Monday, November 30, 2009

Libya Day 1 Part II

I'm so sorry I haven't been able to get the next chapter of my Libya trip up - I've been snowed under, and finding my way under the thousands of images, converting them etc, has been heavy! As we're speaking uploads are going onto my gallery site, slaughtering my bandwidth! Also, work didn't stand still in my absence, so it's been hectic catching up again.

Anyways, so here we finished at the museum with really old stuff inside, except for Cadaffi's moderately old cars.

So, onto the Medina (old walled city) next to the museum. Well, actually we went back that evening, but I thought I'll just throw the images together. There is an old bronze- and silverware market, where the smiths are actually sitting and working on their products. This is one of the more authentic parts of the market as the gold and jewellery generally comes from India or China. Not even Libya is immune to the Chinese trading giant.

Oh, first we had to go and change money elsewhere, at a hotel or somewhere, where 1 USD got you 1.23 Libyan Denarii. Roughly R6.50 to a Libyan Denarii. That's what oil does for you, baby. Anyways, on to the Medina and markets.

I haven't travelled much, but according to the experienced travellers in our group, in the Middle East and elsewhere in North Africa, you get mobbed in the markets and streets by heckling shop owners who'll be ready to barter button-holes to t-shirts. My experience here was rather different. Most traders just sat or stood outside their doorways, waiting for people to come in and see their wares. This was pleasant, as I don't like having to say no all the time.

So we're walking and walking and walking deeper and deeper into this maze of little alleyways and narrow streets of the Medina, surrounded by wares and flavours. Some of the group wanted to see more food and smells, others wanted to see more clothing. Everyone had a short shopping list. I was intent on buying myself a Cadaffi T-shirt. Just for the heck of it.

What is amazing about markets and streets is the relative calm of the bustle. I was always under the impression that where you have hundreds of people milling in a small confined space it would be noisy, but here everyone was calm, quietly seeing about the offers. I don't know if this had to do with the fact the woman in Libya are very modest, quiet and soft-spoken, and that the markets are mostly frequented by them.  I like it there. It was cool in the shade of the overhanging power-cables (not unlike the power cable lines in many townships where everyone helps themselves to some juice) and clothing and awnings making a canopy over all the little alleys. People were friendly, and a "Sabrach Anoor" (good morning in Arabic) was instantly met with a return greeting or a Salaam Maleikhum (Peace be to you). We were a tad disappointed to see the amount of Chinese wares scattered everywhere, and you couldn't help but doubt the authenticity of some of the local wares. Then again, in South Africa it's the same.

Libya has a population of 6 million inhabitants, of which 2 million are Arabs and ex-pats from neighbouring countries, notably Sudan, Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria and Chad. The colours, smells and dress reflects this to create a beautiful palette of cultures if you took the time to notice. But when you're carrying a 17kg camerabag (I wasn't sure what I'd need at this point yet), you just got of a 12 hour flight 2 hours before, and it is about 30 deg C, you start missing some things as well. So I chose to focus on taking pics and making sure I can remember it later.

Photographing woman in Libya can lend you in some hot water. Although most Libyan locals are not as conservative as some of the Middle Eastern Muslims, it is still considered rude to take pictures of woman, and especially some of the more fundamentalist Muslim woman who comes from Somalia or Arabia. I was able to take a picture of this Somali trader, but I was warned later by our tour-guide to tread carefully when photographing women. Some husbands or men might take offense. He didn't explain what taking offense implied, but I wasn't keen to find out. Carrying around a NIV Bible in my back-pocket could've compounded problems for me should said husband "take offense".

At this point (of taking the pic of the Somali woman), I started noticing the amazing array of doors in the Medina. Those who have visited Zanzibar claims that that is the city of doors, but it must be said that the beauty and intricacy, yet organic rusticness, of the Tripoli doors mesmerised me. From this point on I would barely be able to walk past a door without taking pics of the doors. I've always had a fascination with taking picture of open doors and doorways, but here it went to another level. It seemed like the absence of space or means to decorate the exterior of your house, most opted to decorate their door. I noticed later that even garage doors in the more industrial parts of town had intricate steel frills and designs.

