The Sahara (the Arabic word for desert) is the largest desert in the world. Being surrounded by it gives a feeling of an infinite sea of sand. It’s like an ocean, but the opposite – it’s dry, hard to live in, with enormous changes in temperature. It doesn’t make it any less beautiful, though – and living in Morocco, one of the African countries which the Sahara is reaching into, I decided that I really need to see this vast expanse of sand, wind and sun.
The experience was not a disappointment. Walking in the sand and sleeping under the stars was like a dream – something completely different and quite unbelievable. The silence was stunning. Not only were we far from human habitation, but being a desert, there weren’t even any creatures that sang or shrieked or played.
After the first overwhelming feeling of infinite space and never-ending waves of sand, I started taking a closer look: the colours, the patterns, the lines. It’s an ever-changing work of art, created by wind, light and sand. From my human perspective I saw brush strokes, calligraphy made by the wind, patterns of a seemingly invisible sea. The desert is a place one can easily get lost in, both physically and mentally.
There is intricate detail and stupendous variability even in the greatest of things.
The writing of the wind.
It used to be an equatorial coral reef, but that was 450 million years ago. Now, it’s a large Swedish island in the Baltic sea – a magical place which still shows signs of its ancient history.
I’ve always wanted to go to Gotland. I’ve heard of its abundant fossils, its open landscapes, its unique animal and plant life, and specifically, its stunning sea stacks (raukar) – all of which, by the way, are thanks to that old coral reef. In June, as I was visiting my aunt in Sweden, I finally and surprisingly got the opportunity to go there for a few days. I charged my camera batteries and tried to tell myself that I wasn’t allowed to just run off the minute we got off the boat. After all, I was there with my dad and two aunts. Got to play the social game.
The view as we arrived: Visby, the only city on Gotland. As special as the island itself, it deserves its own blog post.
While we (mainly) sleep at night, there are a lot of creatures that don’t. We might not realize the amount of life and activity that takes place during those dark hours because of our own habits, and perhaps they’re as oblivious to us as we are to them. Many of these creatures are rarely noticed and seen, and it’s even more unusual to see a photo of them – photography requires light, a resource that is often scarce at night.
Of course there are a lot of exceptions. I’m not going to show you those; instead I’m going to share photographs of creatures who have spent the hours before sunrise or after sunset with me. Those hours between light and darkness are special. It feels like everyone and everything is calmer and quieter, as if the whole world decided to lower the volume and the pulse for a while.
It’s time to take a deep breath and enjoy the disappearance of the little light there is, and hang out with the creatures of the night.
These birds had been sitting around all night, but were startled by a bear who was looking for something to eat in the early morning hours.
Many people in Finland have a summer house or cottage – a place where you can leave the everyday stresses behind. One day, many years ago, my grandparents asked if I wanted theirs: I happily accepted and have been one of those lucky people ever since. Mine is even more of a relaxing place than most modern cottages: it has neither electricity nor running water. I always keep my phone off when I’m there, and ask guests, if I have any, to do the same. Just so we can save the battery for an emergency, of course.
Evening tranquility. The photos below were all taken to the right of the pier base (pile of rocks), where you can see some fallen reeds.
These days, I live about 3,800 km from my summer cottage, but I managed to visit it for a couple of days in the beginning of the summer anyway. As I was walking along the water, I saw a familiar sight: the empty skins of dragonfly nymphs.
Sometimes you have to leave and come back to appreciate what it was you left in the first place. That’s what happened with me and Rabat – I left for a while. I saw other countries and other cities and returned with a fresh set of eyes.
I live about 40 minutes away from the Moroccan capital city. It’s not the largest city in the country, nor is it a well-known tourist town. It’s a calm and clean city where the king lives, and where the embassies are. There’s history, beauty and an incredible coast line. As in all cities, there is also poverty and trash. It’s alive.
While visiting Marrakesh, a famous and popular tourist destination in Morocco, we walked through the souk (market). It was quite the experience, with a lot of people trying to “guide” us and sell us things. It’s all well and good to do that, but it was quite overwhelming. In contrast, walking through the souk in Rabat was heaven. It’s quiet and clean and despite getting several invitations to visit someone’s shop, it’s easy to be left alone if one wants to. That’s when I realized how much I like this city. I’d like to show that in pictures.
From the freshness of the Finnish archipelago to the searing heat of the Moroccan desert, from the magnificent seastacks on Gotland to the busy city life of Marrakech – it’s been an intense month of travel and beautiful sights. Apart from a lot of exciting experiences, I have also gathered a large number of photos, which I will share with you over the next while. I’ll give you a glimpse already in this blog post.
After three weeks in Finland and Sweden, my dad came with me to Morocco to see the country and how we live. It was his first time here, and we all had a great time!Yesterday, he travelled back to Finland – it was a long journey, involving 12 hours of flight-related travel and 5 hours of driving. I miss him already, so I thought I’d share some of the photos I took of him while he was here. Most of them are from the desert, where we spent two nights and three days, sleeping under the stars and climbing dunes. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into my life!
The desert explorer enjoying the sunset, far away from the closest town.
Click for more!
There will be a bit of a break here on the blog. Tomorrow, I’m flying to Finland to visit family and friends, and to run a marathon (what a silly thing to do on your vacation, right?). I’ll be there for three weeks, and when I return, I’m bringing my dad with me. So there might be up to 5 weeks without any posts!
Before I leave, I want to share some beautiful architecture that I was lucky enough to have the chance to enjoy in Córdoba, Spain about a month ago. The mosque-cathedral was built over 1000 years ago, on a site that was previously a Roman temple, and a Christian church. Today it’s a Catholic cathedral, but the buildings mosque origins are still very obvious. I hope you enjoy the photos!
The beautiful, ornate mihrab.