The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #75

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A reader writes:

Aw c'mon. No cars, no washing lines, no hills or mountains – not even a passing little fleecy cloud?  Just anywhere in the world that has palm trees and blocky buildings. I'll say somewhere in the Canary Islands just because.

Another writes:

Not far off the equator, the trees and hazy blue sky make sense, and the absence of any landforms in the distance suggest a coastal city. Fortaleza, Brazil? It's the birthplace of my adopted son. We were there six weeks while our case went through the courts. The colonial architecture alongside the squat concrete office towers is quite familiar.


I always look at the VFYW contests with amazement that anyone can identify what look like such generic views. But this one seems to have a corner showing La Casa Rosada, as well as palm trees.  When I saw it several years ago, I was admiring of a people who could claim a Pink House as a national symbol. In the US, I'm certain it would be considered "too gay."

Many readers guessed along these lines:

I believe this is a picture of the Egyptian Museum, which is located on Cairo's Tahrir Square. Seeing the color and style of the pink building, plus the palm trees, brings me back to that location in Cairo. I must've visited that museum 10+ times when I lived there. It is incredible, stuffed full of Egyptian artifacts from every dynasty. Many hallways in the museum are lit only by natural light coming in through windows, the dead bulbs in the museum's lighting system having been ignored seemingly for years. More museum pieces lack identifying information than do, and for many items and objects, all the description you get is the original typewritten notes of the 19th century archeologist. That place defines kitsch, in the museum world.


Jeddah_flickrOh my … I think I found it. My sister is on Hajj right now, so I've been thinking about Mecca lately… but the VFYW photo looked different somehow (mind you, I've never been there/complete speculation) so I checked out Jeddah.  Lo and behold, I found someone's photo during a random search on Flickr and I swear this is the same white, cubed building.  Maybe a few blocks off, but it sure looks like it. Of course, I'm probably wrong – like last week.  *sigh*


My hunch is that you couldn't resist choosing a photo from Greece, given the turmoil it has been causing in the EU. Googling Athens, palm trees, and white buildings resulted in some reasonably similar photos. My 9-year-old, who loves a good puzzle (especially it if involves geography), was certain Athens was the right place based on the combination of red roofs, white office buildings, and older, yellow buildings. Since Google didn't help us with street-views, I'm going with the 9-year-old.


Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam? District 3 looks likely. Assuming I am not wildly off the key clues: Colonial architecture – Yellow like that seems to mean French. Palm trees and sky mean sub/tropical with a lot of rain – so probably Indochina. The look doesn't match Cambodia or Lao.  So it's Vietnam, and HCMC is a better match for the look than Hanoi. I think this photo may have an image of the hotel in the upper central part of the photo.


I'm sure you're getting a lot of guesses from Southeast Asia. We're on a three-day weekend here in Singapore, so my family will only forgive a bit of googling. So let me just throw out the Bamboo Green Hotel, Danang, Vietnam, fifth floor. I've got no good maps or images. But here's hoping my shot in the dark is close.

Correct floor, wrong continent. Another:

With all the palm trees, it's gotta be Madison, WI, right?


That's it, I'm going with my gut here. Where else has that strange mix of semi-fading colonial buildings, zoning that allows mid-sized towers seemingly at random, and mixed tropical and deciduous trees? Macau or bust; I'm going to keep guessing EVERY WEEK until I get it!

Another gets on the right track:

Palm trees and French windows and zero other clues. Most people will therefore guess somewhere in the former tropical French Empire, and the best way to win in such a random hurling of darts at a map is to pick somewhere really obscure – after all, if it really does turn out to be Senegal or French Guinea or somewhere obvious, somebody will manage to get it right down to the street. So I pick Toliara, Madagascar, a place I have never heard of before and never will again.

Another nails it:

The photo was taken from the Novotel Hotel in Dakar, Senegal.

Not much to go on this week! Those arched windows at the top of the tallest building suggested a potentially Islamic influence, the palms keep it out of extreme latitudes, and the pink and yellow buildings suggest that it could be in just about any place except North America and Europe.

