Amids a humanitarian catastrophe of, well, biblical dimension in Yemen, the BBC’s Lyse Doucet interviewed yesterday Saudi Arabia’s foreign affairs minister, Adel al-Jubeir. Visibly miffed by insisting Doucet, the 55-yr-old indeed soft-spoke about Iran as the root cause of the conflict in Yemen since, believe it or not, 1979 when late Ayatollah Khomeini led the Iranian Revolution and promised to export it to other Muslim countries.

As ridiculous that claim appears, it exposes the grudge of the Saudi regime. After more than two years of relentless bombarding the tiny neighboring country, the poorest in the region, there is no real progress. Rebel groups, the Houthis, had dared to dismiss the “elected” (by a ridiculous 99.8% margin) but rather imposed, by the Saudi hegemon, on Yemen president Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, who is now living in exile in the Kingdom.

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Is Salvator Mundi Leonardo’s?

Salvator Mundi

Earlier this week, a new record was set for an artist’s painting. Four-hundred million bucks plus fees for (allegedly) Leonardo da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi (about 1500) were offered by a (yet) unknown bidder in the Postwar and Contemporary (sic) Art Sale at Christie’s in New York. One possibility is Abu Dhabi, which has to fill its stunning new Louvre with spectacular art. The true origin of the heavily restored painting which had long been forgotten and rediscovered only in 2005 is not proven beyond chance, though.

One has to understand that, despite Mona Lisa, Leonardo (1452-1519) was not the most talented, let alone prolific, fine artist ever. Fewer than 20 of his works have survived. Leonardo was a Renaissance Man, a polymath. Similar as his contemporary, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528), Leonardo was first and foremost a scientist. He instantly applied results of his scientific research, for example in optics, in his artistic work.

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What Has Happened to These Boys?


I had taken this picture in early 2007 on our walk down from Kawkaban (at almost 3000 m) to Shibam (the other one, not that in the Hadhramaut). Yemen was my last travel destination when living in the Middle East. I got there just couple of months before leaving Kuwait for good.

When revisiting the picture of six boys which had been posted in another blog, I was wondering, what had happened to them in the past 10 years. On the picture, some of the boys had apparently got some candies and cookies from passing tourists, and the little one (second from left) looks a bit envious as he had missed out. The one on the right had cobbled together a little drum from a small cardboard box. The older boys (maybe nine or ten at the time) were wearing already traditional men garments, thobe and vest. They seem to be normal and happy children, of course not living in the best of all worlds.

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Whale Watching in Tromsø

Last week’s whale watching safari in the Kaldfjord of Kvaløja/Troms was unfortunately unsuccessful. We booked Northern Sailing, responsible whale watching on an oak shooner as it is known that Northern Norway may be the last resort for these beautiful beasts.  We joked that the intelligent animals most probably were actually there but probably kept hiding, diving under the ship.

The orcas and humpbacks will arrive later this month, when swarms of herrings show.

BBC had a report on whale watching in Kvaløja/Tromsø yesterday. Scientists believe killer whales are doomed to extinction due to harmful chemicals manufactured by man. That would fit with dire expectations I had expressed earlier today.

4 November 2017 @ 3:30 pm.

Last modified November 4, 2017.


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Martin Luther and Islam


Germany is celebrating 500 years of Reformation of Christianity these days. On 31 October 1517 it is said that monk Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to Wittenberg’s church calling for some change. It was the beginning of the Protestant Church and caused a remarkable amount of schism, strife, and decades of war. Luther’s violent anti-semitism (now euphemized as anti-Judaism) had even repercussions in the 20th century, culminating in the Nazi’s Endlösung der Judenfrage when the majority of Germans, being  Protestants (but Catholics were callous as well), kept silent amidst the most horrendous genocide in history, the holocaust.

Some question whether Islam does need sort of “Reformation” as well. Those who ask are generally unaware that an age of science and enlightenment happened in Muslim-reigned countries 600 years before Renaissance in Europe. Without Islam’s Golden Age, European enlightenment would simply not have possible.

Now, Martin Luther’s merits include not only Reformation of  rotten Christianity. When translating the Hebrew text of the Tanakh and the Greek Gospels, he would ultimately enable the illiterate crowds to follow the myths and mysteries of church messes and better reflect on what they actually had to believe. Superstition was at work anyway. The Holy Scripture could now be read in German language, and the creation of that particular language resulted in the perception of a nation. And, Johannes Gutenberg had re-invented movable type printing around 1450 in Europe (after the Chinese had invented it in the 11th century), so dispersion of the Word of God was granted.

Apart from his obnoxious anti-Semitism, what did Luther think about Islam? In 1529, Vienna was besieged by the Turks for the first time. It was the maximum expansion of the Ottoman Empire in Central Europe. Turks ruled over much of the Balkans for more than 150 years thereafter.

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