Click on any photograph to enlarge it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Back in USA

Just landed in Dallas will be home by Friday night. Flew on KLM, the service was great and had about 100 movies to chose from on your own screen.
This truck was sitting on a pile of dirt in front of a Bedouin tent in an abandon gas station in the desert of Syria. It was done as a three shot HDR at about sunset.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Street Art in Istanbul

Midnight Express

Across the intersection is the Four Seasons Hotel which used to be a prison, the prison depicted in the movie Midnight Express. In those days you wouldn't have wanted to go in there and now you can't afford to go in there. The  Constantine Art Gallery in across from here an Emre, the owner,  has some of my photographs there.

Ananisa House, Damascus

We spent a lot of time walking the Straight Street in Damascus which really is a walk through history. A short distance off the street and near the old original wall is this excavated house reported to be the house of Ananisa where Saul was converted to Paul and near where he was lowered over the wall in a basket. Later it was a converted to a church. It is partially underground buried by the same ruble that has buried parts of the wall and the old city gates.

Rare Albino Batman Mercedes

Back in the 60's or so Mercedes made three Albino Batman cars for the Sultan of Somewhere*. I never dreamed I would see one but here is one in operating condition in downtown Damascus.

*It's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rooftop of our Hotel

This is the view of our hotel from the Seven Hills Hotel across the street. This is where we eat breakfast which is the typical Turkey breakfast of tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, hard boiled egg, bread, and cheese.  The Seven Hills is a five star hotel where the rooms cost at least six times as much as ours but they have always been gracious about inviting us up to there roof top restaurant to photograph even if we couldn't afford a meal there. This morning they were serving breakfast in the lower room of the restaurant but unlocked the upper room so we could go up there. 

Ruins of Byzantine Palace

From the roof of the hotel you can see these ruins of a Byzantine Palace uncovered when the Four Seasons Hotel Started construction of a new tower. they are going to preserve these ruins. A block to the east, behind a friends carpet shop,  is an underground passage that goes to a part of the palace that has been excavated.  I had photographed in the palace by invitation of the carpet shop owner and had black and white photos in a local art gallery. The photo is on my web site.

Roast Corn

Roast corn is always readily available, this cart is at the spice market. You can also get roasted chestnuts, sesame pretzels, and even mussels fresh from the shell from carts in most public areas.  

New Mosque

This is the big "new" mosque down by the spice market.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Rustem Pasa Mosque

Dome, Rustem Pasa Mosque
This is probably the most beautiful mosque in Istanbul with its great tile work. It was built in 1561. It is not easy to reach as it is hidden in a maze of passageways in a busy bazaar.

Isiklal Caddesi

Top of street, Istiklal Caddesi

Roof of Restaurant on Street

Among the Dummies

This guy was having fun posing with the dummies in front of a shop on the pedestrian street Istiklal Caddesi. This street is a major shopping street with shops of all type including bookstores, bakery's, cafes, and even a McDonald's and Burger King. We took the tram across the bridge to the end of the line then took the funicular up to the top and walked down the street to the bridge. Years ago when British soldiers were in Istanbul they were housed on one side of the bridge and worked on the other side. In their spare time they played cards and even made up a card game. They gave the name "Bridge" to the game because they crossed it to play. The game still has the same name.


Sign on Breakfast Terrace

Reflections of Istanbul

Breakfast is on roof terrace of hotel and the crows know when it's breakfast, the seagulls do also. This shop near the hotel has brightly colored plates and the reflection of a 2000 old wall.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Flag Seller at Spice Market

Flag seller with Portrait

I have seen this guy selling flags outside the spice market several times over the years and last year I took his photo. I had several photos for people in Syria and Turkey and this guy was the last one as I found all the others. He was pleased to get a photo from America.

Damascus Security

Not what it seems

This is the back of the Umayyad Mosque on Friday. Normally all the shops would be open but not today. The white van is parked to block the street and the men are not shopkeepers. On all side of the mosque there are plain clothes men with clubs and guns.


Hagia Sophai

The Blue Mosque

Istanbul Tulip Festival 

We have breakfast on the roof of the hotel where we can see the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia but these two photos were taken from the rooftop restaurant of the hotel across the street. It is two stories higher and they are very good about letting me take my tripod up there and photograph.
The Tulip Festival is over but the cool weather has helped keep thousands of Tulips in good shape.


In Syria there were virtually no tourist, even the locals were surprised when they found out we were from America and were driving on our own not in a group. We flew into Istanbul last night, Friday night and it was crowed with tourists. The drive to hotel took an hour and a half normally a less than half hour.

This Friday which the demonstrators in Syria had designated "The great Friday" was a tense day. As it was our last few hours in Damascus we decided to walk to old town for one last time. Our hotel is next to the Iranian Cultural Building which is on the Square of the Martyrs, the square was filled with buses of security forces dressed in civilian clothes and carry clubs. When we got to old town the shops were all closed including an artist that had told us he would be open every day. The square by the great mosque was filled with men in civilian clothes looking very menacing. We decided to go back to the hotel and at the square walked through crowds of men carrying clubs and some in full armor with large plexi shields. Would have liked to get some photos but had already been stopped from photographing a cop in uniform and with only a few hours to flight time couldn't risk being detained.

