March 28, 2010

Getting around in the Mideast

One of the more unique aspects of our trip to the Mideast was the many and varied modes of transportation. We flew there, of course, on Etihad, the Abu Dhabi airline. Long flight with fairly good leg room, good food and movies, and attentive flight attendants. From Dubai to Cairo, we flew Emirates, Dubai's airline, equally comfortable and accommodating. Then Egypt Air to Luxor--an okay flight. From Luxor to Aswan, we rode the train in a first-class car. Not so first-class by US standards, but apparently much better than second- or third-. One morning at 3:00, we rode in a convoy of trucks and vans from Aswan to tour the temples at Abu Simbel near the Sudan border. (more about that later).

All along the way, we rode cabs, horse carts, and an assortment of boats. Here's a gallery of modes we rode and some we didn't:

Horse cart in Petra--even more harrowing than the front seat of a Cairo taxi,
this ride was a true bone rattler. Much less enchanting than it looks!

After the horse cart and watching others climb on and off
camels, we decided to forego the experience and photograph
these all-purpose animals instead.

After a morning spent touring prehistoric petroglyphs in the hills outside Aswan, we were treated to some Nubian music and dance on a felucca ride back down the Nile to Aswan. We found ourselves on many different boats this trip--A dhow trip along the Gulf to the Oman coast; the ferry across the Nile in Luxor; and the abra that runs back and forth across Creek Dubai.

I was still recovering from the rattling horse cart and declined to ride a donkey the next day, but Peter rode one to the highest point in Petra and got some terrific photos--and I got a lovely necklace that he bought from a Bedouin woman up there.

This is a produce truck in Jordan and no, we didn't ride in one, but I enjoyed the decorations that the drivers used to identify their vehicle. The designs seemed to be made with a combination of plastic or metal magnetic pieces that gave each truck a unique design.

We rented a car in Jordan, so we did have the experience of exploring the countryside at our own pace with an expert driver--Gerry--and an excellent navigator--Kara. We also rode the rapid transit train in Dubai and a tram in the Valley of the Kings in Egypt.

So there you have it. Our trip went beyond Planes, Trains and Automobiles. It also involved animals and water craft.

March 21, 2010

Catching Up

Looking back at my first blogs from the Mideast, I realize that I was really quite chatty early on. That changed to brief and then to none as we traveled on and met problems with Internet connections and/or total exhaustion at the end of a day of walking, climbing, learning--and, of course, eating.

So--let me try to remedy that. From Abu Dhabi, we went to Dubai, home of the Burj Khalifa, which is currently the tallest building in the world
(160 stories, half-a-mile high) and the Bourj al Araba,
a very expensive hotel shaped like
a sailboat and featuring a helipad
on which those guests
able to do so can land their helicopters.

The Bourj at sunset on the Gulf.

I've already posted about Dubai Creek and the constant cargo traffic--all loaded and unloaded by manual labor and shuttled off on handcarts--quite a contrast to the newer parts of Dubai which features modern malls (complete with ski slope) and a manmade island shaped like a palm tree. On the other hand, Dubai has seen fit to honor its past with several historic museums that show how people lived and worked and learned in former times.

Our trip was filled with contrasts and the next one took us from the sleek modernity of Dubai to the crowded, noisy, dusty city of Cairo, population around 20 million. The taxi drivers are expert at manipulating their way through the traffic and manage to make five lanes out of the three marked on the pavement. A ride in the front seat of a Cairo cab is an adventure, especially if the seat belt is dangling uselessly and the seat back is wobbly. But, as Gerry pointed out, he's never seen a Mideast cab wrapped around a tree. They do seem to know what they're doing, but I'd never want to try it for myself. Riding shotgun is enough adventure for me!

Cairo, of course, is where you go to get to the pyramids of Giza and the nearby Sphinx. Both are amazing examples of design and construction from ancient times. Seeing them in person makes one wonder how such monumental structures were accomplished without the "miracle" of our modern technology and machinery. We were in awe:

Four tall Americans dwarfed by an Egyptian tomb.

March 20, 2010

Was It a Dream?

A week ago today I was laughing in the sun as I floated in the Dead Sea. Then I came home to Kansas City. Yesterday the temperature reached 70ยบ only to dip into the upper 30's by nightfall. It snowed all night and most of today. Now I'm looking out the window at 6 inches of snow, which makes the marvels of the last four weeks in the Mideast seem like a dream.

Did I dream this?

Beach at the Dead Sea in Jordan

Or this?
Snowy Deck in Kansas City

March 6, 2010

Animals of the Mid-East

My brain is much too full at the moment to try to pass along anything intelligible about the temples, tombs, pictographs, and archaelogical sites. So I thought I'd post a short blog about animals I've seen here and there. Cats abound and they all seem to be street cats. We saw no dogs at all in Abu Dhabi and only one designer dog on a leash in Dubai, but both cats and dogs appear in Egypt, along with camels, horses, cows and donkeys, etc. Here are a few photos of the animal life here.

Well, not tonight. Maybe tomorrow when my brain is working better and I can get the photos down to a manageable size.