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.



                                       “There are more animals than men, so they still have the world as God made it, and the men are the noble synthesis of Ghenghis Khan, the warrior, and the Dali Lama, the gentle religious leader.”

Zahava Hanan, Canadian Writer and Poet

From the glittering new cities of Dubai and Doha to the rugged outpost of Ulaanbaatar. From words cluttered with consonants to words filled with vowels. From stifling heat to frigid cold (40 degrees below 0 in the winter). From diamond bright skyscrapers to felt gers (yurts) and squat concrete buildings.  From a benevolent monarchy to a young democracy. The transition from the Arabian Gulf to Mongolia was dizzying.IMG_1683

IMG_1834There is only one narrow road,  filled with potholes, from the airport into the capital city of Ulaanbaatar as opposed to the eight-lane super highway into Dubai- clogged with an assortment of disorderly vehicles, some having steering wheels on the left and some on the right. Along the way are scattered humble  hovels and simple houses beside the ubiquitous tent homes called gers. (More on them in a later post.)

IMG_4399Present day Mongolia is like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar in 1970, when they were simple unknown fishing villages. The discovery of oil catapulted them into a frenzied spiral of growth and a presence on the global stage. The recent discovery of copper, coal and gold is having the same effect on Mongolia. So these countries share the mixed blessing of natural resources. Mongolia, however, is just beginning to face the challenges inherent in this dynamic.

As we settled into this intriguing place, we had to reorient ourselves, to shift from fast forward to rewind.

Mongolia is part California Gold Rush/ Wild Wild West, part Cold War 1950’s Soviet Union Sinister Blandness, and Part Buddhist, Pastoral Landscape, with flashes of wealth, sophistication and modernity.IMG_1671

I have developed the same level of respect for the proud Mongolians as I feel for the Emiratis and Qataris. They possess the same eagerness and determination. They aim to preserve their culture while adapting to the Third Millennium and the rest of the world’s sudden interest in them… I hope they can.



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  1. Dear Rena – so good to be reading your blogs again! As always they are interesting and the photos good! Nicki

  2. Susan Immelt on said:

    Hi Rena,

    I have been looking forward to learning something about Mongolia. Mountain Deities sounds intriguing.

    I am so glad to be getting Expat Eyes back on my mailbox.

    Love Susan

    Sent from my iPhone

  3. Harold Finkleman on said:

    As a friend of Zahava’s who has been searching to make contact with her for these past eight years, it was refreshing to find someone keeping her words and insights alive … especially someone with the obvious eloquence and depth that I see here.

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