Odyssey to the Middle East
adventure, undertaken in 1978 involved driving a VW van some 30,000 kilometres
overland, from London to the Middle East. This included
Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar and the Arab Emirates.
The journey was eventful and often with no prior knowledge of the road
conditions ahead or the hazards that could await!
objective was to photograph the Islamic Culture as well as places of
topographical interest for a photo library in London and although financed by a
Middle East bank, suffered from lack of resources with nearly disastrous
is an account of the events that unfolded, the adventures and companionship that
two photographers shared and especially the many wonderful people that were
encountered on the way. The open hospitality of these people brought much needed
help, comfort and friendship on the sometimes
arduous but very memorable and unique journey.
Inshallah - a philosophical perspective
is the first day in the start of my new life. With my university department
closed, due to the funding crisis in higher education, I now have the freedom to
recall and finally tell my own true adventure story which began 24 years ago.
It was to be such an important part in the forming of my future life that
I hope my brief jottings and memories from
that time, which only now I am fully committing to paper, will be shared
with others who either dream of, or long to savour the moment when adventure
write about these adventures and re-live them, they are once again becoming
fundamentally so much a part of my soul. As the journey through the lands of the
Middle East unfolds, I can once again live those moments and am reminded that
life can have many paths but that either by accident or design it becomes an
adventure. Also one needs a life guide, a truth to believe in and I found this
through the people who
helped us so much in the countries I visited throughout the Middle East.
I returned from Nepal, a few months before, I had a clear aim to change
from the sciences
in which I had trained and make my love of photography my "life" and
profession. When I eventually took on the project to photograph Arabia in those
early days as a photographer, nothing seemed impossible. Even to travel 30,000
km in an ageing Volkswagon combie van, to take it across unmarked desert tracks
or through unimaginable chaos such as the city of Beirut, seemed possible.
was to be rewarded by instances of sheer joy. Such as the time John
Macmahon, my companion photographer and I, lay atop the V.W., in the enveloping
dark but tranquil night of the Saudi desert, star gazing amongst the crystal
clear pinpricks of light above us, from the cozy warmth of our beds on the roof
rack, leaving us to drift off into a deep sleep in the balm of the cool night
memorable of all though, was the hospitality of the people of the Middle East,
whatever their ethnic origin or religious beliefs. Instances such as the
politically powerful Imam of Damascus, engaging us in philosophical discussion,
or the Phalangelist family in Beirut, who provided a safe base from which to
explore their war ravaged but once beautiful city, continue to stir emotions
after all these years. We were also humbled
by the friendship of the shepherd family tending their flocks in the
scrub of Yemen with whom we shared the delights of our mint infused tea; and the
Saudi border guards, who provided us with free board, petrol, oil and clothes
for our onward journey.
found the curiosity of our hosts and numerous questions about our beliefs,
families and above all opinions of Middle East life were sincere and always
rewarded by kind hospitality, mutual trust and respect together with a genuine
concern for our well being .
the long path we took by road, across both verdant and barren areas, with a
beauty all their own, we eventually discovered more about our inner selves,
throwing away fears of the unknown and coping with the realities of exploration.
Life, which often seemed to conspire to thwart the best of intentions, provided
often saved the day. In this respect we developed a positive mental
attitude which on many occasions throughout the venture, helped us to win
against the odds.
dictum on the road was "always go forward, never back" but this was
sorely tested at times. Life simply dictated its terms and often provided the
means to overcome the daily obstacles put in our path and
this was to be rewarded by the successful completion of the eventful
journey, six months
later. I am not a fatalist but from our experiences I believe even more firmly
that you can take even the worst moments, turn them around and put them to the
best advantage that suits at the time. As time marched on I adapted to this
philosophy so that I became more accepting to the way things are, in very
different lands to the one where I was brought up.
belief that life itself will so often provide a solution to the dire problems we
were presented with, was not based on any particular religious philosophy but on
the way I experienced the journey in often harsh and challenging geographical
and climatic areas that exist in those countries which we were fortunate enough
photographers we explored our own leads and planned our own routes, to
document aspects of Middle East life
through the countries we visited. On our own we became more self assured
and self reliant but often became tied to events that were seemingly out of our
clear choices to be made. As a general rule we discovered that no matter what
difficulties were, we found solutions to these situations ourselves. Moreover,
they very often found us, turning out to be right for that particular moment and
we seemed to be guided, as perhaps Allah willed it, unharmed in any way, to meet
the gruelling schedule that was to be our life for those six wonderful months
that to me is embodied in the term
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