Friday, April 18, 2014

The man behind " An Emerging Mystery"

When I made the decision to move to Riyadh a few years ago, I was bombarded with negative comments from friends and family with regards to Arab people and the Arab culture. I was told that within a month I would return to South Africa as Arabs are extremely bad people. Of course, I did not allow these opinions to influence my mindset and perception of the region. In every country you can find the good, the bad and the ugly.  I had the best time of my life in Saudi Arabia. I met and interacted with people from all over the globe and my best friends are now Saudis. Personally, I believe that the media is partly to be blamed for projecting the nation in a negative light.  However, one gentleman in particular, an Englishman now residing in the Middle East is creating waves across the Gulf through his photography. Sebastian Farmborough aims to showcase the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in a positive light through his own personal interactions with the local people of the country. It was an absolute pleasure conversing with him and I want to thank him for taking the time out to answer my questions. Read on to find out more in his own words...

1. So, tell me, who is Sebastian Farmborough? 
Well, that's a good question. Nobody has asked me that one before and to be honest with you, it is not something I have given a great deal of thought to. Photography is my life and producing images that move people is what it is all about for me.I was born and educated in England, but since then I have lived in the US, Spain, Saudi Arabia, Chile and now the United Arab Emirates. I love languages and interacting with different cultures, it makes me feel as though i am constantly learning something which I value greatly. 

2. Who or what inspired you to become a photographer?  
 It was the work of Bill Brandt that drew me into the world of photography, before that I wanted to be an architect. I became captivated by the way he used light and texture to mislead the onlooker into seeing something that was actually never there. 

3. When and why did you move to Saudi Arabia? What is it about Saudi culture that fascinates or intrigues you?
I moved to Saudi Arabia from Spain in 2003. Spain is a wonderful place, but I knew that financially I was not going to be able to advance my photographic aspirations there. While the principle motivator behind the move might have been a monetary one. I also wanted to find out what the region was really like, having been in Manhattan during September the 11th and exposed to the media coverage that followed. My friends and relatives strongly advised me not to go, but I was sceptical and wanted to find out for myself. 

What fascinates me most about Saudi culture is that it is so misunderstood. Saudis actually have a great many qualities which we Westerners would do well to learn from. I really envy how close their family relationships are and admire their generosity and hospitality. The respect they show to elder generations is wonderful and their sense of humour really was a pleasant surprise. 
However, the best thing about Saudi Arabia is Ramadan. During that month, it is impossible to walk down the street at sunset without somebody inviting you into their home to break the fast. It is inclusive, it does not matter if you have a family or not, or whether you are the same religion or not, everyone just wants you to join in and that spirit really is infectious.  

4. Whilst the rest of the world has a negative perception about the Kingdom and its people, particularly Saudi women, why have you decided to portray them in such a positive light? 
Personally, I am fed up of seeing images of veiled women that look like obscure, oppressed objects and of angry looking bearded men. It is no wonder that the Western perception of the Kingdom is so negative.  I had some wonderful experiences there and I found it very disheartening when my well educated Western friends just did not believe me. They often accused me of being brainwashed, which is ironic really. 
There is a different side to Saudi Arabia, one which the Western media has failed to cover. It is that which I plan to portray. I am an artist, not a journalist so I can choose to focus on the positive. Of course, this is not the whole story, but these are chapters that have yet to be told and I am convinced that they would better enable Westerners to understand and ultimately accept such a dramatically different culture from their own. 

5. What advise would you give to expats residing in the Kingdom?
There are two types of expats in the Kingdom, those who focus on what they cannot do and those that focus on what they can. My advice is to make sure you are the latter. Learn Arabic and get out there and meet the people. I know this is more difficult for women, but you can find ways. Integration is so rewarding. Try and find the best of both worlds.

6. What is your opinion with regards to the polygamous relationships that exist in the Middle East?
Personally, I would not want to be involved in a polygamous relationship. I do not believe that you can love in equal measure, but I do understand the reasoning behind it.  

7. What do you think about interfaith marriages?
The romantic in me would like to think that love conquers all, but a marriage is between two families, not just two people so it does represent a major stumbling block, particularly once the children arrive.  Personally, I wouldn't mind my wife being of another faith, but how would her family react? And how would we raise our children? See what I mean, it's complicated. 

8.  If you could be granted one wish and have any skill or talent in the world, what would it be?
Oh, that is an easy one, I would like to be an awful lot better at learning languages. It would be amazing to be able to communicate with everyone. 

