Merry Christmas

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These little Santa’s are carted to school in cycle rickshaws to celebrate Christmas in Northern India. Christmas is widely celebrated across the nation cutting across religion and culture. The festival also marks the beginning of the annual winter vacation, particularly in the freezing North, which lasts until the middle of January.







Jinglytruck. It’s a truck. It jingles.

JINGLYTRUCK is a brightly coloured Afghan truck – often decorated with chains and bells that make them jingle as they drive along.

Source: BBCNews

When you think of cowboys…

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You think of USA, maybe Argentina and the gauchos…

But Hungary?

The Great Hungarian Plain


For more than 2,000 years, the Great Hungarian Plain (known as the Alföld in Hungarian) has been home to a rich cultural tradition of pastoral living and animal husbandry techniques – from ancient nomadic tribes who left behind stone burial mounds known as kurgans, to the fierce Magyar warriors who arrived in the late 9th Century and founded a network of settlements along the Tisza River. The plain covers 52,000sqkm in eastern and southern Hungary alone, encompassing 56% of the country. But its full area measures nearly twice that amount, including parts of Romania, Serbia and Croatia. (De Agostini/Getty)

Souce: BBCNews See more

Harar: The city of beer and mosques

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Ethiopia’s historic city of Harar is one of Islam’s holiest centres – but in recent times it has built up another tradition and is now also known for its brewery.

As holy cities go, Harar is a colourful one. Inside the walls of the old town I find buildings in greens, purples and yellows – its women seem to take this as a challenge, dressing in veils and robes of shocking pink and the brightest orange.

Harar lies far in the east of Ethiopia, with a road that rises out of the town in the direction of Somaliland.

The mighty Muslim leader Ahmed The Left-Handed led some fierce campaigns from here in the 16th Century.

On its narrow streets I meet goats, old men collapsed from chewing the narcotic khat and a young boy who stops to knock a football back and forth with me for a few minutes.

Off the main square, tailors sit in front of fabric shops ready to run up alterations.

Binyam, slotted behind his sewing machine, does a small tailoring job for me, recounting his Greek ancestry and the provenance of his sewing machine – a gift, he says proudly, which would cost you thousands in the local currency.

He warns me off sellers of bad bananas and nearby thieves.

I’ve come to find the city’s brewery, which is what it’s known for – beyond its holy credentials. For three decades now it’s turned out Harar beer, its bottles carrying a label that depicts the old city’s famous gates.

Outside these gates a tuk tuk taxi driver knows where to find the birra fabrica – the beer factory – and we set off, away from the old city, putt-putting slowly up a hill.

The brewery entrance is flanked on one side by a sign prohibiting firearms and, on the other, by an enormous beer bottle – perhaps meant to remind you why you can’t bring in your gun: here be alcohol.

The giant bottle is four times the height of a man. I know this because there’s a man in front of it, a security guard who’s delighted to have a visitor.

He’s not quite standing to attention, but the huge beer bottle does loom behind him a little like the guardhouse of one of the Queen’s Guards in London.

Inside the grounds, green beer crates frame the horizon, with a green mosque in the distance.

Underfoot there are disused rail tracks. The net on a tennis court looks like it’s in working order though and in a rusty-looking playground a man is watching his young boy on a swing. The sleepy air around the grounds is deceptive.

This brewery was sold off to the Heineken group by the government three years ago. The company says it plans to invest in the plant.

It wants to improve the manufacturing processes, bring in its know-how and start sourcing more material locally, either inside Ethiopia or in the region.

It’s taken over another brewery at Bedele farther west, and is building a third close to the capital.

Many foreign companies point to cheap labour and helpful export tariffs as reasons for investing and the country’s just been given a grade by the credit rating agencies for the first time.

Industrial parks have popped into view whenever I’ve travelled out on the arteries away from the capital, Addis Ababa.

Unilever, General Electric, GlaxoSmithKline, H&M, Tesco, Walmart, Samsung – they’re all either in Ethiopia or thinking about it.

The Chinese are here too, turning out thousands of shoes daily for example, just south of the capital, for major international brands.

A bottle of Harar beer

For Heineken, one of the motivations is a national market, beyond the grounds of the brewery, which can get a lot bigger – beer consumption in Ethiopia, it says, is only a third of what it is in neighbouring Kenya.

In the interests of research I stop in the brewery’s clubhouse and order a beer. The women in the kitchen are amused at my intrusion. It’s a public holiday and quiet, although people are moving tables and chairs and I suspect things might get going later on.

There’s a healthy-looking trophy cabinet beside my table, filled perhaps with trophies won by the brewery’s football team.