After about an hour in the market (or probably much longer - dehydration was getting to me), we headed back to the hotel for some shut-eye and lunch. I'll skip over the afternoon sleep and take you back to our dusk return to the Medina. This pleased me, because barring the slightly low light, the shadows and harsh highlights of the Medina was more tempered. Also, there were kids and the streets, and an even more peaceful atmosphere. We entered the Medina via the Marcus Aurelius Arch, a magnificent Roman ruin from 160 AD. Here Marcus Brewster and I started the Marcus Brewster Arch project, where we attempted a portrait of Marcus at any suitable arch. The Marcus Aurelius Arch seemed like the best place to start.

There is a really cool little restaurant right next to the arch. On the other side we found a really awesome little hotel (R700 per night) which shouts Libya. It even has shisha room. I'd say if you come to Libya, find this hotel rather than the brand name monsters, and get the real Libyan feel. I also found my Cadaffi T-shirt at the curious outside the little hotel,  which on return to South Africa at a shoot at University of the Western Cape, got a serious amount of quizzical looks and even one annoyed Muslim.

 

Next to this hotel we were taken int oa really old Mosque, where the old janitor/steward of the establishment was very surprised to find out we were South African. He had served in the Second World War with South African soldiers during the campaigns against Rommel and the German invasion. He was really bright still for someone who must be in his eighties.

The mosque is filled with ...arches, and the most beautiful mosaic work. We were allowed in only if our shoes were taken off, reason actually being hygiene, and not religion.

At this time we ventured into the markets again, this time in the soft light of dusk.

As darkness came, the magic of the Medina came more and more apparent to me. In the balmy evening air, artificial lights getting switched on and the locals getting to their shopping after a day of work, the colours became even more intense.

Here I found some beautiful Persian shoes for my daughter (pink with gold sequence....) and a bag for my wife. I was still looking for a gift for my son, but this I would find later.

After browzing we were taken back to the hotel for a delcious dinner. Next time I'll tell you more about the ruins, Leptis Magna and Al Khoms.

To see ALL the pics of my trip, you can now go to the gallery here: http://nelimages.com/gallery.php?gid=81 Editing on keywords are still happening and the odd images might be removed. Also these images are unedited and simply as-is. Retouched and treated images will be added later.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Getting ready for Christmas Stock Photos Royalty Free Downloads

Getting ready for Christmas Stock Photos Royalty Free Downloads

Christmas is here! I made sure I've got Christmas images! Either get them through my online microstock agencies - goto www.danienel.co.za to see the list, or contact me directly for a contact sheet.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New album absolutely free!

Ok, so most of you might know that I dabble in music as well..., and that 2 months ago I released an album, called "Een", my second, but I went back into the studio, and did something I've wanted to do for a long time. Play a live show to a sound engineer and a mic for my voice, and a mic for my guitar. No dubbing, just belting the songs out the way I write them at home in my bedroom. Not just that, I wanted to play the songs I like. My previous albums are awesome, but especially "Een" was written for an audience in mind and to fulfill the purpose of corporate worship. However, these songs are just for me. But by making them available absolutely free, I thought I could share my enjoyment with you as well.

So:

You can download my new album, "Live to a mic - Session at Streetlevel" for FREE, right here:

http://apps.facebook.com/ilike/artist/Danie+Nel

or

ilike http://www.facebook.com/l/c72e6;www.ilike.com/artist/Danie+Nel/album/Live+to+a+mic+%28Session+at+Streetlevel%29

You might need to accept linkedin app for facebook, or register for free on ilike, but you can then download the whole album ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!! Please spread the love!

 

20091030_0081 Final Cover lo-res The cover20091030_0085lr Cal Milne, SE at Streetlevel Studios. 20091030_0084lr A custom built Tully Mcully mic. 20091030_0071lr Me performing away in a glass box. 20091030_0072lr Sound-techy stuffs.

All pics by Philip Du Plessis/(C) Danie Nel Photography cc.

I've come some way with Streetlevel; I recorded 9 tracks of "Painting with Light" and "Een" with Chris Tait -Tait, Hey Mister! - there, and we used to be studio neighbours. Also, I shot images for Tait's first 2 albums, plus some PR images, PR images for James Stewart and his recent Police tribute poster. Also, I've shot some of Streetlevel Record's artists in the past. Anyways, it was like sitting and singing in my bedroom, I felt totally comfortable there, as usual.

I would state the name of the song to Cal, he'd type it in and say go. I'd sing the song and he'd press stop. So basically, how Ledbelly would've record, that's how we did it. Philip walked around taking pics and generally just capturing moments and vibes.

