back in Cairoback in Cairo Everyone has been asking me if things feel or look any different here in Cairo after the revolution.  When I left, there were tanks in my neighborhood, a curfew, lots of gunfire, there was no internet, and Mubarak was still president.  Now, Mubarak is gone, the police are back on the streets, the tanks have rolled out,...

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from ancient to medieval in Cairofrom ancient to medieval in Cairo On Tuesday we started our day with a cab ride to Tahrir to see the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities. We spent a few hours enjoying the Tutahnkamun exhibit, Akhenaten collection, and other ancient art and artifacts of Egypt. We then took a taxi to the Citadel. The views of the city were stunning. We...

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weddles in luxorweddles in luxor This past week has been a whirlwind!  After seeing some sights around Cairo with Ryan, my parents arrived and we left for Luxor.  We arrived in Luxor around midday and decided to check out Luxor Temple in the afternoon sunlight.  It was incredible.  The city of Luxor creeps right up to the edges of these ancient sites,...

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Mount SinaiMount Sinai Last weekend we went on a faculty trip to Mount Sinai.  After a 9 hour bus ride through barren, empty, desert, along the eastern coast of Egypt and across the Sinai Peninsula, we made it to Dahab where the best thing about our hotel was the coral reef meters from our room.  Another 2 hour bus ride through a forbidding...

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Unfinished ObeliskUnfinished Obelisk Once we got to Aswan and after a crazy taxi experience that entailed some serious driver rivalry, keys stolen from the ignition, a chase involving a tire iron, and a group of tourists, ahem, us, quietly unloading our luggage and finding another cab... (yeah, I know, OH EGYPT!) Anyhow once we got to Aswan, we decided...

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Camping in Texas


Category : in America and Elsewhere, Travel & Sightseeing, Uncategorized

I know it’s been ages since I last posted. Long story short, we’ve moved to Texas, ya’ll. To be honest, I still get homesick for Cairo every now and then, but we are really enjoying life in our little town. When we moved to Texas in August, everything was dead and brown. Now that spring is here, I am amazed at how beautiful this place has become. Since the wildflowers are in full bloom and it’s not oppressively hot yet, we decided to go camping this weekend at Lake Georgetown.

The hike was beautiful. The terrain changed from sharp volcanic rock with scrubby little trees to fields of wildflowers and prickly pear.

We saw two or three small cacti with absolutely brilliant pink flowers and vowed to stop and take pictures on the hike back. But when we returned, the flowers were gone.

We saw tons of butterflies and even more caterpillars. I even tracked a wild boar for all of one footstep. Ha.

We decided to camp at Sawyer Hollow. After a 7 mile hike, this sign was a welcome sight (despite its grizzly story).

Our tent was very cozy…

…and very attractive to caterpillars.

We made our own blend of awesome trail mix with almonds, raisins, peanuts, dried cranberries, shredded coconut, sunflower seeds, and banana chips. And because I didn’t want to be “that guy,” we decided to forgo the campfire and instead had fireless-fireside veggie dogs and tortillas with avocado and pico de gallo. I had forgotten how much I love veggie dogs.  Yum!

The views from the campground were really nice. We were right by the lake, and the sounds of the water and chorus of chirping frogs, crickets, and birds were awesome. I don’t know whether it was the time of year or the copious amounts of Burt’s Bees bug repellant I used, but the bugs, despite their great numbers, pretty much left us alone.

The full moon made the night sky pretty bright. We couldn’t see many stars, but the reflection of the moon as it rose above the lake was quite a sight. It first appeared huge and orange, but by the time we got the camera and tripod it had already risen over the edge of the lake.

These next two shots are long exposures of the full moon.

This was the first time I’ve ever camped without the luxury of the car nearby (oh, memories…), and therefore may be the first time I have ever had to carry so much weight on my back. I felt a little ridiculous and a little bit tiny with my huge backpack, but it was a great experience!

the Dead Sea

Category : Jordan, Travel & Sightseeing

While in Jordan we also went for a swim in the Dead Sea. It’s so salty that you actually float and it is really difficult to swim.

It was actually pretty fun and certainly relaxing after all the hiking and walking we’d been doing.

The Jordan River and Madaba Map

Category : in America and Elsewhere, Jordan

During our trip to Jordan we were able to see the Jordan River and the site where Jesus is believed to have been baptized.

