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Riding the Big Bus in Dubai

Dubai is a city of contrasts. Built originally alongside a Creek, with a history, dating back to the 1790’s, of fishing and pearl diving, with a population of approximately 1,200 residents.

It was not until 1952 that electricity was first introduced to the area, and in 1966, oil was discovered offshore, with oil production facilities in place by 1969, driving the population from 59,000 in 1967 to over 2 million residents today.

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DUBAI SKYLINE © jensimon7 CC-BY-SA-2.0 creativecommons.org

 Dubai is the home to the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, surpassing the previous tallest building, Burj Al Arab that is also in Dubai. Dubai is known as an “international jetsetter getaway with myriad luxury stores, world-class restaurants, and over-the-top seaside resorts, each of which comes with a hefty price tag,”(Exploration Guide).

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In Muscat, we purchased a combo ticket for the Big Bus Tour (hop-on-hop-off) that included Dubai. In Muscat we had very little traffic, so the bus was able to transport us to more sights, but Dubai has bad traffic congestion in many areas even though they have superhighways that are 7 lanes wide in each direction. Dubai has two separate bus routes, but time restraints limited us to choosing only the inner city tour.

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A free addition to our bus ticket was an hour cruise on Dubai Creek in a traditional Dhow. We were able to get a better perspective of the buildings from the water than topside on the bus for our photographs. We shared the Creek with the abras (water taxis) that are a fast, inexpensive way to cross the Creek for pedestrians. We were pleased to see they even accommodate wheelchairs.

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Generally speaking, the hop-on-hop-off buses are a cost effective way to see a city or locale. Even though we were caught in traffic, so were the surrounding taxis whose meters were still running. We have used the hop-on-hop off tours in cities around the world, and every line has been clean and the staff extremely helpful, answering thousands of questions everyday from riding passengers. In the hotter climates, free bottles of cold water are provided, as well as shaded and air conditioned sections on the top deck. In Dubai, because of its status as an international destination, the accompanying sightseeing dialogue (heard through free headsets) is provided in 10 different languages: English, French, German, Italian, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Hindu, Farsi, and Mandarin Chinese.

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Arab Style Parking Garage and Waterside Boat Docking

 

If you choose to use the buses, wait until the day you arrive to purchase your ticket. We have found ticket prices to be lower on the day you are using the bus than if you reserve ahead of schedule, especially in locations that have more than one hop-on-hop-off bus line. Our day in Malta was priced at the child rate ($10 each) rather than the higher adult rate, competition at work to save you, the consumer, a few extra dollars.

One caveat, however, is that you need to review the bus route before you arrive in the locality, especially if there is more than one route loop or if there are competing bus lines that may have different itineraries. Do your homework ahead of time to be familiar with the sights at each stop, so you can best pick and choose those that are closest to your interests and time available. Just Google “hop-on-hop-off bus Cape Town” and you will be able to review the routes and various sights available in the greater Cape Town area, even going out of town to the wine district to sample wines, or down to Boulder Beach to see the African penguins. Have a checklist before you step onto the bus, and enjoy the ride!

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Tradition and Cultural Beliefs Continue to Hobble Woman’s Rights in Middle East

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 “Read one book, and you know everything; read two, and you’re not so sure.” I was reminded of this quote after we sent off our blog post on “Piercing Cultural Stereotypes in Oman.” Our experiences there were followed by excursions in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai. These tours made me rethink the liberal/modern interpretation I had adopted about the lives of women in this part of the world. I listened to one tour guide with interest, but have to admit that I joined in the chorus of women near the end of the trip who gave a resounding “boo” to him for saying, “Women in the UAE don’t have any hobbies or interests outside of the home. The only interest they have is SHOPPING, SHOPPING, SHOPPING!” Rather than simply dismiss him, I did a bit of investigating on my own to better understand the lives of women here. What I found was enlightening, but more than a bit disconcerting.

