The tourist sites in Jordan are very quiet at the moment, as lots of tourists are staying away because of the political problems in the Middle East.
Petra is one of the great ancient sites of the world. A city built by the Nabataeans around the 6th century BC and described as “a rose-red city half as old as time.” It has featured in numerous movies, including Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade.
I also visited Jerash, one of the best-preserved ancient Roman cities in the world.
Plus I visited Umm Qais, up near the border with Syria. It is the place where the supposed miracle of the demon pigs happens in the bible. Jesus encounters a man possessed by many demons. If you’re a fan of science fiction or horror, you’ve probably come across the line – “My name is Legion: for we are many.”
Jesus cures the man by casting out the spirits into a herd of nearby pigs.
And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
Obviously the son of god didn’t particularly care for the animal rights movement.
I stayed with Australian friends in Abu Dhabi and they showed me some of the more unusual and interesting parts of the emirates.
In terms of land, Abu Dhabi makes up almost 90% of the Emirates, and has by far the most oil. Dubai got more international attention by using Emirates Airlines as a hub to attract more international tourists and by building gigantic hotels. But then the global financial crisis hit and the money ran out. There are abandoned construction projects all around the outskirts of Dubai, which has fallen on hard times.
Abu Dhabi doesn’t want to be outdone and they set up Etihad, built some gigantic hotels of their own and are embarking on a series of new building projects, such as a new Guggenheim and other museums.
The Emirates Palace has a vending machine catering for all your gold purchasing needs.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an amazing building.
Enough pork products to satisfy even Homer Simpson wait behind these supermarket doors.
The most interesting tourist attraction in the UAE is not very well known and is difficult to visit. The Emirates National Auto Museum doesn’t sound like a particularly interesting place to visit, but in fact it is one of the strangest places I’ve ever been.
Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan (also known as The Rainbow Sheikh) is a member of the Emirates royal family. He has billions of dollars and has collected over 200 cars. He built a gigantic fibreglass pyramid in the middle of the desert to house them. The opening hours of the museum are extremely erratic and of around the dozen or so times my friend had visited, it had only been open once. I was lucky enough to get a chance to go inside.
There are lots of ordinary cars, some very tacky cars, and the largest car in the world - a Dodge Power Wagon, eight times the size of the original. It is simply enormous. We could walk through the car which has a staircase and different levels. There are four bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom. They all decorated in a very tatty style.
The Sheikh even had his name (Hamad) written in kilometer-high letters on his private island so it appears on Google maps.
There’s a video interview with the Rainbow Sheikh himself and a tour inside the car.
Drabblecast are going to do an audio version of my story Hokkaido Green.
Jerel Dye has created an absolutely beautiful piece of art to accompany the story.
On his blog, Jerel describes the process he used to create the image:
I wanted to pay tribute to the artistic tradition in which the story is based, Japan. Some may know that I mostly use Sumi-e ink in my drawings, this is more based on the qualities that the ink has, and not so much on tradition. (I actually use an ink well, not the stick that it traditionally comes in) Sumi-e ink has a wonderful liquidity, never gums up, and smells like earth in a light summer rain (it’s made from soot). But I almost never use the bamboo brush (i’ve played around with them, but haven’t produced much with them), and my work definitely isn’t zen like. The true sumi-e tradition is one of calm and a spare hand. The challenge in sumi-e ink painting is to evoke a scene, usually of nature, with the fewest number of marks possible.
A couple of weeks ago I went up to Sydney for the Aurealis Awards. My short story, Inksucker was nominated in the YA short story category. It didn’t win, but it was wonderful just to be nominated, especially given that the winning story was by Margo Lanagan, one of my Clarion South tutors.
Two of my fellow Clarion South students won awards – Angela Slatter for Best Collection and Lisa Hannett and Angela for the story they co-wrote.
The best part of the weekend was catching up with lots of writing friends and making some new friends.
I haven’t written many new short stories in the last year, my focus has been on writing my YA novel, The Way of Dragons. Last weekend, I finally finished the first draft. There is still a lot of work to be done revising it, but it’s a great feeling to get such a big chunk of the work out of the way.
The first draft came in at 105,000 words, which is a little long for a YA book. The story’s basic premise involves a young man joining a monastery in order to find the cure for his sister that has been poisoned by a dragon. It features encrypted dragon eggs, cloud painting monks and forbidden numbers.
After I’ve revised the novel I’ll be sending it out for crits. After that I’ll have to decide what to do with the novel. The traditional route would be to send it to an agent or publisher, but of course these days there are a plethora of web sites discussing the merits of self-publishing for ebook readers. Although self-publishing options through Amazon are looking increasingly attractive, I’m still going to first pursue publication through one of the major houses.