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Stills of Arabia


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Odyssey to the Middle East

This adventure, undertaken in 1978 involved driving a VW van some 30,000 kilometres overland, from London to the Middle East. This included  Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Qatar and the Arab Emirates. The journey was eventful and often with no prior knowledge of the road conditions ahead or the hazards that could await!

It’s objective was to photograph the Islamic Culture as well as places of topographical interest for a photo library in London and although financed by a Middle East bank, suffered from lack of resources with nearly disastrous consequences.

This is an account of the events that unfolded, the adventures and companionship that two photographers shared and especially the many wonderful people that were encountered on the way. The open hospitality of these people brought much needed help, comfort and friendship on the  sometimes arduous but very memorable and unique journey.



Inshallah - a philosophical perspective  


This is the first day in the start of my new life. With my university department closed, due to the funding crisis in higher education, I now have the freedom to recall and finally tell my own true adventure story which began 24 years ago.  It was to be such an important part in the forming of my future life that I hope my brief jottings and memories from  that time, which only now I am fully committing to paper, will be shared with others who either dream of, or long to savour the moment when adventure beckons…Inshallah.

To write about these adventures and re-live them, they are once again becoming fundamentally so much a part of my soul. As the journey through the lands of the Middle East unfolds, I can once again live those moments and am reminded that life can have many paths but that either by accident or design it becomes an adventure. Also one needs a life guide, a truth to believe in and I found this through the people who  helped us so much in the countries I visited throughout the Middle East.

After I returned from Nepal, a few months before, I had a clear aim to change direction  away from the  sciences in which I had trained and make my love of photography my "life" and profession. When I eventually took on the project to photograph Arabia in those early days as a photographer, nothing seemed impossible. Even to travel 30,000 km in an ageing Volkswagon combie van, to take it across unmarked desert tracks or through unimaginable chaos such as the city of Beirut, seemed possible.

The hard endurance  was to be rewarded by instances of sheer joy. Such as the time John Macmahon, my companion photographer and I, lay atop the V.W., in the enveloping dark but tranquil night of the Saudi desert, star gazing amongst the crystal clear pinpricks of light above us, from the cozy warmth of our beds on the roof rack, leaving us to drift off into a deep sleep in the balm of the cool night air.

Most memorable of all though, was the hospitality of the people of the Middle East, whatever their ethnic origin or religious beliefs. Instances such as the politically powerful Imam of Damascus, engaging us in philosophical discussion, or the Phalangelist family in Beirut, who provided a safe base from which to explore their war ravaged but once beautiful city, continue to stir emotions after all these years. We were also humbled  by the friendship of the shepherd family tending their flocks in the scrub of Yemen with whom we shared the delights of our mint infused tea; and the Saudi border guards, who provided us with free board, petrol, oil and clothes for our onward journey.

We found the curiosity of our hosts and numerous questions about our beliefs, families and above all opinions of Middle East life were sincere and always rewarded by kind hospitality, mutual trust and respect together with a genuine concern for our well being .

During the long path we took by road, across both verdant and barren areas, with a beauty all their own, we eventually discovered more about our inner selves, throwing away fears of the unknown and coping with the realities of exploration. Life, which often seemed to conspire to thwart the best of intentions, provided opportunities that  often saved the day. In this respect we developed a positive mental attitude which on many occasions throughout the venture, helped us to win against the odds.

Our dictum on the road was "always go forward, never back" but this was sorely tested at times. Life simply dictated its terms and often provided the means to overcome the daily obstacles put in our path and  this was to be rewarded by the successful completion of the eventful journey, six  months later. I am not a fatalist but from our experiences I believe even more firmly that you can take even the worst moments, turn them around and put them to the best advantage that suits at the time. As time marched on I adapted to this philosophy so that I became more accepting to the way things are, in very different lands to the one where I was brought up.

The belief that life itself will so often provide a solution to the dire problems we were presented with, was not based on any particular religious philosophy but on the way I experienced the journey in often harsh and challenging geographical and climatic areas that exist in those countries which we were fortunate enough to visit.

As  photographers we explored our own leads and planned our own routes, to document aspects of Middle East life  through the countries we visited. On our own we became more self assured and self reliant but often became tied to events that were seemingly out of our control,  requiring clear choices to be made. As a general rule we discovered that no matter what the  impenetrable difficulties were, we found solutions to these situations ourselves. Moreover, they very often found us, turning out to be right for that particular moment and we seemed to be guided, as perhaps Allah willed it, unharmed in any way, to meet the gruelling schedule that was to be our life for those six wonderful months ……..   that to me is embodied in the term  ….. "Inshallah." 

This book  ISBN 0954512804  can be purchased for £12.50 plus £2.95 p&p from 

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