art of resistance, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates

Beyond the architectural text (Middle East).

The Damascene House is beyond the architectural text

The design of our homes…

Is based on an emotional foundation

For every house leans … on the hip of another

And every balcony…

Extends its hand to antoher facing it.

Nizar Qabbani

Peter Gould is an Australian artist. In 2002, he began traveling around Middle East and was inspired by cities like Fes, Damascus, Istanbul and Mecca, with his work resulting in a great visual fusion of classical Islamic design elements with his vibrant, fresh graphic styles.

His photography is maybe best described by one of his curators:

Peter’s photography is as much about the spiritual as it is about the visual, offering no questions or answers but rather affording the viewer to simply being in that moment and that moment at first glance seems to curiously exist without time or consequence.”

010-Beirut-2Beirut.

015-MeccaMecca.

025-JerusalemJerusalem.

029-IstanbulIstanbul.

033-DamascusDamascus.

037-MuscatMuscat.

038-MuscatMuscat.

039-NizwaNizwa.

040-NizwaNizwa.

043-AbuDhabiAbu Dhabi.

fesFes.

marrakeshMarrakesh.

/all photos © Peter Gould/

For more on Gould and his work, visit his official website.

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art of resistance, Morocco, travel

The Berbers from the Lands of Allah.

Rui Pires is a portuguese photographer.  “The Berberes” is an essay from his long-term project “Lands of Allah”.

The Sahara is the world’s hottest desert, the third largest desert after Antarctica and the Arctic. At over 9,400,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi), it covers most of North Africa, making it almost as large as China or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean. To the south, it is delimited by the Sahel, a belt of semi-arid tropical savanna that composes the northern region of central and western Sub-Saharan Africa. Sahara is the home of Berberes.

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tumblr_n52w0aY5X11rouua1o7_500all photos © Rui Pires

For more of his work, and more on this essay, go to Pires’ official website.

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art of resistance, Morocco, travel

Untangling Threads: Female Artisans In Morocco’s Rug Weaving Industry.

Anna Beeke is a documentary and fine arts photographer born in Washington, DC, and based in Brooklyn, NY.

I recently stumbled upon her project Untangling Threads: Female Artisans In Morocco’s Rug Weaving Industry, and think it’s very much worth sharing.

Project Abstract:

In Morocco, where men are responsible for almost all of their country’s artisanal production, women have maintained the age-old craft of indigenous weaving. 

This project seeks to document the environment and culture of female weavers who have recently begun to participate in local and global markets. It specifically focuses on artisans from three rural weaving communities: Ain Leuh, Ait Hamza, and Taznakht.

While the carpets are generally sold for high-dollar amounts, the female artisans have traditionally received a very small percentage of the profits. This has perpetuated the cycle of poverty and child labor in rural Morocco.

The weaving cooperatives documented in this project are now self-promoting and making direct sales rather than relying on middlemen to distribute their carpets. These photographs aim to highlight the faces behind the production and the market forces that bring these products to the world.

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tumblr_n52xcmm28n1rouua1o10_500all photos © Anna Beeke

For more on this project, and Anna’s work in general, go to her official site.

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Afghanistan, art of resistance, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, Yemen

New (Middle Eastern) Literary Treasures.

So, it’s my birthday today.

I have to share my happiness with you. My happiness comes in (one of) my favourite form – books. Since today, I have a couple of new ones! I am such a party person, that I started reading them already. So, this on the photos + cup of tea = my happy day.

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My new little treasure is this beauty – Tablet & Pen: Literary Landscapes from the Modern Middle East, edited by Reza Aslan. Authors from Morocco to Iran, from Turkey to Pakistan – short stories,memoirs, essays, poetry, small biographies – amazing collection. It’s a rare anthology, and I’ll sure be posting more about it, as I read through it. For now, I will share just one poem, actually – a part of the poem (I opened it randomly today, always love to do that). It was written by the great Forugh Farrokhzad, one of Iran’s most influential female poets of the twentieth century. 

