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Urban Sketchers: Alexandria’s Archite...
Alexandria
By Sergi Cabeza
31 Oct 2014

October 31, 2014
Alexandria, Egypt

The ‘Description of Alexandria’ is a cultural and artistic project carried out by a team of volunteer sketchers and documenters that seeks to record the remains of cosmopolitan Alexandria and its architectural heritage.

Artist and architect, Mohamad Gohar, founded the project more than 4 years ago with the aim of raising awareness about the threat posed to Alexandria’s cityscape by urban developers, as well as documenting the current and former architectural face of the city.

The appearance of this legendary city is rapidly changing and many of the older buildings are being demolished and replaced with sterile modern structures. Since the revolution of 2011, more than 27,000 new buildings were erected, most of them illegally. Much of the data about the city’s buildings is fragmented and outdated.

The sketchers cover as much as possible and include four main types of drawings: Facades, perspectives, details, and the memory of the place. They have compiled a book split into five volumes according to area. The book describes the architectural descriptions of the buildings as well as discussing their historical context.

The video shows the sketchers drawing a Venetian building on Alexandria’s corniche as well as an exhibition of Mohamad Gohar’s work in an art gallery.

Shot List:

0'' Villa Aghyon, destroyed in February, was the first to be build with concrete.
6'' Villa to be demolished
9'' closer look
12'' Villa where Lawrence Durrell wrote the Alexandria Quartet famous books
17'' Same Villa, different perspective
22'' A villa in bad conditions with a new building behind.
27'' Buildings under construction, the new face of Alexandria
31'' More buildings under construction
37'' Same
57'' Alexandria's downtown corniche
1'04'' A group of urban sketchers drawing on a friday morning by Alexandria's corniche
1'10'' A closer look
1'15'' Mohamed Gohar, the founder of the project 'Description of Alexandria"
1'20'' Gohar sitting and drawing
1'25'' Zoom on his hands
1'30'' The sketch
1'35'' The 'Venice' building, the one that the sketchers are drawing on this Friday morning
1'40'' Another perspective of the artists.
1'46'' Mohamed Gohar: "Alexandria is facing a great problem of loosing its buildings. This buildings contain history and since we don't have any updated data and information about buildings and urban plans in Alexandria, I believe that the Description of Alexandria will play a great role in recording this data for our next generation. In the Description of Alexandria we not only draw buildings, we also describe every element of this building and the surrounding of this building and also we describe how people live by this building and on this area.
2'38'' Gohar shows the finished version of his sketch
2'42'' He drew only a detail of the building.
2'47'' Gohar: "It's a life project, we can't finish. I wish I can draw all Alexandria and record it for history, but it's a very, very big project and need more time, more lives."
2'57'' A member of the group. Work in progress
3'03'' She draws vignettes of life around the buildings.
3'09'' A family having coffee.
3'13'' Sylvie Bargain, a French urban sketcher joined the group while visiting Alexandria
3'19'' Sylvie's drawing
3'23'' Sylvie goes colorful
3'30'' Almost finished
3'34'' Final sketch. She would later finish coloring.
3'39'' Sylvie Bargain: "It really is a touching project to preserve the heritage of the city like this. It is what pushed me to come from France and spend a week here discovering Alexandria thanks to this project by Mohamed Gohar"
3'53'' The whole group has just finished drawing.
3'58'' Mohamed Gohar minutes before the opening of the exhibition featuring his sketches.
4'04'' One of the sketches exhibited
4'09'' Another one, the already demolished Villa Roushdy.
4'14'' Exhibition opening
4'19'' Visitors observing a sketch
4'25'' Attendance was high
4'29'' More visitors.
4'36'' A woman looks two of the sketches
4'41'' A couple.
4'46'' Mohamed Gohar chats with one of the visitors
4'54'' Looking carefully
4'59'' More visitors
5'04'' A visitor wanted a picture with the artist
5'08'' Dominique Waag, French Consul in Alexandria speaking to the public
5'14'' Dominique Waag, Consul of France in Alexandria: "As you know the problem of heritage is something crucial for Alexandria because Alexandria is a city that has a 20th century heritage absolutely exceptional but that unfortunately has not been preserved in the right way until now and that i think we could say it's really in danger (threatened) today since a large number of buildings have already been destroyed and the ones who are still standing are for a great part damaged and many of the ones damaged have already been destroyed"
5'43'' Dominique Waag: "I think that this exhibition will help raise the awareness of the civil society in Alexandria, of the people of Alexandria, on the importance of this heritage and of the importance of this heritage for the future of the city"
5'55'' Description of Alexandria's draft version, First volume.

