As our world grows increasingly smaller it’s easier than ever to seek refuge in the comfort of familiar places. Yet, we live in a time when thoughts and ideas manifest in flashes of delight, th blink of an eye and round-the-world travel is at the fingertips of risk takers and adventurers alike. I see Marco Polo and Gertrude Bell in the men and women I met abroad. Sharing the road, sharing tales of individual split-second experiences worth more than time itself.

I started blogging back in 2012, shortly after moving to Jordan — not only to share my story and to learn from others, but to inspire, to instill the momentum it takes to lace up ones boots and hit the road. It wasn’t until I found myself alone in a most foreign country that I felt the hot passion of life. Where my native tongue was about as useful as the moo! of a cow and most the time, I had no idea what the hell I was putting in my mouth… but it tasted good and I wanted more! And that is why you must hit the road.

Don’t be victimized by the culture of fear. Our planet is waiting to be explored, to reveal it’s secrets to you, to me, to any who dare ask, it will expose you to the raw truths of life. To the quarks of distant cultures and alien tongues. To disgusting foods and delicious cuisines, to dangerous and countless blessings.

Let’s take control of 2015. Don’t be afraid to leap without looking. I encourage you to take off the training wheels and take the road less traveled.

-Yallah!

Support Free Education

The Wandering Scholar is a free, non-profit resource for radical, educational, and hopefully, entertaining material. I hope eventually that means podcasting, vlogging, and much, much more but until then we're working tirelessly to bring you relevant and provocative material with stolen time between work and school. You contributions directly support this site! And we are deeply thankful.

$2.00

Advertisements

What an immense pleasure it was joining fellow author Maria Rochelle in what became quite a revealing conversation… A discussion on travel, literature, writing, life, love and losing oneself in the beautiful madness of all things.

Since reading Knausgaard i’ve determined to take several wide steps away from the ego (easier said than done, right!). Giving my literature room for accuracy, honesty. It’s too easy to dress yourself up with fancy words, credentials, achievements etc. but what I want to hear, what I need to hear, comes from the fabric of reality — the truth.

So, it’s my objective this year to be more honest, with myself as much as others. Learning to say “no” more, and feeling less obliged to the prophetic “yes.” And in turn, taking care of my very self — I have a tendency to overcompensate, to be “too nice,” as they say.

Without further ado, I hope you enjoy our conversation and be sure to visit Maria’s work as well. As a multi-genre author, she’s covered some very impressive territory, including her tour de force children’s series, Jasmine Dreams.

Read the full interview here.

All of these things are true...

I had been in Jordan for several weeks and my love affair with Arabian sweets had reached a lofty peak. In fact, I would begin and end each day with a platter of pastries, smothered in honeys and syrups that would flood through heaps of pistachios on my plate.

Then it happened… I voraciously reached junkie status. More, more. Never enough! Every bakery that caught my sight was fair game,  out for a greater high, exploring the labyrinthine neighborhoods for the more legendary bakeries. But it was in Wadi Musa where my friend, Khaleed, led me right into the snare of Kanafeh.

An unmarked door led to an unnamed bakery where, despite the raging 100f degree day, a father and son were cheerfully slaving away, racking out sheets of pastries. They were using round, shallow pans and alchemy to produce what many call “Arabian cheesecake”.

This “cheesecake” was Kanafehe

A definitive oxymoron- soft and crunchy, sweet’n’salty, cheesy, gooey and crispy. All neatly encased in a glaze of simple syrup and rose water. Good enough to make one prostrate in reverence to the baker.

The ingredients are few yet they lend themselves to an endless array of pastries. We all know and love baklava but it wasn’t until I discovered Kanafeh that the Arabian culture opened up before me, so delicate and sweet behind that mysterious veil.

Now, please excuse this appauling photograph…

…but 1879!!!

