PETRA:THE ROSE RED CITY HALF AS OLD AS TIME.

Posted in backpacking, British Museum, film locations, Film set, jordan, petra, photo, photoblog, Photography, travel, walking, walks, writing on August 13th, 2014 by wabisabipix

 The Treasury Petra  

It was 1991 and the world had just seen the end of the first Gulf War and the political maps of the globe was being rewritten,the 1980’s were now a distant memory and the future and the unknown beckoned.I was 20 years of age and had been fully enjoying one of the best periods that teenagers have,that wonderful time between working in any meaningful career and being tied down by any commitments and with just enough cash in your pocket to set off on shoestring expeditions to wherever caught your eye on the world map.I had a few years previously set off on a backpacking trip to Morocco that had taken me traveling by train and rickety bus across Europe and into the African continent by ferry and on a circular route that took me to cities with fabled and exotic names, Fez,Ouarzazate,Tangiers,Marrakech.

The trip took me into the Sahara on the back of a camel and gave me many great experiences of world travel along the way.

I was bitten by wanderlust and there was no way of stopping me.It was simply a matter of putting together a small amount of money and finding another destination worthy of heading off to,the more exotic the better and if it was harder to get to then even more so.

On this occasion I had set my target on Petra the legendary rose red city half as old as time.Such a fantastic place certainly fired up the imagination. I had spent the last few weeks traveling down the Nile from Cairo by train and had taken in many of the well trodden sights along the way.The Pyramids,Luxor and Abu Simbel among a few.

I had crossed the Sinai on a local bus and found myself at the coast port of Nuweiba.I had bought a ticket for passage to the Jordanian port of Aqaba on board a ferry full of migrational workers and was now heading towards my destination.On board I had been chatting with a few fellow Europeans,a German backpacker and a travelling artist who had more than a passing resemblance to the great Dutch artist Rembrandt.

The two were enthusiastically discussing their journey and Rembrandt was showing his remarkable sketches,collected over several weeks while traveling leisurely down the Nile.Rembrandt(as I will refer to him from now on) had been sketching both the locals and the remarkable Egyptian monuments along the way and had gathered a stunning portfolio of work.We were all and very much traveling on a shoestring and after several hours the ships horn announced our arrival at the port of Aqaba and we all joined the immigration line for entry to Jordan.After getting our visa stamped (and unbeknown to me our Egyptian Visa Cancelled) our German colleague made it clear he was going to spend the week in Aqaba and Rembrandt was heading to Petra like myself so we set off to find a guest house and split the costs.

Aqaba was a lively town,the evening was spent telling tales of our journeys and chatting with the friendly locals in french style cafe’s usually with the odd picture of Saddam Hussein on the wall.One shop owner had a well practiced tale to tell of his time working with Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif when they had filmed Lawrence of Arabia at the nearby Wadi Rum.I spent that night keeping a sharp eye on a mosquito on the roof and listening to the cockroaches clicking under the bed,comforted in the knowledge that the previous night in Nuweiba it had been 20 cockroaches living in my shower pan clicking a concerto all night and now it was only the one,luck me!

The next day we ate a french style breakfast of bread and cheese and tracked down a minibus driver who agreed to take us the Petra.At this time the were very few tourists in Aqaba as it was just after the Gulf War and there was still the climate of fear affecting the tourist industry.The locals were very glad for any trade they could drum up and we had the rickety old minibus to ourselves for a half decent barter. Rumbling into Petra late that evening after nightfall we found a small guest house with room and settled in for the evening.There was time for exploring in the morning.And even better no Cockroaches. With the abrupt awakening of soaring desert temperatures and a cockerel crowing next door I ate breakfast quickly and wandered outside.The excitement to view this fabled destination was at a peak.Men in colourful traditional garb were herding horses up and down in the small village road outside and it was very clear that this wasn’t going to be another tourist trap experience like Egypt where you have to fight off an army hustlers the moment you stagger out of your hotel.Here everyone was very laid back and seemed unbothered that you were a westerner.If they had something to sell you the Bedouin would ask you several times and let you be.It was going to be a great few days after several weeks in the land of the Pharaoh and not a papyrus scroll in sight!

