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!

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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.

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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.

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

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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…

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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.

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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…)

The sky out my window is that fiery red which makes the heart swell with life and there it is again: that sensational expanding within my chest, rising to my throat, gripping and stinging my eyes.

Oh, no.

I bury my face into the scarf. Traces of fig leaf and sandalwood bring her rushing back to me as the mountains stretch into fractals, the tears come. The puddle on the red sky horizon, where the sun has fallen and melted, flickers with a faint shimmer and so suddenly the desert goes dark and I have never been so mysteriously out of sorts than I am on the six o’clock from Casablanca.

Gliding to a stop, the train hisses and pops, and ever so tentatively the doors stretch open, as if waking from an ancient sleep, creaking, stretching and finally, almost there, quit so those deboarding turn sideways, sucking in bellies and removing packs and balancing boxes upon trained heads. There’s no telling where we are. Out there, way out there, I mean stretching-your-eyes out there, is a city or at least a cluster of lights. Is that it? But here, it’s just a lamppost and a platform of backlit women, veiled and watching our subtle roll and pass through as their smiles fall into frowns, and they go on waiting and we lurch deeper into the African night.

Each one’s the same. Hiss, pop, impossibly congested desert town platforms, lampposts blackened with moths and large scaly things as the moon, rising beyond, lends a silvery glow over all the details she touches as the desert comes to life once more in this reversed role as nature returns to her rightful place and it’s our turn, us humans, to hide away within dens and shrubs.

So. Completely. Alone.

Every single desert town. Platform of veiled women. Waiting. Sometimes I catch sight of their villagers beyond, dusty main streets and always the shadowy figures of children running amok, kicking cans and beating the tattered remains of saggy cardboard boxes with twigs and old broomsticks.

Cracking the seal with a sharp click I down the bottle and bury the evidence deep into pack as the tremble in my hand steadies and I drift away…”

 


 

Scene:
The protagonist has just landed in a mysterious town in Africa. With nothing but a rucksack and a name scratched across a piece of paper: Djemaa el-Fna, “whatever that means…”

We open as he’s feeling deep regret for the past year and taking this tremendous leap into the unknown. But, at the same time, aware of this need to liberate the self from the old life which has led to a deep pit of depression and drinking…


 

While my novel is entirely true, there are moments which I allow artistic license to paint scenes with more interest.

I would love to know what you think.

Yes, this is only a small glimpse, but I know the importance of landing an intriguing opening. And this is my goal here…

Uncovering the modern identity of an African Kingdom. A beautiful and rugged society, multicultural, secular in some ways, rigid in others.
I cannot stress enough the vast beauty and sacredness of Morocco. A great country to learn of Islam’s strides in science, medicine and even literature (Moroccan authors absolutely rock.) I feel that to understand the world at large this is a great place to start. But by starting you’ll only realize that you know nothing at all. And that we’re all as confused and bizarre as one another. But isn’t this the lesson anyway? In less words: #takemeback

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

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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…

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–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

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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.

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 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

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Today’s Life and War 6

Gohar Dashti- Iranian (2008)

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Tile with Inscription

Iran. Seljuk Period ( 1038-1220s)

Ceramic w/ turquoise glaze

hands

Stories of Martyrdom (Women of Allah)

Shiran Neshat

Iranian (1994)

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Bowl

Iran. Seljuk Period (1038-1250s)

Fritware with opaque turquoise glaze

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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.

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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

I’ve met some great people through this blog, twitter and other social media outlets. One person in particular stands out as someone whom I feel especially lucky to have met, the talented creator behind For The Intolerants, JoAnna.

JoAnna and I have a lot of similar interests, as do many travel bloggers; exploring exotic lands, sampling global cuisine, merging into bizarro cultures, but ultimately we share a unique idiosyncrasy, a sort of fervor for the Middle East.

A keystone in my mission being to deflate nasty stereotypes revolving around the Arab world, I found it fitting when JoAnna approached me to write a guest post and mentioned the same enthusiasm to shed light on a more authentic and positive Middle East.

Since some of you may not have had the chance to read the post when it premiered on For The Intolerants I am reposting it here for your reading pleasure.

These are my reminiscings on Aqaba, the jewel of the Red Sea, neatly fitted between Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Palestine, and Israel…

Uncovering the Shores of Aqaba

Working on an archaeological dig in Jordan, I found myself fleeing to Aqaba every weekend. Not only to dive into the cool waters of the Red Sea, but to merge into a city that borders modernity while retaining the flair of time-tested traditions. I would leave only to feel the call of al-Aqabah time and time again with the desire to explore more the following weekend. Exotic markets and exquisite cafes line the beach.

Aqaba
Aqaba Proper. Vantage from one of the highest rooftops in town. View of Al-Hussein Bin Ali Mosque and Red Sea.

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At the bus stop. Just like every other bus stop.

Just off the local bus I would work my way to the beach, grabbing a coffee from one of the various food carts along the main strip. It’s easy to get caught up in the relaxed culture as the locals have perfected hospitality. After running into the same group of Jordanians it wasn’t long before I was welcome in their ritual, grilling kebabs, smoking hookah, and playing on the beach late into the night, often until sunrise! Luxury resorts with private beaches are stamped across the shoreline just south of the city. This is where I would head for scuba diving, the Aqaba Marine Center, and a little pampering. Yet, I had a preference for the city beach in Aqaba proper. Where glass-bottom boats, camels, and a plethora of vendors to vie for your attention.

