Jerusalem: Temple Dome (Dome of the Rock) and Dress Codess

Today, I`m going to show you the photos I took of the breathtaking, and very important, Dome of the Rock.

I don`t usually spend much time photographing things that have been snapped and seen million times before, but this monument was so amazing, I don` t think any picture will ever give it justice:

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Unfortunately, you cannot get in, but it is hard to imagine that it can be even more stunning than on the outside. The whole bottom bit seems of solid marble, an the top half has been designed from what must be millions of small mosaic plates, with some beautiful writing right under the roof.

The square around the dome is huge and inhabited by at least two cats, there is a mosque (which is in use, and which I could look into) and some nice views over the city, as it is indeed located on a rock.

One thing I found rather embarrassing was that I was asked to cover up. Of course, I checked in advance and felt that I looked quite acceptable in my long dress that also covered shoulder and upper arms, but I was taken aside as soon as I arrived and send to a “clothing station” where I was, for a small fee, appropriately kitted out with an even longer and thicker skirt and a shawl. My own skirt, I was told by the men who were very obvously there to enforce the dress codes, was not opaque enough and still revealed my legs. I never felt so naked as I did when I was walking the walk of shame to the clothing station, and that feeling stayed with me all day.

It didn` t take me long to discover that I felt safer in more fabric on me in this city. I didn` t bring anything too revealing, anyway, but on my first day, I was wearing a short skirt and felt everyone was looking at me. I once even made a u-turn, because I felt I had all eyes on me (although noone ever said anything apart from the men at the temple dome). When I was wearing more fabric, on the contrary, I felt very pleasantly invisible – I could go whereever I want, not draw any attention to myself and merrily enjoy my day without having to be mindful about who I was speaking to.

I` m very much someone who likes to feel the sun on her skin and get a tan when on holiday, but experiencing such an environment first hand made me appreciate a lot more why women may chose to dress in a way that does not draw any attention to their bodies. And, contrary to my preconceptions, I was not getting too hot either ūüôā

 

In Defence of the Selfie

(Repost from August 2015 for Youknowwhoyouare‚̧)

Although definitely a trend that`s been staying, selfies keep getting slagged mercilessly. They`re considered vain, narcissistic, attention seeking or just plain unnecessary.

I like taking selfies. There, I`ve said it. Most of them won`t ever make it online, and they usually get deleted entirely after a couple of weeks. But every so often, I feel a spontaneous need to take a selfie. I don`t keep a diary other than my blog, and I usually don`t find it important enough to blog or mention to others how I felt in a particular moment. But every so often, I want to capture it, even if just for myself.

I took a selfie while I was waiting to go into a difficult meeting. A very carefully made up woman with big fearful eyes, looking vulnerable despite evident efforts not to show it. And this was exactly how I felt, captured accurately, with no words necessary. I also took a selfie after, totally unexpectedly, bumping into someone I hadn`t seen for ages. I was beaming, wind in my hair, and the sun was shining on it. Such a happy picture!! I could almost see myself running towards her like that. Those were both for myself and not put online.

Then, there`s the selfies that want to speak to others. When I go on holiday, there`s usually pretty soon a picture of me raising a glass of something on facebook, and that`s me telling all that I`ve arrived safely, had no problems (that would have taken precedence over this glass of wine), that it`s nice here, and that I`m greeting them. I also posted a selfie from in front of the Sheriff Court where I was called for jury service, telling friends and colleagues: “Look, I`m really getting to go this time, and I`m going NOW!” The same day, I also photographed myself in a fitting room, in a nice summer dress. It was almost hilarious how many likes I got for that, but it was probably quite an innovative way to say: “Just bought my first summer dress for the season!”

Some messages don`t need words; words wouldn`t have conveyed it as well anyway. In all those three cases, they would have seemed rather dull, actually.

What annoys many is those sexy pre party selfies, usually of young and beautiful females. They are generally considered fishing for compliments pictures. I only agree in part. They are fishing no more than making yourself up in the first place. Of course, you do so in order to look presentable to the outside world, but also to feel nice within yourself. And it`s only natural that you`re more likely to want to go out and show yourself if you feel attractive, just as we all know those days where we just want to stay in our bed because we just feel… fat, usually. Selfies and social media, IMO, are merely an extension of this rather than a phenomenon itself. It`s how we behave offline, too.

