The Al Wabah crater

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I went in a private taxi, to see a natural geographic formation that is located near my place of work in Al Muwayh. This place is called the Al Wabah (Maqla Tamia in Arabic). It is a volcanic crater located on the western edge of the Hafer Kishb basaltic plateau that contains many volcanic cones.

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A Visit to the Mahazat As-Said Wildlife Reserve

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Time to tell you about the mammals that we saw They include the famous Arabian Oryx, the Reem Gazelle and the Idni Gazelle. The Oryx is a long-horned animal that is feared for its ability to kill with its horns. However, within the reserve, it is remarkably docile as it has been trained to expect food and water at appointed times. At the time of writing this, there are more than 650 of these animals in the As-said reserve. According to Mr. Moayyed, the reserve is already full to above its capacity to hold these animals, and it only because of the controlled conditions that the animals are able to survive, thrive and breed over here.

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Field Trip to Ovalekar Wadi Butterfly Park, Thane, Maharashtra, India

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Rajendra Ovalekar recounted how he and his brother, assisted by other family members, decided to develop a butterfly park privately. They owned these 2 acres of land in Ovale village, and, as Rajendra reminisces, he was always awed by the colours and varieties of butterflies as a young adult. He decided that he would do something about this after his viewing of these beautiful fliers during some of the nature trips he undertook on behalf of the Bombay Natural History Society in the early 2000’s

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Mecca, the Holiest City of Saudi Arabia

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Mecca is and will always remain one of the most popular destinations for more than two billion people of the planet. I have attempted to demystify the city and open its heart so that they (the people) may understand a little of its piety and glory even if only by proxy.

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Jeddah: Discovering a mega-city

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Jeddah has cityscapes on a large scale. Not for this city the narrow crowded bylanes of Mumbai; here, every street is built on a grand scale. Most streets (barring streets in old Jeddah and inside residential areas) are at least 8-10 lanes in width, with broad footpaths. There are bridges and under-passes, service roads on the side, and so on, in addition to the main thoroughfare. During most visits, in spite of using Google Maps and Navigation, I ended up getting on to the wrong ramp, or driving past a turn or missing a U-turn and having to drive an extra 5-10 kms to get back to where I wished to go.

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Leighton Moss RSPB Nature Reserve, Silverdale, Cumbria, NW England

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I have been to this bird reserve again and again, as I mentioned earlier. On a subsequent visit, I also saw swifts, especially around dusk, when they are at their most active, since this is just before they return to their nests among the reeds on the far-side of the water bodies where they fly low, snapping up low-flying insects. I also had the fortune of seeing a bittern, making a booming sound as it waded among the reeds. Bitterns are not easy to spot as they camouflage very effectively.

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Trip to Riyadh: Sunday 12th May 2013 to Friday 17th May 2013 – III

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It was almost noon when I finished scouting the area. There was an Afghani restaurant here, so I decided to have my lunch here. They served me Alu Palak, and it was really delicious, so I ended up ordering some take-aways in the form of an extra plate of alu palak, and a plate of a chicken curry. I then went to meet Dr. Deepti Chauhan, a Mumbai-based Ophthalmologist who has recently come to Riyadh for a short 3-month assignment to work in the King Faisal Specialist Eye Hospital; we had been in touch by phone through a mutual friend, as she needed guidance on how to manage one’s life in Saudi Arabia, esp. as she would be travelling and staying here as a single woman.

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Trip to Riyadh: Sunday 12th May 2013 to Friday 17th May 2013 – II

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After asking around, I finally managed to find the entry to the lift that took people to the top floors of the building. There is a charge of SR 35 to go to the Sky bridge that connects the two arms of the top 20 storeys to each other. The Sky bridge is an attraction not many people miss when they visit Riyadh, and it offers glorious views of the entire city of Riyadh. I purchased one ticket. The journey is made in two lifts. The first lift (which has an interior that resembles a starry night) takes you to the 77th floor.

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Trip to Riyadh: Sunday 12th May 2013 to Friday 17th May 2013

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In the afternoon, I visited Herfy. I had a fish sandwich with a coke and a medium pack of French fries – all this for SR 17. The food, the decor and the service all resemble that of McDonald’s. The difference was that the portions were bigger, so my money basically gave me “more bang for the buck”. Taste-wise, it was delicious and similar to the same sandwich I usually have in Mumbai from McD.
In the evening, the Indian service staff at Mersal suites brought me a meal of roti, chicken tandoori, and pasta (which I set aside in the room refrigerator for breakfast on the next day).

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Journey to Riyadh – An overview

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It was a delight to pass sand-eroded hills, empty roads, beautiful desert landscapes and so on. At the same time, it got lonely at times, and one actually yearned for good music or company while doing such a long journey.
It was about half past one when I saw the emerging suburbs of Riyadh (Fig 9), and then, I was past them and into the heart of the city. Asking around, I managed to locate the way to the venue of the university. It seemed like a prudent thing to do, so that I would be able to decide where to take a room in a hotel. The condition would be that it should be near enough to the University.

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Hajj: The Final Installment – What it means to be a Haji

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To have performed Hajj in such unusual circumstances also means that I would be able to advise others on how to go about performing Hajj in this manner. Only Allah can tell whether this can be construed as a good thing or not. The good thing is that I can definitely advise people to spend more and  go with a comfortable agency, whichever it may be, and preferably legally cleared with the Saudi authorities; to perform Hajj “legally” means not having to suffer as my friends and I did. It means that one gets proper accommodation at Arafah, Muzdalifah and Mina. It means not having to worry about whether eating food properly may increase one’s desire to visit the toilet, especially because they are neither clean, nor easily accessible, esp. at Arafah and Muzdalifah. It means that once one lands at Mina, one can stay there for the next three days to pray and visit the Jamarat whenever one wants to without actually having to walk up and down from Makkah and to it multiple numbers of times. It means that one is not inconvenienced by having to squat on roads at Mina and being told by the police to get up and go elsewhere every single evening/night.

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Makkah – Performing the Hajj pilgrimage – 4

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Tonight, though, the crowds were huge, and we had to really hunt for a good place in which to relax. Our successful location of a nice spot turned out to be a not-so-nice one after all as a police van landed within 15 minutes and started blowing all the on-board horns and sirens. In tandem with them, foot-soldiers began to ask everyone to get up and take themselves elsewhere. We got up, moved a little way off, and waited for the police car and the troops to move before returning to the spot where we had lain a few minutes earlier. This kind of ritual was repeated once, but we managed to remain at the same spot for a few more sessions of prayer. In between, a Saudi guy came and handed over a pizza pack to Dr. Naheed. We all partook some of the pizza and found it hot and fresh. I also visited the Al Baik outlet (to buy some chicken) , but returned as the queues were very, very long.

At about half past two, we left Mina and returned to our hotel in Makkah.

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