Spring in London

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Photographer: Lamya Alfaify | Model: Duha Ali

I have always wanted to take a picture like this.

But then again I have wanted, for the longest time, to experience spring in Japan (mostly in cities like Tokyo, Kyoto or Osaka) but have encountered the beautiful season here, in London.

The picturesque cherry blossom trees attract young photographers or any passer-by, similarly to the way it attracts bees. However, they are not easy to find. I had to walk for an hour in Hyde Park to find one. My love for cherry blossom trees is eternal. I succeeded in finding more than one, surprisingly. White and pink cherry blossom trees were all around the park if you know where to look. They are scattered in different places and only the lucky ones get to picture them. As the flowers tend to fall pretty quickly. In full bloom, the trees are simply hard to miss. If you are not a fan of Hyde Park, Holland Park is the best option for you. The park has beautiful forest like views, colourful plants and shrubs, neatly chopped wood on the ground, which I am sure is for decorative purposes only and peacocks. Yes, you read that right. And no, you are not allowed to feed them.

“Contained within the park is the beautiful Kyoto Garden; a Japanese garden donated by the Chamber of Commerce of Kyoto in 1991.”  The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea

The parks are filled with people. Some would have a picnic with family and friends, others would ride their bikes. Older people will be sitting on benches, reading or otherwise staring at the lake in front of them. You will see more of the active groups – doing what they love; skating, running or yoga. Others just simply like to have a walk and enjoy the warm breeze. Like my friend and I. We tried jogging just for the fun of it and oh boy! that was embarrassingly awful! We had to stop every half a minute! We were so bad at it.

I would normally get a cup of coffee and a chocolate brownie and walk with my friend till sunset. We try our best not to let time pass without us making memories. We would take lots of photos and videos. Funny or serious. We would remember every single moment spent that day. The parks of London have joined many people together, from long-lost friendships to loved ones. I would find markings on trees and benches of initials and a heart symbol and be inquisitive about their story. How many have passed by and left a mark on wooden canvases just to be remembered? It triggers curiosity and makes myself and people wonder.

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History of Art

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Museum of Islamic Art, Doha

Since I was a child, I wasn’t really interested in our culture, traditions and customs. I’ve been going to an English school my whole life and did not take Arabic or Islamic classes. I lived like a foreigner in my own country. I remember when I used to shop and ask for a specific item, the saleslady would stare at me and asked if I was Qatari. I would reply: “Yes I am” with a smile on my face seeing her astonished expression.

In 2008 a museum opened here in Doha. It’s all about Islamic architecture. It was the first in the Middle East and contains many spectacular Islamic arts. The museum also has a library and many restaurants. It is located on the edge of Doha harbour. The man who designed it took about six months to travel and learn about the Muslim world.

The entrance is beautiful, with all the palm trees on your right and left-hand side with winds blowing through them. And let’s not forget the water fountain, hearing the sound of little drops splash into the water and rise again. You walk up ahead and turn to your left and see these high buildings that weren’t there years ago, this gives me the feeling of pride.

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The interior is amazingly designed with Islamic patterns, and when I got to the third floor and look down there’s this wonderful view of the whole building from inside. The way I.M. Pei designed the steps is rather intriguing. My personal favourite was the ceiling! When I stood near the steps and looked up, I was awestruck.

The works on display were stunning indeed. I loved the warm lighting and feel of the room. The collection of objects really suited the theme of the museum. In our religion, the colour green is the colour of heaven. I saw two masterful pieces, the green dagger and the green necklace. The handle of the dagger was made beautifully with olive green marble, covered with tiny flowers which had ruby stones. The dagger looked very sharp and had a green cover. The start and end of the cover were gold with beautiful details. As for the necklace, it was truly amazing, made out of gold with white pearls all around it, and then came dangling stones which looked like transparent marbles but with a touch of green. There was another set of dangling marbles which were medium forest green and had little bubbles in them. The marble in the middle was a little lighter in colour than the other, but seeing it as a whole makes you want to own one.

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Overall, I really liked what I saw. The museum was pretty neat and clean. The setting and the way the objects were placed caught my attention the most. Every time you enter a room there is a different smell and feeling. It’s a lovely place to visit; I would totally recommend it to newcomers.

More information here.

Radio – the good, the bad and the surprise!

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Whoa! I never thought I’d enjoy Audio classes as much as I did this one.

As I missed the first lesson on Audio, I was quite terrified. I just couldn’t wake up that Tuesday morning! And I knew that’s when they introduce us to the subject, equipment and programmes we were going to use for the assessments. I was like a lost puppy. But at the end, I figured things out – thanks to my colleagues.

How I felt about it?

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It was something quite enjoyable and new to me. I learned that Radio is not only about ‘talking’ behind a mic, or ‘just reading’ something of a paper and it’s definitely not something easy. Reading the news, keeping up with it and evaluating what other journalists wrote was something I really took pleasure in.

The good?

