Orthodox Christmas in Lalibela

In January this year, I was lucky enough to experience the annual pilgrimage to Lalibela in Northern Ethiopia for the Orthodox Christmas celebration.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church dates from the 4th century and Lalibela, formerly known as Roha, was built as the new Jerusalem by King Lalibela of the Sagwe
dynasty in the 12th Century. I travelled with a wonderful group of people and we spent 6 whole days exploring the town and photographing the pilgrims, the services at the rock hewn churches, village life and the various markets.  All of the population of Lalibela are devout Christians and many pilgrims had walked for three weeks and more to get to the pilgrimage site.  The piety and devotion of the people touched me deeply. Here is a collection of my favourite images from this amazing trip. For more images click here.

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I would like also to mention my assistant and friend Mulugeta Asfaw, pictured below,  and express my gratitude to him for looking after me, serving as interpreter  which enabled me to connect with the villagers and some of the pilgrims and making the trip so special.He is currently completing his guide diploma and I am sure that he will succeed.

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Kenya Photo Safari

It is mid March 2011 already and I haven’t made a post since before Christmas last year….  the truth is that I have just been taking time out to reflect and spend more time with family and friends.
I did, however, have a wonderful trip to Africa late in January… a photography trip organized by Ryan Snider of Socially Responsible Safaris and David Duchemin, world and humanitarian photographer.
The other photographers on the trip were a fantastic group and we exchanged ideas, forged friendships and had many funny moments together. I just loved Kenya, the landscape, light, people and, of course, the extraordinary wildlife.  A picture is worth a thousand words though…. here are some of my favourite images from the trip.

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Date Harvest Morocco

I am missing the beauty of the date harvest in Morocco this year. The colours must be seen to be believed and are so stunningly captured by the French artist Jacques Majorelle in his 1921 portrayal of the Date Market in Marrakech, one of the few paintings I truly lust after.

(Image from Les Orientalistes, Jacques Majorelle, by Felix Marcilhac ACR Edition Internationale 1988,1995)

The oases of the great river valleys in Southern Morocco, the Draa, Dades and Ziz, stretch for miles and are the main livelihood of the local inhabitants.  The succulent medjool date  (medjhoul in Moroccan Arabic) originated in Morocco and is also now widely cultivated in California and the Jordan Valley – our main source of this delectable fruit.

Dates are native to the Middle East and were spread by the Arabs to North Africa and Spain. They are mentioned in the Bible and constituted one of the seven species so important to human survival and ritual, alongside wheat, barley, the olive, pomegranate, fig and grape.”For the LORD thy God bringeth thee into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and depths, springing forth in valleys and hills; a land of wheat and barley, and (grape) vines and fig-trees and pomegranates; a land of olive-trees and (date) honey;” (Deuteronomy 8:7-8)

In 2005 seeds of the Judean date, a cultivar extinct for almost 2000 years, were found by Israeli archaeologists on the site of Herod’s palace on the fortress of Masada. Scientists at the Arava Institute in the Negev managed to germinate one of the seeds and the resulting plant, named Methusaleh after the oldest man mentioned in the Bible, is now about two metres tall.

Following an ancient Arab Tradition, La Maison Bleue in Fes offers arriving guests dates  filled with roasted almonds together with a bowl of orange blossom scented milk.  This sets the scene for the peaceful, fragrant stay in this haven of luxury in the ancient medina of Fes.

Dates are the first food consumed to break the fast each evening during the month of Ramadan and are the traditional accompaniment to Harira soup,  served at the traditional Ramadan Ftour or breakfast.

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