• Shared Bounty: One thing that struck correspondent Faiza Saleh Ambah, visiting the Saudi Arabian cities of Mecca and Medina, was the number and different nationalities of the pilgrims traveling long distances to go there.
"Many of them seem to be quite poor, and yet they decided to come during the high season and spend time in the two cities," says Faiza.
Another surprising factor has been the exchange of food between travelers. "I've been amazed by the amount of free food handed out by people here and have seen many of the needy pilgrims looking very grateful for the slices of soft bread and dates and yogurt at the mosques, as well as the more elaborate meals of rice and chicken offered mainly by local merchants to thousands daily outside the two holy sites and here in Jeddah," she says. "The idea of being part of one Muslim family is felt more sharply when you're surrounded by Palestinian and Libyan Bedouins with green markings on their chins; Turks, Malaysians, Tunisians, and Indians - and you pray in unison side by side."
• Return Visit: It's not always the case that reporters get to follow up on stories that involve personal dramas. So correspondent Sophie Arie was pleased to visit the Riva family in Spirano, Italy, to find out how they were getting along with their newly adopted "grandfather" (See "A lonely Italian retiree puts himself up for adoption" Sept. 23, 2004).
"It was nice to see Giorgio Angelozzi getting a new lease on life since moving in," Sophie says. "This family is typical of a lot of families across Europe - the father is Italian and the mother is Polish. She is totally integrated, but there's a different dimension, a real side of life in Italy that you don't often see. That factored into their decision to 'adopt' Giorgio - one side of the family lives in Poland, and so the Rivas are more isolated, in a sense, and were maybe more interested in this kind of arrangement."
Deputy world editor