19 Search Results for "cardinal"
- From: Tamzyn
Yes that's right, I chose to embark on a total roughing-it style overland trip. Camping, not accommodation. Adventure, at its best. What an experience.
Day 1 - Meeting the Overland Crew
Our pre-trip departure meeting has been postponed until tomorrow as our tour guide’s opening speech is drowned out by the noise of a packed pool party at the backpackers. We’ll receive Innocent’s official welcome speech when we reach our campsite and the need for a mime rendition is negated. I did however meet some of the interesting travelers I will be sharing the next 21 days with as well as our fantastic friendly crew – 3 Zimbabweans and a Namibian. Everything is ready for a perfect trip and awesome adventure. I have even received my nickname already – Thamsanqa (means lucky in Zulu).
Tomorrow we head into the ragged, rocky towers of the South African Cederberg Mountains north of Cape Town with the chance to enjoy a wine tasting tour before camping at one of the area’s gorgeous wine farms.
Day 2 – Cederberg
There could not have been a greater start to the trip! Plenty of drive-by photography as we all snapshot the hell out of the some of the insane Cederberg rock formations and the most mind-blowing majestic mountains I have ever seen.
My world for sunscreen
I have committed one of Overlanding’s cardinal sins and forgotten to wear my sunscreen. The scorching sun has turned my window arm bright lobster red and it’s starting to hurt! Ouch. We set up our tents for the first night and choose our new tent buddies before spending the afternoon lounging in a clear and cool blue waters of the pool overlooking the vineyards of The Highlander Wine Estate, getting to know the mixture of characters and personalities in our motley travelling crew.
We are a diverse bunch with everything from adventurous Aussie boys and dynamic young Danes, to a hilarious South Korean Police Officer, an entertaining older Englishman and a Canadian. Many of them are seasoned travelers of Asia, South and North America.
We spend a blissfully quite evening under a sparkling star-filled night sky at the vineyard bar before turning in to our tents for our first night on nature’s orthopedic mattress, the ground. Useful Hint: Before choosing a tent buddy asks who snores.
We are all extremely excited about crossing over South Africa’s largest river the Orange River tomorrow, which is currently in flood and has reached its highest level in 24 years!
Our usual campsite is sitting under water, so we are crossing our first border into Namibia to camp on the Namibian side of the riverbank.
Day 3 – Orange River
A gorgeous sunrise greets us this morning as it rises and lights up the enormous vineyards before we set off on the truck towards Namibia.
On the road
Kim’s, the Police Officer, hilarious stories of life in Korea and travelling through South America keep us laughing our asses off the entire way. Did you know: melons are imported into South Korea and are so expensive that they are given as gifts in boxes?
After a roadside lunch of tomato and cheese sandwiches in the dry Karoo heat we arrive in the historic town of Springbok, our last stop before entering Namibia. The Northern Cape’s largest town, Springbok is centred round a strange hill which now shows off some of Namaqualand’s strange floral life.
The Namaqualand area is known for its spectacular transformation in spring in which the dry scrub-land bursts forth in a dazzling show of flowers.
The heat is frying our brains as it visibly rises off the road in front of and as we cross the flooded Great Orange River and Namibian border. Our first border post of the trip- YIPPEE!!!
Felix Unite, tonight’s campsite on the banks of the Orange River has had its lower bar and lodges flooded. The pool and poolside bar overhanging the river offer up an awesome view and the best spot to watch the sun go down over the river whilst we enjoy a few pre-party drinks.
Orange River Punch Anyone?
Tonight is punch night and the entertainment is proudly provided by the duly appointed punch master and punch bitch!
A few of us choose to play drinking games and have refreshing late night swims in the camp pool, laughing into the early hours. We are going to regret this in the morning when we have to spend 7 hours on the truck!
I wonder if the Fish River Canyon is more or less beautiful when you are wearing vodka/beer/cane/shooter goggles.
Stand by for the next installment!
- Blog post
- 2 years ago
- Views: 357
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- From: redpandatravel
Mt. Kailash, 6,714 m. is situated to the north of the Himalayan barrier, wholly within Tibet. It is the perfect mountain with awesome beauty, with 4 great faces. It is the spiritual centre for four great religions: Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, the Jain religion and the pre-Buddhist animistic religion – Bonpo. To Tibetans it is known as Khang Rimpoche (Precious Jewel of Snow) and they see it as the novel of the world. It is said that a stream from the mountain pours into a nearby lake and from here rivers flow in the four cardinal directions. The River of the Lion Mouth to the North, the River of the Horse Mouth to the east, the River of the Peacock Mouth to the south and the River of the Elephant Mouth to the West. Strangely enough, four major rivers do indeed originate near Kailash, the Indus, the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), the Karnali and the Sutlej.
Tibetans believe that it is the residence of Demchog, a fierce looking tantric deity who lives there with his consort, Dorje Phagmo. For the Tibetans also, it is a particularly special place in that their poet saint Milarepa, spent several years here meditating in a cave. For the Hindus Mount Kailash is the earthly manifestation of Mt. Meru, their spritual centre of the universe, described as a fanatastic ‘world pillar’ 84,000 miles high, around which all else revolves, its roots in the lowest hell and its summit kissing the heavens. On the top lives their most revered God, Shiva, and his consort Parvati.
1For the Jains, an Indian religious group, Kailash is the site where their first prophet achieved enlightenment. For the older, more ancient religion of Bon, it is the site where its founder Shanrab is said to have descended from heaven. It was formerly the spiritual centre of Zhang Zung, the ancient Bon Empire that once included all of western Tibet. Bon people walk around the mountain in a counter
Clockwise manner, unlike the other religions.
Over the centuries pilgrims have constantly journeyed immense distances to achieve enlightenment or cleanse themselves of sin, braving enormous distances, particularly harsh weather and bandit attacks.
Places to Visit: Kathmandu – Nylam – Saga – Paryang – Manasarovar – Tarchen – Dehara – Dolma-La – Kathmandu
Mount Kailash Pilgrimage Tour Day to Day Itinerary
Day 01: Kathmandu (1300 m.) arrival: Pick up from the airport/ Drive to hotel/ briefing/ if time permits our guide will take you to Pashupatinath for Dharsan during Arati time. Dinner
Day 02: Kathmandu: Breakfast, trip to temples and back to Hotel for lunch. After lunch, final preparation for yatra i.e, checking and demonstration of equipments which will be used during yatra. If any body needs to buy or get things on hire, our staff will give you company. Dinner.
Day 03: Drive to Nyalam (30km), 3750m: Morning after breakfast leave Kathmandu to commence yatra to Nyalam [3800M]. We reach Friendship Bridge [Nepal - China Boarder] by mini-coach. Walk along for 10 minutes to cross the bridge and there get acquainted with Chinese guide and land cruiser drivers. They will give a brief information regarding the further trip then proceed the journey to Zangmu, where all the immigration and custom formalities are ought to be accomplished. After the accomplishment of all formalities, we proceed to Nyalam. Arrival at Nyalam and overnight stay at guesthouse.
Day 04: Rest Day at Nyalam (30km), 3750m: It is more a day for acclimatization.
Day 05: Saga/4450m: (Labug-La 5050m, Peku-tso and Saga, 232km) On the first long driving day over the sandy and rocky land of Tibet, other things like lake, nomads chasing thousands of yaks and sheep keep you busy. By the late afternoon you will cross Bhramha Purtra River way to typical Chinese and Tibetan town, Saga for night.
Day 06: Paryang (4600m) 185 km 7-8 hrs: Jeeps and trucks roll on the wide valley following rivers and grazing land of yaks and sheep. Far south you can see snow covered peaks near by you, lots of rocky peaks and sand duns give you an ideal world. Depends on season, nomads and other mobile shopkeepers are attired by beautiful traditional costume, waiting your arrival with hot tea and other supplies along with big smile.
Day 07: Drive Paryang to Manasarovar (4558m) 277km 8 hours: The longest driving day starts with full of excitement, by the late afternoon you can have the first sight of Holy Kailash Parbat and Manasarovara. Hore, a small village near by Lake Manasarover, we will spend a night there..
Day 08: Holy-Manasarovar: At 14950-ft/ 4558m. The highest lake of fresh water with turquoise complexion in the world is full of fishes and swans. Holy Kailash Parbat, Mt. Gurula-Mandala, Lake Rashekshi are lying on its surrounding. The region is considered rich for gold and other mines, hot springs and hundreds of wild living creatures. Night will be spending at Chu Gumba.
Day 09: Puja and drive to Tarchen (14975ft) 40km: Manasarovara is the lake of compassion, tranquility and bliss. After completing the memorable morning Bath and Puja we will be heading towards Tarchen. It is considered as a base camp for the Holy Kailash Parikrama.
Day 10: Trek to Dehara Puk/5000m: It is one of the exciting days walking along the beautiful rocky cliffs; water falls with some clouds in the clear blue sky make you feeling that Great God Shiva is every where with tons of blessing to you. Time to time the face of Kailash Parbat will be keep on appearing. For 15 km trail it takes almost 7 hrs.