IMG_2298
Knafa, Kanafeh, Kunafa? Whatever it is… Tel Aviv, Israel

Let’s just say there’s no right/wrong way to spell it- “A rose by any other name” and all that-

523975_3679462710501_1083950525_n
Kanafeh in Ramallah, Palestine

 

IMG_2093
Kanafeh and assorted pastries in Wadi Musa (Jordan)

There are three variants of kanafeh but in this recipe we’ll focus on khishnah (rough Kunafa)

Ingredients

  • 1 Package- Kataifi Pastry (kataifi is something like spun phyllo. Rather than laid out in thin sheets, it is processed in a way that produces vermicelli-like noodles. Check out this great video to see how it’s made)
  • 1 cup- Ghee
  • 2 cups- Akkawi cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella)

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup- water
  • 1 1/2 cup- sugar
  • 2 tbsp- Rose water (or orange blossom water)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Optional Toppings

  • Pistachios (crushed)
  • Almonds (whole or crushed)
  • Whatever else catches your fancy (if you dare stray from pistachios…)

As with all recipes- preheat your oven (350f/180c)

Prepare the simple syrup (so that it can cool entirely before the kanafeh is finished) by mixing the water and sugar in a pot- bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Promptly remove the syrup and allow to cool for several minutes. Then add the rose water, or orange blossom water.

At this time, you’ll want to begin shredding the kataifi. This is best done with a food processor but can be achieved by hand. As packaged, kataifi comes in endless noodles and you’ll need to shred them further- so that the average noodle is around one inch in length.

 

Once you have the noodles at the right size, place the kataifi in a large mixing bowl and gently incorporate the melted ghee (clarified butter.)

As the noodles set, begin the process of cutting down the cheese, or even shredding it if possible. I’ve experimented with many cheeses, some sweeter, some saltier, and there’s no rule for what you use. Just be sure to have 2 cups of a quality melting cheese to your liking either shredded or cut in long, narrow strips.

Taking a 9×13 pan, spread out a generous layer of the processed kataifi (about 2/3 of your noodles). Press the noodles firmly into the pan working it into a flat, even surface so that you can then evenly distribute the cheese, all of the cheese.

Follow the cheese with the remaining kataifi and, again, pack the noodles into the cheese, evenly.

With the oven heated, cook the kanafeh until the noodles have become a golden brown (around 10-15 mins)

Once the kanafeh has baked through you’ll want to allow it to cool for 10 mins

At this point, the kanafeh should have become more firm and set into its cheesy, sexy self.

Now, carefully place a cookie sheet atop the baking dish with the kanafeh and invert the pan so that the kanafeh is now on the cookie sheet.

Litter the surface with crushed pistachios and drown your darling with the simple syrup/rose water concoction.

Voila.

OK, so the example given below, about that. I had a tough time finding kataifi, so I substituted the noodles for simple phyllo sheets… no harm done. Yet, I will admit that iteration does neglect all the pleasing textures that comes along with kataifi. However, i’ll take what I can get. So get creative.

20140418-111911.jpg

20140418-111902.jpg

 

So, any takers?

Yallah’bye!

SaveSave

SaveSave

All of these things are true...

A couple weeks in my desperate affair with Arabian sweets had reached dangerous highs. In fact, I would begin and end each day with a platter of pastries, smothered in honey and flooded with syrup and pistachio.

Junkie. That’s what you’d call me. A baklav-addict. More, more. Never enough. Every bakery was fair game as I lurked ancient cobbled alleys, out for a greater high, wandering deeper into the labyrinth in search for legendary bakeries. All of this was is good and well but it was in Wadi Musa where my friend, Khaleed, led me right into the snare of Kanafeh.

I followed him downtown through an unmarked door into an unnamed bakery where, despite the raging 110-degrees, a father and son were cheerfully slaving away, racking out sheets of pastries. Round shallow pans and alchemy. Arabian cheesecake.

This cheesecake was Kanafehe

The edible oxymoron – soft and crunchy, sweet’n’salty, cheesy, gooey, and crispy. All neatly encased in a glaze of syrup and rose water.

The ingredients are few yet they lend themselves to an endless array of pastries. We all know and love baklava but it wasn’t until I discovered Kanafeh that I finally tasted the essence of Arabian culture: so delicate and sweet behind that mysterious veil.

Now, please excuse this appalling photograph…

IMG_2298
Knafa, Kanafeh, Kunafa? Whatever it is… Tel Aviv, Israel
…but 1879!!!