9.  What are your favourite websites? 
Favourite websites, hmm, i would probably have to say Facebook. I have moved around so much over the years that if it weren't for that one, I wouldn't have any friends. 

10.  Where do you see yourself five years from now? What are your plans for the future?
Once I have reduced the misconceptions surrounding Saudi Arabia. I would like to do the same with Iran or indeed Pakistan. These three countries are where most of my friends are from and that certainly would not have been the case had I paid attention to our media. 
My photography is all about cross-cultural communication and making people realise that essentially we are all the same. 

11. Define success... What does it mean to you?
Success for me is to leave a legacy. I love the idea that my photographs will continue to bounce around the globe long after I am gone.

Once again, thank you Sebastian for taking the time to answer these questions. Desert Moon wishes you all the best in your future endeavours!!! 

Check out Sebastian Farmborough's interview on BBC ARABIC

Friday, April 11, 2014

Why have Muslim women allowed a patriarchal system to hijack their place and role within the Islamic world?


I was meaning to write this post a long time ago but I just didn't get down to doing it. As I devour my slice of pizza and sip a glass a ice cold coke I am now eager to fire away. A few months ago I was invited to a family gathering where I met members of the extended family and of course guests that I was not familiar with. Whilst introducing myself I was asked where am I from, am I married and of course whats my profession. As the conversation continued I made mention that I was abroad for a number of years and I returned to my home country to be a part of a new family business, Medix Pharmacy. There was a few women in the gathering who happened to be from a staunch ultra conservative background, but take note that when these women were young, they had their own businesses, wore swimming costumes etc etc..Now that God Almighty has guided them they suddenly appear as "the holier than thou" type. As the conversation ensued I was told, that a woman's place is at home. A woman should not be involved in the business world but rather stay at home and rear a dozen kids. Naturally I was boiling inside to retaliate but I simply kept my cool as it was meant to be a get together.

What fascinates me is that when the first verse of the Quran was revealed " read in the name of Thy Lord who created man from a clot of blood".. God Almighty didn't associate gender to the word read. Where did this notion or idea come from that women should not educate themselves, persevere and excel in whatever respectable field makes them happy and gives them a sense of inner satisfaction and accomplishment. Throughout history there has been many noble Muslim women of note that have held positions of power and contributed significantly to society during that era. Let me elaborate further by starting off with Khadija (Peace be upon her), the wife of our beloved Prophet Muhammed (saw). She was a super successful business woman and through her contribution Islam spread far and wide. Umma Ammara, also known as Nusayba Al ansariyya participated in the Battle of Uhud. She carried a sword and a shield and is remembered for protecting the Prophet (saw) against his enemies. "‘Ā’isha was the wife of the Prophet Muhammad who had perhaps the most influence on the Muslim community after his death. She played a central role in the political opposition to the third and fourth caliphs Uthmān ibn ‘Affān and ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib, even leading an army against the latter at Basra in 656. Although she retired from political life after her defeat, she continued to play a major role as a transmitter of Islamic teachings. She is one of the major narrators of hadith in the Sunni tradition. In many ways, she is among the most controversial figures in early Islam, especially since the implications of her actions for women’s participation in scholarship, political life, and the public sphere clashed with later conservative conceptions of the role of women. For more about ‘Ā’isha and her legacy, read Denise Spellberg’s excellent book entitled Politics, Gender and the Islamic Past: The Legacy of ‘Ā’isha bint Abī Bakr (1996).Lubna of Cordoba was originally a slave-girl of Spanish origin, Lubna rose to become one of the most important figures in the Umayyad palace in Cordoba. She was the palace secretary of the caliphs ‘Abd al-Rahmān III (d. 961) and his son al-Hakam b. ‘Abd al-Rahmān (d. 976). She was also a skilled mathematician and presided over the royal library, which consisted of over 500,000 books. According to the famous Andalusi scholar Ibn Bashkuwāl: “She excelled in writing, grammar, and poetry. Her knowledge of mathematics was also immense and she was proficient in other sciences as well. There were none in the Umayyad palace as noble as her.” [Ibn Bashkuwal, Kitab al-Silla (Cairo, 2008), Vol. 2: 324]."

