Territorial Disputes Over Tourist Attractions

Gibnews.net, Wikimedia Commons

Spain is being accused of intentionally holding tourists in long lines as they make their way back from day tripping in Gibraltar. The British Overseas Territory claims the traffic jam — which has so far affected more than 10,000 vehicles — has been deliberately orchestrated because of a disagreement over a creation of an artificial reef in territorial waters. Of course, this isn’t the only territory in the middle of a tug-of-war match by two — or sometimes more — countries. Here are just a few of the dozens of places with disputed borders where you may find yourself stuck:

  • Mont Blanc Summit (France vs. Italy): Both countries have had a long but peaceful dispute over ownership of the summit of the highest mountain in the Alps.
  • Liancourt Rocks (Japan vs. South Korea): this group of small, craggy islets has become a tourist attraction in recent years, but its sovereignty is still being disputed.
  • East Jerusalem (Israel vs. Palestinian Authority): Jerusalem’s Old City and some of the holiest sites of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are just a few of the attractions that lie in this hotly debated territory.
  • Ceuta (Spain vs. Morocco): the majority of this city’s population are ethnic Spanish who are opposed to the idea of being ruled by Morocco.
  • Tennessee River (Tennessee vs. Georgia): Georgia lawmakers claim surveyors who mapped out the border between these two states in 1818 got it wrong, and part of the Tennessee River should actually belong to Georgia.
  • Paracel Islands (China vs. Taiwan vs. Vietnam): three countries lay claim to the Paracel Islands in the South China Sea. The islands have the potential to become a popular tourist attraction because of their large reef system, but currently tensions between the countries are too high.
  • Southern Half of Belize (Belize vs. Guatemala): All of Belize was formerly part of Guatemala, and today the debate still continues over who is the rightful owner.

Tangier, Morocco: Stop And Stay A While

Tangier
Almudena Alonso-Herrero

Every now and then in my travels I find a spot where I want to stop for a while. Damascus, Harar and the Orkney Islands have all captured my imagination because of their rich culture and laid back atmosphere.

Damascus is lost, sucked into the maelstrom of a country intent on destroying itself. Harar and Orkney are far away. So I’m lucky to have discovered Tangier, Morocco, less than an hour’s flight from my home base of Madrid.

Set in a broad bay next to the Strait of Gibraltar, it’s been an important spot since ancient times. On a high hill stands the Casbah, once the domain of the Sultan but now an exclusive neighborhood for rich Moroccans and an increasing number of expatriates. Below lies the medina, a jumble of houses and labyrinthine streets that are home to shopkeepers and laborers. There’s also a sprawling new city thanks to the booming port.

Tangier is a fascinating city. You can see all the tourist sights in two days and spend the rest of your life figuring the place out. Tangier has one of the most mixed populations I’ve seen. Arabs rub shoulders with Berbers from the Rif, Sahrawis from Western Sahara, and an increasing number of Senegalese and other migrants from sub-Saharan Africa. The men dress in everything from the traditional djellaba to T-shirt and jeans; the women in everything from the niqab to miniskirts. There’s also a long-established expat population of French, Spaniards and British.

%Gallery-174782%
%Gallery-175701%
This ethnic alphabet soup means you hear half a dozen languages as you walk down the street. The local Arabic is called Darija and is distinct enough that my rusty Levantine Arabic is almost useless. Berber is often heard too. If you don’t speak either of these languages, chances are that any individual Moroccan will speak French, Spanish or English, or perhaps all of them. I’ve never met an African who spoke fewer than three languages.

It’s often hard to know which language to use first. I generally start conversations in Spanish because that’s more widely understood than English, although one young guy immediately switched to English and asked, “Why are you speaking Spanish if you’re from an English-speaking country?” Conversations often slide from one language to another. This is a place where you can end up using four languages just asking a waiter for a cup of tea!

Speaking of tea, sitting in a cafe with a cup of Moroccan mint tea (cloudy with sugar and with the mint leaves still floating in the water) is the best way to see Tangier. The locals love to relax with friends and watch the world go by. My favorite place to sit is the Petit Socco, a small square in the center of the medina through which everyone seems to pass. Not far off and outside the old city walls is the Grand Socco. It’s even more lively but the blaring traffic makes it less relaxing.

You won’t have to sit long before you’ll get in a conversation with someone. Moroccans are very social and you can learn a lot about life in their country by spending a couple of hours lounging in a cafe. I’ve been treated to everything from Berber tales of spirit possession to catty gossip from longtime expats.

