One day I should sit down and count how many different countries I have spent Christmas in. I guess that it would be around twenty, including one, Saudi Arabia, where Christmas was actually illegal, and I was an outlaw Father Christmas wearing a contraband Santa Claus outfit borrowed from a Saudi princess. One of the best Christmas Days was in Kiev when the worst of times turned into the best of times, after my passport, credit cards, keys to my home etc, which had been stolen on a crowded metro, were returned to me. This made the blue and red Santas competing for business of any kind in the main square seem more appealing.
I once saw one of the guards at the eternal flame in Moldova being kissed and hugged by his girlfriend to keep him warm, while the other one stood to attention, but perhaps the strangest sight I ever saw was in South Korea where I saw a smoking Santa standing in front of a place called the F--k Club, watching a performing dog being warmed by a portable heater.
This Christmas was spent on a beach in Oman, with Swedish tourists, eating king prawns, mussels, roast turkey and an outstanding Christmas pudding cooked by an Indian chef, whilst watching Russian and Philippina entertainers.
Friday, December 25, 2009
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
The theme of this week's Corner View is evening. In hot countries like Oman, evening is definitely the best time of the day. I like to stroll along the beach, past the coconut palm trees and watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean, as flocks of gulls and terns fly by, occasionally diving into the sea for their last meal of the day.
There are none of the long drawn out summer evenings that you get in more temperate climes. Here you just get an hour or two between the intense heat of the afternoon and the black of night, so you have to make the most of them while they last, as sunset in the tropics isn't going to hang around for anyone. At the exact moment the sun drops below the horizon there is the ubiquitous call to prayer from the nearest minaret: 'Allahu akbar. Hayyia 'ala salah' (God is great. Come to prayer), and the local youths stop their games of football and drift towards the mosque, while the Swedish tourists, roll up their towels, pick up their paperbacks and suntan lotion, and head to the hotel bar, where I occasionally join them, as they make a mean Mai Tai in the Dolphin Beach bar.
See other corner views of evening in different parts of the world here: