: views from the Hill

Monday, March 31, 2008

What I didn't know about the rose red city of Petra

I knew Petra would be stunning. I'd seen pictures.

And probably hot.

I didn't know much else about it.

I do now. (Oh, for the day when I'll travel with my handy-dandy Web and find answers to my questions as they pop up instead of waiting until I get home to research.)

When I write up my notes with my pictures (all 130+ of them), I'll weave the research into what I saw and what I was told.

What surprised me most about Petra and what was totally unexpected was how stunning Petra would've been in its own right, without the caves and carvings. The setting is amazing. The sandstone is swirls of color. As a natural wonder, Petra would've been on the map.


Alight at the parking lot and walk a ways to the crack in the wall and enter al Siq. ... or ride a horse or grab a two-wheeled cart ...

As the way in is down, we were encouraged to ride the horse on the way back, if ride a horse was on the agenda, and it seemed it was, by golly. We were told we'd already paid for a horse ride and might as well take it. (Tip the horse handler $2 or 3 Jordanian dinars, but tip him at the end of your ride, if you don't want to be dropped off prematurely, we were also advised.)

How did someone ever find that crack in the wall in the days before Petra was "built"? No aerial reconnaissance to give you a heads-up that there might be something interesting if you walked down this narrow path. ... A curious, wandering someone must have headed down the path to see what there was to see.

Find the crack in the sandstone cliffs and walk down the path, through the narrow gorge with steep walls, through al Siq. These days the path is worn and crazy Bedouin drivers in horse-drawn carriages careen down the track, in a hurry to drop off their passengers and turn around and pick up more.


Forty-five years ago a flash flood trapped and drowned folk in this narrow gorge. Since then work has been done -- a dam blocks a side gorge and diverts the water -- to avoid a repeat. Not a cloud in the sky, though, so no worries.

Look up and see the cracks through the walls caused by earthquakes. Take pictures of the small carvings in the walls and then round a bend and there it is: the Khazneh, the Treasury, the first seen and most photographed/pictured building of Petra, carved into the sandstone walls many many moons ago. Worn after all these years, damaged by man and by earthquake. Still spectacular. Beautiful

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Walk further and you enter the Wadi Musa, the wide open area of Petra with more carved buildings and spaces, the marketplace, the amphitheatre, tombs, places to climb and, of course, opportunities to buy trinkets and postcards and water. Tea, sodas, even a buffet lunch are available to keep your strength up.

More pictures to follow. Yes, 130-plus.

Beautiful. What an amazing site to see.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Felucca on the Nile


So I asked him, why the Brazilian flag? (I have a little heart pull when I see the Brazilian flag for no reason except a five-to-seven-year-old's love of where she happened to be. ... It is a lovely flag, though, isn't it?)

Ordem e Progresso. The Auriverde. sigh

He answered (through a translator), "Why no questions about why there's no American flag flying?" and he had his young guy (the one who worried about unfurling sails and such) unfurl an American flag.

I explained the heart pull for the Brazilian flag and he said, "Someone who rode in my felucca gave it to me. I like to fly it."


More pics of him and his barefoot style of sailing later.


Feluccas are lovely under sail. These days it's not financial feasible to use feluccas for anything but tourist transport from the Aswan (or wherever) side of the Nile to whatever sight-seeing the tourist(s) want to see.

The feluccas are beautiful under sail. Really really divine.
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Our guide at the monastery: Dier Al Anba Bishoy

Dier Al Anba Bishoy at Wadi el-Natrun of Egypt on our way back from Alexandria to Cairo (for our flight home).

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Charming guy. Well-spoken.

And! knew of which he spoke.

He'd been living at the monastery for twenty-seven years. He had the best voice, cadenced, mellow.

Does he believe that St. Bishoy's body (on view in the church) has really been preserved through the graces of Our Lord for the past seventeen hundred years because Our Lord promised St. Bishoy?

Tradition has it that ...

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Where in the world was Sal the Wanderer?

from comments:

No, it's not Corfu, which has a distinctive shape. Looks like Cephalonia lower down in the Ionians, which is where you'd be if you were coming from Cairo and were "past Greece". But you don't give anything specific, not even a bearing for the plane, so I'm going to go for Cephalonia/Zakinthos. But I could be wrong.

