Saturday, March 28, 2015

To Rotterdam for a Moroccan dinner

The visit to The Hague was a sad dream unfulfilled as we could not see the Panorama Medag as I mentioned in one of my previous posts. So after moving about in the city for a while, we headed to Rotterdam - our last destination in the Netherlands, where we had a splendid four days stay. There in Rotterdam, Shahid Latif with his Moroccan wife were anxiously waiting to receive us. 

As we reached Shahid's flat, he received us on the ground floor and insisted that we had a city tour before it got dark and also allowed his wife to prepare dinner for us. So I handed over the wheels to Shahid Latif who drove us around the city and introduced to us the old and new Rotterdam.

Rotterdam, as the name implies, is a city which was built around a dam built to harness the River Rotter in 1270 AD and is located geographically within the Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt river delta at the North Sea. There are many a old building that one can still see when driving through the city - one has been artfully restructured as can be seen in the photo above to allow the road go through it without destroying the old architecture of the city. 

As we started our Rotterdam city tour, the first major land mark of the city we passed by was the the Essalam mosque (pictured below), which is the largest in the Netherlands and one of the largest in Western Europe. The mosque is a beautiful combination of traditional Islamic architecture with its two 50-meter minarets and a dome. The mosque was funded by Maktoum Charity Foundation of Dubai sheikh Hamad bih Rashid al-Maktoum. The mosque caters for the needs of Muslims of Turkish, Moroccon and Indonesian origin.

Talking of the old Rotterdam, the 'White House' (above) stands out, which was opened in 1898 - it may surprise you today, but at that time it was considered to be Europe's first 'skyscraper'. The building was portrays the Jugendstil or Art Nouveau.

While many new bridges now attract tourists, the old bridges are still preserved as part of the history. The photo above shows both the old and new bridges of Rotterdam.

Koninginnebrug ("Queen's Bridge"), is a twin-leaf bascule bridge which today is a key conduit for road, cycle and foot traffic over the Koningshaven ("King's Harbour") over Muse river. Two steel work trusses cradle the roadway, while foot and cycle traffic uses walkways cantilevering from either edge. It was built in 1929, to replace a swing bridge. It lies adjacent to the Koningshavenbrug or the old train bridge as described down below.

The Koningshavenbrug or the De Hef as called by people of Rotterdam is an old train bridge over the Muse river though no longer in use still signifies itself of its past glory. The bridge was originally made as a wing bridge back in 1878, but because of lack of space for passing ship, the middle part of the bridge was converted to a lift bridge.

The elevated platform as can be seen in the photos above/below was used to allow the trains service on the bridge. And when it was time for shipping, the entire section was lifted up using heavy steel wires and pullies on both sides of the elevated steel columns.

The bridge is no longer in use and is permanently open for ships. I was told that the bridge has even been auctioned, but it is being retained for its love by the people of Rotterdam.

Rotterdam is a massive new city unlike Amsterdam. While in Amsterdam, one sees almost all landmarks of the city in Dam Square and for many tourists, the Dam Square is more than enough to see anything else in the city. But here in Rotterdam, it is not the case - the city is spread out in every direction and you really need to have lot of time to move about or someone who knows Rotterdam like the palm of his hand and can take you around - otherwise you would be lost amidst the old and new architecture and diverse culture of the city.

Besides the The Erasmus bridge, the Willemsbrug above is also a 'visible' landmark of Rotterdam. The bridge was built to between 1975 and 1981 to connect the North and South of the the city. Its deck is held aloft by a system of tie rods attached to two V-shaped steel towers painted in red.

To the Eramus Bridge

The Erasmus Bridge or the Erasmusbrug in Dutch (as can be seen in the photos below), is a 802-metre-long (2,631 ft) bridge across the New Meuse combined cable-stayed and bascule bridge in the centre of Rotterdam, connecting the north and south parts of this city, second largest in the Netherlands. 

The Eramus Bridge is a cable-stayed bridge above Nieuwe Maas with a striking modern design. It was designed by Ben van Berkel and was completed in 1996. The pylon is 139m high and 802m long. It has been featured in several movies and Tour de France.

The Erasmus Bridge was officially inaugurated in 1996. It is said that shortly after the bridge opened to traffic in October 1996, it was discovered the bridge would swing under particularly strong wind conditions. To reduce the trembling, stronger shock dampers were installed.

The 'Kop van Zuid', the area on the south-shore of the river Maas, is the leader when it comes to new buildings. In fact Rotterdam is now known as the 'vertical city' as contrary to old wide buildings with a few stories, the city skyline is now filling up with compact buildings going up vertically.

Posing with my son in front of the 'De Rotterdam', the vertical buildings which is the largest multipurpose building in the Netherlands. The three stacked and interconnecting towers of De Rotterdam rise 44 floors to a height of 150 meters and span a width of over 100 meters

The 11-storey Rotterdam Market Hall (as seen above and below) is a spectacular building of modern architecture with a forty meter high arch made of stone including windows. The Market Hall comprises a huge fresh-market, bars, food shops and a supermarket all together under one roof. This is Holland’s first indoor fresh food market.

St. Lawrence church (Above): The church building was the only building that withstood the bombing during the Rotterdam Blitz - the aerial bombardment of Rotterdam by the Luftwaffe (German air force) in 1940, while everything around it was razed to the ground. The church building, located in the city center and almost adjacent to the Rotterdam Market Hall, today is reminiscent of Rotterdam's medieval architecture.

The Willemswharf office building (above) rests on a narrow strip of land above the Hertekade street. The 100 meters wide and 90 meters high building is fully lined with concrete panels with white ceramic tiles. I was told that this building has been used in one of the Jackie Chen movies.

