Posts Tagged With: buildings

Towering high in Dubai

Tall buildings. Tall buildings, Tall buildings. Well. Those were the things foremost on my mind when I visited Dubai for the first time. After I left, I realized, Dubai was a mélange of so much more than just TALL BUlLDINGS!

Towering high

Towering high in Dubai – As seen from the Dubai Marina promenade

We were on a whirlwind tour visiting some family in the great Middle-east during the festive Christmas and New year holidays and had planned to spend about three days in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The one thing that never ceases to amaze me is the progress the city of Dubai has made in the last 20 years becoming a global hub for tourism, retail and finance. It is amazing how a city can become such a megapolis in such a short span of time, where visitors from the world flock to. Dubai is now one of the biggest cities in the world that boasts of some of the world’s tallest buildings including the tallest building in the world – the Burj Khalifa. The city attracts a horde of tourists that flock to see the manmade wonders in this city. It also attracts a working population from all over the world for the burgeoning business opportunities. The city has built the most premium and the largest shopping malls and hotels in the world and as such is seen as a very cosmopolitan place to live at. Much of the credit goes to the late Sheikh Zayed (President of UAE and ruler of Abu Dhabi) and his successors who were responsible for much of the progress. It certainly is a model that countries over the world must strive to emulate.

The UAE or Emirates as they are called consists of seven states ruled by hereditary rulers. The seven constituencies are Abu Dhabi (Capital and the biggest), Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, and Umm al Quwain.

In the next few blogs you can read about my experiences at the amazing man-made marvels in the UAE and Oman.

Categories: Dubai, World | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

A wrong turn that led to the right place – The Piazza del Popolo

On the way from the Spanish Steps to the Galleria Borghese which was our next stop, a long walk that had taken the wrong direction took us to some right places. On the negative side, we ended up walking far more than we bargained for, but, on the positive side we chanced on a few things that we enjoyed too…but now isn’t it true, that you can always see more and more, the more you explore!

In any case, from the Spanish steps, if you start walking in the direction of Villa Borghese to go to the Galleria Borghese, you will end up at fabulous Piazza del Popolo you can read about below. Enroute, there are plenty of shopping (or window shopping) options to drool over. We ended up on Via dei Condotti (Via meaning Road) that housed all the major designer brands, a la, 5th avenue of New York.  Infact there were these two-three roads that led up to the big square of Piazza Del Pololo from the Spanish Steps that were a window shoppers haven – Via del Corso, Via del Babuino and Via Ripetta along with some tiny streets of Via Condotti, Via Frattina and Via Borgognona forming a major shopping area called as the Trident.  The lanes of Via Condotti and Via Babuino is the place to go if you want to buy or like me just pose in front of or stare within all those expensive brand outlets!

Tiny alleys

Tiny alleys

Italian Windows

Italian Windows

The second place that I loved was the Piazza del Popolo which we had no intention of visiting really. But I must say the piazza was quite grand and tired as we were, the architecture and the charm the square exuded simply blew our tiredness away after a few moments of lounging around on it without taking many photos but simply taking it in.

For centuries, the Piazza del Popolo was one of the locations that led to Rome after entering the northern gate.  The piazza or ‘square’ is rather an oval and the obelisk in the center was actually brought from Egypt by Augustus.

During Carnival time, visitors could see the torture or execution of condemned criminals here. I was fortunate to be reading the Count of Monte Cristo at this time that describes in detail the scenes to be seen at this Piazza and the time of the Carnival in the 19th century that even describes one such execution.  I was so glad the wrong turn got me to the square mentioned in the book! I get such a thrill when a place I have been to comes up in a movie or a book!

The two churches you see in the picture below Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria di Monte Santo may look like twins, but they are actually different sizes and designs. Carlo Rainaldi, the designer gave one an oval dome and the other a round one to bring symmetry to adjacent streets.

To soak in the atmosphere, you can visit the popular meeting cafes of Rosati and Canova in the square

Some pictures here for you –

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo

The lion fountain at Piazza del Popolo

The lion fountain at Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo

Piazza del Popolo

The Twin Churches of Rome - Santa Maria dei Miracoli,  and Santa Maria in Montesanto,

The Twin Churches of Rome – Santa Maria dei Miracoli, and Santa Maria in Montesanto,

Next: The Galleria Borghese

Categories: Italy, World | Tags: , , | 8 Comments

Richa Roams in Rome!

I’ve got to admit first that I have been really wanting to use the title I did! And now for a series on the Roman Holiday…

It was a fine September day when we landed at Italy from our flight from Mumbai to Rome via Cairo on a Egypt Air flight. Although we craned our necks looking out over Cairo to spot the pyramids, Alas! we saw nothing but the desert and dust! Thankfully SSS wasn’t too uncomfortable during the flight and barely troubled us!

There is a 3.5 hour lag in Italian and Indian time. By the time we reached the apartment we had booked, it was night in India and SSS was asleep. Our kind host at the apartment where we were staying had arranged for food and milk for her and even a baby cot for her. Tired out, as we were, we were fast asleep before we knew it as we looked forward to the next day.