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Traditional Bedouin lodging options. Goat hair tent.

Within the city limits are two shopping districts to get lost in for hours. A bazaar with merchants selling anything from Arabian antiques to vintage cameras. And the garment district, where you can be fitted for any number of Arabian garments. I took the opportunity to buy a “thobe” or ankle-length tunic. In fact, my last trip through the city I roamed the town wearing my thobe and headscarf without turning a head! With a light heart and a little humor I shopped through the stretches of textiles, toying with locally mined silver, and haggling my way through teapots and Middle Eastern goods.

 

For a few dinars you can trot along the beach. For even more you can catch a camel trek into the interior of Jordan
Bedouin with Camel. Offering rides/excursions into the Wadi Rum/Wadi Araba deserts.

Across the city taxis call out- “Where you go?”, “Ah, my friend! Good price for you!”, all of which seem in good spirit, yet I became intolerant of their game early on. Due to their exorbitant fares, unreliable meters, and shady antics I utilized the local bus. Though admittedly, they’re less than comfortable and on several occasions I found myself waiting on a ride that would two hours late. As relaxed as I felt roaming Aqaba, travel by taxi or bus can be stressful. Whatever the case, due to Jordan’s size, getting around the country is a breeze. Once you figure out what mode of transport you can tolerate, a few hours in any direction will lead you to some of the world’s greatest wonders.

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The crystalline Red Sea serves as a natural barrier between Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt. The Large ship in the distance represents the international border between Jordan and Israel.

In retrospect, I find Aqaba to be an integral destination for the true Arabian experience. It’s clear why most of the region flocks to the port city every weekend. Treasure hunting through the souks will entice some while the beach calls to others. Either adventure is worth experiencing in Aqaba, where hospitality is second nature to the local people steeped in Islamic faith. Where modern architecture is juxtaposed against ancient mud-brick dwellings, the 21st century is emerging and they welcome it with a grin.

Yallah, bye!

 

Here’s a quick sketch of the Parthenon from the rooftop of my hostel. Though the site had been occupied for millenniums it wasn’t until 447 BC that the Acropolis really hit the map. At the height of Athens’ “Golden Age” Pericles began a project in the name of Athina.  His building program went underway and 2,500 years later still holds the power to drop jaws.

A view of the Parthenon from a local hostel.

It’s about time I bring you up to speed. Excuse the short entry but I felt an update was in order. Within 48 hours, this happened…

Austin, Texas to Casablanca, Morocco

Waving goodbye to my loved ones I embarked on a 21 hour multi-flight jaunt over the Atlantic Ocean; Austin, Texas to Chicago, Illinois, then the great airport of Heathrow in England for the short leap to Casablanca, Morocco. Whew! Luckily I had plenty of reading material between beefing up my Arabic vocabulary and maintaining, at the very least, a coherent understanding of my coursework.

Before long Morocco broke through the clouds emerging from the Atlantic. I had to snap a photo to capture the memory. Though it doesn’t show well, the materialization of Africa out of the deep blue is something of an emotional experience. Let the adventure begin!

 

Morocco on the Atlantic
Morocco on the Atlantic

Casablanca to Marrakech

 

Marrakech. Take-1Meeting an old friend in Casablanca we caught the first train to Marrakech. There, we would hook up with a group of French backpackers to begin a week of exploration, and long-term partying.

We hit our destination late in the cool spring evening. While the mudbrick structures were holding onto the warmth of the day.

In minutes we were in the great square of Jemaa el-Fnaa. Where the fragrance of saffron dances in the air which can sweeten the toughest brute while a few steps away you can be slapped in the face by the putrid aroma of livestock and the trill siren-esque call of the North African ‘Rhaita’ (a double reed flute) which is both haunting and poetic. Attempting to criss-cross the streets of metal and beast feels suicidal though becomes effortless and the locals are more than ready to accomodate your awkward swagger. Monkey’s, snake charmers, fire breathers, medicine men, and acrobats, vie for your attention as you’re swept away by a refreshing, cool glass of camels milk or freshly squeezed orange juice. This is going to be wild.

Down one of the fingerling souks we found a riad to drop of our gear before hitting the markets… or should we start with the “bastilla”? I’m bordering starvation and the impulse to move at 1,000 mph… or is it 1,000 km? With my camera, a handful of “dirhams”, and an open attitude i’m heading into one of the greatest cities this world has had the pleasure to concoct.

Marrakech is somewhat of a Genie. The embodiment of an alien world while welcoming and warm.

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I’m more than ready to begin exploring the legendary city and i’ve come to conquer… myself that is. Let’s find out what this world offers while getting to know ourselves through adventure travel, history, and our brothers/sisters on the other side of the world, that’s my plan! So long as I make it to Amman, Jordan before my classes begin in April, i’m basically going with the flow here.

Don't pict the oranges! The Garden of the Koutoubia.

Don’t pic the oranges! The Garden of the Koutoubia.

 

Yallah, bye!

-Andriani