art of resistance, Lebanon, Syria, travel, Turkey

Beyond Borders – from Vienna to Beirut.

Frederic Lezmi: Beyond Borders (from Vienna to Beirut)

Artist statement:

I have been searching for the “in between” – whatever lies geographically as well as culturally between my world here in the midst of Europe and my long term focus of interest in the Middle and Near East. Being half Lebanese myself, I have been studying cultural interfaces within the distant Arabic World.

From August to December 2008 I traveled between Vienna and Beirut. I encountered people in versatile worlds, inside or in front of architectural places, both real and artificial, public and private. In my photographs, people emerge either as just passers-by or while waiting, as subjects and objects of the viewer’s eye, moving about in their urban or rural environment. These are distanced views in which locals and tourists are on similar paths, randomly congregating and forming elusive compositions. These pictures represent neither precise documents nor do they create artistic worlds. They are constructions of multicolored, fragmented impressions, like looking through a kaleidoscope.

I often show architectural monuments, including the social life taking place within, in various superimposed layers and conditions. Through reflections and fragmentation within the images, the viewer’s eye is being multiplied, inverted and divided in order to call into question the perception of cultural differences and their importance for the “present” and the “past” of our society.

My pictures reveal an ambivalent point of view beyond current clichés of architectural monuments and existing borderlines. In my photographs, the Orient and the Occident overlay each other, and are further changed by ever-growing globalism. Photography in this case serves as a visual hinge and an interface between these multi-faceted worlds where the space between East and West is either expanded or reduced.

0889f5f39505d2261dbae8fb802d2022-largeZagreb, Croatia

2cfe9cc6d81c608ec1a60a2ca2e98e9e-largeSarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

aqwBucharest, Romania

041a9b3ef2e7c7ec71842d580011bbe8-largeVarna, Bulgaria

4a4af4e25d4137829d4fd868bed784d4-largeIstanbul, Turkey

awxxTasci, Turkey

360ec2d084f58fce0e05bc0e7942d4be-largeIznik Golu, Turkey

a98d35562bf9b142ccdebaa7bdd178ed-largeAleppo, Syria

asdxKfar Khilfah, Syria

4ef885d8b1f5680c776e6559b3992804-largeBeirut, Lebanon

/all photos © Frederic Lezmi/

For more on Lezmi and his projects, visit his official website.

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.”










043-AbuDhabiAbu Dhabi.



/all photos © Peter Gould/

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

art of resistance, Turkey

Away from Home (Istanbul, Turkey).

Kürşat Bayhan is a Turkish photographer and journalist. His project Away from Home tells the story of desperate migrants from Anatolia, working in Istanbul.  The rate of migration for Istanbul has more than doubled during the 2009-2010 period due to the city’s economic opportunities and income disparities between the country’s west and east, according to official statistics. The migrants are often so isolated and cut off from their families, their homes and their culture. They also live in bad conditions – mostly, they dwell in single room houses with limited supply of electrics and water. Individual rooms of apartment suites are rented on monthly basis. One room is occupied by 10 people at minimum.

Bayhan’s photos show certain longing, nostalgia, maybe best described with the perfect portuguese word – saudade.



A small street in Eminönü in winter.




116all images © Kürşat Bayhan

For more on Bayhan and his work, visit his blog, and contact him – – to order his book Away from Home.


Azerbaijan, Turkey

Pipe Dreams: The oil stories from Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.

Rena Effendi is a photographer who keeps on bringing great stories for a decade now. In Pipe Dreams, she  followed an oil pipeline from her native Azerbaijan through Georgia to Turkey. Along the way she met scores of people and unfulfilled dreams. She spent years taking photos and following the story, and Pipe Dreams developed into a book later on:

A pipe dream is a fantastic hope that is regarded as being impossible to achieve. This book is dedicated to the people of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, linked by the oil pipeline and their fading hopes for a better future. Besides corporate public relations campaigns, little photographic evidence exists about the impact the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline had had on Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. This book portrays life as it is lived, with no commercial or public relations agenda. It ‘un-smiles’ the calendar smiles of corporate propaganda and sheds fresh journalistic light on this geopolitically important region.

90View of Otagli village, 2km of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, Turkey 2007. ©Rena Effendi

awLittle bride. Djandarsky village along the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline is predominantly populated by ethnic Azerbaijanis. Some of the residents here complained that they had not received compensation for their land in connection with the pipeline construction. Marneuli, Georgia, 2006. ©Rena Effendi

568Snow in Otagli village, Turkey 2007. ©Rena Effendi

asdIlyas Alban with his family at home in Otagli village. Due to BTC construction, his family’s plot of land was degraded and is expected to recover its fertility only after 12 years. Ilyas applied to local courts against Botash and is still waiting for results. “Before BTC, I had everything. Now my roof is collapsing and I have no money to fix it.” – Ilyas says. ©Rena Effendi

11Children of the Tolstoy street, Mahalla, Baku. Azerbaijan, 2003. ©Rena Effendi

1233sIlyas Alban’s two sons at their dilapidated home, Otagli, Turkey 2007. Mesheti Turk refugee and onion farmer, Meshedi Gara village along the pipeline, Azerbaijan, 2006. ©Rena Effendi

24455Refugee woman at home, Agjabedi, Azerbaijan, 2005. ©Rena Effendi

For more of Effendi’s great work, go to her official website.

art of resistance, Syria, travel, Turkey

From Croatia to Syria (on a bicycle).