The driver that took us to airport, the hotel owner, was surprised at the places we had driven to and said we couldn't do it now as all roads were closed, glad we came back to Damascus on Thursday. We really had a great time in Syria and everybody was very hospitable, even the military checkpoints were no problem.We never had any problems with demonstrations and avoided going to any of the cities that the military had closed off.  Even learned to have fun driving, sort of like being in a racing video game where you had to go as fast as you can while avoiding all obstacles thrown in your path while the bad guys try to get you from all directions. Was glad to have rental insurance.

Today we found how bad it went for the Syrians yesterday. They have more people killed than were killed in Libya.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Lights, Music, Action, Camera

A few days ago we were walking through the Aleppo souk everyone was glued to the TV sets and the speech Assad was giving. This was his announcement that the emergency measures in place for the last half century were being lifted on Thursday. Thursday we were walking by the large mosque in Damascus and saw this pro government demonstration so we stepped in to film it, after all it was set up to be filmed. A small group was walking in a circle while others held flags in the background with all being filmed by a camera crew moving the camera along a track. When the music started the group started marching and when the music stopped they stopped.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


After over a thousand miles of driving through Syria we are back in Damascus but it wasn't easy. Just as we were a few blocks away we ended up in the wrong lane leaving the freeway and ended up going back out of town. At home you would get off at next off ramp and go back but here if you get off you are likely to be on a one way street going who knows were and soon lost in traffic hell with no way back. We kept going until we got to a construction zone and did a u-turn to get back on right direction on freeway much to the dismay and accompanied blaring horns of numerous drivers. The last few kilometers took us about 60k but after some gridlock intersections and even worse round-a-bouts we got the car back.
It's great to be back in Damascus, we like our neighborhood in old town, feels like home after the other places we have been. We even got to be in our first demonstration. There was a pro- government demonstration by the large mosque complete with camera crew filming it so we jumped in to do some photography.
When we got to the hotel they gave us the key to the room, just as we left it with CNN still on the TV. Our high speed wi-fi still worked and we are not blocked from the blog. I had written a blog each day and saved them with photos figuring I would have to wait to Istanbul to publish them but will put then up today with their original date.

Dead Cities

Hang in There

Still holding, Has 1600 year warranty

Arch in middle of field



Church windows

Church doorway

Funeral pyramid with Sarcophagi inside

April 20

We left the hotel before 6 AM to head back to the Dead Cities. With our experience gained yesterday we were able to find several more. Some were surrounded by ancient olive trees and by fruit trees in bloom raised by local farmers. One at a higher elevation was surrounded by pine trees and all had lots of spring flowers.
Tomorrow we head back to Damascus to turn the car in. Really not looking forward to the  Traffic.

Hama and the Water Wheels

Water wheel behind hotel in Hama

Water wheel

View from roof of hotel

Water wheel and aqueduct

April 19

Drove south  then took some roads to the west looking for the Dead Cities. The Dead Cities are ancient towns that were part of the area of the Byzantine Christian city of Antioch and were abandoned around fifteen centuries ago. There are supposedly over 600 sites in an area of maybe 50 by 50 miles. We have three maps but once off the main road they don't seem to agree with each other on the roads of the area on even the name of the numerous small towns in the area. In theory you just follow one road from the highway for about twenty miles then turn left for a few more miles. The problem is that all the roads curve around to little villages to say nothing about the forks in the road and the T intersections. We drove for almost two hours. totally lost, then saw the first of the Dead Cities. There were numerous large buildings and churches built out of very large stone blocks some of them had elaborate  carvings. We then spent a lot of time finding our way back to the highway and drove to Hama. Hama is famous for its large wood waterwheels on the river. There are several that raise water from the river to aqueducts to bring water to town. The largest are over five stories tall and there design goes back to the thirteenth century.
Hama is also infamous for the massacre of 1982 where 10,000 to 25,000 people were killed during a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. History continues as it was reported that 29 people were killed in demonstrations about fifteen miles south of here yesterday. When we walked into town we saw a funeral at the Mosque behind the hotel with the members carrying the body through town. It is peaceful here but very few tourists. Our hotel is eleven stories but we have seen no other guests but there were a few tourists down by the waterwheels.
We did get to the roof to photograph the the town, apparently not allowed as the manager questioned us after we got down and told no photographs without his permission.
Neighborhood smoothy  stand

Intersection by hotel

Street side shoe repair

Reason #17 why I'm a vegetarian on this trip

April 18

Up early to climb the citadel as soon as it opens. Want to be able to photograph in the citadel before the sun gets too harsh. This is our last day in Aleppo so we just hiked around town. Tomorrow we drive to Hama, plan to get away early before the traffic turns to chaos.