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Image copyright®: Ian Britton (http://www.FreeFoto.com)
Now ensconced in sunny and hot London, I've reflected on the past 2 weeks spent photographing in Morocco during the Gnawa Festival Photo Expedition, and two key words immediately jump to mind: frustrating and sublime.
Here's the frustrating bit: people photography in the large cities of Morocco is to say the least, extremely difficult. Moroccans are generally reticent to pose under any circumstances, and photographing them on the sly (say in a marketplace) can lead to some unpleasant confrontations. I recall that we were photographing fishermen off-loading their catch in the post of Essaouira, and hearing one of them, clearly irritated by our presence, asking his colleagues if we thought them to be monkeys in a zoo. Other Morrocans would agree to pose provided they were paid, then adopted the dreaded "frozen look". Some noticed our cameras, and immediately covered their faces whether we pointed our cameras in their direction or not. Street photography needed ingenuity and a self-starting approach, since photographing in a group didn't work.
I exerted much efforts to engage people and show respect, but despite my fluency in Arabic (somewhat different for the local idiom), I wasn't terribly successful in persuading them to be photographed. However, I did manage to establish moments of genuine kinship, such as with the owner of Africa Music in Essaouira who spoke at length about Gnawa music, but it did not translate into being open to photography. It will be included however in my planned multimedia piece on the Gnawa.
The other frustrating issue is that in impoverished Morocco, and because its high unemployment rate amongst its youth, there's a sense that tourists ought to pay for every little service, whether needed or not. I found this to be particularly true in Marrakech and Ouazazate, but less so in Essaouira. For instance, the self-appointed guides at the Ait Benhaddou Kasbah in Ouarzazate are spectacularly venal, and some even threatening. It's a shame since the site is UNESCO-listed, and ought to be supervised instead of being left to a bunch of hooligans.
Before I turn to the sublime aspect of the photo-expedition, here are a few other random thoughts. In the grand scheme of things, Ouarzazate was a dud from a photographic standpoint. Unless one is willing to photograph the Kasbahs (there are two of them), nothing else attracted my attention. I'd give Marrakech a passing mark for photography because of its Jemaa el-Fna square, and that's about it. Again, all this is said based on my sort of travel documentary photography, and is certainly not applicable to other disciplines. The infrastructural component of the expedition went well. Hotels were generally fine, but the Riad Mimouna in Essaouira stands out a certainly being a jewel. Our bus was expertly and safely driven by the jovial Abdel Hakeem, and was extremely comfortable. However, the drive from Marrakech to Ouarzazate was uncomfortable for those who suffered from motion sickness because of the road's switchbacks.
As for the guides: I didn't find them particularly good nor flexible enough to earn the description of "fixers", with the exception of Hassan E'Chater in Essaouira, who displayed occasional flashes of ingenuity. Guides are badly paid in Morocco, so have to rely for income on herding tourists to stores and restaurants.
The sublime aspect of the photo expedition was found in Essaouira, so in the unlikely event that I repeat this trip, it would only take place during the 4-5 days of the Gnawa Festival, and not more. Although it's still difficult to photograph people in this little town, the medina itself is remarkably photogenic, and since its streets are normally crowded, candid photography is frequently easy. Personally, I found the event to be initially somewhat ill-organized but it got better as the days progressed. Our hotel, Riad Mimouna, was a few steps away from the small Zaouia Sidi Bilal where many of the nightly Gnawa performances were held. Most of my documentary photography and audio recording of the Gnawa was done there. The Zaouia family of caretakers included Rokeyah and her two young nieces Khadija and Ibtisam who, despite their being less than 8 years old, attended the performances well into the wee hours of the night. Khadija greeted some of us with hugs; a display of affection indicative of the Moroccans' hospitality.
