My Oslo

Where do I begin? I took in as much as I possibly can during my stay in this down-to-earth museum/statue-filled city. I had very little time in Oslo: 12 hours to be exact. Hour after hour of walking and exploring. I visited 4 famous museums: the National Gallery (for love of modern art), the Museum of Architecture (pure curiosity), the Museum of Contemporary Art (always a must though this one was particularly eerie), and the Viking Ship museum (which is very unique to Norway’s Viking history and undoubtedly the pride and joy of Norwegians); went to the world-famous and impressive Sculpture park which was masterfully decorated by one and I mean only ONE incredibly talented man (fell in love with the place and its symbolic meaning); went to all the main landmarks and attractions from the Royal Palace, to the Parliament, to the City Hall (Nobel peace prize venue), to the National Theatre, to the Operagata, to the University…ok you get it; and I was lucky enough to see a part (or actually parts) of Oslo that not many tourists are familiar with (thanks to the wonderful Norwegian Erik). This is in fact my second time in Oslo but my first time was just as swift. There are just so many things to see, and so much history to dive into. I wish I had more time but in the little time I had I understood one fundamental thing – Oslo is a city swimming in tradition and culture. What’s different about it is that it screams history not only aesthetically but also in spirit, it thrives in its nature which is so abundant for a mere city; it values ‘time’ and what time brought and brings; and it lives today’s realities with maturity and intelligence. Lastly and this is more personal – here I felt that its proud peaceful people have a strong connection to their city, a connection which arouses in me a nostalgia for something which exists, but unreachable.

Little Mermaids and Happiness

As I said earlier, here we can find the happiest people in the world! Well it is claimed so on one of the official World Happiness reports. And Danes seem quite cheerful to me! Why wouldn’t they be happy? Granted, taxes are high – BUT – in return you get free education; free healthcare system; high wages; low unemployment rate; a lifestyle catered for the fortifying of community and family life; fresh and clean water and air for your health and soul; tradition and culture to entertain your eyes and feed your senses; freedom of expression to release your inhibitions; good and streamlined services catered for all, making everyday life easier; an environmentally friendly city so no guilty consciences; art; efficient transportation system; numerous international events; sports; recreation; organic stuff; creative gastronomy; greenery; and a happening nightlife! You want music, you have it. You can also find it in a beautifully architected opera house. You want to fish or swim when the sun is out, you can! The harbour has one of the cleanest waters in the world. Limited sunshine but nothing’s perfect! You want to do something which I think is crazy, you can bungee jump! (See that white + black crane? Yep. That’s how they jump). You want a taste of the world? Go to Copenhagen’s famous street-food place. You like interior design and furniture? Check out Danish designs which are sleek and simple. You like Lego? Copenhagen is the city of Lego and the biggest producers of rubber tyres in the world. Lego tyres! You like symbols in general? It is the city of the white statues symbolising people in exile, and it is also the city of the oldest flag in the world! As for the 104 year old famous Little Mermaid – maybe insignificant in size, but very significant in meaning and connotation! She is the symbol of true love, patience, resilience and hope!

Copenhagen: The City and Capital

This flat city is veryinteresting, and it is timeless. It is interesting in the way it has evolved economically, socially and architecturally over the years. It is timeless in the way it interchanges and flirts with old and new; modernity and tradition; calmness and enthusiasm. It has features unlike any other Scandinavian city. It is home to the oldest amusement park in the world (Tivoli, over a 100 yrs old) which is the inspiration behind Disney Land. It is home to the famous Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. His tales were some of my favourites as a child. You all must have heard of or read Little Mermaid, The Ugly Duckling, and Thumbelina! He was an outcast and The Ugly Duckling mirrored his own life. Knowing such details always brings me closer to a place. Legacies are dying out, so when someone leaves a legacy behind, one that has impacted humankind and fuelled literature, progress and development, it is our duty to remember them and tell their stories, and repeat their stories to our children. It is home to thousands of bicycles, 2 on average for every Dane I was told, and cars are not the norm. My bicycle observation earlier wasn’t too far off! It is home to the artistic Queen Margaret of Denmark, 76, an interesting character, loves her cigs, forward thinker, advocator of modernity and freedom, highly educated, and very loved by the Danes. Here you will find a Winston Churchill park, named after him for his contribution to Denmark after World War II. Here you will find the oldest stock exchange in the world, 400 years old, which failed initially but now is the equivalent of Wall Street or DIFC! How things change over decades and centuries! Here they say you will find the happiest people in the world! More on that and other Danish stuff in a bit!

