Architecture

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National Museum

Located in the waterfront near the Marina Club, Diplomatic Area, National Museum is one of the popular monuments with visitors. A few hundred meters away resides the newly built National Theatre. Exhibitions and cultural talks see the National Museum as its venue attracting the art lovers of Bahrain and from neighbouring countries. The entrance leads to a vast hall almost covered with the sharp aerial photograph of Bahrain.

National Museum

National Museum

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National Theatre

National Theatre

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National Museum, left

National Museum, left

A complete detailed visit could easily take about half-a-day. Exhibits are meticulously labelled in Arabic and English.


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Geometric Patterns in Islamic Art

Visual Islamic Art excludes the depiction of realistic human and animal figures. Geometric patterns that transform one to another world often become the focus of attraction. Precise reasons for geometric pattern becoming so central in Islamic decoration remain intriguing to many minds. Predominance of aniconism within monotheistic Abrahamic religions could well be a clue towards an understanding of the prominence of such patterns.

While geometric patterns that are simple and pleasing to the viewer dominate Islamic art, calligraphy and the minimum usage of foliage patterns of the arabesque (Islamic biomorphic patterns are usually called arabesques) can be seen within private spaces of homes and palaces.

The need to defend the unique status of God’s position as the ultimate power holder against idols, which were seen as threat to the uniqueness, led to the spread of the practice of aniconic art.

Geometric patterns make up one of the major nonfigural types of decoration in Islamic art; other two being Calligraphy and subtle vegetal patterns. The extreme complexity of geometric patterns within Islamic art is generated from such simple forms as the circle and the square. These simple patterns are combined, duplicated, interlaced and arranged in intricate patterns extending almost infinitely.

Reiteration of Qur’an implies that the divine nature of God is experienced through the divine word. Therefore, the absence of icons within a mosque is justified. However, the words of Qur’an is often extensively depicted on the walls and ceilings of mosques, palaces and homes giving rise to the rich traditions of Islamic calligraphy as an elevated form of architectural decoration.

Calligraphy manages to combine a geometric discipline with a dynamic rhythm. In the Islamic world it takes the place of iconography, being widely used in the decorative schemes of buildings. Seen below is a benign wording written in Arabic.

Vegetal ‘arabesque’ compositions are as common in Islamic decoration as geometric patterns. Similar to the geometric patterns, these are found across a wide range of mediums from illustrations in books to plaster work both interior and exterior and even in carpets and textiles. Leaves and climbers are the closest one can find in this kind of art form as the depiction of any creation with a soul is forbidden.

The basic shapes, or “repeat units,” from which the more complicated patterns are constructed are: circles and interlaced circles; squares or four-sided polygons; the ubiquitous star pattern, ultimately derived from squares and triangles inscribed in a circle; and multisided polygons. It is clear, however, that the complex patterns found on many objects include a number of different shapes and arrangements, allowing them to fit into more than one category.  The basic shapes are then repeated in many ways – the process known as tessellation – to create complex patterns that are so simple at its core. A tesselation is a decoration of a two-dimensional plane using the repetition of a geometric shape with no overlaps and no gaps; generally it can be extended infinitely in all directions.

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Muqarnas (system of niches and projected ‘stalactites’, used as a transitional and decorative device in architecture), Mishkah (niche for a lamp), Lazo or Band-i-rumi (interlaced geometrical pattern) are some of the unique characteristics within Islamic art.

Other than stone, brick, wood and paper, stucco or plaster was widely used in Islamic Art. Plaster, a singularly useful material that lent itself to moulding and carving in a variety of ways, became a staple of Islamic architecture. Perhaps because of its plasticity as a medium it was less frequently used for purely geometric designs, and was more often used in vegetal-arabesque arrangements.

Stained or coloured glasses are used to create a heavenly experience within homes, palaces or places of worship. Designs the permit sunlight in the morning hours to enter the room from outside while providing a beautiful window view to an observer from outside during night time was mesmerising. The glass comes in four basic colours: red, blue, green and yellow. Movement of coloured patterns with the sun from dawn to dusk creates a dynamic ambience within the living space. Glasses are also used to decorate ceiling lanterns or wall lamps.

That the intricacies of infinite geometric patterns starts from a simple straight line, a point and a circle is perhaps the most unbelievable fact in the entire gamut of this marvellous form of art.

 


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75b Rue d’Orchampt

The Man Who Walked Through Walls by the French writer Marcel Ayme begins:

“In Montmartre, on the third floor of 75b Rue d’Orchampt, there lived an excellent gentleman called Dutilleul, who possessed the singular gift of passing through walls without any trouble at all. He wore pince-nez and a small black goatee, and was a lowly clerk in the Ministry of Records. In winter he would take the bus to work, and in fine weather he would make the journey on foot, in his bowler hat.

