Where the women are forced to wear black and their presence is absent from the streets. Welcome to Oman, a country that lives indoors in air conditioned buildings and drives around in air conditioned cars. Welcome to Oman, an expensive country boasting the most incredible beaches yet desperately lacking in soul. Read what I really think of this strange country…
Last weekend six Copts were killed in Egypt in a drive-by shooting. This interview with a Copt was edited at the time this was happening…Despite Egypt’s current status as a Muslim country it actually hosted the oldest form of organised Christianity. They are called Coptics and make up between 10-15% of the Egyptian population. Hopefully further down the line I will get to chat more intimately with a Muslim and what their faith means to them but whilst in Egypt I was desperate to chat to a Coptic.
Eventually I pulled it off. I met a young Coptic woman in Luxor who was willing to chat and be recorded, a feat unto itself since most Egyptians are quite guarded when it comes to opinions. Despite taking a few minutes to open up and insisting that we change her name to Maria, the name of her daughter, this is a great insight. Furthermore we conducted our little chat aboard a horse and carriage, taking in the scenes of the backstreets of Luxor! This podcast is accompanied by a video clip of the carriage ride and coincidentally coincides with the recent drive-by killings of six Coptics.
After about 2 minutes he stood up and handed me a leaflet entitled “Throughout the rich history of Portugal, who is the most important discoverer?” As he resumed his crouching position to continue his rummaging I flicked through the leaflet, intrigued to find out who the most important discoverer was. Surely it was Prince Henry the Navigator? No. Was it Pedro Alvares Cabral? Nope. How about Vasco da Gama? No!
After my watch and a snooze I’m woken to the sight of our first Portuguese destination, Viana do Castelo, which looks dreary and drab. How wrong I was! This town was just completing the four day fiesta Romaria de Nossa Senhora d’Agonia, or Our Lady of Sorrows. If you didn’t know the festival was called this you could have guessed by the local folk music that was playing from every bandstand and stage. Whilst the instrumental music is great it’s unfortunately accompanied by banshee wailing. This is normal, so I’m told, but it sounds rubbish.
I was surprised that the majority of tourists in Santiago were Spanish. Santiago is one of Europe’s primary religious destinations, second only to The Vatican, yet we overheard no other language other than Spanish, save for an American couple arguing over whether they should go shopping or have a cup of coffee. That said, the streets are packed.
One thing that did occur to me was the level of involvement of the locals in these festivities. In the UK I think one would struggle to prize the youth from their car jacking and get them to dress up in frilly costumes and dance to bagpipe music, but here in the Galician area of Spain it seems the regional identity is embraced with a huge level of pride.
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