Expat Eyes

This blog contains the photographs, observations and reflections of Rena Diana, an educator and writer, during extended stays in the Arabian Gulf, China, and Mongolia.

The Middle East: My Favorite Things

IMG_1383Bedouins” 1905-6 -Opaque and Translucent Watercolor by John Singer Sargent Brooklyn Museum

“This cruel land can cast a spell.”

William Thesiger

From the moment I entered Dubai in the fall of 2007, and then  Doha two years later, I was intrigued by the Arabian Gulf.  It is a land of stark contrasts and enchantment.  Sages and Seers. Treasure and Terror.   Faith and Fantasy. Dazzle and Decay. Magic and Mirage. In addition to the wonderful people we have come to know, there is much here that I will remember fondly and images that will remain with me. Here are a few…


The Magic Carpet Rides:  Flying into and out of these two cities is a unique experience because they suddenly rise up out of nowhere,  surrounded by vast, rolling expanses of desert.  Every detail is visible.  The dunes, the oases, the Arabian Sea speckled with dhows. Palm Jumeirah looks like a lace doily. Estates of Sheikhs, primitive Bedouin compounds, and the gleaming needle tower Burj Khalifa.  The Museum of Islamic Art,  resembling a pile of blocks (See Post “An Exalted Space”,   4/23/2012   ), the Corniche,  Sheikha Mozah’s futuristic circular home,  the Zig Zag Towers.  Swooping down into a fantasy kingdom with Aladdin!

The  Proverbs:  Every culture has these, but the ones I collected here seem especially humorous and wise.  There are Mark Twains everywhere!

Don’t sleep between people who sit.

Avoid sitting with stingy people.

Don’t stamp your feet while walking.IMG_0840

Don’t be sad about your food.

Don’t look behind frequently when talking.

The answer to a fool is silence.

Only a blind man knows the weakness of the eyes.

Never give advice in a crowd.


Cardamom coffee poured into tiny cups from elegant long-spouted pitchers called dollas.
Mint Lemonade. Simply divine.
The fragrance of Spices in the Souqs.


MuscatOmanNov08 171         MuscatOmanNov08 144

The stunning calligraphy .IMG_1202IMG_1226
Arabesque designs.
The colorful decorative Tiles and Lanterns.
Prayer Beads
and dusty sandals.
and Abayas.
among the fronds of the palm-shaped island.
The dramatic skyline of Dubai and the sunset reflecting off Burj al Arab.

ShorelineAptViewsOct08 002

TriBeCa Film Festival in Doha.
Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai.

The Call to Prayer.

The emerging, vibrant voices of Young Artists, especially women.

The sense of Romance

“The subject tonight is love.
And for tomorrow night as well.
As a matter of fact, I know of no better topic
For us to discuss.”

Hafiz- c. 1320-1389

What more is there to say?           Next Post:  The Middle East- My Questions

“Bedouins” 1905-6- Opaque and Translucent Watercolor- John Singer Sargent   Brooklyn Museum


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2 thoughts on “The Middle East: My Favorite Things

  1. Anna Burns on said:

    Oh, Rena, how very poetic!!! Grand to read!!! Thanks for introducing me to the Middle East, and then having me immersed there with you — I will remember it as long as I live, and you are right, each time I wear the necklace, I think of you, of that day, of the sights, smells and feelings of a special place.

  2. Awesome. The images, the quotes, your observations. Many thanks!

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