drafting room that seconds as the third bedroom.

 

Back in the US, I know that ABC Printing can pick up my drawings, scan them to a pdf file and return them back to my office. Simple and easy. Here, I had to find a place that could scan large scale drawings and change them to pdf’s. My architect friends work at firms where drawings begin on the computer so no one needs that intermediate scanning process.

 

After class today, I checked the on-line yellow pages. I chose to call Al Saif printers and explained what I needed to Ismael. I was pretty sure but not positive that he indeed could do the work.  (I actually just got the originals back and learned that his firm could not do the work. He took my drawings to another shop down the street) I asked for directions and was told it was behind the Etisalat (the phone company) building, off Street #10. I asked him if that was the old #10 or the new #10.   A few months ago Street #10 was Street #2. (Also, there are “major” numbered streets and, between them, “minor” numbered streets, but that’s another level of complexity.) You have to make sure everyone is talking about the same streets. Ismael re-assured me that it was easy to find because it was over the famous and delicious Hindu restaurant, Haveli.

Can you find the Haveli?

Can you find the Haveli?

Off I set with my vague directions. Near to where I thought Haveli was, I went into another print shop and asked if Haveli was nearby. The Indian owner and Emirati customer in the store looked at me blankly and said, “No, they never heard of this restaurant.”

A woman clad in her black burqua then came over to me as I was about to walk out and said, “Havile? I think I know that place. It’s the Indian restaurant.” I said yes and she instructed me to walk down that street (I wasn’t exactly sure what “that” street was) and it was the 6th or 7th building…right near where she lived.

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So off I went and of course, couldn’t find Haveli. Back and forth I went, but along the way saw a brazier that was heating up the coals that bubble the water in the shisha pipes.

 

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I noticed the intricate decorations on the bracketing over the sidewalkIMG_1500

And, I wondered about the name of the store “The Joker Sports Club”… not many locals are that athletic.

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After asking four more people, I found the Haveli. Inside the restaurant I was told that the entrance to the upper floors and business areas was around back. When you go out back, you know you are in a different part of Abu Dhabi than the tourists see. It feels like you are in India, complete with stray cats. Walking inside and up dimly lit stairs, I wondered if I could truly be in the right place.

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But off the landing, there was Al Saif’s office. Two nice women and Ismael greeted me, knew exactly who I was, and happily took my drawings. An hour later I had pdf’s to email back to the US!  Exploring is good.

 

 

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Modern Architecture in Abu Dhabi

Modern architecture exists in Abu Dhabi. People tend to think of modern architecture as tall glimmering skyscrapers such as the Etihad Towers pictured here, which were featured in the movie Furious 7.

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In fact “modern architecture” refers to a building style begun in the early 1900’s with the advent of steel framing replacing load bearing walls.   Other important materials used in the modern style were reinforced concrete and large expanses of glass. The modern movement emphasized pure geometric forms such as circles and spheres; squares and cubes; and triangles and pyramids. Clean lines and an expression of volume were equally important. And finally, the idea that “…form follows function” (paraphrased from Louis Sullivan) was paramount. You should be able to “read” a building. By that, I mean that you should be able to tell the use of a building by the form or layout of that building. A bank should not look like a school. An apartment building should look different than on office building.

 

Modernism was brought to Abu Dhabi in the 1970’s and 80’s by Sheikh Zayed. The city at that time was small and undeveloped. People and oil money were pouring into Abu Dhabi and the need for housing and development boomed.

 

Tim and I went to a lecture at NYU about Modernism in Abu Dhabi and it opened our eyes to this new side of the city.   I will show you 5 buildings that I particularly like and write some of my thoughts about them. I’d love to read what you think about them too.

The first is a Fish and Vegetable market built in 1985.

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With the single story building and repeating pattern of higher and lower roofs, you can  tell that it houses things similar to one another, but maybe with slight differences between each thing. That would make sense for a market with individual stalls selling similar kinds of produce.

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The varying heights of roof lines allows for daylight to come inside the building making it feel very open and airy…almost like you are at an outside vegetable market. The building is broken into sections, 8 bays wide and 4 bays deep, which you can see from the front and side elevations.  The building is a hidden jewel amongst much taller and newer buildings.

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The second building is an apartment building built in 1989 and located on Airport Road, one of the major streets in Abu Dhabi.

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You can tell from the design that one function occurs on the bottom three levels and then with the 45 degree shift, that something else happens above. The first three floors front the street and house stores and commercial establishments. Above that, the floors shift and contain apartments. The entrance to the building is clearly marked by the vertical band that runs directly over the front door.

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The beauty of the shifted floors is that the tenants in the apartments don’t look directly into the neighboring apartments. They look beyond and to the park across the street. Though the building is in disrepair, which a number of these buildings are, good quality materials such as wood and metal were used.

