Every photographer loves the golden hour, that special time between dusk and dark. Sunsets can be spectacular, unusual and surreal. Since I just got back from Page Arizona to photograph the natural beauty of the area, including of course Horseshoe Bend at sunset, I have decided to collect a few of my favorite sunsets from around the world. Not all sunsets depend on color to make them spectacular, although Horseshoe Bend might be the exception. Often it is the subtle interplay of light and dark, the delicate colors rather than flashy vibrance and it is always about that soft light that fills our senses as the embers of the day play out.
The Madaba Map (also known as the Madaba Mosaic Map) is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan. The Madaba Map is a map of the Middle East and associated holy places. It contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. While modern maps are labeled as if you stand on the south pole and look north. The Madaba map is labeled from the north looking south. This means that the lettering of the map is upside down to how we would orient the map on paper. It is like looking at a map of the United States 180 degrees (upside down). The Madaba map is not to scale. Jerusalem is greatly enlarged and distances are greatly distorted to what we would expect from a map. But the map was for devotional purposes, not science and geography as we would like it to have been from a modern perspective. Nonetheless the map is extraordinarily precise, including many cities known from other sources.
Hapi (Hep, Hap, Hapy) was probably a predynastic name for the Nile, and the name was later changed to the Nile or iterw, simply meaning “the river”. Thus the Nile God became “the river” or iterw while Hapi then became the god of the annual flooding of the Nile in ancient Egyptian religion. The name “Nile” comes from the Greek corruption “Neilos” of the Egyptian “nwy” which means water. He was mentioned in the Pyramid Texts (“who comest forth from Hep”) where he was to send the river into the underworld from certain caverns located at the first cataract. The annual flood deposited rich silt (fertile soil) on the rivers banks, allowing the Egyptians to grow crops or flooded too much and washed away their mudbrick homes. Hapi was the mighty one in his cavern, whose true name was unknown. He was “lord of the fishes and birds of the marshes” who “greens the two banks”. He was the “maker of barley and wheat”, the “master of the river bringing vegetation”. Like the Greek and Roman Gods that followed, he had a good personae as the God of plenty but also had a dark side as an unpredictable destructive God, hopefully influenced by the pharoah who was himself a living god. He was also considered a “friend of Geb” the Egyptian God of the earth, and the “Lord of Neper”, the God of grain.
For nearly as long as I remember I have wanted to go sailing on the Nile river. I have done some sailing in the past and I find it to be both relaxing and a way to get a different perspective on any place bordering a body of water. In the case of Aswan, and in fact in all of Egypt, the Nile is not just a river, it is the artery carrying the lifeblood of the nation and virtually all life revolves around it. The sailboat shown above is called a felucca, a traditional wooden sailing boat used in the protected waters of the Red Sea and eastern Mediterranean including Malta, and particularly along the Nile in Egypt, Sudan, and also in Iraq. They are usually able to hold ten passengers and the crew consists of two or three people. The felucca has remained, over the centuries, the primary transportation of the Nile. Its ancient form still graces the river as it has done since the time of the Pharaohs. Motorized barges transport bulk material and modern cruise ships transport tourists, but the felucca remains despite modern alternatives. The felucca rarely has any form of engine and relies entirely on the breeze which builds during the day and usually subsides at night, and the Nile River's current. Egypt is blessed with a predominant southerly wind that pushes sailboats upriver, while allowing them to return on its current downstream.