Galleries Ready!

The galleries are now online for our recent trip. All six countries!  Amazingly, we are now completely caught up from a 10-week trip only 5 days after the end of the trip. That has got to be some kind of record for us!

You can see the galleries by choosing “Travel->2019” from the menu at the top of our blog site, or just by clicking here.

Cathedral Domes in Cuenca at Sunset

This is the scene from our living room window at sunset yesterday. After nearly a year of renovation work, the cathedral domes were finally finished while we were traveling the last couple months. I captured this time-lapse last night.

Home After Whirlwind 10 Weeks

We are back home, and loving it! Yes, the travel was fantastic. The places were fantastic. The people were (mostly…) fantastic.  But our own beds and showers are more welcome after a long trip like this.

After 10 weeks covering 6 countries, we did so much that it is hard for it not to start to blur together. We therefore decided to write one last “summary blog”  to bring it all into focus. For this post, we have tried to use all new photos that have not yet been shown.

This was our third time in Thailand. It was initially added to this trip when we discovered that a friend of ours had gotten a short term job in Bangkok and we decided to join her.  We then decided to extend the trip further by joining an “off the beaten track” tour of Thailand, which we enjoyed thoroughly.

Though we went in March, the weather was already hot and humid. Whenever we commented on that fact though, we were told how cool this was in comparison to the months to come! While here, we used almost every form of public transportation the cities have to offer — sky train, tuk-tuks, buses, ferries, long tail canal boats, normal taxis, and pickup truck taxis with bench seats in the back.

We often enjoy watching and meeting the people, and Thailand provided that. We enjoyed the many floating markets, to the dawn markets where monks blessed the vendors in exchange for donations of food, to the multiple night markets. The exotic temples always stimulate our visual senses too. Then the unexpected “elephant buffet” (bottom-left) that we stumbled upon added one more treat.

Thailand is often called “the land of a thousand smiles,” and there is good reason for this.

Sri Lanka was on our list of destinations we wanted to visit, in order to see the “stilt fishermen,” (upper-right and lower-left). This way of earning a living only exists here, and is quickly dying, even more so after the tsunami of 2004 destroyed the fishing, which is only slowly returning.  We also enjoyed seeing the working water buffalos (lower-right). Once Mehmet of Fantastic Photo Tours told us he was setting up a scouting trip, we instantly jumped at the chance — we have gone with him previously to Turkey, Uzbekistan, Armenia and a host of other countries in the past.

Unfortunately, two weeks after we left, terrorists bombed the very hotel and restaurant that we had used for three days. We feel bad for those on the island depending on tourism. It is their livelihood that will most be harmed by these developments.

Iran was by far the biggest surprise for us. We went primarily because Mehmet (the same guide we used in Sri Lanka, Turkey, Uzbekistan, etc) was setting up a trip. We knew he would make it a unique photo tour because he always includes a mix of architecture, landscape and people, and we were completely right in that regard.

However, we went in with preconceptions of the Iranian people. We thought they would be dour, religiously conservative, afraid of foreigners, angry at Americans.  We were wrong on every count.  We were met with open arms everywhere we went. Barely an hour would pass without someone coming up and asking, in broken English, “where you from?”  When we replied “America,” the response was instant and universal — arms would throw wide and with a big grin, the Iranian would shout “welcome!” (usually followed with “you are my first American!“)  Politics only came up in conversations a couple of times, and the people always blamed the Ayatollah and Trump equally, saying things like (one quote) “Americans are good. Iranians are good. All people are good. Ayatollah is bad. Trump is bad. Why won’t governments leave us alone?

The country is photographically rich, and full of ancient history.  This is a place that anyone interested in architecture, history, or just seeing what the “rest of the world” is like, should visit.  We can only hope that “those governments” do not continue to play chicken with this part of the world.  Only the people are hurt by government belligerence on both sides, while the bureaucrats remain mostly insulated from the impacts.

Petra is one of the Wonders of the World (center) and has been on our bucket list for years.  It is massive, well preserved, and looks like a scene directly out of an Indiana Jones movie (where it was actually used as a backdrop in one scene).  The long hikes in, and the treacherous donkey ride we took one day to reach the Monastery will assure that Petra remains in our memory for years to come.

