Category Archives: Middle East

Cairo Late 1950s

Three images of old Cairo taken in 1959. The original slides were drive-by snaps or souvenirs. They are now really blasted by age, and are covered in dirt and mold. This condition seems to suit the subject, however, so I gave them a sepia treatment and enhanced texture. Cairo of the 1950s was a really different place to today, society there has become much more conservative, and conflict threatens ordinary ways of life as well as ancient relics. Just to consider Egypt and what it has meant to travelers from all over the world for decades, is to realize that countries have a responsibility towards world heritage. I guess that is UNESCO’s message. Historic Cairo became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979, 20 years after these pics were taken.








Baalbek temple theatre

From a 1964 trip that took in the entire middle east region, comes this image from a visit to Baalbek, in Lebanon. Seen here is the temporary stage set up for the annual Baalbek Festival, with part of the ancient Roman Temple of Jupiter as a backdrop. I like the colors of the seats, yellow was top price.


This ancient location is a world heritage site, with a settlement history going back 9000 years. The temple is one of the biggest and best preserved of the ancient Roman world. Read more.

Of course silly stories about alien landing pads have been touted, but this video about the layout, and building practices of the Romans, will set you straight:  video.

The Baalbek International music and cultural festival started in 1956 and was 9 years old when this pic was taken. It has had to stop now and then due to conflict in the region, but did take place this year. Festival site.

Before and after



Posted by on September 10, 2014 in Middle East, Museum

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Postcard Oddity

We have here a man in a net being raised (or lowered but I prefer to think he’s going up) to a balcony off a cliff in a postcard on a wall in Iran (its a feast of prepositions). From a rich collection of holiday pics taken in the early 1970’s, this traveler was in Iran and spotted the postcard on a wall at their hotel. The region contains several traditional villages built right on the edge of a cliff such as this one.


I made the background black and white and worked on the postcard to bring out color and details.



Extreme landscape

This dramatic landscape with its homes carved into the hills was photographed on a bus trip through Iran in the early 1970s. A road trip that should be done on horseback I reckon!


I cleaned and simplified the image, then applied contrast, color and lighting to bring out the drama.



And another version



Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Middle East, Road trip, Ruins

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Mushroom Hills

These weirdly shaped rock formations remind me of mushrooms and a few other things. I’m guessing they were photographed on a road trip in Iran in the early 1970s.


The original was extremely grungy, and although that is an aesthetic I love, this one needed to be cleaner to appreciate the dramatic shapes and late-afternoon light. I applied some effects to simplify it and then brought out stronger colors.

Before and after


Click for big


Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Country scene, Middle East, Mountains, Nature

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Decorated Horse

This horse was photographed on a dusty road in Iran, sometime in the early 1970s. Taking a ride in a 2-person horse-drawn buggy is still a slightly touristy thing to do in bigger centers, but given the age of the slide and the seemingly remote location I’d guess this was used by locals. I’d love to see how those bright red pom poms come alive when the horse is moving. Iran has more than one unique breed of horse but as I’m not an expert, descriptions like ‘ewe necked and slab-sided’ don’t help me to understand what I’m looking at!


I loved the subject matter but the colors were really dull. To bring the pic alive I did some basic restoration work on tone and contrast then had a bit of fun with color and filters.

Before and after:


Click for big.


Two-headed griffin stands the test of time

This two-headed griffin was probably photographed in the ruins of the ancient Persian city of Persepolis, in modern day Iran. Persepolis dates back to 500BC and was a large complex of buildings. At that time, griffins had been around in human culture for about 1000 years. With the head of an eagle and the body of a lion, they are a mix of the two most powerful beasts in nature – one that ruled the air and the other the land. The Griffin was a symbol of divine power and a guardian of worldly and divine possessions. Read here about griffins and here about the ancient city of Persepolis.


After the usual restoration tricks, which in this case included the removal of a shadow, I decided to introduce a strong motion blur to the background and the boy. This tells the story of how fast time has moved and relatively, how fleeting human culture is. The griffin still looks fabulous today while all around it the world has changed.

Before and afterTwo-headed-bird-cropped

Click for big.


Posted by on June 2, 2013 in Art objects, Middle East, Ruins, Statue

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Roadside Cafe

This rundown, rough and ready roadside cafe was snapped from a passing tourist bus. I believe it is the Middle East somewhere, perhaps Iran. It is a classic scene with those rickety tables and chairs. I wonder what is in the glass cabinet.