"As philanthropists and benefactresses, Muslim women like Queen Zubayda, wife of 9th century Caliph Harun Ar-Rasheed in the Abbasid dynasty, deserves mention because of her huge contributions to public works such as building wells and guest houses on the major routes that pilgrims took to Mecca, as well as building wells and reservoirs. In addition, Queen Zubayda was an intellectual who expressed her political thoughts in public besides supporting poets and writers, regardless of their religion, and religious scholars and the needy. On the Western side of the Muslim Arabic world, 9th century’s Fatima al Fihriyya in Fez, Morocco founded al-Qarawwiyyin mosque which became one of the oldest Islamic schools and colleges operating until the present time. Among other women who built schools was Banafshaa’ ar-Rumiyya of the 11th century who restored schools, bridges, public housing for homeless women in Baghdad, besides having her own school endowment. Moreover, Fatima of Cordoba was a 10th century librarian who oversaw 70 public libraries containing 400,000 books."

"Finally, as queens and rulers, Muslim famous women that stand out are Arwa al-Sulayhi, an 11th century Yemini who ruled for 71 years and was known as the Noble Lady. Sultana Shajarat al-Durr took control over Egypt after her husband’s death in the 13th century. Sultana Razia, on the other hand, was the only female to sit on India’s throne in Delhi for four years in the 13th century. In central India and closer to our contemporary world, a family of women rulers ruled over the principality of Bhopal from 1819 to 1924, the last of whom was Begum Kaikhursau Jahan. This family was famous for building railways, water works, and a postal system."

Of course the list continues but with so many Muslim women within the Islamic world making significant contributions to humanity, I fail to understand why has the Islamic world become patriarchal forcing women to take the back seat when that was never how how it suppose to be in the first place. Where did this idea come from that it is the sole responsibility of a woman to iron, cook, clean and raise a dozen children. Why can't a man cook, clean and iron? Shouldn't it be a shared responsibility. The trend seems to be changing though with more and more Muslim women educating themselves and taking up important positions within society. This however comes at a price. In Muslim Indian communities an educated woman is viewed as a threat so naturally you are not considered marriage material. I had a hilarious situation a few days ago where a friend of mine wanted to introduce me to her friends brother. When the gentleman was informed about my qualifications and other media related activities I am involved with, it scared the pants out of the guy and naturally he refused to meet me. I find it fascinating how people judge others based on profession or material wealth. People have this notion that if you driving a fancy car or you living in a huge home that you spoiled. They fail to see the bigger picture and that is the individual themselves. Isn't personality and character more important than wealth and materialistic possessions.. With the world economic situation in dire straits wouldn't it be a pleasure having a partner that also works and assists in running a home. Whilst there are men out there who prevent their educated wives from working out of spite and jealousy, there are also women out there who have this notion that a woman's place is in the home. This kind of woman refuses to work or do anything extra. The poor husband works his butt off whilst the wife abuses and spends money lavishly. Shopping, visiting beauty salons and watching TV from morning to night is how time gets spent without taking into consideration the husbands financial situation. A marriage situation requires two to tango and I fervently believe that both partners need to educate themselves, work hard and build a future together. If two people love each other they should support each other through all of life's trials and tribulations. Why should one partner work hard whilst the other spends it all without showing any sign of appreciation. I hope that the women at the gathering I attended read the above article. I wonder how many of them actually know the history of Muslim women in the Islamic world. The irony of the whole discussion though was when I stood up to leave, I was halted by one lady who asked if I knew a good Muslim female gynaecologist. I simply grinned, shook my head in disbelief and left. I firmly believe that if you educate a woman, you educate a whole nation. Whilst Islam is a forward thinking religion, why have some sectors of the Muslim world gone backward instead of moving forward? Why have Muslim women allowed a patriarchal system to hijack their place and role within the Islamic world?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

When is the crime in this country ever gonna stop?

(Picture courtesy of the Pakistan Tribune)