Unfortunately, it resides in Jordan, which is a part of the world we have mostly avoided until this year, due to political instability.  While here, we never really experienced any concerns for our safety… except for one brief exiting moment when we visited Petra the last time for a night show, and there was a bomb scare! There was no bomb, and the stories surrounding what really happened are numerous, but how quickly the crowd panicked underscores the tensions of the Middle East. We were very glad we had the chance to visit Jordan during a period of relative calm.

We usually try to avoid holiday peaks in our travels.  With this many countries, and with some fixed on the calendar by tour schedules, we found ourselves in Israel during Holy Week (aka Easter Week).  The crowds may have been a factor, but we were surprised to discover just how unwelcoming a country Israel was for us.  Just as Iran surprised us by being more open than expected, Israel surprised us by being more religiously zealous and unfriendly than we had expected.

Evelyn worked on a project in Haifa (center) in the early 1980’s and was happy to have the chance to see both the finished plant and the city where she had worked remotely. Our biggest memories though, will be the extreme security (more checks of our passport to enter Israel than in any other of the 82 countries we have visited, plus heavily armed military everywhere we turned) and the massively greedy, racist tour guides we had for Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  Unfortunately, this colored our memories of the three days we spent in this country.

Also, within a week of our departure, reports of more than 250 rockets fired into Israel, and the responding airstrikes lead the news. This is not a part of the world we are likely to return to soon.  As one of the Iranians we spoke to said “If there were a god, there would be no Middle East.”  Unfortunately, events almost every day seem to bear out that sentiment…

You have probably seen photographs of the pyramids since you were a kid. National Geographic had them on the cover in February, 1982, burning that image in my mind ever since.  As it turns out, that image was faked…!

Nevertheless, this is a part of the world we have long wanted to see, but have mostly stayed away from due to political instability. This time we found ourselves already close, and flying from Cairo to New York actually saved quite a lot of money.  Case made. Time to visit!

We started in Aswan, in the southern part of Egypt.  We loved the tombs and temples of the area, and gawked as we tried to take in the immensity of the temples and the level of preservation.  The desert had swallowed most of these by the 6th century, and they were not rediscovered by archeologists until the 19th century.  The result was that they were mostly intact, unharmed by centuries of war and religious fervor that often desecrated sites not celebrating the current god being favored. We had the feeling that we were walking through a Disneyland recreation, because it just seemed “too good to be true…”

When we made it to Cairo and the pyramids themselves, it was a bit of a letdown.  Cairo itself was filthy in a way not seen in the south of Egypt, and only expected in the poorest of the third world countries.  Then we were hit with a mild sandstorm that filled the skies with a brown layer looking very much like industrial pollution.  Those skies became our backdrop for the pyramids, making them almost disappear into the backdrop scene.  Fortunately, some later Photoshop work brought them more to life, and to the appearance we had expected and hoped for.

The official trip was over, and we were on our way home.  Sigh.  The long airplane flight from Cairo to New York was going to take a full 24 hours, no matter how we planned it.  The airline schedules just did not line up to make for a shorter journey.  Settle in and accept it — pretty much the only way to survive these trips.

But wait! A friend told us that the Istanbul airport had a fabulous VIP lounge if you flew Business Class (which we did). Checking the various options, it turned out that the 10 hours in Istanbul was barely longer than any other layover… and it was the cheapest route too. Well, gotta go try this new lounge then, don’t we?

Oh my.  What can I say?  Not part of the original plan at all, but was worth being a destination all to itself.  Only open for a month at the new airport in Istanbul, it was fully ready for all services. Want a massage? Free, from a roaming masseur.  Want some gourmet food? Your biggest problem will be deciding which of the dozen chef stations to choose from — each was over-the-top delicious.  Want some liquor or soft drinks?  At least half a dozen fully stocked stations around the lounge, with every kind of hard liquor (which I tend to avoid) and wine (which I tend not to avoid…) you could wish for. Bored and want to race cars on a mini track?  Yep, that was there too.  Want a shower or a bed? Yep, free.  Want to just relax on a recliner listening to world class concerts?  You guessed it, a room for that too.

