This year seemed to just fly by.
But it was one of the most interesting years I’ve had on record and one of the most photogenic. So I wanted to share 16 of my most memorable moments. Some of them are happy, some terrifying, and some perhaps sad.
But here we go.
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There is something about Istanbul, one of those eternal and captivating cities. I arrived there for New Years to spend a long weekend with a friend and somehow arrived during a freezing cold Blizzard. Not to be one to not make the best of something, I decided to explore the snow covered city. One of my favorite moments was from the Galata tower looking over the city. This was taken right around dusk as my friend and I stood (until we nearly froze to death) to watch the setting sun.
Saudi Arabia is an incredible place and most people who visit there only go for a few religious sites. Living there had its benefits and difficulties but it was an incredible experience overall. I love markets and try to visit them wherever I happen to go. Here is the old market in the city of Jeddah the gateway to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina (it is the usual port of entry for most pilgrims). It was these moments that I loved most about living there, the moments of real life, the moments of watching the locals go about their lives. The moments that generally are not seen by those who only know Saudi from its reputation and not from time spent there.
I’m not sure if I love Dubai or not but I did manage to travel there twice this year, once for a visit and another trip to meet up with some friends from home (Washington DC) who were traveling through for a few days. This was from my first trip there in February when it was colder and foggier than I would have expected it. Dubai can very well be over the top but you have to admit that it is a fascinating place. I really like the Burj Khalifa in many regards and it is an incredible building to photograph. I woke up early one morning to try to get there for some morning photographs and it was incredibly foggy that morning. I almost turned around to head back home but instead was surprised when the fog started to lift and it I could see the Burj alone standing there puncturing through the fog.
2016 was also a time that I was able to check out a few items from my bucket list. OK well I don’t really have bucket lists but the pyramids are something that nearly everyone wants to see at least once in their life. I know it has always been a goal of mine to be here. I visited here back in February and it was incredible to see these ancient giants. The strange part though was how thoroughly the tourism industry has collapsed here. Sure I knew about that from the news and events in the country but it is a very different thing to witness this first hand. As you can see from the photo there is a general lack of people, camels, and vehicles that normally mar these stark landscape. It was both at once beautiful and sad.
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Another moment and photo from Istanbul but this time in March and following the bombing on Istiklal. I was nearby here when the bomb went off two days prior and it was something that saddened me, scared me a bit, and also drove me to be more focused on my life and giving back. Still it was incredible when you think how only two days later the life on Istiklal returned so quickly back to normal. It shows to the resiliency of the world and our ability to move on beyond these terrible moments.
An incredible moment among these ancient giants. This is Petra’s sister site in Saudi Arabia and one of the rarest sites to visit in the world due to the difficulty with getting here for most people. We truly had this place all to ourselves though. Such an amazing moment. I was equally blessed and cursed with a work visa to Saudi Arabia as it allowed me to have some incredible moments as well as some isolating ones. I will always remember my brief time living there.
Also this year was a brief return to one of my favorite countries, Oman. I traveled to Oman from Saudi Arabia for a long weekend to get in some much desired scuba diving. I had finally completed my certification after several years of not being able to complete certain aspects of the course in a timely manner (one of the issues of frequent travel). I love Oman as it is one of those places that I have known for my years for its incredible people several of whom I met during my years at my university near Philadelphia. This photo is of the Mutrah Souk which is one of my favorite places in the capital Muscat. You do really feel that there is history here and that it is both a tourist site as well as one used frequently by locals as well. Something I really treasure about Oman in that it keeps its traditions so close.
Saudi Arabia has some rather interesting places and few as interesting as Habala near Abha in the state of Asir in the Southern part of the country. It looks like a completely different country and places than Saudi Arabia and one of the many photos that I show friends to change their understanding and stereotypes of this country.
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It’s not a great photo, as its just a iPhone photo taken in really bad lighting. However it is something that was impactful on my time in 2016. I arrived in Turkey right before the attempted coup that shook the country in July of 2016. And to be honest I almost slept through the entire thing as it was late and I was jet lagged. Had it not been for the incessant calling from family members I surely would have. This was photo was taken a few weeks or so after the coup attempt at a rally for the AK party and Turkey in general. These rallies seemed to happen on quite a regular basis actually during the weeks following and I generally tried to avoid large gatherings like this. However as we stumbled on this one randomly we took a few minutes to look around, take some photos, and write our own individual letters to the Turkish president. You know…standard.
