Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back in blighty + pictures

I'm now back home in London, and still haven't posted anything about Jerusalem. My time there was packed with activity, and I'll recount all the details soon. In the meantime here are some pictures from my few hours in Istanbul:

The Shysters/Good Samaritans who made sure I saw Istanbul.

Sultan Ahmet Mosque at night.

Roast corn, with Sultan Ahmet in the background.

McDonald's. Front yard being cleaned, could be a Saturday night in any Western European city.

The almighty Starbucks.

Klodfarer Street, where I stayed. Marseille anyone?

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Atatürk International Airport is clean, if not particularly inspiring. Airports always tread the line between being sanitised to prevent an MRSA outbreak among travellers on the one hand, and being cathedrals to consumerism on the other hand. If the watchmen had their way, airports would strictly be the former. The problem with airports is that people only pass through them, they're not like bus or train terminals, where people gather and meet. It might be they're that way by virtue of being out of town, or by convention.

My flight was due to leave at 7.50 in the morning, which left me with about 9hours to kill in Istanbul. 8hours is plenty of time. I've had "affairs" that lasted less than that. I had contemplated sleeping in the airport, waking, and leaving first thing in the morning. But my street cred would suffer badly. I'd never be able to really say that I'd been to Turkey, it'd just be a sly crossed fingers addition to my list of visited countries. Istanbul is famed for its East meets West culture, a city that straddles the border between Europe and Asia, a seamless bridge where here and there become one, become (t)here.

When one travels, one tends to meet three kinds of people: shysters, kind strangers, and a third kind of person, who is a combination of the two. People who sell tourism tend to be one part shyster, one part Good Samaritan. And I guess those are the people I encountered at the airport. They sold me a hotel for my few hours in the heart of Istanbul, and transport to and from the airport. It might be 1am, but I’ll walk around, take pictures, and go back to bed. Whistle-stop trip to Istanbul.

As the car races between Atatürk International Airport and Sultanahmet, one can only ask what objection Europe has to Turkey's prospective EU membership. In fact, the chief opponent of Turkey’s EU membership - fiercely secular France - probably has more in common with religiously secular Turkey, than it does with openly Catholic Poland.

The route is lined with trees, driving is slightly erratic, a cool breeze sweeps across the Bosporus, a wonderfully symbolic body of water. On the way back to the airport in the morning, the sea is dotted with anchored ships, their lights glistening in the distance. Sultan Ahmet Mosque, or the Blue Mosque as it’s popularly known in the West, almost hovers over Istanbul. It’s on a higher plane to most the city, and because of the trees around the city, you can only see its full glory up close. From a distance, all one can see is a giant hovering Islamic spaceship, waiting to abduct all comers and lift off into the foreign galaxies.

Hali Hotel is on Klodfarer street, a mere two minutes walk from the Blue Mosque. It’s 1am. I do what any battle hardened traveller would, I take stroll to the mosque, eyeing the McDonald’s “restaurant” on the right side of the road. On the opposite side is a Starbucks. Further down are tram stops. Mercedes E-class cars cruise by with musica Americana blaring through rolled down windows. I might as well be in Frankfurt, or Brussels.

Couples sit among many rows of benches under the gaze of the mosque, killing time. Some wear headscarves, some don’t. Some have wedding bands, some don’t. I try to imagine couples sitting by St Paul’s Cathedral in London. I can’t. In one corner is a vendor, selling roast corn. There’s always been a competition to find the European nationals most similar to Nigerians. Italians always make it because they gesticulate a lot. Greeks are always there or thereabouts. With roast corn on the side of the road, Turkey has got to be Nigeria. And with a corn cob in my mouth, I walked back to Hali Hotel, slept, and got ready for Jerusalem.

I'll put pictures up when I can.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Terminal 3

The flight is taking off at 1630hrs. I left New Cross Gate station at 1318hrs. I did what I always do, and left relatively late. My normal routine is to get to the airport just as checking in is coming to an end. That way I don't have to queue, and I don't have spend hours inanely walking through duty free shops, thinking, "bloody hell, if it costs this much tax free, imagine how it must cost in the real world." My routine almost means that there's a relatively straight path from my doorway to my seat on the plane.

But in these days of heightened security fears, one has to allow for time to sit down, take off one's footwear to allay the Man's fears that one isn't a shoe bomber. And when the Man asks why the Florida alligator skin shoes weigh so much, you can reply, "I'm Rick James, bitch!" At which point the Man will not be responsible for his actions. The Picadilly Line to Heathrow feels like the most generous tube line in the world. It stops everywhere, and picks up everyone. So, I opted for the Heathrow Express, that beloved bastion of executive cool. No cattle car for me, sir.

