Les fruits de mers et autres fruits exotiques de la pointe des Almadies à Dakar.
Commençons par les fruits de mer...
Mon hotel n'était pas loin de la pointe des Almadies dont j'ignorais l'existence. Arrivé au petit soir dans ma chambre censée être luxueuse, je constate l'absence de bouilloire avec pour raison invoquée par le "room service", une délégation chinoise les ayant toutes réquisitionnées. Etant un lève-tôt qui dépasse rarement 4 heures du matin pour quitter le lit, je décide alors d'acheter quelques sachets de café, afin de chauffer l'eau au petit matin à l'aide du sèche-cheveux de la salle de bains. Voilà donc mon plan B qui m'amène à pied au "grocery store near me" indiqué par Google Maps. Quelques minutes plus tard, ayant dépassé l'ambassade américaine, je me retrouve à la pointe des Almadies, au milieu d'une foule innombrable de touristes, de femmes et d'enfants qui vendent tout ce qui peut se manger, ou du moins, qui pourrait éventuellement se manger, la nourriture étant exposée sur des chariots de souk, ou dans des paniers à l'équilibre précaire sur la tête des enfants souriants de Dakar...
Le café pouvait attendre, toutes ces odeurs et couleurs m'amenèrent droit sur la table d'un restaurant minimaliste, simpliste, où le juste essentiel sévit, et la vue de l'océan ravit.
Mon collègue me rejoint et nous constatons alors que notre restaurant en est un parmi tant d'autres, avec l'impression qu'il y en aurait un nombre infini. Les décorations très basiques étonnent par leur charme fou, alors que les rapaces qui sans cesse survolent Dakar, nous font une démonstration acrobatique de pêche "à la patte", avec à chaque plongeon, un petit poisson pris entre les griffes du prédateur affamé qui n'hesite à le dévorer au vol!.
L'invitation nous est donc donnée pour faire de même, et nous ne tarderons à commander nos plats...
Dans l'attente du calmar grillé et du mouton cuisiné à l'africaine, comment ne pas assouvir sa soif avec une bière désaltérante locale dont le nom, sans aucun complexe, se passe d'évoquer toute consonance aux marques alsaciennes, bavaroises ou hollandaises, et se suffit d'évoquer...l'Afrique, sa savane, sa faune, ses bovidés...
Et maintenant les fruits exotiques...
Revenons aux enfants souriants et dansants, auxquels j'aurai finalement acheté quelques bananes à 150 FCFA pièce, histoire de ne pas m'aventurer de suite dans un choix plus original et risqué.
Mais la tentation est irrésistible, ce fruit dont on ouvre la tête pour y rajouter sucre ou sel appelle à la dégustation, ne serait-ce que pour satisfaire une soif d'un autre genre, la découverte:
Le madd, également connu sous le nom de cocota, est à l'apparence extérieure hybride entre pomme de terre et mangue:
L'intérieur lui, est spécifique, comme s'il s'agissait de plusieurs mini-mangues d'un orange vif, parmi lesquelles le sucre ou sel est rajouté et mélangé à la pulpe pour en vaincre l'acidité.
Le résultat est un régal visuel et gustatif, surtout lorsque l'on opte pour garder le contenu dans le fruit, plutôt que les bols en plastique proposés en option comme une sorte de malheureux "upgrade".
Mais l'aventure n'est pas terminée car l'arachide achetée à l'élégante dame du chariot, parait toute banale, comme étant un choix d'amuse-gueule classique, sans risque ni exostisme, de quoi animer ma chambre d'hotel devant un épisode américain bête de télé du genre 13e Rue, doublé de la façon la plus artificielle qui soit vers un français sans grammaire.