Then add the fastest internet connection I have ever had (with the single exception of an American Airlines lounge in JFK airport in New York), and I was in heaven.  We were there 10 hours. No sleep for me though. Too much to do. Too much to see. Too many chefs to video (at some point, I’ll tell you about my new video stock sales efforts).  Too much fast internet to… well, not use!  When our flight was called, I seriously wondered if we could just stay here another day and catch the flight tomorrow instead…

When we did make it to New York, we spent a couple days with our friends in New Jersey whom we first met in Russia in 1992.  On our last night, in Manhattan, we saw Hamilton — a well done, high energy musical.  They deserved the standing ovation they received, though I must admit I was left a little surprised that it is still one of the hottest tickets in town (and the price reflected that fact).

And now… we are back home in Cuenca.  One more trip behind us.  One more set of memories to fix into our history as we complete these blog posts, and then add the photo gallery images.  And yes, we are already deep into planning our next trip, to start in just over a month. Stay tuned…!

Egypt 3 – Cairo

After riding the jarring overnight train from Luxor to Cairo, we were handed off to another guide, Hesham. He took us over to the site of the famous pyramids of Giza. At first blush, we were rather disappointed. The high local winds often blow the fine desert sand into the sky, creating a scene similar to intense pollution. Because of the dusty skies, the pyramids were nearly invisible, and appeared to be no more than a tourist trap with people selling horse carriage and camel rides. We were inundated with people wanting “money”, whether for souvenirs or rides. We were also disappointed that Cairo was filthy wherever we looked, with piles of trash on the sides of the roads, and the canals clogged with still more trash.

Fortunately a bit of Photoshop helps clean up these images, so that they look better than they did when facing them.  Looking here, the sphinx comes to life more as we had expected to see that day.

Photoshop continued to also make the pyramids more like what we had imagined. Remember that these were built starting 4,500 years ago, making them the oldest remaining relics of human history, created long before any mechanical assistance was available.  They are the last remaining of the original Wonders of the World. The largest pyramid consists of over 2.5 million huge blocks of stone, and took over 20 years to build.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is a “must see” destination, to appreciate the findings of Howard Carter when he uncovered King Tut’s Tomb in the Valley of the Kings. Only about 25% of the objects are on display, while the rest of the contents from the tombs are still in storage. The huge volume on display boggles the mind at what was originally found intact. This was the largest Egyptian tomb ever found that had not first been invaded by grave robbers.

On our last day in Cairo, we visited the Citadel of Salah el-Din aka the Citadel Mosque of Mohammed Ali, part of a Unesco World Heritage site. Now that we were away from the tourist sites, we found the local Egyptians far more pleasant, willing to talk when English was available, and were not aggressive money grubbers.

On our last evening in Cairo, we signed up to see our final Sound and Light Show at the Egyptian Pyramids. Adding this night show really helped us appreciate the history and value of the pyramids and the sphinx. Seeing this only by day would have been rather of a disappointment, particularly given the poor skies and weather we were experiencing.

We like to always finish a country sequence with a series of photos of the people we met.  As it happens, in Egypt, those people were almost entirely found in the local souk in Old Cairo, the Khan el Khalili bazaar. This bazaar was full of tiny alleys, with hundreds of vendors, where you could explore for hours. As with the mosque, once we were away from the standard tourist traps of pyramids and temples, the local people came alive and became our fast friends.

Being an ancient bazaar, it was also loaded with an amazing assortment of stuff for sale.  One vendor was selling antique cameras (upper-left) and video projectors (center).  I was tempted to buy “the original Aladdin’s Lamp” (as the vendor jokingly referred to it — top-right), but I was pretty sure the three wishes were already used up… ☺ 

One vendor was selling animal furs as rugs, and had a stuffed fox on hand to emphasize the quality of the fur (center-left).  There was plenty of gold jewelry for sale (center-right and lower-right), and one man had a strange set of flasks coming out of a brass tube (lower-left) that was somehow related to making jewelry.  Though the vendor was pleasant, he did not speak enough English to explain its operation to us.

