Faithful Christians yearn to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at least once in their lifetime. That’s why millions travel to Jerusalem every year and kneel in before the Grave of Jesus. The fear of eternal annihilation leads them to the source of hope, there where Christ managed to defeat death.
It is estimated that of the 17 million people living in Syria, 1,200,000 are Christians and 800,000 of those are Greek Orthodox. Among the latter, 1,300 are Greeks, 900 living in Aleppo and 400 in Damascus, who are well-accepted, and greatly appreciated.
No Christian can remain unaffected at the sight of the Temple of Christ's Birth, even if he is not religious. When thousands of people are visibly moved with emotion, the aura spreading in the atmosphere inevitably engulfs them.
The overwhelming architecture of the London Docklands outshines the people and makes them seem tiny and even nonexistent. Despite the thousands of people moving and working between the glass buildings, the spaces look empty and there is a sense of solitude and desolation.
Wherever one may stand in the Egyptian Desert, there is always this overwhelming feeling that every movement leads to the Nile River. Coaches carrying barrels and laundry, caravans exhausted by the heat and fatigue, children half-asleep riding on elderly horses; everyone is heading towards the blue artery of water flowing through the burning sand.
By the end of August, the parks and the sidewalks in London look like a yellow sea of fallen leaves. Autumn abruptly invades England. In a flash, the shinning sun is hidden by clouds and it starts raining. The clouds disappear and the sun comes out again, and images go from grey and black to colorful in a blink of an eye.
On a hill in Richmond, a luxurious suburb of southwest London, many newlyweds gather every Sunday morning to get photographed. Their pictures aren’t only taken by professional photographers, but also by countless tourists passing by, who find the scenes rather picturesque. Richmond is a tourist magnet. Thousands of visitors flock there to see the famous park where deer run free.
Every night people gather on the banks of the Nile for a walk. The place is especially crowded under the bridge, which is in front of the Hilton hotel and the archaeological museum. On the shores of the river there are many boats decorated with colorful lights, used as floating discotheques. Their owners call to the passers-by with loudspeakers, enticing them to take a musical boat ride. The boatmen’s voices mix with the Arabic music, creating an atmosphere of total cheerful chaos.
A small percentage of the Muslims of Albania belong to the Bektashi community, which used to be based in Constantinople (Istanbul), until Kemal Ataturk drove them away because they denied removing their cassocks. After their persecution in 1929 they were transferred to Tirana, where they built their tekke, a place for spiritual retreat and character reformation, something like a monastery.
The first person we met entering Albania was Baschkim Bountla, who works at a taxi rental agency at the airport in Tirana. He usually introduces himself as Giannis (John) when he is speaking to Greeks, because that's the name he was given when he used to work in Greece as an economic immigrant.
Hama city is located in the middle of the road that connects Damascus to Aleppo. The Orontes River that crosses the city moves the huge wooden wheels that bring water used for irrigation in gardens and orchards of the area. Modern pumps though, are more effective than the old, sluggish means of the past. That is why only ten of the thirty wheels existing in the Middle Ages are left.
Beirut is a fragile multinational and multi-religious city, a place often in turmoil. Wars have been raging for decades in Lebanon, while huge geopolitical games are being played by the Great Powers. The conflicting political powers in this country are so many that unequivocal political approaches are practically worthless. In an attempt to generalize, though, there are two main movements in Lebanon, the pro-western and the Arabic.
Hyderabad is a town with a population of 4 million people situated in south central India. It is the capital of Andhra Pradesh province, an area twice the size of Greece. This area is the biggest princely state of India and British conquerors allowed it to be ruled by the local sovereigns, without interfering directly. Its most impressive feature of the region is its geoformation, with big rocky formations scattered around many small lakes, as if meteorites had fallen from the sky.