Dutilleul had just entered his forty-third year when he discovered his power. One evening, a brief electricity cut caught him in the hallway of his small bachelor’s apartment. He groped for a while in the darkness and, when the lights came back on, found himself outside on the third-floor landing. Since his front door was locked from the inside,…”

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Set in Paris’s Montmartre district, the stories by Marcel have spawned a number of films, including Jean Boyer’s 1951 classic Garou Garou, le passe-muraille and Yvan Attal’s Les Sabines starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, as well as a musical, Amour, which won the Prix Molière in France before an English version conquered Broadway.

Today in Montmartre a sculpture of The Man Who Walked through Walls, created by the legendary actor Jean Marais, can be found in the Place Marcel Aymé, paying tribute to the great author and his work.


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La Défense

A view from Charles Michel side..

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The name défense originates from the monument ‘La Défense de Paris’, which was erected at this site in 1883 to commemorate the Parisian resistance during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870.


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Iconic

Shrouded in the misty rain
the tower looked imposing
even from a distance.

view from near Sacre Coeur…

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Thatched Houses

Thatching was popular in early days as the walls were not designed or made to take enormous roof weight. While wheat straw was common in south of England, reeds were in East Anglia. As transport facilities became available, cheap slate could be brought in from where it was abundant and cheap to any part in Britain. Mechanised farming resulted in making wheat straw unusable for thatching. These beautiful houses were seen while passing a small village near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

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Hex nets can prevent some of the damages unknowingly brought in by animals and birds. But what about the natural effects? Repairing and maintaining a thatched house in a good state costs lot of money.


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Arne Hodalič

Arne Hodalič grew up and studied biology in Ljubljana (lyoo-BLYAH-nah), Slovenia. After finishing university, he was working for five years as a professional sailing boat skipper and diver and had his own charter company on the Adriatic coast in Croatia. He began taking photos, mostly of boats, diving and nautical activities. His first trip to India in 1989 changed his professional career when his photos were published in a prestigious Swiss magazine Animan. He received more than 20 assignments from the magazine and travelled extensively around the world with his camera. In Paris he joined Gamma Press agency and began working for French press as a member of several photo agencies.

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In 2008 he received an honorary doctorate at the Academy of Arts and Design / University of Ljubljana and became a lecturer in photography and photojournalism at FDV (Faculty of Social Sciences) University of Ljubljana and at VIST (Visoka šola za storitve) in Ljubljana. He is currently the photo editor of National Geographic Magazine (Slovene edition).

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Met Prof. Arne during a workshop conducted by the Diplomatic Protocol Society at the Downtown Rotana Hotel in Bahrain recently. The photographs are from the photo walk around Suq Manama that followed the lecture.

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The Walk

Took a walk along the residential streets (Theruvu) towards the western side of Chalai, one of the oldest markets in the capital city of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram. The local market is being covered separately in another post. Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple in Thiruvananthapuram is the place where I met my friend sharp at 6AM for the walk. After spending few minutes in the vicinity of the temple and the temple pond, Padmatheertham, we hired an autorickshaw and headed towards Aryasalai.

Before the hire, the auto driver was adequately forewarned about the possible testing of his patience with two friends who carried cameras which would mean frequent stopping and waiting. From that point onwards we became like buddies and mutually agreed that the fare meter is nothing more than an object of compliance and aesthetic. We neither negotiated the rate nor he mentioned any.

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A must visit location is the back lanes which house many Agraharams where the Brahmin community live. Adorning the front yard of their homes with kolam designs ranging from simple to complex. Newspaper, most of the cases it was invariably The Hindu, a bowl awaiting the arrival of milkman, the familiar face of Vegetable-Woman, street sweepers, the prayer call from nearby temple, people who sit on the verandah or balcony with a half-smile either due to the meaningless news they had just read; the sweetness of the filter coffee they had imbibed; seeing a man with a camera wandering the streets to attain overnight fame writing blogs. Whatever said, many people stopped by to say hi and to ask the company-the newspaper-being represented by the SLR-carrying, friendly-looking, stranger.

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After the walk in the Puthen Theruvu (New Streets), which are four in number, one can enter Chalai bazaar from the other end which is opposite to the main entrance near the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple. This would be an ideal time to have a hot tea and a ride in a rick. Most of the auto rickshaws in the area will have plenty of fresh flowers decorating the dashboard with many burning incense sticks and a freshly bathed, crisp, auto-driver. Up to 9.00 AM any fare being paid is considered a kaineettam which means the first fare for the day. Only few passengers seldom dare to bargain on a fare that is so preciously received by the driver.