The Gnawa performances at the zaouia were breathtaking. I managed to thwart the administrators efforts, and photographed almost as much as I wanted. Rather bizarrely, photography was allowed at some performances, and prohibited at others. Since the area is quite small, a fast wide angle lens is recommended. Since the Gnawa music is extremely percussive (the qerqabs are really noisy!), I've experienced some distortion in my recordings which perhaps I can fix using either Garageband or Audacity. Another great aural experience was the Berber women singers at the La Recontre restaurant near the zaouia.
One of the highlights of the trip was photographing the Gnawa procession which, in effect, inaugurates the festival. It started at Bab Doukala, and winded its way to one of the main arteries leading to Bab Marrakech. The various Gnawa bands performed for the public, and competed with one another to achieve the highest decibel level. One of the bands included a female Gnawa, who is quite famous in their circles.
Gnawa music has a new fan. I bought a few CDs of a couple of Maalems, such as Mahmoud Guinea and Hamid El-Kessari. And fans of grilled sardines will find Essaouira to be the place for them.
Finally, the above photograph was made during a Gnawa performance, when a young local woman suddenly stood and dances to its rhythms. Within a few moments, she had gone into a deep trance by violently throwing her head about. I had seen women going into trances here before, but they were much older and were larger.
Other non-photo sublime moments:
Witnessing an elderly fisherman choose a plump fish from his catch, cutting it to manageable bits and feeding two ravenous scrawny cats. Noticing they seemed thirsty, he found a discarded plastic bottle, cut its bottom to use as a plate and poured water for them.
Sensing the tremendous energy in the audience of young people when Babani Kone of Mali made her entrance on stage, and when Cheb Khaled, the king of Rai, sang his hits on the Essaouira beach.
Returning to my hotel at 3 am from the Essaouira beach after the Rai concert and realizing that, despite the late hour, there was as many people walking about as there would be during the day.
The water is generally cold in the beaches of California. It's way too cold for us but it seems not cold for local people here.
Summer in Dallas is way too hot. I wore silk Marciano dress with Fendi shoes.
A white in the Indian Barber shop for hair cut! Beside this, I wondering....he was hairless?!
The "Black or White" from Micheal Jackson famous song suddenly came into my mind! Don't you feel it?
Yeah....that's remind me the King of Pop - Micheal Jackson. R.I.P.
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The restaurant has a poor environment, it makes you feel like having your Bak Kut Teh in the oven. But....it's crowded everyday especially lunch time!
I visited this shop on one of the Saturday noon time and it's pack with peoples! The Bak Kut teh serve here is the Teow Chew Claypot style.
We ordered :-
1) Bak Kut Teh for 3 person
2) Yellow Rice Wine Claypot Chicken (small) (Signature dish)
3) Salty vege & tou-fu
This is the place where I started to love Teow Chew Bak Kut Teh many years ago.....and the Yellow Rice Wine Chicken is one of the Best I ever taste within Johor Bahru. So far none of others come close to it!
The taste of the Bak Kut Teh maintain the same from my last visit (many years ago). I will recommend most of my friends who love Bak Kut Teh to try it at least once! The cooking method still use the traditional way which is 'Charcoal'.
The damages was :- MYR48.00 for 4 adults & 1 child (include drinks)
Rated : 4.5/5 for the Bak Kut Teh, 4.9/5 for the Yellow Rice Wine Chicken.
Business hour : Morning till 3pm (Close on Monday)
Another GOOD Bak Kut Teh worth to try!
View Larger Map
Bak Kut Teh at Johor Bahru :-
* How Yu Bak Kut Teh, Permas Jaya, Johor
* Soon Huat Bak Kut Teh, Tmn Daya, Johor Bahru
* Shi-Hua Bak Kut Teh, Permas Jaya, Johor Bahru*
* Soon Lee Bak Kut Teh, Taman Johor Jaya, Johor Bahru
* Soong Huat Bak Kut Teh, Taman Desa Tebrau - Johor Bahru
* Ah Soon Bak Kut Teh, Johor Bahru*
Bak Kut Teh at Muar :-
* Leng Kee Bak Kut Teh, Muar, Johor
Bak Kut Teh at Kulai :-
* Sze Hwa Bak Kut Teh, Kulai, Johor*
Bak Kut Teh at Pekan Nanas :-
* Tong Heng Bak Kut Teh at Pekan Nanas, Johor.