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Playing with Fire: Running the 'Corre...
Gerona
By Antolo
23 Oct 2014

It is night and the lights go out, the signal that announces the imminent beginning. In the courtyard, crowded with people, only silhouettes are distinguishable. The atmosphere is charged, but silence reigns. Almost everyone remains motionless except a newcomer trying to find friends in the crowd. Suddenly, a blinding light, followed by cries here, another there, and another... The fire has begun. The drums sound.

The Correfoc, or “fire run,” finds its origins in the “devil dances” of twelfth century Catalonia. The very first one took place at the wedding of Barcelona’s Count, Ramon Berenguer IV. These “devil dances” were performed by actors dressed like demons between meals during noble banquets in the Middle Ages. The dance represented the fight between good and evil.

People start running without a direction in mind. They are running away from the fire, pushing, pulling, eventually becoming attracted by that mysterious magnetism that has always existed between man and the pyrrhic element. At once, men dressed as devils carrying flares mix in the crowd. They light flares and begin to lash out at anything that moves. The sound of firecrackers and the hiss of sparks flying mix with the din of voices. Drums set the rhythm for the fire procession.

The relative security offered by the open space of the square gives way to narrow alleys where devils and spectators huddle. The bravest hug and jump at the fire porters while the majority, fearful, just keep looking for a way to stay ahead of the flames. It is a frenetic tour through the old town, down narrow streets and through open squares, where troupes of devils dance and throw flames and sparks in all directions. At the end of the route, in a larger square, a great fire festival awaits the crowd. Large flares jump skyward while intrepid jugglers delight the audience with a host of tricks, spitting fire like authentic demons until the last flame is extinguished and silence falls on Gerona.

Correfocs were once popular at different celebrations all around Catalonia. The first modern incarnation of the fire parade,however, took place in 1979 at Barcelona’s festival. This represented a comeback for the custom after many popular traditions were lost during the Franco dictatorship. Today, the Correfoc, like other traditional Catalan customs, is a way to preserve Catalonia’s cultural identity.

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Racing buffaloes in Thailand
Chonburi
By Biel Calderon
06 Oct 2014

Chonburi, Thailand

Spectators eagerly await the race as enthusiastic emcees cheer over loudspeakers. Meanwhile, jockeys prepare their powerful water buffaloes to run the 100-meter soil track ahead.
Clouds of dust erupt as the large animals and their riders stampede towards the finishing line, while the crowd roars in support of their favorites. For the jockeys, controlling a water buffalo requires great skill and strength; getting thrown off the back of the buffalo could cause serious bodily harm.

Every year, hundreds of farmers travel with their large beasts from different parts of Thailand to Chonburi province, 90 kilometers away from the capital Bangkok, to take part in the traditional "Buffalo Racing Festival". This cultural event pays tribute to the hard working farm animals, which are greatly valued in this Southeast Asian country.

The contest, one of the best-known festivals in Thailand, has been celebrated for 140 years. Legend has it that Thai farmers from the countryside descended to Chonburi city to trade their agricultural products, and the event originated to settle an argument over who had the fastest buffalo in town.

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Another Afghanistan
Kabul
By karolinasamborska
27 Sep 2014

There is always a paradox in war; that it shows us how life continues. This is a reflection, a look at Afghanistan, but not the one we already know well from war, the Taliban and women who wear the burqa. It focuses instead on the people who - in the presence of war which offers only uncertainty and violence - have the courage to live, smile and walk calmly in the streets. The photos examine how everyday life is negotiated despite major political dramas, how people manage to find everyday joy, pleasure, beauty, poetry, rap and freedom. Tired of wars, these people try to live in peace. At least they pretend to live in peace. They are born, they die, they love, windows tremble, bombs continue to explode, but children continue to go to school. Life goes on.

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Protecting an Ancient Damascus Synagogue
Damascus
By Abdu al-Fadel
19 Sep 2014

September 19, 2014
al-Madares Street, Jobar, Damascus

Local citizens protect and maintain an ancient Jewish synagogue in the besieged Damascus suburb of Jobar, despite the heavy damage inflicted on it by heavy clashes between the FSA and Syrian Army. Located at the end of al-Madares street, the synagogue is believed to date from 720 BCE and was a temple for the prophet Khedr and prophet Elias.

The monument was largely neglected by the Syrian government before the war and has been damaged many times with mortars and bombs during the war. However, its local caretaker, and the inhabitants of the area continue to care for the building, as they have for decades.