It`s also natural that you`re more likely to feel sexy when you`re young, but even (or maybe especially) the young and beautiful do have their down days where they think their bum is too big, or their hair is not right, or they are simply not as hot as their ex` new flame. I`m sure it`s very comforting in such moments to look at a good picture of yourself, only taken a couple of weeks ago, which reminds you that you are indeed beautiful if only you smile. Maybe, we should all have a folder of sexy selfies just for those moments – cheaper than shopping and healthier than chocolate!

Oh – and another thing. The last two times I was on holiday I did the unthinkable: I posted a couple of bikini photos of myself (not selfies). It took me a few days and some courage, but eventually, I posted them and it has, of course, been mentioned. I don`t understand (although I half expected it). I post loads of pics that I find beautiful, especially when on holiday. But as soon as those includes oneself, and worse still, one`s own body, that`s considered rude. Why? Tell me. Please. I genuinely want to know.

Me immediately before of that meeting (which went well, by the way)

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Me en route to a rather nice meeting:

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Me retaliating to a colleague via WhatsApp:

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Me at Elafonisi Beach:

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43 Facebook likes for a 40-year old in a dressing room…

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I would have added the Court selfie, but I deleted that. Messy hair ūüôā

Jerusalem Day 3- The Markets in the Old Town

On Monday, I went to town early to explore it on my own. Most of my day was spent in the old town.

Jaffa Gate

Although there are a few gates which lead into the Old Town (which is enclosed by a wall, which you can walk on, but I was so lucky with the weather I just didn`t find the right moment to go up there into the blazing sun…), the Jaffa Gate seems to be the most important one – the tourist office is located here, most¬†tours start here, and¬†as soon as you pause and¬†look around, someone comes to offer¬†assistance – either for direct payment, or they¬†turn out to have a shop around the corner, which they invite you to have a quick look into before you move on. Eventually, someone¬†said what I had already figured out for myself by that time: if you want to have peace and quiet, don `t sit at the Jaffa Gate.

Breakfast

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A glass of freshly pressed pomegranate juice, which was on offer everywhere. They did it right in front of me, and even where they didn t, it was totally undiluted – thick, red and foamy.

Jerusalem waking up


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The man was posing for the photo, which I thought was lovely. I wish I could sent him the result.

Mother Mary Day

This man noticed me taking a photo of him, so he stopped and said I should stay around for an hour or so, if I have time – it was Mother Mary`s birthday, and there would be a big party, with crowds gathering, drumming, chanting…

wp-1473651144381.jpgI didn`t stay all that long, as it was getting really busy indeed but there were indeed entire school classes turning up, and I took a rather funny video of a young man taking selfies while having a conversation with another…


The Bazaars

Don`t they look wonderful?

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But believe me, after just one day, I was exasperated. It` s not as fun as it looks to walk around there as a sole woman who is not interested in¬†shopping. Initially, I engaged in the conversations, politely accepted invitations for coffee promising to come back for it later, and I smiled at everyone who said hello. But every smile was taken as an invitation to chat¬†and then invite me into their shop, and although I managed not to buy a thing, such a “brief look” was never less than 10 minutes. The coffee man recognised me when I came past again a few hours later and demanded that I come into his shop now, and he became¬†annoyed when I declined. One man wanted to give me something I liked as a gift, when I said I haven t got enough cash on me, but I didn`t want to raise expectations that I would come back to make a larger purchase instead. Bandora confirmed later that, while it was fine to accept coffee, this was indeed strange and unusual.

I actually understand them. They are all selling roughly the same things, prices are largely down to negotiations, so they have to use their charm and personalities if they want to make a decent living. And a sole woman, who is very obviously a touris,t seems an easy target. The men are really charming as well, and I often felt bad for letting them invest time in me and then not giving them a sale, so towards the end of the day, I no longer smiled or engaged in a conversation. I have to say though, they never come after you, and they don`t touch you (although they may shout after you).

On my second last day, I went back with the intention doing quite some shopping, and I really enjoyed myself. People spent a lot of time showing me what they had, made delicious cardamom coffee while I was browsing and were happy when I bought just one thing. A few times, I think I overpaid, but this was fine. By this time, I had realised what being a shopping in the Old Town is all about Р I wasn`t just paying for the spices but for the whole experience. Those men were really good at their job, so they deserve to be rewarded, and it wasn`t megabucks.

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I thought the spices were expensive, but I hadn` t asked in advance, and when I was handed them ready packed, I was embarrassed to complain. I was still thinking about it, though, when his colleague, who was sitting in the back, started to engage me in a chat about Scotland, and as soon as I knew it, we had said our friendly goodbyes, and I was standing outside again having paid almost £20.oo for four small pots of spice.

