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Friday, February 18, 2011

Los Amigos Invisibles

Los Amigos Invisibles

Los Amigos Invisibles | Flickr

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Angola's capital: Costly even for Croesus | The Economist

Costly even for Croesus

The trials and tribulations of visiting an African boomtown

Angola's capital

Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum

THE Angolan capital calls itself the “New Dubai” and there certainly are similarities with the emirate. Luanda has vast oil wealth. If they could only get visas, which are rarely granted, tourists would flock to its beaches and nearby game parks. Following the opening of a modern airport, flights arrive non-stop from Europe and America.

But if prices in Dubai seem inflated, they have nothing on Luanda. Last year Angola’s capital was the most expensive city in the world, according to Mercer, a New York-based consultancy. A bog-standard hotel room costs $400, a non-alcoholic drink in the lobby $10 (though a mere $2 in a supermarket). An underwhelming hotel buffet is $75 and a pizza on the street $25.

A taxi-ride within the city easily adds up to $50, especially since the taxi company–the only one in town–starts the meter as soon as the car leaves the depot. There are no cruising cabs. A standard flat costs $10,000-$15,000 a month to rent or at least $1m to buy. A supermarket sold a melon for $100 to a Frenchman at Christmas. He tried to sue the retailer for profiteering in a local court last month, presenting a picture of the melon plus the receipt. The judge threw out the case for lack of evidence: the Frenchman could not provide the court with the original melon, since he had eaten it.

Officialdom rarely favours outsiders. Your correspondent was walking along a seafront road between the presidential palace and the national police command when a policemen asked to see his passport. Two Japanese businessmen were caught in the same dragnet. Meeting blank incomprehension, the policeman wrote $10 into the sand with a stick. When this failed to elicit the required backhander, the copper stammered, “Angola… políciabandidos.”

Angola's capital: Costly even for Croesus | The Economist

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Friday, February 11, 2011

The MasterFeeds: Have You Seen HOSNI MUBARAK'S Facebook Page?

The MasterFeeds: Have You Seen HOSNI MUBARAK'S Facebook Page?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Jerusalem: Simon Sebag Montefiore


The Diary: Simon Sebag Montefiore

By Simon Sebag Montefiore / Life & Arts - Published: January 28 2011 22:03 | Last updated: January 28 2011 22:03
Jerusalem has always driven people mad: the Jerusalem syndrome is a madness caused by the disappointment of finding that the real, messy, chaotic, angry place is not the Celestial Holy City of the imagination. One hundred visitors a year – mainly Christian pilgrims – go insane and are committed to the Kfar Shaul Mental Health Centre. Many emperors, conquerors, leaders, Jews, Muslims and Christians have, in their way, succumbed, losing touch with reason when it comes to Jerusalem.

In 2000, the British Journal of Psychiatry described the syndrome as a “psychotic decompensation ... related to religious excitement induced by proximity to the holy places of Jerusalem”. The study warns tour guides to be aware of the danger signs in their groups and these include: an obsession with taking baths; compulsive fingernail/toenail clipping; preparation, with aid of hotel bed linen, of toga-like garb, always white; screaming; ranting; procession to shrines and delivery of sermons there. Even writers about Jerusalem have been known to suffer bouts of the syndrome: my wife Santa thinks we’ve all been suffering from it in our house. She is very glad my book Jerusalem: the Biography is out.
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