Kool Kollam


The inside of the lighthouse (pic from Mr. Google)

My recent short visit to Kerala took me to the quaint little town of Kollam (previously Quilon), virtually on India’s southernmost tip.
I did expect the place to be rather quiet (most of Kerala is rather so) but what I witnessed was right of a school history textbook.
What was striking was everyone takes it easy; there’s no rush for virtually anything; what can be done today is easily put off until forever, if possible, and everyone seems to be in a rather celebratory mood (perhaps my being there during the Onam festival had something to do with it).That said, I had read a few things about the city and was looking forward to the visit. And, one thing that fascinated me was the old Lighthouse, built in 1902, and then ‘strengthened’ nearly four decades later. Of course, that was on the itinerary, besides the old fishing harbour and the legendary seaside, not to mention the houseboat cruise on the famed backwaters.
I was a little bit disappointed, however, since the main structure was closed for repairs. Officials said they were in the process of installing an elevator inside. But just going around was quite an experience since it gave out an old world charm and I felt I had come back in time.
Kollam, also an old seaport, has had a strong commercial reputation since the days of the Phoenicians and Romans. Fed by the Chinese trade, it was mentioned by Ibn Battuta in the 14th century as one of the five Indian ports he had seen during the course of his 24-year travels.
The city’s rulers exchanged embassies with Chinese rulers while there was a flourishing Chinese settlement there. In the 9th Century, on his way to Canton, China, Persian merchant Sulaiman al-Tajir found Kollam to be the only port in India visited by huge Chinese junks. Marco Polo, the great Venetian traveller, who was in Chinese service under Kublai Khan in 1275, also visited Kollam and other towns on the west coast, in his capacity as a Chinese mandarin.
In 822 AD two East Syrian bishops – Mar Sabor and Mar Proth – settled in Kollam with their followers. Two years later, the Malabar Era began (824 AD) and Quilon became the premier city of the Malabar region ahead of Travancore and Cochin.
Kollam Port was founded by Mar Sabor at Thangasseri in 825 AD as an alternative to reopening the inland sea port of Kore-ke-ni Kollam near Backare (Thevalakara), which was also known as Nelcynda and Tyndis to the Romans and Greeks and as Thondi to the Tamils.

Old, as always, is gold


One of the several old houses on Bahrain’s Muharraq Island, which are earmarked for complete renovation as part of a comprehensive Culture Ministry project to restore historical buildings. This particular mansion, one of the oldest, is visibly in a dilapidated state, with even its once majestic walls almost ready to give way. However, the intricate glass work on the doors and the ‘semi circular’ windows, the appeal of which is accentuated by the mesh covering them and popularly known as ‘Jali’, seem to be in perfect shape.
Hopefully, these splendid structures will soon be back to their once majestic glory!

Market 338

Bahrain’s annual Market 338 is back. More than 40 top designers and artists from the Gulf region have come together to showcase their work,for the second year in a row. After its successful launch last year, the event is even bigger and better, and will feature musical performances, pop-up cafes, lectures, workshops and specially commissioned public art installations. DSC_6633 DSC_6660 DSC_6635 DSC_6633 DSC_6657 DSC_6659 DSC_6652 DSC_6648 DSC_6647 DSC_6644 DSC_6661 DSC_6664 DSC_6666 DSC_6668
Made possible thanks to the huge support of Bahrain’s Economic Development Board and the British Council, there is also a specially commissioned design project focused on the theme ‘Explore, Create and Play’. In trying to encourage interaction with the living environment, Marrakech designers Zid Zid Kids will be working with local children and youth to build two outdoor playgrounds solely by natural and recycled materials.
The Director of Al Riwaq Art Space, Bayan Al Barak Kanoo, said the event is central to Al Riwaq’s vision of nurturing local and regional talents while providing a platform to promote their work to a wider audience. In charge of this year’s theme is Sara Kanoo, a Bahraini architect who decided that the market should adopt the premise of a modern-day inspired Souq.
“Bahrain has a rich history of markets featuring locally made goods, and we wanted to update this to feature modern local talent,” she said. “One of the things that I love about this year’s market is that there are so many ways to take part. Of course you can shop and eat, but there will also be interactive art, a playscape for children, free workshops for children and adults, lectures, and live music. There truly is something for everyone!”
Designers to look out for include Fatma Al Mulla, Ma’Rockin, La Boutique 92, Pretty Little Things, Posh Bahrain, The Cookie Car, AT Cupcakes Bowtique and The T-Shirt Shop to name a few. You can also expect performances from local musicians such as Al Harith, Ryan and Zahid, Khalil Rasson, Sona, May Al Qasim and Alderon (Ali Malik).
The build up to this event has been aided by a series of six design-based training workshops. Spanish designers Juan Manuel Vegas and Ananda Pascual, Dubai-based artist Lara Assouad Khoury and Amna Al Rumaihi all led workshops in the areas of product design, fashion design, typography and branding. The British Council sponsored UK-based Martin Postler and his product development workshop ‘Made in Bahrain’.
An extremely well thought out and cleverly crafted event, everyone in Bahrain should really go and show their support to local artists and designers, especially with the spirit of Christmas in the air!
Market 338 will be running until December 15.
Courtesy FACT Bahrain


Destination Desert

Destination Desert

Bahrain’s annual camping season has been well under way for the last few weeks and will continue until April. Traditionally, these few months, thousands of Bahrain’s families set up ‘camp’ in the vast rocky areas in the south of the country in an area they then call home.
During those few months, enterprising businessmen set up convenience “tents” all over the place and mobile telephone companies install communication masts to ensure everyone stays in contact with the ‘outside world.’
The only flip side is the camps are still extremely close to Bahrain’s vital oil and gas infrastructure, in spite of the authorities trying to move them away to a safer distance.

On a high note

A lone rider trudges past the ancient Bahrain Fort as the weather cleared after two days of incessant rain. The fort, said to be several hundred years old, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the scene of some intense development by the Culture Ministry to attract more tourists to the country.