When I saw the themes for this week’s photo challenges, Foreign (WordPress weekly challenge) and Spooky (Ailsa’s travel photo challenge), I knew exactly which photos I wanted to submit. They’ve given me the creeps since I was a child paging through my father’s war album from the Middle East. While I’d linger over photos of pyramids, camels and Arabs, I’d glance quickly at these two, shiver, and turn the page.
The Foreign theme: The photos are owned by me, an Australian, and it depicts a palace built in Egypt in Hindu-style architecture designed by a Frenchman for a Belgian, Baron Empain. The architect, Alexandre Marcel, was inspired by the temples of Orissa in India and Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The palace’s sculptures of Hindu divinities, mythical creatures and erotic French maidens are so out of place in this Muslim country that they attract the attention of looters and vandals. The palace is in Heliopolis, now a suburb of Cairo, but at the time of building, between 1907 and 1911, it was a town apart, designed by the Baron out of a stretch of desert he bought from the British colonial government. The Baron is buried under the Catholic basilica in Heliopolis, also commissioned by him, which you can see in a previous post.
The Spooky theme: Where do I begin? Both the interior and exterior of this reinforced concrete structure are crumbling and graffitied. Once decorated by Georges-Louis Claude in the French style, it had frescoes, parquet floors, gilded ceilings, gold-plated doorknobs, Belgian mirrors, and a spiral staircase in a tower sitting on a revolving base. It must have been beautiful. Now it’s bare, the only inhabitants bats and stray dogs. And ghosts. Not only is the palace said to be haunted, but some say Satanic rituals are practised there and that some of the mirrors are stained with blood. The Baron’s sister died when she fell from the tower and his psychologically disturbed daughter died in one of the basement chambers.
Its dark history has kept the palace closed to the public. Since 2005 it has been owned by the Egyptian government which has made a few attempts to find restorers, but plans have always come to nothing. This year, however, the government announced a definite restoration project to transform the palace into a cultural centre…
More photos of the palace exterior in its present decrepit state can be found here.
20th Oct – On someone else’s computer I saw, for the first time, an advertisement on my blog. It’s for an expensive car. My husband reckons the car maker chose my blog for its readers.
21st Oct – Some kangaroos love the beach as much as I do.
22nd Oct – A man I know who was from childhood a practising atheist, and who in recent years became a Protestant, has recently been baptised as a Catholic. A coincidence for me – I’ve just translated a story about a character who did exactly that.
23rd Oct – 30th wedding anniversary today.
24th Oct – A female politician (the PM) has loudly accused a male politician (L of the O) of being a misogynist and sexist. Yet I heard today that he cycles long distances every year to raise buckets of money for good causes including breast cancer research, a women’s shelter and Carers Australia.
15th Oct – Thought it would be easy to change my blog header, but, searching for a new photo to suit the long rectangle form, I found only one that had an interesting horizontal slice. Still, it’s now in place and reminding me of a very good day I once spent in Collioure, France.
16th Oct – Today I was pleased to see high up in my spruce tree an adult magpie and its fluffy-chested baby. It was some consolation to know she had one left after my dog killed her other chick last week. Bad dog.
17th Oct – At a student’s house today, her spoodle, a good dog, was sitting in a leather armchair like a person, its elbow leaning on the arm of the chair.
18th Oct – On the ancestry site today I found photos of my great-grandparents!
19th Oct – Asked a 12-year old student, a new migrant, to invent a bug and name it with a made-up name. She called it Justin Bieber.
When my father was in the Middle East he was surrounded by men and nurses. Mostly men. Sometimes they were soldiers in a war; sometimes they were larrikins. (The Australian Oxford Dictionary’s definition of larrikin is ‘a person who acts with apparent disregard for social or political conventions’.)
These soldiers look like they’re on a roof. Don’t tell me they’re acting as Bathsheba bathing on the roof and King David wooing her with his flute! Well, then, they’re imitating one of history’s most famous couples. I seem to remember that Bathsheba was beautiful…
10th Oct – This morning I typed for an author writing about an ancient document written in gold, emerald and purple. Tonight I translated a passage about an ancient manuscript written in gold, azure and purple.
11th Oct – Read that almost half the population of the Pacific region is living in poverty.
12th Oct – Got locked out when I was doing some gardening.
13th Oct – Today I completed the first draft of my first book translation. Woo hoo!
14th Oct – A Sydney teacher has just received a Guinness Book of Records award as the oldest active teacher in the world. He’s 99.
She’s asked us, too, to find a photo of a display that would be good to share.
Strolling through Paris one Sunday afternoon, heading for Place Vendôme to see where the rich do their shopping (though not on Sundays when everything’s closed, as I found), I was stopped in my tracks by this window display. Someone with an eye for the beauty of repetition has found a new use for old Singer sewing machines, technological marvels that produced clothes faster than human hands. Their black and gold and curvy bodies fill the windows to the ceiling on both fronts of the street corner.
When I was 5, I was taught to sew by a professional dressmaker (my sister), but I had to wait until I was 12 to get my own sewing machine, a Singer treadle. I made clothes on it until I started work at 15 when I bought an electric one, which I still use… That Sunday, the sight of all these old machines had me believing this was a tailor’s shop, and I would have gone in if it were open. But a little Internet research this morning reveals it’s a clothes shop. I’ve found photos of similar window displays in the US for the same company, All Saints Spitalfields.
Next time I’ll stroll down Rue Etienne Marcel during the week, and go in, but not to buy. I want to look at the window display from the inside.
5th Oct – Heard this morning that Rwanda has more females in parliament than any other country – about 56%.
6th Oct – At the clothing shop where my son works, several members of the Rebels bikie gang came in to buy jeans, black only. And shirts, also black. And long-sleeved – “Don’t wanna look like a faggot.”
7th Oct – Today I read a blog written in three languages. http://lespetitspasdejuls.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/oh-my-god-im-a-teacher/
8th Oct – Met a girl today in the flesh. I’d previously claimed I hadn’t met her, though we’d been introduced on Skype. Can you say you’ve met someone if it was on Skype?
9th Oct – Asked 2 libraries to get me books from interstate; both of them charge $16.50 for 2 weeks’ borrowing. But I’ve also found the books for sale online and can buy second-hand copies for less than the library charges, and they won’t take much longer to arrive from overseas than books from interstate.
Today there are two photo challenges that I can meet with one photo: the weekly WordPress challenge to find a Happy photo, and Ailsa’s challenge to show animal photos. She has posted some excellent animal snaps to celebrate World Animal Day on 4th October: http://wheresmybackpack.com/2012/10/05/travel-theme-animals/
My picture does for both challenges. It comes from an album of WWII photos that my father brought home in 1941. Beneath this one he wrote ‘Syrian Bint’. The dictionary tells me that ‘bint’ is colloquial and perhaps offensive, but then, its origin is Arabic, meaning girl or daughter. So I’ll leave it as it is.