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Cyprus + Israel + Egypt

This was one of the most unusual and unplanned trips that dates back to a time when we just ushered in a new millennium, and when many of us were still carrying bags of film cartridges on our holidays (all photos herein are scanned from 4R prints). I discovered a few photo albums on this trip to Cyprus, coupled with a cruise across the rough Mediterranean Sea to Jerusalem via Port Haifa and to Cairo via Port Said. It was unusual because it was on a guided tour, and was unplanned because it was picked randomly over a travel fair counter.

As I was flipping through the photo albums where some photos have already fused with the pockets, I started to realise that my approach towards photography might have evolved. It is not the style or skills I'm referring to, although they certainly would have changed. I am referring to the thoughts that went behind the eye through the viewfinder and the psyche that compelled the finger to release that shutter. These very inner psychological photography experiences have changed, just as CCDs and CMOSs have replaced silver halide since.

Digital photography has its huge benefits for sure - greater learning opportunities, lower operation costs, more efficient workflow, etc. However, we may sometimes forget the reason for clicking the shutter. We may take today's shot for granted because there will be a tomorrow to edit and correct, hopefully. We may not pause, admire, observe, walk around and soak in the subject before we lift up our camera because we now prefer to look at things through screens than in space and in flesh.

There is no award-winning quality photograph here but each and every image relives a memorable event, a place, an object, or a journey to me; one that had united with the mind and touched the heart when that shutter was released.

This building caught my eyes when our coach was travelling towards the hotel from the airport. I just thought it was beautifully intriguing and wanted a picture. The following morning, I remember walking a good 15 mins at least from the hotel alone after breakfast to take this picture and had to run back to catch the coach as it was leaving for our day tour. I could see that the tour group had boarded the coach while running a few hundred metres away. I had simply underestimated how far it was and the time required to and fro. It still remains an interesting subject to me today. And because of the long walk through a largely deserted street, the sense of its surrounding that was an integral part of this building became especially vivid.

Ancient architecture will always amaze me in many ways. First, it is the ability to perfect proportions that are most pleasing to the human eyes. Second, their ingenuity in craftsmanship and construction. Lastly, their ability to stand the test of time, both physically and aesthetically. Beyond the tangibles, it is a manifestation, sometimes celebration of the people's way of life, which in some cases, could even be felt as we stand amidst these ruins of a once glorious city. (Pictured: The Sanctuary of Apollo Hylates, one of the principal religious centres of Cyprus where Apollo was worshipped as Hylates, god of the woodlands. The present remains date to the mid -1st century A.D.).

Petra tou Romiou, Paphos, south-western coast of Cyprus. Crystal clear water, deep blue sea, and glorious morning sun. In Greek mythology, this is the birthplace of Aphrodite.

Petra tou Romiou, Paphos, south-western coast of Cyprus. Colourful pebbles of all shapes and sizes, carried, nourished and cleansed by Amphitrite.

Handmade, hand-painted clay figurine souvenirs. A touch of local craftwork bringing out the local culture.

Courtyards and alleyways never fail to interest me in many ways. These are the places where one could experience and peek into the local's way of life. Although their scale is diminutive compared to squares and boulevards, their details and offering could blow you away. An interesting coffee shop tucked in a courtyard in Omodos Village in the Troödos Mountains. With a facade delightfully showered by light and shadow, constantly in play from time to time. Who needs video mapping?

Met these two gentlemen while I was wandering around the neighbourhood near the hotel. Other than their unusual outfit and batons, they have rather interesting faces which I could not resist asking for a picture.

Jewish boy carrying the Torah scroll on Bar Mitzvah at the Wailing Wall. Notice the black object tied to his forehead? No, that is not a GoPro camera to film his special day. It is a Tefillin, a small black leather box containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah.

Jews at the Wailing Wall, Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount.

Shops and street peddler in the Old City, Jerusalem. The streets intersect with vaults and courtyards, and is simply a maze of twisty alleyways dividing the four Quarters.

Once upon a time, 3 men carried their own cross to Golgotha. While I was there, I saw 1 man carrying 3 crosses.

The entrance to the Church of Holy Sepulchre. The site is venerated as Golgotha where Jesus was crucified and also contains the place where Jesus was buried (the Sepulchre).

Out on the streets. You will see as many armed soldiers as priests in this Holy Land.

Didn't know King David had gone into tourism retail business.

The Church of Holy Sepulchre. Find the famous Immovable Ladder, which has been on the same exact spot since the 18th century.

Calvary (Golgotha altar), the most lavish and decorated part of the Church where the Rock of Calvary can be seen behind glass. Sadly, no chance for a photo due to the crowd.

In the centre of the Rotunda is the chapel Aedicule (in silhouette) which contains the Holy Sepulchre. The Aedicule holds the Angel's Stone, a fragment of the rock that sealed Jesus's tomb and the tomb itself. Symbolically through the oculus, the Light of Resurrection wins over the powers of darkness.

The chapel Aedicule containing the Holy Sepulchre. Long queue of tourists, not surprising.

Group of cheerful and curious students on excursion.

The Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem. Interior of the main basilica lined with Corinthian columns.

The Grotto of the Nativity located beneath the basilica. It is believed to be the site where Jesus was born. The exact spot is marked beneath this altar by a 14-pointed silver star on the marble floor.

The Egyptian Museum. The King as Harpooner. King Tut hunts neither fish nor fowl, but for hippopotamus, the animal sacred to the god Seth.

The Egyptian Museum. Mummies in abundance along the corridor.

The Egyptian Museum. The alabaster canopic chest of King Tut. At each corner was a figure carved in high relief, representing one of the four goddesses who guarded the outer shrine. Four cavities were carved in the chest interior to hold the internal organs and on top of each cavity was an alabaster stopper, a finely sculptured likeness of the king.

The Egyptian Museum. The iconic Gold Mask of King Tutankhamun's mummy, made of 11 kg of solid gold.

The Pyramid of Khafre sometimes appears to be the largest of the three great Pyramids of the Giza Plateau due to its apex, a steeper wall and its location on higher ground. However, it is 3 meters lower than its neighbouring pyramid belonging to his father, Khufu.

Three wise men?

The magnificent Giza Necropolis, including the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. There was a surreal feeling as I stood in awe across the archaeological complex, staring at these breathtaking structures from a distance, somewhat still in disbelieve that I have stood on and walked into a structure this amazing.

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