At the local cafes, you can still hear musicians, as they’re sipping tea or coffee (lower-left and lower-center). People here are going about their daily business, selling to each other, and not searching for the next tourist.  As Americans, we find it amazing how often people carry their bundles on their heads, as seen in the top two rows above.  Note the man in the lower-right is the jewelry maker with his bizarre flask / bronze tube contraption.  This was one of those times I wish I had allowed a local guide to tag along as a translator.  How the devil does that thing work???

The bazaar created a very pleasant way to end both our Egyptian tour, and the last ten weeks traveling through six countries.  While there were times we wondered if we were crazy to cram so much in, it was days like this that made us happy that we never skimped or missed the days of meeting the people residing in each country.

Egypt 2 – Luxor

Above is another of those “happy accidents” where we made a mistake while making a photograph of the “Sound & Light” show (see below) at the Karnak Temple.  Never just delete an image because “you goofed.”  Some of our more memorable images were the result of such goofs… 

Our second full day in Egypt had us driving from Aswan to Luxor. We first went to Kom Ombo to see another temple that made us wonder if this was real or not (it was real!). The carvings on the wall are so clear that anyone with a rudimentary knowledge of ancient Egyptian could easily read them. They write from left-to-right or right-to-left, or even vertically, and sometimes all three in a single narrative. The snake and crocodile (right-column) points the direction of the beginning of the text. Sounds facetious, but our guide, Ismael, actually has a degree in Egyptology, and could read them easily! 

That night we went to the “Sound and Light” show at the Karnak Temple.  It was a fascinating walk through the temples illuminated at night. We would hear a booming voice telling us what we were looking at, as the lights illuminated various areas. Then we would walk on to the next lit area.

We next explored the Valley of the Kings.  This was a huge valley with more than 62 tombs, but only three of which we could enter, as shown above. You do not appreciate the findings of Howard Carter until you visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The story is that Carter had spent 5 years unsuccessfully excavating. Two days before he was about to give up, he uncovered King Tut’s Tomb in this valley, which was one of the greatest finds in the history of archeology.

As we continued our drive, our guide Maru (top-center) asked if we wanted to stop and see where intricate tile carvings were made. We jumped at the chance, and ended up at the pottery shop shown above. 

We also stopped at the temple of Amenophis III, then proceed to the Valley of the Queens, and the Temple of Hatshepsut.  Much of this site was destroyed by an angry nephew, who sought to destroy any vestige of his aunt’s identity.

We ended the Luxor portion of our tour by seeing the Luxor Illuminated Show, just before we caught the overnight train to Cairo. Because of the dry heat of the desert, most of these “ruins” have been amazingly well preserved.

Egypt 1 – Aswan

Getting from Israel to Egypt is surprisingly arduous. Because they are neighbors, we naively expected to be able to drive from one to the other. Nope. Had to fly from Tel Aviv to Athens, and then on to Cairo.  Politics once again gets in the way of common sense and creates unnecessary complications for the citizens…

After 10 hours in transit from Tel Aviv to Cairo, we only had 3 hours in a hotel bed before going to the airport for another flight, this one to Aswan.  Because we landed in Aswan so early, the hotel was not ready and we headed off to a full day of touring.

Once in Aswan, we drove to the Aswan High Dam for a quick look at the second largest dam in the world (it was the largest until China built the Three Gorges Dam in 2012).  Then on the road again, this time to catch a boat to the Philae temple.  This is one of the hundreds of temples that was moved in 1964 to save them from being flooded and lost forever under the new lake being formed by the Aswan dam.

This was our first exposure to the Egyptian temples, and it was simply mind-blowing. It was hard to shake the feeling that we were in Disneyland rather than really in the midst of human history dating back as far as 4600 years. The bas relief was so vivid and clear that it looked like a reproduction rather than “the real thing.”

We next went to the Abu Simbel temples, with their massive stone temples carved into the mountainside. This is the largest complex that was moved stone-by-stone from the valley floor to avoid loss from the Aswan dam flooding. The Arab man (upper-right) helps to give some idea of just how massive these statues are.

More statues were inside the temples.  These are all over 30 feet (10 meters) tall.

