As one of his last official acts in office, President Bush declared three new national marine monuments last month, expanding the area under strict protection in the Pacific Ocean. One of these sites is Palmyra Atoll, a pristine Line Island in the South Pacific. This remote destination features classic coral reefs, mostly untouched by humans, that can provide scientists with baseline data on what a healthy reef ecosystem should look like.

Palmyra was first claimed by the Hawaiian Kingdom and later annexed by the US in 1898. Statehood for the Aloha state in 1959 did not include Palmyra, and today it is primarily privately owned by the Nature Conservancy, with the rest owned by the US government and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Continue reading »

1 Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Feature, Travel, Travel Tips

“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