Day 11: Hardest but Holiest day of your pilgrimage Yatra with Dolma-La (pass) of 18600ft between two valleys: Yamasthal should be crossed to reach the Shiva-sthal while your steps go closer to the pass. Once you reach the top, just do the holiest offering and sit down for meditation to forget yourself. Once your steps go down, Parvati-stal and Gauri Kunda are on the way. By the late afternoon you will arrive Zuthal Puk (the cave of Miracles. The great ascetic Milerappa is supposed to have performed miracles here).
Day 12: End of Kailash Parikrama and drive to Takla Kot: Over night stay Guest house.
Day 13: Early morning drive to Sera via Khojarnath Temple [an ancient temple of Lord Ram, Lakshman and Sita]. From Sera, we walk back to the Hilsa helipad to wait for our flight back to Simikot. After immigration, proceed for Nepalgunj by chartered helicopter or aircraft [fixed wing]. Arrive Nepalgunj & further proceed to Kathmandu by flight [fixed wing]. Overnight stay at Kathmandu.
Day 14: Final departure transfer for onward journey.
Trip Cost Includes
- Airfare Simikot to Nepalgunj to Kathmandu
- Hilsa to Nepalgunj by charter helicopter.
- Sightseeing by Land Cruiser as per program.
- English speaking guide, Sherpa staff comprising of guide, cook and helper.
- Camping equipment (tents, mattress, Sleeping bags, Dining tent & Table/ Chairs).
- Freshly cooked full board vegetarian meals during trek.
- Upper Humla trek permit.
- Yak & Yakmen during Parikarma.
- Tibet / China Visa fee.
- Oxygen & Gamow Bag.
- Full board in Kathmandu.
- Sightseeing in Kathmandu
- Donation includes
Trip Cost Excludes
- Domestic airport taxes and excess baggage.
- Riding Yak or horse.
- Liaison officer Rs. 2500.
- Tips for trek staff.
- Blog post
- 2 years ago
- Views: 422
- Not yet rated
- From: magicjohnson
No matter how you chose to dress at home, going on holiday requires a special kind of style thankfully reserved for just a couple of weeks per year. The heat of southern Spain, favourite holiday destination for Brits demands that we ditch our jeans and overcoats, and therein lies the problem. In the UK we’re not accustomed to dressing for any conditions other than mild, damp or distinctly inclement, so when the situation does arise that we need to shed the layers, we often end up standing out like a sore thumb.
You’d think that donning appropriate fatigues for the beach would be easy, after all, higher temperatures mean less layers right? Perhaps, but for red-skinned Brits, it also means more accessories; I mean who can visit the beach with slathering themselves in SPF 50, perching a Castrol GTX baseball atop ones head and placing a novelty inflatable floatation device fashioned to look like a dinosaur around the waist? No one, that’s who!
Here are 5 gaudy examples of fashion faux-pas made by Brits abroad;
- Hawaiian Shirts
When done right, there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with a Hawaiian shirt, the garment enjoyed a minor resurgence in the late nineties and early 2000’s in line with the extreme sports craze, as brands like ‘Mambo’ made it cool again. Wearing one to the beach with your beer belly hanging out the bottom however is unfortunately not that cool.
Hot weather not only requires light, float clothes, but also footwear which facilitates some air circulation, after all, who wants clammy, smelly feet or trainers full of sand? Flip Flops solve this issue but many people seem to be bypassing this cool and convenient shoe-alternative of late and opting for a garish pair of brightly coloured crocs. Just don’t.
- String Vests
The image that immediately springs to mind when anyone utters the ‘s word’ is Rab. C. Nesbit, a fictional character in a British sitcom who constantly worse said garment while being overweight, chauvinistic and generally disgusting. Consequently This means anyone else who wears one is imbued with similar values. Avoid.
- Novelty Sunglasses
Sunglasses are for blocking out UV rays thus protecting your eyes in bright sunlight. Ok, maybe they’re for looking slick as well, which begs the question, why do people wear things like shutter-shades and numbers with large, colourful plastic frames? Take them off, the white marks around your eyes will look less ridiculous.
- Socks and Sandals
The cardinal holiday fashion sin, socks with sandals should not be seen on anyone under the age of 60, and even then it’s questionable. Not only does wearing socks completely undermine the purpose of sandals, it makes you look more out of place than Prince William on an easyJet flight.
Holiday fashion needn’t be a struggle, simply pick out some khaki shorts, a tasteful vest, and a pair of aviators and you’re away. Remove clothes to achieve an all over tan and you’ll be blending in with the locals in no time!
