The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #21


A reader writes:

Tough one!  Just about anyplace, Middle East.  I'm sure people will obsess over the conical steeple in the background and think this is a multi-faith neightborhood, but I think its a red herring.  My guess is somewhere in Iraq (the foreground house looks like its windows are broken).  The buildings look worn but not ancient.  I'll take a non-traditional guess and say Baghdad, Sadr City.

Another writes:

This picture was taken in Beirut, Lebanon - in the morning, looking west toward Martyr's Square in an area known as Gemayze.  The minaret with what looks to be a church steeple to the left and the abandoned building coupled with the newer nice looking apartment building seem to give it away.  Great town, wonderful folks.  I hope to go back someday.


A mosque in cramped quarters, the mixed architectural styles, the cables running from one building to the next (and allowing people to siphon electricity from their neighbours for free), the mixture of dilapidated and fairly new buildings - all this points to Beirut. My only hesitation springs from the fact that I see no bullet holes (remnants from the civil war) on any of the buildings. But there were areas of Beirut that escaped relatively unscathed from the destruction, so let's assume that this is one of them.


Switzerland?  Ha ha, no.  I'll just go with Cairo, Egypt, the city of a thousand minarets.


Professor Google says that these pencil-type minarets are Ottoman, so that's something, I guess.  The crumbling building in front has horseshoe (Moorish) arches, but again, they're too common to be helpful.  The only thing in this picture that I found to be unusual is the small orange satellite dish on the right, but searching "orange satellite dish" led nowhere.  So really, this can be anywhere from Tunisia to India.  My best guess is Amman, Jordan.


The big clue is the contrasting nature of the mosques in the foreground and background. The minaret of the mosque in the foreground is the typical Arab style. The one in the background is Turkish. There are a couple of ethnic Arab cities in Turkey where you might expect to find both Arab and Turkish-style minarets - Antioch and Alexandretta - but they are relatively clean, prosperous, well kept sorts of cities. In fact, Turkey is generally more prosperous and well kept than the city in these pictures, so instead of looking for Arab pockets in Turkey, I'll look for Turkish (or Turkmen) pockets in Arab countries.

The general crappiness quotient is high, suggesting that the place has seen its share of conflict, or at least bad fortune. At the same time, the shining new white building toward the right side of the pic indicates a bit of wealth moving into the neighborhood - former emigrants who made good abroad and returned post-conflict, perhaps?

Northern Iraq springs to mind, of course. I'm out of real clues at this point, and it could be anyplace in Northern Iraq as far as I know. So I'll just choose the city with the largest Turkmen population - Kirkuk. Within Kirkuk, I'll go for a suburb that is notable for having mixed Arab and Turkmen neighborhoods. Final answer: Al Hawija, Kirkuk, Iraq


Thank you for the lesson in minarets worldwide. Without really knowing what I'm talking about, and realizing that knowledge by Wikipedia is a dangerous thing, this appears to be a Tatar style of minaret. So, concentrating my Google image and map searches to Northern Africa, I find lots of minarets that look just like this one, only more ornate, in Tunis, Tunisia. This one seems humbler, smaller, and unlikely to attract much tourist attention in this part of a crowded city. I don't find such minarets in Marrakech, Cairo, Tripoli, Tangiers, or Algiers. So Tunis it is.


I'll have to go with Casablanca, Morocco.  Fez is too mountainous, and Rabat isn't populated enough.  It could be a Lebanon/Turkey city, but I wouldn't know where to venture a guess.  I'll go with a known known, Casablanca. (So far, my batting average isn't bad: East Timor and Krakow, out of around 10.  Here's hoping I get up to a 300 with Casablanca.)


I'm going with Bikaner, Rajasthan, India. The spire to the left of the minaret looks like it could be from a simple Hindu temple, so we're talking India. Architectural screams Rajasthan to me - desert stylings, somewhat cruddy concrete modern buildings. The proximity of wealth (ACs and satellite hookups) to destitution fits as well. The tree isn't a giveaway, but we're not talking deep desert. And it's beautiful weather outside - looks like fall in the Thar desert to me.


Somewhere near the green line, Nicosia, Cyprus?  The minaret, crumbling concrete building in the foreground and buildings with air conditioning units and water tanks on the roof in the background all fit the bill.  This is where I grew up!


I'm not a bigot. But when I get off a plane, I got to tell you, if I see buildings that look Muslim, I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslim buildings, I get worried. I get nervous.


The minaret serves a Muslim community.  But where's the rest of the mosque?  I read on someone's blog that Ramla (aka Ramle) in Israel was founded by Arabs and minarets are plentiful. Wikipedia says about Ramla:  "...attempts have been made to develop and beautify the city, which has been plagued by neglect..." But this minaret looks relatively new.  Are we somewhere in Europe?

The building in front of the minaret is older and has been abandoned, by the looks of the broken windows.  I thought war zone and investigated Beirut, Lebanon, and Gaza, but there are no bullet holes or evidence of missile attacks.  Just neglect - due to poverty?  The dark building with air-conditioners in the right foreground is common in Cairo.  But minarets have a different style there.  I see hints of red tile roofs, as in Ramla.  So I'll go with Ramla, even though it could be any of the above places I mentioned or Damascus, Syria, or somewhere in Turkey.

"Hey, what about North Africa?" the VFYW Contest addict in me just asked.  I better send this answer off and go about what's left of my day.


It appears as though the photo is somewhere in the Levant, rather than North Africa or a Gulf State.  I also don't think it's Iraq, Iran, or Turkey.  Even though the photo offers very few hints about the terrain or climate, the shape of the minaret isn't characteristic of a Persian/Mughal influence, where they are typically more rounded.  I think it must be a relatively wealthy and big city, judging from the satellite dishes and air conditioning units.  Beirut and Tripoli, Lebanon, Amman, Jordan and Damascus, Syria all just didn't seem quite right.  Hebron in the West Bank seemed like it could be a candidate, as did Ramallah, but I'm going to go with my gut that it's not there.  Aleppo, Syria seems to have an abundance of smaller minarets like this and similar buildings.  So that is my guess.

So close. Another:

If I had to guess, I would put this street in Damascus, Syria, where I lived for a year in 2004. If I were to be more specific, I would put it in the Old city of Damascus. And a wild guess would be to put the photographer in a window just outside of the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, otherwise known as the Al-Amin Quarter, not far from the famous Straight Street down the road from Bab Sharqi (the Eastern Gate). If I'm correct, then it is not far from the gallery of the Syrian sculptor Mustafa Ali, and a rare synagogue that is closed and hidden in an alley nearby.

You are correct! From the reader who sent in the photo:

Specifically, it's in the Shaalan district north-west of the Old City. The minaret glows green at night, of course, and even after months the muezzins still frequently wake me up at 4:30 in the morning, trying futilely to call me to prayer. They've refused all my politely-worded suggestions to hold off until at least 6:30.

Six other readers correctly guessed Damascus. But our winner was the first to do so and the most specific, so she gets the Blurb window book.  See everyone else at noon Saturday for the next round.