Now, 13 songs in 2 hours... it doesn't sound like much, but have you ever wondered why performers are always soaking wet with perspiration when they sing? It's tiring. I was totally beat by the last song, but the cool thing is, the warmer your voice, the better your reach. So one or two of my songs were benefiting from a warm voice box, as often when you write a song, you end up writing it in high keys, because by the time you've got the tune right, your voice is warm, and you decide to go for a higher key. Thus, I end up writing riffs and licks that is key-specific, and my poor voice just needs to make it on cold days.

Anyways, why don't you go and download, now.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Libya: the Azanian invasion of 2009 AD

So it came to pass that I was invited along as a guest of Aviareps representing Afriqiyah Air (Libyan Airliner) for an educational (tourism geek-speak for a trip to show tour operators possible tourism dives and spots in a new location) in Tripoli, Libya and one or two surrounding places. Myself, 4 journalists and a bunch of tour operators were to make up the party of 23.

Never having been overseas, or having bothered to get a passport before (to the great frustration of my in-laws who annually want to take us to Mozambique or Swaziland just a couple of km's away from there hometown), I was faced with the task of getting a passport within a month. Well, I'm glad to report that not only did I get a temporary passport fairly briskly, but my permanent passport (which I turns out I need to get into Libya) was ready only 3 days after my temp one. Well done, Bellville Branch, Home Affairs. Not just that, but my whole application process took 25 mins. Not bad, eh?

So, fast forward to the 3rd of November with me arriving at Oliver Tambo, JHB, to meet up with the rest of the VIP's (hehe).

20091103_0666 Jenny Morris, who got me into the trip. Proudly displaying her well-used passport. She was set to learn about the food of Libya.

20091103_0670 Kosie, from Flight Centre, with Charmaine, our host from Aviareps. Spirits were up, as we just heard we would be traveling business class, baby.

20091103_0673 Jenny Morris and Noushad Kahn, publisher of the Next 48 Hours Cape Town. He would supply much of the humour for the rest of the trip. Here waiting around in the business class lounge.

20091103_0674 Marcus Brewster, publicist and travel writer, was also one of the Cape Tonians on the trip. Right about at this juncture it was decided that we shall take portraits of Marcus at any possible arch in Libya. Hence he became "Arch"-Bishop Marcus Aurelius. The latter being a famous Roman arch in Tripoli.

20091103_0677 On our way to the plane. Excitement.

So 8 hours later and a leisurely sleep later (business class just totally rocks), we arrived at Tripoli International Airport and was ushered through customs, about 300 different security checks and a small but quick baggage claim, before we were introduced to our guide for the remainder of our stay, Shukri. My first thought as I came off the plane was: "this smells like Lambert's Bay". My guess is the early morning breeze from the Med brought some fresh kelp flavours along. Anyways, we were taken to our tour-bus and we set off to Tripoli.

20091104_0042 The proprietors of "The Taste". I can't remember their names, but I'm fairly certain one of the was Muhammed.

20091104_0027 Tannie Jenny, Nash and Marcus in front of "The Taste", where they've never heard of Ceylon tea to the dismay of Jenny.

On our way into town, we passed Muhamed Qadaffi/Ghadafi/Cadaffi's (not even in Libya is the spelling of his name consistent) compound. We were advised by our tour guide to leave our cameras alone at this time, as taking pictures there would be considered a security risk and you might get in trouble. We learned at the airport from a South African doctor currently living there, that security in Libya is strict and that they keep a close eye on foreigners. Qadaffi didn't stay in power for 40 years by being trusting, I suppose. Anyways, someone, possibly the tour guide, made the absolutely phenomenal suggestion that we should get coffee from a coffee place in the Italian quarter of Tripoli (picture Lower Main Road Woodstock). He assured us this is the best cappuccino in Libya. We arrived at a nondescript building, of doubtful structural soundness where men in suits and other early morning dwellers were getting their fix for the day. The small little coffee bar/kiosk was packed. No signs outside, no branding, no nothing. It turns out the establishment is called "the Taste"  in Arabic, but only if you asked you would know that. So here word-of-mouth and good quality coffee made the difference. I proceeded to have (ok, maybe excitement and fatigue made my biased, but maybe not) the best cappuccino I've ever had. In fact, none of our local over-branded, yuppie, upmarket coffee joints have anything on this place. I also proceeded to have sweet lemon tea (yumm) and a yoghurt drink, which was not bad either. I'm still not sure how I ended up with three drinks. This was the beginning of a realisation that Italy through Musellini had a huge influence on Libyan culture. Everywhere people were sitting at corner cafe's watching the day start. Everyone was having coffee. Espresso, machiato or capuccino.

