Monday, July 27, 2009

Tangier, Morocco

I looked out the window of the airplane and watched the Spanish coastline disappear and give way to the Straight of Gibraltar and finally Cap Spartel and the beginning of the African coastline. It had been 11 years since my last trip to Morocco. My father and I were on our way to attend my cousin Kaoutar's wedding in Tangier. It would be a three day traditional Moroccan wedding and I would be around more family members than I could count. Below are a selection of photos from my seven days in Morocco. I wish I could have stayed longer but such is life. Enjoy.
"Hercules Cave - The Mirror of Africa"
The Hercules Cave is located just outside of Tangier just south of Cap Spartel. This is the cave where Hercules himself is mythed to have resided before undertaking his 12 tasks that earned him immortality. The cave outline is also the mirror image of Africa.
"Cap Spartel - The Atlantic Meets the Mediterranean"
This is the "Cap of Africa." It is the exact point where the Mediterranean and Atlantic Ocean meet with the Cap Spartel lighthouse to guide the way. A boat passes around Cap Spartel at sunset.
"Old Meets New"
The Old Walls of the Tangier Kasbah perched above the Port of Tangier.
"Fountain in the Kasbah"
A courtyard within the walls of the Kasbah. Morocco's beauty and soul usually lies through a door or behind a plain looking wall.
"The Rooftops of Tangier"
Tangier has grown considerably in the last 10 years. This is one of the only views left of the city looking down on the Mediterranean that isn't obstructed by large buildings. In fact, to get this shot my cousin and I snuck up to the roof of one of Tangier's five star hotels. The souq (market) is the center of Moroccan culture. The souq is a virtual maze of shops and cafes that sell absolutely everything you could ever think of. It is a photographer's dream. I could spend months just photographing in the souq. From the wealthy Moroccan family going to get their groceries to the three shadows sitting in the corner smoking kif (a mix of marijuana and tobacco), it is one of the most eclectic places I have ever been.
"Olives in the Souq"
"Entrance to the Petite Souq" "Streetside Shopping"
A street side vendor selling everything from hookahs to flip flops and traditional Moroccan mirrors. Olives are a huge commodity in Morocco. Olive shops line the souq, one after another. You don't have to really go around looking for an "organic" label in the souq. You can also bet that all of the fruits and vegtables will cost about a tenth of what you pay in the United States and are of better quality. A Moroccan wedding is an experience unto it's own. The elaborate ceremony and dress is absolutely beautiful. It is a three day celebration involving a lot of tradition and protocol. Oh, and the food is really good too. Soccer is the life blood of many African countries. Whether an actual soccer ball or a crushed up can you will always find children playing in the streets and parks. Like much of the world, western ways are descending on traditional cultures and values. Here, McDonalds looks over Tangier and the Mediterranean. My cousin Mounir sits on the same rooftop overlooking the city. Islam is as prevalent as ever in Morocco. Although Morocco is very liberal compared to other Arab nations, their religion is very visible in their way of life.
"The Minaret of Tangier"
This is the largest mosque in Tangier. The balls on top of the mosque are said to be kept in balance by the influence of the planets. I hope to return to Morocco sooner than later. It is such an amazing place filled with vibrant people. The small size of the country has no bearing on the amount of culture that lies within it's borders. There is a surprise around every corner.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Madrid, Spain

As I walked down the streets of Madrid I felt like I was in New York City. Big bustling intersections and a sea of people gave way to large buildings reaching for the sky. The sound of horns echoed off the steal structures reverberating in the warm night air. Suddenly I felt someone grab my arm and turned to see that I was being held by a scantly dressed woman who asked me in English, "you lonely tonight?". Without saying a word, I discarded her hand from my arm and continued down the street with a plethora of Spanish insults echoing behind me. Continuing on, I zigzagged through the city and came to my destination, Plaza Mayor. All of a sudden I had left the 21st century and walked back in time to a square rich in Spanish history. From old town meetings, beheadings and the tapas restaurants that now lined the square, the history of Madrid became much clearer to me. The beautiful Spanish architecture reflected off the cobblestone streets from the rain that had fallen several hours earlier. Eagerly, I grabbed my camera and began shooting. After taking shots from every conceivable angle I took a seat at one of the open air cafes and ordered a few tapas and a glass of wine. This was the Madrid I was looking for.
Plaza Mayor, Madrid, Spain
I awoke early the next day and immediately got onto the Visions tour bus. Even though it was obvious to me that this was one of the biggest tourist gimmiks in the city, I had been told by a friend back in the states that it was a great way to quickly see all the sights of Madrid and get a lay of the land. She was right. My 15 euro did for me in two hours what would have taken me several days of exploring. After getting off the bus after one loop around the city, (you can get on and off when and wherever you like all day) I had seen all of Madrid's major sights and it was easy to decide which ones to revisit. I spent the rest of the day exploring the Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena, as well as making sure to continually gorge myself on the tapas readily available on every street. The cathedral was especially interesting to me. Finished just recently in 1993, it reminded me how much Catholicism, was such a major influence in the Spanish culture, past and present. As a photography bonus it also offered me a birds eye view of the city. After walking through the the church museum and getting my rooftop view of the city I descended down to the church's main hall that contained some of the most beautiful architecture I have ever seen. The amazing vaulted ceilings adorned with colorful stained glass windows and a large pipe organ were indeed a site to behold.
Main Hall of Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena, Madrid, Spain
Stained Glass in Catedral de Santa María la Real de la Almudena, Madrid, Spain
That evening my father and I headed out to Casa Lucio, one of the most famous restaurants in Madrid. We hadn't made reservations but our goal wasn't to eat. We were looking for a nice place to sip on a good bottle of Spanish wine. Casa Lucio didn't disappoint. After looking over their extensive wine list (3/4 of which I had never even heard of) we settled on a bottle of 2004 Arzuaga Reserva. Needless to say, it was wonderful.
Casa Lucio, Madrid, Spain
Madrid was just starting to unfold before me but unfortunately it was time to move on. Regretfully, I would never make it out to the Spanish countryside. That would have to be for another trip. But I felt like I had gotten to take in some of the best Madrid had to offer. It's beautiful architecture, rich history and amazing wine had given me the tiny glimpse of the city that I was looking for. Now it was off to Morocco. Tangier was only an hour plane ride away but I might as well have traveled to the moon.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

18 Airplanes In 30 Days

"Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park" - Big Sur, CA
I've been traveling for almost a month now. I left home at the beginning of June and have been "full steam ahead" ever since. From the awe inspiring Big Sur coastline of California, to the subtle beauty of South Carolina's lowcountry, and then abroad to the New York City of Europe - Madrid, Spain and finally to the gateway and cap of Africa - Tangier, Morocco. It's been an amazing trip filled with beautiful scenery and inspirational people. Traveling always helps me keep the world in perspective. It's so easy to zero in on your immediate environment and forget about the big picture. It's given me a lot of time to reflect on my own life and think about accomplishments, failures and things I hope to do later in life. One thing that has been on my mind for awhile is to keep a better record of my day to day experiences. It turns out the best way to do this for me will be this blog. Not only will I be able to write about my experiences but, being a photographer, I will also be able to share all the wonderful images that I capture along the way. Thanks for reading and enjoy!