Monday, December 22, 2014

Leaving The Arena

A cowboy is leaving the arena after competing in bare back horse riding competition at Canadian Finals Rodeo (CFR). 

Friday, October 10, 2014

How to Cure Poverty

I sometimes ask myself what would be the one thing I would change in this world if I could. For many people including me the first answer that comes to mind would be to fix poverty. But then I think solving poverty is not possible without solving things that cause poverty. The answer to the question for me is education. 

Education can enable people to use their potential. In an utopia it can also prevent wars, corruption, diverging social levels, abuse, and ultimately poverty. We would never know if the next Einstein, Mozart, or Pasteur has the means to develop and take advantage of his/her full potential. A person who can possibly find the solution to many or some of our global problems could never find the opportunity to do so.

There are few labs around the world that do research on human extinction. Besides human suffering, that our goal is to hopefully minimize it, the accumulative delays in our social and scientific development can potentially cost us our very existence. You might think with yourself now that escalated quickly! However, our personal and group greed, as well as being unaware of the long-term consequences of our actions as a society can prove to be detrimental to us.

With a world that has 15.9% illiteracy rate for people of over 15, we need to be worried about our future. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Last Generation of Knife Makers in Iran

It is sometimes hard to imagine that there is an occupation associated with every single item you find on the vast shelves of supermarkets. Nowadays almost all of the items are mass produced. However, not long ago most of these items were made by hands of masters of different crafts.

The traditional bazaar of Hamadan in western Iran has many sections named after an occupation. These names usually reflect the majority of shops in that section of the bazaar. For example, copper workers (مسگرها) refers to a section that people were providing services related to copper pots and dishes. These services covered the range from making new pots, to coating (سفید کردن), fixing and many other ones. Some other sections include butchers (قصابها), jewellers (جواهر فروشها), clothes (پارچه فروشها), etc. Some of these names now refer to the occupations that no longer exist but the name stayed such as coal sellers (زغالی ها) while people are running entirely different businesses there.

The photo below is taken in the knife makers sections of the bazaar, which is now a small and shrinking section. The master knife maker is examining one of his latest works. There is a high probability that he belongs to the last generation of traditional knife makers. A job that his father taught him, and the father learned from his father and so on.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Deep Into the Ancient Zagros Mountains of Western Iran: Baking Gerdeh in Barfejin Village

I have this childhood memory of going with my family from Hamadan to a village deep into the Zagros mountains called Emam-Zadeh-Kooh (امام زاده کوه - it means the mountain of the buried saint). There were many farms there and we bought fresh fruits and vegetables right next the fields the farmers were working on. The most vivid part of the memory is the heavenly taste of the breakfast I had at a local tea house there. The traditional honey, almost frozen kaymak (سرشیر - قیماق), and fresh hot bread. This was more than 20 years ago and I still remember it well. 

I travelled to Emam-Zadeh-Kooh in April 2014 when I visited Iran. I wanted to see the changes, see the people, see the road, and revisit those memories. Travelling is so much fun in you have great companions and I had two amazing companions in this trip. 

The road from Hamadan to Emam-Zadeh-Kooh passes through several villages. One of these villages is called Barfin or Barfejin (برفین - برفجین - meaning Snowy). The name refers to the heavy snow falls they experience during the winter. Remember that Hamadan province in Iran gets very cold (-30 degrees of Celcius) in winter. While we were passing through this village we stopped at this traditional bakery to buy bread.

The bread they make is called Gerdeh (گرده - meaning round, or the round one). It is the traditional bread of the Hamadan province. Although a bread with the same name is also baked in Hormozgan province, I am not sure if they are the same. Most Iranian breads are flat ones and this one is not an exception. The special dough is flattened and then topped with a mixture of egg yolks, aromatic herbs, and maybe some spices. Then it is attached to the inner wall of a hot Tanoor (تنور - traditional clay oven) and baked. 

I am not sure for how long this bread is being made in this area. But, "Signs of early agriculture date back as far as 9000 BC to the foothills of the Zagros Mountains", says the Wikipedia article. So I believe we are looking through a window to the past. 