Tangier used to have a bad reputation for hustlers and touts. They’ve been mostly cleaned out in recent years although you’ll still have young guys coming up to you asking to be your guide. A polite “no” will work if repeated two or three times. This doesn’t work in Marrakesh or Fez! Once you’ve been around a couple of days they’ll all recognize you and stop asking.

There are other advantages to staying for a while. Most visitors spend only a day or two in Tangier, or come as day trippers from Gibraltar or Tarifa and disappear after a few hours. The locals quite understandably see these people only as sources of money. Once the folks in Tangier have seen you around for a few days they start getting curious. Soon you’ll get to know the people who hang out at your regular cafes. The kids will start following you to get English lessons. You’ll start getting invitations for lunch or parties or day trips.

This, of course, works most places. What makes Tangier special is the diverse range of people to meet and the vibrant feel to the place. It’s a place of constant movement. People come here to make their fortunes or to use the city as a launchpad to get to Europe. It’s welcoming to newcomers because so many people are newcomers. You’ll meet a lot of interesting people with interesting dreams in Tangier and to become part of the scene in this endlessly interesting city requires only a bit of time and an open mind.

Tangier
Almudena Alonso-Herrero

Costa del Sol – 3 days in Spain

Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol lazily stretches out along the southern Mediterranean coast of Spain. Not really committing to the industrious ambitions of Barcelona or Madrid, the coast is a land of perpetual siesta, where work orders are responded to with a simple “manana,” and beaches gradually disappear into salty azure waters. It is the kind of place that convertibles were invented for.

To tackle it in 3 days would be a shame, but better than having not visited at all. To really cover the ground necessary along the Costa del Sol, an automobile is necessary. Luckily, car rentals in Spain are very affordable, as cheap as 15 Euros per day. Inexpensive flights also abound from all over Europe on Easyjet and Ryanair. It is possible to fly to Malaga for under 20 U.S. dollars from Barcelona round-trip. Once you have arrived along this golden coast of white villages and luxurious beaches, there is much to do and see. Read on…

Day 1 – Check out Malaga

If you are arriving by plane or train, then your adventure will likely begin in Malaga – birthplace of Picasso and one of the oldest cities in Europe. Start with a climb up to the Moorish castle of Castillo de Gibralfaro for a history lesson and a stunning view out across Malaga and the Mediterranean. It is tough to miss the attraction as it looms high over the city. If it is bullfighting season (Spring-Autumn, with August being the busiest month in Malaga), then check out a fight at the nearby Plaza La Malagueta after your climb.

Dropping by Picasso’s childhood home in the Plaza de la Merced is another top attraction and rewards the visitor with childhood paintings by the master himself. A day in Malaga is not complete without feasting upon a table of tapas. The undisputed top spot for tapas in Malaga is Tapeo de Cervantes. Be sure to get there early, and follow it with a Flamenco show if you have the energy at Kelipe Centro de Arte Flamenco. They have shows on Friday and Saturday nights at 9pm, but be sure to reserve in advance by email. If on a serious budget, then check out Melting Pot Hostel for a room. For a proper hotel, I prefer the modern, bright, and charming Petit Palace Plaza, which is also quite a bargain.

Day 2 – The Alhambra and Nerja

For the best Islamic architecture in the world, it is not necessary to travel to the middle east or northern Africa. The Alhambra is an ideal and is located in Granada, Spain. Wake up early and head east from Malaga on Spain’s excellent highway system. The Alhambra rests in the hills overlooking old Granada, and is the type of scene that reminds you why you travel. Take your time with the Alhambra. It is a spellbinding palace awash in the stories of Moorish times. When you are done wandering its storied halls, head down to Nerja, known as the balcony of Europe. Take in the beach, check out the lazy white washed town, or even explore the nearby cave system. Spain is filled with little towns that are extremely difficult to leave. Nerja is such a place. Stay the night at the Puerta del Mar, and feast on fresh seafood at Calabaza.

Day 3 – Gibraltar

It is a long drive to Gibraltar, but if you have the energy, and are not hypnotized into lounging around Nerja for the remainder of your days, then start heading west Costa del Sol towards The Rock. Gibraltar has a strange and colorful history as the northern pillar of Hercules. Once thought to be the marker for the end of the western world, it has been a battleground, a British enclave, and even the last refuge for the Neanderthals. To reach Gibraltar, you must drive to La Linea de la Concepcion, park, and walk across the Gibraltar Airport runway. This is an interesting passage as any, especially if you must contend with a commercial plane descending on the narrow strip of cement. The island has a decidedly British feel, and is filled with pubs and schoolchildren in British academy uniforms. While Spain has repeatedly requested the return of Gibraltar from the United Kingdom, the Brits do not intend to part with the territory. It has become a small tropical Britain at the southern tip of Spain.