The third building is a shopping center/apartment building along Zayed the First Street.

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Again, you can tell where the break between shopping and apartments occurs due to the placement of the pre-cast concrete screen with the circle/triangular motif.

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DSC_8998The solid walls from that point down contain the stores inside the mall and the shading panels above screen  the ribbon windows of the apartments. The two blocks appear cube like and have diamond screening on the  sides. The entry is clearly marked by the black void between the two blocks. The use of reinforced concrete and glass is quite striking.

 

 

 

 

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The fourth is another apartment building built in the 1980’s further along Zayed the First Street. What a play of circles!

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DSC_9066It is almost comical. What was once a fun building with corrugated metal panels creating the circular patterns and wooden handrails sliding behind, it is now falling apart. Tenants of the building say it is decrepit inside as well. The UAE has to decide if these buildings are important and worth saving or not.DSC_9067

 

The final building is the best – a round apartment building sitting on a square base, which houses a restaurant. It is thing of beauty and geometric fun. The white concrete “lattice” connects each floor with the one above.  The lattice is applied in a three-dimensional half drop pattern. The weaving of the vertical structure with the metal railing is playful and beautiful. This is Modern Architecture in Abu Dhabi at it’s finest. Come visit and we’ll give you a tour.

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Al Maqta Fort

We are on a tear!  3 posts in a week!!

As promised, this next entry is about two of my favorite old buildings in Abu Dhabi – the Al Maqta Fort and watchtower.

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They sit prominently at the water’s edge overlooking the Khor al Maqta (Maqta channel). With it’s crenulated (called tarbushes in Arabic) fort and tower, mangrove wood beams, and plaster structure, it is one of the few important buildings left from when Abu Dhabi was a small fishing village.  This next shot was taken by Wilfred Thesiger, a British explorer who crossed the Empty Quarter two times.  This was taken when he came to Abu Dhabi in the early 1950’s.

taken by Wilfred Thesiger

taken by Wilfred Thesiger

The 200 plus year old fort and watchtower guarded the shallow ford across the water and protected the village from bandits and raiders. It is a beautiful reminder of the indigenous architecture from the gulf region that is largely neglected.

The design elements of the buildings are typical for an important fort at that time. Overall, the fort consists of a low rectangular block with windows and square niches in the wall above the windows. A highly ornamented gateway door leads into this block of rooms. At the corner overlooking the water, an attached tower finishes the composition and is topped with a small dome.

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An open balcony is on the north side of the tower, providing shade and cooler temperatures to the inhabitants of the fort.DSC_9140

The walls are most likely made from clay bricks and hand covered with a layer of plaster. Little or no wall ornamentation is common for a fort from this era.   The tower and entry doorway are the most elaborate elements within the fort complex. The tarbushes around the top of the fort’s tower are decorative yet also hide a lowered floor for a man to stand on. The rows of rectangular openings were most likely used by the guards to shoot approaching raiders from protected positions. (from Qasr al Husn by Reem Tariq el Muwalli)

To me, the exterior gateway door is the most beautiful piece of work at the fort.

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It has 4 intricately carved panels per door with 4 rows of nail heads. The nail heads are called “…finjan, which resembles the shape of an inverted Arabic coffee cup.” (from Qasr al Husn by Reem Tariq el Muwalli) It calls to mind the beautiful Omani doors so popular among expats.

 

Sadly, the fort is now engulfed by roads, bridges and construction sites. It is never open to the public and seems to be viewed as an after thought along the highway. Maybe one day it will be open and we can all get out on the balcony and appreciate the view.DSC_9138DSC_9118

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Random photos – catching up!

As you all know, we hadn’t posted in quite some time before we wrote about the Sheikh Zayed bridge.  I am finally going through photos we have taken over this past year and there are some fun ones we would like to share.

We continue to love our apartment and it’s location.  We never tire of sitting on our balcony, watching the birds, the sunsets and parade of interesting people.

misty buildings in the early morning

misty buildings in the early morning

sunset along our corniche

sunset along our corniche

my friend Lisa with George

my friend Lisa with George

 

flowers on the balcony

flowers on the balcony

Along the road beside our apartment complex, we saw this house beautifully decorated for days.  When we asked, we were told that when an Emirati woman is to be married, her house is decorated in lights for 4 days before the wedding and 3 days afterwards.  It is such a happy, celebratory sight for all!

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We still have been able to do a huge variety of things we wouldn’t normally do at home.  Such as going to the Formula 1, which is a HUGE deal here.  We are able to sit in seats given to Tim by one of the sponsor’s of the event – Mubadala.  The seats were great!  And the food inside was even better.