Perhaps you don’t find the above photo beautiful but it is one of my favorites from my time spent in Serbia this fall. I actually had the benefit of visiting this lovely country twice this year to visit another friend of mine from Jordan who was living here working with an international organization. Serbia I think is probably the most misunderstood of the Balkan countries. I’ll be honest in that I was really nervous of visiting it because my only impression of the country was from the wars in the late 90s. This photo is from the New Belgrade area of Belgrade where there is a lot of old socialist architecture from the days of Yugoslavia. It is fascinating and one a wonderful look into the past as well as the present as they are still vibrant communities of locals.
Northern Cyprus is one of those places I have always wanted to visit. There is something strange about part of the world like this that are sectioned off from others due to various things in history. While the border between the two sides are open these days it is still far less visited than the Southern portion of the Island. While it is still not a recognized country or territory it is definitely worth visiting and seeing some of these beautiful areas that have yet to be overly developed. This photo was taken from the end point of the Karpas peninsula the top portion of the island that juts off into the sea. At the end of the island there is but a single police station and if very possibly you could be the only other person who has gone out there as it was my case that afternoon.
Awaking early in the morning in Lalibela Ethiopia to get to witness the worshipers for the feast day of St. George at the incredible rock hewn church of St. George. We had to be there by about 6am to watch the continuous flow of humanity encircling this world wonder. It was one of the best and most spiritual moments of my time here in Ethiopia.
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Also in Ethiopia watching the camel caravans march on their way to the salt flats for the unbroken chain of treks to and from Mekele to market. It was incredible to see this way of life and wonder how long such a way of life would continue to go on. Progress is coming to this part of the world as it does everywhere else and soon such treks will be something that will be easier done by modern transport. Until that day however getting to watch these caravans was memorable.
One of the last Balkan countries (I still have to visit Macedonia) is the beautiful country of Bulgaria. I had finally made it there as part of a trip to visit some friends who live in the Balkans. This wonderful friend I hadn’t seen in 3 years since we both lived in Amman Jordan. She was one of the few people I really tried to keep in touch with all these years and one whom I seemed to always miss by a day anytime I was traveling through Istanbul! (Literally it happened on multiple occasions where we were we missed each other by literally one day). Bulgaria and Sofia as the shot above shows is a beautiful country and city and was definitely a wonderful view days exploring the city with my friend.
There was much debate on the moment when I decided to make a move to Eastern Turkey. I came out here to try to do volunteer for a few months with an organization in relation to the Syrian crisis, something that I have been concerned about for so long but hated not being able to contribute in some positive way. I wanted to come and use some of my expertise with some of the organizations working tirelessly towards efforts related to the various struggles the war has incurred. I didn’t travel much while there for various reasons but it was quite a blessing to get out of town and visit some of the surrounding area. This was from a lovely local city called Halfeti that is on the banks of the Euphrates river. Here we were taking a boat ride to some of the various sites around town, this one in particularly being a mosque that was sunk after damming of the river upstream. Only the minaret appears from beneath the surf. It would be incredible one day to perhaps go diving here and explore more if that is possible.
Even though according to most people I was on vacation all year, I did have to go and well take a vacation as well. I opted to take a week or so and continue pursuing that lovely sport of scuba diving. I had been trying to become a certified diver for umm years and never seemed to really have the time to stay in one place long enough (I know bad excuse). After doing completing it in Saudi I decided to continue the studies in Dahab Egypt. Dahab is one of the most lovely places to go and also probably the cheapest place to go diving. I found out a friend I had met in Ethiopia was still in Dahab after going there for a weekend and staying there for a couple months (apparently that is a standard theme in Dahab). Well after a beautiful day of diving we caught this gorgeous sunset over the sea. A perfect end to a perfect day.
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So that was my 2016. Pretty intense and pretty crazy. Would love to hear about yourself so either comment here, email me, or drop me a line on Social Media and would love to hear about your times or if you have your own posts related to 2016 as well.