Susan Mubarak, an HR professional in the private sector of Salalah, Oman wrote about the advances of girls and women in the past several decades. Forty years ago, there were no schools for girls in Oman. Today there are more women than men enrolled in institutions of higher education; participation in the labor force increases daily; and the Basic Law of Oman prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender. However, family matters are governed by a Personal Status Law, which assigns men and women very different rights and responsibilities. Other articles I perused report ways in which women still face legal discrimination under the Personal Status Law. Let’s look at some examples in terms of Oman and the United Arab Emirates:

Any male member of a family can marry her off without her consent. 

A man can legally take on an additional wife without informing his first wife. He can also have up to four wives.

Muslim women are forbidden to marry non-Muslim men unless they convert; the reverse does not apply to Muslim men. 

Muslim women are free to choose their own marriage partners, but are expected to obtain family approval before marrying. 

Legally and traditionally, fathers and husbands are considered to be the heads of household. In the event of divorce, fathers retain custody of the children, except in certain circumstances (e.g., if the mother is breastfeeding). 

Women are only able to initiate divorce within a narrow range of circumstances (e.g. abandonment), whereas men have the right to divorce wives unilaterally.

Pregnancies outside of marriage are illegal, and children born to unmarried women are taken from their mothers and placed in alternative care, in order to ‘correct’ the woman’s immoral behavior.

Women can inherit, however, their share is generally smaller than that to which men are entitled. For example, female heirs inherit half as much as male heirs, unless a will specifies otherwise. Often, women’s inheritance rights are not respected, but women are reluctant to bring inheritance cases to court, for fear of causing conflict within the family.

Domestic violence is unacknowledged in the media or official reports, but is thought to be common. Despite the existence of shelters and hotlines to help protect women, domestic violence remains a pervasive problem. The Federal Supreme Court has upheld a husband’s right to “chastise” his wife and children with physical abuse. No methods permit women to report violence confidentially. Furthermore, women are discouraged by societal pressure from seeking help outside the family in domestic violence cases, and prosecutions are very rare.

Rape is a criminal offense; however, if a rape is reported, the victim may find that her actions are criminalized, as well as those of the perpetrator (for example, she may be viewed as having provoked the rape because of what she was wearing or her behavior). 

There is no legislation in place relating to sexual harassment, and women are often reluctant to report sexual harassment in the workplace for fear of being blamed themselves for “immodest” behavior.

While women’s culture in Oman and the UAE may be inching toward a more modern treatment of women, the role of women is still very much like old times and is dictated by the beliefs and culture in existence for hundreds of years.

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Memorable Mosque and a Camel Named Clyde in Abu Dhabi, UAE

According to our onboard Exploration Guide:

Only 50 years ago, Abu Dhabi was just a small fishing village with a fort, the gateway to an emirate with just a few oases. When oil was discovered in the area, the town experienced explosive growth and now controls 95 percent of the oil production in the United Arab Emirates. There are a total of seven emirates, with Abu Dhabi being the largest with a population over 600,000 people, 90 percent of whom are expats from Europe, Asia, the US and other countries in the Middle East.

 

Abu Dhabi is home to one of the world’s largest mosque (Sheikh Zayed Mosque), so big we could not get the entire building into a single picture with our cameras. Many of the architectural details of this many faceted building are covered in 24-karat gold.

 

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Outside the city, we drove to Al Ain, a historic oasis that gives a glimpse into the country’s past with its museum and camel market.

 

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Renovated Old Palace of Sheikh Zayed in Al Ain 

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Our last stop was the camel market that is the largest in the United Arab Emirates. The camels were on display in pens, but it was the camel handlers who wanted their pictures taken.

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Rugged Mountains Surrounding a Jewel ~ Muscat, Oman

According to our onboard Exploration Guide:

 Muscat has been an important trading area going back thousands of years because of its position on the Arabian Sea (close to the Straits of Hormuz). Persians invaded long before the area became Islamic in the seventh century. The Portuguese ruled for over a century, until the Al Bu Sa’id dynasty seized control in the eighteenth century, and they have ruled ever since. In the past 50 years, Oman has remained a stable economy based on trade and petroleum. Since the current Sultan Qaboos bin Said took over in 1970, tourism has flourished. Muscat’s position on the water surrounded by mountains is dramatically beautiful.

