Posts Tagged ‘travel writing’

Eddin, preparing to take off

May 10, 2010

Eddin Khoo promises

 

I Will Write of Airports…

 Inventories broken in this

Age of the ash apocalypse.

Line upon line of assembled sadness,

A herd homogeneity;

How to survive this?

Imagine a time, as

Eternal as the time before The Fall,

Of unyielding skies, of sterns

Striking at the horizon. Summon

The scent of the sea!

                                    Kuala Lumpur-Doha-Casablanca

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THE SENSE OF THINGS (Part 2)

May 5, 2010

Nukila’s post:

The Man Behind The Spectacles

Third meeting with Ibrahim Tijani. We drove off to the sufi village. A simple lunch. My most memorable meal (which deserves another posting for the event itself). We were sitting down on the rugs spread under an olive tree, Ibrahim Tijani sat leaning upon the tree and took off his glasses. Some remarks followed this gesture. He was looking very relaxed and happy to be there. Then Jaka asked Ibrahim for a photograph, he said sure, and Jaka moved the glasses a little further in front of Ibrahim. I suppose he didn’t see this coming. He sat there rather awkwardly in this pose, his glasses on the foreground, as Jaka took the pictures.
This mini-event I found particularly interesting, highly relevant, yet would easily pass unnoticed except from its winning a few remarks that the guy is weird –Jaka, that is, not Ibrahim. I watched Jaka at work in those brief seconds: perhaps there was a parallel feeling towards things, another variation on the same theme, in his way of seeing the ‘thinginess’ of a thing. Glasses are not glasses are not glasses. The glasses just laid there upon the rug. No longer an attribute of the ultimate identity of its owner –the public personage, ultra-person, of this sufi leader. (It was the black robe and the glasses that I first noticed on my first encounter with him at the festival.) And now without the glasses, the man was just being himself, there and then. A regular man, a private self. Telling us personal stories, smelling the red and yellow flowers his daughter picked on the hill.

The man behind the spectacles. Literal and symbolic at the same time in Jaka’s eyes. But again, perhaps… Jaka may have an entirely different take on this. I don’t know.
And let us hope that he will post the photograph.

Unidentified Lying Object

A Berber Market at a village in Essaouira. One of the first stalls near the entrance. I looked at its front part; there was something lying at the counter. Something square-ish, dark red, bits of white, moist, helpless, alone. In a naturalness that was so unassuming. Nearby there were two old men exchanging kisses, and another man, half-hidden behind the counter. This configuration didn’t quite come to me as a common sight in relation to the x thing. That something is hmm something, is… ah, meat. It was only when I saw a huge chunk of leg/shank hanging down near the men’s heads, that the meat-concept came to mind and I finally made sense of the thing. Of course, it’s meat! Zooming out, there were other things: buyers, sellers, bills, transactions, things in their utilized-to-be destiny. Perhaps, in those few seconds there were momentary lapses in a neural circuit somewhere in my brain; some electrochemical signals crossed and got lost –and this created that particular appearance of the meat. Present in its strangeness, a thing-in-itself, bare, unsymbolized, an it. A jamais vu, perhaps. When awareness hangs suspended, untampered by knowledge. A rare moment for me. Too bad, I wouldn’t mind experiencing it on a daily basis.
Afterwards, there came other lying/hanging objects in strange forms. But they came easily identified: animal innards I can’t name, as if created from sweet memories of towels, cylinders, spiral shells etc. Did I feel a relief that my brain was again in its normal modes of operations? Concepts, interpretations, associations –all kinds of references, constructs of thinking, were again there. And with the screams of a goat being slaughtered filling the air, drops and little pools of blood on the ground, I could no longer look at things in their suchness. The rest was a faint familiar feeling of walking around the traditional market at home, yet unfamiliar at the same time.

I Wonder If

travel is one the paths that could provide us with a ‘suchness moment’, to see things as they are. A fresh gaze, like those of saints or children. Traveling would be a shortcut, perhaps, compared to years and years of unlearning and emptying process and disciplines that masters do. Is that why the Monk Kengei, Ibn Arabi, Basho, wandered endlessly from place to place? Perhaps they weren’t looking for answers but questions, and more questions, from within and without, being surrounded by wonders of an unfamiliar world. Perhaps, to wander is to wonder, really.
What Sense Could There Be in Things? …and still, maybe even they didn’t know the sense of things when they saw it.

Fragrant Moments in Fez by Gary Nabhan

April 27, 2010

Down the alleyways of the medina, past the souks, we wander, either beckoned by the hints or bludgeoned by the assaults of aromas far too potent to let pass without honorable mention:

The dank, musty rotten air of sheep, goat, cow and camel hides being dunked in enormous tubs full of natural dyes— indigo, henna, blood meal, saffron, sage—and as the meaty tissues absorb these colors, minor wonders are revealed.

The smoky, char-grilled fragrance of lamb kabobs which have been dusted with spices—cumin, cinnamon, onion, oregano, garlic and thyme—then put on skewers over a grill that sits on a meager wood fire; as the meat heats up, its juices drip into the red-hot coals, which sizzle and steam and exude more of their olfactory magic.

The barbershops wedged in between the other shops, with hardly enough room for a chair and man with clippers in his hand, but oh how they blast their presence to the world through the oud-like strumming of rosewater, the delicate kanun-dulcimer chiming of orange blossom water, the violin-like bowing of musk-infused aftershaves, and the clanging castanet’s of rubbing alcohol dowsing the razor cuts.

The butcher shops that feature on sturdy hooks the recently-severed legs, ribs, loins and heads of camel, bull, ram and kid, while blood still dries on the knives and cutting boards, and the already-warm meat gets even hotter in the eighty-degree sun, offering perilous clues to the fact that deadly microbes have already begun their perverse alchemy…

The incense burning in the charcoal braziers in front of the herboristes and pharmacies Berberes—frankincense, myrrh, candlewood—as well as the apple chips, cherry wood, bergamot and mint bubbling up through the hookahs sucked on by old men in the sidewalk cafes playing backgammon and shooting the breeze.

The slow baking of tajines in their pyramidal clay pots, where toasted almonds and sesame seeds, stewed prunes and boiled mutton combine with ginger, pepper, coriander and salt to waft us a little closer to heaven.

We don’t know how our noses can hold for much longer the promise of paradise rising from these myriad scents that are surging up our flared nostrils.