The real attraction is the Rock of Gibraltar, which has repeatedly served as a natural fortress throughout history. Its storied past of battles is written with holes for cannons and caves that served as barracks. Everyone from the Phoenicians to the Moors to the Brits have used this rock as a strategic stronghold at the end of the world. The Rock is also home to the only wild monkeys in continental Europe – Barnaby Macaques. They occupy the upper rock, and have separated into many rival gangs that compete for resources. They are cheeky creatures, and are well known for snatching ice cream cones from unsuspecting rubes for an easy snack. One can either climb the rock on foot or take a van up to the top. Finish the day with dinner at one of Gibraltar’s excellent restaurants, and stay the night in the ape infested Rock Hotel Gibraltar.

Extra – Tarifa or Morocco
If you find yourself with some extra time, then check out Tarifa, where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic. With golden beaches and a fast ferry to Morocco, Tarifa is both a lazy place to lounge and a gateway to Africa. Tarifa is one of Europe’s, and the world’s, top beaches.

Costa del Sol

Top ten cities to visit in 2011, according to Lonely Planet

Another decade is about to bite the dust, but the savvy travelers at Lonely Planet have given us a jump start on the hot list for 2011. They’ve just announced their picks for the world’s best cities to visit next year, and while you’ll find some of the usual suspects (New York, which will debut the National September 11 Memorial on the 10th anniversary of the attacks), there are also some surprises. The great news? About half of these places are easy on the budget once you get there. Some list-makers, below:

Tangier, Morocco
Once derided as dirty and dangerous, this port city at the crossroads of Europe and Africa has undergone a major renovation and clean-up. A thriving arts, food, and shopping scene are drawing visitors.

Iquitos
, Peru
A major Amazonian trading port formerly known for its raucous nightlife, general mayhem, riverside shanties, and rubber-boom barons, Iquitos has gotten a major upgrade. Accessible only by air or boat, the city still has a rocking after-hours scene, but it’s also a “cultural hub” providing a “sultry slice of Amazon life.”

Delhi, India
The 2010 Commonwealth Games got the city into shape, there’s a “futuristic” Metro (who knew?) and 2011 marks the city’s 100th anniversary. Be prepared for lots of celebrations.

Not as wallet-friendly, but absolutely stunning:

Wellington, New Zealand
Nicknamed the “coolest little capital in the world,” this laidback, far southern North Island city has it all: a hopping food and wine scene, boutiques and galleries featuring NZ’s hottest designers and artists, a serious arts and culture scene that includes the world-famous Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, and accommodations ranging from high-end hotel and styley boutique sleeps, to funky hostels and guesthouses. Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy miles of hiking trails, city parks, hilly streets, and golden beaches.

What cities are on your personal 2011 must-visit list?

[Photo credits:Tangier, Flickr user Lumumo; Wellington, Flickr user 111 Emergency]

Through the Gadling Lens: photographing the children of the world

I was recently instant-messaging a friend of mine, asking him if he had any suggestions for what we could talk about this week here on Through the Gadling Lens.

“Why don’t you talk about taking photographs of kids?” he asked.

I demurred.

“Umm, I really try to keep this column about travel,” I explained gently.

He looked at me like I was stupid. Well, as much as one can look at someone else on instant-messaging.

“Karen,” he said patiently, “people travel with their kids. Besides, there are children all over the world. Children make great subjects. You should share how you capture kids on camera.”

Well, duh. He’s right, of course. So this week, with the additional help of some fantastic images in our Gadling Flickr pool, we’ll talk about how to capture the essence and innocence of childhood while traveling. A couple of points to remember, before we begin:

1. Be sure to ask permission before you snap any photos, particularly if the children are with their parents or other adults; and

2. Remember the rules about shooting strangers in general (you can see some general guidelines here).

And so now, let’s get to it:
1. Expressions.

I think one of the main reasons that most people are drawn to photographs of children is the way that they tend to be so honest with their emotions — it’s not usual that you meet a child who is really adept at hiding his or her feelings. Because their expressions tend to be obvious, their faces make for great subjects. Here are few great examples:

These angels were captured by LadyExpat and shared in our Flickr pool. She writes: “Mabul Island was full of children, and they all loved having their photos taken. I love the looks of delight on these two young ones. “

Man, so do I. This is a great shot. Notice how tightly the image is cropped, which exemplifies the number one rule of portrait photography — don’t be afraid to get in close. Because of this tight image, there’s nothing extraneous that competes with the light in their eyes or their wide smiles. Very well done.