Three years ago, my friend Siniša Glogoški, photographer, traveler, a wanderer of the world, took his bike and rode it from Croatia to Syria (more than 4000 kilometers).

It was a journey of revelation – revelation of the unknown, of the beauty of the landscape, faces of the people, and everything that’s moving and vibrating around him, and – very important – it was a revelation of what’s inside, of the inner strength, of the will to continue (it was a hot summer, and being on a bike for a looong time can get exhausting).

Siniša did it. He moved his boundaries, went beyond. His stories about the journey are full of desert stars at night, children running, tranquility of morning silence… He brought it with him, and it seems so bittersweet remembering it now, when Syria faces such harsh times.

Be sure to watch his video, embark on a journey with him for five minutes.

And here are some of the photos.











1962725_617223848332134_300289296_nall photos © Siniša Glogoški

For more of Siniša’s adventures and inspiring stories, visit his facebook page.

Iran, tea + food, travel, Turkey

Riding the Trans Asia Express.

Every week, the train leaves from Ankara (Turkey) at 10.35am, starting the 2,500 kilometres of transcontinental travel, with its destination being Tehran (Iran). It’s a 60-hour voyage. The arrival at Tehran Central Station is frequently five or six hours late. But, you get to enjoy more time with other passengers, since this slow ride is not for those in a hurry. Here, as Tirstan Rutherford writes – friendships are cemmented with tea and sweets.






MG_6319all photos © Ayla Hibri/ Brownbook

Read the full story and see all photos on Brownbook.

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.


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. 


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.


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!

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


art of resistance, travel, Turkey

Ara Güler’s magnificent black & white Istanbul.

Widely known as the ‘Eye of Istanbul’, Ara Güler may be best known outside his native Turkey for the iconic images featured in Orhan Pamuk’s memoir, Istanbul: Memories and the City, which beautifully illustrate the notion of hüzün (a sort of nostalgic longing, similar to portuguese saudade).

He still takes photographs and always carries a camera with him. “I don’t know how many cameras I have, but it’s above 50. I don’t use an expensive $8,000 camera, but a $600 camera. The result is very beautiful, I like it,” he says. He’s a master of photography, and has nearly two million photographs in his archive, and most of them have still never been shared (he doesn’t want a public museum).

Here are some of those two million photographs, let them captivate you with nostalgia, melancholia, hüzün, saudade

4Ara Guler, Istanbul

5Ara Guler, kumkapι fishermen returning to port in the first light of down, 1950

12202kz9rejbo5uze8Ara Guler, the end of the day: waiting for the dolmus on galata bridge, istanbul, 1958

ara_guler_beyoglu_1960Ara Guler, trams at galatasaray square on a snowy day, beyoglu, istanbul, 1960 

(this is a photo from Istanbul: Memories and the City that always stayed with me. I remembered it so clearly, although I read the book years ago)

ara_guler_divrigi_demir_1970Ara Guler, iron workers waiting in a tea-house for their shift to start, divrigi, sivas, 1970

Boatmen at the repair wharf. İstanbul 1956Ara Guler, Boatmen at the repair wharf. İstanbul 1956

istanbul 1954Ara Guler, Istanbul, 1954.

istanbul 1982Ara Guler, Istanbul 1982.

kapak19Ara Guler, children in tophane thrilled by the sight of a camera, istanbul, 1986

karakoy, 1959Ara Guler, Karakoy, 1959.

lepoetetravaille_ara_guler_19Ara Guler, a husband and wife returning home, zeyrek, istanbul, 1960

sirkeci 1968Ara Guler, Sirkeci, 1968.

street in tarlabasi, istanbulAra Guler, street in Tarlabasi, Istanbul.

the iron minersAra Guler, the ironminers

tumblr_mefgbnrFgc1qi112wo1_1280Ara Guler, boatmen, Istanbul.

For more of his amazing work, go to the official website.

P.S. When in Istanbul – Ara can still be found every day at Ara Kafe, just below his old house, near Independence Street (Istiklal Caddesi).

travel, Turkey

Istanbul’s enchanting melancholia.

Istanbul’s one of my favourite places ever. Last time I was there was almost three years ago, and these are some of the photos from that journey. I spent my days sitting with fishermen, drinking black tea, trying to play backgammon, and – getting lost in the sea.

Marmara sea and sunsets and sunrises over Bosphorus are beyond words. Everything in Istanbul feeds itself on that endless blue beauty. It’s life. And what is so incredible – there’s this instant nostalgia, even if you’re for the first time in Istanbul and know nothing about it, I’m sure you would feel it. The beauty of a landscape resides in its melancholy. That’s how Pamuk started his book on Istanbul. From my very first day there, I understood what he meant.

Enjoy the photos.