The train pulled in less than an hour after my departure from New Cross Gate. So I waltzes to the Turkish Airlines counter, give my spiel - I packed it myself, it didn't leave my sight, no the laptop hasn't got porn on it, but what's that to you, sir... I check in less than 5 minutes. The fastest ever check in time. I say to all Nigeria bound flights to put that up their pipes and smoke it. What look like early bird Nigerians are milling around the Virgin Atlantics desks, hoping not to be trampled by the horde who'll arrive this evening. So what do I do for two hours while I wait to get on the plane?

Ponti's cafe. I believe they have quite a few of them around London. This is no time for exotic food, so I plump for an all-day breakfast. You can't go wrong with those. Nothing like a traditional morning fry up for lunch. I then practically stroll through immigration, no hostility whatsoever. Quite boring, really. Where's the drama? I must find a Lonely Planets guide or something similar. But Smithy's don't have one, and neither do Borders. It's like there's a booksellers apartheid style boycott. The books go from India straight to Istanbul, with nothing in between. Must get one when I reach.

What else do I need? Ah, digital camera. Thank God for multinationals, the immoral so-and-sos, Dixons comes to the rescue, tax free as well... What else? I forgot my shekels, bugger. Well, £40 worth isn't too bad. And then there's was the elderly black woman. South African looking. I hear the snipping, but wasn't sure what it was. And as Sods Law states in Chapter 6, Article V, "thy lap shalt be the recipient of an elderly black woman's fingernails as she clips them nonchalantly in an aiport lounge." Yep, it landed on me as I sat down, contemplating how to next amuse myself.

Tonight, Istanbul (not Constantinople), and tomorrow, Tel Aviv, Israel.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Michael Hill

Some of you may have heard, and others may not have heard. Michael Hill, the father of the little girl, Margaret, who was kidnapped in July, has died of a heart attack. I'm sure you don't need to read the news story to have your own opinions on what might have triggered his heart attack...

Charlie does it again

Charlie Brooker is possibly the funniest writer in British newspaperdom. The first two paragraphs of his column this week are just glorious. I defy anyone to read it and not laugh out loud. If you succeed in not laughing out loud, my bank manager will give you five pounds. And, as someone who's pin has in the past magically vanished from his head, I understand Charlie, I really do. For more Charlie Brooker gems, read his account of trying to quit smoking.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

As they say in Nigeria...

This one is too much!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Banging on

No pun intended. It seems as if I've developed an obsession with all things homosexual - 2 posts in one week? Anyway, 18 men arrested for acts of sodomy. Speaking of which the BBC World Service has just broadcast a 2-part documentary on homosexuality laws in different countries. The first part is set in Jamaica, where the act of "buggery" is illegal, and the second is set in South Africa, where homosexuals are allowed to marry. Homosexuality is still a huge issue, as can be seen from the US Democratic candidates so called gay debate.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Transatlantic Drugs Trade

Assignment on the BBC World Service delves into the world of the West African drugs mule.

link fixed.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Social Welfare comes to Africa.

The Ugandan government is to give $10 a month to "chronically poor". Should be an interesting experiment to watch.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ibori's assets frozen

James Ibori's assets have been frozen in London.

Heart on CNN

I thought the Nigerian government was pulling its Heart of Africa adverts from CNN. How come I just saw one on the channel?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

As I said I would

I did say that I would try and find a discussion on media coverage of Africa. This discussion was between the Nigerian Guardian's Reuben Abati, and BBC World Service programme, The World Today presenter, Max Pearson. Broadcast February 16. Before you get het up about the abrupt end, there were time constraints. Five and a half minutes on an item is a lot, believe me.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Fancy Pele?

Apparently, nobody who watched Pele and other footballers in the 1970s would ever consider having a gay football icon. A Brazilian jusdge has sparked a debate. Homosexuality in football is always a livewire issue. Remember the fuss over Nigerian footballers and their hairstyles apparently promoting homosxuality?

Friday, August 03, 2007


Biyi Bandele article on Nollywood in the Guardian/Observer.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Manchester United's new boy

No doubt some of you might have heard the news about a 9 year-old kid Man U has signed this season. But have you seen videos of Rhain Davies? White boys like this only come along once every generation:

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

BA fined for price fixing

Where are the London - Nigeria routes in all of this?