Dinosaur of the week: Green bee-eater

This is a Merops orientalis (probably subspecies muscatensis) which I saw in Oman some years ago. Back then, I had a compact camera, and this photo was taken with a 93mm zoom. Bee-eaters actually eat a variety of insects, not only bees.

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Oran – The Train Station

Today, our excursion led us to (among other sights) the train station. Given that Oran is Algeria’s second largest city, I was surprised how tiny the station actually is. The lack in size, however, is made up for by its beauty and charm.

Notice the differently coloured digits on the clock face. I think the hours indicate prayer times.

Next to the station, there’s a small restaurant, and everything is kept spotless.

We also ventured inside, and I had the feeling that for some of the travellers we were as much a sight as the architecture was for us. I liked the bilingual timetable and also the old photos of other Algerian train stations on the wall. And the rail network has some ambitious plans for the future!

Because we didn’t have tickets we couldn’t actually see the platforms, but sneaking a glance through the open door showed some well-labelled platforms and another waiting area. Everybody was quite relaxed and seemed rather calm, no running to catch a train, no PA-noise, next to no security guards. Very amiable.

What I particularly liked was the ceiling. And now of course I’m really keen to get on a train to go south, to the mountains, and into the Sahara.ceiling railway station

Dinosaur of the week: Ruddy Shelduck

Tadorna ferruginea is a rather special bird. In Buddhism, it’s sacred. The species is also nocturnal.

I saw this specimen at the Farmoor reservoir near Oxford – that’s really unusual. It’s quite likely the bird has gone feral, because the main area ranges from south-east Europe to Asia. The European population is in decline, mainly because of hunting.

Oran – The Library

Slowly, but bit by bit, we’re getting to know more of our new home. Today, we had the vague plan to spend the day excursing. We ended up figuring out how to use the local tram, and bought an enormous scratching post for our felines. However, we also managed to visit the library. Actually, according to my guidebook, The City Library.

Waving down a taxi was easy, but telling the driver in my limited French we wanted to go to La bibliotheque (not la librairie – that’d be bookshop) was a wee bit trickier. He understood the words, but didn’t seem to know the place. So I resorted to pointing to the picture in my guidebook: oui, la cath√©drale!entranceThe building used to be a cathedral, and it’s actually also not that old. So we got there, and then we were a bit uncertain if we’d be allowed to sneak a view and maybe a photo of the interior. No problem at all!

As you can see, it is a bit different. Although it was very unlike what I had imagined, after a few minutes in there I could see the charming side of the place. Some people were reading, some had a look around like us, some were just chatting and having a good time.

The books were an extremely intriguing and eclectic collection. Mr Feynman’s collected lectures on quantum physics were totally unexpected, especially with the low-tech filing system at hand.

I felt it was half an hour well-spent. This library (I don’t know if there are others) is quite out-of-the-way for us, but if I lived anywhere close by, I’d visit there regularly. And for those among you who can read Arabic, here’s a bit more information.history

Oran – Construction

In my last post about Oran (https://spockisworld.wordpress.com/2017/09/07/oran-on-the-edge/) I mentioned the ubiquitous plastic rubbish and how nobody seems to care. I stand corrected, at least regarding the latter thoughts. Last weekend I saw quite a crowd of people gathering in the forest near our home. What I thought was a running event turned out to be the local version of a beach clean! So, yes, lots of rubbish, in particular way too much plastic, but people notice and act.

Oran is also a place where lots of construction is taking place. My colleague told me that many of these sites are in Chinese hands. That’s not exactly a cause for happiness among Algerians, because jobs on those sites also go to Chinese workers.¬† The park within this particular construction area seems to be a favourite spot among young people, especially couples.

From the same spot, but looking west one can see the building where my school is in – the complex with the green dome, half-hidden behind the three buildings-to-be. Then you

get just an idea of the port, and beyond that is the target for a weekend excursion: a hill with an Ottoman fortress on top. Stay tuned!