Because the river has changed its course somewhat over the last 2000 years, the location believed to be where Jesus was baptized is actually now on dry ground.  The structures in the above photo above were built to protect ruins of churches built on the site.

We also went to a nearby modern-day church where we were able to see the river up close.

The river is on the border between Jordan and Israel.  The steps on the other side are in Israel.

We also visited a church in Madaba where we were able to see the Madaba Mosaic Map.

The Map of Madaba is a mosaic map in the floor of a church that depicts the Holy Land and dates from the 6th century AD.  Much of the map has been damaged, but large sections are still intact.  You can see the walled city of Jerusalem in the photo below.

The level of detail is really amazing.

The above photo depicts the Jordan River flowing into the Dead Sea.  You can see one fish swimming toward the Dead Sea and one swimming back because the Dead Sea is too salty.

During the iconoclasm, parts of the map were destroyed.  You can see an example of this in the next photo.

It depicts a lion chasing a gazelle, but the lion has been demolished.  I was surprised to see that rather than just obliterating the image, the individual tiles were removed and replaced with random different colored tiles and that the entire image was not destroyed.

It was definitely interesting and made me really pay attention to how much history there is in this region.



Category : Jordan, Travel & Sightseeing

Petra by day was incredible.  Walking through the long, narrow Siq was an experience in and of itself.  The sandstone features were impressive with different shades of reds, browns, and pinks stretching skyward and blocking the sunlight from our path.

The ancient Nabateans developed an aqueduct system to transport water through the Siq to Petra.  The channel carved into the sandstone is still visible most of the way.

The first glimpse of the Treasury is truly impressive.  After seeing all the natural beauty of the weathered sandstone, the refined detail and perfect symmetry of the Treasury make for a truly surreal experience.

After so much time in the shady Siq, this ray of light beaming through the canyon totally added to the Indiana Jones feeling.  However, the guy pretending to be Indiana Jones with a bullwhip and a scantily clad lady posing for Indiana Jones inspired photos (unfortunately not pictured) actually detracted from the Indiana Jones feeling.  Funny how that works, haha.

I think the architectural style is so interesting.  Apparently Petra was a sort of crossroads in ancient times, and the Nabateans were exposed to influence from many other ancient cultures resulting in the unique style seen at Petra.  Interestingly, the Treasury is actually not a treasury at all.  In fact it is believed to have been a temple or tomb, but it got its name because it was rumored that treasure was stored in the urn at the top.

Anyhow, there is much more to Petra than the Treasury, however most of the other carved facades have been badly eroded.

Look at the colors in the ceiling of the above room.  They were really incredible.  I was climbing up to take some more photos of an adjacent structure when I saw a person dressed in a hooded velvet cloak with a team of photographers who kindly asked that we not photograph them because it was something “very special.”  Brandon suggested it was The Village II.  I laughed all the way up the mountain thinking about that.

You can see how worn away much of the detail is on these other facades, but try to imagine if everything looked as detailed as the Treasury.  It would have been such an amazing sight in its day.

We had the rest of the day to explore Petra and decided we wanted to see the Monastery.  This involved a climb up a mountain in the blazing sun along a rugged trail shared by galloping donkeys.  Honestly, I don’t think I had ever seen a donkey really run before, but these guys were running up and down this mountain and seemed entirely unconcerned with the prospect of plummeting to their deaths… nor did they seem concerned with my safety either!

After the hike up the mountain, we reached the top and saw… nothing really.  But then we turned to our right and there is was, set back in the rock.

The Monastery was truly impressive!  Certainly worth a trek up a mountain!

There’s a few of the insane donkeys, and a tiny little Brandon in the entrance of the Monastery.

We didn’t have very much time before we had to head back down, but when we saw that views of the end of the world could be seen, well, we couldn’t exactly pass that up.

Fortunately it wasn’t the end of the world, and the views were impressive!

Petra by Night

Category : Jordan, Travel & Sightseeing

After leaving Little Petra, we decided to go along on a tour of Petra by Night.  I was expecting to find an ancient pathway lit with giant blinding lights or rickety fluorescent tubes laid end to end along the trail but was pleasantly surprised to find the site lit by luminaries.  It was stunning!

