© Stephen Eastaugh, 2019. All Rights Reserved.
I left the kingdom of Cambodia as the dragon boat festival was about to begin and a new king was being installed on the throne. The country paddles its way into the future slowly but surely. The coronation involved a lot of bowing and chanting during various Buddhist ceremonies, speeches, formal processions, the display of shiny golden objects and fireworks. Thousands of rural Khmer came to the city to get a glimpse of their new king and to liven up the celebrations.
When I first arrived in Phnom Penh electrical storms adorned the night skies and as I packed my bags to leave man-made lightening flooded the sky. Fireworks remind me of war, which is not surprising. Smoke, bangs, rockets; bright lights and explosions often mean violence. This is indeed the history of fireworks but what I watched over Phnom Penh was the beauty of celebration. I have been in many places where pyrotechnical skills have been displayed often at enormous costs. In the west people love the spectacle, the big loud and bright night- time event in the sky as a backdrop to a party. This is true in the east but in addition people require the smoke, noise and flashes for the continuation of a tradition. The excellent tradition of frightening evil ghosts and spirits away.
Before I flew out of Cambodia I hung up my sixth TRAVAILOGUE exhibition at the F.C.C. Angkor in Siem Reap. This new Bar/restaurant/hotel is located a few kilometres from the magnificent ancient city of Angkor. This immense Khmer capital city existed between the 9th and 12th centuries with over a million people living and working around this stone city. Now millions of tourists visit each year to take millions of photographs.
I now find myself in another ancient stone city this one in southern Jordan. The Nabataeans built Petra over two thousand years ago. It truly is a spectacular complex carved out of red rock. Two days wandering around the ruins is not enough to see it all but this is all I can manage. This visit to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is really only a week long stopover on my way to Europe. Jordan is constructed from layer upon layer of religion, trade and warfare. A great deal has happened here over the centuries all helping to construct the present culture and landscape. It's a fascinating place with the usual Middle East flavours and problems all swirling about. Sandstone buildings seem to climb out of sandy desert soil and urban dust looking more like bunkers or domestic castles certainly at war against the hot, dry climate.
It is Ramadan so things slow down a little, so slow that I floated in the Dead Sea for hours and hours waiting sundown when the consumption of food and drink is permitted within Islamic tradition. Beautiful mosques some modernized by megaphones praise Allah all over the land. Everyone is tired and hungry this month but it is still very easy to find polite, hospitable and generous people ready to help the lost, thirsty traveller. Amman the capital city rather modern with the usual clogged roads, smog and a lack of water but life goes on with either sweet tea or thick cardamon flavoured coffee.