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Metalwork

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Metalwork

Metalwork, originally uploaded by malyousif.



At a Marrakech souvenir outlet.

I bought quite a lot of things from this shop; leather cushions, bags, Moroccan clothes for the wife and kids and other stuff. This constituted my first ever souvenir shopping! I normally don’t bother with any souvenir shopping in the countries I visit for business or short trips, but Marrakech was the first exception to that rule.

The one thing I did want to get is one of those lamps, a fanous, which would have looked fantastic at the front door, unfortunately the size of the object and the inversely proportional size of my wallet didn’t allow me that luxury. Next time inshallah.

I hope you are having a wonderful Friday. And do please spare a though for those people who are paying for our freedom, with theirs.

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Time to have fun!

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Djemaa el Fna performer at night

Djemaa el Fna performer at night, originally uploaded by malyousif.



I’m sure that a lot of you are pretty fed up with bad news, politics and the rest of the depressing posts. So allow me to share with you this picture I shot in Djemaa el Fna in Marrakech recently.

New friends and I decided to go have dinner in an upmarket authentic restaurant, but see the city at night at the same time, and believe me, Djemaa el Fna comes into its own at night. I’ll post more pictures of the square and the old Medina over the next few days ( watch my Marrakech set on Flickr) where you will see how vibrant it gets; the people, music, noise, hustle & bustle, smells, lights, shadows, the ethereal lighting and business still being conducted at that time of night and the sights in and of the narrow alleyways of the Casbah are all thrilling even more than daytime Marrakech.

We walked for about an hour through the narrow alleyways until we got to the exquisite and excellent (and rather expensive) Yaqout restaurant and had an excellent Moroccan meal.

But before all of that, in Djemaa el Fna, I was busy shooting when this jolly guy just jumped in front of my camera singing, dancing and clapping those mini-symbals all happy and smiley, fortunately my reflex took over and I pointed the camera down at him and shot him!

I love this picture, so vibrant and jolly.

Have a wonderful day my friends, and think happy thoughts!

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Marrakech

An eight hour flight will get you from Abu Dhabi to Casablanca, another 30 minutes in a connecting flight will get you to Marrakech, and will immerse you in a love that only a fortunate few will experience in their lifetimes.

I didn’t know much about Morocco, I still don’t, but that didn’t stop me from the wonder and awe of seeing the snow covered Atlas mountains from air, or the desert in between them and the sudden and abundant appearance of orange groves surrounding the city. I forgot what it was like to view ochre, burnt umber and green parcels of land; I forgot organised cultivation and farming, the last I have experienced was in Texas while flying. I forgot the hundreds of villages that these parcels create of farmers and their dependents live in, I forgot most of all the beauty of this tapestry, and it is these that evoked the immediate feeling of love to this land and its people, even before meeting them! What aided that, I must admit, was the pleasure of having a Moroccan neighbour for 7 years in Bahrain. Now I am a guest in her country for but a few days, the first of which had tremendous impact on me.

I had to get out.

Disregarding the back-pain and the more than 12 hours of travel time, I had to go visit the town I have briefly read about; so in the company of a fellow Bahraini and a new Jordanian friend we got into a taxi that took us to the heart of the old town: the Medina, which the taxi conveniently dropped us at what possibly is the largest traditional crafts shop in town. And I want to buy almost every single article it contains! From fantastically constructed side-tables with intricate inlaid mother of pearl and ivory, through to several iterations of Berber carpets and copper and bronze fanouses, lamps, to cushions and their covers and leather goods which are a fetishist’s wet dream! I want them all, my home would certainly benefit greatly from them.

Fortunately; however, my travel experience kicked in and I just contented myself to taking photographs – when allowed – in the knowledge that I want to see what others have to offer and then utilise the last day in this distinct city to buy a few articles.