Let’s just say there’s no right/wrong way to spell it. A rose by any other name

523975_3679462710501_1083950525_n
Kanafeh in Ramallah, Palestine
IMG_2093
Kanafeh and assorted pastries in Wadi Musa (Jordan)

There are three variants of kanafeh but in this recipe we’ll focus on khishnah (rough Kunafa)

Ingredients

  • 1 Package- Kataifi Pastry (kataifi is something like spun phyllo. Rather than laid out in thin sheets, it is processed in a way that produces vermicelli-like noodles. Check out this great video to see how it’s made)
  • 1 cup- Ghee
  • 2 cups- Akkawi cheese (you can substitute with mozzarella)

Simple Syrup

  • 1 cup- water
  • 1 1/2 cup- sugar
  • 2 tbsp- Rose water (or orange blossom water)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Optional Toppings

  • Pistachios (crushed)
  • Almonds (whole or crushed)
  • Whatever else catches your fancy (if you dare stray from pistachios…)

As with all recipes- preheat your oven (350f/180c)

Prepare the simple syrup (so that it can cool entirely before the kanafeh is finished) by mixing the water and sugar in a pot- bring to a boil. Add the lemon juice and continue boiling for 10 minutes or until the mixture has thickened. Promptly remove the syrup and allow to cool for several minutes. Then add the rose water, or orange blossom water.

At this time, you’ll want to begin shredding the kataifi. This is best done with a food processor but can be achieved by hand. As packaged, kataifi comes in endless noodles and you’ll need to shred them further- so that the average noodle is around one inch in length.

Once you have the noodles at the right size, place the kataifi in a large mixing bowl and gently incorporate the melted ghee (clarified butter.)

As the noodles set, begin the process of cutting down the cheese, or even shredding it if possible. I’ve experimented with many cheeses, some sweeter, some saltier, and there’s no rule for what you use. Just be sure to have 2 cups of a quality melting cheese to your liking either shredded or cut in long, narrow strips.

Taking a 9×13 pan, spread out a generous layer of the processed kataifi (about 2/3 of your noodles). Press the noodles firmly into the pan working it into a flat, even surface so that you can then evenly distribute the cheese, all of the cheese.

Follow the cheese with the remaining kataifi and, again, pack the noodles into the cheese, evenly.

With the oven heated, cook the kanafeh until the noodles have become a golden brown (around 10-15 mins)

Once the kanafeh has baked through you’ll want to allow it to cool for 10 mins

At this point, the kanafeh should have become more firm and set into its cheesy, sexy self.

Now, carefully place a cookie sheet atop the baking dish with the kanafeh and invert the pan so that the kanafeh is now on the cookie sheet.

Litter the surface with crushed pistachios and drown your darling with the simple syrup/rose water concoction.

Voila.

OK, so the example given below, about that. I had a tough time finding kataifi, so I substituted the noodles for simple phyllo sheets… no harm done. Yet, I will admit that iteration does neglect all the pleasing textures that comes along with kataifi. However, i’ll take what I can get. So get creative.

20140418-111911.jpg
20140418-111902.jpg

So, any takers?

Yallah

I’m going to be extremely honest in this one…

It all began in the Spring of 2011 when the East caught fire and revolution spread across North Africa and the Middle East. Something in that moment struck a chord and I before I knew it, I was on a one-way flight to Morocco.

There I nurtured a desire to understand our world and a burning passion, not only to see and share in the rich complexities of life but to explore our past in hopes of answering such questions as, How did we get here? and, Where are we headed?

 

Since then I’ve traveled across the regions of Arabia, Europe, and the United States working as an archaeologist, journalist, ditch digger, butcher, cheesemonger, and a variety of odd jobs.

Now returned I’m seeking a formal education at the local community college in hopes of having a greater impact on our world.

I currently work 60+ hrs/wk and, after the subtraction of rent and investments in start-ups, I’m struggling to achieve the funds needed to return to school and complete my degree.

My wishes are simple: to complete my education so that I may pursue a career in Elementary Education and Comparative Literature

I feel nothing but excitement for the future of humanity, of this extraordinary planet, and it would be an immense honor to have your support along the way.

Thank you for your time and please feel free to reach out at any moment should you have any questions or like to discuss my intentions.

–Nicholas Andriani

Student Grant

$5.00

P.S. This in no way will prevent the progress of my novel work! Which is going along quite well and I thank you for the continued readership and support as I work towards publishing

SaveSave

The Bosphorus splits Istanbul in two parts. A rift in the madness of Europe and Asia, drifting between bodies of fresh and salt water cooling the heated passion of a most ancient urban jungle.

The hot, hot, heat of human movement generates organized chaos as this great strait, this rift, cushions the blow, keeping this romantic city on its axis.

Gulls parade our smooth cruise to the Black Sea as Istanbul, in all its glory, surrounds us reaching out with minarets and the omnipresent aromas of a heavily spiced city.

It’s here, in the interstitial space between East and West, that time stands still…

photo


Will Write for Food. Or Coffee!

