My most memorable travel souvenir is also my most recent one. I was born and brought up in South Africa, moved away at 24, and have been living in India since the last year and a half. I’m now 49, and in September 2019, I travelled to Johannesburg, and explored my homeland like a tourist. I had my own African adventure, went on a bush safari, and encountered the endangered African wild dogs. A few days later, I spotted this pair of beaded wild dogs—and their stance and intricate work called out to me. They now guard my balcony.
– Caroline von Broembsen
The Tree of Life motif has always called to me—for me it symbolises positivity and longevity. I have it represented in paintings, glass patterns, and even commissioned a silk sari which uses the motif. Back in 2011, I travelled to Jordan with a close friend for 10 days. Apart from touristy Amman and Wadi Rum, we went to Madaba, also known as City of Mosaics. Famous for the sixth-century Byzantine mosaic map in the Greek Orthodox Saint George basilica, there are also other well-preserved mosaics in the city. As we explored them all, I came across a stunning Tree of Life mosaic. Despite it weighing 12 and a half kilograms, I knew I had to buy it. Today it adorns the walls of my holiday home in Sirumalai.
– Meenakshi Sai
I visited Turkey a few years back with my father, it was the most amount of time we were going to be spending with each other in 20 years. We visited Denizli, a city known for its rich mineral deposits, thermal pools and Greco-Roman ruins. The city enchanted us enough for us to make our day-trip into a multi-day stay. We glimpsed the white, cottony terraces created by calcium deposits in Pamukkale, and I stopped by a souvenir shop to buy a clay bulbul whistle. Shaped like the bird, the toy is hollow, and the level of water inside molds the sound it creates. There are far fancier versions of the toy in Turkey than the one I bought, but somehow this is the one that endeared to me the most.
A stunning Tree of Life mosaic from Jordan, beaded wild dogs from South Africa—souvenirs are the key-holders of travel memories. Photos Courtesy: Meenakshi Sai (tree of life mosaic); Caroline von Broembsen (beaded wild dogs)
On a sweltering day in Egypt, I travelled from Cairo to Luxor. Luxor seemed like a different world, and the East Bank an open-air museum. I walked through the temples at my own pace, and by evening decided to get a guide for the next day. He took me through West Bank, and we reached a tiny hutment where an artist was painstakingly painting ostrich egg shells. There was so much beauty in his method, that I bought it immediately—and left a hefty tip.
– Moneesh Chakravarty
I’m a wildlife and nature enthusiast, and have a habit of collecting pine cones, seeds and rocks on my travels. In 2016, I travelled to Kausani, a remote village in Uttarakhand with two close friends. Of course we lost our way, and had to ask around for guidance, and landed up on a narrow pathway meant for two wheelers on forest department land. Despite blind turns, yawning deep valleys, and no safety railings, I drove us through—and stopped to collect a few souvenirs as well. Every time I open that jar, the scent of eucalyptus and pine takes me back to the ledge.
– Fakhir Ziauddin
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