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One Tuesday, I was so exhausted I couldn’t even bother showing up to class. I forced myself because of my attendance. To my surprise, it was the day where we were put into groups and had to talk about six news stories. In my head I was thinking “no way – this is not happening…” We, however, did not get to choose our own groups, they were chosen for us by our professor. Thankfully, I knew two of the students who were with me – and the other two were a joy to work with, honestly. Even though we never shared a conversation, it was easy, unchallenging (which was another surprise to me) and we managed to finish our news bulletin without any problems. I have gotten many compliments on my voice since I started Audio. People said it was calming to listen to – that put a smile on my face. Many people are not fond of listening to their own voice, and I for one would cringe. For our final assessment, we had to do a feature. I was literally freaking out when I read the slides. I thought I would not come up with good ideas, or I’d be lacking in the creativity department. But, my idea just came to me while I was laying in bed, really. From there I thought of how I could make it interesting and just came up with this speculation that if I go with something that intrigued me I’m sure I’ll be able to grab the listeners attention. From that, I added my personal experience to give it more meaning.

The bad?

giphy-214The class was such a delight, I only faced two challenges. My pronunciation of some words and Adobe Audition. As I mentioned earlier, I did not attend the first Audio lesson, and I’m pretty sure that’s when they taught the class the basics of how to use the program. When I first launched the application, I was so lost. I did not have a single clue of what to do. I asked my friends for help and later got the hang of it. I managed to edit two of my audio’s alone. To me, that was an accomplishment! I very much enjoyed this class, nonetheless, I need to work on my speech. How to add emphasis on certain words and make them more dramatic when needed. Also, talk a little louder. I have tried many times but failed as if this is the maximum my voice can go. But I do get many people saying that they find my voice relaxing, so I guess that’s one advantage to it.

Foreigner’s impact on local communities

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Foreigners are everywhere these days. Some come as tourists and others stay for a while. By coming to your country, they bring a little of their ways with them. And you ask yourself if what they are doing is right due to what you believe in. So the question is: “Do foreigners influence local communities?”

Some might agree and some might not, it all depends on how they were raised. In Qatar, for example, some families are very strict on how their children grow up to be. From day one they plan the child’s future. The parents also choose one of their relatives to be their future life partner. This is also known as ‘arranged marriage’. Hearing such stories makes one feel sorry for them. However, many other families do not pay any attention to their children. This leads teenagers to think that they are old enough to do what pleases them and that they can handle anything that comes their way. Teenagers get these influences from what they see around them and from social media platforms. This is where the foreigner’s impact comes in.

A few days ago I interviewed a lovely housewife, Angel Carvalho. She is a mother of two and is currently working to make money for her daughter’s wedding. I asked her “how did foreigners effect your country?” which is India. She replied straight away with a smile on her face: “Business people from all over the world had brought wealth to this country.” Indians are known to be the best at information technology. She added that foreign students visit India to study and learn about its culture and old history. India was ruled by Britain back then. “I have seen foreign students run around with their notebooks all over the place” Carvalho said. They explore ancient buildings and write about what was once there and how it ended up being like this today. It was interesting to know that foreigners, so many of them come to learn about the country’s traditional dances, arts and how Indians use herbs as medicine. The native word for that is “Ayurveda.” Making medicine and learning natural massage techniques and yoga is the main reason why many foreigners visit this country. Let’s not forget about India’s beautiful nature which fills the heart with awe. “There are many lakes, rivers, mountains and greenery that will make you feel as if you are in heaven” she said. Carvalho did not mention anything about how foreigners effect the local community. She said that Indians stick to their culture, traditions and beliefs. Carvalho ended the interview by saying “anyone who follows people such as these is not considered as family.”

Some may say it is the parents’ fault but I say otherwise. If a child wants to do something, nothing can get in their way. They make and plan their own lives as they grow. I know from self-experience.

Dragged like a rag doll!

Newspaper Review on the 11th of April 2017.

Video footage of a man being hauled off a plane have grasped the attention of many. The newspapers today have shed their opinion regarding this matter.

 

This horrifying incident received hate from all over social media, especially Twitter.

Children were heard crying in distress as the three officers manhandled the man out of his seat. He later returned to the flight in a traumatised manner, chanting “I need to go home” repeatedly.

Here are additional links to the story from different news platforms: BBC, The Telegraph, Daily Mail, Independent, The Guardian and Metro.

Time travel and regrets

Wouldn’t you want to go back and say a certain something to a certain someone? Missing that one chance of expressing a feeling, or cancelling plans with people who meant the world to you, will eat you up slowly. People call this ‘regret’, but it’s actually more than that.

If you want to know what I regret the most, listen below. I also gave the Natural History Museum a visit to see what people there had to say.

(Music credit)

Independent Survey.

In 2011 a large, national survey was conducted on Americans across all age groups that looked at this matter. The paper was called Regrets of the Typical American published by Roese and Morrison in Social Psychological and Personality Science. [ link ]
The main finding, outlined by Vaughan Bell on the Mind Tips and Hacks blog: [ link ]

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Please remove the what if’s and the could have been’s, they only make things worse. You can make things better, and you will.

Happify, a website made purely to help people build skills for happiness using science-based activities and games, constructed an infographic that shows common regrets, as well as tips for reducing and moving past them.

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Here comes that feeling again!

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Photography: Duha Ali
Check out the Layout Design.