Ma surprise fut telle quand je découvris que mes cacahuètes étaient mouillées et molles comme si elles avaient passé la nuit dans l'océan atlantique. Rien sur Google à ce sujet, et histoire de ne pas emmerder Chat GPT avec un problème aussi basique - lui qui réussit les examens de Harvard et de MIT - , j'eu recours à mon amie Libérienne, avec les photos des fruits disséqués simplement partagées sur l'antique WhatsApp, pour finalement savoir qu'il est de coutume de bouillir l'arachide en Afrique de l'ouest...
Ouf! Me voilà rassuré, c'est bon, safe et ma foi...exotique!
Context of tentative PVs installation behind glass
I deciced to turn my apartment's balcony into a source of electricity, especially it is ideally oriented towards the South-West, on a hill facing the Mediterranean sea. 180W solar panels were found to fit in the available space, as per the below picture. I temporarly wired two panels in series underneath the railing and behind the glass.
On a very sunny day and against a maximum theoretical current of 9.52A (Imp), the measurements I conducted simply proved that there's no use to install PVs behind glass.
The below figures do show the Amps readings at the same moment of the day, with the solar panels installed behind the glass (left) and outside the glass (right), and indeed in the exact same place and orientation:
The conclusion leads to no confusion, taking into account the below factors:
The solar panel generated a maximum of 6A instead of 9.52A, that is a loss of -37% compared to Imp.
When installed behind glass, the solar panel's output peaked at 3.4A, that is a further -43% reduction or -64% from the rated maximum current.
Installing solar PVs on a balcony
Taking the above into account, I had then to modify the glazed aluminum frames in order to replace parts of the glass with PVs...until transparent PVs are made availble in the market and can be used for windows!
The wonderful sunlight of the Lebanese mountains
I've recently completed the construction of my vacation home in the middle of one of the numerous picturesque villages of the Lebanese mountains, at some 1200m of altitude, and at the bottom of a mountain cliff populated with a wide variety of pine and oak trees.
The surrounding forest is home to several species of birds and wild animals: crows, falcons, eagles, partridges, jackals, foxes, weasels, voles, and many more...
In such a context, one can hardly imagine turning on a diesel genertor to power-up his/her home, or worse (?), fitting 6 to 8 solar panels on the roof, which destroys the beauty of the roof tiles and produces a harmful mirroring effect pointing towards the piercing gaze of the flying raptors.
How solar power can be made sustainable
The decision was taken and sustainability was considered in all its aspects:
How to power-up a home with a single PV!
The single 545W solar panel was installed directly on the roof tiles while an 800W wind turbine provides some additional energy during winter and storms.
The details of the renewable energy off-grid and autonomous system are as follows:
The total cost of the above solar - wind system is around 1500USD not including installation, the latter having been carried by me; this results in a payback period of approximately one year and up to a maximum of 14 months, compared to equivalent utility energy bills.
Here's why one solar panel is enough...
1- Location where the PV is used
This solar panel is installed at 1200m altitude facing the Eastern Mediterranean see. The climatic conditions are much favorable since:
The sunset as seen from my terrace on a day of November
2- Simple automation and life habits associated with the solar panel installation
To make it work with one and only solar panel, I have fitted very simple automation devices to the system in order to:
Other daily life habits are observed by my family in order to adopt a "solar lifestyle":
That's it! An entire home is powered-up by the Sun, using a single PV!
The electricity occasionally generated by the wind turbine, is a bonus.
I do have indeed a 5KVA diesel generator installed as a backup for weekends with no Sun or Wind, also during storms with low and frequent lightning strikes.
Her highness...AlUla, Saudi Arabia
On the road from Duba to AlUla...
I left Duba on that day of February 2022 driving accross the golden and anthracite mountains, the white and pink sands, the green and silver vegetation, until reaching AlUla four hours later and finding this cozy bungalow waiting for me and my vehicle.
AlUla is a huge oasis, a marriage of palm trees and reddish rocks, on top of the mountains to the east of the Red Sea.
Driving in AlUla is enjoying at each turn a palm green foreground, representing life, and a gold/red background representing what protects life.