Bicycles – a typical Copenhagen scene

A Cosmopolitan Copenhagen

A city buzzing with people, bicycles, singers, artists and cafes. It is wide, it is stretched and open, it is vibrant, with lots of water in sight, yet I can also say it is a cosy city. One street reminded me of Amsterdam. The other of Dubrovnik. The other streets of some of Stockholm. And others very unique to Copenhagen. There’s even a bit of Italy here. Coloured buildings. Classic buildings. Scandinavian looking buildings. A historical city yet modern. Quite cosmopolitan. Haven’t interacted with the Danish people yet so can’t really say much about that or the culture.They run and they bike and they relax by the water – that’s what I gathered so far. Had a long and tiring day. But there’s tomorrow! And there’s the famous mermaid statue that I’m looking forward to seeing!

Decorative Denmark

Here is what I consider art. First look at all the pictures. What do you think? Don’t you think they are all forms of expression? If you agree, do you see why I would consider them art? Let’s look at picture 1 and 2. This is street art. It’s a mirror, and it’s a wave and it reflects you, me, the light and the city. The man who created this incredible concept has decorated not only Denmark with his unusual creativity, but also Sweden and other places in the world. If you walk along the mirrored wall and change your pace, you’ll experience all kinds of changeabilities. The city changes, you change, the light changes. I think it deserves to be called ‘art’. Now focus on picture 3. I consider it art too. See that old-movie music scenario?See that unique modern yet not-so-modern monumental piece? See those two loversengrossed in their love? See how they all merge together beautifully and create a romantic scene? Deserves a postcard prize and deserves the word ‘art’. Now go back and look at picture 4. Bicycles. So many bicycles. Everywhere. Something about the elegance of these bicycles, their colours, their sleekness, their femininity, the way they all fit together like families – made me think of art! And now the marathon runners’ picture. I must admit I have a soft spot for runners. More specifically: long distance runners. Maybe because I died a million deaths when I ran the 42km marathon a few years ago that every time I see a runner – I bow in my mind, in silent respect. Long distance running is not only a form of expression, it is expression itself. The highs, the lows,the sweat,the resilience,the constant movement of both legs + feet,the interchangeability between your left and right foot, the mental strength needed or else, the discipline, the spasms, the broken nails, the freedom…I can go on. To me, that’s art. The art that is not only seen when runners run with everything they’ve got + get to the finish line, it is the kind of art felt through adrenaline and pain and mental power. No, that’s not sport – that’s art. Art from deep within, self-expression

Grieving

My father and me

In the most unlikely places

In the most unimaginable  moments

Flashes of him appear like lightening

It is daunting

Almost frightening

How his face among all faces

is the only one in luminous sight

Surrounding him only light.

 

I hold back my tears

And chain down my fears

I try to remember a frivolous story

But no memory, no story

Can stop my tears

Can break my fear

So I squeeze my eyes shut

Ignore the agony in my gut

Wear a brave face

Leave no pitiful space

Or any vulnerable trace

Only grace

Pretend the wind is the culprit

For tears that refuse to quit

But there’s nowhere to hide

No one to confide

I need to get a grip.

 

In the most unlikely places

In the most unimaginable moments

I hear beeping

Heavy breathing

All forms of heaving

Witness intubating

and efforts in saving

Pounding hearts

Horror creeping

into my veins.

Pricks violating

Saline swimming

Seeping

into his veins.

Ghosts sneaking in my head

Audaciously nearing his bed

Playing cruel games.