Shot list:
Various shots show the location of the synagogue and the damage to the building.
Various shots show the remains of the synagogue, such as historical artifacts and some ancient writings
Various shots show an underground chamber that is said to have been used by prophet Khedr to pray
Various shots show the massive destruction that happened around the synagogue

Sound Bites:
Abu Loay, a member of the local committee of Jobar, interested in the issue of the synagogue, explains the story of the synagogue from its establishment to the present day.
(00:39)

Interviewer: How long have you had this job?

Abu Loay: We have been taking care of the synagogue for the past 2-3 years. There used to be a guard here, but he left after the problems started, and then the inhabitants of the area left, so we came here, the men and myself. We are taking care of it. The citizens and the elderly of this town asked us to stay here and guard the synagogue and until now, it has not been attacked.

Interviewer: How was the synagogue looking when you started working here?

Abu Loay: It was amazing, it had fence and it was an ancient historical monument, it goes back thousands of years.
Interviewer: Were there any Jews living in the area?

Abu Loay: Here in Jobar we did not have any Jews, but back in the days of our grandparents, we used to have Jews. When I was a child, I remember there was a big percentage of Jews in the Jewish street. They used to come every Saturday from the Jewish street to visit the synagogue here. When Israel was established, many of the Jews left, that was along time ago.

Interviewer: Were there huge numbers of Jews in Damascus?

Abu Loay: Yes of course, they all used to live in the Jewish street, an area named the Jewish street, in the old city of Damascus.

Interviewer: When did they leave and where did they go?

Abu Loay: Most of them went to Israel, the government back then gave them a choice, to either stay here or leave, and a lot of them chose to leave.

Interviewer: How was the synagogue destroyed?

Abu Loay: About two years ago, from the side of Harasta, they [Syrian Army] attacked us with the multiple rocket launcher. Over 15 shells were dropped at the same time. I took footage of the incident and then I tried [to expose the attack], I went to many media outlets, trying to call the Jews to come and protect the synagogue, but nobody responded. They [Syrian Army] hit the ceiling in two spots and the kitchen burnt down.

Interviewer: Why did you keep protecting the synagogue if the Jews themselves did not respond and did not come to protect it?

Abu Loay: First of all, the synagogue is located in my town, I am from Jobar. Secondly, it is a legacy, not only for the Jews, but also for us. It is a legacy for the citizens of Jobar. It is thousands of years old and it is as valuable as any church or mosque.

Interviewer: Being here in the synagogue, do you feel any attachment to this place?

Abu Loay: I swear I feel like it is my own home. I was sleeping right here, with my wife and children, and if I have to go somewhere I lock the place up. I was residing here for about six months.

Interviewer: How did you feel when the synagogue was attacked and destroyed?

Abu Loay: I felt like I lost a piece of my heart. Only someone who lives here will understand the true value of this synagogue.

Interviewer: Do you think there is a way to repair the synagogue?

Abu Loay: In this condition, all of this wreckage must be removed, they destroyed it. Go back to the old pictures of the synagogue and compare, it used to be heaven.

Interviewer: Do you speak Hebrew?

Abu Loay: No I only speak the language of Jobar.

Interviewer: Do you mind escorting us on a tour around the synagogue?

Abu Loay: Of course, I do not mind, let’s take the tour.
(04:28)

(04:33) Here there used to be the main door, and there, it used to be a kitchen. There is the room I used to sleep in.
This room was an office and I used to sleep in it. The women used to sleep upstairs, and this was a storage room. The main temple is in the back. This is the only tree that is still living.

(05:44) This is a new building, and there were rooms and the rooftop.
That used to be the entrance of the synagogue, and there use to be two rooms up there. And there was a water well.
Can you see this slot in the wall, they used to store the oil cans in their. Near the pile of rocks there used to be the alter. Those two chambers are completely destroyed.

(07:17) Look at the pigeon nest in the gap in the wall. That was here before the shelling.
This is an old school, and there used to be a wall here, the old school is for UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency].
There used to be a room, then a small hall and then another room, all ancient.
This carpet is from the remains of the temple, they used to love those colors, our brothers the Jews. This is another one, everything valuable we were able to find after the destruction, we removed it.

(08:39) Here used to be a huge bronze round plate, and here is the step of the prophet. Here they used to keep the oil, here they used to have books, and there was the seating area. The building was ancient and the temple had a very high ceiling.

(09:30) Here, where I am walking, used to be the few steps leading to the alter. Where I am standing now is the location of the alter. It was about half a circle and made out of wood and the chandeliers above it, it used to be amazing.

