A reader writes:
The soil is red, the land is flat, and there is sprawl everywhere. This is the Deccan Plateau, near Bangalore, India. The people are brown and dressed in the style of Bangaloreans. The black-and-white painted stones forming the road edge are found throughout Bangalore. In the picture, it looks like everyone is driving on the right side of the road, but presumably the picture has been flipped to make things harder.
This is not the center of Bangalore. There would be many more buildings and they would be a lot taller. Also, traffic is pretty light (must be early morning). As the picture shows, development is underway now. I am going to guess that this photo was taken by a Westerner from his hotel. The likeliest spot for such a Westerner this far outside of Bangalore is around Devanahalli International Airport.
A search for “black and white curbs” and “red clay” brought up Bengaluru, Karnataka, India. No google street views, so that’s as close as I can get. (One of the people in the photo is probably a Dish reader!)
I think the picture is of Doha, Qatar. I’ve spent a day there on a layover and Doha is what immediately struck me. It has development typical of those newly affluent Gulf State cities: there is a dense, poorer looking old town in the background, with modern, sprawling, non-dense development in the rest of the picture, with wide lanes for cars. The stripes on the road are prevalent are in that part of the world, and Doha was the only city we found where the stripes are black and white, rather than red and white or some other combination.
At first glance, this photo seems remarkably familiar to me. Although it’s been years, and my memory could be failing me, I believe I used to ride past this place on a bus nearly every week while living as a Mormon missionary in Brazil, specifically Rio de Janeiro. More specifically, I’m guessing this is taken from an apartment building off of the Avenida da Americas.
(I hope I’m right. Seeing photos of Rio always brings back fond memories because it was during my time there, while preaching Mormonism, that I finally came to terms with my homosexuality and was able to decide to leave the church that had taught me to suppress my sexuality.)
This one screams of my homeland, Syria. The black-and-white striped curb is very typical in Damascus and surrounding villages. The smaller buildings in the background also look very much like buildings I’ve seen in and around Damascus. I’m going to say either Duma or Homs. I think you already did a VFYW from Damascus, so you probably wouldn’t go there again. If not Syria, then almost very certainly somewhere close by in the Arab world, maybe Lebanon or Egypt.
Another gets on the right track:
Definitely screams Africa.
Initially I guessed somewhere in the Sahel, perhaps maybe Khartoum. The lettering on the signs isn’t really decipherable, but it isn’t Arabic, so Khartoum is eliminated. The flat topography could be a suburb of Johannesburg in the southern part of the continent, but they drive on the left in South Africa. Other possible cities in the Sahel vicinity are Niamey, N’Djamena, Bamako and Ouagadougou. The roads, however, are too well developed to be any of those cities. Not to mention the development of high-rise buildings.
Now what African countries have black-and-white street curbs? Close inspection of the Egyptian revolution reveals such curbs, but the people in the photograph aren’t Arab-looking, so this isn’t Egypt.
That leaves Nigeria. And the country’s largest city is Lagos. Of course this can be another city, but the topography partially flattens out in the country’s commercial capital. The airplane in the background is a rather big jet, leading one to conclude that the city in question must have a large airport. Murtala Muhammed is the seventh busiest in Africa, so this fits the criteria.
The only dilemma is the absence of water; Lagos is encapsulated by the Niger Delta. The haziness in the weather may be precluding visibility. The runway of the airport in Lagos runs north-south, so this photo is either northeast or southwest of the airport given the descending direction of the aircraft.
As the development is just being constructed, Google Earth isn’t likely to have any updated pictures that would help in pinpointing the exact window. So just going to venture a guess and say the fifth floor of the Hillcrest Hotel, northeast of the airport. Here’s hoping proximity counts.
Another gets closer:
I’m definitely not certain about this one (of course I never am about any of them), but something about this reminds me of Equatorial Guinea. It looks like a poor sub-Saharan country undergoing development and EG certainly fits that bill, so I am going to guess Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. I found this picture that could be the same complex at an earlier point in construction, but again I am not 100% sure. I think it is a possibility as it this complex is near one of the major roads in Malabo, which is one of the few places in Malabo you would possibly find yourself. Also attached is a Google Earth image with a box around where the photo was possibly taken from.