We walked along the rocky path for quite a while.  As our eyes adjusted to the darkness the moonlight seemed to brighten, casting a milky glow on the surrounding rock faces.  It was absolutely surreal.  We continued walking and reached the entrance to the Siq, the narrow passageway leading to Petra.  After walking for a long time and not knowing how much farther we had to walk before reaching Petra’s famous Treasury, we reached a slight bend where suddenly visible from the glow of dozens of luminaries we saw it.

It was next to impossible to get a picture in the low lighting.  After many attempts balancing my camera I was able to get this shot (above).  As tourists filed in through the narrow passageway, people took seats on the ground in front of the Treasury.  Bedouin musicians played traditional instruments, and bats chirped and flapped overhead.  Despite my deep-seated and absolutely tremendous fear of bats, it was a really… dare I say it… magical experience.

Someone explained a little about the history of Petra and the Nabateans and then asked everyone to simultaneously snap a photo, allowing all of the camera flashes to illuminate the Treasury.

I wish I had taken video because it was surreal watching the rosy sandstone features flicker in the candlelight and emerge starkly in the flash of all the cameras.

Because it was late, and because I had no desire to trek around in the dark with all the bats swooping overhead, and because frankly we weren’t allowed to, we didn’t get to explore beyond the entrance to Petra that night.  Aside from images of the Sik and the Treasury, I knew very little about what else we would be seeing the next day and was excited to return.

Little Petra


Category : Jordan, Travel & Sightseeing

Before visiting Petra, we visited what is called “Little Petra.”  It was little and looked a lot like what I expected Petra to look like.  Although on a much smaller scale, it was still very impressive!

This camel licked Brandon’s arm.  Fortunately though, the camels in Jordan are a lot more attractive than their Egyptian cousins (remember this guy?  Now that’s a face not for the faint of heart!).

After seeing so many ruins in Egypt that are actually constructed from monumental slabs of stone, cut and hauled and placed and carved, it was pretty amazing to see these beautiful buildings carved into the existing rock.

Much of the detail carved into the sandstone has weathered away, but much remains.  Little carved staircases snaked through the cliffs everywhere you looked.

Petra and Little Petra were built by the Nabateans more than 2000 years ago.  According to our guide, some of the badly eroded rooms in Little Petra are believed to have been dining rooms with cisterns for delivering water, and many of the dwellings are badly charred from cooking fires since the sites were inhabited by locals until recently.

There was a steep staircase up through a cut in the rock that everyone seemed to be climbing so we decided we had better climb it too.

And I’m glad we did because the view was amazing.  We enjoyed the sunset for a few minutes before turning around and heading to the bus.

Little Petra was fascinating and beautiful and only made me more excited to see the wonder of world version the next day.

Crusader Castles

Category : Jordan, Travel & Sightseeing

I will be honest here.  I really thought that we were going to Jordan primarily to see Petra.  I had no idea prior to this trip that there is so much more to see in Jordan than Petra.  In fact I think we would have benefited from having a lot more time in Jordan just so we could have a little more time at some of the sites.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to see medieval castles, but lo and behold, we did.

We visited two castles in Jordan: Kerak castle and Ajlun castle. According to Wikipedia, Kerak was a Crusader castle built in the 12th century.  You can read more about it here:

Here it is from the road.  And yes, that would be a carnival at the base of the hill.

The castle itself was really impressive.

It was dark inside, but eerily lit by daylight from skylights and arrow slits.

Here we are at the stables inside Kerak castle. It’s weird to think horses lived inside the castle, but I don’t even have the guide book anymore, so I’m just trusting what I was told.

The following photos are from Ajlun castle.  According to Wikipedia, Ajlun castle was an Islamic fortress built to fend off the attacking crusaders from Kerak castle.  You can read a little more about it here:

It was beautifully lit inside… which made for interesting sights and blurry pictures.

We had a lot of fun exploring the castles.  They were empty inside, but it was easy to imagine how they would have looked when they were inhabited.  There were a few other castles we did not get visit during our trip, but maybe one day we’ll be back.

Um Qais and Jerash

Category : Jordan, Travel & Sightseeing

Day two in Jordan entailed visiting the ancient Roman sites Um Qais and Jerash.  I didn’t realize there were Roman ruins in Jordan before this trip, but there are.  Our tour guide was Jordanian and actually grew up in Um Qais.  Apparently some of the sites, including this one, were inhabited by locals until the 1980s when the government relocated the people living in them and established the ruins as archeological sites.