No doubt the place was chosen by the Nabataeans to build a city, with those surrounding mountains providing natural ramparts.
The carved rocks of AlUla
At AlUla, all rocks have been carved by the majestuous five elements and phenomena of its climate: volcanoes, time, water, sand and wind. If all rocks have rounded edges and mostly a smooth skin, some offer their wrinkled faces to the observer, as a reminder of their age.
Other hills simply decided to build high-rise protuberances as a sign of their power and majesty.
The ancient city of AlUla
Old mud-brick houses at the bottom of the mountain constitute the ancient city of AlUla, within a huge palm trees valley. Let's have a walk through the tiny passages and tunnels of the labyrinthic agglomeration...
Mystery and enigma develop all along the way when climbing the stairs of AlUla's citadel...
Once there, it's an ideal place to take pictures of the whole valley and the city's mud houses.
The passage to the renovated main street of the ancient city of AlUla started at a café playing a Joe Dassin song, and continued in these tiny corridors protected by tee trunk and mud roofs, and adorned with terracotta pots and copper trays.
AlUla's old city street of cafés and souvenir shops
A main street within the mud-brick city has been renovated and transformed into a tourist attraction. The avenue includes souvenir shops and several cafés, both with a welcomed local taste and decoration.
AlUla's architectural masterpieces
Walking back from the AlUla's old city main street down to the car park, allows to appreciate the huge constructions to the right, still built with stones and mud-bricks, but taken to a different dimension of ancient luxury.
This villa impresses by its basements and terraces extending on not less than three levels.
The windows allow to see the valley while remaining of a moderate size to avoid excess heat from AlUla's burning sun. Vents to extract hot air and keep the interior cool have been implemented on the upper parts of the walls.
A curved wall breaks the angles creating an iteresting variance to the cubic blocks, while the palm tree confirms this is a colored picture and amuses your eye.
Thanks for reading!
Jeddah's King Fahad's Fountain
This is not Geneva fountain, rather a replica as seen from Jeddah's Corniche.
The powerful fountain expels an awesome column of water from the Red Sea shore, a few hundreds of meters high; the sea breeze decides on the water jet orientation making the bride dance before your eyes . A visit not to miss, specially at night, when the sail shaped water element joins the black sky in its bleached snowy white robe.
The old Corniche, a popular tourist destination of the Kingdom's largest city of the Red Sea, offers other distractions to your eyes like these golden lights and hotels that complete the overall décor around the tall bride: no doubt you've been invited to the fountain's wedding.
Al Fakieh Aquarium
Not the largest aquarium you'd visit but an interesting concentrate of the Red Sea wild life in all its aspects, here below represented by an impressive humphead wrasse fish and its particularly yet naturally botoxed lips and a terrifying murena coming straight out of a horror movie.
This butterfly fish shares its glass habitat with a clownfish sheltering between the tentacles of a Red Sea anemone, offering the most colorful scene of Jeddah's Al Fakieh aquarium.
Now some serious stuff: the Red Sea sharks...nervously patrolling their artificial enclosure whenever not having a nap on its sand bed. They are yet nervous all the time, and so are you if and when by mistake, you forget the crystal glass and get transported to their confined space...
Those who like Tintin and his adventures, will remember Hergé's "The Red Sea Sharks" marvel, when Tintin, Haddok, Snowy and Skut went drifting on a raft in the Red Sea.
Al Fakieh aquarium also hosts turtles which elegant swimming gestures are always a pleasure to your sight and stingrays like this dotted specimen peacefully decorating the sea floor.
Not to miss any category, take a look at these tiny transparent and translucent jelly fish creatures mixing with bubbles and creating a relaxing spectacle that transports you to a different state of mind, between the water and air elements.
Jeddah Old Town - "Al Balad"
Jeddah old district or "Al Balad" in Arabic, remains by far the most valuable and rememberable tourist attraction although you risk finding no one on a Friday morning.
