Dreaming In Africa

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Long ago when we lived in Africa and far away on Manda Strait in the Lamu Archipelago, Captain Lali dreams. It is late afternoon, the day after Christmas Day, and we have been sailing in Mzee Lali’s small dhow, out exploring the reef and catching a fish or two for a seaboard lunch that will be cooked on a little jiko stove, and served with freshly chopped coleslaw. Even wide awake it seemed like a dream to us.

I’ve posted this photo several times before, as some of you will know. The way time is speeding up, it’s rapidly assuming vintage status. So here’s an ancient Swahili tale to go with it, also one I prepared earlier:

There came a time when Sendibada signed on with a strange sea captain. The next day, as dawn was breaking, the ship cast off, a strong breeze filling the lateen sails, and bearing them swiftly out to sea. But towards noon the wind died, and the boat drifted, becalmed, on still waters.

At this, the captain strode out on the bridge, and began to utter words that Sendibada could not fathom. He stared and stared for, to his astonishment, the ship began to rise, graceful as an egret taking flight. Sendibada grinned. He liked a good adventure, and now it seemed this strange captain of his was none other than the most powerful magician.

Up into the clouds they soared, flying, flying until at last they saw a faraway red spot. But little by little the spot grew, until at last Sendibada saw it was a city in the sky, and that every house there was made of copper. Soon they set down in the harbour and, as the crew made to go ashore, from every quarter, lovely girls came out to greet them, bearing on their heads copper trays laden with the most delicious fruits and sweetmeats and tender roasted morsels.

And so it was that much time passed, the ship’s crew enjoying month after month of this most gracious hospitality. Sendibada, though, was growing homesick, and said as much. Now the magician gave him a round mat and told him how to use it.

Sendibada followed the instructions, placing the mat on the ground and seating himself upon it so that he faced the direction of his home town. Then he spoke the foreign words that meant: Behold! We shall all return to it . And at once the mat rose into the clouds, and faster than a diving hawk, set Sendibada back on the beach just outside his home town.

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

The Copper City  retold from a translated text in Jan Knappert’s Myths and Legends of the Swahili

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Related posts:

Lamu Dreaming

Quayside Lamu

The Swahili

Lens-Artists: Dreamy  This week Ann-Christine is hosting Lens-Artists’ Saturday challenge. If you want to join in, please tag your post ‘LENS-ARTISTS’ and add a link to the challenge post. Or just visit their lovely blogs and be inspired:

Patti https://pilotfishblog.com/

Ann-Christine aka Leya https://lagottocattleya.wordpress.com/

Amy  https://shareandconnect.wordpress.com/

Tina https://travelsandtrifles.wordpress.com/

Thursday’s Special: Desert Dawn

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We’ve been suffering serious gales and wetness in the UK, and it’s set to persist, bluster and precipitate for several more days yet. Which has me thinking of dryness and deserts and heat and stillness and no wind. This photo was taken early one morning in the desert outside Dubai. It was around 5 a.m. and I had just given up the battle of trying to sleep in an igloo tent while close by our guide snored loudly in the open back of his 4×4. And when I walked out alone and saw all this, what could I say. Who cares about mangled limbs and a sleepless night? Why would I?

Thursday’s Special  This month Paula challenges us to show her any or all of the following: inversion . circuitous . corniculate . sabulous . interstice . I’m definitely claiming the last two in this shot, and also some circuitous tyre tracks. And then there’s inversion – the up and down-ness of the dunes and sand ruts, the light versus shade, the cool of sunless valleys versus sun-warmed peaks. I suppose at a push too, you might say the distant small lumps and bumps are reminiscent of newly erupting horns?

copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

Remembering December Colours In East Africa ~ Thursday’s Special

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December is usually the time of the short rains in Kenya. I say usually because these days the tropics are especially affected by climate change so nothing is certain when it comes to weather. It is also the hottest time of the year, and in the upcountry regions, the season for planting. Here on Lamu Island (above) it is also tourist time, although the year we spent Christmas there it was scarcely crowded. This  photo was taken on Christmas Eve as the sun was setting. There were about six other people on the beach. Earlier that day we had arrived in a sudden squall which made the dhow crossing to Lamu from the air field on Manda Island a touch exciting. We visitors all huddled under the awning while the stalwart captain kept us on course across a choppy, foggy strait.

