July 30, 2008

Free Press...
Due to the Olympic Games, China has promised that reporters would have free access to the internet. They've promised this for several years, and made the promise again only a few days before the Olympics start.
Never mind though, they still block internet access for reporters to scary sites like Amnesty International, Reporters Without Borders, dissidents, human rights, and pro-T1bet@n groups. Part of this is explained in that the officials are just following Chinese law forbidding access to such sites.
Reuters video (in English)
Read the full story (in French)
And also here (in French)

July 25, 2008

Bonnie Scotland...
It's been a while since I've updated my blog, but a lot has happened since I left Paris. I travelled to Glasgow/Prestwick with my family. We rented a car to drive around, since it was cheaper than taking trains/buses for four people. The first adventure was my Dad driving on the other side of the road (KEEP LEFT!!!!). We visited many relatives -some we'd seen recently, some a long time ago, and others we'd never met- all over Scotland. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, and we were all stuffed full of tea, cakes, and cookies. Not even mentioning all the amazing meals we had.
Instead of trying to write about the past two weeks, I thought I'd show them briefly in a few photos.
A view of Edinburgh

Stirling Castle

Loch Ness

Whisky distillery

Family pub/music night

Eilean Donan Castle


Gaelic/English sign in Uig
Isle of Lewis

Isle of Lewis

Isle of Lewis

Calanais standing stones (older than Stonehenge)
Stornaway harbour

Scottish thistle

July 03, 2008

A-Ssalaam âlikum fi Mrkesh. I'd love to be able to write this post in Arabic, but clearly 3 weeks of language classes just isn't enough to become fluent in a language! I spent only 3 nights in Marrakesh, just off the Jmaâ el Fna which is the main square in Marrakesh. The 'in the shade' temperature was around 43C (109F), and in the sun it was closer to 48C (119F). Needless to say there was a lot of sweating, and even after drinking 3.5L of water and juice a day I was still thirsty.
Marrakesh is one of the main cities in Morocco, and also the most touristed. It's clear from all the hassle given to the tourists in the souqs and main areas that people in Marrakesh are used to ('stupid') tourists. I must admit that I was able to pick out the new arrivals by the fact that 1)despite the 48C heat they continued to walk in the middle of the road instead of in the shade (where it was only 43C) and 2)the gawking that was done when a donkey would go by carrying a big load of some product. Not to say that I didn't stand out as a tourist having light skin.
I'd been in Morocco for long enough that I was able to enjoy the cheap food at night, and the $0.30 orange juice served in the main square. I think I probably would've gotten very sick otherwise. The main square, the Jmaâ el Fna, is a hive of activity especially when the sun starts to go down, probably because it's just too hot to do anything while the sun is out. The square is full of orange juice sellers (drink with caution if you're new to Morocco), date sellers, food stalls that sell everything from tajine to harira soup to goat brain, snake charmers, musicians of all types, fortune tellers, magicians, Tuareg traders from the Sub-Sahara selling all sorts of eggs, skins, and traditional medicine, monkeys, Gnaoua musicians/dancers, story tellers, henna painters, and even a man who pulls teeth! It really is a site to behold, and continues until people leave, sometimes as late as 4AM. UNESCO has even declared the site and "Intangible Heritage Site".
Marrakesh really is a fascinating city, and I can see why it's so popular for tourists. It has the 'exotic' Orient feel, but also the Western comforts if that's what one is looking for. I'll be back to Marrakesh, and to see more of Morocco, Insha'allah.

July 02, 2008

A Paris...
C'est encore la Semaine de langue (Language Week), quand on devrait essayer de blogger dans une langue autre que d`habitude. Alors, comme je suis à Paris encore une fois, je vais blogger un peu en français.
Après mon voyage au Maroc, je suis venu à Paris (très tard, alors j'ai passé la nuit au sol de l'aéroport) rendre visite à ma soeur. Je suis à Paris pendant trois ou quatres jours, avant d'aller en Ecosse avec toute la famille.