Old buildings with typical wooden balconies and white plastered façades constitute the attraction of this neighborhood.
It's also one of the very few places in Saudi Arabia where you can find tiny and narrow streets, some strictly pedestrian. The incredible wooden balconies are painted in different shades of brown, or matt blue and green. A colorful walk, preferably in the early morning in summer time to avoid the heat of the day.
Jeddah's Academy of Arts enchants the center of the old city with its beautiful building, paintings and artefacts.
Superb entrance doors along with even more charming and disorganized electrical cables decorate the houses.
From time to time, tall trees invite themselves to your photos adding a bit of life to the still heritage constructions.
While the balconies could have been used as balconies, or extensions to the living room, or a way to hide the inside of a house or apartment while allowing to open the windows for catching a breeze, it is unfortunate that these are being used in modern times to fit an air conditioner, which sometimes remains well visible.
Oriental ornaments hide here and there along the façades of Jeddah's Al Balad. The damaged plastering indicates the age of the respectable architectural attraction.
Al Naseef house or museum was closed at the time of our walk, and we were told that it is permanently closed which we could not verify however.
A disappointing ending to the Old City's visit, yet it will be for sure the purpose of a next trip, and very soon "inchallah".
They call it citadel but it's an old circular city with remparts all around, the whole site being situated on a hill in the exact center of Kurdistan's capital.
Walking around the citadel is about the discovery of the souks, an extraordinary mosaic of sidewalks shops selling absolutely anything and everything.
Like in other souks, the merchandise is grouped by type so the walker passes sequentially into a bazar of shoes, T shirts, sunglasses, watches, belts, then spices, tools, paintings, books, agricultural machines and air conditioners!
The main square of Erbil's city center
The constructions at the foot of the citadel are built around a large square that includes a pool covered with glass walkways, although nothing is left of the latter's transparency.
Under the shopping arcades of Erbil's main square, one can expect any kind of edible and non-edible items, but fortunately no lawn mowers or plower machines like to the other side of the citadel!
Loud speakers flood the shoppers with pre-recorded noisy adverts repeating the prices a thousand times, in a desparate brain wash of the passer-by, whose chances to surrender (and buy) would then be amplified by this cerebral hammering technique.
In contrast, Erbil's "Big Ben" is so silent unlike the one of London's Palace of Westminster
One Million Colors
Textiles, souvenirs, handbags, scarfs, carpets and babouche slippers, a million items of a million colors; are these shops owned by magicians and do they sell flying carpets?
Are we inside an "Iznogoud" episode of the famous comic character?
Another million confectionery items and dozens of different honey kinds, not recommended for diabetics.
The Street Food of Erbil's Souks
Not all merchants of Erbil's souks like to sell a million item as some are rather "specialized" like the street kiosks offering fresh food on the go.
The kebab stands seem to be so popular and sell cheap and satiating sandwiches.
Not sure however if you'll loose your apetite before or after eating...
This trolley offers not less than a dozen types of oriental coffees, all prepared in brass and copper pots coming straight forward from the Bronze Age.
The design is unchanged but the layout of the bright utensils lets you believe you're in front of a coffee lab or factory, a kind of mobile plant operated and controlled by the smart phone of its owner.
Back to colors as fruit and fruit cocktail kiosks offer all kinds of juices, pulp or any combination of liquid and solid pectins.
Don't be lost however and make no confusion: if you're seeing a watermelon stand with a luxury car in the background, then no doubt you're in Erbil!
Cafe with a local Kurdish taste
At last a cafe where one can have some rest and order a coffee. I like the typical decoration and how the chairs all point to the same direction like in a theater. The movie is live before your eyes and tells the story of Erbil's daily open markets. Actors are no celebrities and the producer is totally unknown.
Finally, and in case you order a cappuccino somewhere, you may expect a specific decoration drastically differing from the classic Italian leaves. Don't let your imagination go far however, stick to geometrical oriental patterns and put aside the idea of a ...spider net.
