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  • كتاب ألف ليلة وليلة . In search of a dream land and of Roland and Sabrina Michaud

    alflailahOrient opened its doors for me in my grandmother bookshelf, with the “Alf-Laila Wa-Laila” the Book of One Night and One Thousand Nights, complete and uncensored (it was edited before the Spanish Civil War). It was a popular edition, translated by Vicente Blasco Ibañez, a well known Spanish writer. As he did not know the arabic, he translated it from French. Note on translation was misleading: “Translated direct and literally from the Arabic by J.C. Mardrus. Spanish version from V. Blasco Ibanez.” but of course, Blasco Ibañez was a best seller writer, and he did not knew arabic.

    It was printed like pulp literature, small (100-120 page) volume, sold weekly. But before being able to read them, I still hear my grandma telling the Fisherman and the Efrit (Ginni, in the English translation) matrioshka of tales, and one of the embedded histories, the four fishes presented to the Sultan, and the incantatory phrase, repeated three times: “Pececitos, pececitos, cumplireis con vuestra obligación?”

    Her dress was a silken head-kerchief fringed and tasseled with blue: a large ring hung from either ear; a pair of bracelets adorned her wrists; rings with bezels of priceless gems were on her fingers; and she hent in hand a long rod of rattan-cane which she thrust into the frying-pan, saying, “O fish! O fish! be ye constant to your covenant?” When the cookmaiden saw this apparition she swooned away. The young lady repeated her words a second time and a third time, and at last the fishes raised their heads from the pan, and saying in articulate speech “Yes! Yes!” began with one voice to recite:—

    Come back and so will I! Keep faith and so will I! ❋
    And if ye fain forsake, I’ll requite till quits we cry!<

    And this was my first introduction to Orient.

    Several years have passed and once, in a book shop I found this photo book, written by a French couple, Roland and Sabrina Michaud, who lived there for a while:

    memoirs de lafganistan

    I bought it. And I decided that I wanted to travel, to go there with a big telephoto lens, and just stay there, taking photos.

    And then I got married.

    For the people interested, here is a short bio of Romain and Sabrina Michaud, as well as a collection of their photos

    There once was a man who loved a woman so much he could not be without her. The man, a French photographer named Roland Michaud met a Moroccan born girl called Sabrina in the late 1950’s. They began their life together traveling through the mystic lands of the Orient discovering and documenting its wonders. They made their way by car and by horseback, by boat and on foot; crossing the dramatic landscape of the Orient and documenting its rugged charms. From ruined cities covered with desert sands to the Pamir Mountains, where caravans of camels walk across frozen rivers in winter, to the Turkestan bazaars along the old Silk Road, Roland and Sabrina travelled and came to love this exotic paradise and its proud peoples.

    Ethnologie / Asie / Afghanistan. TurkmËnes avec leurs enfants prenant le thÈ dans leur yourte.
    Ethnologie / Asie / Afghanistan.
    TurkmËnes avec leurs enfants prenant le thÈ dans leur yourte.
    Ethnologie / Kirghizes (peuplade turcophone díAsie centrale). Dans le corridor de Wakhan du massif du Pamir au nord-est de líAfghanistan, province de Badakhchan : portrait díun Kirghize dans sa yourte. Photo, hiver 1970/71.
    Ethnologie / Kirghizes (peuplade turcophone díAsie centrale).
    Dans le corridor de Wakhan du massif du Pamir au nord-est de líAfghanistan, province de Badakhchan : portrait díun Kirghize dans sa yourte.
    Photo, hiver 1970/71.

    RS_Caravan

    Prière du couchant.