Being an artist, whether poet or ventriloquist, violinist or Beck, it's a taxing gig. Low pay, long hours. Sleepless nights,spotty work. If you find that my writing provides any pleasure, any sense of joy at all, I hope you will consider throwing me a bone, or an espresso.

$5.00

New Series. Composed of stream-of-consciousness writing and photoessays, thoughts on life, music, love and everything in between.


spontaneous combustion: #1

It’s your daily fix
Fresh ingredients.
Something new.
It’s not an ad.
It’s not for sale.
It’s not easy to digest.

I’m not here to pretend to be some guru or act like I know anymore than you do because, believe me, the older I get, the less I know.

Funny how that works when the world is running wild with “twenty-somethings” peddling Nirvana and life-coaching: really just give me $99 and I promise you’ll feel better. Go ahead, try it.

Try.

It.

You ready for this?

(more…)

Before the world can truly reveal itself you must take a period of meditation. A time of reflection. To pre-game, to set a cosmic course of action by stating your intentions and making them manifest. This is the driving force behind Sketching Sights. To become one with the elements of each and every environment that strikes me.

Dreaming of old Bagan I left brush and paint to guide themselves across the stars and secure my itinerary.

Burma on my mind

Scattered about the enchanting valley of Bagan are the remains of some 2,000 structures (monasteries, temples and pagodas). Historically this land housed over 4,000–each one thoughtfully placed and with purpose.

With this country of monks, gold clad domes and incantations opening its doors I see no other location more relevant to our cause at Yallah’Bye. That is, to document indigenous cultures at risk in this world of globalization.

Burma 2018?

Until next time

SaveSave

SaveSave

Earlier this year, I set a goal to finish a solid draft of my memoir and to achieve this mission i’m going into the wild, er, offline…

A MONTHLONG period away from social media, the internet, ethernet and all those nets, in an archaic approach to finish this labor of love that i’m damn excited to share with you.

Now, I generally write longhand, heavy Cross pen, paper, table and tea–so this writing without a computer business is basically how I conduct my work anyway. But, to be away from my peers, my colleagues and you people taking time to read these articles, that’s the toughest part.

I want to keep this short so let me finish by wishing my fellow Americans an enlightening and restful Thanksgiving. And, you Turks, love him or hate him, happy Ataturk Day (Nov 10th.) The same goes for you Zoroastrians out there, happy Adargan (celebration of fire Nov 10.)And, to you Moroccans and Lebanese–happy Independence Day (Nov 18th, Nov 22nd respectively.) And, you, yes you, take a break and celebrate “Buy Nothing Day” (Nov 28th.)

You can reach me at info@nicholasandriani.com and I’ll get back to you in 30 days or more. It’s just little strange to say that.

Thank you for all the support and encouragement. I look forward to catching up with all of you in one month.

Until then…

IMG_0992

 

–Andriani

 

“Tbex is love made visible”
–To misquote Khalil Gibran never felt so right

Last week I participated in my first Tbex conference.

This coming together of like-minded artists in the travel industry has opened my eyes to the potential we have within. From a passionate and lyrical lesson by Don George to the dynamic Dave and Deb from Planet D I emptied pen after pen, spilling ink, high on the goods dished out by some of the industries greatest minds.

We found ourselves in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo in a little town you probably haven’t heard of called Cancun–or Kaan Kun, ‘the nest of snakes,’ in the Maya tradition.

Cancun beach

For two days we were corralled within the Moon Palace Resort. This being my first experience at an all-inclusive destination I had my reservations, particularly as a traveler with a focus of the road less taken. Yet, I must say, they have done an incredible job coexisting with the surrounding jungle. Said to be a leader of eco-friendly accommodation, the Moon Palace participates in many conservation efforts such as assisting the growth of local flora and aiding the dispersement of sea turtles, an activity many Tbex-ers had the chance to participate in. I left the resort thankful to see such places from a new angle and would be pleased to be a guest of theirs once again.

