Another tough one this week. A reader writes:
Dante's Hell doesn't seem to be in Google Maps yet, but based on his description in Canto VI of The Inferno, this must be somewhere in the Third Circle: "In the third circle I arrive, of show'rs / Ceaseless, accursed, heavy, and cold, unchang'd / For ever, both in kind and in degree" (H. F. Cary translation).
Seriously, I'm sure that wherever this is some of the inhabitants must be wonderful people, but human beings were never meant to live in places as bleak as this one.
No American cars, so this is definitely not any part of North America. The weather indicates that this is the northern hemisphere. The building have a Soviet-style dreariness to them. The landscape is extremely flat, and I get the feeling that this is near the sea. So I'm guessing Vladivostok, Russia.
For no particular reason, I think it could possibly be Ulan Bator, in Mongolia. I have this book of photos from a tour a group of professional skateboarders and photographers took to Ulan Bator when they were traveling the Trans-Siberian railway, and the photo resembles every landscape shot in the book; dreary, vapid and ultimately, brown-colored. Just looks and feels desolate, although they say the kids really sprang to life in the presence of a skateboard. Pretty cool.
Vaguely Burmese pagoda-like inspiration for the tall building in the center, kind of Stalinesque feel to the rest of it, including a wide avenue and little traffic, buses. Low clouds and maybe a hint of mountains in the background. Naypyidaw, Myanmar is my story and I'm sticking to it.
I love shots of urban bleakness and this one is hard to beat in that category.
I was watching "Radioactive Wolves" last night on Nature and this architecture seems comparable to that seen around Chernobyl. Going to make a wild guess at Simferopol in Crimea simply because I like that name.
Boston? Just kidding. However it looks like what urban planners of the '40s and '50s envisioned for Boston, and did partially execute:
I'm going with Turkey for a couple of reasons. 1) I think I can make out the distant outline of a multi-minaret mosque on the skyline. Multiple minarets tends to be a Turkish thing. 2) One of the buses appears to have a logo which might be that of the Turkish tour company Kamil Koc (I'm not actually very confident about this last point, but I'm not going to pass up a chance to say Kamil Koc). Once I settled on Turkey, the picture looks dusty and poor-ish, which probably means Anatolia. Nevsehir is a town small enough to be dusty, big enough to have apartment buildings, and close enough to a tourist destination (Cappadocia) to have buses. Kamil Koc buses.
This scene is typically Egyptian based on the semi-unfinished buildings, the desert environment, the tour buses, and the wide highways. However, because it is not dense in the picture it can't be Alexandria or Cairo, that's why I'm guessing an area on the desert road from Cairo to Alexandria, on the outskirts of Alexandria, Egypt's second city – the city where my parents are from, and the one-time "Pearl of the Mediterranean." Those days are long gone.
It looks like Heliopolis, the northeastern suburb of Cairo, on the way out to the airport. The construction technique of the buildings in the upper left of the photo – a concrete frame filled in with bricks – is characteristically Egyptian (although what looks like rain in the distance is not).
Somewhere in the Middle East, not too wealthy, a bunch of Westerners driving around in not especially nice cars, and looks like that might be a hurricane in the distance. Looking for recent hurricanes around there, I find one that hit Masqat and Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is where they pave the streets with gold and make buildings out of diamonds, so I don't think it's there, so Masqat, Oman it is.
I think this photo shows Zubayri Street in Sana'a Yemen, from SW of the Officers' Club that is south of the old cemetery at the corner of Zubayri St and Abdul Mughny Street. The cemetery is southeast of Bab al-Yemen and the Old City. You can see where the intercity buses board – the ones that go to eastward destinations like Mareb and Hadhramawt. (There are other boarding points for other intercity buses.) I have no romantic stories of hotel rooms overlooking the bus depot, but I have traveled eastward from there many times. Such a wonderful country, Yemen, and I hope only the best for its people through their current transition.
Another gets close:
A complete wild-ass guess, but the flat-roof air-raid architecture, buses, and soccer on cement reek of dictatorship point to Sirt, Libya. Given your predilection for linking the VFYW to momentous events, this must be where Gaddafi/Qaddafi/Bob Dylan-on-cocaine was killed. I'd write more but I have a nasty cold and the ephedrine has already said enough.
Libya it is. Another:
Tripoli? Guessing this building circled here in the attached image, on Shari An Nasr near the Dahra bus station:
I don't have any stories about Libya to make my case, but it looks like the classic dust storm, a "haboob" blowing up, and I know that the assault on Sirte was delayed a bit for a recent sandstorm, so I'm hoping this is close to being right. None of the major hotels in Tripoli looked quite right with their surroundings, so this is what I've come up with. I bet you'll get a lot of interesting guesses with this one, here's hoping this is the closest! At least I've been able to use the word haboob today, which both gives me the Beavis and Butthead jollies and pisses off the folks who worry that Sharia law is somehow supplanting the American judicial system, making it a double win in my book. Haboob!
But only one nailed the correct city:
This might be the week for a view from Libya. I'm guessing it's by one of the bus terminals on Algeria St. in Benghazi just north of the city center.
A hearty congrats on one of our toughest ones yet. From the photo's owner:
It's from the second floor window of the Al-Nooran Hotel in Benghazi, Libya. The hotel is marked on Google Earth. There are a few hints – the architecture and palm trees are typical Middle Eastern/North African, green facade on on some of the buildings and the slightly rusty hue of iron oxide in the concrete, and the broad but uncrowded streets all hint at Libya. The odd structure next to the hotel is quite visible on Google Maps for someone who wants to spend hours searching every North African city intersection. Anyway, not an easy one.