Oran – The Theatre

Former Opera House and now used for the occasional concert or play, the theatre is way too underused in my opinion. theatre outside

My students tell me that there’s only sparse information available on the schedule. So we were rather lucky because the friend of a friend was going to perform there with a famous Algerian singer, and we managed to get some tickets.

The interior is the same style as the exterior. It’s not exactly what I like in terms of architecture or design, but it’s being kept in good repair.

The singer we saw is Lila Borsali. She sings in Arabic, Amazight and French in a style called musique andalouse in French. Lots of influences from Spain to Turkey make this really fascinating – check out her youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/ekleila.

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WorldBookProject – Heute mal auf Deutsch

Ja, wirklich! (Regular reader, fear not. This is a one-off. Probably.)

In Oxfords eher unscheinbarem Vorort Headington gibt es vier reizende literaturbewanderte Damen, denen ich im August über einer Tasse Tee einen Blogpost auf Deutsch versprochen hatte. Daher der Sprachwechsel. Mein WeltBuchProjekt (ha, das macht auf Deutsch genauso viel oder wenig Sinn wie auf Englisch) lief in den letzten Wochen eher etwas ruhiger, da ich ja nach Algerien umgezogen bin. Nichtsdestotrotz hab ich es genossen, in die diversen Welten einzutauchen.

147 Germany: William Voltz – Der Terraner (Perry Rhodan Nr.1000)

Perry Rhodan ist ein Phänomen. Eine SciFi-Serie, die seit 1961 wöchentlich läuft, und der ich seit Sommer 1990 mal mehr, momentan eher weniger, regelmässig folge. Den Terraner hatte ich in den späten 90ern als ausgeborgten Heftroman (mit Originalautogramm) gelesen und geliebt, und brav zurückgegeben. Vor ein paar Wochen war der Roman im Sonderangebot als e-Buch erhältich, und … ist noch genauso komplex, humanistisch, fesselnd und gänsehauterzeugend wie vor 20 Jahren.

148 Latvia: Inga Ābele – The Horses of Atgazene Station

Vom Genre her war das Buch schwer einzuordnen, und demzufolge schon spannend. Prosa-poetische-Kurzgeschichtenaphorismenlyrik trifft es vermutlich am besten. Die Autorin reminisziert über ihre Kindheit, das Aufeinandertreffen von Generationen und Sichtweisen, und verliert sich dabei oft in Melancholie. Mir hat’s gefallen, aber es ist nix für schwermütige Wintertage.

149 Palestine: Ibrahim Muhawi and Sharif Kanaana – Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales

Ok, ich geb’s zu, ich mag Märchen. Nicht den rosa-getünchten Disney-Unfug, sondern von der Volksschnauze weg. So wie hier. Ich war überrascht, nicht wie brutal die Geschichten waren (das sind die Gebrüder Grimm auch), sondern wie derb der Umgangston war (ein Scheisserli ist da noch richtig nett). Sehr gut fand ich, dass der kulturelle Hintergrund und Kontext zu den Typen der Märchen gegeben wurde. Das Buch ist, auf Englisch, frei im Netz erhältlich.

Oran – National Museum Ahmed Zabana

It’s quite a title for a museum that has a vast area available to display its exhibits. Ahmed Zabana is of local and national importance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ahmed_Zabana). I think it’s his photo hanging in the entrance hall. entranceInside the museum, photography is not allowed. Hence there won’t be any pics of all the bones, stuffed animals (including a goat embryo with a double head), swords, painted landscapes, clothes or pottery. You see, the collection is holistic rather than specialised.

On the whole, I think the way the exhibits are presented leaves a lot to be desired. There’s a name, sometimes a year and place of origin. For animals, the Latin name of the species is given. Other than that, next to no context. So not as informative as it could be, and also a bit dull. Having said that, I realise that keeping such a vast and diverse collection must put an enormous strain on the curators even just in terms of day-to-day house keeping. And I also appreciate that all labels are in Arabic as well as French.

My favourite object was a 20th-century bamboo stick from New Caledonia. I guess that’s a reminder of French colonialism – how else would the stick have ended up in Oran? Anyway, it was beautifully and intricately carved with animals like cats and humans.

On the outside, the museum looks very different again. The murals seem to commemorate Algeria’s distant past during Numidian or Roman times. Judge for yourself:

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

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 cathédrale!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

WorldBookProject – Dipping into Corvids, History, and Art

The eagle-eyed among you might already have noticed that there’s a new feature on the blog: reading through the ages. Of course, WorldBookProject is still going on, but I’ve only just over 100 books / places left to read. Hence my idea of doing something really long-term once I’ve read all the territories on my list. For now, here are the books I’ve read for WBP in the second half of August.

144 First Nations: Joanne Arnott – the family of crow

Long-standing readers of this blog will be aware that I love birds, and corvids are a particular favourite of mine. So it’ll come as no surprise that I was happy to come across this neat collection of crow-related poems and art. It describes the life cycle of the birds in an artistic way and builds bridges that reach as far as Ancient China (http://www.chinese-poems.com/lb13.html). A gem.

145 Jordan: Suleiman Mousa – T.E. Lawrence: An Arab View

If you have a larger-than-life figure like Lawrence, it is really tricky to get through all the layers of legend (or lies) down to what might be called reality. The book did so when it came to all the battles and skirmishes (where Lawrence apparently managed to shoot his camel and knock himself unconscious). However, I still feel no connection to the person behind the sagas. But I do have the feeling that this book makes a better attempt to unravel the mystery than any try from Hollywood.

146 Qatar:  Sophia Al-Maria – Fresh Hell

Hm. Well. I don’t really know … This book was odd. Double pages where women spread their legs, followed by an artist explaining why this wasn’t pornography, were then followed by a poignant account of the horrors of the First Gulf War. Several of the essays and visual expressions connected the topic of oil, and the environmental and social disasters it brought with it. I’m not a very ‘arty’ person, but I agree that ‘survival is not sufficient‘ – and this book fits the bill.

 

Bath – Between the Romans, Art and Astronomy

Thanks to two lovely Scottish ladies I spent a wonderful day in Bath.  There’s so much to see and do that this was really just a taster. Foodwise, by the way, I can highly recommend Comptoir Libanais.

Bath is town full of art and a wide range of architecture. The most famous architectural style is Georgian, like the Circus. The city centre is a world heritage site.

Bath is also the only place in the UK with natural hot springs. It’s possible to go into one of the spas (which I didn’t), or to see how the old Romans did it (which I did). What I admired most at the baths in Bath, however, was a relic of Sulis Minerva, goddess of the hot springs.

My personal highlight was somewhat off the beaten track. Welcome to the Herschel house! Caroline and William Herschel were two astronomers who were famous for their telescopes with home-polished mirrors, and comet hunting. If you feel like walking in their footsteps, you can be a citizen scientist and help with one of the astronomy projects on the Zooniverse platform.