Despite my weeks of plannin I walked into the Moon Palace unsure of which sessions toattend. The roster was just impressive this year. These are people i’ve admired since I began my career as a writer and to chose one session over the next was something I had to calculate. Ultimately, the route I chose could not have been more appropriate for my needs at this moment. So the final line-up went as follows–

Sept 12

  • Profits and Prestige from Becoming a Published Author with Tim Leffel. From self publishing to the culture of being an author I felt as if Tim were speaking directly to me. His thoughts on finding your niche, your tribe, your outlets for publishing were exactly what I needed to hear as I polish off my manuscript for Yallah’Bye.
  • Don’t Quit Your Day Job: You Don’t Have to be a Nomad to be a Successful Travel Blogger with Chris Christensen and David Brodie. What made this session so great was having these masters of the craft feeding us information on creating a powerful outlet without having to be on the road 24/7. This is a topic I honestly stress about-“Where next? How will I get there? Who want’s to sponsor me? Blah, blah!” In the course of this lesson we learned how to utilize past trips and virtual tourism to create authentic articles for blogging. From writing product reviews to “how to’s” sometimes all it takes is a little research to write a great piece on a place we’ve yet to visit.
  • From Pitch to Profit: Earning Money with Your Brand with Dave Bouskill and Deb Corbell from Planet D. It is said that writing is a lonely profession -so is travel- and some of us struggle with a double dose as travel writers. A sure way to beat the isolation is to find your kindred spirit, a partner in crime. And, that’s just what we have here. I had the pleasure of hanging out with them between sessions and have to mention how personable and entertaining these two Canadians are. Our session dove into brand partnerships and how to build long lasting relationships, because that’s what this is all about. To be successful as a travel blogger, or writer in this modern world, it is crucial to build a solid network. The value of knowing your worth is essential to success and we learned that as content providers we have a right to stand up for ourselves, for our worth, and to not negotiate against yourself, despite what may arise. Oh, and always read the fine print! Don’t be that sucker who signs over their masterpiece out of sheer laziness because a contract may be a little lengthly! We are powerful content creators. Embrace it!!

That night, under the guidance of Expedia-we partied to the tune of an open bar as an incredible spread of seafood and Mexican fare was spread before us.

photo 2

Sept 13

  • Video Blogging: First-Person Storytelling As A Powerful Marketing Tool w/ Lisa Schwarts. This was a challenge for me as I haven’t shot a single video through the course of my travels. And, that’s not acceptable. To be successful is to lead a multifunctional brand. Anyway, I have an iPhone and that’s a great place to start. Despite this session being advanced for my background I now know where to start. From utilizing music to branding and marketing, the talented ladies behind Bare Feet and Vagabond3 offered us a great way to vlogging and i’m extremely excited to enter that realm.
  • The Quality Quotient: Ten Tips for Creating Content that Engages and Expands Your Audience with Don George. One hour was not enough to contain this craftsman. Being a reader of his for years and having just finished the Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Writing, which he penned, I entered the arena starstruck.Don opened with his Four Pillars of Engagement- which are the Subject, the Self, the Audience, and Your Own Writing- then moved on to the Passion Points– the “where and why” of your story, what makes this location special and how to define it. How to focus on the stepping stones that guide you along your journey and reveal the valuable lesson that will be the purpose of your story. Capture this lesson and allow the details to spill forth. Utilize all of your senses. Take in the aromas, textures, noises, sensations that illuminate your story. And most importantly, the story is not about me, nor you, rather the place. The purpose of penning an experience is to cast light upon a moment in time. A place which is begging to be embraced by a readership across the globe.He closed with a Q&A as I fought to keep my notebook from catching fire- pen blazing an illegible hybrid between long and short form. A lesson with Don George-priceless

photo 5

  • And, then this happened– As the third session rolled into place I ran into Samer Abu-Taleb, an associate for the Jordan Tourism Board. Yes, please! How damn fortuitous and how did I not realize he, they would be here? So, I skip the last lesson to have a great conversation with this Jordanian expat. As my readers are well aware, this connection is easily one of the most valuable i’ve made in this career, considering that I have something of an obsession with the Hashemite Kingdom and a blazing passion for the Middle East. We discussed Kanafeh (in case you missed the article in which I profess my love for the Arabian pastry you can catch it here–How To Kanafeh), the need for eco solutions to traditional tourism in the region and the unwavering kindness of Middle Easterners. I’m still high from this meeting.