(10:20) Those gaps in the walls used to have frames, and here used to be a painting, and next to it a bronze box labeled "Charity".
And here, as we said before, they used to keep the oil.

(11:28) Here is the prayer chamber, our grandfathers used to say that the prophet Khedr used to come to pray here. This hole in the ceiling was an air vent for this chamber, but the shelling has destroyed most of the room.

(12:21) Look what the destruction did to it. The last time they dropped vacuum bombs on this area, the buildings around the synagogue were also destroyed.

(12:41) There used to be four candlesticks and a chair, an antique chair, they are not destroyed, we preserved them.

(13:05) This is the wreckage of the synagogue. They [Syrian Military] attacked us with many types of weapons, including jets. The last airstrike, they dropped vacuum bombs on us and destroyed all of the buildings.

Dying Trades in the Holy Land
By dafnatal7
04 Sep 2014

A look at some of Israel's last family businesses, which are being crushed by changing times. For some of the most traditional Jewish and Arab businesses, it won't be long before their doors close for the last time. New technologies, large corporations, and the draw of the modern world mean that the next generation of consumers and the heirs to the businesses no longer have an interest in the businesses' futures.

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Mariupol's Jewish Community 01
Mariupol, Ukraine
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
28 Apr 2014

Only a few thousand Jews have remained in the port city of Mariupol. A mere 12 Kilometers East of the city fighting rages between pro-Russian separatists and volunteer battalions struggling to keep the town of Shirokino. The Chabad Lubavitch organization tries to keep track of its members still within the city while providing help to these various Jewish families in need.

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Mariupol's Jewish Community 02
Mariupol, Ukraine
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
28 Apr 2014

Only a few thousand Jews have remained in the port city of Mariupol. A mere 12 Kilometers East of the city fighting rages between pro-Russian separatists and volunteer battalions struggling to keep the town of Shirokino. The Chabad Lubavitch organization tries to keep track of its members still within the city while providing help to these various Jewish families in need.

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Mariupol's Jewish Community 03
Mariupol, Ukraine
By Jonathan Alpeyrie
28 Apr 2014

Mariupol Jewish community member Natasha Ralko, whose windows were blown out while she was sitting in the living room of her apartment with her daughter and 8-month-old infant, and whose kitchen is now heavily damaged, believes the death toll in eastern Ukraine is much higher than reported.

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Bangladesh weaving 05
South Rupshi
By Karim + Jenny
05 Mar 2014

Parbin and Abdul Salam, a married couple and lifetime colleagues, work together on a jamdani sari. Every day they weave together on a traditional wooden loom, looking out on the dusty village road outside the window. The loom takes up almost all space in their one-room tin roof house.

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Bangladesh weaving 10
South Rupshi
By Karim + Jenny
05 Mar 2014

Detail from a weaving instrument used for weaving jamdani saris, a delicate and exclusive fabric worn wrapped around the body by women all across the Indian subcontinent on festivals and special occasions. South Rupshi is considered the ancestral home of jamdani weaving.

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Bangladesh weaving 16
South Rupshi
By Karim + Jenny
05 Mar 2014

Inside the weaving workshop in South Rupshi, a village outside of Dhaka. Many weavers have looms in their homes; others work together in workshops like this.

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Housing in Havana 30
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
09 Sep 2013

A kitchen in Old Havana
The man who lives here is an alcoholic and he survives by begging.

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Housing in Havana 3
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
05 Sep 2013

Both the flimsy wooden supports holding buildings up and the vegetation growing in the damp cracks of the buildings can be seen all over Havana.

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Housing in Havana 17
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
03 Sep 2013

An elderly resident looks down at the stairs leading to her apartment. The original stairs collapsed completely and were replaced by this rickety, homemade staircase. Ten years ago this woman fell down these stairs and broke her shoulder, hip and all her front teeth.

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Housing in Havana 8
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
01 Sep 2013

The Capitolio seen from the roof of the former Hotel Bristol in Central Havana. This 1930’s hotel was abandoned and fell into disrepair. The former employees of the hotel decided to live in the hotel. Every available space is being used, even the shaft of the broken elevator and the empty and cracked roof top swimming pool that is being used as a kitchen.

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Housing in Havana 4
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
01 Sep 2013

A man walks through the arcades below a dangerously unstable building that has been inadequately supported by wooden poles.

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Housing in Havana 18
Havana, Cuba
By Alison McCauley
31 Aug 2013

Residents of a neighbourhood in Old Havana try to stabilise the top of a crumbling building. Debris from this building had recently fell into the street and injured people.