The hieroglyphs inside the temple look like they could have been made in the last decade, as they were clear and mostly free of defacing. This temple was mostly buried in sand by the 6th century, and then lost to memory until the 19th century, when it was discovered in 1813 by a Swiss explorer. Being buried and forgotten saved the temple from the Christians who defaced many temples during the Middle Ages.

The hieroglyphs in this temple were mostly open and available to touch, unlike many of the later temples we visited. The long chamber in the lower-left image leads to a chamber where a golden statue of Ramses (the god being honored by this particular temple) existed when the temple was being actively used.

Israel

I found Israel unpleasant and unwelcoming, and expect to never return.  I have never had this reaction in any of the other 81 countries we have visited.  To be fair, we were only in the country for three days, and one of those days was misspent with two abhorrent excuses for humanity posing as tour guides.  This pair definitely colored our experience and left us with a bad taste in our mouths. There, I have said it.   

Now let’s try to show the part of the country that was more pleasant.

In 1980, we lived in Beaverton, Oregon when Mt St Helens erupted, which destroyed the High Tech industry of the area. Intel then offered Evelyn a chance to relocate to California to be the engineer in charge of planning for three international  projects. One of these was a semiconductor wafer fabrication plant in Haifa, Israel.  On our first day in Israel, we drove past the plants that she helped build 30 years ago, and snapped some photos, one of which is shown above.

We also drove up the Mediterranean coast of Israel and found that the landscape is surprisingly lush and green. We stopped at Rosh HaNikra, where we explored the geographic formations with white chalk cliff faces opening into beautiful grottos.

We entered one castle in Acre, the largest Crusader city in the country. This was interesting to see, even after all the castles and temples and churches we have seen over the past couple months. The interior included some well done animated wall projection illustrations (right column) that helped bring the old museum to life.

On the second day, we toured Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Unfortunately this was where we had two absolutely disgusting racist, money-grubbing, kickback-lusting tour guides who completely turned me off to Israel.

(Their sins fell far beyond just grubbing for kick-backs, but in trying to keep this upbeat as best as I can, I will not go into details. I initially went on a rant about these two, but have deleted that portion of the post, preferring to concentrate on the more positive aspects of the country.)

First thing in Jerusalem, we were told to wait in a line for “something fun!” After 80 minutes, where a priest kept yelling “no talking” any time a whispered conversation started up, we were finally allowed into a tiny room. There we saw the small, plain, 14-point star shown above, as a priest yelled “No photos! Keep Moving!” and rushed us out in less than 5 seconds. (Not being one to let small time dictators tell me what to do, I grabbed this as I went by, to show just how “exciting” the view was after more than an hour of wasting our time…)

We had a brief overview of the city of Jerusalem from Mount of Olives, as shown above.

In Jerusalem, we also stopped by the Church of the Sepulchre, the site of the crucifixion, Jesus’ tomb and resurrection shown above.

We took a few interesting photos of people. However, every one of the above photos was a “secret photo” in which the person did not realize he was being photographed.  Every single time a person saw the camera, he would angrily yell at us “no photos!”  It has been years since we met so many angry local people, and is in shocking contrast to our reception in Iran and other countries on this trip.

Our very last day was in Tel Aviv, and we had some free time to walk along the beach. Suddenly, we were met with real human beings who seemed to be enjoying life.  I only wish we had more of this time and experience.

Jordan 4 – Wadi Rum

We spent one night in Wadi Rum in the desert in a tent. As part of the 4-wheeled drive tour, Fadi (our Jordanian guide) stopped at a sand dune, saying there would be a great view of the surrounding area from the top of the dune.  We started the climb (if you have ever tried to climb a tall sand dune, you know that it is a difficult task.  To advance two yards/meters up the hill, you fall back one).

On the way up, we encountered a bunch of friends trying to ski-board down the sand.  That looked like such an interesting scene that we stopped 2/3 of the way up the dune, and spent the rest of the time there.  I first attempted to set my video on slow-motion… then realized that was redundant. These people were having to hop and skip to move a couple of feet!  The sand was a lot more sticky than they expected. The top image shows one person on his board. This was an easy photograph, because he was there 5 seconds before he hopped a little to move another meter down the slope!