Joe is a travel blogger and fashion lover. His next adventure will be his Rome holidays. You can follow him on Twitter @joe__johnson__
- Blog post
- 3 years ago
- Views: 317
- Not yet rated
- From: tsenovich
The Cathedral at Notre Dame and the Seine River at night in Paris. Taken from Pont Marie on Rue du Cardinal Lemoine.
- 4 years ago
- Views: 257
- Not yet rated
- From: bevandlee
Raffaello De Urbino's "Portrait of a Cardinal" at the Prado Museum, Madrid, Spain.
- 4 years ago
- Views: 469
- From: dweiser
White Squirrel and Cardinal in the woods outside Brevard, North Carolina.
- 4 years ago
- Views: 267
- From: daveantphoto
Ohio State Bird - Cardinal in Columbus
- 4 years ago
- Views: 2673
- From: beezhan
My wife and I found a fallen coconut on the eastern shore of Kauai (there's no shortage). After prying the husk off we cracked the nut on a rock and proceded to break away pieces for our lunch. Yummy! I took a little siesta on the grass while my wife splashed in the surf of a protected little cove. When I looked up, this red crested (Hawaiian) cardinal had made a meal for itself! I had my camera at hand, and voila!
It still makes me smile!
- 5 years ago
- Views: 996
- From: andypro
Freiburg (Fribourg) in Switzerland is one of picturesque medieval towns where French and German languages mix together. It's common to hear one person speaking to another in French and the other would reply in German. Freiburg is also known for it's brewery that produces famous Cardinal brand.
- 5 years ago
- Views: 755
- From: lesleyjames
September 13-22, 2008
Corsica truly is the island of beauty but, man, does it take a long time to get there from Seattle. If I ever make the trip again (and I hope I do), I would break the trip up into two parts by spending a night in Paris before making the journey from Paris to one of the four airports on Corsica.
We chose to power through the entire journey without stopping because we wanted as much time in Corsica as possible and didn’t want to stay a night in a Paris hotel and have to make two airport-hotel transfers. We also chose not to transfer from Charles de Gaulle (where our flight from Seattle arrived) to Orly, which would have allowed us to take a direct flight from Paris to Corsica. Instead, we changed to a flight from CDG to Marseille, then changed again to our flight to Corsica. This took more time and meant an extra take-off and landing, but we were worried about having to cross Paris to the other airport. In the future, I’d consider staying in Paris, even if it would only allow us a little time to enjoy the city and take away from time in Corsica, and I’d take a flight from Orly the next day. Transferring through CDG is almost as stressful as crossing the city anyway!
I would also make sure not to arrive in a provincial French town such as Ajaccio on a Sunday afternoon in desperate need of a hot meal. There were no stores open and no cafés serving anything other than drinks or ice cream so, after stumbling around in a hunger-induced daze, we finally ate a big bowl of ice cream at a waterfront café, which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but we were still hungry and the skies were grey and the town felt deserted and we were wondering why we’d come all this way.
Around 6:30 p.m., it was like someone turned Ajaccio back on. The sun came out and sparkled on the water, which would have been enough to make us feel the journey had been worth it, but then the “pizza trucks” that dot the waterfront started opening for business and all was well. We had a freshly-made pizza (at a truck called “Pat’a Pizza”) that was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. That was the first of many times I was to think that during this trip. We were lucky we’d ordered our pizzas early because they could only cook two at a time and there was quite a line by the time we got ours.
As we walked around on our fruitless search for a hot meal, we saw lots of kids playing on playgrounds. Sunday is clearly a time to hang out with family. But even on other days, we didn’t see many tourists in Ajaccio, but this could have been because of the lateness of the season. We noticed that Corsicans speak more slowly than Parisians and it was easier for us to understand their French. At first, I even thought people were speaking slowly out of consideration for our mediocre language skills, but then we heard them speaking to each other at the same speed.
We picked the Hotel Imperial because we wanted to be right by a beach where we could swim, even though it isn't a resort-type hotel. The beach was indeed on the other side of the road, across a small parking lot, and beyond a stretch of sand where people play bocce. It was a 10-15 minute stroll into the main part of town along a pleasant promenade. This end of town seemed shabby genteel to us. It’s the “Foreigners’ Quarter”—the foreigners being the English who made Ajaccio a winter retreat.
We were glad we'd been advised to ask for a room with a view of the water on the top floor. There was some noise from the road at night, but we could also hear the waves crashing and we weren't bothered by noise since we were able to keep the windows closed. All of the staff we interacted with were very nice, the room was bright and surprisingly modern, and everything was very clean. The lobby was pleasingly old and European to our American senses.