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Most of our Christmases were spent on Tiwi beach south of Mombasa. Not a busy place either. Here’s the sunrise over the lagoon at Maweni one Christmas morning long ago.

sunrise on the reef

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And some ageing views of the lagoon in head-on sunshine:

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Thursday’s Special ~ please visit Paula to see her colour prompts. As you might conclude, they include aquamarine, cyan and golden.

Morning Chat In The Manhattan Diner

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Sadly this particular Manhattan Diner in Upper West Side is no longer there, though  there is another of the same name not far away on Broadway. We were staying across the road in the Beaux Arts style Hotel Belleclaire (much revamped in the last few years) and since they did not have a restaurant, we were advised to come here for breakfast along with their other guests. The place had a pleasing ease-yourself-into-the-day atmosphere, but what I liked most was that Upper West Side residents also came here every day for breakfast. I rather felt that this easy cross-the-aisle conversation had been continuing for years, morning after morning, familiar, but not too familiar.

Cee’s Catching People Unaware Challenge

Flamingos At Dawn On Lake Elmenteita And Remembering Paul Kabochi

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It looks like a mirage, I know – not helped by aging photo/collapsing scanner syndrome. But even when I was taking it, it was hard to believe I was there. This despite some very particular sensations that still lurk in my memory – the sting of soda in nose and eyes (Elmenteita is one of the Great Rift’s soda lakes)  plus the pungent whiff of flamingo guano, and under foot, the slimy droppings-rich mud along the shore. There was also the noise – the continuous honking of the birds as they jostled among  rich algal pickings.

On one of my dawn visits to the lake shore, I bumped into Paul Kabochi. Or rather he bumped into me. He had driven a Japanese bird enthusiast down to the lake to take photos.

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Paul Kabochi wildlife expert and ethnobotanist 1942-2003

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As I said in an earlier post:  “Paul Githinji Kabochi was a man I am lucky to have met, and I mourn his tragic loss in what was, for him, the strangest of accidents. He was a true path-finder, and not only for the likes of me, a traveller, wanting to experience the African bush with someone who knew it intimately, but also for august naturalists such as David Attenborough.  Paul had been one of the expert guides during the making of The Life of Mammals, and his special knowledge was often called upon by the BBC’s outpost in Nairobi.”

For more of his story…

 

In the Pink #27

Persian Gulf Sunset And Wondering: Isn’t Travel Always A Moral Issue?

It was still winter in Dubai, the hotel palm trees along the beach well wrapped up against the wind. We were on a two-centre trip – a week in the Maldives with stopovers in Dubai either side. It was 1998.  We needed a break from Kenya. There were times when crime-and-politics wore us down. The long-term one-party presidential incumbent and his backers were more than a little reluctant to admit the construct of multi-party politics into the regime. And it seemed to me that whenever the power-brokers felt nervous, the crime rate soared. Just to make us all feel uneasy.

It  began at the top of course – the crime. And doubtless still does. It is the same here in the UK, I lately discover, and is also officially-unofficially sanctioned. It is just not visible to most of us, and is massively more clever, being wrapped up in trusts and shell companies parked in the ‘hot-money archipelago’ of the Cayman Islands et al. I am indebted to British economics professor Baron Nicholas Stern for this phrase. (He’s also written a good deal about climate change). Such offshore financial services (so anodyne in their terminology) apparently provide safe places for the world’s robber elite to hide their loot, so maintaining the status quo of tyranny and poverty meted out to ordinary hard-pressed folk in the places whence the loot was stolen.

And so we were in Dubai and Maldives for some light relief, destinations where in 1998 crime was not permitted to exist. The only problem was, even then, both locations seemed more than slightly bonkers (and probably more so now in sustainability terms). On the one had – a complex of luxury island paradises, where both the tourists and every consumer item they might want was flown in, and the resultant minute-by-minute packaging residue disposed of in a massive concrete silo embedded in the sea off the capital Male. Not only that, but contact with the locals was very tightly managed (not that I blame Maldivians for that. Someone has to make a stand against nasty European sex predators – women as well as men). But it also meant that you felt as if you’d just holidayed in a stage set. Very lovely, certainly – but synthetic.