A bit of a challenge this one as it was blurred, tilted and had window reflections from the bus. However there was enough pixel data to recover and enhance the scene. I corrected the deep shadow in the veranda, grabbed back all the colour and added a deeply saturated vignette.

Before and after.


Click for big.


Beautiful windows Near Eastern

Interior with decorated windows. Both of these images come from a collection of travels in the Near or Middle East circa 1968-1978. Both really beautiful, they feel almost timeless. I love the pink, yellow and green together with the deep browns. Both also have the blurred edge of a person just entering the frame, which adds a subliminal human element.

Window of a bus


Stained glass windows, mirrors and glass chandeliers


Restoring these images involved paying a lot of attention to color, overall tone, and shadow and highlight. They were both a little flawed with areas of glare, which I managed to reduce.

Before and after



Click for big



Posted by on May 6, 2013 in Close-ups, Interiors, Middle East

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Two Quarters in Jerusalem

I’ll put two pics together in this post as they were taken by the same photographer in old parts of Jerusalem, in 1964. One shows a souk (market) in the Arab quarter, and the other a street in the Jewish quarter. Two sides of a society ever in conflict, but to a visitor in 1964, equally interesting.

Street in the Jewish quarter

Souk in the Arab quarter

These were great to work on as there was so much texture and detail to bring out. I love how old walls and stonework come back to life with sharpening and re-coloring.

Before and afters. Click for big:


Chagal Windows Israel

This small synagogue is at Hadassah Medical Centre in Israel. The arches contain famous stained glass windows by Chagal. This pic from 1964 was taken only 2 years after they were installed. Hadassah is a large medical complex, and campus. The role of art in healing is part of their philosophy hence the investment in a Chagal masterpiece. The windows depict the 12 tribes of Israel; go here to see what they look like from inside and at night, when illuminated.

I love the shapes in this image and the walking man. One of the challenges of the original was reducing the window reflections while keeping the detail of the stained glass sections. In the end a smooth, stylised look worked best for me as it got rid of all detail and left only the essentials – shape, colour and form.



Posted by on January 10, 2013 in Art objects, Church&religion, Man, Middle East

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Dead Sea Swimmers

These swimmers are at the Dead Sea, Israel 1964. A long-time favorite – its such a great composition, I love the way the young girl in her white cap stands out, the pipes, the lolling swimmers on the lake shore. I wonder what it cost to pipe fresh water to this spot? Read about the history of the Dead Sea and environmental concerns.

I rebuilt the sky, restored the color through several layers and filters, and added in some sharpness.

Before and after. Click for big.


Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Beach scene, Middle East, People, Swimming

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Ruined Temple at Petra

I love everything about this image, the texture of the ruined stones, the ponies patiently waiting in the shade of a tree, the glimpse of a dry landscape. Petra is an ancient Jordanian city, built in 312BC. ‘The Treasury’, with its ornate facade carved into a sandstone cliff is its most iconic building. The city is approached through a deep, narrow gorge called a Siq. Petra has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985; one of the biggest threats to it is ‘unsustainable tourism’. My heart aches for this place.

I reduced contrast and warmed up tones, brightened the tree and sharpened the stones (wait, that rhymes!)

Before and after. Click for big.


Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Horses, Middle East, Ruins

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A Street in Damascus

This bustling street scene in Damascus was photographed on someone’s holiday in 1964. No more a tourist destination, Syria is currently in strife with rebels trying to take the city from the old rulers. People are living in fear, bombs are falling. The world we see in this old pic is gone, gone, gone.

Before and after. Click for big.


Posted by on December 6, 2012 in City street, Market, Middle East

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Damascus Old City Street Scene

This scene is like a movie set, except that its completely authentic in every dusty detail. Its a street in the old walled city of Damascus, Syria, and was taken on someone’s holiday in 1964. The old walled city of Damascus is under threat today, despite being on the World Monument Fund’s list of ‘100 Most Endangered Sites in the World’. Residents have begun to move out in favor of more modern accommodation so many old buildings are falling into disrepair and the government has demolished some parts. How achingly awful that this is happening, and therefore how precious this image. I wonder if the street still exists.

Selective color enhancement really helped to pop those melons off that cart!

Before and after – click for big.



Posted by on October 9, 2012 in Middle East, Traditional architecture

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