It has been four months since I last visited. I miss the scent of agarwood burning around the house. I miss the smell of our backyard and the loud cackling noises our chickens make at first light. I miss the naughtiness of my youngest niece. When she jokingly covers my eyes with her little hands and I pretend I don’t know who it is. I guess her sister’s name and she laughs in a silly manner. I miss her crooked teeth that frame her innocent smile and the smell of her long curly hair. I cannot hide that she is my favourite, it shows from the way I spoil her with gifts and secretly give her chocolate when her mother repeatedly says “no”. I miss the warmth of my own bed. I miss home.

It is the 10th of December and I am finally coming home for winter break. During winter, our family usually has a routine to follow. As we reach the end of November and the weather is bearable, we clean up our patio and open up our tent in the backyard, bring out our Mediterranean furniture and place them in an L-shaped position facing the tent. An option for guests who prefer an airy seating area. The Middle East is known for its extreme heat in the summer, especially in the Gulf states. However, in Qatar what a joy it is when winter comes along. The cold wind will penetrate your bones and yet, you enjoy every moment.

As the sun sets, my family and I prepare for the Maghrib prayer (the fourth of the five formal prayers after sunset performed by Muslims). We have a separate quiet room for prayer, lined with a wine-red carpet. My four sisters would wear their prayer garments (a long dress that covers the woman from head to toe), sit on the floor and whisper a prayer or two. My mother and I would set a small table with water and dates then join them. The room is very quiet, you would hear nothing but faint whispers. I miss this beautiful feeling of peace and tranquillity. After prayer, I would rush out in a hurry to get changed and prepare the tent for guests. Arab families have guests almost every day. This is just how it is here. Each of the sisters will be given a job to do. One will be in charge of dessert, one will take care of dinner, one has to make sure the drinks are fresh and ready, another will make sure the tent is clean and presentable. This is my job. Even though the weather has cooled it is still a bit dusty.

The guests arrive at 7:20 pm exactly. I remember this because I got a text the exact moment one of the guests came to greet me. There were about five guests, all sitting outside the tent. Two of them came with children, and one bought a tray with different types of sandwiches. All handmade from the looks of it. Many would buy them ready-made, but she enjoys cooking. There is something about the smell of food made with love. It is fresh, the bread looks warm as newly baked bread and the smell does not feel stale. I walked across the patio and left the tray on one of the tables. I catch a glimpse of my cat’s tail from behind. I wanted to go and pat her but then realise she would disturb the guests.

Arabs are loud. Every Arab family will agree to this unpleasant fact. Everyone is talking about a different topic, but each one has a particular thing in common; a smile on their face. Laughter fills the air and their voices echoing with the wind is what I miss the most. I hear my mother shout out “bring the tea Maryam” or “pour her some more coffee” and she continues her political conversation about what’s happening in Aleppo. I remember reading tweets about it but did not give it any thought at that moment. I wanted to enjoy the company. As the weather got colder we brought out the wood burning fire pit. Placed it in the centre and sat around it. The fire pit table was about 33 inches in width and nearly 18 inches in height. I love the smell of wood burning and the warm feeling I get when I am close to it. The rich oaky smell and how wisps of silver smoke dance their way through the air. I looked to the other side and saw my mother, and how the light and shadows painted her face. I thought to myself, how happy and lucky I am for me to see such sight. As one will always miss their mother, no matter how old they have become. Being apart from her those few months made me realise how much love I had for her and no matter how much I think I’ve grown, I will always need her.

We continue to chat as time passes by. It’s 8:45 pm and dinner is served on a large dining table. The food looks fresh and smells wonderful. A smell alone can take you places and let you remember moments you think you have forgotten. We sat around the table, passing plates here and there for all to enjoy the deliciously cooked, mouth-watering meal. After dinner, we all returned back to the tent. My sisters, two of the guests and I decided to play a game of cards. We all got our tea ready and sat in a circle. My sister mixed the cards as I was sipping some of my tea. Overlapping voices filled the tent, people smiling, some shouting and one child was crying because he wanted ice-cream. His mother refused because of the cold weather. He insisted, but then she ignored and went to finished her conversation with my older sister.

It was time for them to leave now, 10:45 pm. That is not considered late for Arabs. Some stay passed midnight. We kissed each other on the cheeks and said our goodbyes. I stuck my tongue out at one of the children and she laughed while her mother pulled her by the arm. It was getting quiet. My mother left the tent and went inside the house. Before she neared the stairs, she shouted: “Duha don’t forget to turn off all the lights!” As she knows I am the only one capable of doing so. The rest forget or simply do not care. The voices in the air slowly started to disappear and it was dead silent. I looked over to the chair next to the fire pit and saw my cat. I walked up to her, happy to see her. I bend down and stroke her head. I miss her. I sat outside for a while and then went into the house. My sisters have all gone upstairs and of course, none of then turned off the lights. I headed to the kitchen to check if there was any dessert left, sadly it was all devoured. I turned off the lights and headed to my room with a glass of hot milk. I read 30 pages of my favourite book “And the mountains echoed” by Khaled Hosseini and lay there in bed thinking of how much I am going to miss this when I leave again.