And as for Dubai (and it’s probably ten times wider and taller now) it was wall-to-wall shopping malls, eight-lane highways, building sites, apartment blocks and hotels of the top-end plush variety. Since our visit this last notion has gone stratospheric. I mean, what does it say about us humans? How much consuming do we need to do and in how many weirdly fabricated environs?

Actually in ‘98 there was not much shopping going on. The malls were magnificent but eerie – scarcely a soul in the marbled halls of designer boutiques. Though we did see mature dishdasha-ed gents in the cosmetics stores treating their black-gowned wives to Chanel perfume and Estee Lauder lipstick. It appeared to be a popular family pastime. We also saw similarly garbed gents in the bar of the Radisson, drinking lager. Interesting, I thought. It was the  particular brand that was said to reach parts that others didn’t. I wondered if it also granted dispensation to Muslim transgressors. Or if perhaps the territory of a European owned hotel provided the equivalent of diplomatic immunity for the drinking of alcohol.

The best part of Dubai is the Creek. Tied up along its banks were still the great dhows of the Gulf – Indian Ocean trade routes – timeless somehow, despite being loaded up with refrigerators, expensive motor cars, crates of coca cola. Once such dhows plied the coast of East Africa as far south as Mozambique and the Comoros, borne on the outward voyage by the monsoon north-easterlies, returned six months later on the south-westerlies – this before the advent of petrol engines of course.

Over two thousand years, the dhow merchants of Persia and Arabia traded with the coastal Bantu peoples of Africa. In return for consignments of dates, rugs, silks, jewels, treasure chests, they bought, gold, mangrove timber, animal skins, ivory and slaves. And their centuries’ long congress with Africans gave rise to a string of coastal city states of mixed race Arab-Persian-African people, the Swahili, who both owned and traded in humans, and did so until at least the 1920s when the British occupiers of British East Africa (now Kenya) finally outlawed the practice – the unintended consequence of which was hundreds of homeless and unemployed ex-clove plantation workers whose former owners could no longer afford to employ them as  plantations ran to bush and their fortunes rapidly dwindled.

Ah, the tangled webs we humans weave. (And this is not an apology for slave owning. Only an example of what happens when you unpick/ban other people’s economic practices, customs and beliefs in a piecemeal fashion.)

Which brings me full circle really. Kenya. After two weeks away in odd places, we were fairly glad to go back there, never mind the moral dilemmas. And that I suppose is the point of this little travel ramble. Moral dilemmas. The more we ignore them, the more things stay the same.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

 

P.S. There are things we can do about the present state of global inequality. The Tax Justice Network outlines some of them.

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In the Pink #20

Remembrance Of Things Pink In Koroni

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I have no idea why other people’s washing is so fascinating to humankind; nor perhaps should one enquire too deeply into the rhyme and reason of it. In scenic foreign places (i.e. not at home) it does have a certain art-installation allure. So here’s some Greek washing you haven’t seen, and coming up is more Greek washing that was hung out to dry in an earlier post. I thought is was worth a second airing. A washing line with a view of the Taygetos and the Gulf of Messenia. How uplifting must be the daily act of pegging out. (Not metaphorically of course).

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

 

Six Word Saturday

In the Pink #15

Seeing Pink In The Peloponnese

The first morning in Greece the sun was so astoundingly bright I panicked. Why had I not brought better sunglasses? How would I get around if I couldn’t see for the dazzle? It took me a while to realize that the effect was caused by the glassy stillness of the Messenian Gulf. It did not last. Nor did that morning’s terrific heat.

We Farrells have a habit of taking our holidays just as summer is ending, and our trip to the southern Peloponnese was no exception. On that morning, the last of high summer departed. By noon a storm had rolled in, cascades of rain pouring down our cottage pantiles. When the rain cleared three hours later, it was a different climate. The sky was grey. I could see where I was going, and I was no longer melting.

Of course we had some sunshine in that last week of September, and the temperature was perfect for exploring Koroni and Pylos. But the season was pretty much over; the beach empty of locals who thought it too cold to be there; fish soup off the menu at the taverna due to lack of mass demand. But if the season was done, there was still much magic – the softer shades of Taygetos Mountain pink at sunrise and sunset. And each day, looking over the Gulf at the wild fortress lands of the Mani, I thought I probably was in heaven.

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copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

In the Pink #12