Fadi (our Jordanian guide) then climbed to the top and ran down (center-left) to give us some action shots to capture.  About as we were ready to move on, a family encouraged their young child to slide down the dunes.  Again, the little girl ended up stuck in the sand (bottom), and just scooted down a few inches at a time.

Heading towards the camp, we came across this abandoned boat (lower row) that seems so completely out of place that we asked to stop and photograph it too. No known history, other than the names of two brothers and phone numbers spray painted on the side.  Seems like a prop straight out of a Clive Cusler novel.

Our next stop was a small rock outcropping, that Fadi again said would give a good view of the panorama.

Yet another stop enroute to the camp was a slot canyon with ancient drawings on the walls.

As we reached camp, we climbed up above the Bedouin tents to photograph the sunset.   Fadi was waiting for us, while reading his email, giving a nice focus point to our sunset scene (upper-left).  We then got up the next morning at 4AM to head out to the desert for dawn images, also shown above.

The meal was one of the best we had in Jordan. It was called… “(my age is showing — I can’t remember the name…)”, where the pots and plates were buried in the sand, then cooked for two hours with charcoal.

Jordan 3 – Petra – Bomb Scare!

Petra is the crown jewel of ancient ruins in Jordan, and is the primary reason we chose to visit this country. Hidden for more than 2000 years, it is considered one of the seven Wonders of the World with more than 500 tombs and designated a World Heritage site in 1985.

Petra is reached through a long walk of 1.2 kilometers through the Siq, which is Arab for “trench.”  After walking the full length of this path, you reach what is commonly called “The Reveal.” This is the first moment when turning a corner finally shows you Al-Khazneh through the high slot canyon, as seen in the images above. It is a WOW moment.

Al-Khazneh is also known as The Treasury, and is easily the most popular tourist site in Petra. This is due to the combination of being one of the most impressive buildings, and being the first one a person reaches when making the long walk from the outside park gates. Many people have their photo taken in front of the Treasury. Burt is seen (middle-left) taking a photo of a family, at their request.

The actual original intent of Al-Khazneh is not really known, and is actually very small and unimpressive inside (see “bomb” below for more info).  It obtained the nickname of The Treasury because it was thought by the Bedouins to hide treasures, none of which have ever been found.

The Monastery is the furthest that most trekkers reach.  It is a long hike of a couple hours to reach the base of stairs, and then a grueling climb of 1100 uneven steps. We opted to hire donkeys to carry us, and Evelyn can be seen above as she navigates one steep downhill portion (yes, you climb, then descend, then climb still higher on this arduous route).

You may also note that Evelyn is wearing a winter jacket. This is normally the start of summer, and is typically hot.  We were blessed with unseasonably cold weather, with the locals exclaiming they had never seen it so cold in April.  To us, that made the climbs (both on foot and on donkey) a far more pleasant esperience.

Our donkey ride to the Monastery brought us past many rocks with peculiar shapes that were easy to imagine being animals. The image top-left looks like a fish as you pass it, only to turn into an elephant when you are past it (shown above).  As you keep going, at about the halfway mark, you come across the Royal Tombs (upper-center and upper-right), a massive set of tombs for the royal family over the centuries, high off the valley floor.

Finally, after what seems like days of arduous travel (but is actually about 3 hours where the donkey is doing the hardest work), we open up to the Monastery (center and lower row).  This is the farthest that most visitors go, though Petra actually continues for many more miles.

Camels were everywhere to rent for very short rides, walking around the grounds in front of the Treasury.  Most people who got off exclaimed at how wonderful it was, having never ridden a camel before.  (Because we rode camels for 5 days across the desert of India in 1995, we are far less enthused about the chance to climb on one again…)

Horses were also abundant, mostly pulling carriages.  In fact, we chose to use such transportation on our third and last trek through the Siq, to see the “Petra by Night” show (below).

Unfortunately, we found the Petra by Night show to be a rather large disappointment. It is supposed to show the region illuminated by candlelight.  However, they had sold so many tickets, and placed a person by every candle, so that no candles could even be seen (upper).  One man then rose to sing a Bedouin song (center), but it was so dark that it was nearly half an hour before we realized there was a live singer, rather than the music being just a recording.

