“We watched the procession snake past the Dekeling for about half an hour. No sooner had one group of musicians receded with its attendant crowd of worshippers, than the next little band would arrive.” The next in our Himalaya trip where Liz gets all spiritual…
Firstly our apologies for some unscheduled email updates regarding Somalia and piracy. We’re experimenting with a new service but the emails today were only supposed to be test alerts and you weren’t supposed to receive them. Ooops. Please delete these messages. So…before we leave Madurai we wanted to show you our photographs of the people and the scenes of our fave city. It is a pictorial observation of our time there, presented as two slide shows. Once you’ve clicked on the slide-show to activate it, you can select the four-arrowed button to view in full-screen mode. You’ll need a fairly decent connection as they’re high res images but it’s worth it as the portraits are very personal, whilst the street scenes will give you a good idea of the environment in which these people live.
As is probably evident from our previous posts, Madurai is a pretty crazy place. Rest, then, from the madding crowd in the calm of one of her grandest buildings, Thirumalai Nayakkar Palace. Deceptively understated from the outside, the open court-yard of the interior is imposing and beautiful. Liz: “If you are in southern India please do not miss this most beautiful palace. I fell in love with it in many ways. Its shape, colour and structure are sublime. Palest peach, vanilla, apricot, and cream combine to impart an ethereal quality”. The palace is close to becoming a UNESCO World Heritage site, which goes some way to illustrate how wonderful this simple building is. At the end of this short post we include a little slide show of a few of the buildings of Madurai.
Last time we left you we’d been wandering the back streets of Madurai and offered plenty of photographic evidence of its energy. In this post Liz gives a more cerebral account of our experience in this fabulous city, taking in the huge Meenakshi temple, which wouldn’t look out of place in Disney World. Her guide teaches Liz about the five sense, and they’re not the sense you or I learned about at school. Strangely every single photograph taken inside the temple ‘disappeared’ from Jamie’s camera, but we have plenty more images of the huge ‘gopurams’, as well as the people of Madurai. Liz’s prose is what travel writing is all about…
This short slide-show gives you a little taster of the buildings of Madurai, and has been published to coincide with our Madurai blog posts. Pictured are the Meenakshi Temple, the palace, and a strange ‘mall’ with a temple in the middle of it. Plaster of Paris gods stacked hundreds of feet high look out across the city, whilst back-streets hide away secret retreats.
The streets of Madurai is a bustling chaotic mass of energy. One doesn’t have to walk far to get a great picture of the people going about their business, weather selling, carrying, begging or playing. I tried my best to get some surreptitious, objective viewpoints but as soon as you point a camera at a Tamil, they smile and pose!
Where the women are forced to wear black and their presence is absent from the streets. Welcome to Oman, a country that lives indoors in air conditioned buildings and drives around in air conditioned cars. Welcome to Oman, an expensive country boasting the most incredible beaches yet desperately lacking in soul. Read what I really think of this strange country…
Last weekend six Copts were killed in Egypt in a drive-by shooting. This interview with a Copt was edited at the time this was happening…Despite Egypt’s current status as a Muslim country it actually hosted the oldest form of organised Christianity. They are called Coptics and make up between 10-15% of the Egyptian population. Hopefully further down the line I will get to chat more intimately with a Muslim and what their faith means to them but whilst in Egypt I was desperate to chat to a Coptic.
Eventually I pulled it off. I met a young Coptic woman in Luxor who was willing to chat and be recorded, a feat unto itself since most Egyptians are quite guarded when it comes to opinions. Despite taking a few minutes to open up and insisting that we change her name to Maria, the name of her daughter, this is a great insight. Furthermore we conducted our little chat aboard a horse and carriage, taking in the scenes of the backstreets of Luxor! This podcast is accompanied by a video clip of the carriage ride and coincidentally coincides with the recent drive-by killings of six Coptics.
After about 2 minutes he stood up and handed me a leaflet entitled “Throughout the rich history of Portugal, who is the most important discoverer?” As he resumed his crouching position to continue his rummaging I flicked through the leaflet, intrigued to find out who the most important discoverer was. Surely it was Prince Henry the Navigator? No. Was it Pedro Alvares Cabral? Nope. How about Vasco da Gama? No!
After my watch and a snooze I’m woken to the sight of our first Portuguese destination, Viana do Castelo, which looks dreary and drab. How wrong I was! This town was just completing the four day fiesta Romaria de Nossa Senhora d’Agonia, or Our Lady of Sorrows. If you didn’t know the festival was called this you could have guessed by the local folk music that was playing from every bandstand and stage. Whilst the instrumental music is great it’s unfortunately accompanied by banshee wailing. This is normal, so I’m told, but it sounds rubbish.
I was surprised that the majority of tourists in Santiago were Spanish. Santiago is one of Europe’s primary religious destinations, second only to The Vatican, yet we overheard no other language other than Spanish, save for an American couple arguing over whether they should go shopping or have a cup of coffee. That said, the streets are packed.
One thing that did occur to me was the level of involvement of the locals in these festivities. In the UK I think one would struggle to prize the youth from their car jacking and get them to dress up in frilly costumes and dance to bagpipe music, but here in the Galician area of Spain it seems the regional identity is embraced with a huge level of pride.