Here’s another example of a great portrait of children, this time far less posed:

This photo, aptly titled “Fragile Innocence,” was shared with us by photographer madang86, and was taken in Vietnam. In this case, the children seem unaware of the camera (the best way, obviously, to get a natural shot), but what makes this photo particularly stunning is (a) again, the the tight crop on the children’s faces, and (b) the masterful use of colour — children’s clothing almost blend seamlessly into the background of the photograph, allowing their brightly coloured collars and their lovely faces to be the focal point. Again, well done.

Then, of course, there’s nothing like getting a kid to ham it up for you:

This great shot was shared by fiznatty in our Gadling Flickr pool (and by the way, get used to that name — this is a man who clearly gets how to capture photographs of kids. This is the first of several I’ll be featuring in this post). He writes: “School children beckon to have us join them in their classroom.” Obviously, the lovely beckoning hand and engaging face of the young boy to the right of the picture is pretty hypnotic, but after you stop looking at him, notice the laughter on the face of the boy to the left, partially obscured by the window! A really great image.

And now, the second of fiznatty’s images:

Words really can’t describe how much I love this image, captured in Rwanda. Fiznatty writes, “Despite being dressed in drab, second-hand clothing, [the lead boy] exuded a confidence that I feel reflected his countrymen as a whole.” And yes, I would agree that the boy’s confidence (bravado?) is probably the first thing you notice in this image. And I particularly love the choice of shooting the image in black-and-white — it conveys the starkness and difficulty of life in war-torn Rwanda. Wonderfully shot.

2. Movement.

In addition to their wonderful expressions, probably the characteristic most notable in children is their inability to sit still — they always seem to be on the move, which can often make it difficult to capture their photographs. In my experience, the best thing to do is just go with it — capture images of children doing what they do best. To wit:

This beautiful image, shared by jonrawlinson, totally captures the exuberance we can only imagine this young boy must be feeling as he leaps into sea off the coast of Gibraltar. The feeling of freedom, conveyed by the boy’s outstretched arms, is only enhanced by jonrawlinson shooting the image straight into the sunshine, which emphasizes the boy’s silhouette. Great shot.

And again, by the ubiquitous fiznatty:


This image, also shot in Rwanda, is of “probably the most enthusiastic member of the dance group” — and if this, I have no doubt. You can just imagine this young girl swing her arms with abandon, and her face registers pure joy. This girl lives to dance, no question. Seriously, can you even look at this photograph without feeling really happy?

3. With parents

Sometimes, what you might find you want to capture is not just the expressions and movement of the children, but their relationships to their parents — their helplessness and dependency, and the love of the parents for them. Here are a few great images:

This image, shared by Un rosarino en Vietnam, positively took my breath away. It’s a classic example of how the way you shoot an image can sometimes convey far more emotion that the subjects themselves. In this photograph, the faces of the subjects aren’t even visible — and yet, somehow, you get the distinct impression that this parent (Mom? Dad?) is quite devoted to his (her?) young child. By removing the colour from everything other than the central figures, the aridity and dustiness of the region in Cambodia is beautifully conveyed. Well done.

And taking another look at the parental r
elationship, look at this lovely image:

This image was taken and shared by uncorneredmarket, photographed in Burma. I love the wide-eyed curiosity of the baby, and the wary, protective expression on his mother’s face. She seems to be saying “Yessss…. I *suppose* you can take his picture … but just one.” And really, is there anything more lovely than witnessing a mother’s protection of her children?

4. The condition.

Finally, often nothing conveys the standard of living of a community than its children. And the following image conveys this concept so powerfully:

This image, as you might imagine, stopped me dead in my tracks. This photograph, captured and shared by lecercle, is of a child worker in India. Photographer lecercle writes:

Suresh works in this purgatory six days a week.

Nine years old, nearly lost in a hooded sweatshirt with a skateboarder on the chest, he takes football-size chunks of fractured rock and beats them into powder.

The dust on Suresh’s face, the darkness of the industrial building behind him, all help convey the “purgatory” of his situation. Amazing image.

How about you — do you tend to take photographs of the kids in the locations where you visit? If so, feel free to share your best in the comments below. And as always, if you have any questions or suggestions, you can always contact me directly at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom – and I’m happy to address them in upcoming Through the Gadling Lens posts.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
Through the Gadling Lens can be found every Thursday right here, at 11 a.m. To read more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.