Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Libya Day II Part 3

So, off to Tripoli again from Al Khoms. After taking a detour via the Italian Quarter, and an Egyptian coffee shop, with awesome Italian (? I know) coffees, and amazing Egyptian honey confectionary, we quickly popped into a bookshop around the corner for the Green Square. At this juncture, some of the more seasoned travelers peeled themselves from us and assured the slightly irate tour operator that they would find their own way to the hotel in time to be ready for dinner at The Corinthia. Ok, the tour operator was not irate, he was by this time very upset with the strong-minded Saffers and their waywardness. However, I stayed with the bus, and made my way back to the hotel.

After a well-deserved powernap, a shower and the appreciation of 5-star ablutions (we stayed at the Radisson Blue), I was ready, albeit a bit sore from the miles of walking around Leptis carrying 17kg of gear, for dinner, at, The Corinthia.

The Corinthia is more or less what I expected the oil rich Libyan nobles to consider a hang-out. Massive big columns ending in enormous arches, with fountains and all that. Once inside we were introduced to some of the management, and consequently taken on a tour of the rooms and suites, which to my untrained eye, was rather fabulous. At R3k upwards per night, though, I'd expect no less. Once in the elevator, we had time for some self-portrait shenanigans.

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These portraits of mine (there are many from this trip) became known as the "Langarm-shots". (Long arm shots). For Afrikaners, that has some added humour, as "Langarm" is a local version of Cowboy square dancing mixed with bee-bop and ballroom. 

The general feel of the Corinthia is of Middle-Eastern opulence. Enormous columns, cavernous interiors, arches galore and frilly metal work, with warm, Arabian nights lighting, really does make you realize that you've stepped slightly out of the normal Western mould.

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As you can see from the pics, everything is nice and a bit OTT. But when among Arabian knights, I expect no less. The Radisson seemed rather clinical after this.

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I was then annexed by Jenny Morris and we set out to chat to the chefs, and more importantly for me, take piccies of the massive buffet available.

20091105Libya0954 20091105Libya0956 Again, freshness at the order of the day. But for more in-depth analysis of the food on offer, you'd be well advised to go over to www.gigglinggourmet.com , find her blog, and see Jenny's take on things.

20091105Libya0949 Jenny with the chefs and restaurant managers. The manager (2nd from right) is Egyptian and certain Egypt will do well at FIFA 2010. He has reserved seats for games here. He was very excited about coming here. The chef second from left is from Tunisia, and certain they will beat Egypt quite comfortably, but was way to polite to imply that they'd beat Bafana. I was way too aware of the state of soccer to suggest the contrary. For friendliness, affability and cup-of-tea-niceness, this crew got a 10/10 from me.

20091105Libya0964 20091105Libya0984 Being hosted by the management.

After having too much food (I'm terrible at buffets), we were ushered into the bus and taken back to our hotel where some of us decided that coffee and a shisha for those who smoke, was a must at one of the coffeehouses back in town. But more of that later.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Winemakers and their cars

Last year, for the October issue of Wine magazine I was commissioned to shoot winemakers and their cars. 6 winemakers were selected and I was sent to shoot each. This was exciting, as it left me with some creative license, some brief in terms of layout and then two of my most enjoyable subjects: winemakers and cars. Perfect marriage? Possibly.

Andrew Gunn - Iona Wines: this is his first car he ever owned. A Porche. I decided on tracking. Getting to his farm near Elgin is a bit of a bundu bash, so I'm not sure the car gets a lot of road time out there! I was also not keen on missing out on the beauty of the surrounds. Unfortunately Wine mag decided on a posed image of them at his house. This was my favorite, though. I left with a fabulous bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that was enjoyed some months later with Rudi's Jagermeister or Blue Cheese Boerewors. Magic.

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Gyles Webb - Thelema: the Mini Cooper S just shone like a jewel the moment we put lights on it, so we ended up with this baby. Initially I tried on-car tracking, but the point was missed, so we opted for the more styled approach. The winery in the back with the mountains full of ominous clouds also worked in my composition. Afterwards he entertained us to some coffee, talk on gardening, eco-farming and his golf handicap. (If memory serves me correct, he used to play from a scratch handicap.) I left with a Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz. Magic.

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Pierre Wahl - Rijks: for this shot I had to head out Tulbach way, with the ever present threat of rain following me there, but once there, Pierre and I quickly found a spot that showcases the farm and gave the image a proper English country estate feel. Oh, he drives a Z3 for fun. He bought it with his dad. Normally he travels by bakkie, like most winefarmers! I left with a Sauvignon blanc among other really killer wines.

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Ken Forrester - Ken Forrester: Mr. Chenin himself was caught slightly unawares, as the car we were supposed to photograph, his 1976 Jag, was in for a serious panel job, but no worries, a 1950's BMW motorcycle was handy. I much preferred this anyways. Although he was dreadfully busy, he gave us such a nice time, and afterwards sat us down for a tasting of some incredible French Sauvignon Blanc (R400 per bottle ex Cellar) and entertained us with knowledge on viniculture, the fallacy of green Sauvignon Blanc's, stressing vines and traveling.

