Walkthrough — Hacktoria: Geolocation 14

(Click here to watch and listen to the video version of this blog entry)

Note: The Hacktoria website no longer has geolocation challenges therefore all the links have been removed. This blog entry is for legacy purposes only. Free feel to give it a go by attempting to geolocate the image before reading the walkthrough.

And here we go to Hacktoria’s geolocation number 14 challenge! They keep on coming and I keep on solving them.
So without further ado let’s get down to business.

Geolocation – 14

Question: What is the name of the city this picture was taken in? Use the English name for the city.

First thing we need to do when starting any geolocation is to really inspect the image for any useful details. At first impression we can immediately tell this is a Middle Eastern country due to the building style and colour. The residential (?) buildings on both sides of the street are painted with a typical cream / orange colour, the roof is flat, and each apartment has a small balcony underneath the floor of the flat directly above. This system helps keep the heat from coming directly into the house in the hot months and is often seen in that area of the globe.
If we google something like “middle east residential building style” we get similar results in terms of architecture framework, such as the ones below.

I also immediately noticed that there is an interesting mix of English and Arabic around. Not that many countries have this so it will help us narrow it down quite quickly. It could be either that English is a co-official language with Arabic or that we are looking at a country where the population speaks English fluently and therefore it is commonly seen around.
So let us search for “english in middle eastern countries”. Google was kind enough to immediately give us the answer from wikipedia.

We can infer that the geolocation challenge 14 photograph was taken somewhere in one of the following countries: Egypt, Jordan, Iran, Kurdistan, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait.

Now it is probably time to investigate the image a bit more.
On the left there is the name of a shop and some other word next to it. Unfortunately, even after playing with GIMP a bit, I can’t actually tell what any of those words say. They are clearly in English but to no avail. I can tell however that whatever they are selling is 60% off. At this point I am guessing this is a clothes shop. We will have to confirm this later.

On the other side of the road we get more information. The shop is clearly named “Thai House”. Could this be a Thai restaurant? And why is there Snow White’s head at the bottom? It is all quite pink and I can’t tell exactly what they are selling but at least I have the name now.

Just next to it there is another shop, this time with their banner in Arabic. It’s all too blurry to be able to discern any characters so it is also not useful at the moment (not that I could read Arabic anyway).

I decided to focus on something completely different: the red bus in front of us. It looks like a plain red bus but there is this (not completely straight) white line just underneath the windscreen, before the red colour starts. There is also a digital screen on top indicating probably the name or number of the bus or even the route. I feel like that if I find out who sells this vehicle and where they get shipped to, we might find our country. Public (and private) transport vehicles are usually bought and sold under big contracts. A country doesn’t just buy a rogue bus, they buy hundreds (or thousands) for their fleet. So there must be traces of them somewhere.

So I went to google and wrote “city red bus “middle east””. I got a few results that I scrolled through but it did not take long to spot a red bus with that white line underneath the windscreen and a big digital screen on top.

As expected, I clicked on the image link and landed on this (very useful) page. It was an article posted in July 2015 informing the reader that Bahrain would be launching some big infrastructure projects. This is a very good link between our red bus and Bahrain, a country that was on our list of possible locations.

Bahrain is quite a small country so how many shops named “Thai House” could it have? Time to check it out using google maps.
And here is our (not) Snow White. It seems that my first guess was wrong, this is not a Thai Restaurant but a beauty house and that is not Snow White, it’s a random lady’s head.

Now that I know the street name of where the challenge photo was taken, I wanted to check google street view to confirm all the landmarks. Unfortunately I was not able to do so, so I did the next best thing and started checking business photos of the nearby area, still using google maps.

And this is what I found. Comparing the Thai House images, on the left our original image and on the right the photo from the business page. We can match the name, the logo on the top left, the “Snow White” head, and the windows / balcony illustration on the left hand side. It is a clear match.

Next let’s check the other side of the road that had the 60% off sign on the window.
And here it is, Olympic Outlet is the name of the shop and next to it there’s the “basics” word. I was kinda right, it is a clothes shop focused on sportswear. We can also see the fence in front of it. Another good match.

I also found another similar photo but from a bit further away and on a different angle so we can see that we have, in fact, two fences in front of us, one separating the two lines of traffic on the road, and the other one separating the road to the pavement where the shop is located.

We can also compare the business with the Arabic name that was too blurry to read. Below, on top is the cropped area from our Hacktoria’s geolocation 14 challenge, and on the bottom the google maps photo of the business. You can spot the blue and red logo and the shop name in Arabic. The top sentence is written in black whilst the bottom in red. Another perfect match.

We can even see both the Home Appliances & Electronics shop and the Thai House beauty shop next to each other in this photograph I found.

And that is it, we have found the location and we can now answer the question on Hacktoria.

What is the name of the city this picture was taken in? Use the English name for the city
– Manama

If you want to check out the location, here are the coordinates of where I believe the photographer was at the time of the photo:
26.2257, 50.5878.

I hope that this walkthrough was informative and helpful in case you were stuck.
If you reached the same conclusion using a different method feel free to share it as I would be very happy to learn new techniques and/or tools.
Thank you for reading!

~ Sofia.

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