We agree. Of all the cities in the middle east that we have visited on this trip (Jerusalem, Haifa, Cairo, Sharm el Sheikh, Safaga, Aqaba, Salalah, Abu Dhabi,and Dubai), Muscat is by far the most distinctive and beautiful. It is a jewel.

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In the harbor, on our way to the souk, we saw the Sultan of Oman’s private yacht. It would have been a treat to see the inside, but we didn’t have an invitation awaiting us. Maybe next time.

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The souks are fascinating places, almost like rabbit holes with so many twists and turns, branches and arteries that you can get lost very easily. But there are always interesting people to see as well as the fun of haggling with the shopkeepers over prices of goods. We did not buy any thing that day, but had fun taking pictures and talking to the locals.

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 We rode the Hop-On-Hop-Off Big Bus to see more sights of Muscat. We stopped at Al Qurm National Park, a lovely area designed for children, families, picnickers, and flower lovers. We basically had the park to ourselves, as only the maintenance staff was present, busily keeping all the beds and lawns in pristine shape. We did meet two young families who gave us permission to take photographs. There was also a Heritage Village within the park, which displayed a typical old fortress. There were also signs throughout the park encouraging us all to exercise freely.

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Back on the bus, we drove through the city admiring many of the buildings that can be no higher than 8 stories and may only be painted white or cream.

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 Royal Opera House

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Al Bustan Palace Hotel ~ Beautiful 7 Star Hotel outside Muscat ~ It is said that entering the lobby is like stepping into another world. 

Our last stop was Al Alam Palace, which is one of the Sultan’s palaces. The Sultan is currently out of the country, in Germany, but several of the outer buildings were bustling with activity and staff. The Palace is not open to visitors, but the outside views were commanding.

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It was time to meet our friend who lives in Muscat, as she was able to leave work after her late afternoon meetings. She showed us some of the non-tourist areas of the city, and then drove us over to the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. We arrived before evening prayer, so we were able to walk around the exterior of the building. Truly, it is magnificent! We only had one camera between us, so we did not get as many pictures as we would have liked, but we hope you can get the flavor of the Mosque from the few we did get before it was closed to non-Muslims.

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 We then followed up with a sumptuous Arabian dinner at a local restaurant named Kargeen (www.kargeen.com). We all had something different, and Carolyn was adventurous and got outside her comfort zone, to taste the local foods and spices. She was not disappointed. The big surprise was the wonderful drink that our friend introduced to us, called Lemon Mint. It is very common in the Arab countries, and tastes fantastic, especially if you have been out in the hundred-degree heat all day. We do not know the proportions, but the drink is made with fresh squeezed lemon juice, crushed ice, and a blender full of fresh mint so it’s very green in color. It comes to you in a very tall glass and is wonderfully delicious.  Cheers to All!

Piercing Cultural Stereotypes in Oman

 When many of us see Middle Eastern women whose faces are veiled and who wear floor-length black burqas, our minds immediately translate these scenes into examples of injustice and oppression.

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For enlightenment on the burqas worn in such countries as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and those known as abaya worn in the United Arab Emeritus (UAE) and Oman we turn to a blog (OH MY, OMAN) by a lawyer friend who writes about her experiences living in Muscat. In her 8/20/2014 post she stated that the Qur’an (the Muslim bible) requires both men and women to dress conservatively. She continues by saying:

 

           There is nothing in the Qur’an requiring women to veil their faces, and what “modesty” means is up for interpretation. So how Muslim              women in Afghanistan wound up covering their faces and wearing a burqa has more to do with ideological and political reasons than               purely religious reasons.

          Most women in the UAE and Oman wear an abaya and hijab. The abaya is a loose-fitting robe (generally black, though in Southeast                   Asia they are very colorful) that is worn over normal clothing and the hijab is the headscarf that covers everything except the face.