It is no surprise that nobody had known the way to this legendary Nabatean city until it was found by a 27-year-old Swiss explorer called Johann Ludwig Burckhardt. Burckhardt’s great ambition was to discover the source of the River Niger. In England in 1809 he secured the backing of the Royal Society  for a journey across the Sahara from Cairo. Burckhardt went to Cambridge to start learning Arabic so that he could pass himself off as a Muslim. On his way east, in Malta, he heard of a Dr Seetzen, who had set out from Egypt into Arabia in search of the lost city of Petra, but had been murdered and took up the challenge himself, only this time disguised as a local.While on his way south from Nazareth to Cairo,along with a group of traders and some sheep and goats.Local people were chatting about ruins in a narrow mountain valley a short distance off the road that passed through the desert.It was near the supposed tomb of Aaron the brother of Moses.Burckhardt disguised as an Arab explained that he wanted to make a sacrifice of a goat to Aaron and persuaded a local guide to take him to the ruins.On arrival he was awestruck at what he saw,but left in a hurry heading for Cairo fearing that his true identity may be discovered and that he would meet the same fate as Dr Seetzen. Every now and then as we headed down the desert track a tribal horseman would ride past us bidding us “Salaam!” as they rode past.We marvelled at the bizarre rock formations and the Obelisk Tomb as we passed it on our left.It was sensory overload and we most certainly were out of our comfort zone toto!

Looking around, and scanning the horizon the landscape was unlike any I had seen before,it was almost like the setting from a fantasy of science fiction epic.Vast rolling hills of epic proportions in the distance with a stunning spread of colours.I wouldn’t have been surprised if characters from Star Wars had pottered around in front of me,such was the alienation of the spectacle in front of me.Indeed Petra was chosen as the main film set in the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and one can see why. Wandering down a dusty path we made our way down into the area that was originally the Grand Caravan trail into the city  known as the Siq, a narrow canyon  approximately 3/4 of a mile long that leads the traveller into the heart of the city of Petra.As we approached the Siq entrance, we notice an ancient dam on the left that had protected the ancient city from flash floods and enabled it to prosper.The Nabateans were masters of water control and this is what made the city work.The rock walls that lead this canyon into the city are literally scored with small water channels  and cisterns that would have provided free flowing water here in the desert. Walking down this cobble stoned road over 2000 years old is one of those moments in life to relish.The excitement builds as the canyon winds and twists and slowly narrows and you notice carved  offering alcoves to ancient Gods along the trail.

And then you see it…..!

Slowly but surely the light in the distance changes and the stunning facades of one of the most remarkable buildings in the ancient world opens up in front of you! The sight of the rose red Treasury building in Petra is simply priceless. There was not a sound at this time,no tourist buses and ipad waving tour groups that are the curse of modern day travel ,world events had made this destination very much off the beaten track and therefore not an option for the average package tourist at this  time. We had it to ourselves.

Just two people standing there and connecting with an age old scene reaching across time and…… silence!

A short walk to the right of the treasury we wandered our way past the street of  facades lined with tombs galore.The Treasury is but one of the amazing sights in the lost city and it would take days to fully explore the region.All along the surrounding mountains are thousands of tombs ranging from the common people to huge megalithic Royal Tomb structures giving a taste of how amazing this marvel of ancient civilisation must have been in its glory days. Established as long ago as the 300BC this town has seen a lot of history. The home of the Nabateans,an ancient Aramaic people that controlled much of the spice trade routes through the area and worshipped gods such as Dushara and al Uzza,faceless block gods that later became more human like as the Romans  eventually dominated the region. Facing us was the splendour of an ancient amphitheatre carved out of the rock,surprisingly Roman in appearance but very much Nabatean.My companion,Rembrandt ,couldn’t help but  fulfil one of his wishes and recite the poem by John Burgon,an ode to the ancient city.

 It seems no work of Man’s creative hand,

by labour wrought as wavering fancy planned;

But from the rock as if by magic grown,

eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!

Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,

where erst Athena held her rites divine;

Not saintly-grey,

like many a minster fane,

that crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;

But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,

that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;

The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,

which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,

match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,

a rose-red city half as old as time.

John Burgon, 1845

Overwhelmed by the sights of that day we retired back to our hotel for food and drink and an evening of Chess a game much liked by the locals. The following day ,refreshed,I wandered alone along the ancient colonnade street ,a once grand spectacle now in ruins because of flash floods over the centuries this old high street even shows the old chariot tracks in its ancient cobbled road and reminds me of the ancient and tragic city of Pompeii. Rembrandt at this time was endeavouring to sketch the ancient ruins and I went canon EOS600 film camera in hand wandering alone in this ancient valley. Along the way a young girl and her little brother came out of what appeared to be a cave and showed me her herd of goats.We communicated as best we could and wandered on our way with a salute of “Salaam!”

Photographically the region holds a picture on every corner and I cannot over estimate how overwhelming it is  with words alone,it truly has to be seen to be believed. Later that afternoon we clambered up the carved steps that led into the mountains and passed an old lady serving mint tea.heaven knows how she got there but after quite a climb her mint tea was very welcome.At the top of these rather precarious steps is another ancient wonder very much like the Petra treasury known as the Deir or Hermits Cell.From here you can also get splendid views into the nearby valley Wadi Araba. As we viewed the splendid structure a thunder storm rolled in out of nowhere and we took cover in the Hermits lair.

The following day I bid farewell to Rembrandt  as he continued on his epic journey back to Europe through Damascus and Turkey sketching as he went.I was heading back to Cairo and back on the migrant boat.He sent me a postcard when he completed his journey.

I have travelled a lot working as a photojournalist over the years since then,however one thing that will always be fixed in my memory is that first sight of Petra that rose red city half as old as time.

Twenty years later while wandering around the Egyptian section of the British Museum I bumped into  Rembrandt  again by coincidence,still sketching Egyptian monuments in the main Egyptian hall.

Small World!


                                                                               

 

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PAINSHILL PARK:HAVING A BLAST WITH THE NAPOLEONIC ASSOCIATION.

Posted in age of elegance, britain, cannon, cavaliers, cool, drama, England, english village, enthusiasts, equine sport, europe, feature, film location, Film set, folk, forts, french, fringe, hussars, legends, london, lumix lx7, moods, muskets, myths, Napoleonic, Napoleonic association, napoleonic wars, nature, news, Nikon, painshill park, photo, photoblog, Photography, photojournalism, re-enactment, redcoats, relax, renactment, road trip, skirmish, surrey, swords, tourism, travel, unusual, vintage, Wales, walking, walks, warhorse, waterloo, writing on May 25th, 2014 by wabisabipix

The May bank holiday on sunday 25th 2014 certainly went off with a bang as the Napoleonic Association of re-enactors http://www.napoleonicassociation.org blitzed the Painshill Park near Cobham in Surrey http://www.painshill.co.uk with the thunder of hooves and the crack of muskets and cannon fire. An incredibly authentic experience of the “age of elegance”,they delve deep into all aspects of the period delivering an enthralling battlefield skirmish and other camp and entertainment experiences along the way. You have to blink twice to remind yourself that we are in fact still in the 21st century and cannot help but feel that these were in fact more elegant times. This group clearly eat,sleep and live this colourful period in history and provide a great insight to onlookers who ever wondered what it would have been like to live in these times. I can still smell those camp fires! Now where did I put that musket!

More images can be viewed at: http://www.surreypix.co.uk/p393250091 Copyright Kerry Davies /All rights reserved.

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The London to Brighton Jaguar Run 2014

Posted in Brighton, britain, classic, classic car, England, enthusiasts, europe, Festival, film location, Film set, hobbys, jaguar, london, motoring, news, Nikon, photo, photoblog, Photography, photojournalism, relax, retro, road trip, surrey, tourism, travel, Uncategorized, writing on April 28th, 2014 by wabisabipix

The Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich near London which is also the home of the Cutty Sark ship,the Greenwich Observatory and recently the setting for the film version of the recent movie Les Miserables provided the grand backdrop for the 16th London to Brighton Jaguar run where members of the Jaguar enthusiasts club gathered together in the region of 300+ classic Jaguar cars in a leisurely cruise down to the English coastal town of Brighton with its Victorian pier and beaches.It was time to knock back the bacon butties have a hot coffee and don the driving goggles and scarf and burn some rubber throughout some of Englands prettiest coastal routes while trying ones best to read the maps and avoid using the 21st century sat nav…… Ahhh nostalgia!