Tbex closed with a passionate discussion on professionalism and the question of whether or not travel blogging is a sustainable venture–the answer? Yes, and no. In this ever-changing industry between technology and escapism we must be willing to embrace both new and old approaches to success. Without this fluidity we will be left behind with the troglodytes, who still refuse electricity.

photo 4 (6)

A special thank you to-

  • Alex the Crazy, Sexy, Fun Traveller 
  • Robin at Globetrotting Junkies 
  • Sergio Sala who acted as my unofficial cultural guide while in Mexico. This guy has an addicting personality and I’m excited to see what he can achieve.
  • Tim Anderson. This is one brilliant yet mellow leader in the industry. I’ve been following his work since I began blogging and I insist that you check out his brain child Marginal Boundaries based in Palenque. If all goes well i’ll be joining them in a travel blog boot camp this winter. So i’m extremely to have made this connection.
  • Maggie aka Mags On The Move
  • Don George
  • Tim Leffel
  • Dave and Deb with The Planet D
  • Rick Calvert with New Media Expo. I had the pleasure of hanging out with this guy on the opening night and, man, this is one authentic, thoughtful human.
  • Nathanial Boyle with the Daily Travel Podcast. We met by chance, in passing really, and just hit it off. In the last hours of Tbex we discussed podcasting, Mexican buffets and his insane journey across the globe. Since returning home i’ve been listening to this podcast religiously. Interviewing people such as Chris Guillebeau and C.C. Chapman these podcasts are massively inspiring for anyone within the industry.

*It would be a hell of a task to drop all the names of those who guided and enlightened me along this journey.

Overall I came to understand the authority we hold as bloggers and leaders in the industry. It is our duty to represent the planet from a perspective that will promote sustainable travel and remain compassionate to other cultures, industries and the environment.

To all of those who have supported my writing and venture into this uncharted territory, thank you. I do realize the importance of my readers and am fully aware that you are just as valuable as my content. So, again, thank you.

This coming together of people in support of one another was truly love made visible.

–Nicholas Andriani

 

Before the world can truly reveal itself you must take a period of meditation. A time of reflection. To pre-game, to set a cosmic course of action by stating your intentions and making them manifest. This is the driving force behind Sketching Sights. To become one with the elements of each and every environment that strikes me.

Dreaming of old Bagan I left brush and paint to guide themselves across the stars and secure my itinerary.

Burma on my mind

Scattered about the enchanting valley of Bagan are the remains of some 2,000 structures (monasteries, temples and pagodas). Historically this land housed over 4,000–each one thoughtfully placed and with purpose.

With this country of monks, gold clad domes and incantations opening its doors I see no other location more relevant to our cause at Yallah’Bye. That is, to document indigenous cultures at risk in this world of globalization.

Burma 2015?

Until next time–Yallah’Bye

Calling all philanthropists, all investors. This year brings my first opportunity to attend the travel writers conference, Tbex, in Cancun, Mexico and i’m looking for a little support in the financial arena. Now, I know that sounds like a load of drunken debauchery in the midst of Maya ruins but there is just so much more to it!

Between the 11th and 14th of September, Tbex will include one-on-one networking with experts in the travel industry. Writers, businesses, publishers and masters of this or that field. Three days of lectures, classes, and hands-on training. All of which could propel me from the seat of an amateur to a full-time professional travel writer.

Since 2012 i’ve been working on my memoir chronicling archaeological research and cultural exchanges across the Middle East. A time immediately after the great Arab Spring and before the hopes and dreams of the Syrian uprising became a brutal civil war. By attending this conference I will be able to pitch my manuscript to a wide audience of publishing houses while also making my name relevant.

Here are the links to my campaign and to the official Tbex site.

If nothing more please share this campaign with your community. Any support would be extremely appreciated. All sponsorship and contributions will be noted.


 

A special thank you to my first donor Kaori Nishimoto of Fragments of Travel. Kaori “Likes traveling, talking with locals, and finding “common” in different culture”. Her Instagram feed dazzles from Morocco in the west to Japan and China in the East. With an eye for detail she captures the soul of travel through the art of photography. Do be sure to pay a visit to her site.

33% funded thus far!

Thank you and Yallah’Bye

photo

It’s safe to say that the visual arts have always been an extremely inspirational medium to me. This is especially true when it comes to Islamic Art. The heavy use of geometrical forms and the rhythm of mingling patterns that move in harmony with passages from the Quran.

Traditionally, many schools of Islamic thought have avoided the use of human figures in their artistic endeavors; Sharia law even forbids the use. Perhaps to keep ones practice of Islam clear and void of idolatry. The resulting style became known as Arabesque playing hugely on vegetal, geometric, and scriptural elements. And this only scratches the surface. Other schools of thought, inspired by the Chinese and Mongols, did, in fact include depictions of men and women at the time.

So it’s clear that, like many genres, Islamic art can’t be neatly defined and the pieces i’ve brought to the board today span many centuries and borders.

Now, before I digress once again, I present a powerful collection of Islamic art currently on display at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in Kansas City, Missouri.