Day One: Ajaccio
Our first impressions of Ajaccio weren’t positive—it seemed kind of empty and drab—but that may have been due to our exhaustion and hunger and the grey drizzly weather. When we woke up the morning of our first full day, however, the weather was gorgeous and sunny. We had quite a few days like this, although it started to get cooler and rainier towards the end of our stay. While we were in Ajaccio, clouds would roll in every afternoon, but then clear up by evening. This might be typical for the time of year.
With the sunnier weather, our impressions of Ajaccio improved. On the plus side, it has a lovely waterfront promenade lined with palm trees, a local food market every morning, and conveniences that smaller towns don’t have, like a good-sized Monoprix. On the minus side, the traffic during rush hour is a nightmare (and it’s not much easier to drive at any time) and giant cruise ships come and go from the port every day. We chose Ajaccio as our starting and stopping point because we could get to other places we wanted to go from there relatively easily.
We allowed ourselves a day to recover from jet lag and get acclimatized and Ajaccio was a perfectly nice place to do so. We walked along the Cours Grandval, seeing more of the “foreigners” quarter. We found the Hertz rental office where we’d be getting our car the next day. We enjoyed the market , which wasn’t huge, but was bustling and full of good produce, cheese, and charcuterie. I bought some especially strong honey. Next we walked along rue du Cardinal Fesch, a pedestrian shopping street that had a mixture of shops, ranging from tacky souvenirs to a Comptoir des Cotonniers. The museum was closed for remodeling. We scouted out the train station, which is right in town. It’s easy to find nice sidewalk cafés where you can have something to drink. Corsica has some of the best sparkling mineral water—we liked Orezza, which comes from the mountains just outside Ajaccio. We finished by walking along Cours Napoleon, the main street, and spent some time at the Monoprix since one of our favorite things to do when we travel is go to typical supermarkets.
It was getting close to lunch time and, although we had some guidebook recommendations, we decided to follow our noses and chose a place called La Serra’s, just off the main street. It was our first real meal of the trip and didn’t disappoint. It was also our first time to have delicious fish soup, made with tomatoes and spices and garnished with bread, grated cheese, and rouille. After lunch, we wandered around the oldest part of town where the streets were narrow and crooked, scouting out places for dinner. These streets turn into outdoor dining areas at night as the restaurants spill outside. We walked by the Citadel, which is closed off because it’s used by the military. At this point, we had pretty much seen all there is to see in Ajaccio. There’s a park (the Bois des Anglais) where there may be some nice walks and you can keep going along the road that goes past our hotel to get to some beautiful islands, but we didn’t explore the area by car.
The weather was getting darker and cooler, although people were still swimming in the choppy waves. We retreated to our hotel for a siesta, then discovered a small grocery store a few doors down where we were able to buy a box of cookies called oreillettes (little ears) which we ate at a café across the street with cafés crèmes. By early evening, the sun had come back out and we were able to take a dip in the Mediterranean, which was surprisingly warm. The beach was made up of sand so big it was more like small pebbles.
By 7:30, our American stomachs were more than ready for dinner. Our first choice restaurant, Da Mamma, was full so we made a reservation for the next night. Our second choice was Chez Paulo, where we had a delicious meal (cannelloni au briocciu, the local soft sheep cheese, and chocolate mousse) that took forever to get. We were wondering if this was just how dinner is served in Corsica, but then we noticed that diners who had arrived after us were getting their food. Then we wondered if we’d somehow offended the waitress, although we’re hyper careful about things like that, but we also noticed the manager seemed to be giving her a talking-to so then we decided she was just a really bad waitress. This was our only experience with poor service on the whole trip.
Walking back to the hotel, we felt very safe. There were other people out strolling, admiring the moon sparkling on the water.
- Blog post
- 5 years ago
- Views: 1254
- From: marjen
Winging toward France
The ground below us blazed brilliant yellow in the early morning sun as our plane descended toward Charles de Gaulle airport outside of Paris. Marveling at the bright golden color occasionally checked with green from the myriad of mustard fields, we checked our watches. How could we be so close with no sign of the city?
As this was our first trip to Europe, we waited breathlessly to see the famed city. Then having landed without so much as a glimpse, we snatched our luggage from the carousel, and waited to catch the RER train to the City of Lights.
We had read magazines, surfed the web, and poured over guide books; we were prepared to tackle our first foreign city. Coursing down the tracks toward Paris, we watched as fields turned into suburbs, but the train dove underground leaving only our imaginations of the Seine, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame waiting to greet us.
