All posts by Wilfried Geens

Sandhamn: portrait of an island

Sandhamn, or Sandön, is a small settlement which lies at the edge of the Stockholm archipelago approximately 50km east of Stockholm.  Among the 30.000 islands, islets and rocks, Sandhamn is the only one with sanddunes, hence the name. It is popular with pleasure boating since the late 19th century. It is known for its tavern, its clubhouse and its harbour. There are about hundred permanent residents, but in summer the number increases to 2-3000. The island is the scene for the sailing race ROUND GOTLAND RACE covering two days every year early July.

Historically it has always been the last sheltered harbour for ships on their way out to the Baltic Sea and also the first port on a voyage into Stockholm. Ships often had to anchor in the harbour for weeks waiting for calmer seas to cross to Finland or the the three Baltic states. The need for pilots to and from Stockholm arose early. During the 1600s, only the crown vessels were allowed to operate on this Sandhamn trail with the exception of vessels to and from Estonia and Livonia. Archipelago farmers on nearby Eknö were assigned to pilot them.

During the 1700s the trail opened for all ships and piloting, which had previously been a sideline for the farmers, now became the main occupation. Younger pilots moved from Eknö to Sandhamn to be closer to their service location. In 1754, five pilots were residing in Sandhamn as compared to 14 in Eknö. A hundred years later most pilots lived at Sandhamn while Eknö was almost desolate. Today pilots are no longer required to stay at Sandhamn. Instead they travel here by boat when they are on duty.

Saidullah: The Famous Glassblower of Herat, Afghanistan

Saidullah passed away in December 2016. RIP.

Saifullah, the glass blower of HeratHerat is located in western Afghanistan, close to the border of Iran, on the strategic trade routes of Central Asia and the Middle east. Many invaders since the 18th century, the Soviet occupation in the 1980’s and several more recent civil war conflicts left a trail of extensive destruction in the once proud city. I visited the city from my posting in Islamabad, Pakistan where I was ambassador. By sheer coincidence I came across a dark basement workshop on the edge of the city, where two glassblowers were busy blowing blue glassware. Later I learned how precious  this glass was and how its and unique production technique went back to medieval times…

“From a long line of Glassmakers, stretching at least a thousand years, Master Glassmaker Nasrullah, 55, along with his brother, Saidullah, 60, his nephew Ghulam Sakhi, 35, his two sons, Zabiullah, 25, and Khairullah, 23 are the only five people in the whole of Afghanistan who know how to make the Herat glass, learning this ancient craft from their fathers, who learned it from their fathers for centuries. Haji Sultan Ahmad is the face of Herat Glass due to his shop’s location across from the Friday [Masjid-i-Jami] Mosque. Ghulam Sakhi works for Haji Sultan producing the items in his shop. These gentlemen supply glass to everyone else in Afghanistan.” (from a website selling Afghan art)

saidullah-smileFoto: Aref Karimi, 2011saidullah-sideFoto: Aref Karimi, 2011scan3bA heap of rejects were lying in the upstairs window. (own foto)

_dsc5510Some pieces from my small, modest collection.

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See also my post:

Memories of Antarctica (2007)

These photos were taken in 2007 in the Gerlache Strait, Paradise Bay, the Lemaire Canal, Deception Island, the Drake Passage and Cape Horn