The above photo shows storefronts lining a road.  Our guide said that after he and his family were relocated to a nearby house, he worked with the archeologists excavating the ruins.  He said he spent a lot of time crawling through a tunnel looking for artifacts under what was previously his uncle’s house.

Some of the intricate carving remained beautifully intact.

The ruins in the lower left in the above photo are part of a Roman bath.

The lake in the background is Lake Tiberius, or the Sea of Galilee.  Israel is in the distance on the left, and Syria (Golan Heights) is on the right.

The hill on the horizon is Mt. Tabor, the Biblical site of the Transfiguration of Jesus.  It was pretty incredible to be able to see so much from this site.  It’s difficult to see in this photo, but the line of trees further off in the horizon on the right is Nazareth.

We then headed to Jerash, which we entered through a beautiful triumphal arch.

The detail was really incredible.

The city was quite large, with an oval colonnade and paved streets. The roads are dotted with covered manholes.  It was often possible to see through gaps around these manholes… a startling reminder that the roads were laid over their sewer system.  It was surprising to learn that it has survived several earthquakes and still remains so well intact.

There was even a column that swayed back and forth.  The movement was imperceptible to the eye, but if you put anything (a credit card, a key, a finger!) in one of the cracks in the column, you could see the object move up and down as the column swayed or feel the pressure changing on your finger.  It was pretty weird!

Above is the oval colonnade… along with some bread sitting on a rock.

There is also a Byzantine church at Jerash that has an elaborate mosaic floor that is still largely intact.

There was also a theater.

These guys were playing bagpipes… not exactly what I was expecting, but why not!

There’s Brandon and the last known sighting of our trusty guidebook.

And then the sun went down and we went back to our hotel to rest up before another busy day of sightseeing.

Jordan Archeological Museum

Category : Jordan, Travel & Sightseeing

The semester is over, and now it’s time to catch up on everything else in my life.  As promised, I’ll finally be posting photos from our trip to Jordan.  This first round is from our visit to the Jordan Archeological Museum in Amman.

(I know, I kind of felt like I was on the Island.)

The museum was small, but full of beautiful artifacts.

I loved these ancient glass objects.

And yes, there’s still tea to be made… even in the museum.

It was neat to see more fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  We saw a traveling exhibition of the Dead Sea Scrolls in Raleigh a few years ago and I think they limited the number of people allowed in the room at one time in order to control the temperature, humidity, etc.  Not the case here, but that’s okay.

The above statue was labeled as being the oldest statue of its kind.  It’s from the Neolithic era… and sadly, we lost our trusty Lonely Planet guidebook for Jordan so I don’t have all the facts, but I read online that it’s about 9,500 years old.  Pretty amazing!  Here’s a little more about it:

The archeological museum was located at the Citadel, which had amazing views of the city of Amman.

I loved Amman and would go back in a heartbeat!

Back in Cairo

Category : Jordan, Travel & Sightseeing

We are back in Egypt after an amazing trip to Jordan.

I apparently knew next to nothing about this beautiful country before landing in Amman last week, and was surprised again and again during our visit.  The archeological sites were obviously amazing, but the country itself was lovely.  In some ways, Amman looked a lot like Cairo–a patchwork of beige buildings and hazy skies–but rather than a vast expanse of these little tan washed-out cubes stretching as far as the eye can see, everything was spread across undulating hills, catching light and shadows, and providing a much needed visual break.  Oh, and there were awesome ruins everywhere.

Walking around Amman at night, hand in hand with my husband, it suddenly dawned on me how delightful it is to be able to walk, chin up, on a proper sidewalk.  I think there is a lot to be said for not having to watch your step everywhere you go for fear of breaking your ankle on the crumbling sidewalks, getting snagged on purely pointless barbed wire, crunching through broken glass and garbage, and of course minding the ridiculous traffic.  To look up, not down, while strolling along a level surface, is something I really used to take for granted.  Anyhow, walking along Rainbow Street in Amman, there was a lovely mix of shops, bars, and restaurants with everything ranging from shawarma to donuts to baklava to restaurants with ambiance and beautiful views of the city.