Window

A window for seeing

A window for hearing

A window like a well

That plunges to the heart of the Earth

And opens to the vast unceasing love in blue

A window lavishing the tiny hands of loneliness

With the night’s perfume from the gentle stars.

A window through which one could invite

The sun for a visit to abandoned geraniums.

One window is enough for me.

The second book I got is The patience stone by Atiq Rahimi. The novel tells the story of a woman whose husband has been wounded in battle in a country resembling Afghanistan and now lies as paralysed as a stone. In Persian folklore, Syngue Sabour is the name of a magical black stone, a patience stone, which absorbs the plight of those who confide in it. It is believed that the day it explodes, after having received too much hardship and pain, will be the day of the Apocalypse. But here, the Syngue Sabour is not a stone but rather a man lying brain-dead with a bullet lodged in his neck. In 2008, Rahimi won The Goncourt Prize for this novel, and I am very happy about reading it sometime soon.

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Birthday presents aside, these days I am also reading Gerner’s & Schwedler’s Understanding the Contemporary Middle East (second edition). It’s a great collection which  address a range of crucial issues the region faces in the 21st century: there are chapters addressing geography, history, politics, economics, international relations, the israeli-Palestinian conflict, the status of women, religion, class and ethnicity, patterns of population growth, and the literature of the region. There are numerous maps and photographs, which illustrate the issues and  help readers a lot.

These books help us get a better insight, help us learn and grow. These words, black on white,  fight the stereotypes with knowledge and details, with beauty and discoveries.

All in all, if you are looking for some new good books, be sure to put these on the list! Enjoy!

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Iran, Morocco, Qatar, tea + food, travel, Turkey

Glorious (and beyond sweet) tea rituals in the Middle East.

Tea time!

Now, I’ve already posted about the glorious mint tea all over the Middle East, so this post explores the other kinds of tea enjoyed throughout the Middle East, and the sweets/fruit eaten with it traditionally. Of course, there are some amazing teapots included, because of their beauty and uniqueness. All in all, it’s a small tea ceremony (most of the photos I found on Pinterest). Enjoy.

arabic teaLet the games begin.

hibiscus, karkade tea

 

Hibiscus tea or kerkade, very much loved in Turkey, Egypt and Sudan, among others.

Maamoul-moldsMa’amoul molds

mamoulMaamoul are small shortbread pastries filled with dates, pistachios or walnuts, often eaten with tea.

morroccan tea biscuitsMoroccan tea biscuits with almonds

persian chaTea served with sweet sweet baklava (pastry filled with chopped nuts)

persian date bread, perfect with teaPersian date bread with turmeric and cumin, perfect with tea

persian teaa potPersian teapot

pistachio baklava cake - twistbaklava with a twist – pistachio baklava cake

qatarblack tea serving in Qatar

tea and datestea is often served with dried fruits, dates particularly

teaMoroccan teapot and cups

 

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art of resistance, Morocco, travel

This was once called the “Mecca” of the film industry. Now it seeks return to glory days.

Ouarzazate in southern Morocco was once dubbed the “Mecca” of the film industry for its studio facilities and the stark beauty of its locations, with many Hollywood blockbusters shot there.

“Laurence of Arabia” (1962, Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif), “The Sheltering Sky” (1990, Debra Winger, John Malkovich), “Kundun” (1997, Martin Scorsese), “Gladiator” (1999, Russell Crowe, Oliver Reed) and “Babel” (2006, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) — all of them feature scenes shot at Ouarzazate, which lies at the foot of the scenic High Atlas Mountains.

799px-OuarzazateKasbah, Ouarzazate

But that was then and this is now. Its film industry is in the doldrums, needing fresh winds to get it moving again. The famous town lost its appeal to international film-makers as economic crisis and the turmoil of the Arab Spring swept across the region.

As the North African winter ends, and some snow still graces the mountain peaks, a small group of people attends a casting call at Studio Atlas, one of the town’s largest. Ouarzazate’s lengthy affair with showbiz has life in it yet.

“I began going to the cinema in 1967,” says Larbi Agrou, who was in “Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra” in 2000. “For the past three or four years there’s no longer been a rush by producers to get their films shot.

