In Jodhpur, I stopped at a street stall selling some nicely brewed Indian-style masala tea (chai). There was some seating nearby under an arch that led to a square, so I took the opportunity to rest and have some chai. I spotted this man sitting opposite me with what appears to have been a metal walking stick. A very distinctive look. He too had some chai later.
It was 2006, and it had been several years since I had last visited Buenos Aires, so it was good to venture out and explore the place. Wandering along the docks of Puerto Madero, and enjoying the music and food of this fascinating district, I spotted a distinctive and elegant structure which I didn’t recognise. On closer inspection, I discovered that it was a rotating pedestrian bridge named El Puente de La Mujer or Woman’s Bridge. Now, I had made the rookie mistake of keeping a polarising filter on my camera lens most of the time which had the effect of creating very dark and uneven skies in a lot of my photos. However, in this close-up of the bridge’s central steel needle, the contrast between dark and light is dramatic to say the least, but which I think works.
We had made a very early start to the day, it was well before sunrise, for our journey to some fields near Hpa An in Myanmar. Traipsing across the fields, surrounded by the irregularity of the karst landscape, we soon reached our objective where we saw a handful of women hand-cutting the crops. Here, an older woman greeted us with a smile, perhaps somewhat surprised that we wanted to take photographs of her and her co-workers.
It was April 2011, just after dusk, and we made our way to a restaurant in central Baghdad along Abu Nawas Street by the River Tigris. This area is well known for serving Iraq’s favourite fish dish; the “mazgouf”.
Having selected our live carp (allegedly from the adjacent Tigris but more probably from a fish farm), the cook removed the fish from the tank and then stunned them with a stick, gutted them by cutting along the back, applied some seasoning, and then impaled them to be slow-grilled next to an open fire of burning fruit tree branches such as from lemon trees and orange trees. What we didn’t realise was that it takes about an hour or so to cook the fish, so we had a lot of time to chat!
Carp are bottom feeders and if they were from the Tigris around Baghdad then I’m not sure that I’d have too many fish dinners; there’s just been too much dumped in the river. Once I’d got past wondering where the fish came from, I did enjoy the meal.
But the mazgouf is an important dish to the Iraqis and the Iraqi diaspora, and it helps to unite them through social gatherings and reinforce their identity and uniqueness; something that’s very much needed in these trying times.
There we were, travelling along the Hindu Kush in Afghanistan. A journey through mountain passes and dry valleys, along dried river-beds and empty places on lonely roads, with nothing more than dust-devils keeping us company. Low temperatures and the glare of the sun added to the harshness of the landscape.
However, it was a challenge that I enthusiastically seized in my quest to reach the fabled Minaret of Jam, a place that only a few travellers reach. But here, in the middle of nowhere, there was human activity; a rest-stop for truck drivers hauling their goods across the country, a place to stretch the legs and take shelter from the elements.
Although it was August, the place was cold, and I couldn’t imagine what this place would be like in winter. A hardy landscape creates a hardy people. This man tendered to our needs with chai and food, his face betraying the challenges of the environment.