IMG_2241

 Folios From a Qur’an. Abbasid Period (750-1258 C.E.)

Ink and Gold on Vellum. Arabic language using the Kufic script.

IMG_2247Couple Standing Among Flowering Trees.

Tabriz, Iran, Turkman School. 1480 C.E

Opaque watercolor and gold on paper

IMG_2245

Today’s Life and War 6

Gohar Dashti- Iranian (2008)

IMG_2236

Tile with Inscription

Iran. Seljuk Period ( 1038-1220s)

Ceramic w/ turquoise glaze

hands

Stories of Martyrdom (Women of Allah)

Shiran Neshat

Iranian (1994)

IMG_2239

Bowl

Iran. Seljuk Period (1038-1250s)

Fritware with opaque turquoise glaze

IMG_2252

Detailed shot of Mosaic from an arched entrance portal known as an iwan.

Isfahan, Iran. Safavid Dynasty (1501-1722)

Glazed ceramic tile and gold leaf.

IMG_2255

Paper Plates

Hamra Abbas- Pakistani (2008)

Paper collage

The exhibit goes on to include textiles, more ceramics, and even a short animated film which plays on the colonial occupation of India. A great display of the wide variations in Islamic art through time and space.

So, I absolutely urge you to pay a visit to the Nelson-Atkins. That is… if you’re in Kansas City already!

Yallah-bye

Ourika, Morocco

 

547357_3665455120320_1240248596_nThough only 6 hours (460 km) separate Marrakech from the oasis town of M’Hamid I could have dedicated six days between the two place names. The villages that scatter Ourika Valley hold their own against the more popular Imperial Cities (Marrakech, Fes, Meknes and Rabat) and it’s out here in the wilderness of the High Atlas Mountains that I come across the Cafe Tajine.

An hour outside Marrakech the Cafe Tajine emerges from an icy riverbed along the narrow road that parallels the River Ourika. Makeshift bridges of repurposed woods and carpets reach across the river at many points along the route, leading to mud-brick villages, markets, and, in this case, one of the finest dining experiences i’ve had to date. 

Here, for a few dollars (it’s truly a steal), you can feast like royalty. A spread of three tajines, salads, breads, mint tea, and a few beggars in between will cost you around the same price as the new Jay-Z album.

Tajines are made to order and, like most “Old World” recipes can take a good deal of time to cook. This is when the industrious locals strike. Peddling handmade goods, women and children make offers on African keepsakes and jewelry boxes, even crystals, as men serenade us, strumming the guitar-like Moroccan sintir and playing unusual flutes and drums.

Over the melodious North Africa beats we dine late into the night, taking our sweet time, dancing and haggling away.

552633_3665454080294_667057033_n

 

531074_3665455760336_466566102_n

 

538610_3665458640408_674395445_n

 

535583_3665460480454_1981307780_n

 

538875_3665461040468_1188415815_n

558840_3665461600482_414913638_n

Yallah bye

Salaam! HookahMan
“Oh! hookah of the magic bowl,
Thou dost bring me greatest pleasure,
Who likes not thee, hath not a soul,
And can know of joy no measure.”

For several months the hookah served as an icebreaker as I worked my way around the Middle East. Embracing the culture, I learned to appreciate the traditions and social norms attached to this symbol of community.

While the beginnings of this exotic device are unclear, several sources from the 16th century mention a “water pipe” being used in Persia and India. I assume the new pastime caught on quickly considering the popular hookah bars and countless smokers you come across anywhere in the region. I’d see whole families park their car, break out their hookah, sometimes alongside a portable grill, and whip up a kebab while smoking away, right on the side of the road. How damn cool is that!

In the States we have a habit to associate ALL smoking devices with marijuana or some paraphernalia. To tack taboo on the alien. It’s a shame as the hookah serves, more than anything else, as a way for people to congregate in a respectable setting, over civil discourse and a glass of tea, a game of backgammon or simply to gossip. I try to liken the experience to going out for a drink, but that usually leads to drunken debauchery… at least in my case (not really)… Moving forward!

In the image below we have the deconstructed skeletal remains of one hookah. On the left you see the hose. This specimen was a gift I collected in Jordan, Bedouin in style of red velvet and gold ornamentation. On the right side we have the stem, which consists of an air valve, a port for the hose and at the top, a tray for ash and the port for the bowl, which you see at the bottom of the image where the “sheesha” or tobacco is placed. Finally we have the vase, basically a reservoir for water in which the smoke, after passing through the stem, bubbles through the water and passes to the hose.

photo-2

Aside from the body all that’s needed for a good time… is a piece of charcoal and a dollop of molasses soaked tobacco.