People of these villages are so warm and welcoming. It is almost hard to pay them since they insist that you are being their guest and they don't want to accept money for the bread. By the way, the bread was amazing. I hope you can all taste it someday. 

There will be more photos on this subject so stay tuned. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hanging out in Hamadan

Around Imam Square (میدان امام), Hamadan (همدان), Iran. This is a traditional part of the city near the old bazaar. Street merchants are everywhere around bazaar at the time of the new year (Norooz نوروز).

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Calgary: Stephen Avenue & Stampede

Stephen avenue is one of the popular areas of Calgary at the time of Stampede festival. One can find cowboy hats, buckles, belts, etc. being sold by street merchants as well as many bars and restaurants decorated according to western traditions.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Erhu 二胡

Chinatown in downtown San Francisco has certain characteristics that makes it unique in my opinion. It consists of two parts. The main street, which is mostly geared towards attracting tourists, and back alleys, which are very different than the main street. Although this place is known as the Chinatown, I found Sunset district (a district located in the west part of SF) to have a huge Chinese population without being geared towards tourists. As a results if you want to see people performing or things that generally attracts tourists, you should go to the downtown Chinatown. However, if you want to go to a nice Chinese bakery, you should go to the Sunset district. Once in a while, in the evenings, when shops are closing in downtown Chinatown, you hear traditional Chinese music and you see musicians either as solo artists, or as a band performing the music of the far east. And, the sound of Erhu is always mesmerizing.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Fading Iranian Street Food: Fava Beans & Golpar (Persian Hogweed)

Each country has its own signature street foods, and each street food can give us clues about that country's taste, agriculture, weather, and much more. While growing up in Iran there were always street food vendors with carts in front of our schools and school children were always loyal customers of this business. There was no hotdogs, or burgers. Most common street foods at that time (1980s and 1990s) in Iran were cooked Fava beans (or Broad beans) (باقالی), steamed beets (لبو), boiled turnips (شلغم), and fire roasted corn (بلال). As you are probably thinking, the street foods were very healthy at that time. Unfortunately in recent years you see less and less of these type of food carts. This trend of healthy street food is largely vanishing and is being replaced by more processed food. I was surprised to see a cart selling Fava beans near the old Bazaar (market place) of Hamedan.

Whether you eat Fava beans at an Iranian home or on street it usually contains cooked Fava beans, golpar (گلپر), and salt. Golpar or Persian Hogweed is a plant native to Iran which has also been sighted in Norway and Sweden. It is aromatic and it is used in ground form for Fava beans. So in the above photo the brown power on the beans is golpar. I am sure this plant grows in other middle eastern countries that have somehow similar climate to Iran.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

A Taste of Istanbul

Donair kebab & hungry cat. Istanbul, Turkey. Historically donair kebabs were used to be horizontally placed over fire. But nowadays they are vertically placed and slowly cooked.

There are so many stray cats and dogs on the streets of Istanbul. Compared to Tehran, cats are less scared of people in Istanbul.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Nagar Kirtan: Parade of the Sikh Community in Edmonton

According to the Sikh Encyclopedia "The word "Nagar" means "town or neighbourhood," and "Kirtan" is a term describing the singing of Shabads (divine hymns). The term refers to the possession of Sikh Sangat (Congregation) through the town singing holy hymns".

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

A Bazaar in an Ancient City - Kermanshah

The colorful traditional market place of Kermanshah in western Iran. This place is known to outsiders and some residents as "The Kurdish Bazaar". You can find many things including but not limited to Kurdish traditional clothing, fabrics and ornaments, handmade leather hunting equipment, carpets, spices, and even Boswellia resin that is a traditional natural chewing gum. The current building of this market place is around 200 years old but the market itself is way older. This city according to wikipedia was "one of the cradles of prehistoric cultures such as Neolithic villages" dating back to 10,000 years ago.

