Thursday, December 18, 2008


Life on Socotra Island is unsurpassed in its solitary exquisiteness

Socotra is one of the most isolated landforms on earth. The island can easily be considered alien because of its extraordinary species of flora and fauna, which is found nowhere else on earth. The fierce seas of the Indian Ocean has kept this island hidden from mankind for most of the 20th century. Belonging to the Republic of Yemen, it is one of the small islands off the coast of the 'Horn of Africa'. The harsh, desert-like island is a habitat for a range of phenomenal plants.

Shaped like a giant mushroom, the Dragon’s Blood tree spreads out into the sky. It is believed that the tree is a valuable source for varnishes, dyes and all-purpose medicine. The Desert Rose which is simply described as a ‘blossoming elephant leg’ is also unique to the island. Despite the Desert Rose’ odd appearance, what makes it even more unique is that it apparently does not rely on soil to flourish. It’s powerful roots grows straight into rock.

Also found in Socotra's ever-strange landscape is the extremely rare Cucumber and Fig trees. The Cucumber tree, true to it’s name, looks like...well...a blooming cucumber. The Fig tree has a swolen trunk that retains water.

This island is also home to 140 various species of birds, 10 of which are also found nowhere else on earth, these species include the Socotra warbler, Sunbird, Starling, Bunting, Sparrow and Cisticola.

You can forget about beachfront hotels and restaurants; this island is geared towards eco-tourism and sustaining the local economy and way of life. Yhe Yemeni government put in the first roads just two years ago - after negotiations with UNESCO, which has declared this island a World Natural Heritage Site.

The Dragon Blood Tree

The Desert Rose in bloom

The roots of the Desert Rose sinks right into rocks

The Cucumber Tree

The Fig Tree

Wednesday, December 17, 2008


The inconceivable beauty of Yemeni architecture

The land of Yemen is one of the oldest centers of civilization in the world and has some of the most enchanting ancient architecture in the Arab world. You will see a town on every hilltop or big rock. These towns where built for protection against enemies. It is mind-boggling how they managed to build these complicated structures.

Sana'a, the capital of the Republic of Yemen, is an ancient walled city of 6,500 houses and more than 100 mosques, and is a living museum of traditional styles. Sana'a reflects every aspect of the uniqueness of this mysterious country; beautiful decorated fortified houses, sumptuous palaces, bustling markets and friendly inhabitants. Sana’a also boasts with the recently-completed Saleh Mosque, built in the traditional Yemeni way that is a beautiful new addition to the capital.

Linda Shen

View of Sana'a from the Arabia Felix Hotel

Old Sana'a is full of ornate traditional architecture

Part of Old Town Sana'a along the Sa'ila, illuminated at night

The Arabia Felix Hotel

The Saleh Mosque is the largest Mosque in all of Yemen and cost $60 million to built. The mosque was inaugurated on Friday, 21 November 2008, despite the uproar caused by the impoverished citizens about it's extortionating pricetag. The house of worship is surrounded by sprawling gardens and has space for 40,000 followers.

The mosque's design follows a unique Yemeni style of architecture, with wooden roofs and 15 wooden doors, each 75 feet high and carved with copper patterns. Inside, a large crystal chandelier lights up the main prayer area. The mosque has three floors, with libraries and 25 classrooms.

Haider Nakash

Haider Nakash


Interior of the Saleh Mosque

I am most facinated by the fortress-like city of Al Hajjarah, a small mountain village near Manakha, southwest of Sana'a. The 2000-metre high village of Al Hajjarah (means 'the stony one'), tower like houses (to accommodate extended families) were built close together on a steep rock face to form a closed wall of protection. There is only one single narrow entrance to the village, which is closed off by a heavy wooden door. There are up to five storey high houses in Al Hajjarah that are superimposed on the uneven rock surface, a bold accomplishment by Yemeni master-builders.

Brian McMorrow

Brian McMorrow

Brian McMorrow

Brian McMorrow

Brian McMorrow

Tourist Hotel and Restaurant

Arial view

Yemen is slowly becoming known as the 'undiscovered pearl of the Peninsula' by travelers in the know. Although the country is gradually modernizing, you'll still find all the goodness of old-style Arabia

Thursday, December 11, 2008


Underwater building boom!