  Images Copyright Kerry Davies/No unauthorised use or reproduction.

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THE EAGLE HAS LANDED

Posted in Anthony Quail, britain, camera, Donald Pleasence, Donald Sutherland, drama, England, english village, falschirmjager, film location, Film set, german, hollywood, Jenny Agutter, kidnap, Larry Hagman, lumix lx7, mapledurham, michael caine, paratrooper, photoblog, Photography, quaint, Robert duvall, soldier, star trek, studley constable, The Eagle has landed, thriller, travel, Uncategorized, village, walking, winston churchill, world war 2 on October 22nd, 2013 by wabisabipix

“StarTrek to Mapledurham” read the notice board on the wall of the Medieval Church in the quaint English Village of Mapledurham  a few miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city of Reading.This yellowing old press cutting on the church wall was giving a glimpse into the glamourous past that this sleepy hamlet indeed had that few may be aware of.In fact this classic olde worlde village with its alms houses ,village church,Mapledurham House and village watermill  has had quite a blast so to speak and is quite a location in film mythology and well worth a visit.

One would be quite forgiven asking for the local pub known as the” Spyglass and kettle”, well known from its famous past, for it along with its row of shops in fact never existed, other than as part of a grand film set built in 1976 for that classic World War 2 film known as THE EAGLE HAS LANDED written by Jack Higgins.

P1000982

A fan of the book and the film I set out with a newly aquired travel camera the Lumix LX7  with a 24mm f1.4 lens to take a look at what remains today.

A classic film from the golden age of all star cinema ,THE EAGLE HAS LANDED,starred Michael Caine as the leader of a renegade German Paratrooper special forces team tasked with kidnapping Winston Churchill in a Norfolk village known as Studley Constable disguised as Polish soldiers on a training exercise.Based on the many myths that arose after the war it derives its legend from the famous military unit that rescued Mussolini from his mountain top prison after a glider assault by the newly developed Fallschirmjager paratrooper unit that blazed a trail during the war.

The all star cast included Donald Sutherland,Larry Hagman,Robert Duvall,Jenny Agutter,Donald Pleasence  and Anthony Quail among many others.

During the film the locals discover the real identity of the disguised paratroopers after one of them meets a gory end when trying to save a young child after it falls into the water near the waterwheel and culminates in a huge shootout when American Rangers led by Larry Hagman roll into town. During the firefight a Jeep ends up crashing into the river near the water wheel and a rolling firefight spreads through the town to its ultimate climax at the local church.

Mapledurham Watermill

Mapledurham Watermill

Mapledurham Watermill

Its a film full of intrigue and action and in my opinion one of the best from the 70’s.

Today the village has returned to its quaint former self and you are more likely to have a pleasant cream tea at the nearby  Mapledurham House than dodge bullets and hand grenades.

Mapledurham watermill

Mapledurham Church

Mapledurham Church

Mapledurham Church

Mapledurham Church

The Church notice board

The Church noticeboardThe” Spyglass and Kettle” was in a position just in front of the church along with a row of shops in the position of the car park opposite the church.A false front was built on the front of the water mill and in fact blown up during the filming.

Mapledurham House

All in it makes a great afternoon out especially if you watch the film first and let your imagination run wild.

I’m still trying to find the secret passage way in the church.

There are film stills here as well:http://www.reelstreets.com/index.php?option=com_films&task=view&id=270&film_ref=eagle_has_landed&limitstart=10

enjoy.