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By ; Wikipedia.com
The municipality of Sogod is the home of Southern Leyte State University. Parts of the municipality are prone to mudslides. Following the 2006 Southern Leyte mudslide, Governor Lerias placed the town of Sogod under a state of calamity.
Within the bay, Sogod town is the centre for trade, commerce and industry.
By : Wikipedia.com
Within a few steps from my lovely Essaouira hotel (Riad Mimouna) is the zaouia of Sidi Bilal, who was the first muezzin in Islam, and is the patron saint of the Gnawa order.
It is there that most of my photographs of the Gnawa performers are made. The backdrop of the zaouia is of traditional islamic zellige, and is just perfect. I've witnessed three Gnawa performance at the zaouia so far. The first was of the Gnawa Maalem Allal Soudani, the second was of the Tunisian Sidi Ali Lasmar Stambali, and the third of the magnificent Ganga de Zagora. The first two performances were of the Gnawa Maalems on the traditional guembri (a three stringed instrument), while the rest of the group provide the repetitive percussive accompaniment with the also traditional qarqab, which are the hand-held cymbals. The end of each session was particularly interesting as local women would join in the furious hand-clapping, add a special stone to the incense burner and eventually go into a trance.
The third Gnawa performance was of the Ganga de Zagora, which did not involve other than the qarqabs and drums known locally as t'abl.
The final performance tonight will be of the famous Maalem Ahmed Baalil, which will start at midnight and will probably end at 3 am.
While it's a tad premature, but I must say that the report card for the Gnawa Festival Photo Expedition is mixed. The reluctance and refusal of many Moroccans to be photographed is a considerable obstacle for people photography, and the harshness of the sun/light also makes it very challenging. Street photography in the medinas is possible, however the light conditions are not ideal. On the other hand, photographing the Gnawas has been a cinch (with one minor exception), and they are extremely photogenic and attractive. The music is remarkable, and its rhythm is impossible to resist. I'm girding myself for a longthy editing process once I'm back in New York to create a Gnawa multimedia slideshow, accompanied by ambient sound recorded during the performances.
How do you keep clothing clean when you're with your kid? Do you look nice and fashionista 24/7?
How long does it take to make your shoe collection? Will you collect the same volume each season and in the future?
It took years to collect my shoe collection. I started slowly at first. But the last year and this year, it has been speed up. My husband said "I deserve to expand my collection after nine years of being a good wife, good mother" and he supports me. I earned the credit, you know. I will probably slow down next season and in the future. But who knows, sometimes they are like vanilla ice-cream with chocolate chip and Oreo cookies. Most of them I waited for on sale. I did not have shoes collection when I was in high school or college. I love fashion whole my life but back then my parents are very conservative about education. All I did to show them I was good student with A+ and I attended two universities. I had no time for anything else except studying. When I moved here, I attended college again, and had a full time job. It was hard because I had to begin everything from zero. I remember the time I visited a high-end fashion store when I received my tax refund. My husband is a wonderful man who understands my passion for fashion and support me.
The secret to keep you slim since you have two kids?
This question was answered in the entry title " Girls plays dress up". Please, check that out.
These pictures took last night. The family went out for Italian Food. My kids refused to have pictures taking, they weren't in good move for picture. I wore Fallon necklace, Alexander Wang tank (I wear this tank and Helmut Lang tank a lot, love their versatile), Marni skirt that I bought sometime long ago for $100 from original price over $1000 at 4510 store, Marni shoes also bought long time ago from last call at Neiman Marcus for about $250.
Wish everyone have a wonderful weekend!!!!xoxo...Hanh.