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          While it may seem like a boring outfit, the opportunities for customization are endless and some abaya and hijab cost a fortune. Below             is an example of a abaya and hijab available for purchase.

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           So while the customization of the abaya and hijab might be interesting and even fashionable, none of the above makes me want to                       trade in my normal wardrobe in exchange for a long-sleeved robe and a headscarf. But then I have second thoughts about this — my                  normal morning routine for work consists of washing and blow drying my hair, finding an outfit where everything matches and then,              throughout the day, making adjustments (trying to figure out how to get my skirt to look less wrinkly, maybe adjusting a waistband                after eating too big a lunch, etc.). Meanwhile, my coworkers grab an abaya, throw it over comfy clothes (usually yoga pants and a tank          top), put their hair in a ponytail and hide it under their hijab. I’ll admit – there are definitely days when I’m jealous that I can’t wear an          abaya and hijab to work.

         The other thing to consider is the whole reason behind the abaya and hijab – dressing modestly. I can’t count the number of times when            I’ve wanted to snap my fingers and say, “Hey buddy, my eyes are up here.” Or how many of my girlfriends have complained over the                years that men never look at their faces, only their bodies. Here, a woman’s body isn’t constantly on display. So while I don’t wear an               abaya and hijab, the more modest style of dress is nice, and it’s certainly more comfortable. 

         Most of my Omani friends don’t mind wearing an abaya and hijab. For them it’s a cultural uniform – just like a lawyer might wear a                  suit to work, they wear an abaya and hijab to work. . . . One of my Omani colleagues dresses completely Western, except she wears a                 hijab to work. She started doing that because it saves her time in the morning and because some women at work gave her a hard time               about not wearing one. I asked if she wears an abaya. She said she does so fairly often when she doesn’t want to attract male attention,           particularly at busy places like malls. 

         In my experience, most women in Oman don’t see the abaya and hijab as a demeaning method of keeping them subservient to men (as               many Westerners perceive), but rather as a way of diverting unwanted attention. . . . 

        But I personally think the abaya and hijab can make it difficult to garner respect in a professional environment. I’m a lawyer, and in                 order to be a good lawyer sometimes I have to give people advice they don’t want to hear or to drive a hard bargain. I have to be able to             look someone in the eyes and speak with authority. And if I need to look very authoritative, I’ll wear a suit since a suit is much more                   official than my normal business clothes (I’ve even read advice that you should wear a suit even during a phone interview because the             mere act of wearing a suit makes the interviewee feel more serious and important). I think it would be much more difficult to do my job              successfully if I wore the equivalent of a hooded bathrobe, especially if I were wearing yoga pants and a tank top underneath.

       In sum, the way that many Muslim women dress in Oman and the UAE isn’t about oppression; it’s about freedom. Freedom from being             ogled by men; freedom from being judged on their bodies or their clothes; freedom from having to style their hair in the morning or wear        uncomfortable “professional” clothes to work; and freedom from even needing a professional wardrobe. But if you’re worried that they            may be missing out on all the fabulous fashions in the magazines . . . don’t worry; they’re wearing them under their abayas.

Lots of Legend and Lore ~ Little Reality in Ubar

Once upon a time there was a City of Towers in Shisr, Oman called Ubar. But what remains of this fabled paradise is simply a hole in the earth!

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The legends surrounding the Lost City have been around for centuries. Ubar was mentioned in stories of “One Thousand and One Arabian Nights.” Lawrence of Arabia called Ubar “the Atlantis of the Sands” and, in the Holy Quran, it is referred to as “the City of Towers.”

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It is also said that Ubar became a hotbed of wickedness and its people became corrupted by its riches, just like the biblical cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was also believed that Ubar suffered the wrath of God and during the first century, Ubar was destroyed by cyclonic storms that swept away the buildings and sucked the kingdom into a deep hole.

