A Night at the Muscat Festival 2014, Oman

Discover the beauty of Muscat, meet the friendly Omani people and join in the celebrations at the 2014 Muscat Festival.  Dancers from India, Singapore, Mexico, Palestine and more.  See the colors, sounds and tastes of this marvelous event.

“Dubbed Oman’s biggest cultural and historical event, the Muscat Festival is the sultanate’s exhibition of local culture, art, consumer goods and services. The festival has a special flavour – a mixture of old and new, history and progression – from folk poetry and dance evenings, to lectures on solar energy, a chocolate festival and fashion shows. Some 1.5 million people from the region visit the month-long event, which can be seen at various venues around the city including the Omani Heritage Village, Seeb Beach and Al Qurum National Park where the most popular happenings take place.” WorldGuide.eu

Mark Abouzeid spent a week with performers and artisans participating in the 2014 Muscat International Folklore festival. Countries from around the globe and Omani tribesman from around the country mix at this important month long event exchanging aspects and knowledge of the unique cultural traditions and heritage. Join him in this ongoing series highlighting some of the key activities and personalities.

Boredom as opportunity or surrealist postcards

How a moment of boredom during work became a new direction for my artistic work.

 

Surrealistic realism

Surrealistic realism

I am a photo realist and am known for it.  I do not use photoshop, no matter how complex the result I am looking for, and only adjust my images as much as was possible in the darkroom.  It has been the basis for my work on oral heritage and sustainability projects.

Even in my fine art work, including the renaissance portraits, expert costuming, skilled makeup and handmade props complete the scenes not digital mastery.  So, possibly for this reason, I have never truly experimented with surrealism in photography.

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Taste temptations in Sicily

Down a small alley off the main pedestrian drag, lies an orgasm of fish waiting for the next reveler.

 

Bouquet of fishI will admit that I do like to eat fish! This may not seem like much of a declaration to most but let me add that few of my friends have ever seen me order seafood in a restaurant. The reason is simple…I like fish so much that unless it is fresh caught and expertly cooked…I would rather avoid it.

The sad truth is that even by the sea, you often cannot find a truly fresh and delicious fish meal. Experiments in nouvelle fish cuisine leave me flat while basic fish fair can be quite bland. Only a truly expert chef can balance the tightrope between imagination and simplicity when it comes to fish.

This is all true unless you happen to be next to me as I write this sitting under refined umbrellas watching the passing fashion parade of the local teenagers as your fixation with your neighbors appetizer selection becomes embarrassing. Continue reading

The Crossing, a slow ferry to Tunis

A solitary Sufi, an Alaskan elder and a Buddhist nomad board a Ferry from Genova to Tunis. This is not a joke!

 

A slow ferry to Tunis.

The three of us are traveling to Tunisia in the hopes of finding something significant, something unexpected and, most of all, something memorable.

Our project goal is to capture the oral histories of maritime cultures around the Mediterranean, a task which has taken us to numerous countries over the past two years. We have flown, sailed, trained and driven from discovery to discovery…until now.

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Oman, the Grand Mosque

In 1992 Sultan Qaboos directed that his country of Oman should have a Grand Mosque.

 

The entrance to the Great Mosque in Oman.

The Mosque is built from 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone. The main musalla (prayer hall) is square (external dimensions 74.4 x 74.4 metres) with a central dome rising to a height of fifty metres above the floor. The dome and the main minaret (90 metres) and four flanking minarets (45.5 metres) are the mosque’s chief visual features.

The main musalla can hold over 6,500 worshippers, while the women’s musalla can accommodate 750 worshipers. The outer paved ground can hold 8,000 worshipers and there is additional space available in the interior courtyard and the passageways, making a total capacity of up to 20,000 worshipers. (Wikipedia)

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Cultural Diversity and Global Sustainability

“Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day;  Teach a man to fish and he will feed his whole village!”

 

UNESCO and the world’s foundations have come to understand that current measures provide short term fixes, generally, and a more long term approach to solving the world’s various problems is required. UNESCO in their latest annual report dedicated all 454 pages to the importance of Cultural Diversity and Safeguarding Intangible World Heritages.  Why is UNESCO seeing these initiatives as the only viable strategies for protecting our communal, global future?

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Is there a choice for Wadi Rum’s Unesco bid?

Over the past few weeks, much has been said about the latest bid by archaeologists, government officials and tourism experts to have Wadi Rum  admitted to a prestigious group of natural heritage sites named UNESCO.

 

There can be little question that the protected zone’s unique landscapes, natural rock formations, flora and fauna justify warrant inclusion on the list.

That it remains in question whether the bid should be a single site application or mixed site, including cultural and environmental importance, is surprising.

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The smell of home.

Experienced real estate agents know that every culture has its own odor that reminds us of home.

 

In America, home sellers are told to stew apples before potential buyers arrive; in Italy, braising onions has the same effect. These are the scents that take us back to our childhood and help create our sense of comfort, safety and belonging. They are some of the most basic aspects of cultural identity.

In trying to understand any ethnicity, our olfactory senses have great importance…and yet they are invariably ignored by the tools used to represent culture: photos, video, recording, text and art.  As foreign entrants, how can we identify and capture this most essential genome in the cultural DNA?

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