There is a genre – street photography. I’m shy. And I dislike encounters. And I don’t want to ask. And I don’t want a pose. And I don’t want to be giving someone money to take a picture. You may not like it, but in America, anyone on the street is fair game. Commercial use is a different story. But for personal use, it’s all good. Here’s what you do. It’s simple. (Somehow people don’t object as much to iPhone. But I use a camera.) Use your camera on wide angle, set the shutter speed to about 1/125. Then do what it says – point and shoot. Don’t look. There is the flavor of an imperfectly composed shot. It works. You hit. You miss. Sometimes you win. If you are unsure shoot more than one. Don’t stop moving. And don’t let anyone catch on that you are taking pictures. Slices of life, unposed, unpretentious, natural…it’s more for me to have a flavor of life to recall. In Jeddah the heat of the day has everyone indoors. Some shops are open. But at night the whole tenor changes and the streets of the old city are teaming with activity. The heat of the day is lowered to simply unbearable as opposed to daytime hell. And digital allows you to take images I could never do with film. There’s a vibrancy to night life in the city.
Push carts abound. Vendors will sell any kind of produce. The big supermarkets – nope – people buy, sell, and bargain – probably illegally. But there is definite supply and demand.
Sugar cane – it’s crushed and the liquid is served up as a drink. It’s bland. Almost yuck! You need to add lime and ginger when you crush it. That’s a drink! Jules and I learned this in Zanzibar. She drank the whole thing and left me a taste. So I know from that small sample how to fix this. But nope, not in Jeddah.
Sticks – there is vendor in this spot, his spot. And now there are a couple of others – competition. They cut them and bundle them. They are to rub your teeth – like a toothbrush. No Crest, Colgate, or Tom’s of Maine. Buy a bundle. Share them or use them yourself.
Sewing – the tailors use a fairly unsophisticated machine to do their magic. If you are native, you wear a thobe and someone has to make them. It looks like he has made lots. And overwhelmingly they are white. And, abayas are black. Who’s the biggest loser?
Life in the city. It all happens at night. There are huge super malls. But what’s new there? Everyone has seen a mall by now? Online shopping! Walmart is scared! Amazon rules? Imagine the next big thing….
Shisha – it’s what they smoke. I know it as a water pipe. Hookah, another name. It connotes smoking through water. I read that the dose of toxic nicotine is equivalent to hundreds of cigarettes in a single session of smoking shisha. Don’t do it! It’s bad for you.
It started when I passed a store that sells water pipes. It was the tip of the iceberg. Around Jeddah there are stores which will sell you custom made thobes. The stores are congregated in a few places. There might be a dozen or more shops side by side competing for business. There is another location for honey and another for olive oil, dates, and so forth. It’s silly economics. All the prices must be comparable.
The water pipe stores are on a narrow street. And then, much to my surprise, an artisan was right there. He was working away in an open shop with horrible fluorescent lighting. I paused, he looked up, and I did something I never do; I asked if he minded if I took his picture. And he was okay with it. And I got a couple. I did not try to overstay my welcome. Yay! It’s street photography and ordinarily I just shoot and look like I’m doing something else. But we were eye to eye. There was no hiding intent. And he was gracious and I said thanks. We had our moment and I moved on. I’d buy one. They sell his product next door. But, I don’t smoke. So, no…
Remember the wall? The nine foot one from yesterday? Hey! Sometimes the posts link. Jumping is an art. To do it the lazy way needs no real leap of height. It’s an illusion. Just bend your knees as you go. Then you will look high without hurting yourself. It also helps if the photographer (you know who you are) presses the shutter while you are in the air. Otherwise it looks like you are holding up your hands at a stick up. Hmmmm? That begs the question, do you know what, “Meet you at the pass” means? It’s an old west term from the movies, when the bandits split up to escape the posse. They would say, “Split up. We’ll meet again at the pass.” It seems they don’t say that in the movies any more. And you need to be a certain age (old) to know the term.
So there was this metal bridge in the park that cut over and across the highway.
Neat. It made for a photo op. I did not have time to plan. It was cold and slightly rainy. Windy. Hey, it was Chicago! No standing around in the rain.
You could laugh. Traffic circles are a way to avoid lights. This assumes that one knows how to maneuver a circle without stopping in the middle. Fine, good – no! People just go into the circle and free for all ensues.
Somehow everyone emerges on the other side. Someone has to blink, right? What do in the middle? Ah! Art work! Who commissioned this stuff? How? Why? Whose taste? Oh my! A fruit boat in plaster and tile was just what I thought of. Really!
No, no, I’m pretty sure I have posted this before, but it bears repeat commentary. I’ve been here a while now and it never ceases to amaze me and make me shake my head. What were they thinking? And who were they? Did you understand that this is satire? Or is it just hideous?
Prayer time and everything comes to a halt. The open air market is no exception. The shops close their doors. The outdoor vendors mostly follow suit. Not all, but they mostly do. So I headed for a seat. I had sat out the thirty minute hiatus here a few nights ago. The bench was full. But I’m brave. It’s like the Egyptians at the cornice right? Go for it. I sat next to the two old guys. Hey, I’m old too! And they left after a bit.
And across from me was a photo op. Gee, even sitting down and cooling my heels, I get to take pictures. So while checking on what I had, I also shot images too. The last one was the keeper. And I promptly quit. No waves, please.
Well, it was quitting time for me. I was headed to the car and wandering the streets to make my way back. I was going up and down random streets and walking toward lights. There was a late café serving a classic dish. It is like burgers and fries. The dough is pulled into a square. Then, a sheet of dough is added, liquid looking egg batter, and another layered sheet is added. It is folded into a square. Grilled, it is served hot to a waiting group sitting at tables inside.
I got a single shot, it’s not great or even fully understandable till I explain. It’s a barber. His dad is holding the kid down.
And I guess it is not an exactly cooperative kid getting his hair cut. Lastly, I passed one more place. Somehow I was brave, made eye contact, and shot a few images. I heard someone in the café behind me say, “Camera.” That was my cue to beat it. It’s grilled flatbread and quite popular by the looks of it.
The end of my evening was the start for someone else. I chanced to pass this very active social night scene. My first pass was a failure. The camera had reset itself and the exposure was blurred. It was interesting. But I considered it a failure. In a rare moment for me I turned around and made a second pass. I was not quite as invisible but did get a better shot.
No women! The men were talking and drinking coffee and playing dominoes. Night life! No alcohol. No women. Oh boy! Well, a sports bar it ain’t. And the waiters are not dressed like Hooter girls either.
I have virtually no inside shots. I’m not willing to set foot inside. This mosque in the old city was renovated in the past several years. Mostly things are in construction forever. To my surprise it was finished and I could peer inside. I do. And on this night I was able to see people. Even better. The crowd in the area made me feel safe enough. But you need to be aware that street lighting was not a priority in the old city. I have never felt unsafe. But one more word to the wise. Beware.
Yes, he’s a friendly guy too. He went out of his way to show me that he works on teeth and makes replacements. False teeth! Gold and other materials. And the tools of the trade over his shoulder. I could not ask about anesthesia. It was a nice encounter that made shudder nonetheless. His own teeth are not the best, and don’t enlarge this image if you are squeamish.
The circuit around the old city gets crowded. So the powers that be cordon off the street into a single path. You walk in one direction. You can bail out but you may not walk against traffic. This is really pretty funny since cars are going the wrong way on one way streets all the time. But here, everyone walks in the same direction. And they enforce it! So the first time around I got a shot. And the second time too, because I was not sure the first worked. You don’t want to be too obvious and check. And you cannot go back unless you go around again. Well, I did.