by Alex Ray Originally published by DevPolicy Blog on May 24 2021 Fifty kilometres east of Dili is the site of one of Timor-Leste’s most renowned scuba diving locations. It is reached via the nearby Santo Antonio Grotto rest stop where timber-slat huts sell plastic bottled water and noodles in Styrofoam cups. Directly behind the shops are mountains of burning plastic packaging in a seasonally-dry … Continue reading Burning ambition: Timor-Leste’s waste management problem
by Alex Ray, for Care International (2020) Eight o’clock in the morning Monday to Saturday is ‘rush hour’ in Timor-Leste’s Liquica municipality, when the area’s remote muddy roads are dotted with children grouped in camaraderie, walking long distances to school. For 265 of them, aged 5-12, their trip to Faulara primary school takes up to two hours each way, with regular river crossings in wet-season. … Continue reading HATUTAN: Communities empowered through school meals program
A trip into the mountains touches on some of the fundamental challenges still facing rural communities in Timor-Leste.
Words and photos by Alex Ray
When doctor Andre Belo told me how he spends most weekends I was impressed and wanted to know more.
Nearly every Friday he leaves his workplace, the United Nations clinic in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste, to lead volunteer medical missions to some of the country’s most remote villages.Continue reading “Health for All: The volunteers serving Timor-Leste’s remote communities”
by Alex Ray
An Arabic poem written in 2017 while living in Beirut and traveling Lebanon’s coastline in beaten-up minivans. Published by Rusted Radishes in Volume 8 “Sea Change”. Translation to come soon.
Continue reading “Poetry: Life is like an ocean wave”
by Alex Ray
April 22, 2020
“In a way, I still find so much beauty amid this destruction,” says Salah Maraashi as he wanders the now-ghostly old souks (covered markets) of Aleppo with his camera just before sunset. Perhaps only a photographer could find such destruction alluring.Continue reading ““The world through my eyes”: The locals documenting Aleppo’s ravaged beauty”
Tuesday May 7 2019, Palmyra, Syria
The shelling had been non-stop from sundown to sunrise. Despite global headlines announcing the looming defeat of ISIS, dozens of soldiers have been killed in swift ISIS raids in the steppes surrounding Palmyra recently.
Luckily we only learnt this after our visit.Continue reading “Syria Journal – The bleak desert highway”
This article was published in the Middle East Eye on August 26, 2019. By Alex Ray Amid the brass and percussion that echoes along the Paseo del Prado, Havana’s main drag, another sound can be heard. That shrill celebratory cry is the zaghrouta, the distinctive ululation Arab women let loose at weddings and other special events. Continue reading The hidden lives of Arabs in Cuba
An edited version of this article appeared online in the Middle East Eye on May 26, 2019.
By Alex Ray
“When people pluck these flowers, it’s like they are plucking my heart,” said an emotional Fareed Notafji as we drank sweet, strong ‘labourer’s tea’ in front of the guard shed at Damascus’s Botanic Gardens.
The sound of the fast-flowing Barada river accentuated the gardens’ dreamy setting beneath the old city walls. The location made it possible to momentarily forget the ongoing war outside the Syrian capital.Continue reading “The gardens of Damascus: can Syrians reconnect with nature?”
By Alex Ray
A chance Facebook encounter revives the story of a unique Syrian establishment after six years of war and tragedy.
My time as a foreign student of Arabic in Syria’s ancient capital began in typecast Damascene style.Continue reading “The Damascus Hostel”
by Alex Ray
“Look, it’s not the traffic, it’s the people’s character,” the Amman taxi driver told me, as the beaten-up Nissan crawled from glitzy Abdoun to the core of the capital at Jebel Amman. The remark caught me off guard; he was the second taxi driver to deliver the same line that day.
Such frank self-criticism was comforting and took us straight past “Where are you from? What is your job? Are you married?” and into the melange of factors contributing to Amman’s often-aggravating public culture. Continue reading “A taxi driver told me: “It’s not the traffic, it’s the people.””