When the polls closed in Georgia last night an unusual blackout occurred at South Africa’s naval base at Simons Town.
Shortly thereafter astute citizen photographers captured South African vessels escorting the Russian cargo ship, ‘Lady R’, into port… The lights went back on.
The ship is sanctioned by the U.S. in coordination with the EU and Australia to punish Russia for its Ukraine war.
Joe Biden landed in Egypt for the COP27 conference just as we began our first day of the Egyptian safari. I was about to post this blog (two weeks ago) just as Egyptian police announced that reporters and bloggers be put on notice: Don’t criticize the government.
Regular readers know how unlikely I would criticize anything much less a big African government, basically believing everything in the world is honky-dory, but valor being the better part of splendor I conceded to my valuable clients that their interests were paramount: no blogs about modern Egypt until I was out of the country.
It was the perfect time for a woman to make a move. Her great-grandfather Ahmose had started her family’s dynasty by defeating the barbarians who had so blithely overrun the ancient kingdoms with their new invention, the chariot. It didn’t take Ahmose long to make his own.
Her grandfather Amenhotep was therefore able to consolidate rule once again where it belonged, with the rulers of the North who had before the chariot charlatans had ruled for nearly two thousand years. Her father Tutmose solidified a reign that many consider the beginning of the greatest dynasty in all of Egyptian history in part by marrying his favorite daughter, Hatshepsut, to her half-brother, the pharaoh-to-be Tutmose II.
The incredible multi-thousand year old history and monuments of pharaonic Egypt draw nearly 12 million visitors a year. But I’m getting really fascinated by the much later periods, when first the Greeks, then the Romans, then ultimately Muslims took control of the empire.
The basic pantheon of Egyptian gods existed from about 5000 years ago, about a dozen deities that explained creation, the difference between good and evil and the afterlife associated with each. But with time the collection of gods increased substantially, and with it the elaborate tombs and monuments and ceremonies that created a civilization that became encapsulated in myth and held stable by fierce ideology.
We just finished seven days in Jordan: Two fabulous rest days on the Dead Sea, playing Lawrence of Arabia in Wadi Rum, and of course Petra.
Nine out of ten tourists travel to Jordan for a single attraction: Petra. Most of those are day-trippers or one-nighters from Red Sea cruises. Our guide told us that tourism is back in spades following Covid and that there are now about 4,000 visitors daily to Petra.
I’m generally not one to join crowds. Couldn’t stand Pompei with its thousands and thousands of visitors, so I was a bit apprehensive about this visit.
But as Kathleen and I stood on a trail a couple hundred feet above the main thoroughfare of the city, watching the thousands of tourists below, I got the sense of what it would have been like 2000 years ago when this city was flourishing with 20,000 residents.
Three soldiers — all very young – like stick men in a video game strutting awkwardly across an intersection at the very far end of a very long, dark street. Too far to hear their boots on the lose rocks. But the shrill shouts of very young children displace their cadence, and they lift their TAR-21s to hip level and face the sounds of the screaming children.
It just so happens that the kids are between me and the soldiers. I’m in the line of fire.
The “Great Wall,” the rapturing at the Church of the Nativity, an intimate private lunch with a Palestinian family — so much, today, but one of the most telling was our visit to the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron.
Considered a sacred site in both Judaism and Islam for the same reason, the ability of believers to worship here is now “absurdly” controlled by Israel.
Israel has valid security concerns since at least 67 Jewish worshipers were gunned down here in 1929 on rumors that Jewish militias were going to take over the Temple Mount.
The easiest question of the day: ‘Where’s the center of the earth?’ Certain Christian sects believe it’s the Temple Mount; Jews believe it’s Golgotha; and the always necessarily compromising Palestinians simply draw a line between the two assumed centers and declared the half-point the real middle which conveniently falls in the middle of the Church of the Sepulcher.
So that’s the easy part. So glad we finally figured that out since it’s been bugging me for such a long time.
Unusual message from the Lufthansa purser: “Please prepare for an immediate landing.” But we’re a long way… “Make sure that you leave behind all personal belongings if asked to evacuate.” Evacuate? I look out the window. “Tray tables now immediately to upright positions.”
But we’re three-quarters of an hour before the scheduled landing! The whole jammed-pack aircraft is now filled with erect, silent passengers – some like me in window seats, squashing their noses against the glass for a better view.
I don’t like crowds… of people, that is. I take my rovers into tens of thousands of wildebeest, sometimes hundreds of thousands. My cars are often the only ones in view.
It’s selfish and egotistical, perhaps pridefully arrogant. We handful of guides with the skills and experience to find the calving fields represent an extremely small group of tourists. It’s hard to get there, not without risk since there’s no roads or tracks and sometimes, in fact, we don’t find them.
Rather, what the mass of tourists usually sees was truthfully documented in last night’s PBS premiere of this season’s ‘Nature,’ Running with the Beest.
Who cares that an elephant eats 150 pounds and not 250 pounds per day; or whether the peak of the dry season somewhere is October not September; or whether the start of a river is some unknown spring in the wilderness rather than a branch of hundreds of springs or rivers; or whether a huge part of Africa is independent or a part of Zambia?
You should, because PBS just joined MAGA.
Beware The Woke. For half a century I’ve lived, worked and critiqued Africa. Now I’m supposed to relent, regret what I did? This mostly leftist campaign currently focused on the entertainment industry is ready to pounce on me and thousands like me.
So I’m pouncing first.
Out there in the milky skies of a not-so-distant horizon I see the first sparkles of a mammoth explosion rising up from the yet slimy volcanoes just below ground: the travel bubble bursting.
Oh in this dismal world might also a Ukrainian nuclear plant or the world’s oldest democracies shatter like a CGI commercial for relieving your psoriasis, but truly you adventuresome soul, your airline ticket and safari price might soon be crumbling to pieces. Don’t blame me if I’m wrong. It’s happened before.
At last a very important film on the human/wildlife conflict! Watch it. Wildlife documentaries are almost always directed towards fund-raising or scandal arousal. This film is different. It’s saying exactly what should be said, as I’ve been trying to do for years.
Lions are more threatened with extinction in the wild than any other big beast in Africa except possibly the rhino. “The Rise and Fall of the Marsh Lions” tells why. Yet I worry that many of you won’t imbibe the whole message. Let me explain.
“Our interaction with Britain has been one of pain, death and dispossession, and of the dehumanisation of the African people. We do not mourn the death of Elizabeth.”
This statement from South Africa’s third most powerful political party rings hollow even though it’s true.