Bearing on a plane? Please.

I barely even knew where we were going. The "maps" airlines give in their mags or on their little maps on their screens of their route are rough at best.

I flew ... from Cairo over Greece then France/Belgium ... Normandy Coast (I think), White Cliffs, Ireland and then a lot of ice (LOTS of pics of ice forming and clumping and ice capping and thawing ...) and down through Nova Scotia and Maine and on to JFK.

I'll get the pictures set up and you can see Greek Islands and Mountains and then more and then Flatlands and then Normandy and then Ireland and maybe then you can tell me what I was seeing.

I wished I'd had a real map soze I could take sights on markers and figure out where I was at a given time.

Oh, lah. I had a whale of a time taking pictures of land masses and rivers and weird coastlines and such until I started to worry about the fact I was down to my last ten pics on my last SD card. I needed to save some pics for the JFK->SFO route!

But I'd forgotten that piece would be mainly in the dark and my camera wouldn't pick up lights on the dark plains easily. I could've taken eight more pics (what was then remaining on my SD card) of ice structures and frozen rivers and thawing lakes! If only I'd known ...

Still, 2311 pics: Petra, Jerash, Valley of the Kings (and Queens), Abu Simbel, Alexandria ... pictures of the guys with guns who hung out with us, camels, pyramids, the Coptic Monastery of St. Simeon, Philae, Haoeris/Horus (oh, I have stacks of pictures of Haoeris), piles of spices, trinkets, food, the Aswan Dam, loads of pics of feluccas and the Aga Khan's mausoleum. ... camels, donkeys, more guys with guns, pictures from the train window en route from Cairo to Alexandria, pictures of the library, pictures. ...

... and all of $65 spent on trinkets total including postcards, a galabea for me ($9) and for he ($10) for a see-and-be-seen galabea party (really!), a nice scarab painting on papyrus (we already had papyrus bits from a previous trip but the scarab painting was nice and "support the local economy" and all that), a set of David Roberts prints of Petra, more postcards, two $2 hematite necklaces, a $2 carved bone letter opener ...

Oh, spendthrifts are we. ...

Our biggest expense used to be developing and printing the pictures I took on trips. Now, with a digital camera and handy reusable SD memory cards, we spend next to nothing beyond the trip itself.

Home again, home again, riggety jig

Up at 4A for a 5:40A ride to Cairo Airport for a 9:15A departure. Flight to JFK took twelve hours or so. Customs and immigration at JFK and a wait for a 6:40P departure for SFO. Arrival ~ 10:30P PDT. Elapsed time from wakeup to landing ~ twenty-seven hours. Ouch.

Egypt Air served two full meals and snacks during its twelve-hour flight. Delta's seven-hour flight to SFO included gratis soft drinks, coffee and/or tea with peanuts, cookies and/or crackers. Ah, welcome home.

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Schmutz on airplane window. Weather was lovely for the most part but missed Belgium due to cloud cover and could barely see the White Cliffs of Dover through the mists.

This shot is just past Greece, I think. Is that Corfu down on the right? Anyone?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

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Last few hours.

Packed. Leaving here first thing tomorrow. 4:30A out the door for a 7A flight. Won't be back until the ending of the month, at which point our Peace Corps volunteer (who is staying here, watching the place, saying farewell to San Francisco) will have left three days earlier for mustering and on to his assignment.

We won't see him again until we see him. He's due back in the States in June 2010. We hope to squeeze a trip in to his host country. Christmas 2009? We'll see.

This will be the longest I've gone without seeing him (by a wide wide wide margin) since he was born twenty-four years ago.

Well, it's the year of the rat and he's a ratkind himself, so the year and his adventure should be good to him.

I tell myself just as well I'll still be away and he won't have me weeping all over him as he leaves, but tomorrow morning will be just as tough.

Bon voyage, mon petit chou.

(Or as Heidi Klum says, "auf Wiedersehen!" smooch smooch)