Monthly Archives: May 2018

THE ANCIENT PROFESSIONS OF OLD DELHI

Modernity is seeping into Old Delhi, a walled district that has long harboured the Indian capital’s traditional ways of life. But what does this mean for long-standing Delhi-wallahs and their archaic practices? Jack Palfrey reports on a city in flux.

The traffic splutters and snarls but remains stationary. The once resplendent Chandni Chowk, Old Delhi’s famed Moonlight Bazaar, is clogged like one of its litter-filled drains.

I’m sitting in a bicycle rickshaw; a fan seller tugs at my arm (“very much hot today sir”), while a sadhu (holy man), in the distinctive sunset-saffron robe, stretches a hopeful hand towards me. My driver, oblivious, rambles about his cousin, who spent a year studying somewhere in England and disapproved of the bland British cuisine.

This is the Old Delhi of today. The former opulent walled capital of the grand Mughal Empire that has deteriorated into a snubbed suburb of British-built New Delhi.

Hectic and humbling, it’s a microcosm of forgotten India; a rambunctious refuge safeguarding the capital city’s oldest, and most fascinating, ways of life.

Now, after centuries of neglect, change is stirring in the Old Delhi neighbourhood.

A million-dollar project to increase accessibility to the area via three new metro stations – slated for completion in June 2017 – is raising the district’s profile, leading to growing investment in infrastructure and new business ventures.

But what does modernisation mean for long-standing Delhi-wallahs and their alluring ancient traditions? Here, three men plying some of the city’s oldest trades share their stories.

Get off the tourist trail in Morocco

Marrakesh? Check. The souks of Fez? Been there, bought that. Jebel Toubkal? Climbed it, twice. So what else does Morocco have in store once you’ve ticked off its most popular sights? Plenty, according to Keith Drew, who selects seven places that are far from the madding crowds.

 

1. Uncover the Roman ruins of Lixus

Think of Roman sites in Morocco and you’ll probably picture the mosaic-floored houses of UNESCO World Heritage-listed Volubilis. Everybody does. Which is why you should head to the ruins at Lixus, 5km up the coast from Larache, instead.

This is one of the oldest inhabited sites in Morocco, at one time also occupied by the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians – and, as legend would have it, Hercules, who is said to have stolen the Golden Apples for his last-but-one labour here.

The site is not as visitor-friendly as Volubilis – there’s no signage, for example – but that’s half the attraction. With no modern-day markings marring the landscape and barely any other people around, it’s much easier to picture Lixus’ Roman inhabitants packing salt at its crumbling factories, worshipping in its deserted temple sanctuaries, or baying for blood at the Upper Town’s amphitheatre.

 

2. Trek across the Jebel Saghro

The majority of organised trekking in Morocco is concentrated on the Toubkal Massif, a hiking honeypot in the High Atlas mountains south of Marrakesh. So if you want to (literally) get off the beaten track, you’ll need to venture east instead, to the Jebel Saghro.

This is very different terrain – think dry river valleys and stark volcanic spires rather than snow-capped peaks – and a very different set-up. While guides can be hired in several of the trailhead towns, the Saghro region is much less geared up for tourism.

The recommended three-day traverse will have you hiking past weirdly eroded rock formations and across a barren landscape dotted with the black nets of local nomad tribes.

A neighbourhood guide

Until recently, running a club in Japan was a risky business. The fueihō laws, created in 1948, put restrictions on any small venue where patrons had to “actively seek out pleasure” – including dancing. Though usually these laws weren’t enforced, any club or bar owners caught by police letting their patrons bust a move could face jail time.

But in 2016 the laws were finally amended – not entirely rescinded, and not helping everyone, but marking a cultural shift in how Japan views its own nightlife. Here’s our guide to some of the best places to enjoy a totally legal drink, dance or robot show in Tokyo.

 

Best for perfect cocktails and secret bars: Roppongi

It’s impossible to talk about Tokyo nightlife without mentioning Roppongi; though it’s reinvented itself as an artistic hub, in most people’s minds it’s still all hostess bars, aggressive touts and overpriced drinks. Stick to the main drag and that’s what you’ll get, but you’ll find some unexpectedly chic and clever spots in the side streets, especially towards Nishi-Azabu.

One which you’ll have to try harder than usual to find is Roku-Nana, a small “secret bar” in a nondescript residential building. You can either relax in the warm, low-lit bar or head up to the roof terrace for a gorgeous view of Roppongi Hills. We’d give you directions, but we promised not to tell…

There’s a similarly exclusive feel at Gen Yamamoto, though at least the address is made public there. The eponymous owner creates a daily-changing tasting menu of four or six cocktails, adjusting it to match customer preferences, the time, the weather, or just his own intuition. It’s an opportunity to see a master at work – and as there are only eight seats and no background music, you’ll be fully focused on watching him create these works of art.

Festivals for escapism

Festivals are a different beast in 2017. They used to be associated with drinking warm cider while watching crusty bands in your naffest clothes; now the best events are kaleidoscopic extravaganzas designed to tease out the hidden, spectacular you that doesn’t get aired in the office.

From Morocco to Norway, we pick 10 summer festivals that’ll give you true escapism from the “real world”, whether it’s through remote locations, fantastic production or a hedonistic outlook that’ll mean you won’t remember where home is anyway.

 

1. Trænafestivalen, Norway

Trænafestivalen is the grandaa of remote festivals, taking place on a tiny island 65km off Norway’s coast. It’s only accessible by motorboat and, as well as gigs overlooking the ocean and hot saunas, it has the kind of vast, horizon-filling sunsets that’ll get you reflecting about how we’re all “just tiny flecks of sand”.

 

2. Pete The Monkey, France

Pete The Monkey started life as a small party to raise funds for a monkey sanctuary in Bolivia. It’s grown, but not by much. Now 2000 people descend onto a beach in Normandyfor a weekend of music, art, love and escapism sur-la-mer. This year’s theme is ‘the Amazonian playground’ so expect plenty of colourful outfits and Brazil football kits from the lazy lads.

 

3. Oasis, Morocco

Is it a festival? Is it a spa? Oasis twins the hottest names in house and techno with a location in a super luxury resort called The Source. Taking place in the shadow of the Atlas Mountains, its clued-up clientele spend the days doing yoga or hanging out by the pool, and the evenings having a twanging rave until sunrise.

 

4. Secret Garden Party, England

No day at Secret Garden Party is like another, and that’s down to the scale of its often mind-bending production. Its reputation as a playground for the ra youth of the Home Counties is only half-deserved and this year, with a ‘Sweet Dreams’ anti-celebrity theme, is the last so expect emotions amongst the madness.  Tip: don’t skimp on the fancy dress. You’ll stick out.