The starting line for Formula 1

The starting line for Formula 1

The scene at the Viceroy Hotel for Formula 1

The scene at the Viceroy Hotel for Formula 1

 

the LOUD cars whizzing by..We did get free and very good champagne though

the LOUD cars whizzing by..We did get free and very good champagne though

I went to an art exhibition at the Saadiyat al Manarat gallery called, “Seeing with Light”.  My favorite part of the show was a room which was made from glass panels and a glass walkway over water.  The lights inside the room changed colors and reflected the changing colors on the water and glass.

one stage of color

one stage of color

as the colors changed

as the colors changed

and then again

and then again

I continue to be amazed by the wide variety of people and things for sale here.

a cobbler who fixed Tim's hiking boots.  Could be in Pakistan!

a cobbler who fixed Tim’s hiking boots. Could be in Pakistan!

A shoe store of course

A shoe store of course

They do love their blingy shoes

They do love their blingy shoes

 

Who said a shayla had to be black?

Who said a shayla had to be black?

Global village is huge shopping/carnival event that is in Dubai and is open from October – March.  It features big pavilions of goods from countries all over the world.  You can buy honey in the Oman building; woven baskets from the African building, plastic junk from the China building, cotton pj’s from the Egyptian building – you get the idea.  At night, the scene takes on a summer carnival feel with balloons for sale, groups performing on the stage…it is quite fun.

Global Village at night

Global Village at night

no real comment here...

no real comment here..

clothes anyone?  Where would you wear this?

clothes anyone? Where would you wear this?

And finally, Liz and Noble came to visit us in October and we had a great time with them.  A highlight was our visit out to Qasr al Sarab for a weekend.  We can never tire of the views from the rooms and general peacefulness of being in the desert.  While there, we went on a jeep ride into the desert out to the border with Saudi Arabia.  We learned that water is found between two sets of sand dunes.  The downward pressure from weight of the sand creates these pockets of brackish water.  The green is from minerals in the salt.  It was quite an amazing thing to see out in the vastness of the sand.

Noble in the salt flats

Noble in the salt flats

water anyone?

water anyone?

It was very salty but if you were desperate, it might due

It was very salty but if you were desperate, it might d0

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Sheikh Zayed Bridge

Sheikh Zayed bridge

Hello again, after a long break for this blog.   We’re going to share with you our thoughts about buildings and places we enjoy here in Abu Dhabi. Most people that haven’t come to Abu Dhabi think of it as a place with big, splashy buildings like Dubai – and there are some of those — but there are also more subtle gems that stand out.

Today we will highlight the Sheikh Zayad bridge, designed by Iraqi born and Pritzker prize winning architect, Zaha Hadid, and completed in 2010.

Zaha Hadid

The name Abu Dhabi applies to several things: Abu Dhabi is one of the seven Emirates; it is the capital city of the Emirate and the UAE; and it is the name of the island on which most of the city sits.   The eastern edge of Abu Dhabi island is currently linked to the mainland by 3 bridges… the Maqta bridge, the Mussafah bridge and most recently the Sheikh Zayed bridge.

AloftMap3 When Abu Dhabi was first settled in the mid- to late 1800’s, the center of the city was at the western (bottom left) edge of the island. Historically, the oasis town of Al Ain to the east on the UAE/Oman border was the center of the Emirate since it had natural fresh water and was the home to the founder and ruler of the UAE. Therefore in the beginning of the UAE, traffic primarily moved between Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. The first bridge was built near the site of a ford in the middle of the island.shangri-la-hotel-qaryat-al-beri-abu-dhabi-map

As Dubai rose in prominence, the connections between Dubai and Abu Dhabi became more important and the road between the two became heavily traveled. Getting on to the island of Abu Dhabi from Dubai was difficult and very time consuming with only the Maqta and Mussafah bridges. So, the idea of a third bridge on the direct route to and from Dubai was conceived. This new bridge was named for Sheikh Zayed, the founder of the UAE, and work began in 1997.

Unlike the first two bridges, which are traditional, functional spans, the Sheikh Zayed Bridge is a work of art.

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Three arches of varying lengths and heights support the roadway, which spans the Maqta channel. Hadid said she drew inspiration from the dunes and wind patterns found in the desert, and this is clearly reflected in the undulating, ribbon-like forms.

While the bridge waves across the water in the daytime, it becomes truly alive and dances at night as a result of ever-changing lighting projected on all facets of the bridge. The play of reds, blues, greens and purples accenting the curves and counter-curves highlights the design and emphasizes its motion. The beauty of the asymmetrically proportioned arches is brought into focus.

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It’s play of color also calls to mind the changing of color on the nearby Grand Mosque, where the lighting color changes daily to reflect the current phase of the moon.