One thing our studies had not prepared us for was the non-operating escalators to the surgace. Up hundreds of escalator steps, we dragged our luggage, the thought of actually seeing Paris urging our burning muscles to mount the next step, and the next. Finally, a glow of light shone at the top of the last escalator. We could make it!
Out of breath and somewhat nauseous from the strain, we eventually emerged from the Cardinal Lemoine station in the fifth arrondissement. Our heads swam as we gazed at the beautiful buildings, or perhaps it was the exertion. We had made it; we were actually in Paris!
After a brief recovery period, we took out our map. However, we had no idea which direction we were facing. Logic demanded that the river be downhill, so we walked in that direction down dark gray coggle stones toward our modest lodgings. Pale stone walls glowed warmly from the uniformly beautiful six-story buildings that lined the street while sidewalk cafes with their colorful awnings dotted the sidewalk. Small cars and scooters zoomed along beside us.
We located our hotel, Hotel Minerve, on rue des Ecoles, and found it to be much plusher than we had expected. (www.hotel-paris-minerve.com) Our room was small but its private patio and rather large bathroom wowed us. The luxurious bed tempted us, but we had been told to fight the urge to nap. Staying awake until after dinner was important in order to lessen the jet lag. We stowed our luggage, dropped our key off at the front desk, and headed toward the Seine a few blocks away.
Sweet and savory scents accompanied by rumblings from our stomachs alerted us to the notion that it was now lunch time in Paris and we were hungry. We stopped at a quaint sidewalk café, red and white checked table cloths lining every table. From our limited French, we ordered jambon et fromage (ham and cheese) sandwiches and peach iced tea. The waiter, also the establishment’s bar tender, made our sandwiches, perhaps the best ham and cheese sandwiches we will ever taste. The bread was crusty, but soft on the inside, the cheese piquant and nutty, the ham salty and flavorful. Aaahhhh.....
Spying Notre Dame
Feeling refreshed, we pressed on, now unburdened of our luggage and fully sated, ready to see it all. When suddenly, a block later, as we rounded a building, Notre Dame, the Seine, and an amazing coppery bridge stretched before us. Goose flesh tickled our arms as we approached the flying buttresses and gargoyles peered down into our souls. Turning away from their all knowing eyes, we gazed upon hundred of tulips of every color imaginable in the beautiful garden below. Camera shutters flying, we tried to capture it all.
Mouths gaping we walked along the side of this magnificent building to its entrance. Hundreds of saints carved into the buildings façade seemed alive in their detail. We watched as tourists seemed to walk freely through the cathedral’s huge carved doors. A look passed between us and we followed them inside.
The sudden darkness, the scent from nearly a thousand years of rosemary, frankincense and myrrh, the quiet murmur from a priest at the altar, and a subdued glow from rose windows left us short of breath as cool air tingled our skin. A soft, luminous, umber haze from hundreds of votive candles enveloped us. Our eyes were drawn into alcoves as we moved along the long narrow hall, each with a story we were hesitant to explore. Overhead, burnt sienna and dusty cream colored stone arches shrouded us under their massive bows. Though neither of us is particularly religious, Notre Dame filled us with a sense of divinity and history.
Looking at the architecture, we were amazed at the fine craftsmanship, and stunned to think about making without benefit of power tools. Inside and out, Notre Dame captured our hearts and thrilled our senses. It was only later that we realized that Notre Dame would be only one of many adventures we would have that week, our week, in Paris.
- Blog post
- 6 years ago
- Views: 1505
- From: silviabeltramini
In Arabia, where micro-phoned prayer calls could drown out the loudest of creative voices, it’s no wonder the arts are losing the struggle to be heard. I spent a summer working in Oman, a Middle Eastern country bordered by Yemen and Saudi Arabia. Until 1970, Oman was ruled by a xenophobic sultan, had few miles of paved road, only a handful of lower level schools, and was jointly governed by the dogma of Islam. With the overthrowing and exiling of his intolerant father, the present Sultan--Qaboos bin Said--pledged to build a new foundation of prosperity and stability, while opening the door to the rest of the world. In the quarter century that followed, the country experienced a renaissance that catapulted it from underdevelopment to a thriving and growing nation. The new era of progress no longer forbids creative expression. However within many families, old habits die hard.
Although Oman is Muslim by all standards, and liberal in its Islamic views, liberalism by Western measures is shaded an entirely different color. I am a drama therapist raised by artists, residing in Los Angeles, who votes liberally. I am un-religious in the conventional sense and believe that all people should be given an environment in which to fulfill their creative potential. Does the image of a square peg and round hole come to mind? I’m exactly the kind of person who goes to the Middle East and does not fit in, or so I thought.
