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Discovering Cyprus

Last time Cyprus was featured it was all about a divided island. Though the political situation is complicated for sure, I recommend to visit both parts of the island. So I won’t differentiate between the Turkish and the Greek parts in the following gallery. The pictures 5, 6 and 7 need some background: After the Ottoman conquest of Cyprus former Gothic Cathedrals were converted into Mosques. Interestingly some where not destroyed and just minor changes were made (like the destruction of angel figures due to the ban of images in Islam) and the altar was displaced within the church, so the believers would be able to pray in the direction of Mekka. According to Ottoman traditions the former Cathedrals were equipped with carpets and the inner church was painted white. Though inside as well as outside you still see the Christian heritage. The clean and bright style of Islamic religious decoration combined with the dark and serious Gothic style makes for a thouroghly fascinating combination.

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A Sea of Minarets – Istanbul in 2015 Pt I.

From historical to contemporary times the city of Istanbul has always been a meeting point of cultures, marking the border between Europe and the Islamic world. In geographical terms the border is clearly defined, it is the Bosporus strait. But not just since the opening of the first Metro line beneath the Bosporus – the Marmaray in 2013 – the cultural borders are not so clear anymore. While some districts like Galata are defined by modern shops, night clubs and skating kids with headphones, other are way more traditional and religious. Despite the stark contrasts, there are no obvious tensions. Also Istanbul is a very welcoming place for travelers, receiving guests with open arms. Just beware of the merchants in the Grand Basar and do not believe every fairy story they tell, regardless of the oriental charm of the bargainer.

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The Silk Road: At the Crossroads of Cultures

Samarkand is one of the oldest settlements of mankind. Situated at a central position on the trading route between Asia and Europe as well as in between the Orient civilization of the south and the Nomad tribes of the far north it developed into a place of prosperity and into a melting point of different cultures. They came as tradesman and conquerors, as refugees and preachers. Their traces can still be seen in the vivid faces of the inhabitants of this marvelous city. Also Samarkand is a deeply religious place with Islamic architecture dominating the central part of the town, mostly being impressive madrases (religious schools) and mosques with gorgeous blue cupolas. It is the mixture of people and graceful architecture, so different from Western Europe, that makes the city fascinating and alluring to the traveller. Truly another world worth visiting.

Previous entries in the series: Buxoro, The Enchanted City, The Desert City of Xiva

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The Silk Road: Buxoro, The Enchanted City

Further in the west there lies the other majestic city along the Silk Road: Buxoro or Bukhara. While Xiva is a beautiful but somewhat enclosed desert city, in Buxoro the connection to the world outside of Central Asia can be felt. In particular influences from Persia and India can be seen here (just look at the first picture).  The connecting element to other cities along the Silk Road are the blue cupolas, being the symbols or landmarks of Usbekistan. Oh, and of course the Soviet cars (picture three). I like how the color of many of them still resemble an older kind of (groaning) vehicles 😉 And in case you wonder, the title of an “Enchanted City” was given to Buxoro by the diplomat Fitzroy Maclean, who worked as a diplomat in the British Embassy in Moscow and visited Central Asia in 1938. Later he called the city “enchanted” and compared the architecture to the beauty of the Italian Renaissance. Indeed the mosaics and structures (mostly religious buildings) are a stunning sight. 

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The Silk Road: The Desert City of Xiva

Unlike the last photography series, which I displayed here a couple months after the initial trip, this time I’d like to have it more immediate. So I just came back from an amazing trip to the country of Usbekistan in Central Asia. It is the modern state where many sights of the ancient Silk Road, being the major trading route between China and Europe for more than a century, happen to be. As I was there for work purposes my time for photography was very limited to a couple of hours a day, so I didn’t have the time to wait for the perfect setup very often, but rather tried to capture the beauty and immediacy of the reality in front of me as I saw it in the moment. Our first destination was the city of Xiva (or Chiwa or Khiva) in the Western part of Usbekistan. It is situated close to the Amujaria river within the fertile oasis of Chorasm, itself laying inbetween the deserts of Kysylkum (Red Sand) and Karakum (Black Sand). As the photography displayed here show I think, walking through the city felt like being transported not only within space but also within time to a mysterious, oriental place of merchants, beggars and camels (or Soviet cars) like it already used to be for centuries. In case you wonder, the huge turquoise tower is the landmark of Xiva. It was supposed to be the largest minaret in the islamic world, but the construction was abandoned midway trough. So it was decided to garnish the unfinished structure with beautiful ornaments, hereby showing of the wealth of the oasis city.

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