Monday, November 26, 2007

A jar of drin

Well as the sun sets over the city ,absolutely nothing has happened as of yet which is good news, talks are about to start in Annapolis and we are waiting in a car park for a live shot in the dark.
The only thing of interest today apart from Urban Renewal which I will write about later is that there is a good business to be had here in selling spell check to printers of restaurant menus. getting the menu is about as much fun as eating the food because basically the food here is like going to Groundhog Restaurant it never varies. We live not in the land of milk and honey but the world of humus and chicken. It will taste good it normally does, but the menus always provide the best laugh, here are todays classic mistranslations

FreAnch Fries
Antrikot (entrecote) sReak (steak)
Fried CalaMARY
Gold Drinks
Coke bottel

and the winner today "A jar of drin"

Was tempted to order the jar of drin, but opted for a Gold diet coke bottel

Later going for a kaffee


Sederot and Annapolis

Two cities thousands of miles apart. Whilst one is the centre of news for the next 48 hours the other is quiet , the newest addition to Sederot is that they have built bomb shelter in the car park .
Over 1400 qassam rockets have been fired into this area around Sederot from Gaza just 3 miles away .
In my last week in the bureau here before going to Iraq next week the onto my new base in London , i find myself sitting and waiting for incoming missiles . Their is always the fear that perhaps one day one of these point shoot and pray missiles will hit . Just another day in the unholyland only six more to go
Life goes on hopefully it will be quiet very quiet and the talks in Annapolis well they will not stop these missile attacks .
More later

Friday, November 23, 2007

Preparing for War

I know that I have been not blogging much of late, due to the fact that nothing major has been happening here in the Middle East of note. The same old same old , quick trip to the West Bank city of Nablus, Bad Boys refusing to gibe their weapons up to the Palestinian Authority because the Authority will not protect them from the Israeli Army, sort of like the right to bear arms argument they have in the States. So we stand around this Mexican stand off for an afternoon where the main concern of the Palestinian Police was that I did not film them eating.

And then the good news of the week, doing a Medical story on a new device that can predict whether you are susceptable to a heart attack. Now our correspondent Reena a young fit healthy woman decides that she wants to be filmed for the story getting the test done, and scores a 1.99 , the figure you worry about is when your test comes back at 1.67. Reena is pleased with her result and in her way of gloating walks around talking about how healthy she is. I jump on the table do the test and my result leaves the doctors wondering, the old Mal pulls a 4.04 and the doctors start mentioning about how this is one of the best results they have seen. Just have to laugh, Reena just shook here head in dismay.

Ok so where does the title come into play and what does it mean for the Unholyland News. Well Monday week heading back to Iraq for a 3 week embed so daily updates and a chance to report back on life in Iraq.

The move to London looks set for Christmas but as always will believe it when I am on the plane


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Pimp My Hump

Now for those who have not watched MTV for a while may not be aware of the show “Pimp My Ride”. Whereby some kids old rundown beaten up car is taken away and rebuilt with all the trimmings and usually a sound system that would enable Helen Keller to hear the lyrics.

But on the desert highway of Jordan, the locals obviously consider having a camel in the back of your pick up as a status symbol. You could imagine the conversation in the gas station

Achmed “ Hey Mo”

Mohammed “ Yo A man”

Achmed “ Yo Mo, nice camel”

Mohammed “ Bitching Man, You should hear this babe moan, when we hit the highway, the wind in our face and this babe just purrs”

Achmed “ Yo Bro, way way cool”

Mohammed “ A man gotta go bro, the bitch in the back may need the little camels room soon and man have you ever tried to get rid of the smell of camel piss from your car.”

And as the sun sets over the highway to Amman, Mohammed and his camel crest the horizon.

Only in the Middle East.

Thusly my day began in Aqaba and ends in Amman, having driven the desert, South to North. Now in any normal country road signs are there to advise you as to the speed limits, however with an election in progress here and basically no trees along the road. Enthusiastic campaign workers have taken it upon themselves to plaster every road sign with photos of their candidate to the point that you cannot read what the speed limit is at any given point on the road.