Oddly enough what brought me to Oman, aside from my interest in Islamic culture, is theatre. In the mid 90's I co-founded 24«7 Theatre Company in New York City. My training in drama therapy, and work in the theatre, led to an attempt to combine the arts with healing through autobiographical drama. Would a conservative society that found all its answers in its religious doctrine respond to personal exploration through theatre?
It was a struggle to enter the country. Visas were rejected, explanations of why I’d be traveling alone were required, my single status, at my age, was queried. Plane reservations were mysteriously canceled. After re-explaining, re-reserving and re-requesting I arrived in Oman as planned to work at the Arabian Institute for Training and Human Development. The institute was run by a Western woman who was a holistic psychologist. Although she seemed displaced in her surrounding, she felt reassuring and familiar to me, as she explained that this was the first original theatre program in Oman. Having just arrived from a city where there is one on every corner, I realized I had much to learn.
The first lesson was that a silent caste system exists. Almost half the population of Oman are foreigners. The Westerners are primarily involved in either the export of oil or medicine, and although professionals, they’re deemed beneath the Omanis. Indians are largely merchant class and the Sri Lankans and Philippinos are classified as laborers, all falling short of "equality" as well. In light of the renaissance, a movement known as Omanization was instituted to impart professional positions to Omanis. Given the recent establishment of upper level education, many nationals remain uneducated and yet are placed in positions of high authority. Problems prevail in many Omani run organizations, as the imbalance of power and lack of knowledge exploit the non-national. Aside from Omanization efforts, much of the submission is due to religious differences.
In Oman religion is not a choice. It’s the core of the society and people breath the tenets of Islam as their life force. Prayer calls ring from mosques five times a day, freezing daily activity. Men flood the streets to the Meuzzin’s call of “Come to the mosque and praise Allah”, while the few women in public retreat to their homes to pray. The lesson learned was of the disparity of male and female rights as dictated by religion.
The men of Arabia are paradoxically easier and more difficult to understand. Easy, because American women have many of the same freedoms Omani males have. Liberties to work, study, travel, say what we like, etc... Difficult because men are comfortable with the ownership of women, be it their wives, daughters, and in some cases, mothers. The Koran provides explanations for this condition, but are they acceptable to the sensibilities of the West? Female children have freedoms until adolescence. Walks on the beach are shared by men, male escorted women in black abayas, and young pre-menstruating girls. The young girls wear colorful clothes, not fully covering their heads if at all, and play and swim in the sea. Things they will no longer be allowed to do when forced into womanhood by their maturing bodies. The condition of women is unfamiliar and was a challenge in understanding and acceptance.
I arrived at the Institute to direct the autobiographical theatre program with two days of exploring under my belt, a few newspaper articles about my work, a radio interview complete, and every finger crossed. There seemed to be interest in the program, but it was obviously sparked from a curiosity of what I was really up to. Why did the children have to work autobiographically? Who would anyone want to hear about their ideas, dreams, disappointments? As with the newspaper and radio reporters, I was met with resistance and made to defend the principle of my work. Parents would not enroll their children unless family and personal issues were left untouched. This was never actually addressed in a direct way, but in Oman few things are. I studied Arabic and as the weeks past, while I could construct little more than a simple sentence, I began to a get a glimpse into the mysterious language structure that favored indirectness. Each Arabic word conjures entire groups of images, leading to tremendous ambiguity. It’s the perfect language for saying very little with great eloquence, and communication seemed based on symbolic gesture to which I was not privy.
I managed to quell nervous families’ insecurities enough to have an adequately sized group. But what could we perform? The children claimed they lacked the imagination to write stories based on truth and asked for someone else’s work to memorize. I was neither prepared, nor interested in having Omani children reenact Lawrence of Arabia and boundaries were set on the autobiographical material I could cover. When I direct in the States, kids jump at the chance to say something truthful about themselves, and their parents pay admission to listen. Organized voyeurism in a sense, it serves its purpose--giving children a voice and forcing parents to hear them. I was unprepared for the restrictions in Oman. It became clear that I had to succumb to parental censorship or go home. My professional sensibilities were sinking and I wondered if, as a director, I would be able to stay afloat in the Middle East. I succumbed by default.
I looked to the cardinal rule of good directing: to guide actors to their own feelings and truths, rather than projecting my own on them, and to trust they could speak through them. I wanted to help the actors bring out their best rather than telling them what I thought was best. Although they spoke some English, the language barrier was menacing. I knew little of Islamic life other than what I had read in books. I did not abide to the letter of Koranic law, and did not know what it would be like to have no political voice as a woman. I did not understand that familial loyalty, honor and appearance held more value than justice, expression and personal fulfillment. In a society that forces its people to look alike, believe the same ideal, and strive for identical things, would art still speak the language of the soul? And if it did would it be heard amidst all the prayers?