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However, in 1992, scientists, using high-tech satellite imagery, were able to “see” through the overlying sand and loose soil to pick out subsurface geological features that would tell a different story. They were able to distinguish the ancient trade routes that were packed down into hard surfaces by the passage of hundreds of thousands of camels. Junctions where the trade routes converged or branched were likely locations for the lost city.

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Scientists also found that the city didn’t fall because of divine retribution for the wickedness of its people. In building his “imitation of paradise,” the King at the time unknowingly constructed the city over a large limestone cavern. Ultimately, heavy flooding dissolved the cavern and washed away the limestone; and the weight of the city caused the cavern to collapse in a massive sinkhole, destroying much of the city and causing the rest to be abandoned.

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Not all destinations prove to be as advertised. In most cases it is the journey there that is the more important story to be remembered. And it was for us.

Our journey began in the port city of Salalah, Oman from which our caravan of eleven four-wheel drive Toyoto Land Cruisers carried us 220 kilometers north in our search of the Lost City of Ubar. The flat land was sprinkled with large mounds of earth along the way.

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We were four to a car plus the driver and our travel mates were two former schoolteachers from Canada who were very congenial people with which to share our day.

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Our guide was a young Omanian named Haman, 26 years old with a wife and 2-year-old son. In Oman the extended families are large and Haman has 7 brothers and 13 sisters. They have 100 camels, though personally, Haman just has 3. The houses we saw were large since many extended families live together in one home.

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Camels roam free throughout Oman, and are often found along the roadside (sometimes with wild donkeys) and even in the median strip on the four lane super highways. We were glad the camels knew enough to stay within the yellow lines and not stray into lanes of oncoming traffic traveling at 60 miles per hour.

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© Ruth Price (Victoria, BC, Canada)

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© Ruth Price (Victoria, BC, Canada

After having driven approximately two hours on the highway through landscape of what Omanians call badiha, desert-like terrain of sand mixed with stones and other types of dirt, we reached the “real” desert of pure, deep sand along the sides of the “road.” To facilitate the 4 x 4’s ability to traverse the sand, the drivers flattened the tires.

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Frequently, the deep snow-like sand would grab the wheels and whip the car into a direction not chosen by the driver as we sailed through the sands, slipping, sliding, and often almost colliding with other vehicles in our party.

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Upon leaving our vehicles, we were quick to realize that what we were walking on was more like quicksand than snow as we sank into sand above our ankles and even higher. Because of the winds we saw ever interesting and changing patterns in the sands.

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We encountered a number of signs that said

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© Ruth Price (Victoria, BC, Canada)

We are here, in the middle of the desert with absolutely no water in sight, let alone water that is “at red.” We asked Haman to explain, which he did.

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© Ruth Price (Victoria, BC, Canada)

 

Some distance after the warning sign there are a series of five poles (as shown above) and they are placed in areas where there are shallow wadi’s (dry river beds). Even though they have rain only about one month a year, when it does rain, it is heavy and since the earth is so sunbaked, the water does not soak in, but gathers in the wadi.

The center pole of the five is striped, with the lower portion painted white. If the water is above the white section, and into the red zone, then it is unsafe to pass through the water. And to get stranded in the desert this far out with engine trouble is not something you desire. Cellular coverage is spotty and help could be a long time to reach you.

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The region surrounding the Lost City is still dotted with numerous groves of a small tree, the frankincense tree, whose resin was as valuable as gold in ancient times. Then and now the resin is used as a fragrance, for medicinal purposes, and for embalming.

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By Foot, By Horse, By Carriage ~ The Trek to Petra

Here we are half way around the world, and it looks and feels just like New Mexico except that the people speak a different language and camels, goats, and donkeys can be seen wandering near the roadsides. The air is hot and dry; the desert-like terrain dotted with low-lying shrubs and tan grasses is very much like the landscape on a drive from Albuquerque to Santa Fe except there are more mountain ranges on the road to Petra; and the pueblo style homes are almost carbon copies of those in New Mexico. Many wonderful memories of my thirty-one years in Albuquerque flooded my mind during our two-hour drive to Petra, Jordan.