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A Mosque Without a Minaret
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
17 Apr 2013

The minaret of Al-Adlia Mosque collapsed due to the shelling by the regime in the Old City of Aleppo.

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Remnants of the Syrian army
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
16 Apr 2013

A flag of the Syrian regime is what remains after the FSA liberated the area after a big battle in the Great Umayya Mosque in the old city of Aleppo

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Criminal Decorations
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
11 Apr 2013

Islamic decorations in the "Umayyad mousqe" in Aleppo have been destroyed.

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Antakia's destruction in Aleppo
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
10 Apr 2013

The photo portrays the big damage in "antakia market" in the Old City of Aleppo .

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Crowded Market
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
10 Apr 2013

"Souk al-madina," meaning the market of the city , is the most famous market in the Old City of Aleppo and one of the most damaged sites there .

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Destroying Aleppo's Heritage
Aleppo, Syria
By Mais Istanbuli
05 Apr 2013

The Old City of Aleppo, located in Syria, carries historical significance since the 12th century. It is known as the historic city center of Aleppo. Historically, Aleppo had been part of diverse states such as the Roman Empire, the Umayyad Caliphate and the Ottoman Empire. So, it is needless to say that the history of Aleppo carries immense ethnic and religious diversity.

The area contains a large number of ancient buildings, mosques, churches, and madrasas.

It is also important to note that the ancient city of Aleppo was considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986, due to its large old mansions, historic souks, and ancient caravansaries.

Unfortunately, most of the area has been destroyed, the history is found under the rubble, and the beauty of what once was has vanished.

Important monuments such as Souq al Madina were destroyed and burnt due to the major attack that was launched by the FSA in September 2012. Also, many other buildings and monuments have been destroyed as a result of the bomb that were dropped by the Syrian government aircrafts and the shells from the artillery.

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The Minaret of the Umayyad Mosque
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
05 Apr 2013

The minaret of the Umayyad Mosque was destroyed during the intense clashes between the FSA and the Syrian Regime.

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Umayyad Mosque
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
05 Apr 2013

The destruction of this Mosque was caused by a fire ignited by regime forces, who then fled the scene.

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Umayyad Mosque
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
05 Apr 2013

The devastation that appears in the courtyard of the Umayyad mosque is a result of the clashes that occurred between the FSA and Syrian Regime.

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Umayyad Mosque
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
05 Apr 2013

The consequences of the clashes are evident on the destroyed walls and arches inside the Umayyad mosque. The walls were used as barricades to protect the regime forces.

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A space of hope
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
03 Apr 2013

The historical market, "Souk Al-Attareen," was destroyed after the intense bombing in the Old City of Aleppo

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Destroyed Historical Mosque
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
03 Apr 2013

The destroyed outer wall of the Umayyad Mosque in the Old City of Aleppo

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Commercial Road Towards War
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
03 Apr 2013

"Souk al-Madina" is the most famous market in the Old City of Aleppo. An FSA military checkpoint is located at the end of the road.

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Pistachio Market
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
03 Apr 2013

"Souk al-Fostuq," meaning "pistachio market", is one of the historical markets in the Old City of Aleppo . It was destroyed by the excessive bombing.

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Pistachio Sun
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
03 Apr 2013

A photo from "pistachio square" in the Old City of Aleppo that was previously bombed by the Syrian army.

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Nepal's World Heritage Site Lit Blue ...
Kathmandu, Nepal
By Rajneesh Bhandari
02 Apr 2013

The World Heritage site Bouddhanath Stupa was lit blue to celebrate World Autism Awareness day and also to raise awareness on the condition of autistic children in Nepal.

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Door that leads to destruction
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
29 Mar 2013

Walls and rooftops next the rear wall of the Umayya Mosque were collapsed by rockets used by Assad's regime in the Old City of Aleppo.

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Covered souk in the old city of Aleppo
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
28 Mar 2013

It was a covered souk built in 1180 AD, but the regime forces bombed the area during the excessive fighting in the city.

Souk Antakia , old city of Aleppo

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Hole in the Wall
Aleppo, Syria
By Yusuf mousa
26 Mar 2013

Regime forces aimed rockets at this Souk to detect FSA bases in the area.

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Sarabdek 04
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
03 Oct 2012

Sarabdek with his youngest daughter (in a middle) and his daughter in law (at the left).

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Sarabdek 05
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
02 Oct 2012

Boy threshes grain with oxen. In the village as electricity is not reliable most of the work is done manually or with the help of animals.

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Sarabdek 06
Pamir Mountains
By karolinasamborska
02 Oct 2012

Somersault on a haystack of threshed grain.