Category: Africa & Middle East

“Felucca man, you want boat? Half hour, here—” the man rasped and gestured down a gangway as my friend Clark and I strolled along the Nile in central Cairo. He was about the fifth person to encourage us to take a boat ride, and of course it’s something we intend to do, for how can you come to Cairo and not ride a felucca? But we weren’t ready then, we just wanted to walk, take in the sights and sounds of the legendary river before heading off to dinner.

Cairo’s traffic roared by, then slowed to a crawl, all accompanied by the blares, beeps, honks, and screeches of a thousand car horns and the periodic wail of music from the boats moored to the riverbank. Even in February the sun had the intensity to scorch my face; traffic fumes reminded me that despite the breeze off the water this is a congested, challenging city. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, Cairo, Egypt

I returned from a short walk around the neighborhood on my first day in Cairo and was drawn toward the bar and restaurant in the open lobby of the Intercontinental Citystars. I wasn’t hungry or interested in a drink, I simply felt like wandering and seeing what was there.

Then the sound of music, energetic strings and the fast rhythms of a tabla pulled me on. It sounded live, so I poked my head around a corner looking for the source. Sure enough, tucked into a corner of the lobby that opened onto the restaurant a quartet of women dressed in headscarves were playing. One strummed a 12-stringed lute-like instrument called an oud, another plucked a flat zither-like instrument, a third bowed a cello, the fourth beat a tabla. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Cairo, Egypt, Music

How do you know when you’ve reached the tourist district? My first clue on my recent arrival in Cairo was the first sign I saw in English after miles of Arabic. In huge letters across the top floor of a shop were the words, “Carpet City.” Next door proclaimed itself “Fair House.” Both, I’m ashamed to admit, struck me as funny because they matched my preconceptions about Cairo: 1) we’d be hustled for carpets; 2) those hustlers would be certain to offer us a “fair” price. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, Cairo, Egypt

Usually what comes to mind when one thinks of traveling to Jordan is the ancient red-rock city of Petra or the modern metropolis of Amman sprawling over its seven hills. Not many people think of national parks, wildlife, eco-travel, or extreme sports, but Jordan has a lot to offer the adventurous traveler.

You can rappel down the waterfalls of Wadi Mujib, explore the desert and Bedouin camps of Wadi Rum, search for the Syrian wolf and horned ibex in the Dana Nature Reserve, and paraglide in the Mujib Gorge, among other adventures.

Jordan came to environmental conservation early for countries in the Middle East, establishing the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature in 1966, and creating the Dana Nature Reserve in 1989. Associated Press reporter Dale Gavlak wrote about many possibilities for adventure in his Dec. 10 AP story.

1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Africa & Middle East, Desert Travel, Eco Friendly Travel, Feature, Jordan, Travel

Studying Abroad is one of the most expansive experiences a young student can have, not only living and studying in a country, but being able to travel widely while away from home. I was lucky when I studied in France many moons ago because the dollar was strong and a semester abroad was actually less expensive than a semester on campus in Connecticut.

Nearly every weekend I took off for London, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Holland or Italy. I remember sewing a Canadian patch on my backpack before a foray through Europe because of the palpable dislike for Reaganomics and small acts of terrorism against Americans: small potatoes compared to travelers’ fears today. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, Argentina, Budget Travel, Ecuador, Europe, Feature, France, Hike/Backpack, Netherlands, Rome, South America, Spain, Student Travel, Travel, United Kingdom

Without running a Google search or checking a current almanac, most of us probably wouldn’t know that our Earth contains 757 countries, territories, autonomous regions, enclaves, geographically separated island groups, and major states and provinces. Certainly most of us wouldn’t consider it possible to visit them all. Most of us would be wowed if we made it to 100 countries. Even 50 is pretty darn good. But all of them?

Charles Veley and others of his ilk aren’t like most of us. They want, and intend, to go everywhere. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Africa & Middle East, Asia, Australia, Books, California, Cruises, Europe, Feature, North America, Paris, Sailing, South America, Travel

I teach yoga at my son’s pre-school on Fridays and we always do Sphinx pose. We talk about the mythical half man, half lion creature and I will often ask if anyone knows where the real Sphinx lives. Last week I was able to add that a new pyramid was discovered beneath the desert sands in Egypt. The three- to five-year-olds weren’t that impressed, but I must say I thought it was exciting news.

The new structure is 4,300 years-old and archaeologists think it is the tomb of Queen Sesheshet, the mother of Pharaoh Teti, the founder of ancient Egypt’s 6th dynasty.  Mothers were greatly revered in ancient Egypt: another great teaching moment. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Archaeology, Cairo, California, Desert Travel, Egypt, Family Travel

Sometime in the 1980s the QE2 came to San Francisco and I remember thinking she was a marvel among marvels. After all, at 963 feet and 70,000 tons she was the world’s largest cruise ship and dwarfed the other vessels I’d seen over the years docking at the piers beneath my home on Telegraph Hill. Not long after, or maybe before, my memory is fuzzy, the ship was commandeered by Margaret Thatcher to serve as a troop ship during the 1982 Falklands War.

In January 2007 she returned to San Francisco, diminished in size by the behemoths that followed her. The current “world’s largest cruise liner” is Freedom of the Seas at a staggering 1,112 feet and 160,000 tons. That’s more than twice the weight of the QE2, which is almost beyond comprehension, literally holding a small town of 4,300 passengers and 1,300 crew on 15 passenger decks. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, California, Cruises, Dubai, England, Feature, Travel, United States

The game of golf, travel, and Barack Obama’s victory in the U.S. presidential election are getting all mixed up this week. In a stunning upstaging of Joe the Plumber, William K. Wolfrum reveals on that Obama’s success was preordained by “Curt the Golfer,” an Illinois 22-year-old who says (and he has witnesses) that he hit five holes-in-one in the past week.

Most golfers, including many professionals, go their entire lifetimes without hitting one. Wolfrum sees Obama’s success in these five aces by a fellow Illinoisan (in golf, a hole-in-one is also called an “ace”) as clearly as reading tea leaves. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, Feature, Golf, Morocco, Travel

My boys and their peers are soccer freaks. We recorded nearly every game possible for the 2006 World Cup and I would love to take the family to see the 2010 games in South Africa. I was recently pondering the possibility and checked out some ticket prices for the events. Interest in soccer is growing every year in the United States and is certainly strong in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A recent article in the New York Times chronicled the opening of a Soccer Museum, where else but in Sao Paulo, Brazil. An elite sport that has become a sport for the masses, it has great lessons to teach both on and off the field. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Africa & Middle East, Barcelona, Brazil, Budget Travel, England, Europe, Family Travel, France, Museums, Paris, Soccer, South America