 

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A Very Brief History

Not only is Petra a World Heritage Site but also one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. More than 2,000 years old, it was a thriving city until 363 AD when an earthquake and changing trade routes led to its downfall and eventual abandonment. By the mid seventh century Petra was largely deserted except for the local Bedouins. In 1812 a Swiss explorer (Johanes Burckhardt) set out to “rediscover” Petra. He dressed up as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city, and the rest is history – Petra quickly began attracting visitors as it continues to do so today.

Petra is known as the rose-red city, because of the color of the rock from which many of the city’s structures were carved. The people of the time, known as Nabataeans, buried their dead in intricate tombs that were carved out of the mountainsides. The ruins that remain (and if truth be told, they appeared much more in tact than other ruins we have seen) include Silk Tomb, the Treasury Building, the Monastery and other dwellings.

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TREASURY BUILDING

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MONASTERY AT PETRA, JORDAN

© Poco a poco (Diego Delso) CC-BY-SA-3.0 creativecommons.org

 

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SILK TOMB AT PETRA, JORDAN

© Bernard Gagnon CC-BY-SA-3.0 Unported creativecommons.org

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MULTIPLE DWELLINGS IN PETRA, JORDAN

© Joshua Doubek CC-BY-SA-3.0 Unported creativecommons.org

  We were very much anticipating our Petra adventure and definitely were not disappointed.  With our backpacks, cameras, and hiking boots we started our long trek down through the wondrous rock formations. Carolyn did the first 800 meters on horseback and then joined Mary Jane. Our route was sand and pebbles and in many places, sand pebbles and rocks that had been pounded into the earth over the years by the footfalls of thousands of people. Watching to make certain our feet were firmly planted in between steps, we were able to enjoy the many and varying rock formations, some of which appear below.

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  Although the trek down was exciting and provided so much to see, we decided that the two miles upward climb would be better enjoyed in a horse-drawn carriage. Although the carriage ride depicted below looks like a calm, leisurely drive, our ride was anything but pleasant as we raced over rocks, around bends, the horse and carriage almost careening into other horses, carriages, and people so that the driver could deposit us at the top and then race again to the bottom to pick up an additional fare.

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PETRA, CARRIAGES IN THE SIQ

© Berthold Werner CC-BY-SA-3.0 Unported creativecommons.org

 

Captive on the Bus to Cario

We knew it would be a long day to get to Cairo from Port Said, so even though our bus was scheduled to leave at 9 AM, everyone was on the bus, ready to go, by 8:30. We had run the gauntlet from the ship to the parking lot, through numerous stalls of street vendors trying to sell us souvenirs, through the main gate where the uniformed band played on, and through the crowd of dignitaries who were waiting to thank us for coming. But we were on a mission, hoping to get an early start to our day, knowing we had a 3-1/2 hour drive to Cairo (plus the same to return to the ship).

There we sat on the bus. Then we had time to notice our surroundings. We saw military personnel carriers, sandbags piled high, soldiers with impressive looking weapons, two armed guards on the bus with us, and numerous police vans filled with officers. And the band continued to play on, but the bus did not move. It got to be 9 AM, and still no movement. Finally at 10 minutes past 9, the Governor from the State got on the bus, delivering a speech in Egyptian to us. None of knew what he was saying, but he said it with a big smile, so we figured he was thanking us for coming.

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We wanted to get on the road, but we sat. Finally, about 9:40 the buses left the port, in a police convoy, driving though Port Said onward to Cairo. We all gave a sigh of relief. We were on our way to begin the adventure.

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The traffic was bumper to bumper in places, but our guide tried to fill the time with all sorts of information about Cairo/Giza and Egypt. We were pleased to see a large number of international schools where children learned many different languages as well as other subjects. Also huge quantities of government housing that in many cases were empty, but would fill up soon. The political situation also is not totally stable, as many of the middle class citizens have been hurt by the cuts made to cost of living subsidies by the new regime that came into power last June.