In this damn country even a delivery service is considered dangerous. We got a call this morning to deliver medication and other baby items to the Maraisburg Church located on the main road. We usually always deliver to the church and hence it was normal for us to hop into the car and deliver the items. The church building is quite eerie and dilapidated. Hence we always park across the road in the day care centre where it is busy and secure. Suddenly out of no where two gentleman approached us with a cheque folded in a pamphlet. They then told us that Dean, the gentleman who called is not available but he said that we must hand over the packet to them. Naturally, my colleague and I refused stating that we do not accept cheques. We will take the cheque to a bank first, get it cleared and then we will return with the parcel. We then went to FNB bank down town. The queue was horrendous and to be honest the tellers didn't know whether they were coming or going. The bank cleared the cheque without any verification. We then returned to the day care centre to drop off the parcel. The two men disappeared. Upon enquiry it was discovered that the men are part of a syndicate targeting businesses in the Florida area. They use the church's name to order products, issue cheques in return for goods. The cheques obviously bounce and business owners take the knock. It was quite hilarious to learn that a few days ago they ordered sandwiches from a local restaurant claiming that the church is having a charity event and that many platters are required. The driver delivered the sandwiches and he was reimbursed with a cheque that naturally bounced. After two days the driver went back to the church to enquire only to learn from the pastor that there was no charity event and that the church did not require sandwich platters. In our case we were smart in a sense that we did not hand over any items..The cheque got cleared and we had our stock. Then we realized that the cheque is possibly stolen. We then scampered down the road back to the bank where it was discovered from the manager that a client called wondering how come money was withdrawn from her account. Before the bank started their investigation with the camera footage, my colleague and I arrived and returned the money. Naturally, we were thanked and praised for our honesty, quick thinking and integrity. It is just flippin sickening to think about the kind of society we living in. We pride ourselves in helping people that require our assistance. With one call, we get medication delivered or we there if someone falls down and needs assistance. But after what happened today I must say that I honestly feel we just need to shut down this service totally. Our lives were at risk today. We could have been hijacked or robbed in broad day light. We would have simply become another statistic.. I am so angry. I don't mean to be rude or racist, but may be Number 1 and his cronies need to be robbed and thrashed, only then he might just realize that the common citizen lives with fear and paranoia in this country every single day. When is the crime in this country gonna stop?

Friday, March 7, 2014


Monday 24 Feb. 2014 11.30 a.m.(6.30 pm SA time)

From the Pegasus Hotel I send greetings as I prepare to spend my last few hours in Kingston Jamaica and head out this evening on a flight to NY where I shall overnight and then move on to Dubai where I shall be virtually heading upon arrival straight to a match in Abu Dhabi where the U/19 World Cup is reaching the very final stages.
My time in Kingston has gone by without incident and the three matches played on Wed, Fri and Sun all went off without any issues that needed my intervention save for two minor breaches of clothing and equipment regulations- for that I am thankful and both teams displayed a fine spirit of sportsmanship throughout the series.
Other than my visit to the Bob Marley Museum I could not really get to visit many other places- the island i very big and Kingston forms but one corner of this country- we need to bear in mind that they are independent countries within the Caribbean.
Did manage to get to many different restaurants during my stay here and three of the umpires are from the West Indies so it was fairly easy for them to make sure we got a feel of local lifestyles as well as cuisine- Jerk Chicken ( not for a vegetarian of course) seems to be a popular dish- tried to get to the famous Devon House ice cream parlours but amazingly the long queues just seemed far too much for us.
For the 9 days here I have enjoyed wonderful weather- ideal for just getting to the pool area and lazing around and taking in the Jamaican lifestyle.
The hotel itself had some well organised activities during our stay here and top of the list was the two day Bridal Fair which attracted top models and guests as well as visitors all dressed immaculately and arriving in all sorts of fancy cars and limousines!
The Emancipation Park across from the hotel is a wonderful facility- each morning we would wald on the 500 m tartan track which forms a central part of the park- wonderful to see how the locals come along to make use of the facility which is immaculately kept- friendly and ready to chat to any visitors at all times. For me the permanent concrete table tennis boards and chess boards strategically placed were highlights and many people made use of these at all hours.
Sabina Park of course was another highlight- the ground where Sir Garfield Sobers scored his famous 365 not out in a Test Match- a record that remained for around 36 years. So to get this opportunity was indeed special Darren Sammy as Capt. Proved to be a superb gentleman and willing to chat at any time- Dwayne Bravo captained the ODI team and he too was really good.
Well now it is time to get moving again- a short trip to the UAE and scheduled to then be back home in PE on 3 March- looking forward to that break.
As they say in these parts Yah Maan. !
Just deV

Thought you might like to see the Jamaican relaxed look!

This is the entrance to the home of Bob Marley- the sculpture that best depicts the Legend. 

56 Hope Road- now the museum which houses some amazing memorabilia depicting the Life and works of Bob Marley- no photographs allowed during the guided tour.

The museum houses his outfits, platinum record awards, citations and decorations awarded to him, as well as a video presentation highlighting his career.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


International cricket match referee, Devdas Govindjee shares his Caribbean travel experience with all the blog readers. Dev was recently in Jamaica for two T20 one day international cricket matches. I was joking with Dev, that he has in fact become a travel correspondent for this blog.I am so blessed to be acquainted with such a wonderful human being who loves to impart and share his knowledge and experiences with the rest of the world.