 

I see ugly zig-zags

of uneven charts

I see drug-filled bags

Oxygen increasing

Doctors strategising

Nurses racing

The helpless pacing

The indifferent sighing

The old wailing

The hopeful dreaming

Families pleading

Painful memories

Hardly worth keeping

I hear screaming

Someone weeping

Is death nearing?

The climax of grieving.

 

In the most unlikely places

In the most unimaginable moments

Unbearable haunting scenes

Invade me

They won’t let me be

I want to be free

I travel, and I walk

I talk, and I provoke

I write through the night

Ever so keen

To crush every scene

How absurd and how obscene

I refuse to cry

I block out goodbye

I refuse to become

weak, and to succumb

So I run, and I run

For a fraction

of distraction

No stop sign

Not even a finish line

So I run, and I run

Till I can no longer keep up

And my legs give in

Till all my emotions erupt

And I’m all washed up

And everything in me is no longer violent

Till everything in me is silent.

 

I see him falling

No time for crying

For cowardly hiding

For trials and errors

Doctors and nurses

Stop wondering, stop stalling

Can’t you see he is slipping?

I hear someone calling

The ‘death’ tray is moving

There’s trouble

He’s in trouble

And I’m in trouble

His soul is rising

Angels are flying

And my heart is dying

I shake

I ache

I pray

Please God

Let him stay

Please God

For my sake

Please wait

I know it’s fate

But please just wait

Too late

His soul is now soaring

And Angels keep gathering

God I accept

I swear I accept

I know I am inept

I shudder

I stumble

There’s no waiting

No preparing

And I, without realising

Crumble.

 

In the most unlikely places

In the most unimaginable moments

In my melancholic daze

In my weary phase

My heightened grieving days

I feel the warmth of his gaze

The depth of his gentle ways

The devotion that forever stays

His knowing eyes sweetly smiling

His loving ways slowly piling

Old tears already drying

New tears forming

Of momentarily relief

Ever so brief

‘I am fine’ I whisper

‘Just fine’

His fingers tighten around mine

Gentle and so kind

The best I’ll ever find

Hand in hand

So entwined.

No demands

Only love stands

And as I drift

And as I dream

As I wish away

And pray for an endless day

I hear my father say

In his usual reassuring way

‘I am fine,

Not just fine,

More than fine.’

by Razan Abdul Majeed

The Grandeur of Stockholm

Little interesting details I learnt about Stockholm and Sweden today!
1. Swedes are into recreational activities big time. Canoeing is big here in the summer, and when the lake freezes in winter, ice skating is big
2. Freedom of press at its best! Journalists are free to write about everything and anything and no one including politicians can enquire who provided info to journalists. On top of that, all official documents are open to the public
3. Foreign and English Movies here are never dubbed! Now that’s not the main reason, but Swedes speak excellent English with an American twist in their accents
4. The underground railway is a hub for art. You’ll find beautiful art work from different artists around the world there and Swedes are proud of this. And so they should be. It somehow helps create a safe railway environment. Beautiful things generally offer beautiful moments, unless vanity interferes
5. The first ice bar concept was founded here in Sweden!
6. If you walk here, you’ll soon realise that some streets emulate France’s. I also thought of Venice because of the many canals
7. Clean water is in abundance here. Tap water tastes better than most water I tried in my lifetime!
8. Crown Princess Victoria married a commoner, her personal trainer actually! Making Sweden open and inclusive of all classes and backgrounds
9. On the boat today I saw several marinas! I later enquired and found out that 70% of the Swedish population own boats
10. If you love birds, there’s bird watching!
11. There are 28 national parks and 14 UNESCO world heritage sites & the very first national park of its kind opened in Stockholm
13. The Vasa ship never sailed! This huge grand ship actually sank and never got a chance to spread its wings
13. The weather here is deceiving! Trust me!
14. Swedes are reserved but lovely + polite. You’ve gotta approach them first though and start talking!
What was so apparent to me after spending so many hours exploring Stockholm by foot and boat is that Stockholm is an expanding city. Modernity and tradition work well together in this city and add to its charm!
Am I still impressed? A big YES