Among other places, we searched Beirut, Damascus, Aleppo, Kinshasa, Bogota, Mexico City, Caracas, Lima, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Mumbai, New Delhi, Santiago, Panama City, San Jose (Costa Rica), Lagos, Cairo, Durban, Casablanca, Nairobi, Algiers, Tunis, Bermuda, Kingston, Tegucigalpa, and a couple cities in Pakistan, just for good Dakar Earth View 1ameasure. In nearly every place we were able to find something that looked similar. 

In the end, though, searching through African capital cities landed us in Dakar, and this photo. After that it was just a matter of finding the place. Here is a Google Earth view is attached.

The buildings next door house the Institut Francais, which contains La Galerie Le Manege, which has some virtual tour views from the interior courtyard that isn't quite visible in the photograph. There are remarkably few photos in Panoramio, but this view, also from the Novotel, is a little more to the west. From that photo we can see that the top of the pink building is roughly at the same height as the fourth floor. Since we're looking down on the top of that building, the photo was probably taken from around the sixth floor.

Another Dakar entry:

What I thought were black people and an open-top jeep or buggy in the bottom right corner of the photograph made me think Africa. The pink building reminded me of the French parts of New Orleans, but the city didn't feel right. So instead I started looking at French-colonised Africa. Cote d'Ivoire and Sierra Leone felt wrong but a lot closer. Then I saw a photograph of the Dakar cityscape, featuring a grey building with about as many floors as the one in the photograph, as well as the radio spire. Another photo confirmed the find, bearing the title 'Skyscrapers in Dakar are not very pretty'. The tallest skyscraper in the photo, with the radio spire, is the Immeuble Fahd. I think our photo was taken from the Novotel Dakar, about three or four levels up. Attached is an image of Dakar showing both buildings:



This is a fantastic way to while away Saturday afternoon.  I was one of a million people to get the correct street last week, but I didn't get the address.  I started this time with South America, picking up on the colonial buildings and palm trees.  I couldn't find anywhere sufficiently flat, and near the water, without a million skyscrapers.  West Africa seemed like the next logical choice.  Took some googling, but the building to the right is pretty distinctive, so eventually I zeroed in on Dakar. I'm reasonably certain that I've picked the right window, although it could be a little below, or to the right as you face the hotel:


Looks like a nice place.

Several excellent entries, but the prize this week goes to the only Novotel guesser who has gotten a difficult window in the past without winning:

This week's VFYW offers me the chance to redeem my very first VFYW guess – my most off-base guess ever. Back in the early days of the contest, before submitters had learned to exploit the powers of Google Earth, I guessed that the View_from_Novotelthat the image was actually taken in Ft. Lauderdale, I was so embarrassed by my inability to discern architectural differences between US and Senegalese buildings that I more or less gave up on the contest for one year. Since then, your readers' winning submissions have taught me how to properly sleuth these images and have even got a few correct, non-winning answers in recent months.

In any case, I knew this week's VFYW was Dakar because of the distinctive high rise Fahd building, the colonial architecture, and the neem shade trees (during my Peace Corps days I processed leaves from these trees into the most awful-smelling organic pesticide imaginable). The VFYW was taken from the Novotel in the Plateau neighborhood of Dakar, from what looks like the fourth floor. The attached images show the distinctive features of the scene, as well as an aerial shot of the approximate view from the window.

I'm afraid I don't have any good stories Aerial_Viewfrom the Novotel, but hidden behind the yellow buildings with the tile roofs is an amazing, open-air rooftop cinema boasting lounge seating and table service – it's easily the best movie theatre I've ever been to. Ironically, it's also where I watched the worst movie I've ever seen: Madonna's Swept Away (apologies to Aaron).

From the submitter:

The photo was taken from my 5th floor hotel room at the Novotel Dakar on Avenue Abdoulaye Fadiga, where I was staying for a week while in Dakar for work. I work for The Rotary Foundation, which is the charitable arm of Rotary International, a global humanitarian service organization. The event taking place in Dakar was a project fair, bringing together Rotary clubs worldwide to help enable and implement projects that will benefit countries in West Africa.