    mountains

    caravanes de Tartarie

    Iran_max1024x768

    Iran

    Kirgiz Caravan

    Religionen / Hinduismus / Sadhu (Sanskrit ìder Guteî, Heiliger, Ehrenname f¸r einen Hindu, der als Eremit oder bettelnder Wanderasket lebt). In Talati am Fufl des Mount Girnar (Gujarat, Indien): Sadhu mit Haarknoten. Foto, Februar 1988.
    Religionen / Hinduismus /
    Sadhu (Sanskrit ìder Guteî, Heiliger, Ehrenname f¸r einen Hindu, der als Eremit oder bettelnder Wanderasket lebt).
    In Talati am Fufl des Mount Girnar (Gujarat, Indien): Sadhu mit Haarknoten.
    Foto, Februar 1988.
    Sravana Belgola / Shravanabelagola (Karnataka, India), (most important pilgrimage destination in Jainism), Indragiri Hill, cult image of Bahubali (also Gommateshvara, son of Rishabha (Adinatha), the founder of Jainism; monolithic colossal statue, donated 981 by Chamundaraya, height 17.5m). During the Mahamastakabhisheka festival (Jain festival held every 12 years. The statue is anointed with libations and offerings, poured from a scaffolding specially built for the event): Digambara monk at the feet of the statue. Photo, December 1993.
    Sravana Belgola / Shravanabelagola (Karnataka, India),
    (most important pilgrimage destination in Jainism),
    Indragiri Hill,
    cult image of Bahubali (also Gommateshvara, son of Rishabha (Adinatha), the founder of Jainism; monolithic colossal statue, donated 981 by Chamundaraya,
    height 17.5m).
    During the Mahamastakabhisheka festival (Jain festival held every 12 years. The statue is anointed with libations and offerings, poured from a scaffolding specially built for the event): Digambara monk at the feet of the statue.
    Photo, December 1993.
    Agra (Uttar Pradesh, Inde), Taj Mahal (mausolÈe ÈdifiÈ entre 1632 et 1653 par líempereur Chah Jahan ‡ la mÈmoire de son Èpouse favorite Mumtaz Mahal). Vue sur la Yamuna avec une caravane de chameaux et le Taj-Mahal ‡ líarriËre plan. Photographie, dÈcembre 1981.
    Agra (Uttar Pradesh, Inde), Taj Mahal (mausolÈe ÈdifiÈ entre 1632 et 1653 par líempereur Chah Jahan ‡ la mÈmoire de son Èpouse favorite Mumtaz Mahal).
    Vue sur la Yamuna avec une caravane de chameaux et le Taj-Mahal ‡ líarriËre plan.
    Photographie, dÈcembre 1981.

    This gallery contains 16 photographs in all as   photograph etc.

  • Traveling abroad is always complicated. And specially, in China.

    jellyfishPeter and Ella had just left Gorumu (Golmud) with Li. “We always called him Brother Li which is the custom of the country. He was not really our servant; we ate together and shared whatever work there was to do, though Li did most of it.” Li was with them from Tangar, short after Xining, he went with them and Prince’s Dzoun Caravan through the Dulan Desert; they departed Tangar in March, 28 ““Then, with joy and incredulity, we remounted, turned our horse’s heads in the general direction of India, and cantered after the camels” (Peter Fleming). Now some time has gone by, one month exactly, this is April, 28, and they leave Gorumu for the unfathomable Teijinar, six camel stages away, were they should meet Borodishin.

    They spent three days in Gorumu, and “Kini even bathed” (it seems that Peter does not feel the same urge), and, on May 1st, they departed. “This time we did feel elated at departure. We had got away quicker than we expected; we were on our own at last; and Teijinar was only five or six stages farther on. The sunlit world seemed a very satisfactory place.

    But after two hours we stopped at a yurt belonging to a Chinese with a Mongol wife, and Li said that we must stay the night there because our Mongol, who lived close by, had yet to grind its samba and make his preparations for the journey. Li had told me this the night before, but I had not understood him. I was angry with myself. The incident reminded me what innocents we were, how effectually the language difficulty prevented us, not only from learning anything worth learning about the people and the country, but from ever really knowing for certain what was happening to us.”

    seacucumberIn my opinion, Peter is wrong this time. Even if he had understood perfectly the words of Li, the fact that departing for a long trip and stopping for the night two hour later was outside his comprehension envelope. We all live in our cultural bubble, and when something is outside it, although we may understand the words, their sense is lost in translation. If Peter had understood the day before what Li said, about making a two hour first stage, and stopping for the night, he had become mad at Li. They probably had had a discussion, to finally leave as Peter wanted, only to find, two hour later, than a camel was limping, or a girth must be mended and they needed to stop. And the Mongol must grind its tsamba, collect his camels, whatever, before they would be able to depart definitively.

    To understand the words is not enough. It may be useful to find the restrooms (男, male, nan, 女, female, nu), and know the differences in a menu between the Jellyfish salad (Liang Ban Hai Zhe 涼拌海蜇), the sea cucumber (Haishen, 海参), and the almost divine Phoenix Claws, aka. chicken feet (Fèng zhuǎ 鳯爪). But, who may know the taste of the Phoenix Claws before eating them? Even understanding the words, we may be as lost as Peter was. Moreover, a culture which calls a dish “Phoenix Claws” would not be easy to understand.

    How to prepare the Phoenix Claws… starting by a manicure.

    20140828-braised-chicken-feet-shao-zhong-3
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    and this is the finished dish…

    20140828-braised-chicken-feet-shao-zhong-15

    Photos: Featured Image: Dunes in the Namib : Carlos Griell
    other photos from recipes in the Internet