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Almost 3 hours later we decided its time to return to our respective homes for a home-made breakfast of Idli and white coconut chutney (other variety being red). Auto-driver hesitantly asked for a fare that we felt was quite reasonable with all the tiring stops and patient waiting.


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Temple at Anandapuri

templeSree Padmanabhaswamy temple facing the East bathed in the first rays of the dawn… the temple pond, known as Padmatheertham, in its elegant stillness holds thousands of holy Saligramams.


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Chartres Cathedral

Town of Chartres, the capital of the Eure-et-Loire department, lies about 50 miles SW of Paris on the Eure River, north central France. The famous Gothic cathedral was completed in the 13th century. The town was severely damaged in World War II, but since rebuilt.

The drive from Paris to Chartres was pleasant. At times, the highway allowed to cruise at 130 kmph legally. Wheat and Corn fields spread for miles in undulating geography. Unlike England, there were no much opportunities for a quick break as M&S shops were not seen en route. The town was worth exploring with its half timbered buildings that epitomises the beauty of medieval architecture.

By dusk, God makes the sun paint the Chartres Cathedral by its last rays to a rich golden hue.

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As the sun goes further down, His creations strive to better that by bringing each stone on the cathedral alive by breathing life to every saint depicted. Laser lights precisely paint each single detail and then transform the entire building to a dazzling masterpiece even God would have wowed! Night fall happens after well after 10 PM.

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From another angle…

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Covent Garden…

…to Leicester Square, London.

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson

Boswell and Johnson were discussing whether or not Boswell’s affection for London would wear thin should he choose to live there, as opposed to the zest he felt on his occasional visits. (Boswell lived in Scotland, and visited only periodically).

This discussion happened on September 20, 1777, and Johnson, someone who hated to spend time alone, was always going out and enjoying what London had to offer.

Recent times…
A casual walk around the covered market at Covent Garden… old military uniforms, peak caps, medallions, ribbons, shoes, helmets… and lots of toys and curios.

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Stepping out into the street…. it begins to snow.

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Past Verve, Sussex, Spaghetti House, Bella Italia…

The Sussex boasts authentic English pub cuisine across an extensive food menu, in a bright, vibrant atmosphere. Situated on St Martins Lane the pub is popular among visitors to Central London.

Bella Italia at Covent Garden – the hustle, the bustle, and of course the Bella! Bella Italia can be found on Wellington street, just behind the London Transport Museum. The restaurant has three floors and there is a private dining room downstairs if you’re looking for a party!

The Hippodrome Casino has well & truly established itself as a cornerstone of West End life. The biggest & busiest casino in the UK, we are also London’s most popular entertainment venue.

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Finally a cosy warm place… and something to savour.

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Brandenburg Gate by midnight

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Standing within the war chariot drawn by four horses galloping into the city is Quadriga the female goddess of Victory, with her staff depicting the iron cross and the eagle. The chariot sits aloft the 1791 Brandenburg Gate, a German monument made by history, of which was dubbed the ‘Gate of Peace’.

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Narrow alleyways

These alleyways may be narrow,
but their cleanliness is amazing.

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Towering heights

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Roof Light

The single glass tile on the tile-roofed warehouse, seemed to fill the space with sun.

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Streets of Madurai

The streets leading to the magnificent Madurai Meenakshi Amman temple was full of life with families and vendors. Children played but they were hushed by their watchful parents at the slight on-sight of mischief or a noise. After all, are they not near the most powerful deity?

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MyRefractions approached a policeman on guard duty to obtain formal permission to photograph the insides of the beautiful temple. Knowing the behavioral patterns of an exhausted policeman who is almost the end of his duty, MR was taken aback by the humbleness and soft words of guidance by the guard-on-duty. A senior officer walked in and was also equally humble with the words. Do they hand pick soft-spoken officers or they change to becoming soft-spoken near the temple. Anyway, the answer was a polite negative.

Most of the captures were from the street. But the beauty of the thousand-legged tower, the sanctum sanctorum, the fragrance of fresh camphor and the flowers… all embedded in that clear bell, alive in the minds of all.


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National Theater

The venue of many concerts… bathed in light
Bahrain National Theater near the National Museum.

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St Paul’s

St Paul's
St. Paul’s Cathedral in England.

Climbing up 100s of steps to the topmost part of the cathedral was a great experience.
Even better was listening to the choir during the evening hours.