Post scriptum: the element in the center is a fresh coffee bean.
Duba's fishermen's seaport
I had to relocate for work to the Western coast of Saudi Arabia and precisely the small and charming city of Duba located in between the flat Red Sea and the impressive mountains to the East, separating it from Tabuk direct surroundings.
With friends, we decided to walk at night Duba's fishermen's harbor area, which starts at these illuminated caves already denoting the touristical flavor of the coastal city.
A castle tower adds a bit of charm but a lot of mystery to Duba's caves as to their origins with no indication or sign of any kind. It's part of the game: walk, discover and imagine.
To the other side, Duba's fishermen's seaport, which beauty equals the ones of the Mediterranean. Traditional fishing boats decorate the harbor's enclosure and act like a brain stimulator. No doubt we were virtually transported to the wide sea in the wooden swinging feluccas, their purring diesel engines and that smell recalling we're in an oil rich country...
Stones have replaced asphalt with thanks on Duba's seaport road, so streets marry the beautiful old houses and their delightful doors. Candlestick style street masts light the walls under the amazing all-year-long "Christmas" colored lights.
A fountain sends water to the vertical dimension for those who are not satisfied with the flatness of the sea.
Around Duba's castle
Old houses made of mudbricks and mud mortar accompanied us in our walk towards Duba's castle which overlooks the seaport.
The Ottoman construction is the main attraction of the square and dominates with its imposing remparts. No one can resist moving up the street before the historical castle.
A hotel facing Duba's castle offers an unusual façade for what is typically found in Saudi Arabia, with a welcome touch of style that continued to remind us we're tourists on that night.
Abandoned heritage mud houses added one more time stamp to the plaza behind the castle. No doubt we're in the old city.
The lights and colors of Duba's North corniche
The walk continues to where Duba's North corniche is located, a 4km long nicley paved and finished walkway. Amenity lights combined to this "tunnel" of magenta colored arcs, illuminated our passage.
Those bizarre structures, not exactly umbrellas, not exactly jellyfish, not exactly mushrooms populate the seaside terraces of Duba's corniche and its horizon.
The passer by's mood keeps changing with the fountain's colors, operated on demand by its guard, each time kids or their parents beg him to push the button of the huge pumps.
The North corniche ended with more seas and more skies, virtually extending our promenade towards the Sinai Peninsula, eventually crossing Suez Canal for those of us with the most fertile imagination.
A walk in Al Olaya by night...
Riyadh by night - Al Olaya district
Leaving a hotel room at Al Olaya, the "quartier chic" of the Saudi capital, leads to a colorful walk between the buildings of the financial center. Riyadh's icon, the Kingdom Centre or "Mamlaka" dominates, being visible from almost anywhere. Its design is repeated on the nearby bush cuts like a 1/100 scale reproduction of the remarkable yet simple architecture.
Palm trees have been arranged all along streets like straight linear oases but skyscrapers replaced tents as a modern remake of desert life.
Banks and hotels occupy most of Al Olaya skyscrapers, with a consequent intensive use of glass. The flat material is given a less boring appearance when combined to curved architectural elements and angular lights pointing to the wide sky of Riyadh.
At some time, the walker feels like being in any modern district of a Western city. Al Olaya shop windows remind you of Barcelona or Milano as long as you don't let your eyes escape to the third dimension.
Walking down Al Olaya street
You won't meet people when walking Al Olaya street unfortunately. The use of cars is overwhelming and the extra wide walkways are empty. The only encounters are those buildings that point out each time a gap is left between the constructions around you. Hamad tower showing its plumage...
...Al Faisaliah tower, lit with white, a rare color at Al Olaya.
And finally, the astonishing Narcissus hotel with is contrasting look, like if relocated from Warsaw. Is it still Saudi Arabia?