The first days were tenuous. Shy and seemingly repressed children filled the theatrical space. We spent time getting to know each other, with our respectively hard to pronounce names and new accents. As unfamiliar as they were to me, I was equally as foreign to them, maybe more so. I did not live in abidance of the Koran. Therefore, not only was I different, I was also immoral. Could they trust me? Could we as a group transcend our indoctrinated beliefs and connect? The only absolute requirements were mutual support and confidentiality. We did many ice breakers, warm ups and theatre games. Mostly we sat in uncomfortable silences and looked at each other while I panicked.
A child does not need to be taught to be free and playful, so I, the only adult in the group, let down my proverbial hair and started playing. I ran, laughed, screamed, hid, drew, and danced, following real impulses like I haven’t in years. It didn’t matter if we didn’t cover all the material in the syllabus that day. What mattered was that we were letting the creative spirit breathe. Finally the ice broke, and timid eyes filled with excitement and depth. We discovered and came to know each other in the universal space of creative play. The process up to this point had been slow. To break the walls of resistance forced us all to consider human likeness rather than difference. The Islamic children took a colossal leap of faith because on the surface there were few likenesses.
We formed a collective voice starting with improvisation. Never were any of the ensuing dramas overtly about the kids and the intimate details of their lives, but in concealed ways they were. Because direct self disclosure is not encouraged or supported in their culture, they gravitate towards working through archetypal roles. Something I knew from text books, but little about in practice. Roles such as the victimizer and the victim were common, reflecting the social stratification with the labor class. Princesses and princes were dominant roles and usually engaged in relationships of gender oppression. One scenario was of a young girl locked in a castle tower whose brothers taunted her from below. My views of human equality were foreign to them, and I let go of my expectations, and we simply played. They enjoyed the freedom of creation, yet had academic demands as well. Unlike in the United States, where the kids would gladly work off improv, Omani children solicited lectures and theatrical notes to take home and memorize. Otherwise they did not feel like they were learning.
I suspect that in Oman little is learned experientially, and nothing is taught through role taking. With the goal of a final original performance in sight, the children improvised and drafted a story about a boy who lost his imagination. The roles of hero, victim and pariah were developed, and a story with structure and dramatic content surfaced. In the end, the children performed a beautiful fable about the power of fantasy. It’s curious that at home the drama is focused around family conflict and personal trauma and is often told in the first person. In Oman, the stories speak in an archetypic voice allowing the focus to be more universal. So simple, so telling.
As a theatre artist, I am asked to assimilate what’s around me. As a human being, I am permitted to question its assimilation with my moral fabric, yet still attempt to understand it. This is the task I was resisting. How can I accept that children are forbidden by their fathers to draw, so with fear and shame do it secretly in the middle of the night? How do I appreciate that many children will never read a book other than the Koran? How do I accept that the taste of freedom young girls are given before menstruation will be taken away as their eyes are shrouded with black veils and their bodies are forced into hiding? And how do I defend the contaminating curiosity and narcissism that brought me to Oman in the first place? I returned home with a new understanding of art, myself and the Arab people, and it is my profound wish that the children feel the same. Perhaps I was really the student in class.
Oppression and censorship fed the process and the artistic product, turning it into something else. Turning the artist into someone else. In Oman, required to adapt to societal rules, I found my directorial approach was enriched. Nothing was formula in this experience, my tricks didn’t work. I’m the product of my socialization and, like the children, needed to strip myself of the over-developed roles I was accustomed to wearing, and simply relate on a universal level. It was a human reminder of the potent language of the abstract. And its message was that deep down we can all relate.
One opinion remains the same, the voice of the arts is stifled in Oman. Not once in three months did I hear of a concert, gallery opening or theatrical production, but that doesn’t mean the people of Oman are creatively dead. On the contrary, the simplicity in their expression is beautiful, pure and spoken in a human language. With no model to follow, in what other way could it be said?
Theatre in Oman is unlike Western theatre. On the surface they have nothing in common, but drama and the desire for self expression do exist even in expression oppressed countries. This society forces people into tiny boxes that are dark, dry and allow little room for creativity. But they are not locked tight, and with a little encouragement, the door swings open. As will the door of human understanding and acceptance. Like the terrain in Oman, the creative climate is also a desert. And like in the desert, when you find water, you drink.
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