I’m not terribly familiar with the various heat sources you can apply as charcoal has always been available to me. Apparently there are other materials you can use which produce a carbon free smoke and cut out any toxins, such as coconut based coal.

photo-1

Widely known as sheesha or “mu’assel” in Arabic, the tobacco used in smoking hookah is a product of sweet alchemy. Two vastly unique ingredients coming together in perfect unison. Dried tobacco forms the base ingredient which is flavored with a small amount of dried herbs or fruit. The mixture is then covered in honey or molasses before being macerated with a low amount of glycerol to maintain the needed moisture.

“Nakhla” seems to be the preferred brand of sheesha, smoked across the globe. Translating to “Palm”, they supply an army of 50+ flavors. Here I’m sticking with the old standby “Double Apple”.

photo

The bowl, sitting snug atop the stem, is packed with sheesha then covered in foil, which acts as a medium between the wet tobacco and the hot coal.

With a setup like this a typical “session” can run about an hour. In 60 minutes traditions and language barriers become a thing of the past.

photo-3

Not ready to give up my new pastime i’ve been seeking out hookah bars across Kansas City, finding authentic experiences here and unsavory there. I’m happy with the trend thats caught fire as Middle Eastern cafes pop up and the hookah emerges from the East.

If you’re ever in the area I highly recommend paying a visit to these flagships of sheesha culture in the States.

Aladdin Cafe– Exquisite Mediterranean fare and hookah on demand

Hookah Haven– Open late into the night H.Haven serves as more of a club. A lounge for watching the game over hookah, rather than the typical PBR.

Istanbul, Turkey- My 22nd birthday. Breezing through a lemon/mint concoction. Here you see me with the self proclaimed “Hookah King”.

hookah

Aqaba, Jordan- This has to be one of my favorite pictures from the Middle East. On a beach in Aqaba I befriended a gang of hookah enthusiasts who, after passing the initiation, let me join them in the rounds.

IMG_1593

As you see below, not much has changed!

800px-View_of_Constantinople_by_Pascal_Sébah_(1905)
Scene from a coffee shop is Istanbul, 1905
Sourced from Wikipedia

Whether in NYC or Istanbul, I would love to hear about your experiences smoking sheesha!

-Yallah, bye

After several months of eyeballing the various billboards and signage around KC, Jaclyn and I paid a visit to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. On display are some of the richest and most iconic portraits, still life and mixed media pieces to come out of Mexico since it’s founding.

Amassed by Natasha & Jacques Gelman (expats from Eastern Europe who migrated to Mexico in 1942) the exhibit is being held in the Bloch Building, a later addition to the Nelson’s (near) centenarian shell. Over the years they nurtured relationships with many masters of Mexican art, thus beginning an unrivaled collection.

Apparently many of the pieces on display havent, to this day, visited the region so I feel honored to have witnessed them. The brush strokes are just as Frida Kahlo left them. Diego Rivera’s lilies were so textural you could almost smell their sweet fragrance. Examples of the regions political and economic times are seen in the haunting images created by Gerardo Suter. The list goes on and I admit to being unfamiliar with the majority of these beautiful artists.

IMG_2884

Being to close to these pieces is just surreal. Growing up in San Antonio, Texas my admiration of Latin American artists blossomed at an early age. Portraits of Frida can be seen graffitied alongside coral colored buildings.

IMG_2885

IMG_2886

IMG_2880

IMG_2900

This piece is one of Kahlo’s more etherial works that jumps beyond our own world into a metaphysical search for existence and purpose.

IMG_2890

Diego Rivera’s own self portrait

IMG_2888

A portrait of Natasha Gelman, by Diego Rivera.IMG_2910

IMG_2912

IMG_2892

IMG_2877

IMG_2879

Gelman Rotating8
A personal favorite by Gerardo Suter

IMG_2920

IMG_2899

Mediums have expanded and the times have changed but the essence of Mexican art remains the same.

I highly urge you Kansas Citians and citizens of the world. Make the visit, explore history. Bare witness to the transformations and current portrayals of Mexico through the eyes of those who knew, or know, the country intimately.

Beyond the Nelson-Atkins being one of the finest art collections in these States, it sees traveling exhibits that have inspired generations for nearly 100 years.