It competes in Ethiopia’s premier league although it’s sitting near the bottom of the table when I visit, with relegation threatening.

Back at the walls of the holy city, people in the market are oblivious to the brewery and to big business. For them the only drug worth trading is khat.

Khat sellers in Harar

Outside my window two formidable-looking women have spread out their bags of khat leaves. A beggar, badly crippled, hauls himself over to them.

Moments ago they were screaming venom at a young man – a drug deal of sorts had gone bad it seems.

Now however they slip some leaves discreetly to the beggar, their way of giving alms, on the edge of the sacred town.

Source: BBCNews

“social crime”


India state minister on rape: ‘Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong’

Home minister in BJP-run Madhya Pradesh state describes rape as a ‘social crime’ in comments playing down rapes

Women in Uttar Pradesh protest against the state goverment after two cousins aged 12 and 14 were raped and hanged. Photograph: Hindustan Times/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

A state minister from Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party has described rape as a “social crime”, saying “sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong”, in the latest controversial remarks by an Indian politician about rape.

The political leaders of Uttar Pradesh, the state where two cousins aged 12 and 14 were raped and hanged last week, have faced criticism for failing to visit the scene and for accusing the media of hyping the story.

A regional politician from Modi’s own Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), said that the crime of rape can only be considered to have been committed if it is reported to police.

“This is a social crime which depends on men and women. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s wrong,” said Babulal Gaur, the home minister responsible for law and order in the BJP-run central state of Madhya Pradesh.

“Until there’s a complaint, nothing can happen,” he told reporters.

Gaur also expressed sympathy with Mulayam Singh Yadav, head of the regional Samajwadi party that runs Uttar Pradesh. In the recent election, Mulayam criticised legal changes that foresee the death penalty for gang rape, saying: “Boys commit mistakes: will they be hanged for rape?”

Source: The Guardian Read more


This minister should be dismissed and flogged.

Balls Up!


28 days to go…

But, wait…

New Zealand, or Australia is playing?


Somebody has ballsed up!

Mauritania: The Saharan nation of ocean fishermen

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Think of Mauritania and you are likely to imagine the burning sands of the Sahara, nomads swathed in wind-blown robes and camel trains moving through the heat haze. All correct… but don’t forget the fishing fleet.

Travelling across the Sahara to Mauritania’s Atlantic coast I arrive at a place called Nouadhibou. Here, where the desert meets the ocean, I see something that takes my breath away – hundreds of multi-coloured wooden boats crashing through the unrelenting surf towards the open sea.

Twenty to 30 men in each boat, hang on for dear life as their vessels are bucked skywards by waves Californian surfers might pray for.

These are les pecheurs du Mauritanie – the fishermen of Mauritania, and the country’s best-kept secret.

There are many, even in Mauritania, who don’t know about them but, let’s face it, most Mauritanians have probably never even seen the sea. And yet off this coast are some of the richest fishing grounds in the world.

In fact thousands of fishermen work these perilous waters and have done for centuries.

Their sturdy open boats, about 40 feet long, are painted in the brightest and breeziest of colours. But don’t let that fool you. This sort of fishing – mostly done at night when fish rise to the surface to feed – is incredibly dangerous. Men, indeed whole boats, are frequently lost at sea and never seen again.

Les pecheurs du Mauritanie, many of whom come from neighbouring Senegal and the Gambia, are said to be fearless. So it’s with some trepidation that I join a boat one night as it sets out for the ocean deeps.

There are no lights, charts or lifejackets but the crew, 23-strong, are sprinkling the boat with water from an old plastic bottle. It’s magic water from a local witchdoctor and will, I’m told, lead us to fish and protect us from danger. I try to look reassured.

Powered by an old outboard motor we head out accompanied by a sister boat – it’s safer to hunt in pairs. The excitement is palpable. The men start stamping their feet and chanting: “Dolle, dolle, dolle.” It means: “We are the force.”

One young Gambian called Happy-Happy tells me: “We haven’t caught anything for days so need a big catch tonight.”

Four hours later, and 10 miles out to sea, there’s splashing in the water and the tell-tale glint of fish-scales. “Herring are jumping!” the skipper shouts.

A vast net, released over the side, is dragged in a wide arc through the raging sea.

Chanting in feverish rhythm the crew start to pull the net in: “Dolle, dolle, we are the force! Be strong like a man – not like a woman.” OK, it’s not politically correct, but it’s effective.

Eventually, our sister boat comes alongside to help wrestle in a net bursting with thrashing fish.

Read more, see more great photos

Read more, see more great photos

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