JAMAICA - Sunday 16 February 2014

When the Jet Blue flight 59 touched down at the Norman Manley International airport in Kingston at around 8 pm last evening, all the passengers broke out into a spontaneous and enthusiastic round of continuous applause- this epitomized the spirit of the Caribbean as I arrived for my first ever visit to the West Indies.
Having left Port Elizabeth airport at around 2 pm on Valentine’s Day , I took the SA203 flight which was supposed to be a direct flight from ORTIA in Joburg to JFK in New York – this all changed once the captain announced soon before take off at around 8 pm that we would be heading to Dakar in Senegal – it was explained that weather conditions would not allow a flight without re-fuelling- this after about 8hrs we reached Dakar- an hour later- after re-fuelling and the usual on board security checks we were on our way- the other concern was that the USA had been having severe snowstorms and many flights at JFK had been cancelled or diverted.
Thankfully we were told that the skies had cleared sufficiently for our landing which did happen at around 7.30 am ( USA Eastern Time) on Sat 15th.
Our approach was a spectacle in itself and fortunately my camera was at hand for me to try to capture the blanket of snow that had enveloped the entire JFK airport- the runways had been cleared of all snow and ice and with temperatures below zero it was a freezing arrival into New York’s Terminal 4.
A fter customs and baggage I made my way via the overhead airport train to the next stop to be at Terminal 5 where i would check in and await my 7.30 Jet Blue flight to Kingston.
After a lovely shower and change of clothes in the Air Space lounge I relaxed and sent out some fb messages as well as enjoyed a waiting time by frequenting the terminal shops and getting something to eat .
The 3hr 30 min flight to Jamaica meant that about 38 hours had elapsed from the time i had left PE to the time I arrived at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in Kingston- having been met at the airport by the assigned West Indies Cricket Board representative.
After a lovely sleep I was awakened around 6 to the sounds of loudspeakers blaring and reggae music filling the air- down below I could gather that preparations were in hand for some or other walk/fun run and that people in big numbers were gathering in support of the event- as i type balloons have been sent into the heavens and joggers and walkers are all on their way around the area of the hotel.
I have had my swim in a lovely Olympic sized pool set in a garden area which also boasts a jogging track and two stunning tennis courts with seating areas for spectators as well.

My first match of the 3 I am doing here at the famous Sabina Park is on Wednesday so I have three days to get to see as much as i am able to- have stadium inspection as well as a pre-series meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

What am I most looking forward to on my visit to Jamaica?
Nelson Mandela inspired millions around the world- but who inspired Mandela?
Outside of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Martin Luther King jr there was one other person who played an influential role in determining the political outlook and approach of Madiba- that person was MARCUS MOSIAH GARVEY- during my lecture days I spent many lectures talking about this philosopher, educator, visionary and an extraordinary charismatic leader.
A visit to the Marcus Garvey museum is high on my agenda – he spent the better part of his life reflecting on the injustices of racism he had experienced in the West Indies as well as during travels in South & Central America. I shall refrain from going into a lecture on Garvey but merely add that in 1914 he founded the worldwide movement known as the Universal Negro Improvement Association & African Communities’ League – vowing to work to change the status quo of the Black man’s lack of influences, power and wealth in the world.
Next on my agenda would be to get into the rhythm of Kingston and this would start with a visit to the Trench Town Culture yard and move on to the Bob Marley Museum- a big fan am I so this is also a dream come true to learn more about the legend – then get to have a night out at Usain Bolt’s Tracks & Records joint ( use that term with caution of course!)
Time to get this 1st update off and to get down to some breakfast- not sure what to expect of
Caribbean cuisine but lets leave that for my next mail as the Reggae sounds of “ African Queen ” come filtering through my window as the announcer congratulates the finishes of the charity run/walk.

As always

I am Just


Terminal 5 at JFK airport in New York. The warm glows belie the miserable weather outside where temps were below zero with snow covering most of the airport.

Sunrise over the Blue mountains in Kingston Jamaica — in Kingston, Jamaica.

"Out of many,One People" - that's the motto of Jamaica- Across from the hotel is Emancipation Park- these stunning works at the entrance to the Park -the man and woman stare into the heavens, symbolising Jamaicans' rise to freedom.The work is titled Redemption song. — in Kingston, Jamaica.

Emancipation Park- milling with people who took part in a fund raising event today (Sunday) — in Kingston, Jamaica.

My first visit to a national stadium in the Caribbean. The very famous Sabina Park- 1st Test here in 1930. This is where Sir Garfield Sobers scored his 354 not out in a Test Match- a world record that stood for 36 years. Gregory Brathwaite and Joel Wilson the two WI umpires with me. — at Sabina Park.

The beautiful Blue Mountains form a backdrop to this unique "party" section - looks like a vessel sailing along!— at Sabina Park.