Tag Archives: culture

The Talented Craftsmen

On a recent visit to Kenya, we had the good fortune of being able to visit one of the local handicrafts market, thanks to the efforts and planning of a very good friend. ” You would really like the place” is what she said; what she did not mention was the fact that we would be totally overwhelmed by the sheer talent that these people had!

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Seated all over the place under the shade of a few trees, we were treated to some of the most creative craft work that we had seen. There were brightly colored clothes, dazzling prints, work with beads of different colors – this included chains, necklaces, bangles, pendants, earrings, bracelets, headbands, keychains and many many more items, the list just went on and on.

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Next up was the lady with the metal work….so many items, so intricately planned and finished, and neatly displayed. From animals. to busts, to full sculptures, wall hangings, frames, necklaces..almost everything decorative that we could think of was available, and a fair share of it was made from simple pieces of metal and wire cleverly tied or interlinked with one another.

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At the Gourd stall, we just stood and stared. There really was’nt anything else to do. The extent of creativity and craftsmanship was quite evident from the items that were on display. There were gourds of different sizes and shapes, with different artwork and patterns on them, all featuring stories of the African plains and the life of the people in and around those areas.

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There was also some very solid wood furniture available, the sofas, chairs and tables being exclusively handcrafted, The designs were as creative as one could imagine. Probably the biggest issue one would have in the todays world would be to accommodate the furniture in the smaller modern houses.

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We could probably have spent the next two days at the same place, there was just so much to see. The people were friendly and took the time explaining to us the work and method involved in the production of their products. The next time we go here, we intend to find out more about how these items are actually made, and if possible get a hands on visit to the place where these talented artisans are.

 

 

A Busy Shoreline

It was just turning bright and so we decided to take a walk to the beach and along the seashore. We were not expecting to find anything interesting, but being the shutterbugs that we are, took the cameras along. And it was good that we did…the place was buzzing with activity. From people swimming, jogging, doing yoga, playing football etc…we seemed to be the lazy ones out there.

What however caught our eyes were the local fishermen. From surveying the waters, to casting their nets, collecting the fish, and repeating the process till they had a large enough catch, it was a treat to be there with them.

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A careful inspection of the water and the tide gives them an indication as to where and when the nets should be cast to have the chance of catching some fish.

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Each fisherman seemed to have his own style in casting the net, in some cases, like above, this was a low underarm swing.

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This mans approach was different. The net was twirled around the body once, then cast from over the head.

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Time to haul in the nets, and inspect the catch (if any)

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This was the boring part….after each cast, the nets had to be cleaned of debris, and folded into position again before the next attempt.

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And then there were some who cast their nets from the boats…

The pictures have been posted in monochrome because it relates more to the situation these fishermen face. Most days the skies, (and hence the water) is void of color when they fish; giving them more of a monotonous and bored impression.

Camel Race Day

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Its arrived!! At long last it is the season for racing. After having trained for close to a year, the camels get their chance to prove themselves.Those who have arrived early are relaxing, its warm, and they know that they will need all their energy for later on, once the racing starts. Others are arriving, all excited, and happy that the time has finally arrived.

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For some of the others, its just a normal day in the desert…..But wait, these are the ones on sale..once the races are over, many of the traders and owners of other camels will come here to inspect them and see if they will fit into, and benefit the herds that they already have.

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Back on the race-track, its not yet time for the races to start, and there are some that have come just to add a bit of flavor to the races. They do a leisurely lap on one of the tracks,  as if sampling what it would be like to race on it some day.

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OK, things are warming up now, suddenly the place has turned very active and businesslike. Announcements are made, and the herders start moving the camels towards the start pits. It is interesting to watch, because the animals are nervous, and anxious to get it over and done…slowly and reluctantly, they all make their ways through the gates and towards the start line.

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After a lot of coaxing and pushing, the camels are finally in their places and are waiting for the barrier to be raised in order to display their prowess and speed achieved over the past year.

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And then, without any warning the barrier is raised, and they are off……..

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It is a spectacle well worth watching. The dedication shown by the herders, the love between the owners and their animals, the entire festival with traditional tents, cultural dances and campfires, it is almost too good to be true. If you are ever in the Middle East during Camel Festival time (it generally happens between December and March), this is one event that you should witness.

 

 

Beat of the Drums

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Festivals in India take on a different dimension. There are lots of preparations that take place prior to the event, people and the entire community as a whole sets aside time for their participation in the festivals. Added to that is the fact that the events that take place happen in the open public areas, so everyone has access to it. In some areas (like the one pictured above), there was not enough open place for the celebration to take place, so it happened on the main road.

Traffic was diverted, the road was cordoned off, and the drummers and elephant, marched through the street. The drummers seemed to have endless amounts of energy, the beats kept rolling out in great rhythm, they kept swaying to the beat, much to the excitement of the crowd surrounding them. All in all a very festive and happy mood for everyone.

The drummers as well as the organizers of the festival were very receptive to the fact that we were taking pictures, however, being able to get good pictures was a bit of a challenge. It was late evening, almost sunset time, light was low…the drummers kept walking forward, swaying to the beat, and drumming, the crowds surrounding them were anxious to get the best view, so not too receptive to the photo making, there were people constantly walking in front of the drummers, and the road was not wide enough to accommodate all the activity happening on it. With a lot of moving around, coaxing of the viewers, making many apologies, we were able to get some good pictures of the event. Lesson learnt, talk to people, explain what you are trying to do, show them the images you are making, and they will help and accommodate you.