Then…. Bang!

Bomb!

was the shout that went out.

People panicked, probably with thoughts of last week’s Sri Lanka terrorism attacks.  Some went up the canyon towards the Monastery. Others jumped onto the platform and went inside the Treasury.

I first thought it was part of the show, but later decided it was just a false alarm (what terrorism attack would have a single bang far from the crowd, and nothing further, including no police shouting??).  Therefore, I extended my tripod, and started to get the photos that I had initially envisioned, with a sea of candles lighting the Treasury (bottom).  Evelyn thought I was nuts… but that was not exactly the first time she thought that…

I realized that the police were too busy trying to calm the crowd and get them back to their seats. They would never have time to stop me from entering the Treasury (off limits to tourists).  I therefore sauntered inside the crypt and was surprised at how small and plain it was (center-left).  After about 10 minutes, the police arrived to clear out the Treasury, including my camera and tripod.

Just as Social Media spreads false rumors instantly, so did several explanations of what had been heard. First, I was told by a breathless woman “a drunk policeman fired his gun into the air!”  About a minute later, another exclaimed with authority “I heard it was a drunk Bedouin that got into a fight with a policeman!”  Our tour group organizer said she was told that another tour group (not hers!) had tried to set off fireworks and it had not worked, just blowing up instead.

We walked out of the canyon with two park rangers. We were last out of the canyon because I was taking advantage of the panic to get photographs, and the guards were fairly cooperative about it.  They said that the recent rains had simply loosened a rock, which had fallen into the canyon off the cliff above. They said this happens all the time, but that usually not at such a poor time, nor does it usually cause such panic.

Personally, I think I believe the park rangers.  Partly because “they should know” and partly because it has the least drama, and “the simplest solution is usually the correct one” is an axiom I have long subscribed to…

Jordan 2 – Jerash

The ruined city of Jerash is one of the largest and most interesting Roman sites. You enter through an imposing ceremonial gate, go past colonnaded streets, enter a hippodrome (horse racing track), walk around temples, and can easily spend half a day there. Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Artemis, the Forum, and the Temple of Zeus, were all breath taking in the golden hours.

We visited several cities of the Decapolis in Jerash today, and we spent sunset at Umm Qais, a town in northern Jordan that houses the Greek ruin Gadara,  (lower row, where two groups of men were singing chants to each other) overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Unfortunately, the skies were cloudy and the distance hazy, so we did most of our photography on the plateau, ignoring the sprawling view of the valley below.

At one point, a young boy climbed to the top of one of the pillars (top-left) as his mother looked on (top-right).  I quickly moved into place to capture the SuperMan against the storm clouds.  He clambered down and wanted to see my camera LCD.  Soon all his friends were climbing other columns, calling for me to photograph them too.  After nearly a dozen individual photos, I backed up and captured the scene with three boys (of course…!) on columns while their families watched. (center-right).

Gadera had numerous arches that intrigued us.

As the sun began to set, the many remaining columns of these ruined temple were stunning. These remaining structures are more than 2000 years old. Many were destroyed by earthquakes and then partially dismantled by later Byzantine and Umayyad building projects.

Evelyn enjoyed capturing the sunset photos of the small stadium, which was enhanced with dramatic clouds. Many families came here to enjoy the sunset. A local teenage girl had a chance to practice her English with Evelyn. At one point, when Evelyn told her she had to wait 10 minutes for the colors of the sky to turn vivid, she professed to be too impatient to wait that long, and then left tp rejoin her friends.

Meanwhile, Burt wandered among the columns and the plateau where most locals had gone to watch the sunset (upper). It was quite a scene with kids getting horseback rides, while other kids were climbing the ruins.   The clouds all came up within the last hour or so before sunset, helping to add drama to the scene. By the blue hour, the place had emptied out.

Photo Galleries

At the top of this page is a menu that will take you to a variety of galleries showing our favorite images.

The most recent galleries include our recent trips to India, Dubai, Botswana, Namibia and New England. You can see all our favorite images from our 2018 travel here:

Travel->2018/

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