If you think subway cars are only useful as long as they get you to your destination, think again. Hundreds of New York’s retired subway cars are being sent to the bottom of the sea, with a mission in mind.

Redbird Reef (named after NY's red subway cars) off the coast of Delaware, boasts a artificial reef created from the wrecked subway cars. They are helping to transform a infertile part of the ocean into a lavish haven for a multitude of marine life. The walls are covered in sea grasses, blue mussels and sponges. Tuna, mackerel and sea bass use the reef as a fertile hunting ground as well as a home.

To date, almost 700 subway cars contributed in creating this underwater building boom.

Subway studios

Monday, November 24, 2008


Geneva - A new ceiling artwork that was meant to inspire dialogue, human rights and global solidarity was unveiled Tuesday at the United Nation's Geneva offices.

Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo unveiled his lavish, $23 million ceiling painting at the
United Nation's Geneva offices on Tuesday– a project that has evoked controversy over its hefty price tag. In a ceremony with Spain's King Juan Carlos and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Barcelo gave the world its first glimpse of the 16,000-square-foot (1,500-square-meter) elliptical dome full of bright colors and torn aluminum. The most striking element may be the hundreds of small icicle-shaped pieces that dangle down from the ceiling.

The 50-year-old abstract artist used more than 100 tons of paint with pigments from all over the world. The ceiling took over a year to produce, and Barcelo worked with architects, engineers and even particle physics laboratories to develop the extra-strength aluminum for the dome.

Miguel Zugaza, the director of the Museo del Prado, defined the artwork as "Barcelo’s most important and the best public art project made by Spain in several decades.”
The artwork drips off the ceiling like stalactites in a cave and is surrounded by patterns meant to symbolize the sea. The multicoloured work, with strong green-blue tones and bright splashes of red and orange, tries to promote human rights, cooperation and dialogue, Barcelo said.

Barcelo was praised for using innovative techniques and original mixes of materials to create the cave and sea-like feel of the new ceiling. However, some critics questioned the high cost of the project.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


Where Superman lives...

Mexico's Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) is buried a thousand feet (300 meters) below Naica Mountain in the Chihuahuan Desert. The cave was discovered by two miners excavating a new tunnel for the Industrias PeƱoles company in 2000.

The cave contains some of the largest natural crystals ever found; translucent gypsum beams measuring up to 36 feet (11 meters) long and weighing up to 55 tons.

Reports stated that for millennia the crystals thrived in the cave's extremely rare and stable natural environment. Temperatures hovered consistently around a steamy 58 degrees Celsius, and the cave was filled with mineral-rich water that influenced the crystals' growth. At this temperature the mineral anhydrite, which was abundant in the water, dissolved into gypsum, a soft mineral that can take the form of the crystals.

Modern-day mining operations exposed the natural wonder by pumping water out of the 10-by-30-meter cave.
The mining companies is now advised to preserve the caves.
Geological researchers go in prepared, wearing suits in order to protect themselves against the inhospitality of the caves. They plan to condition the caves and get them ready for public visitation. This has to be done without interfering with the natural conditions that keep the crystals in their best shape and help them grow.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Only a few caverns in the world approach the magnificent and astonishing wealth to the extent of the Jeita Grotto in Lebanon. Raindrops of more than a thousands years have worked a magic wonder in the limestone of the Mount Lebanon range.

In these caves and galleries, known to man since Paleolithic times, the action of water has created cathedral-like vaults beneath the hills of Mount Lebanon, forming one of the world's most beautiful and astonishing caverns found 20 km north of Beirut.

The caves wa discovered in 1863 by an American hunter, and first opened to the public in 1958. The Jeita Grotto soon became internationally known for the spectacular formations of stalactites and stalagmites, stone curtains and columns. The caves have attracted some 10,000 visitors a week since the site was reopened to the public in July 1995.

The caverns is on two levels: the lower caverns is visited by boat over a subterranean lake that is 623 meters long, while the dry upper gallery can be seen on foot. The lower section is sometimes closed in winter when the water level is high, but the extensive upper galleries are open all the time.

Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river, which is the principal source of the Dog River.
The cave is more than 9000 meters in length and 108 meters in height from the ceiling to the water level.