I thought Ethiopia at first, because I thought the script on the signs was Amharic, but after subsequent review I decided it looked more like Arabic. Also, it looks like a fairly large city and so I would have guessed Addis Ababa, but the background looks far too flat for it to be there, and there don’t appear to be any cities large enough in the flat portions of Ethiopia. This may be unfair, but I ruled out Somalia because the development under construction on the left seemed unlikely in a place as unstable as say, Mogadishu, but I could be underestimating the place.
SO that leaves me with an Eastern African city of substantial population, in a flat place, that drives on the right and speaks Arabic. Khartoum, Sudan seems most likely (though I really wish I could have identified that brightly colored plume logo on the store in the middle).
Is that a glowing UFO or a big cruise missile-shaped airliner coming in for a landing? (If it were actually a radioactive cruise missile, I trust we would have heard about it by now.) Or could that be a tear in the screen or window film? I’m going with the tinted window, which means this landscape is much brighter and the colors more vivid than the image implies. I’ve only seen building colors that bright and soil that red in Africa near the Equator. Beyond that I can only go with unsubstantiated hunches. (Googling the only other visible clue, “Black and White Street Curbs” only brings up various limitations on public racial protests.) Big city, some new generic taller buildings, endless low-rise suburbs. Why not Kampala, Uganda?
I’m not entirely sure how people manage to pick out tiny little details from these photos and discern from them exactly where it was taken. If I did, maybe I’d be able to make out the name of the store in the forefront. Maybe it would help if I knew the type of trees growing alongside the road. But I don’t. What I do know is that I see red earth, a sprawling city, lots of low-level construction, and three black guys. Based upon that scant evidence, I’m going with Luanda, Angola.
Correct! Seven readers guessed Luanda. One of them – and one of our most impressive VFYW followers – sends another of her composite images:
Welcome to the most expensive city in the world! While most residents live hand to mouth, Luanda is flush with oil and diamond money and growing fast, especially Luanda Sul (South). If you are an expat working there, you might score a condo rental for $10,000 a month. But if you’re visiting, you should stay on the upper floors of the Hotel de Convenções de Talatona, Rua Luanda Sul. There you can gaze at the construction of the posh condominios of the Atelier dos Sonhos (Studio of Dreams):
The thread that got us there? The people in the street looked African. Probably right-hand traffic, if the street isn’t one way. The text on the condo ads and real estate office, Latin. We could only make out “Moderno” on the condo billboard. Obviously a country with some money coming in to construct high end condos. Climate, sun angle, language, red earth, sparse vegetation. Angola looked very suspect, and we learned the south side or Luanda Sul is where it is happening. So a Google search in Portugese immediately returned a pic of our condo real estate office. Photo taken from the top floor of the hotel, probably the fifth room from the left side of the hotel facing the street.
Another great guess:
Felicidade! It means happiness in Portuguese, and I’m feeling it. After a long time squinting at the photo, this word on a billboard made it clear we were someplace where Portuguese is spoken (again!). The trees, the people, the affluence suggested Angola. After looking through many Luandan real-estate listings, I had a rough sense of where around the city you would find luxury apartment blocks. Property sure is expensive there! An image search for Talatona apartment yielded images of the Talatona Hotel. A hotel seemed like a possible vantage point, and their website included a helpful link to an aerial view:
The contest photo was taken from a guestroom, as the light fixture reflected in the window can be seen in pictures of the rooms on their site. This is my best guess as to the exact window. Thanks for all the great puzzles!
And thanks for all the great submissions. But we have to award the prize to someone, and the following reader was the only one this week to have correctly guessed a difficult view in the past:
At first glance, this view tells me that it is a wealthier, rapidly developing, fairly dry, sub-Saharan African country, where people drive on the right side of the road. That eliminates almost all countries in the commodity-rich southern region, but leaves us with a clear answer: Angola. Specifically this is a view from the Hotel de Convenções de Talatona in Luanda Sul (south), the newer satellite city that has been built during the economic boom of the past decade. The picture is taken from the 2nd room from the end on the top floor of the hotel, as seen in the picture: