To everyone planning travel : Listen to NPR’s latest podcast of “To The Best of our Knowledge” after, of course, first reading this blog. And then, buy and read “Beyond Guilt Travel,” remembering, of course, this blog.
“To The Best of Our Knowledge” is an often dead-pan basement interviewing machine adroitly edited to keep you awake. When successful you actually learn quite a lot. Ditto for this week’s podcast about travel.
Twenty years old I thought I was an up-and-coming journalist albeit of a different kind. Because the Movement into which my age conscripted me was winning. We young, naive often reckless kids were actually stopping the war in Vietnam, and we “journalists” played a proactive part in bringing that about.
Why am I writing about this on Martin Luther King Day?
Tired but infuriated I watched the House Havoc to its end. Then just as my brain sensed a wee bit of insight a client sent me the Times’ article castigating tourists who drive too close to cheetah.
Alas that sliver of insight from the Speaker’s brawl wasn’t, in fact, drown in the rage provoked with the Times’ story. Good insight like a piece of petrified wood gleams even brighter in the white water of rage:
Half-truths, cherry-picked truths, like the bits and pieces of glass on the kitchen floor can’t possibly tell you what’s just shattered or how it fell in the first place or what to do to prevent it happening, again. Rather, the shattered glass is a sensational, reportable event, just like too many cars lining up to watch too few cheetah.
But where did all those cars come from? Who’s in them? Who’s driving them, washing them, fixing them, financing them? The Times doesn’t care about that, but that’s the crux of the story.
Yesterday a baby seal, about the size of a small black lab, attacked multiple swimmers at Cape Town’s popular Clifton Beach. I’d come down exhausted from watching the House disaster, in need of several items of ordinary African news. And the first I found was this.
The seal first attacked a kid, then an older man rescued the kid and got attacked, then the lifeguards blew out warnings but one woman didn’t notice and the seal really bit a chunk out of her until a guy grabbed it, swung it around and then threw it back out to sea… where it immediately turned around and swam back to attack him.
Tomorrow the modern African country that started the Arab Spring in 2010 will officially end democracy in Tunisia. This is neither a coup or proletarian revolution. It’s what the people want.
Tunisia is and always was one of the most progressive and developed societies in Africa. It was no surprise that the “Arab Spring” started here. And I don’t think it’s really their fault that the democratic experiment of 2014 will fail. It’s the fault of democracy itself.
This massive political and social retrograde is happening because democracy is seen as having suffocated economic development. Too much talk and not enough action.
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.