Even though I spent more time in Jerusalem than anywhere else on my Middle East trip, it was there that I did the least street photography. Particularly in the old city, Jerusalem is swarming with tourists. I'd estimate that at least one in three people on the street was a tourist, and I couldn't help but feel I was just another nosy foreigner who can't keep her camera to her own private business. While I don't necessarily regret not taking more candid street shots, I would like to find a better balance between courtesy and the bold creativity candid photography demands. Any tips, photographers?
Christmas Eve in Bethlehem
The road to Jericho
A white Christmas on Mount Hermon, Israel
Crossing from Europe to Asia by boat
Dawn over the Rhine in Frankfurt, Germany
When I was about 12, I remember seeing a tourism ad for Egypt on television and wondering why anybody would go there on a holiday. All I knew about the country could be summed up in a Disney movie about Moses. But the imagery never left me; I still remember the exact scene in the commercial that made me stop and let my mind toy with the idea of visiting. The camera swept over the ironically blue waters of the Red Sea, fireworks bursting on the horizon.
I never would have dreamt that within the decade, I'd have visited Egypt in what was to be my second trip to Africa and my third to the Middle East in two years. And it is every bit as beautiful as the tourism ads would have you believe. If you can't take a breathtaking photo of rural Egypt, you might as well not own a camera.
Watching the sunrise from the peak of Mt Sinai was perhaps the most beautiful thing I will ever see with my eyes. It's a sort of beauty so captivating it feels like it's been laced with supernatural glory. In a way, climbing Mt Sinai changes you. You can't experience something so intense without it burning its chapter into your life story. My soul picked up its feet again that morning, and it hasn't stopped running since.
Perhaps you can only understand it if you go. Do it. Get in a plane, get in a car, drive hours across Egyptian wilderness, slow down to see the world's largest oasis, sleep in the monastery built in 500AD, set your alarm for 4am, climb, climb, climb, reach your physical limit, and climb some more. And when the sun's fiery fingers first grip the horizon, you'll know that wherever your road leads, whatever lies around the corner, you can conquer it. You've never been further from home, and you just made one of the most significant mountains in history your bitch.
Wafts of fresh pita bread and spice stalls swim through the market air, thick with life. Follow the scent, weaving between energetic children and bakers with trays of bread on their heads; past the sellers of spectacular fabrics; past the elderly women sitting unobtrusively. Pass the shoes of the devout outside the mosque; step carefully around the boisterous horse; watch out! that family on a sagging motorbike nearly ran you over.
In the coffeehouse to your right, three older men consider you silently as they exhale shisha smoke. Smell the strawberry taint in the tobacco as its fumes spiral toward the sky. Shake off their heavy gaze and continue along the narrow laneway, walled by 1940s British architecture on either side. Like the rest of Cairo, the buildings here hint at former days of splendour. The city wants you to know it was once glorious. Now it's coated in a slick film of desert dust, glued on with a dried soup of grease and neglect.
In many ways, that's the message of Egypt: we were once glorious. See the pyramids and remember the pharaohs. Stride through the Egyptian Museum, note that they invented the jewellery you're wearing and the paper in your hand. Scribble down a note-to-self and realise that without the Egyptians, you might not be writing in the first place.
Outside, there's a man spitting in the dust and a child preparing to run away with your wallet. He will breathlessly dash home beside a flowing brown pool of filth you know as the River Nile. It was once glorious.