Where Trees Grow On water

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In my last post I mentioned the exposed Silurian seabed in our local quarry was once located somewhere off East Africa. And Jude at Travel Words said she wished she was somewhere off East Africa – to escape our recent rain-pouring summerless weather. Which then had my mind whizzing back to our years in Kenya, and in particular to a trip to Lamu Island, and a December day spent sailing by the mangrove forest of Manda Strait, drifting and dreaming aboard a traditional dhow.

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The timber from these curious trees has long been an absolute necessity for the Swahili seafaring people of the East African coast. They built their dhows from mangrove planks and harvested the pole wood (boriti) for house construction, both at home and for export to places as far away as Yemen and Iran. The traditional Swahili merchant’s house was build of coral rag, excavated from old reefs, with the roof raised on boriti poles. The oldest surviving houses in Lamu Town date from the 18th century, but the Swahili City states of the East African seaboard – from  Somalia to Mozambique – date back to the 8-9th centuries – a fusion of Arab and African cultures.

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Christmas Day on Shela Beach. Distant baobabs across the strait.

Lens-Artists: on the water This week the challenge is hosted by John at photobyjohnbo.

Tree Square #8 Becky wants to see trees in square format.

Life in Colour: blue is Jude’s colour of choice at Travel Words.

Old And New In Dubai

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Here is the dhow harbour on Dubai Creek as seen from a water taxi. The photo itself is old, so I expect this vista may well have even higher high rises these days. The whole place was a building-site in the late ‘90s.

Dubai is of course the trading-tourist-business hub of the Middle East, if not the planet.  Given its position on the Persian Gulf, it is likely that its  trading past goes way back to prehistoric times. (Much still remains to be discovered beneath the desert sands that invaded the peninsula from the second millennium BCE).

There is little of great antiquity in the city now, although the dhows are of course successors of the fleets that traded down the African coast and across the Indian Ocean for the last two thousand years. The oldest surviving building is the Al Fahidi Fort  built in 1787. It now houses a fabulous small museum; or rather, the museum was created by excavating underneath the fort courtyard and was easy to miss when we were there. And if ever you are in Dubai – it should not be missed.

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Throughout the 19th century it seems the Creek-side settlement was little more than a village with fishermen, pearl divers, passing Bedouin and Indian and Persian traders. But by the end of the century the ruler of Dubai, was having a grand house built for him: the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House is also a museum, its fabric, including the fine (air conditioning) wind towers immaculately restored.

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And then of course there are the covered souks (gold, spices, perfume), although these are now probably quite out-done by the plethora of shop-till-you-drop designer shopping malls.

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And then there is the Jumeirah Beach hotel (modest version) and the arish , a traditional summer house, complete with hessian wind tower as seen inside the Al Fahidi Fort:

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And now an old-new, yet almost timeless scene:

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Lens-Artists: Old & New Please visit Amy who set us this week’s challenge. As always she has some striking photographs to show us.

Three dhows at sundown on Lamu

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You, the very lovely people who have been following my blog for a while, will have seen this image before – possibly more than once. But I’m sure you won’t mind seeing it again. Even if I say so myself, it is a blissful scene,  and a chance capture in the Manda Strait on Boxing Day too long ago.
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Black & White Sunday

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Today Paula’s guest blogger over at Lost in Translation is Debbie Smyth who many will know from her own blog Travel with Intent. Today she is setting us the challenge to ‘let the shapes shine through’. This is what she says:

 

For me the most important point about monochrome is that by removing the distraction of colour, the photographer is able to direct the viewer to the key elements of the image.  Going monochrome is one of several tools we have as a photographer that allows us to provide focus.

The composition of my own photo is perhaps a little ‘busy’ in this B & W version (it could have done without the pole), but I like the play of light on the dhow sails, the clouds, and Lali’s straw hat. It was taken in Manda Strait, in Kenya’s Lamu archipelago.

For the story behind the photo, please go HERE. But now here are more versions. The second one down is a ‘red filter’ edit, followed by sepia. Let me know what you think.

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Dhow Dreaming ~ Lamu Angles

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One Christmas, long ago, we went to Lamu, one of Kenya’s Indian Ocean islands. Our trip there was as peaceful as this image suggests, although the nearby mainland has long been preyed on by gangs of Somali Shifta. This then is an idyll with hidden angles, some of them tragic. But for now, please enjoy these Lamu dhows with their triangular lateen sails in this gentle display of synchronised sailing along the Manda Strait.

You could say that Swahili culture was born of the monsoon winds, from the human drive to trade and of prevailing weather. For two thousand years Arab merchants plied East Africa’s Indian Ocean shores, from Mogadishu (Somalia) to the mouth of the Limpopo River (Mozambique), arriving with the north easterly Kaskazi, departing on the south easterly Kusi. They came in great wooden cargo dhows, bringing dates, frankincense, wheat, dried fish, Persian chests, rugs, silks and jewels which they traded with Bantu farmers in exchange for the treasures of Africa: ivory, leopard skins, rhinoceros horn, ambergris, tortoise shell, mangrove poles and gold.

 copyright 2014 Tish Farrell Culture: The Swahili

See also: Christmas on Lamu: Views of a Swahili Community

Daily Post Photo Challenge: Angular

Dhows in Dubai ~ Living Relics

 

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There have been dhows sailing out of the Persian Gulf for India and East Africa for a thousand years and more, following the gyre of monsoon winds. Dates, jewels, fine carpets and chests went one way; ivory, gold, leopard skins and slaves came the other.

These days in Dubai Creek you are more likely to see cargos of Coca Cola, white goods and Japanese cars being loaded on deck. But for all that, and yet among the ever sprouting  high rises, there is still a drift of Arabian Nights’ romance, and more than a hint of Sinbad’s voyaging.

Related posts:

Zanzibar: time’s twists and turns

Weekly Photo Challenge: Culture (The Swahili)

Inside looking out on Lamu Island

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WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Relic Go here for more bloggers’ relics