With a slim idea of what daily life will entail for me now beginning to form, I took the chance to head back to the Old City this morning for further exploration. Aside from pre-determined jobs that are called through to me, I know that the rest of the time I’m just “on duty”. While in London, these dead times can be frustrating as I try to think of new things to shoot that haven’t been over-documented but with the fresh city, politics, lifestyle and options available here, it’s (I have to ask forgiveness before I even write this word) “nourishing” to have so much choice.
Having checked out the Western Wall in the Jewish Quarter on Sunday, I turned left through Jaffa Gate and headed into the shops and stalls of the Christian Quarter. It’s an unavoidable cliché but the sights, sounds and smells really do make an unforgettable experience. If you can time your visit to coincide with the call to prayer coming from the Muslim Quarter as you walk through the spice markets, you really are transported to some text-book version of what you always imagined the Middle East to be.
After building up the sufficient sales-blocking defences when I walked into the more-touristy outskirts of the lanes, it was a pleasing surprise to find that half of the time when I was deeper into the lanes, the shopkeeper who called my name or beckoned me to stop was genuinely just wanting to talk. One man was in the process of finishing a book on the antiques that he sold and wanted advice on whether his photographs were good enough and how he could improve them. One man simply wanted to talk to me about my experiences so far and asked me to do all I could to get into Gaza to see for myself what’s been happening.
There were of course the expected amount of traders who thought that because they either guessed correctly that I was English or said the words “Fish and Chips” to me, I’d become financial putty in their hands. No joy, guys. I’ve made a policy of only buying things at the end of my time here. That way, I learn to avoid the Israeli equivalent of the straw donkey or sombrero. Having said that, I couldn’t resist the contradictory fridge magnets at the end of this blog.
So, back to today; aside from a trip to the Presidential compound where I got to meet the apparently decent chap that is Sky correspondent Dominic Waghorn and to get a picture of the new US envoy arriving (or rather a car driving through a gate), my only job was to get Tzipi Livni, leader of the Kadima Party, meeting the same said US envoy, George J. Mitchell.
Having waited for an hour at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, it was a reality check to see that pointless photo calls don’t just happen in the UK. My picture managed to perfectly capture the back of Livni’s head as she shook Mitchell’s hand while stood in the wrong place. Ah well, at least it allowed me to use today’s desperately called-for pun in the title..