“Most people who work in films here also have other trades to keep them going — farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters. But without tourism and the cinema, Ouarzazate would be dead,” he says.

– ‘More crows than film-makers‘ –

Agrou says the first encouraging signs of a revival appeared last year, and that 2014 “is starting rather well”. Ouarzazate is known for attracting big-budget historic epics with large casts, and already Nicole Kidman and Tom Hanks have visited since the beginning of the year.

“Let’s hope it lasts,” says Aziz, another hopeful at the casting call, rubbing his hands. “There are already four films in production here.” And that means work for hundreds of people in Ouarzazate.

In 2005 alone, mega-productions such as “Indigenes” (Days of Glory) by Rachid Bouchareb, and Robert Dornhelm’s “The Ten Commandments” were filmed there. Fast forward to 2010, the year the Arab Spring broke out with an uprising to oust a dictator in Tunisia, and nothing on a similar scale was shot at Ouarzazate between then and last year.

A major factor behind that, according to Moroccan film critic Adil Semmar, was the rising insurance costs caused by security problems in the region, notably after the Arab Spring uprisings.

“It has made the cost of filming in Morocco more expensive for big companies, so some films were shot in places like Israel and Spain instead,” Semmar said. In an almost lunar landscape dotted with small oases, the imposing Tifoutout Studio, built by Italians in 1994, “is now a ruin,” says resident Said Soussou. Robert M Young’s 1995 film “Solomon and Sheba” starring Halle Berry and Jimmy Smits was shot there, but the Italians then “sold it to our tribe when they left in 1997.

Because of the crisis of recent years, some parts are dilapidated,” says another commentator, Mohamed Hbibi. “There are more crows here now than film-makers.” With a decrepit wall as a backdrop, Soussou looks up at the ceiling of a half-destroyed dome that was used for David Betty’s TV movie “The Bible Project” in 2009.

“Tifoutout can look like the architecture of ancient Jerusalem,” he says. “But there is little value in that any more.”

BeautifulKasbahOuarzazate

Diversity of locations –

“Even when a film-making company does arrive, it fixes the bit it’s interested in, gives the tribe five or six hundred euros and then leaves again,” he says.

Most of the movie income has gone on “building a mosque and irrigation ditches.” Ouarzazate’s fortunes contrast with the boom Morocco’s own, heavily state-funded movie industry is enjoying, with 22 feature films made in the past year, compared with around five a decade ago.

Celebrated recent productions include “God’s Horses” by the French director of Moroccan origin Nabil Ayouch, which won a prize at Cannes in 2012. Another was “They are the Dogs” by director Hicham Lasri, which won a special jury prize for Arab features at the Dubai International Film Festival in December.

Like most Moroccan films, however, these are low-budget movies about the gritty realities of life in the North African country, with little need for expensive desert studios, says Semmar, the film critic.

Abderrahman Drissi, deputy president of the Ouarzazate Film Commission, grouping representatives of the Moroccan Cinema Centre and the tourism ministry, believes the authorities have a responsibility “to save this beautiful plateau.”

But he also remains optimistic about the future.

“The diversity of locations means it’s easy to sell to major producers,” he says.

© AFP 2014

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art of resistance, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Israeli - Palestinian conflict, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, travel

A little bit of magic.

I very often spend late night hours going through tumblrs and blogs on/from Middle East, since there are many great ones, with so much inspiration, so much heart break, and so much magic.

Here are some random moments that kinda work great together (to me). They capture the magic, whether they’ve crawled out of some old photo album or they’re freshly made graffiti on a half-destroyed building.

Enjoy.

cairoCairo, Egypt

moroccoMorocco. Marrakech. Medina. Around the old fortified walls. 1977

tumblr_mfpzynDlEA1r033j0o1_1280Palestinian youth practice their parkour skills in Khan Younis in southern Gaza.

sweets in iraqsweets shop, Iraq

tumblr_n0adwqOo541qarjnpo1_400Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” on the facade of a bullet-ridden building in Damascus. Artwork by Tammam Azzam 

(P.S. I will post more about Azzam and his work soon).

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