So much to do!

I have never been a fan of ‘places to see’. What I do live by though is ‘places to experience’. However, looking back, I realize Rome is one of those places where you want to see everything and experience it all as well! And it can get mighty difficult to balance it out unless you stay there for over a month! Be it long walks in a quiet neighborhood each different from the other, explore authentic Italian food places in Rome, do a wine tour, travel in the trains and buses and live like locals, enjoy the melodies from the quaint churches, watch the pigeons flutter at the fountain…All the ‘experience’ is challenged by the need to run from one Roman pillar to another Roman post..from the Vatican city to the Colosseum to one museum after another..and yet, there is still so much to do and see that it gets overwhelming. So in this blog, I am going to tell you how best you can experience the city and see some of it as well!

It was a chilly morning as we started out after a home-made breakfast. We were off to see the Spanish steps, the Gallery Borghese and the Trevi fountain in our itinerary.

Walking around and first impressions

We decided to walk to our destination. As it turned out, it was quite a long walk, but one that we really enjoyed. The vibe of a place can be best felt through a leisurely walk through it.  We ambled along smelling the coffee and fresh bread smells that wafted through cafes, passed joggers who had finished their morning jog, and ofcourse hordes of tourists referring to maps like us and looking around in wonder. We noted some of the crumbling architecture of Rome, how the new and the old buildings co-mingled- none , the better than the other. Outside seating of restaurants were being set up and looked inviting.  We passed a couple of churches on the way, passing those little fountains on the way. It was hard not to stop and look at every insignificant place that looked interesting and to cut a long walk short, we walked for over 2 hours for what should have been a 45 minute walk!

Fish Fountain

Fish Fountain

Colorful buildings.. old and new

Colorful buildings.. old and new

Roman Alley

Roman Alley

Chasing pigeons

Chasing pigeons

Buildings Buildings



Tip – Airport transfer: For the airport transfer we just took a taxi although there are cheaper options of using a bus or the train. It cost us €48 which was about €20 more than we would have paid for other modes of transport. But well worth it considering we were tired out and weren’t in a mood to lug the luggage looking for the apartment!  The Leonardo Express train leaves every 30 minutes to the central Termini station and costs €14. The Terravision bus is another comfortable option and costs only €4 but leaves less frequently after every 60 minutes.

Categories: Italy, World | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Architecture at Muscat, Oman

Buildings and architecture are a part of every visit to a city. The charm of a city is in a way defined by the beautiful buildings it has. If New York is remembered by its towering buildings, Chicago is all the more beautiful in its stately but tall buildings.  Victorian architecture is well recognized in many countries where the British ruled. Europe is renowned for its distinctive Greek/Roman and several other forms of architecture which make its towns and cities such a visual treat indeed.

The Middle-eastern countries have their own flavor of Muslim architecture which sets it apart from the rest of the world. Muscat, in the Sultanate of Oman showed me examples of some lovely architecture in its fine mosques, homes, forts and office buildings.

I am no expert on this topic, but the simplicity in fine lines, arches and curves defined elegance for me in all its buildings. Fortunately, His Majesty, Sultan Qaboos, the ruler of Oman, apparently was not in favor of the high rises that abound the neighboring prosperous UAE.  With a few high-rises only in the city, one never feels cramped as compared to being in modern day glass and cement cities. The shorter buildings here are not just square brick structures, but a medley of arches, and graceful straight lines at the right places. What also helps is the fact that surroundings are sparkling clean adding to the aura of the buildings.

The Grand Mosque in Muscat that was built after a competition for its design is one of the most popular destinations for worshippers and tourists alike.  However, my favorite mosque in Muscat, was the one I saw frequently by the main road. A gleaming off-white color, the Zawawi mosque in Al-Khuwair with its gardens around was a treat to see in the day and delightfully illuminated by night.  Some pictures are below.

Zawawi Mosque, Muscat

The Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat

A quick walk in the neighborhood left me spellbound as I saw the homes around me, each more beautiful than the other.

Local residence, Muscat


Local Residence, Muscat

Local Residence, Muscat

Another notable point was the uniformity in coloring of the buildings. As compared to the peeling reds , greens, blues and yellows found rampantly in the buildings in most Indian cities, most of the colors used were pale –with shades of white or sand being the most common. Perhaps it is the hot climate of the city which is the deciding factor. I wish such uniformity were present in Indian cities too.  There was no graffiti in the city and walls were spotless clean. A few rules (that were obeyed) such as not drying clothes where they would be visible to outsiders was a balm to eyes used to seeing garments of all forms in India!

If you get a chance to visit Muscat, and love seeing buildings, do try and visit some of the famous landmarks such as the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, the old area of Corniche, old forts – the Sohar fort is my favorite and one of Muscat’s neighborhoods (preferably near the sea, that is where I went!). I am sure you will delight in the various forms of buildings you see.

Categories: Oman, World | Tags: , , , | 21 Comments

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