Nowruz celebrations in Akrê, Kurdistan

Newroz or Nowruz (meaning “New Day”) is the New Year’s Day in the Persian calendar. The festival of Nowruz is celebrated for a variety of reasons. In Kurdistan they tell the legend of a king that used to treat his people so bad that a person was sent to assassinate him. After the king was successfully eliminated, the assassin lit a massive fire in order to make people aware that the king was dead. To spread the news, everyone seeing the fire also lit a fire, so everyone in the country would know in the end. That was only one …

The former US embassy in Tehran, Iran

Recently, I was taking a stroll around central Tehran, when I found out by accident, that the former US embassy site, which was the focus of the world for 444 days during a hostage crisis, has been turned into a public museum! This is the first time since the embassy was stormed by students 38 years ago in November 1979. I heard rumours before that allegedly the embassy was supposed to be open a single day of the year for visitors. The staff inside the museum told me otherwise, though. They said that the gates have never been open to …

The Jewish cemetery of Khartoum, Sudan

Very close to the central bus station, south of Souq al-Araby, Khartoum still has a tiny Jewish cemetery. The graveyard features no more than maybe 40-50 graves, many of them are in dire shape. The cemetery is located in an area of Khartoum that has a lot of car workshops. The workshops use the cemetery as a scrapyard and as a place to store their spare parts. The newest grave dates back to the forties, before Sudan became independent in 1956. At its peak, Sudan hosted 500-1000 Jews mostly living in Khartoum and Omdurman. There is another cemetery in Omdurman, …

Lalish – Yazidis’ home

I recently visited Lalish, the center of the Yazidi religion that came to fame after the Islamic state persecuted the approximately 650.000 members of this ancient religion in Iraq. Lalish can be easily visited from Duhok with a taxi, it takes about 30 to 40 minutes to get there. The valley is especially beautiful and green in spring. Fortunately, non-Yazidis are allowed to enter the perimeters of the place and can even enter the temple, where Sheikh Adi is buried. Only Yazidis can enter the aisles beneath the temple where the two holy springs can be reached, though. The two …

First Screening of “Bilder Krieg – Picturing War” in Germany

On Saturday, Konstantin Flemig showed his movie “Bilder Krieg – Picturing War” for the first time to a German audience. The movie was screened at the venues of the Sprechsaal in Berlin Mitte, where the War Zone Freelance Exhibition is currently showing their photos. One of the founders and exhibitors, Benjamin Hiller, is also the protagonist of the documentary. The film focuses entirely on the perilous and financially challenging work of freelancers in combat zones, the time before, during and after travelling. The exhibition at the Sprechsaal will be on display until April 15th. If you haven’t been there yet, …

Qalaat El Hosn near Majdal Anjar

In the Lebanese border town of Majdal Anjar there is not much to see except for the Lebanese-Syrian border crossing not even a kilometre away. But the city has a hill that can be seen from far, and if you dare to drive your car through the small alleys of this town, you’ll find yourself with a beautiful view on a Syrian border crossing on one side and the Bekaa valley on the other. The building on the hill itself is not publicly accessible though, because of its strategic significance on an elevated position, it is a Lebanese air-defence outpost, …

Oscar Niemeyer Fair in Tripoli, Lebanon

Last weekend I visited Tripoli in Northern Lebanon again, this time to take a full afternoon and admire the beauty of Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer’s legacy in Lebanon. Niemeyer built a fair for the city, and construction was about to be finished within the next years, when the civil war in Lebanon started and halted any further progress. Today, about 15 buildings are still standing.

The Jewish cemetery of Beirut, Lebanon

Welcome to the Jewish cemetery in Beirut, Lebanon.  Many visitors of Beirut would never think that this city actually has a very old Jewish cemetery, which is located right on Sodeco square near the district of Ashrafiyeh. The cemetery is closed off to the public since many years, but it is possible to see some of the tombstones from Damascus road from the outside. Even the head of the Jewish committee in Lebanon, Isaac Arazi (who lives in France permanently) is not allowing any visitors inside, so I was really lucky to get these shots.   The cemetery is generally …

Baalbek, Lebanon

The city of Baalbek (Arabic: “بعلبك“) in Lebanon is situated right in the heart of the Bekaa valley. Baalbek is a predominantly Shia city with roughly 80.000 inhabitants. Most foreign visitors visit Baalbek for its massive Roman ruins. The city is a stronghold of Hezbollah and features one of the country’s most beautiful mosques, called Sayyeda Khawla. Khawla (السيدة خولة بنت الحسي) was a daughter of Imam Hussein and is allegedly buried in this mosque. The mosque is an example of Iranian Islamic architecture, because it was built with Iranian money. The mosque is open for interested non-Muslims as well …

The ruins of Anjar, Lebanon

The city of Anjar, or “عنجر” in Arabic, is situated in the Beqaa valley, not even ten kilometres away from the border to Syria. Anjar used to be a big city during the Umayyad period, and has been preserved as a UNESCO world heritage site since 1984.