A HAGUE RESEMBLANCE

Posted in art, beach, europe, existential, Film set, hague, holland, moods, netherlands, photo, Photography, relax, road trip, travel, Uncategorized, walks, writing on March 30th, 2010 by wabisabipix

Found myself in the Hague on a flying visit recently and during a spare moment took a stroll along the coast where the locals were preparing their businesses for the rapidly approaching days of summer.It was a cloudy windswept spring day with a foaming north sea swirl and I was struck by the bizarre way that shapes and colours particularly a red and brown hue seemed to form within the landscape,conscious or unconscious it was quite apparent.The area struck me as a perfect film set for an existential epic by the likes of Michelangelo Antonioni or Wim Wenders, quite peculiar.

The Hague was described to me  as a kind of Amsterdam for diplomats and it is certainly the case as the city is the traditional home of many not to mention the international courts of Justice famous for its war trials.

I was very surprised however at its vast cultural side.There are no shortage of museums ,the Escher museum and the Mauritshuis with its Rembrants and Vermeer to name a few and the city has may sculptures at various park locations.

By the way and check out the local fast food,chips and mayo  yum.

Pictures copyright: Kerry Davies no unauthorised reproduction allowed.

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The Staffordshire Hoard a voice from the past.

Posted in Archaeology, arrows, Artifact, bows, British Museum, Castles, Christians, Crusades, England, Film set, forts, knights, medieval, photo, Photography, Relics, renactment, saxons, Staffordshire hoard, swords, travel, Treasure, Wales, writing on December 4th, 2009 by wabisabipix

Surge domine et dissipentur inimici tui et fugiant qui oderunt te a facie tua ~ “Rise up, o Lord, and may thy enemies be dispersed and those who hate thee be driven from thy face”

An inscription carved on the back of a twisted metal crucifix possibly cleaved off a slain Saxon warriors battle shield.If ever the past reached across the centuries to speak to us about life in 7th century saxon Britain then this was it.

Wandering through the British Museum in London is a fantastic experience on any day but a recent visit left me reeling with wonder.

An announcement on the notice board near the main entrance caught my attention while visiting recently.

See the Staffordshire Hoard in room 36-7.

“It will redefine the dark ages ” say the experts.

The Hoard was discovered in a field in July 2009 by metal detectorist Terry Herbert and composed of 1500 individual items of  silver and gold mostly consisting of what appear to be battle trophies,there were 84 Pommel Caps,71 Sword hilt collars and gold crucifix formations looking like shield fittings that were cleaved off along with helmet cheek pieces and personal items.

The Items date from around the 7th Century,a  period when Britain was a maelstrom of tribal rivalry and religious revolution as the country went from pagan to christian beliefs.

Having seen the news and press announcing the find I was filled with anticipation as I clambered up the stairs and into the room containing a selection of the find in several glass cases just around the corner from another amazing artifact room that of the Sutton Hoo finds.

I was gobsmacked! It was stunning!!! absolutely amazing to see!!You almost have to pinch yourself to remind yourself  that what you are looking at is simply the real thing from all those centuries ago inches from your nose and not some prop from a Hollywood movie.

I fully understand how Terry Herbert the metal detectorist  who found it said he was dreaming for days about what he would find next.

It has been valued at 3.285 million pounds and the British museum has launched its hoard appeal to pay for it.

If you are in London grab the chance while its on show,it will enrich your sense of history and the ancient world.

The official Website is here:http://www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk/about/

Pictures courtesy of the Staffordshire Hoard Website and Dave Rowan and Daniel Buxton.

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Six Guns,Swords and Sorcery a road trip in Almeria and the Alicante Region of Spain.

Posted in Almeria, arrows, bows, Conan the Barbarian, cowbay, cowboy, Film set, indian, knights, medieval, moods, photo, Photography, relax, renactment, road trip, Spaghetti, Spain, swords, Texas Hollywood, travel, Uncategorized, walks, Western, Wild West, writing on November 28th, 2009 by wabisabipix

“Howdy partner!” The gunslinger announced as we turned up unannounced in a wild west tumbleweed town strangely somehow familiar after traveling hundreds of miles across the sun scorched desert.There had just been a torrential downpour and the ground steamed as we disembarked from our metal horse with rubber hooves and examined our surroundings.” This Sure isn’t Kansas anymore toto”,I muttered as my boots hit the sand,”then again it isnt quite America either,more Almeria Spain,mmm! I think I fancy a pepsi and some tapas might be a good idea!!!”