20091104_0049 We passed some locals having their morning coffee, chatting away and checking out the goings on, before embarking on their own day.This all seemed very French to the others in our party who have travelled before. I really took to the sociable nature of the Libyans about then.

20091104_0165 At this point we were guided to the National Museum (a bit of a propaganda palace for Qadaffi) with amazing Roman, Byzantine and Greek artifacture.( Oh, we took a wee bit of a detour past the money changing place, where the R6.50 bought me 1 Libyan Denarii. Or rather US$1 bought me 1.23 LD. ) The museam, previously military HQ, is situated next to Green Square, a big square, much like the Cape Town parade, next to the ocean and a promenade that looks suspiciously like Seapoint, and next to the Medina (old city).

Once inside it was clear that mister Qadaffi is boss. Well, it sort of became clear with the billboards everywhere showing him in a variety of comically cheesy stances and sunglasses on our way into Tripoli, I suppose. Not intended that way, however. Our man takes himself way too seriously. However, all the billboards were decidedly pro-African Union (an association that Libya is mighty proud off, and also chairs these days). Libya became a member of the AU in 1999 and is so proud of this that their national airliner's logo is in fact the number 99. We can learn something there, I guess. Anyways, I digress. Inside the museum we were met with pics ofel presidente  with international leaders, and even in the run-down ablutions we found portraits of him. Later I would see portraits of him in restaurants, hotels, shops and more toilets. Ablution facilities in Libya is still a bit tacky, especially with the no-toilet-paper-and-hose-pipe-bedet set-up. And a pic of the president staring down at you.

20091104_0060 One of the first exhibits is a 1940-something Wyllis Jeep, that allegedly transported the Leader of the Great Jamahiriyah (Republic of... ) on 1 September 1969, when he executed a successful coo by first taking over the national broadcaster (see, this dude knows marketing and publicity) and then only marching on the monarch's palace and forces. Another exhibit is his 1300 VW Beetle, which allegedly was his mode of transport up and until his sudden presidency. It is alleged also by some in our party that the Arabic number plates on his Beetle translates to "My VW", but we couldn't be certain, as we don't read Arabic.

20091104_0145 Here our touring company is pictured in the Roman hall. Seriously impressive artifacts, statues (which however has been castrated for the sake of Muslim decency and law), mosaics and seriously old marble history make up this spot.

After a gruelling tour of some of the oldest artifacts I'll live to see, we were guided to the outside world again, where we were met by a Masters student of Economy or Tourism or the like, dishing out questionnaires about our experience of Libyan tourism. As we had about 2 hours worth of experience, I guess we were a bit of a waste. An interesting conversation with him, however, taught me that he would never come and do his Ph.D in South Africa as it was obviously way too dangerous a place to come to. The irony of this conversation did not escape me. A desert wasteland governed by a dictator is safer than our "Rainbow Nation"? He would rather go to Ireland. I realised again that South Africans are so blase about our crime-filled society.

20091104_0169 The Green Square, in old Tripoli, with a "Tourism Security/Police" vehicle parked adjacent. It took me a while to figure out that the tourism police was not there to protect us from the Libyan populace, but rather to protect them from us. They were friendly and helpful enough. We were somewhat of a novelty, as most tourists in Libya are from North Africa, or parts of the Middle East. Only recently have Europeans started making turns there. Americans aren't big on Libya yet, and I sense the feeling is mutual.

We were then taken to the Medina, but more about that next time. I'm still 700 images down on processing, and I'd like to show lotsa nice images from our walks there. Also, I will steer away from the chronological narration of our visit, and rather share interesting tit-bits of our stay and some happenings.

To answer a question I got fairly regularly on my return: no, I didn't feel unsafe there. In fact, I've never felt as safe in my own security complex as I felt there walking around with R100k worth of gear on my back among street traders. Secondly: no, it wasn't hellishly hot, as it is their autumn now, and we had highs of probably about 30 degs and high 20's. Generally not unlike Cape Town in early summer. Oh, and to photograhers: the light over there has a very warm feel, quite possibly because of a high density of dust in the air due to the proximity of the Sahara Desert, and also fog from the Med.

20091104_0589 Next time I'll tell you more about our shopping experience in the Medina, why I'm keeping that ridiculous pose, and what you can by with 10 LD.

Till next time, Salaam.