20090729_0949 Ken Forrester and Bikelr

Pieter Ferreira - Graham Beck: I feel like Pieter is somehow embedded in my camera, so many times have I photographed him. Anyways, little did I know he owned a seriously old Citroen, he imported from France. One of those typical 1970's foreign film cars. Anyways, we met in Franschhoek and drove to Robertson for the sum-total of 30 minutes to do the shoot and then come back. Again, good fun. I don't recall leaving with Sauvignon Blanc.

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Boela Gerber - Groot Constantia: Boela's little Morris Minor is a beauty, and would've been even more impressive had it been able to start and drive itself to the location. It had recently been flooded in the garage and left the engine with much damage. However, on a farm there is always a tractor handy and we were able to pull it to where it needed to be. Then there was the case of the baboons always lurking nearby being rather threatening. All in all, we had good fun and left with some really awesome Sauvignon Blanc, and a dessert wine.

20090730_0043 Boela Gerber Finallr

Art directors. Please. Send me more assignments like these!

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Libya Day II Part 2

So after a decent Libyan meal at Leptis Magna, we set off for Tripoli again. However, one or two people needed air-time and some pressies for family, so we quickly looked around the curious available at Leptis Magna, and then set off. However, one of our guests, Jenny, still needed a proper Libyan outfit for her hubby, so we made a stop at the town adjacent to Leptis, called Al Khums/Al Khoms pronounced El G (hard G)ôms. Interesting about this very arid looking town is the origin of the name. When Arabs arrived at the Roman occupied town in the ancient times, they were much surprised to find everyone being taxed 1/5 of their income. They then called the place Al Khoms, or Arabic for one fifth. Now that made me think about the local outrage names of towns and streets changing. Imagine living in "Capital Gains Tax Road" or living in the town of "Value Added Tax".

 

Oh, but before lunch, we quickly popped over to an ancient amphitheatre, 2 km away from Leptis. A 17 000 seater stadium with the most amazing acoustics awaited us. If I stood at the bottom and spoke in a normal voice, people standing right at the top could hear me. I was able to walk through the narrow tunnels under the seats where the lions were kept, gladiators waited and many a Christian waited  for their final meeting with Fate. As a Christian being able to walk the ground that many of my unnamed heroes in the faith walked before was quite a special experience. I said a prayer of thanks quietly underneath the stadium in one of the tunnels, appreciating the faith and strength of those who didn't waiver even in the face of death for Who they believed in. If only I could become a fifth of that!

 

Well, before just skipping over lunch, let's have a look at this.

Now, as you'll learn by traveling through Libya is that the whole touristiness of sites are absent. Their are few or any visitors, you can get on anything, climb  on top of everything or simply touch everything. Now, with this comes the facilities... the restaurant adjoining this amazing site is a simple affair, with little or no style in decor and pretty much plastic garden chairs for seating, BUT the food, well, 5 star. Food simply cooked, not overly spicy, but fresh as the morning dew. A soup and a spicy stew was followed by fruit as a dessert with bananas the size of batons.

20091105Libyai0037 20091105Libyai0043 20091105Libyai0038 Oh, and note the Ghadaffi lightbox poster and other pics in the restaurant. This illicited some snickers.

Then we got back into the bus and headed westward to Tripoli. But first, we stopped in Al Khom's main street for some shopping.

20091105Libyai0093  My assistant asked me to bring him some of the local tobacco products of the area, and as Shisha is a bit bulky for me to transport, I settled on buying him a packet of Libyan ciggies, called Rihadi's. At R6.50 for a pack of 20 I  didn't complain much, cuz at the best of days I'm barely tolerant of smoking. I also took note, like I did in Tripoli, that barber shops are still big here. I walked into one and boldly asked the guy who looked like the owner whether I could take a picture. He enthusiastically agreed. His name was in fact Muhammed. He offered a hair-cut, which I would've taken for the simple novelty of experience, but we were asked to be brisk about business so we could get back to Tripoli in good time. Regretfully I declined, but shared some niceties in broken English and serious hand gesturing with Muhammed.

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On the way back to the bus, I noticed a small photo store. I went inside and tried to communicate, but we didn't get far. However, we did take turns in taking pictures of each other and we did manage to communicate that we're pro photographers (he's into events and family pics) and I'm from South Africa, and he is -no kidding - from Libya. We also managed to exchange emails.

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Also I managed to take one picture of a door in Al Khoms, but as it fell outside the scope of "Doors of Tripoli" by virtue of location, this will probably be the last time you see that pic.

Anyways, onward we went to Tripoli for the rest of our experience. More of our dinner at The Corinthia, midnight coffee run and getting lost with a taxi driver, next time.