And this is just the modern city of Amman!  The sites were incredible!  We saw crusader castles, Roman and Ottoman ruins, Petra, the Dead Sea, the Jordan river, and the Sea of Galilee among other things.  I’ll be posting pictures soon, but here are a few of Jordan’s beautiful and varied landscape to get started.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip.  We returned home to Cairo on Saturday.  The typical chaos at the airport probably seemed all the more chaotic after being away, and on the drive home, a giant head of cabbage flew off of a truck in front of us and probably almost killed us.   And I laughed, because strangely, it is good to be home.

Yellowstone to Idaho


Category : in America and Elsewhere, Travel & Sightseeing

Having survived a night in a tent in bear country, we drove into Yellowstone National Park.  I’d never been to Yellowstone before, and I was looking forward to seeing some interesting wildlife and hydrothermal activity.

Yellowstone Lake was even steaming and bubbling.

The views in the park were beyond beautiful.

The steam vents above are called fumaroles, which are, according to the Yellowstone National Park website, “hot springs with a lot of heat, but so little water that it all boils away before reaching the surface.”  I learned a lot.

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Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Wyoming


Category : in America and Elsewhere, Travel & Sightseeing

So after a wonderful visit with family, we were back on the road again.

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Category : Cats, Family, Food, in America and Elsewhere, Travel & Sightseeing

I always have a great time in Oklahoma!  Even if it was a relentless 105 degrees.  It’s just so much fun spending time with Mimi!

We always have such a great time together!  We told stories and visited and had lots of fun.  Mimi even taught me how to crochet squares for an afghan she’s been working on.

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Oregon to Kansas


Category : in America and Elsewhere, Travel & Sightseeing

Southeastern Oregon looks nothing like the Portland-area Oregon I know.  It is really beautiful.  Flat and arid with scrubby little bushes and no trees whatsoever, it reminded me more of New Mexico than Oregon, but I loved it.

We camped at Crystal Crane Hot Springs, but I’m a little hydrophobic so we didn’t actually swim in the spring.  Instead, we pitched our tent and made some dinner.  It got dark pretty fast, and I have never seen so many stars in my life.  We could see the Milky Way, and lots of brilliant shooting stars.  As I was laying there in my sleeping bag trying to fall asleep we could hear rustling outside near our tent.  We could also hear the yipping and howling of coyotes growing louder.

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out in the wind above the clouds out in the weather


Category : in America and Elsewhere, Travel & Sightseeing

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…than to be in Carolina


Category : in America and Elsewhere, Uncategorized

After touring Reynolda, we made a quick stop at one of the most memorable places from my childhood: Krispie Kreme. 

Sure it looks like any old Krispie Kreme doughnut shop in any old place, but it isn’t.  It’s one of the original stores from before you could get a Krispie Kreme doughnut in Arizona or Oregon or Hong Kong, for that matter.   I actually have lots of memories of riding in the family van to this place filled with hope that the “Hot Doughnuts Now” sign would be illuminated.  Unfortunately on this hot summer day… it was not.  But for old time’s sake, we had to get a box to go.

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the rain hits the ground and the leaves dry it up


Category : Family, Food, in America and Elsewhere

warning… sincere superlatives abound below.

Hello, America — you beautiful, magnificent, awesome, beloved country, you!  It is so good to be home.

I have been enjoying the splendors of the Pacific Northwest, complete with chilly temperatures, misty sunrises, beautiful rainforests, tree frogs, hoot owls, yellow finches, rabbits (both domestic and wild!), serene pastoral vistas, rain, rolling dark clouds, and the joy of  fleeting sunlight and blue skies.  The best part though was spending time with my delightful twin sister and her husband.  We had a lot of fun catching up (surprising how much catching up can be done between two people who typically talk at least once a day), making and eating really good food, sewing, baking, and lots of laughing, storytelling, and smiling.

Meredith put together this little montage from my week in beautiful Washington.

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no place like Amrika for the holidays


Category : Family, Food, in America and Elsewhere, Travel & Sightseeing

I went back to America in December.  It felt so good to be home!  But now it feels good to be home in Cairo.  Funny how that works.  I blame wanderlust.

I really enjoyed seeing family and friends and eating salads without a care in the world.  It was delightful!  I also got to spend ten days or so with my Mimi in Oklahoma.  We had lots of fun together.

What a beautiful country…


christmas donuts

We were lucky that the rest of my family arrived when they did, because a huge blizzard hit the midwest on Christmas Eve.

christmas ice

That’s the view on Christmas morning.  The snow was incredible.  Good thing we were all together!