When I first took on this intentional journey of self discovery through writing and travel, I had no idea that I would meet and make friends with others who are on a similar journey of self discovery. I feel that it’s a gift to share in other people’s stories and gain insight from their experience […]
It was one of those biting cold Damascus winter mornings, it had been snowing and the streets were sluiced in slush, I had been living in Mohajarin on the slopes of Jebal Qasioun, I splashed in and out of the dirty puddles as I trudged down the towards the Citadel and the Old city, I think it’s fair to say Damascus doesn’t cope well with the winters, however short and neither do I.
I clambered and cursed my way over the flooded footbridge and elbowed my way through Souk al Haramia, slipping and sliding past the fish market into Malik Feisal street, I made this walk often enough and on a better day would enjoy the drama of a bustling downtown going about its myriad business, my camera bag was weighing on my shoulders by now and I was late for my assignment, was it a Monday morning-or at least it feels like one.
I made my way along Malik Feisal Street past the sorbia sellers and tin smiths, the street clogged with traffic and the pavement cluttered, a man came towards me, middle aged and wearing a heavy trench coat, the collar turned up as feeble protection against the cold, he asked me the time in Arabic and after a swift glance at my watch I replied also in Arabic, ah English he said, in English, my Arabic clearly not fooling anyone, this really wasn’t the moment to stand in the street and make new friends, I answered his questions as I continued to walk, without invitation or the slightest encouragement he changed his direction and walked along side me, he peppered me with the usual questions, my answers mono symbolic, I stepped up the pace a little and he shuffled after me, I lost track of his rambling but got the distinct impression he had some agenda, he kept mentioning a woman in his house, it all really made no sense and when I arrived at the turning into the Old City I stopped suddenly, shook his hand and bid him farewell.
He didn’t take the hint and continued to tug at my sleeve and patience, as we walked through the souk the streets became less crowded, he was mumbling now but there was a recurring mention of fruit and sexual metaphor, namely a banana, his English now also beginning to falter, he seemed slightly nervous, I tried once again to explain I really was busy and tried to left him standing outside a shop selling spanners, I turned the corner but he had dashed after me, the alley narrow and empty, he stepped in front of me, muttered again something about bananas and grabbed me between the legs, I punched him, a right hook to his cheek, he fell backwards and for a second or two sat on his arse holding his face, I moved towards him with half a mind to continue the pasting he clearly deserved, he stood up and started to cry, he began begging me and apologizing, stroking my chin as he did so, I didn’t hit him again.
The perils of the solo female traveler in the Middle East are often reported, little is mentioned of the perils faced by the solo male traveler, as my previous post My Gay Adventures in the Middle East mentions, I have a volume of incidents, of course my ability to deal with the situation is somewhat different, no doubt harassers would think twice if they had been walloped, or would they?
Some months later, a clear spring morning I was outside the Damascus National Museum taking some photographs, crouching down and aiming my camera towards god knows what, somebody was trying to engage me in conversation from behind me, at first I ignored the words and just wanted to get my shot before attracting too much attention, Syria can be touchy about photographers sometimes, job done I stood up and turned around, a middle aged man was backing away from me nervously, I didn’t recognize him at first but when the toe-rag turned tail and ran off down the street the penny dropped.
For those unfamiliar with Arabic and Damascus here is a glossary;
Jebal Qasioun is the mountain that sits proudly behind the Syrian capital.
Souk al Haramia is the Thieves Market, great place to pick up a cheap cell phone or as my friend Basal did, a Hassleblad.
Sorbia is a diesel powered stove used for heating and keeping the tea hot.
I think we all know what a toe-rag is.
For more of my Damascus Diaries including the events leading up to me being placed under investigation by the Syrian security services, buying a house from a murderer, A short stint as a fake art expert and a nasty incident involving the presidents wife please follow the blog by adding your email in the box on the right hand panel of this page.
John is currently in Istanbul and available for collaboration
Istanbul and Turkey Bloggers I am currently updating my stock image files, should you wish to use any of my images feel free to drop me a line, am happy for you to feature my pictures in return for a credit and link.
Check out latest images on the link below:http://wreford.photoshelter.com/gallery/Istanbul-Portfolio/G000054QlzukCFZ4/
With mixed feelings I have now joined Instagram, I am no snob when it comes to how images are produced, far from it, the image is what counts and how you go about producing it is pretty much irreverent, being asked about what camera I use instead of asking about the actual image is often cause of despair, that and how much photoshop has been used on an image, my reluctance with Instagram stems from having spent 15 years working in a professional darkroom, I spent many hours cross processing and hand printing amazing images for some outstanding photographers and seeing that process reduced to the tap of an app has been something of readjustment but life moves on and I have embraced the new opportunities it offers.
Please follow me as I mooch around Istanbul, Turkey and the Middle East:
John is a great friend who is trying to stay living in Damascus, as a photographer he finds it difficult to take his camera out at the moment, arrest and or death seem to great a penalty to pay. His occasional musings in words rather than pictures must suffice. This picture is of John from calmer times
Here are John’s words from his recent return to Damascus from Beirut
Damascus for me has always had the amazing ability to raise my mood, if for whatever reason I have fallen out of bed on the wrong side and started the day in a grumpy mood it hardly ever lasted before some quirk of Damascene life made everything chipper again, I remember a while ago waking to find the electricity cut and just as I was about to make coffee I ran out of gas, at that time I lived…
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In the interest of a little blog interaction I would love for those of you photographers reading this to tell me your thoughts on how you are using social media and for what direct purpose.
I like most have a Facebook account, Twitter and a LinkedIn profile, I use them all alongside my website and blog but in slightly different ways, now with an Istagram and Tumblr page on the way I am wondering about cross posting; the advantages and disadvantages of each, I have been told the Google + as well is great for SEO but do I really need that as well as the others, or, perhaps can be they all be utilized for different purposes?
Needless to say as a professional photographer they are all about raising my profile and getting my work noticed, the type of work I do and am interested in promoting varies so for this reason I think perhaps using the different platforms for the different genres of work, something I am particularly interested in doing is increasing my print sales, something I have not been able to do online but was very successful at doing from my gallery in Damascus.
I would be very grateful for any advice and please do feel free to add links to your various social media pages.