Walking out of that centre, we started walking in the general direction of the flow of people, stopping every few minutes – to the detriment and annoyance of my friends – to take pictures. Thankfully, most people did not mind once permission is politely sought, and there are an awful lot of subjects that you simply must shoot! This town is anything but un-photogenic, every single thing in here lends itself to a great picture: the old man sitting by his shop, the restaurant grilling skewers of meat, the children playing, the people walking, the traditional fashion, the old doors, the narrow alleyways, the shops and their contents, the eccentrics… everything. And this is not an exaggeration. By the time I reached my room again last night, I have shot 248 photographs, most of which are usable! The value of a 4GB CF card has certainly proved itself worthy.

Onward we walked, and fortunately intercepted by an 11-year-old urchin who promised to take us through the Casbah and before we knew it, we were following this kid through the most amazing mazes which opened up to uncover tremendous architectural and artistic features in the most unlikely of places! The alleyways, some of which are probably not more than a meter wide, had intricately constructed doors with their awnings, high walls, some of which looked like ancient ruins with cacti growing on top of them, electricity wires snaking between houses and even small recesses where kids played with their spin-tops or even football in these areas not larger than 3 meters by 3 meters.

After about an hour and a half of following the kid, we exit yet another winding alleyway into a main street in the depths of the old city, and we are yet again hit with that distinct smell of spices, to enter a traditional alternative medicine shop in which all your senses are bombarded at the very same instant: your sight is flooded with all rich colours imaginable, your sense of smell is attacked with the most sensual smell of spice which lead the rest of the senses to add to the tremendous experience for your visit to become whole.

And I continued to photograph things which I became aware of; framing, adjusting and shooting as I went along.

Walking further down the road we decided that we have seen enough of this area of town and it is time to do the time-honoured thing and hail a taxi to take us to the next feature, after rewarding the boy for him giving us a nice tour through the Casbah. As we were thirsty and ready for a coffee, we asked the barely-Arabic speaking taxi driver to take us to a nice place in which we can sit, chill out and watch the world go by while enjoying a nice cup of coffee. As none of us have mastered French yet, we thought that our louder voices and gesticulations were enough to communicate to the driver where we wanted to go. And off he went. For half an hour circling the city dodging impatient pedestrians and starved looking horses, donkeys and mules drawing touristic and freight carriages, all the while the three of us watching this great city’s neighbourhoods and features going by with our mouths open with wonder… this is a place that is so completely different from the imagination, and most certainly different from any Arab city I have ever been in. It is a one and only experience.

We stop and ask for the charge, the silly twit expected that we must have had wool on our eyes; he asked for about $100 for his trouble, but he (happily enough) accepted $3!

Dropping us at the entrance of what ultimately knew to be the Djemaa el Fna, the busiest square in the entire African continent, we walked with the throng and stopped aghast at the site that greeted us only a few minutes from leaving the taxi. How can such a multitude of people gather in a single location? There must have been thousands of people in there; locals trying to sell their wares, tourists and onlookers all in one place! There were snake charmers, fortune tellers, spice sellers, tarot card readers, dancers, jugglers, food sellers, story tellers and probably an awful lot more that I have missed. It was yet another sensual over-drive!

Marrakesh Market

And the camera continued to add its voice to the cacophony, but unfortunately a lot of these vendors refused to allow their pictures to be taken without being rewarded first. I didn’t have the local currency yet to oblige, nor did I have the inclination to be forced into giving, so most I have left to be, but I still managed to take a lot of general shots which I shall treasure for a long time to come.

Time was getting on, and we had to get back to the hotel to attend the welcoming activities of the conference we were invited to attend so we decided to make our way back to the hotel. We thought we knew the general direction, and as the street was familiar looking and the buildings too – all buildings in this city appear to be of a standard pinkish-orange colour – we decided to walk. Half an hour later I prevailed on my friends to hail a cab as I was convinced that we were hopelessly lost, especially after I stopped a lady and asked for directions to our hotel, the incredulous look on her face when I said we could walk to it sealed the situation, and a cab was hailed. It appeared were were significantly away from the hotel, apart from it being at the complete opposite direction of where we were walking!