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The fast growing population is putting a real strain on the country. A new child is born in Egypt every 39 seconds, which adds 1 million new people to the population every 9 months.

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School children crossing neighborhood canal by mini ferry.

The other major area for concern is that the cities of Cairo and Giza are carrying the weight of rapidly declining agricultural areas in which to grow food because huge slum areas (40% of both cities) cover the land around the Nile and tributary canals. Matter of fact, the slums have so much trash in them that the government is filing in the canals because the water cannot be used for irrigation since the land is badly contaminated with the rotting refuse and trash. Hence, 80% of the food must be imported in order to feed its people.

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Beach in Sharm el-Naga, Egypt copyright Vberger placed in Public Domain

After driving through many of these slum areas, we reached our first stop 4-1/2 hours after we boarded the bus in Port Said.

Our guide told us about Sakkara, the vast necropolis of ancient Memphis. The pyramids here include the distinctive Step Pyramid, dating back to 2686 BC and believed to be the oldest stone structure on earth. Especially noteworthy was the Temple design. There is very little wood in Egypt because of the desert conditions, however, the Temple features “wooden” logs fashioned from stone. Many building sections in this necropolis are buried under 90 feet of sand, awaiting excavation. And waiting for us to leave the bus were a pack of canines ready to take any crackers or cookies we may have to share. Our guide allotted us 15 minutes to walk around the area.

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Back on the bus, we headed to the plains of Giza to view the Great Pyramid of Giza (sole survivor among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World). We saw all three of the major pyramids, built by the Pharaohs Cheops, Clephren, and Mycerinus ~ three generations of the same family ~ as the eternal resting place for their mummified remains.
When we arrived, we were warned about the camel drivers we would encounter. If you want a picture of the camel, with or without you sitting astride, it would cost a minimum of $5. Then it got complicated whether you had to pay the owner of the camel who may be different than the driver.

Our guide gave us 25 minutes at this site.

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We got back on the bus again to change locations to get a view of the Sphinx. What they failed to tell us was that the Sphinx was covered in scaffolding and not very picturesque at this time. Here we were given 20 minutes to go down to the fenced in area around the Sphinx to take a picture. But we were late in the day and the sun was falling fast, so our photographing was cut short. Plus, we were not given enough time to change locations again for a better view as they were setting up for the evening Sound and Light Show.

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We did get a lovely buffet dinner at the five star Le Meridian hotel, but then back on the bus for the long drive back to Port Said.

We spent a total of 15 hours on the trip and only 70 minutes were spent viewing our sites of interest. We truly felt like captives on the bus.

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Although we wish we had taken this shot of camels that are ubiquitous in Egypt, George Steinmetz for the National Geographic Society took it. The photo was taken directly above the camels in the desert at sunset. The camels are the whitish flecks. The black camel shapes are the shadows!

Haifa ~ A Refreshing Contrast to Jerusalem

World Center of the Bahá˙í Faith
The exquisite gardens, that surround the Shrine of Bab, are designed as “hanging gardens” which run along the Louis Promenade and down the slopes of Mount Carmel.

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Interior photos of the Basilica of Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel

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Pictures in the Arab market area of Haifa

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Even a Catholic Church in the Arab section

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Jerusalem ~ The Divided City

Jerusalem is definitely a divided city, by religion, by culture, and by appearances. As we walked through the various quadrants of the Old City, we were herded through the Armenian Quarter, followed by the Christian Quarter, Muslim Quarter, and the Jewish Quarter. Each has its own distinct feel, sights, and experiences. However, we walked away, not with a sense of unity, but a feeling of separateness among them. We, personally, experienced a sense of alienation from all quarters that we were not expecting to have.

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Outside the Zion Gate near the Armenian Quarter
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Walking through the Muslim Quarter

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Christian Quarter ~ Church of the Holy Sepulchre

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Jewish Quarter ~ Wailing Wall (Western Wall of the Temple Mt.)

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Mount of Olives and Garden of Gethsemane

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Gethsemane Basilica of Agony

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