The next day, I briefly went again, with Bandora`s Arab husband and their mixed race child, and I was totally left alone. This was somehow expected, but I still found it funny.

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Jerusalem – Day 1-2

Apologies for the delay, but trust me, this is good for you, for I`m past wanting to blog every single detail!

The adventure started on Saturday 3 September.

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The journey from Edinburgh to Tel Aviv, via Frankfur,t was very pleasant and felt much shorter than it was. I arrived at my hosts at around 2am on the Sunday morning, and although we never ever met before, we gratefully sank into our respective beds around 20 minutes later.

At around 5am, I was, rather unexpectedly, woken up by those guys:

The Muezzin`s call for prayer, to be repeated 5 times a day. You can see the Minaret in the next picture Рit`s the small tower at 9am, if you imagine the picture as a clock. I think it sounds beautiful, and it provided the soundtrack to many daytime activities as well Рshopping, eating out, or sitting on the balcony during day or at night.

A lot of the Sunday was spent bonding. Bandora`s husband works a Sunday, and, after a first impression of the German Quarter of Jerusalem, where we went for bread and cheese, we spent most of the day on this beautiful balcony chatting and enjoying to be here.

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We instantly got on and felt comfortable in each other`s company. And this included her 5-year old who I was told could be so shy. She laughed when I said I was woken up by the Muezzin, when we were missing her baby seat in the car, I took her on my lap and that was us until the moment she looked away when I said Goodbye a week after.

When dad came, we went to Bethlehem together. I had planned a day trip to there, not knowing it was only about 15 minutes from us. I also didn`t appreciate that Bethlehem is in Palestine and that we were required to take our passports and drive through a checkpoint.

Bethlehem and the church, which is supposed to be the birth place of Jesus, are very beautiful, but unfortunately, I haven`t been able to make really nice pictures. I meant to go back, but there were so many other things to see and do that I never did.

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By the time we left, it was dinner time, which was spent here, enjoying a breathtaking sunset:

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12 von 12 in September – an ordinary day in 12 pictures

What a lovely day to be the 12th and do this monthly activity showing what I did on an ordinary day in 12 pictures. The 12th September 2016 indeed represented very well what I do on a typical day. If only..

Jerusalem

5am: As every day over the last week, I wake up to the voice of the Muezzin from the nearby Mosque. I really like his 5x daily Call to Prayer, but today was different, for it was the Muslim festival Eid Il Adha.

For close to 2 hours solid, he was chanting in the same repetetive tune. Eventually, I was adding techno music in my head, and when this didn`t help, I sighed and got up.

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Today is my last day, and after a cup of strong coffee and a chat with my lovely host and her daughter (who is off school for the festival), it is time to go and buy my foodie gifts, with fresh dates being on top of the list. I never liked dates, until I bit into a fresh one at a stall in the Old Town. They are sweet, they are nutty, they are still a tiny bit sticky, but, contrary to what we have to content with here in the UK, even on the dried and semi dried ones, the skin is not hard. Those “rods” of dates grow from palm trees, and the season just started.

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Breakfast, as always, was a rather enticing mixture of Germanic and local fare, and I tried to eat all but the nicest things just once so I could try as much as possible. There`ll be a separate blog about the food.

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All good things come to an end…

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Tel Aviv

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Turkey

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My next Open University modules are online already, so I spent the flight starting with the one I was most looking forward to – Statistics. I`m rather fascinated with it already and really excited about my choice.

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Brussels

What a genius idea to provide exercise simulators for people to spend their time on while waiting on their flights! Much cheaper than shopping, healthier than Starbucks, and from their giggling and and laughing, I gather it was quite fun as well.


Edinburgh

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Musselburgh

Unwrapping souvenirs – there were quite a few pieces of Armenian Pottery, a jug for the bathroom, spices, a head scarf, bangle and a packet of Arabic Cardamom Coffee which perfumed the whole suitcase.

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As I said, and as the mother of this project wanted it to be -my day as it really was, without inflation and without editing.

The whole 9 days were really special – I had a wonderful time with wonderful people, and I saw and experienced so much. All will be revealed and blogged about, but give me time, because I also started a new job today, which is full time again (terrific first day, btw!!), and soon, we`re off again for a couple holiday. I also apologise in advance if I overlook something important from yourselves, but I probably won`t be able to catch up properly with 56 new entries…