And as I was waved over by an enthusiastic policeman, he walked up to me with his speed gun grinning knowing that I was done. How do you explain that “Officer I did not know what the speed limit was because … well your desire for democracy precluded me from knowing how fast I could go”

Lapsing into my fluent mother tongue of Australian, I explained with a strewth cobber you would not believe what I am going to say” He responded with a perplexed look and walked to the car behind me waited five minutes passed and he came back and waved me off, obviously the Bazza Mac Kenzie school of elocution paid off.

Speeding ticket avoided , wonder if it had been different if I had a camel in the back of my Mazda 323

The Rose Red City Revisited

“ Match me such a marvel from Eastern clime. A rose red city half as old as time itself”. From a poem by David Burgon

Petra now one of the new “Seven Wonders of the World” is worthy of at least three days of your life, we read endless lists of things to do before you die, and perhaps I will someday write the definitive list of things I would like to do and see or have done, but then again watching an exorcism under a full moon in the Pakistani Desert would not appeal to many people or refusing to shake the hand of a slave trader are high on your list.

Anyway Petra is an incredible place that makes you reflect on history and what has been and what happens to civilizations. A complete civilization that was lost to man for nearly five hundred years, it was finally deserted in the 1400’s and not rediscovered until the 1800’s. What was a major city on the Spice Trade route just was forgotten and thru earthquake and natural erosion we have left now a place that at first sight can take your breath away with what they built.

Now the morning as always does not start well, the hotel I am in Aqaba has managed to complete a breakfast buffet where the hot food is cold and the cold food is warm, perhaps someone should give the chef Bay Marine 101, those candle things under the tray are meant to be lit to keep the food warm and the cold food should be, well cold. Any way that pales into insignificance when it came time to fill the car with petrol. Pulling into the gas station, only to have the attendant walk up to the car smoking a cigarette and calmly commence to fill the car whilst smoking. Now call me old fashioned but hey I saw the movie “Zoolander” say no more, except luckily Sam the Smoking Gas Pumper and I both lived to see another day.

Now the main reason I wanted to come and see Petra again was that when I was here a few weeks ago with the First Lady Laura Bush it was a classic media event whereby there are six designated “Photo Sprays” whereby you get 60 seconds to get the moment before you are told to move it to the next spray, no stopping to look around and take in the majesty of a site but rather get positioned for another 60 seconds. At the same time being told in no uncertain terms that the First Lady Does NOT want to be filmed from behind, to control the local Press they actually made us face a wall so that we could not see her enter a building in Petra from behind.

The down side of being a tourist is that you have to pay to enter but given the fact that IO could actually stop and look at the sheer beauty of Petra is a price worth paying, funny things you never get on the media zoo is meeting the local souvenir ladies. Halfway up the reported 800 steps to the Monastery, I counted 793 by the way. Who can happily converse in Italian as well as they can in Arabic? Or cracking a joke with my guide about whether they threw camels of the sacrificial rock 200 meters above the city, lets face it that would be a funny story “Man hit by falling sacrificed camel”.

I often visit incredible places and witness some amazing events of history whilst on the road, but then again sometimes you visit a place that is worth the effort to enjoy the experience, even if Sam the Smoking Gas Pumper makes you wonder what am I doing here.

Life is too short and there is so much to see and enjoy. Driving back to Aqaba the sun was setting and the light on the mountains makes you realize that we do really live on a beautiful planet.

Back to Amman after breakfast tomorrow awaiting word as to whether I am off to Syria and another adventure, just hope the breakfast is well shall we say hot or cold.

Post note , the breakfast was colder the next morning, well the hot food was colder and I note with humor that the guy behind the breakfast buffet, kept popping my toast out constantly, I suppose just in case it was getting hot.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

There is a little bit of Indiana in all of us

Finally after five years in the Middle East, I made it too Petra , one of the great wonders of the world, having seen the Pyramids of Giza, Taj Mahal , Khyber Pass to name just a few sights. I was truly blown away by Petra which was the first nominated place in the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Will post a more detailed blog about travels with Greta and the First lady, but as they say pictures sometimes say more than words so here here is four thousand words.