That was the first afternoon in Marrakech my friends, a city I am determined to bring my family to as soon as possible for them to enjoy too, as I am absolutely sure that they would enjoy it tremendously, and yes, this is based on just a few hours of being here.

I am in love with this place, and I will leave a little bit of my heart in it on my departure… simply as an excuse to come back and retrieve it with the ones I love!

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The Old Berber Man

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The Old Berber Man

The Old Berber Man, originally uploaded by malyousif.



There are a lot of colourful (and pushy!) characters in the main square of Marrakesh, this is supposed to be the largest open air market in Africa, and there are loads of opportunities to take photographs, but better start with your pocket full of coins as everyone will demand to be paid to get their picture taken!

It’s immense fun though.

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Vlog #26: 12 hours in Beirut

One of my greatest regrets is that I didn’t have the chance to spend any time in Lebanon, Beirut specifically. The only time I had was a couple of months ago. I flew there on the 14th of June to attend an IREX meeting, unfortunately personal tragedy struck and I had to fly back home the very next day.

That being said, the time I did manage to spend in Beirut allowed me to fall in love with it and its people. True, I’ve been in love with it even before stepping foot in there, and that got me thinking about the reasons why Arabs regard Lebanon the way they do, that question was further prompted by Ash in one of her comments.

Well, my take is the following:

People feel much more empathy to that which they are familiar with. Lebanon and the Lebanese are much closer to our souls in this area of the world than Sudan or even Egypt for that matter, let alone Darfur.

Lebanon to us is much more than a place;
Lebanon to us is the spirit of Arabia,
Lebanon to us is the culture,
Lebanon to us is the art,
Lebanon to us is an idea,
Lebanon to us is the history,
Lebanon to us is the poetry,
Lebanon to us is the literature,
Lebanon to us is the darling young bride,
Lebanon to us is much more than all of the above combined:

Lebanon to us, is our soul.

How can we NOT feel distraught at what is happening there?

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Beirut Corniche at Dawn

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Beirut Corniche at Dawn, viewed from my room at the Riviera Hotel balcony

Beirut Corniche at Dawn, originally uploaded by malyousif.



I just spent less than 24 hours in Beirut about a month ago… the first time I visit Lebanon. I do hope that I will be able to visit again as soon as possible. The short time I spent there allowed me to fall in love with the country. This is the vision that greeted me at dawn from my hotel room balcony.

I hope you pull out of this Lebanon. I’m sure you will.

I think Israel proved its superiority now. In 6 days it’s destroyed almost all the important infrastructure of the country and most if not all tourists have left or are leaving the country. Their economy is destroyed and there is no Hariri to resurrect it.

Enough.

The point is made.

Continuing the disproportionate use of force now is much more damaging to the aggressor, much more than anyone else.

Enough.

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Mtv’s Scapegoat of the moment: MoClipper!

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In celebration of me going off to Beirut for the first time ever, what better chance is there to put the blame of all the world and everyone’s personal life on a Bahraini living in Lebanon at the moment?

So without further ado, let me introduce the Mahmood’s Den Scapegoat of the Moment….

MoClipper

So have at him people! He’s the reason that the world is so screwed up! But please allow me to be the first first to level blame on him….

MoClipper is the reason that my passion flower tree decided for the first time since it was planted a year ago to put up the most gorgeous bud and it is promising to open – the very first passion flower – in the next couple of days! The plant that I have nursed and poured much love on is about to have its babies and I’m not around! And all because of that bloody Clipper!

I know I’ll have access to the internet so I might pop in from time to time, so if you’re in Beirut and want to hang out, leave me a comment here or fill in the contact form… I’m leaving back to Bahrain on Saturday afternoon.

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A perfect night in Dubai

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I’d like to thank both Anisa and Lujayn for a wonderful evening in Dubai, the best I’ve had here for a very long time. Excellent company, stimulating conversation, good food, and new good friends.

I am privileged to know you ladies. I hope that we will make these meetings a regular on my visits here.

Bed beckons… good night!

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