The Daily Walk

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With the climate cooling down its the perfect time to travel to the desert to get some good pictures of the culture around us. With a little bit of patience and perseverance, and the fact that you may actually have to venture into the off-beaten track, you can find the trainers with their camels in the dunes. The satisfaction in getting these images is that other than the camels and their riders, there is no other trace of civilization around you.

We came across this group  more by chance…they suddenly appeared from behind a dune and we had to opportunity to make a few good photos before they again vanished behind another large dune. A few minutes after this the wind picked up, and we soon found ourselves in the middle of a lot of swirling sand, and very reduced visibility. There was really no way in which we could use our cameras without getting sand into them, and so decided to make our way back to our vehicle, all the while protecting our camera gear, while the sand kept getting into our eyes, mouth, hair and clothes. Something a little different from the normal routine day.

All in a Day’s Work

All in a day's work

 

Very often we tend to ignore the day-to-day happenings around us; seeing how busy we all are with our meetings, schedules and appointments. Unfortunately, we fail to realise that by doing this, we are slowly doing away with our past habits and ways of life,  and are now moving into a new way of living. This is why it is so important to preserve the cultural and behavioral habits of our surroundings.

Above is a picture of the trainers walking their camels in the morning, getting them used to the race track. This is something that happens every morning in the areas close to the Camel Race track in Dubai, and it has become such that most of the people that pass by, do not even glance towards the camels and their trainers. Interestingly, we also see a number of tyre tracks in the sand, the desert no longer belongs to the “ship of the desert” !

While modernization and progress is something that we all try to achieve in our lives, it is equally important to remember our roots, and try and strike a balance between the two.

The Dubai Creek

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Khor Dubai (Dubai Creek) is the local name for the saltwater creek that separates Dubai into two main sections – Bur Dubai and Deira Dubai.  It is of great significance to the UAE, because it was here that trading first started between Dubai and traders from India and Africa, – as early as the beginning of the 20th Century. Although not deep enough for large vessels to enter, this creek became the first harbour that Dubai had. Dubai’s “Pearl Industry”  which formed a major section of the country’s economy was based on the trading that happened here.

Since then, this creek has had several changes, it has been dredged to accomodate larger vessel, and is today a major hub for the Dhow traffic that carries almost all forms of cargo, and Personal Effects from Dubai to the neighbouring countries. With the introduction of major ports like Port Rashid, Port Saeed and Jebel Ali, the significance of this route has diminished, but it still remains an important port for the Dhow traffic.

Today the Dubai side of the creek hosts the bustling Textile market and the Museum, while the Deira side has the traditional Spice market, the Gold Souq, the Dhow harbour, several impressive buildings, and a busy trading centre slightly inland.

The easiest, and probably the most enjoyable way, to cross the creek is by the “Abra”, – a traditional wooden craft, powered by an engine. It has a sunshade to protect you from the heat of the day, but thats about it !  You have to sit on a small raised platform in the middle of the Abra, as it makes it way across the creek. There are two points on either side of the creek that are connected via the Abra’s, and this mode of transportation is used by thousands of commuters daily.

The best time however to visit the creek is in the evening. Just as the sun is about to go down, take a stroll along the quay, and you see a flurry of activity as people hurry to get back home, and prepare for the next day. If you are patient enough, you get the whole creek turning a deep blue, reflecting the colours of the sky, as the day slowly turns into night, marking the end of another day.

 

 

 

 

 

The Spice Market

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A visit to the traditional spice market (or “Souq”, as it is called in Arabic, meaning “Market”) in Dubai is sure to leave you with a few memories that you will long remember.

Situated beside the Dubai Creek, this market has been here for a very long time. The market itself comprises of several narrow alleys paved with cobblestones. The pillars that hold the roof of the market are made of wood and have traditional lanterns suspended on them. There are several restored wind towers in this market which helps circulate the air, – the scents from the spices can at times be a little strong! The area is generally crowded and is a bustle of activity. There are local traders vying for the best bargains, while on the other hand there are scores of eager tourists/visitors trying to get the best experiences out of their visit to this market. There are several “free lance” porters with their traditional trolleys/handcarts,  transporting the goods from the stores to the trucks, or the nearby launches, for onward transportation.

The stores in the Spice Souq sell a large variety of fragrances and spices, Frankinsence, dried lemons, rose petals, chillies, and many herbs used in Arabic and South Asian food. Whilst the main attraction in this market is the large variety of spices that are available,  this is not the only commodity sold here. Walk past the first alley, and you will find utensils, glassware, foodstuff, textiles, tableware, rugs and plastic goods. There is also a huge variety of incense burners, henna kits, saffron and shisha pipes that you can choose from.

The market is not too large, but it gives you a fair idea as to how business is conducted here in the traditional manner. While shopping here in the summer months can be quite uncomfortable, its a nice market to visit in the cooler months. It is also in very sharp contrast to the posh markets and shopping areas that modern Dubai has to offer.

If you do visit Dubai, this is one of the places you must go to.