Thursday, 30 September 2010
Wednesday, 29 September 2010
I thought the patterns on this important looking man's coat showed similarities to Indian Ajrakh block printing and in colour also. Looking back at my notes, I can only make out that it is dated 2600 BC. Although I'm now not trusting my roughly scribbled translations from french, as it doesn't look this old. I will always take a proper notepad to galleries in future, and create a clear coding system for the photos
Geese seem to appear constantly in ancient artifacts, and seem to hold important symbolic meaning for the ancient civilisations that created images of them. They are also seen in the patterns on the oldest textiles in evidence found in Egypt, thought to have come from India.
Many other geometric patterns painted onto pots used similar patterns and in the similar natural colours in use today.
By the side of the vast Louvre is Le musee des arts decoratifs. A beautiful old building, it exhibited fashion, art deco and nouveau interiors, jewellery and other styles of decorative art, including a temporary exhibition of design using animal imagery - collection of very garish objects. For me the exhibitions inside were not as impressive as the building, although I did enjoy the exhibits of fashion by some of Paris' famous designers.
In complete contrast to ancient art were the eccentric, eerie sculptures on the pond overlooked by the dominating Pompidou centre. I loved just sitting and viewing these crazy objects, but if sat at night with few people around, I imagine listening to their creaking movements would have created a really eerie atmosphere.
There was something good to come out of missing our train due to the strikes. We had an extra day in Paris and hadn't yet had chance to see the Institut du monde arabe, which I had wanted to visit. We picked up one of the public velos and took our own tour along the seine. Paris architecture does amaze at almost every corner. And this was yet another fascinating building because of its uniqueness and contemporary design. I loved the continuous symmetry in the building's surface pattern that is such a big part of Arabic culture and Islam.
I loved the way geometrical and symmetrical patterns that are so often used in traditional Islamic art and architecture, were here applied to a contemporary context to create quite a striking effect.
Unfortunately you weren't allowed to take photos inside. The building inside wasn't quite as striking as it appears on the outside, although they have an extensive collection of Arabic artifacts and art. Pieces of contemporary paintings were exhibited alongside Typically we were there when they were renovating a whole gallery as well, so usually there would be a lot more to see.
Thursday, 23 September 2010
Two storks nest, thought to bring good luck and success according to Moroccan suspicion, atop of a tower at some 13th century ruins.
Having a spare night between hotels booked in Fes and Marrakesh, we though we'd stop over halfway in the hills. However after a windy bus journey sat next to a boy being sick, arriving in Beni Melal to find it was much bigger, busier and stressful than the small mountain town we were expecting, not finding any guides to accompany us to the mountains and exhausted by the heat, we jumped in a grand taxi all the way to Marrakesh. We were frustrated to find the road was completely straight all the way after we had wasted money on booking a bus ticket for the next day, and a hotel checking in.
The djeema al fna was what made Marrakesh stand out from the other cities because I had never experienced anything like it. A vast open square, that is dead in the daytime but gradually comes to life at night, with water sellers, entertainers of all sorts, a mass outdoor restaurant, and stall upon stall of orange juice, cake sellers, dried fruit and henna painters. I was fascinated. As soon as you step into the depths of the musicians and magicians and the crowds watching in the depths of the dark un-lit square, it's like you are carried away into another world.
At the same time the mass, dark open space opens opportunity for hashish dealers, sleazy men seeking to relieve their sexual needs through hassling the hoards of western female tourists, and of course the opportunity for pick pockets is endless. I clutched onto my bag, warned off any dodgy looking men, and was ready with an aggressive Arabic phrase should any of them try anything, and immersed myself into the repetitive sound of drums and singing.
The whole time I was searching for storytellers after reading Tahir Shah's In Arabian Nights and becoming fascinated with the Moroccan and Arabic tradition of symbolic stories that have been passed down through the centuries. I thought there must be few if no story tellers left after only coming across musicians and conjurers, (the musicians might also have been telling stories but it was too difficult to grasp what they were singing about). However we finally discovered a large group surrounding one man who seemed to be part telling, part acting out a tale. Having an Arabic speaking companion was useful for this, (as it was during many other occasions on the trip). Although we couldn't stay long enough to catch the full story, as we were right at the back of a lot of people, strangely all who were men, which gave me more reason not to hang around!