Working working working ...

The stars are aligned, and my studio is crowded but effective. I have made three men in the last few weeks. I am not showing the full quilts till they are exhibited but thought I would let you glimpse the men who are starring in them! You have seen Hassan the Glassblower, but I am putting him in again for comparison.


I just need two more clear months - but the quilts have to be finished on the 23rd January and that is why you are not hearing from me at the moment.

Attayer in the Friday Market at the City of the Dead


And an 'in-progress' image of the quilt top (which is now finished and pinned)

And last - Mohamed, who makes carved and gilded furniture in the streets behind Al Atabah

And hang in until the end of January and I will put all of them up! Quilted and finished.

At the moment only Hassan is at that point.

Happy New Year everyone.


Just a glimpse

For those who think I might never post again - or quilt again - I am giving you a glimpse of something I am working on at the moment.

It is probably enough to tell you that it is based on glass blowers who work in the City of the Dead in Cairo and the gentleman working hot glass is my friend Hassan. I have so much of this glass - hundreds and hundreds of pieces.


And an out-of-focus image (I am not going to let you see it properly till it is finished!) of the top as it is now. There may be more beyond the turquoise edge, and of course the qulting will make it much more interesting.


Another one in the series is under way and I like it much better.



For those who have written to me to ask for photographs of Gilf Kebir - look in my archives for November 2007 and December 2007. I have written up a lot of the trip in my blog though I fizzled out before I crossed the Great Sand Sea. Or google "Jenny Bowker Flickr" and search my sets for the different days of the Gilf Kebir trip.

It is my birthday today and I am busy.


Kidnapping at Gilf Kebir

I have been watching the news, night after night, almost from the edge of my chair. Late last year I had the great good fortune and privilege to do a trip to Gilf Kebir. Then a week or so ago confusing news started to filter through. There were sixteen tourists kidnapped at Aswan. They were about to go into the desert. Then it was at a nearby oasis. Then the news said they had left Dahkla Oasis and gone into a distant area and Bob leant over my shoulder when I found that one on the internet and said "It sounds like Gilf Kebir."

He was right. I agonised in case the drivers and guides and guard were people I knew. I agonised because I could visualise the locations and the raw haunting beauty of Kharkur Tul and felt that it was like a murder in a cathedral - a violation of something special. I worried about the lack of information and the sheer impossibility of contact within any reasonable amount of time. I was so afraid that the captors might start shooting and would see the Egyptians as expendable. I worried that the only news anyone had for a long time was via one satellite phone - and what if that stopped working. When would they run out of food and water - especially water.

I am really at a loss to say why I felt this so personally.

I am now worrying that the Egyptians will simply ban trips to the region and I want Bob to get there - we had been planning to do this in 2010.

But the end is good. Like the beginning it is all mixed up and confused. Were there 35 kidnappers? Did most of them end up dead? Was there the first skirmish with the Sudanese army and was that actually the only one? Had the hostages already effectively been dumped when they were found and rescued?

I guess those things do not matter. I have stunning and amazing memories of sweeping sand dunes, high cliffs of sandstone and great granite tors, full sized acacias shaped like bonsai, areas of sand so red that it almost shimmered with intensity, scatters of stone tools and amazing cave art. Forget the Cave of the Swimmers - that is almost entirely a fiction from The English Patient and the small rock shelter of that name is nothing like the huge crevice that was shown in the movie. However, there were shelters and caves there with art so immaculate, fresh and beautiful that I will carry it for the rest of my life.

I will do more about the textile tour. In a few days.



Day 2 textile tour - Ma'aloula and the Krak de Chevaliers

This is a day spent outside Damascus. We go first to Maalula - a small Christian town in the foothills of the Anti-Lebanon Ranges, about one and a half hours from Damascus. High in the hills is a ridge of huge rock - it looks like the rim on a piecrust from a distance, but as you approach it get bigger and bigger until you realise that these are HUGE rocks.


The road threads through them.

On the top of the mountain is a very early Church. It has been dated to before the Nicene committee of 325 AD banned rims on altars in Christian churches - and there are rims on the altars. The towns of Maaula and Sidnaya still speak Aramaic - which was the language of Christ. I am not deeply religious though I love the mythology of Christianity. They will say the Lord's prayer for those who are interested in Aramaic - it is interesting to hear it in such an early language. The town nestles into the hills and rocks, and there is a lovely walk down through a small wadi where snow melt has cut a way to the town form the church on top of the hill.


The area is also pocked with rock cut tombs or cells of early Byzantine monasteries.




I must confess here that last year we did not get to Maalula. It was snowing as we turned off the highway and the road into the hills was too steep and slippery for the bus. This year, I hope it will be fine. We will be visiting one month later - which should also give us the beginnings of spring flowers at the Krak de Chevaliers. No promises - it all depends on the weather - but I will have my fingers crossed.



Another hour takes us to the Krak De Chevaliers which sits on top of a high hill overlooking the green fields of fertile Syria. It has to be the best of all the world's Crusader Castles. The best of Syria is that you can wander and explore here - there is no barbed wire, and few closed areas. It is just superb.



I have so many photos - but I want twenty people to come and I am so afraid that if I give you too much you will feel as if you have done the trip already.

Here endeth Day 2, weary and sleepy as the bus returns to Damascus.

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