We had just arrived in Almeria Spain,surprising to some this was the real wild west that is portrayed in the classic movies from the 70s starring such famous stars as Clint Eastwood,Yul Brynner and many others.

Clint apparently even bought his famous Poncho locally in the area.

It was the location of such Spaghetti Western classics by Sergio Leone  as “a fistfull of Dollars”,”for a few dollars more”,and “The Good,the Bad and the Ugly” and also for other films such as Conan the Barbarian and Michelangelo Antonioni film “the Passenger” starring Jack Nicholson.

My interest had been drawn to the area after seeing an hilarious Spanish black comedy film by Director Alex de la Iglesia called  “800 Balas” meaning “800 Bullets”(2002),starring comedy actor Sancho Gracia,Angel de Andres Lopez and Carmen Maura.Its an hilarious film about a Stuntman and his colleagues who make a living at a Wild West town in Almeria Spain.They are making a living entertaining small groups of tourists that are deposited in their Wild west  movie set town.The stuntmans son, also a stuntman, was killed in a filming accident back in the towns golden age somewhere far back in the decadent past when westerns were popular.His child grows up fascinated in the life his deceased father lived.So begins an hilarious quest as the son runs away seeking out the wild west town to learn more about his fathers percieved heroic past.When the childs powerful theme park executive mother finds out the son has run away she pursues them angrily trying to close down the park with hysterical results.

This film rekindled my interest in the Spaghetti westerns and I was totally stunned to find that the town portrayed in the film was in fact very Real and that it did indeed have a contingent  of Actors making a living out of the old Wild West movies.

Its called Texas Hollywood in the area known as Tabernas Almeria.

So hi ho silva and away and here we are!!!

It was a hilarious afternoon walking around the exact same set as 800 Balas almost pinching ourselves as to how we had stumbled across the attraction.

Throughout the day they put on shows for the public and provide excursions and carriage rides around the area giving a tour and insights into its movie past.

There are pictures from its film set days and you can see quite a few famous faces portrayed treading the dusty streets in which you now find yourself.

Theres also an Indian village and a few Buffalos, by the way,dont miss the Camels apparently related to those in Lawrence of Arabia which was partially shot in the area!!

Most recently a Pepsi advert was shot here starring David Beckham and his pals and the area is frequently used by car commercials needing that authentic Wild West touch.

All in all it was quite a surreal and amusing afternoon as well as quite informative from a movie history point of view. I’ve been watching the old spaghetti westerns lately just trying to catch a glimpse of parts of the landscape.

After some refreshments at the saloon  we saddled up,put in some more petrol,set up the Sat Nav and headed south  across the pass and into other areas of movie interest.

The area was  also the location of the film Conan The Barbarian by John Milius starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sandahl Bergman and the nearby Las Salinas mountains featured  in scenes portraying Conan in Hyboria which were in fact locations better known as the land of the spaghetti western.

Almerimar was the scene of the Wizard/Stone Fortress encounters along with La Ciudad Encantada,El Condor,Cuevas de Roque and Penon De Bernal the famous Mount Doom in the film.This was the location we headed for next in our whistle stop tour of the region.

Penon De Bernal was the mountain upon which a spectacular Temple of Doom was built and Arnold Schwarzenegger Aka Conan The Barbarian confronted his nemesis ultimately burning down the temple film set in the movie.

It is located near the town of Almeria itself.you can find more locations from the film here:

http://www.western-locations-spain.com/almeria-top-20/conan/index.htm

I found the Conan Completist Web site very useful in finding these locations and it is packed with great information on the area.

I am sure local tour groups provide tours of this movie history rich area and a little research would provide a great trip if you are interested in the area.

After a long day passing thorough several periods in movie history we turned our wagons back north and headed back into the sunset.

“By the way where did I put those bangers and mash? errr! black lotus ,anyone? Stygian the best!!

Contemplate this on the tree of woe!!”

Enjoy.

Blog Pictures:Copyright Kerry Davies.

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