A bazaar is a market: and originates from the Middle Persian word Vāzār; a permanent enclosed merchandising area, marketplace, or street of shops where goods and services are exchanged or sold. Souq is another word used in the Middle East for an open-air marketplace or commercial quarter. -- Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Street Food in Istanbul: Fire Roasted Chestnut

Fire roasted chestnut is one of the few common street food you can find on the streets of Istanbul. Other street foods include Simit (a type of bagel), corn, and mussels with lime. I took this photo on Istiklal Caddesi (meaning Independence Street) near Taksim square in Istanbul, Turkey. Among these street foods, mussel sellers are almost always escaping the camera. I will post some photos of mussels later. For now, you can roast some chestnuts at home on fire. It is a tasty and healthy snack.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Visiting Buyukada Island (Princess Islands) near Istanbul in Turkey: Tips, Information, and a Short Travel Guide

Buyukada island is one of the 9 islands in Marmara sea. These islands are usually known as Princess islands to westerners and are home to filming many Turkish soap operas. The Adalar ferry ride from Kabatas station in Istanbul takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to the island and it is enjoyable. You can enjoy the beautiful scenery and drink some Turkish tea. The island itself was full of gift shops and restaurants, which categorizes this island for me as a tourist trap. The ferry schedule forces you to eat lunch there since the earliest ferry to leave the island is at 3 pm. Despite me being not picky at all about food and also using Trip Adviser and internet for finding restaurants, the food was expensive and its quality was not good (another sign of a tourist trap). Carriages with horses can take you on a tour of the island to see rich people's vacation homes and soap opera filming locations for 70 TL (about $35).

One expense that you can avoid is the cost of tours to visit the island which can vary but it was offered to us for around $65 per person. You can ask your hotel staff how to get to the tramway. You can then take the tramway towards Kabatas and get off at Kabatas station. Then take the ferry very cheap. If you buy an Istanbul Card beforehand (as soon as you get to Istanbul) then you can use the public transportation. You can charge your Istanbul Card in tramway stations, metro stations, and where ever you see the word "Akbil". This works as your bus pass. It is enough to have one bus pass for your entire group of people. The pass itself is 7 TL ($3.5) and each bus ride is about 1.95 TL ($1) per person. Remember that there are many ferries but there is one that works with your bus pass (it is part of transit system) and is very close to Kabatas station. You should look for "Adalar" ferry. The ferry usually leaves at 10:30 in the morning and comes back at various times. You can check the schedule either online or at the ferry station. The ferry stops several times at different islands. The Buyukada island is the last stop of the ferry.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Renewal of Life

During new year holidays (Nowruz meaning new day) in Iran, I was walking in bazaar of Hamedan. In front of some traditional shops I found this father and child. Nowruz is the symbol of renewal of life that happens at the spring equinox. Nowruz is always associated with the rebirth of nature for Iranians.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dignity - Portrait from Hamedan

While walking in the back alleys of the traditional bazaar (market place) of Hamedan, I saw this old man just standing near a wall. I asked him if I can take a photo of him and with a faint movement of head he responded positively. After taking the photo I asked him how old was he and he responded 90. Then he said, "Whenever you say your prayers, pray for my death". I was shocked, so I asked him why. He, with his tired and old voice, said that he cannot bear a life without dignity anymore. This conversation deeply affected me so I had to post this photo and this conversation here.

Unfortunately poverty affects many people around the world. It is really sad to see people who lived a life with dignity, never asked for money from anyone and always worked honestly, falling to poverty because of economical problems and high inflation. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

Selling citron in Iran

Iran - Selling citron in the old bazaar of Hamedan.The shop keeper was shouting "buy jam for your father" as a joke and reference to an Iranian comedy TV show. Citron is used in Hamedan and some other cities of Iran to make jam. Traditional bazaar of Hamedan is mostly closed due to Nowruz (Iranian new year) holidays. Almost only the fruit merchants were open for business.

Monday, March 3, 2014

From "The Distances Between Us"

I have been super busy in the past few months with my university work and now that a major exam is done I hopefully can go back to regular work and taking photos. This photo is part of the distances between us project that I have been working on for a while. In the past 6 months I couldn't contribute to this project much. But I will resume working on it shortly. There might be another two months of slow posting on my blog and facebook page but I will be able to post interesting images soon after that.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Post #151

Edmonton weather is making it very difficult to go outside to take photos. Most of the days the temperature is below -25 C with wind chill and we even hit -51 C this winter. Even if you have the will power to go out, other people prefer to stay at home. As a result I have to to turn to archived summer photos.