Al-Disah valley and its Oases
We left Duba on the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia on the way to Al-Disah, climbing from Al-Amoude towards the thick dark mountains to the East. No doubt a few minutes only elapsed before the mountainous landscape started transporting us into another world, the one of the numerous wadis and their scattered acacia trees.
After an hour of driving, we reached something different, a whiter sand, with various species of oasis trees. Singing exotic birds invited us to leave our vehicle and hide beneath a large acacia for a coffee break.
We were wondering where to move next when a passer-by told us to follow the road till the end, you "mafi maaloum" he said? "Don't you know that you have to go there? Just keep driving till the road ends"...
And suddenly...Al-Disah mountain passage
The paved road ends for sure, with no vehicles other than off-roaders daring to continue towards the appealing valley. Our vehicle was no off-roader however, and we decided to continue walking when a safari style open roof 4x4 appeared out of nowhere; on its door: "Tabuk Tours"! Yes, it was a 1970 Toyota Land Cruiser with two rows of open air seats offering a 7km trip till the end of the drivable path. The 45 years old vehicle, worth a scrap value and driven by the 75 years old Abou Majed who's humor matches the best of the solo performances, adds to the charm of the inestimable trip!
Here we go inside Al-Disah magic mountains.
Kids on horses offer an alternative ride to those who fear the breakdown of the dismantled yet brave vehicle and were pleased to give us a free trotting show.
A few meters after the start of the escapade, locals sell hot drinks and snacks under a thick oasis. The welcome is warm, the faces smiling and a loud "hallow, how are you?" escapes from everyone's mouth making us return the same salute, denoting the victorious arrival of the first tourists, in a country where no such activity ever existed. Saudi Arabia or KSA if you prefer, is changing.
Rocks, iron, copper, the Al-Disah colors
The trip occurs between massive mountains of a reddish appearance, colored by iron, possibly copper and probably other metals and minerals expelled by the ancient volcanic activity. A thin water stream flows all the way and all the time bringing some freshness to Al-Disah microclimate.
Rains sculpted the mountains and created forms that resemble everything on planet Earth, whether nature or man made.
Some are man made for sure like these holes in a rare white and smooth rock.
For a while, I remembered "The land of black gold", that Tintin episode happening in similar mountains where Emir Mohammed Ben Kalish Ezab hid from Bab El Her insurgent. I was just expecting to encounter the cheetah...
The trip ends at this diamond shaped window, ideal for a selfie.
At last, remember to find the indestructible, uncomfortable, breezy, noisy, vibrating and charming tour operator's vehicle to enjoy this experience and make it memorable. Don't go there with a Lexus!
Which herbs to plant in an apartment
My wife and I took advantage of the unfortunate COVID-19 lockdown to use our mini vertical planter to cultivate edible herbs. This adds some flavor to the stay-at-home "activity" especially the herbs can be used as condiments in many food preparations and salads as explained further below...
We bought for a ridiculous sum, crops for some herbs that can survive an apartment atmosphere with moderate light.
We planted two kinds of basil, the one with small leaves and the one with larger leaves.
Both emanate a delicious basil flavor immediately upon touching them.
Their leaves are much appreciated in a tomato based salad or with pasta preparations.
A taste of Italy on your wall and then in your dish!
A Mediterranean herb used in Italian and other Mediterranean cuisines like the Lebanese. Oregano is similar to thyme in taste and can be either dried and used as a condiment or tasted as green leaves to replace thyme in a fresh Lebanese salad.
Milder than Oregano and thyme, use it to garnish any of your meat, soup or salad.
A main ingredient of the Lebanese cuisine tasted as is in a fresh salad with onions and tomatoes or dried as a condiment or soaked in olive oil and salted to create the famous "Zaatar" that flavors the also famous "mankouché" or thyme pizza if you prefer.
This herb aromate has many uses like macerating it in olive oil prior to seasoning a salmon steak with it!
Whatever herbs you chose, it remains quite fun to cultivate them at home and a added pleasure when using their leaves in your preferred recipes.
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