The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #179


A particularly tough one this week. A reader writes:

Salt cedars. Not a Turkish style of minaret, but not bulb type either. Cliffs, particularly the one off to the right in the distance.  Satellite dishes looking SW or WSW, so mountains to the west and north.  Looks like water in the distance – river valley?  Probably late afternoon with the haze/pollution. After looking at, literally, thousands of minaret images, systematically googling mosques, and looking at different cities with proper orientation, for different countries where salt cedar grow, I give up. Iran? Sigh. But fun anyway.


The double minarets stood out at once.  The landscape also made me think of Turkey.  Turning to Google maps to look for Turkish towns on plains but near rocky outcroppings, the town of Batman in South Eastern Turkey caught my eye.  That is just too cool a name not to be my guess – Batman!


The mosques, palatial architecture, and rocky cliffs scream the Gulf … and then the lush greenery throws me for a loop. I’m going to guess Salalah, the greenest town in Oman, just because Oman is my favorite off-the-beaten-path travel destination and I’ve always wanted to go to Salalah. For the fun of specificity, I’ll go for a total guess and say the Frankincense Land Museum on Sultan Qaboos Street.


I have spent more time trying to find this one window than all the other contests I have entered. I have looked at Google, Flickr, blogs, Wikipedia until my eyes are half-blind. My instinct says Iraq but I can’t find a city there that matches, so I am going with the only thing I found which was the green and white striped curbs, which they have in Pondicherry, India. Might as well be off by a continent or two!



I give up. I didn’t think this one would stump me so much. I am going to guess Suez, Egypt. I’m anxious to see the answer so I can look at a map and see where I was getting thrown off the scent.


One drunken night, upon hearing of my love of deserts, a friend told me of his time in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. I remember nothing of the description, only the image it seared in my mind. This approximates it – an arid land, punctuated by the lush of green where water springs: all overseen by an ancient and majestic range rising toward the sky. I will travel there someday. And I will find that the reality transcends and surpasses the weathered image. And I will hunt down the building from which this photo was snapped.


My guess is Ras Al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates. It is almost certainly a view from RAK looking toward the border with Oman.

Right country. Another gets the right city:

Probably a biased guess (since I live in the country), but it looks like that may be Jebel Hafeet mountain in the background. Which would mean that you are in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, UAE. Which would be a weird place for you to be, but that’s neither here nor there.

Another gets the right building:

Irrigated gardens around aging villas, palm groves, beige minarets and what looks like a hazy Jebel Hafeet in the distance. This sure looks like Al Ain, the “Garden City” of the UAE. Since the picture is up fairly high, I’ll wildly guess that it’s taken from a guest room at the Al Ain Rotana.

Al Ain Rotana it is, and the only reader to guess it. From the submitter:

The contest photo was taken from Room 409 at the Al Ain Rotana Hotel, Al Ain, United Arab Emirates.  The photo looks south.  The core of the city is out of the image to the left.

Al Ain is an ancient crossroads and oasis about 80 miles inland from Dubai, on the border with Oman.  If Dubai is a performance on the world stage, Al Ain is the opposite: a comfortable town for the Emiratis.  I was struck by the investment lavished on parks, boulevards, public squares, and a range of architecture, all under a five-story height limit defined by the main mosque. (Mobile phone towers, oddly, get a pass.)

Al Ain is famous for its many oases, which account for much of the lushness in the photo.  They are managed as small allotments for date-palm farmers, but are also laced with public paths where the city’s noise vanishes under the endless trickle of falaj irrigation channels.

The high mountain barely visible in the distance is Jebel Hafeet, whose summit can be reached by a steep hairpin road that tempts every Ferrari.  The ridges in the near right are part of a whole chain of ridges that lace the city, mostly spreading from Jebel Hafeet like cracks in a window.

The taxi driver who delivered me there at 150 kph said that his brother is missing in Syria but that his mother in Damascus still sees him alive in her dreams.  There seemed no appropriate moment to say that a mere 120 kph would be fine with me, so I closed my eyes.  Lush and serene Al Ain was the perfect place to open them.