The mussels from Brussels: 48 hours in Belgium’s classy capital

City Square in Brussels. (Shutterstock)
Updated 05 November 2018

The mussels from Brussels: 48 hours in Belgium’s classy capital

  • A quick guide to the Belgian capital, Brussels
  • Not the first destination that comes to mind for a European mini-break, but Brussels turned out to be quite the surprise

LONDON: It’s not the first destination that comes to mind for a European mini-break, but Brussels turned out to be quite the surprise.
With a couple of days to spare in the UK, my travel partner and I decided to find the quickest — and most affordable — trip, and our search took us to the Belgian capital.
Tickets and hotel booked, we jetted off with little expectations except wanting to find the perfect waffle.
Landing in Brussels at noon, we headed straight to our hotel to drop off our bags, and were delighted it was a 12-minute drive from the airport. Our temporary home of choice was the ultra-affordable ($96 per night) Aloft Brussels Schuman in Place Jean Rey, a fuss-free four-star establishment that impressed with its laidback atmosphere and street-art-inspired rooms.




A main street in Brussels. (Shutterstock)

We began our sightseeing at the European Parliament Hemicycle — the main office of the members of the European Parliament. It certainly offered a great insight into the world’s largest transnational parliament’s role and powers. Entry is free, but you’ll need ID.
After that, we headed to one of the city’s most famous landmarks: Grand Place. Breathtakingly beautiful is an understatement; this UNESCO World Heritage Site — home to the city’s Town Hall and main museum — is so impressive it’s hard to take in its true scale.
A few blocks away is the Manneken Pis, a bronze statue that’s too cheeky to feature a picture of, but is so well-known we had to include it in our tour. The sculpture is said to be the best-known symbol of the people of Brussels, representing their “sense of humor and independence of mind.”
You could spend hours exploring this area. We stumbled upon Comic Strip Route, a trail featuring 50-odd colorful murals that represent the city’s comics heritage (Brussels is the birthplace of The Smurfs and Tintin, among others).

It was time to find a snack, and during our walk we passed by a tearoom that had a long queue outside. Surely a good sign? Turns out we were at Maison Dandoy, a Belgian institution dating back to 1829, known for its speculoos and waffles.
It was worth the wait. We had the best waffle we’ve ever eaten: freshly cooked, crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside. The addition of speculoos-flavoured ice-cream was delightful.
Later we made a final stop at Frit Flagey for a cone of Belgian frites — another oh-so-tasty local delicacy.

On our second day, we headed to the Atomium, an iconic building built in 1958 and renovated at a cost of €26 million in 2006. It’s certainly peculiar; but it’s the only place that offers a 360-degree view of Brussels. Strike it lucky with clear skies, and you’ll get a great experience.
Next to it is the mildly amusing Mini-Europe, a park that displays, you guessed it, mini replicas of monuments in the European Union, at a scale of 1:25. Cool spots were Big Ben — let’s face it, it will probably be demolished post-Brexit next year — and a real piece of the Berlin Wall.
A short walk away is the Brussels Expo. We came across a “Star Wars: Identities” exhibition that appealed to our inner nerd. Upcoming events include “Walking with Dinosaurs” and the Brussels Motor Show.
With the end of our trip fast approaching, there was just time for an early dinner. We saved the best dining experience to last. Mussels are a must-have, and we couldn’t have found a better place than Le Zinneke, a charming bistro serving up over 69 mussel dishes. We opted for the signature Fisherman’s Style — a delightful pot served in a vegetable and herb mix, with a side of Belgian fries. Each pot contains over a kilogram of mussels and, although the friendly staff may advise you take one each, we’d suggest sharing.
Brussels and its friendly people were a pleasant surprise, and we’d definitely return. And with its most famous foods being waffles, chocolate, fries and mussels, it’s the perfect stop for a halal break.

 


Saudi photographer reveals unfamiliar tourist sites in the south of the Kingdom

Hassan Haroobi says photography depends on the visions and perception of a photographer. (Photos/Supplied)
Updated 29 September 2020

Saudi photographer reveals unfamiliar tourist sites in the south of the Kingdom

  • Hassan Haroobi calls for investing in photography to develop visual culture
  • Nature is a divine beauty that encourages creativity and photography

MAKKAH: Hassan Haroobi began taking photographs in 2013, having had a “passion for photography” since his childhood.

“I got my first camera in 2013 and the regions which I took photos of reflect the beauty of the southern region of our beloved Kingdom, especially in the Harub province in eastern Jazan, 110 kilometers away from the city,” he told Arab News.

He has taken many distinguished photos since starting out, including one of a giant moon, and the famous photo of the student that lately circulated on social media. “Nature is a divine beauty that encourages creativity and photography,” he sphaid.

Any person who loves photography seeks to capture everlasting photos to show nature to the whole world, be it plants, animals, seas, soil, water, or air, he said.

“This is why nature is like a treasure granted by God for humans to benefit, and nature is our source of living,” said Haroobi.

He added: “It is from nature that people get natural resources to procure all their needs. It is from nature that they take materials they use in their daily life. This is why life is like a big store for whatever the human needs to live, starting from his food, and ending with things that he produces and uses. The human is an important part of nature and is an extension to it.”

The first thing a photographer needs to think of before going out to take pictures is “what is the best moment to take an extraordinary picture?” he said.

“This is something that some people consider trivial, for we can take photos anytime we want. Yes, this does not contradict reality; however everything has its suitable moments so that it would be done in the best way,” he added.

FASTFACTS

• Hassan Haroobi began taking photographs in 2013.

• He has taken many distinguished photos since starting out, including one of a giant moon, and the famous photo of the student that lately circulated on social media.

• Haroobi considers sunrise or sunset the perfect time for photography.

He noted that photography was a widespread art. Professional photographers, or those aiming to become one, should be organized in everything they do, he said, from planning the location, preparing the camera, and ensuring enough and suitable equipment for every photo session.

As for the best time to take photos, Haroobi said the “golden hour” before sunrise or sunset is perfect, especially with for portraits and landscapes with smooth, easily controlled light.

Photography in Saudi Arabia has become available to everyone through modern mobile devices, and anybody can become a professional photographer, he said.

“Photography does not depend on the type of camera; it primarily depends on the vision and perception of the photographer on how he takes the picture, what he will focus on, and how he will shed light on a certain part while discarding other less important parts,” he said.

He pointed out that taking into consideration the basic conditions of photography rather than the camera itself would turn a picture from an ordinary one to a professional one.

“Although using a professional camera would render the photo more brilliant and professional, it would not alone produce the beauty, for it could give worse results than the mobile if the user ignores photography techniques,” said Haroobi. “Because mobiles and simple cameras are designed to make autocorrections, and it is exactly like in painting where skills lie in the painter and not the pen.”

He advised photographers of both genders not to go out and take pictures during rainy days and storms, especially in mountains, for the southern regions of the Kingdom witness difficult and possibly dangerous conditions.

The photographer also called on increasing investment in the art of photography by organizing competitions for the most beautiful pictures.