Rotterdam Blaak is a peculiarly shaped railway station and metro station (as can be seen in photos above and below), located on the Breda–Rotterdam railway between Rotterdam and Dordrecht, and the city center near the cube houses.

My sons posing in front of the Rotterdam Blaak

The Cascade (above), located on the Westblaak, is a 8-metre polyester sculpture made up of emptying oil barrels, once icons of Rotterdam’s busy port. The sculpture symbolize the natural resources that are now running low.

My family posing in front of the Rotterdam's new Central Station (Rotterdam Centraal) that was reopened in March 2014, designed to handle up to 320,000 passengers daily.

The Groothandelsgebouw above is an extensive building and monument in the center of Rotterdam, Netherlands next to the Central Station of the city. It is one of the first major buildings built after the bombing of Rotterdam in the Second World War.

The City Hall above is an immense building of the early 20th century. It's foundation was laid on 15 July 1915 byQueen Wilhelmina on Coolsingel, opposite Stadhuisplein. The building has a symmetrical design, constructed around a courtyard, with the main entrance in the middle. The courtyard, laid out as a small park, can be accessed via the street which runs through the middle of City Hall.

The Erasmus Bridge at night
We posing with the Erasmus Bridge in the background at night

The Club Houses of Rotterdam (as seen in photos below) also portray a unique architectural design. On the face of it, these houses look awfully tilted but from inside these are as normal as any other building.

The concept used in the Club Houses is “residing as an urban roof”, where a group of cube shaped houses are swarmed above a vertical, hexagonal pylon tilted at an angle of 45 degrees above the mentioned pylons

It took us quite a while to have a city tour and all the time out host Shahid Latif was getting buzzes one after the other from his wife to head home as she wanted to serve us the dinner straight from the oven. We thus headed home and were greeted by a charming lady with smiles. Although she did not speak any language other than her native Arabic and the Dutch, my wife still got along with her in the broken English out host understood.

The dinner table was all full with number of dishes both oriental and European. However, the main dish was Moroccan as can be seen in the photo above, which our host had specially prepared for us. And let me tell you that it was one of the very best and tastiest dished I have ever tasted.

Peas with minced meat or 'Matar Qeema' our host specially prepared for us in case we felt 'lonely' in the presence of Arabic and European dishes. While we did have it, but her other dishes were so tasty that we did not feel away from our home and devoured each delicacy to our full. After the dinner, we were served with traditional green tea of Morocco. 

After chatting and appreciating the beautiful paintings by Iqbal Mehdi, who happened to have visited Shahid Latif's house sometime back. We then hit the bed as we had a long day ahead for our travel to Paris - the city of love and lovers!!

Photos Credit: All photos are taken by me and are accordingly copy-righted

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Friday, March 27, 2015

The Lahore Fort Road Food Street

Entrance to the Fort Road Food Street

Mention of Lahore or talking of Lahore without its food is the most unjust thing one can ever do. The richness of Lahore's peculiar culture is incomplete unless we talk about the amazing dishes of specific Lahori food. Those who come to Lahore always cherish the memories of its beautiful places, people and mouth watering dishes forever.

Being a Lahorite myself and a foodie too, I have been writing about eateries of Lahore in some of my previous posts. I have talked about the Gawalmandi Food Street, the eateries around the Qaddafi Stadium and also shared an introduction to the food street of the Fort Road. Recently I was in Lahore and made it a point to visit the eateries on the Fort Road - a place just overlooking the famous Badshahi Mosque (the Royal Mosque), built by the Mogul Emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century AD.

The Fort Road food street, as is evident from its name, is located on the Lahore Fort Road and also adjacent to the Badshahi Mosque, and amidst the Taxali and Roshnai Gates, the Sikh Gurdwara and numerous other historical buildings in the Walled City. Like the Gawalmandi Food Street, the Fort Road food street too is located in the old multi-storied houses with wooden balconies and windows, exotically painted and immensely lit at night. 

 The wooden balconies of the old houses of the Lahore Walled city - now house to the Fort Road food street

 Dinner tables on the footpaths along the road leading to one of the gates of the Lahore Fort
 Food is prepared outside the eateries - the aroma of which fills the environs around

As I said earlier, the Fort Road food street is just adjacent to and behind the famous Badshahi Mosque and the Lahore Fort. While the Fort is barely visible but for its high walls, the Badshahi Mosque can be seen in its true grandeur and majestic might, as can be seen in the photos above and below.

The illuminated wall of the Lahore Fort  

The buildings that are now occupied by the Food Street have been augmented with decoration pieces and by erecting centuries old heavily carved wooden gates and artifacts.

Cooco's Den (above) was the first eatery that was established here, much before the establishment of the food street. The place has a fantastic display of the art and culture of Lahore and that of the Mogul era. I shall cover the details of Cooco's Den in a separate post as mentioning here with lots of photos would lose its charm while talking of its interior and food delicacies.

We selected two eateries at the food street: The Cucoo's Dena and Rewaj, as suggested by a friend. Here in photos above and below, my children, me and my wife can be seen sitting on the roof top of the Rewaj. Much to our dismay, the food of the place was not very tasty as was recommended by my friend. The only specialty was the 'shahi naan (the royal bread) which had been so prepared to have different taste with each morsel we took. 

The view of the Badshahi Mosque from the roof top of the eateries is matchless. One can see the entire mosque beautifully lit - in fact people come to see the mosque from the roof top of the eateries more than eating here. 

The Badshahi Mosque, my wife and I (rhymed with the King and I)

So this is it for the time being., I shall write about Cooco's Den in one of my next posts.

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