Monday, February 27, 2012

"The Doomsday Vault"


Wednesday, 29 February is the Earth Arc Day. On this special day (every four years) people on the Earth planet are encouraged to collect some local seeds, put them in an envelope or bag , and ship them to a seed bank for storage that will ensure preservation of world's diversity of food crops in case of global disaster (climate change, tzunami, plant disease etc). The stored seeds could remain undamaged for decades, and even centuries.

There are some 1500 seed banks around the world, but they are rather vulnerable, for various reasons: mismanagement, lack of funds, energy failure, civil unrest etc.
Svalbard Global Seed Vault (nicknamed 'Doomsday Vault' by the Media), opened four years ago on 26 February 2008 and financed by Norway, is supposed to function as a Back-up for all other seed banks.

Svalbard is an arctic arhipelago ; the seed bank built inside one of its mountains is considered better and safer than the ones in the other parts of the world. The reasons are obvious. The place is remote, far from human threats and dangers (such as wars), it's geologically stable (almost no earthquakes), its climate is freezing (which is optimal for the preservation of seeds ). This seed bank is built deep into the mountain and high above sea level to withstand a nuclear attack or flooding, and is very well guarded.

entrance to Svalbard vault (Web picture)

The seeds (only original samples , not genetically modified ones) are stored behind many locked doors, in sealed air-tight packages put inside sealed plastic boxes. The conditions in this storage facility are monitored both electronically and physically.

boxes with stored seeds (Web picture)

There are some nice, interesting videos on YouTube taking us on a tour to the vault. Here's a short one:

No doubt, a seed bank is a smart concept, Svalbard Vault is a fascinating project. Yet, the whole idea of seed storage is quite thought-provoking. I can't help asking myself this: what if some elite group gets hold of the vault to dominate world's food supply? In case of a global nuclear disaster, what good would these undamaged seeds do if the soil and atmosphere are contaminated with radiation? Let's hope there won't be any nuclear disaster and nothing bad will happen to the vault either.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Flea Market in Old Jaffa

No trip to a country would be complete without a visit to one of its Flea Markets. The Flea Market in old Jaffa, at walking distance from the clock tower square (see previous post), is one of the main attractions of the city, especially to those looking for bargains in antiques and second-hand treasures.

One can spend here several pleasant hours of walking around, exploring, enjoying the unique atmosphere, and having a bite in one of the eateries in the area. It is a great cultural and shopping experience

Before entering the market one should know some basics: here you pay mainly in cash; you have to beware of pickpockets; you can practice your barganing and haggling skills. The place also offers photography opportunities : capture of people , stuff, and curiosities; so bring your camera with you.

The little streets and alleys, east of the clock tower, are packed with merchandise : clothing, rugs, furniture, jewelery, tools, old books and records, toys - you name it they've got it. A lot of junk is displayed on some sidewalks.

If you come early in the day, you may get a good price as the vendor believes the sale will bring him luck through the day (and if it's Sunday - luck through the whole week).

Let's have a few pictures speak for themselves.

light fixtures

lace and clothes

judaica items and jewellery

woman mending a rug in front of her rugs shop

old pictures

second-hand furniture items

small tools

On my last visit to the Flea Market (about two weeks ago), I witnessed a bride and groom having their photo taken in front of a furniture store. Perhaps the shop is family owned and the couple wanted a memento with this location as background to some photos. Anyway, it was a rather cold day, but the bride wasn't shivering. She was happy and eager to follow the photographer's instructions. Love was in the air.

love is in the air

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Clock Tower Square

Jaffa, one of the oldest port cities in the world. . The tower clock square. I've been here many times, and yet it seems I never have enough of it. I'm attracted to this square by its location( near the Mediterranean sea, beach and promenade), its architecture (stone and arches: window arches, door arches, interior arches), a blend of the religious (mosque, church, synagogue) and the secular ( art galleries, eateries, shops) , and of course, the colorful Flea Market that occupies the narrow side streets that border the square (and which deserves a separate post). Despite the great number of local and foreign tourists visiting the place, an information center was opened only some six months ago?!

sea and promenade

Tourist Information Center

The turkish clock tower erected in 1906 and recently renovated, dominates the entire square. It has four clocks, one on each side; the openings and windows are covered with gratings. Across it, there' s the renovated Saraya (palace in turkish) building and its marble pillars. The Saraya used to be the residence of the turkish governor at the time of the otoman rule.

The turkish clock tower

clock tower and the Saraya with 4 marble pillars

The next point of attraction in the square, is the Abulafia Bakery , famous for its pretzels seasoned with zatar / sesame, and especially for its breads stuffed with mashed potatoes/mushrooms/cheese/boiled eggs/ onions/ olives.
The bakery stands on the same spot since 1879!!
The arab-israeli Abulafia family is also the owner of a reastaurant and a middle-eastern sweets patisserie shop - all on the same street.

The Abulafia Bakery

Pita Bread for sale

Margaret Tayar's fish -based restaurant with its attached terrace overlooking the sea, is a favorite place of gourmet people and celebrities, despite the simplicity of both the setting and the menu. Its specialty is stuffed sardines and north african salads. The food is cooked by the owner, herself.

Tayar's restaurant with its blue fish icon on top

And to conclude with some art, below's the painting of a naked woman.... at the very entrance of an art gallery . People stop in front of it to contemplate the nude, and then enter the gallery to look for more...

Art Gallery