The very modernity of the bridge’s structure stands in strong contrast to the two hundred year old watch tower for the Maqta fort at the site of the Maqta ford, which we will discuss next.

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A Taste of Turkey

Turkey is our new favorite country. A few weeks ago Tim had two staff meetings scheduled in Istanbul and spouses were invited to come.  With my term completed at NYIT, I was free to join him.   And with the Prophet’s Ascension holiday at the end of the week, we took advantage of being in Turkey after the meetings and chartered a 39-foot sailboat for a 3-day sail along the coast.

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Two highlights in Istanbul for me were a day-long photographic class and a visit to Orhan Pamuk’s Museum of Innocence.

 

I hired a former National Geographic photographer from Istanbul for my photography class. Prior to our session, I emailed him my thoughts about what I wanted to learn and some of my photographs to show him the kinds of things I was interested in. It was a day filled with looking at reflections, finding repeating patterns in walls and shadows, chatting and drinking tea with herb and vegetable vendors, exploring back streets and narrow alleys, and becoming more comfortable with the settings and adjustments I can make with my camera.   Here are a some of my favorite shots from the day…sorry there are so many!  It was hard to choose, so please indulge me.🙂

bay windows

bay windows

 

reflections

reflections

more reflections

more reflections

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vegetable sellers

tea with some vegetable vendors

on the streets of Istanbul

on the streets of Istanbul

at a bronze foundry

at a bronze foundry

molten bronze being poured into molds

molten bronze being poured into molds

Exploring the Museum of Innocence was like entering a world of miniature paintings embued with love, regret, memory and the passage of time. You become enveloped in this alternate world.   Each display case in the museum highlights salient features of a chapter in Pamuk’s book “The Museum of Innocence.”  I went based on a recommendation from some friends and can’t wait to read the book.

 

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A particularly poignant display contains 4 years of Sibel’s (the lost lover) cigarette stubs taken by Kemal (the protagonist) and then meticulously arranged with a description of the date and circumstances in which the cigarette was smoked.

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In an excerpt from the book, Kemal describes bringing the stubs to his lips and feeling the connection to Sibel’s mouth.

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By mid-day on Friday, Tim was finished with his meetings and we flew to Gocek to pick up our boat.  As chance would have it, we had friends from the Abu Dhabi sailing club who were having work done on their boat in Gocek, so we had dinner aboard their yacht Lily when we arrived.

with Ron and Ineke on Lily

with Ron and Ineke on Lily

The Mediterranean coast of Turkey reminds us of the Caribbean but with fewer people, bluer water and many archeological ruins.   It is similar to the BVI in that you have good winds and can see any obstructions and therefore have straightforward and relaxed sailing.

aboard I Feel Good!

aboard I Feel Good!

the harbor where we picked up our boat

the harbor where we picked up our boat

our first anchorage in Salasara

“I Feel Good” in our first anchorage in Sarasala

our boat at mooring - stern to land...a first for us

our boat in the anchoarge – stern to land…a first for us

We were lucky enough to see a school of dolphins playing the second morning as we sailed over to the island of Gemiler. Gemiler is an isolated, tiny island, yet has ruins from four Christian churches from the 5th -7th centuries AD. One wonders about the people living and worshiping on the island so far from other communities. I loved seeing the contrast of the rock arches and vaults against the clear blue waters.

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Later that day, we sailed on to Cold Water Bay and saw the ruins of a Greek village abandoned in the 1920’s. After WWI, the Greeks who were living on Turkish soil were forced to move to Greece. None of the local Turks wanted to move into the homes of their neighbors, so the buildings were left to fall into ruins.

an overview of the abandoned village

an overview of the abandoned village

 

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wall in ruins

wall in ruins

We loved the coast, the small rocky harbors, the lovely water to swim in and the delicious fresh fish dinners. We can’t wait to return.

 

Cold Water Harbor

Cold Water Harbor

On an Abu Dhabi note, I was struck by a painting I saw recently at an exhibition at the Emirates Palace. The painting (below) is of 12 women in very colorful hijabs (head scarf) and niqabs (the cloth covering their mouths and noses).   Only their eyes are showing.

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My friend and I realized that despite having so few clues as to indicate who these women were and what they looked like, we could tell if they were confident by the tilt of their head and the directness of their gaze. We could determine that they were shy by their location standing behind another woman with only one eye showing. We could see who was happy by the shape and glint of their eyes. We even thought one woman looked as though she could be quite fashionable underneath all that fabric due to the shape and lift of her eyebrows. We both had similar opinions about the personalities behind the coverings and realized how much we had learned.

 

9 DAYS UNTIL I RETURN TO THE US!!!

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