We flew from Bangkok to Cairo on the 21st of September. On the first day, we tripped around to Giza and the City of the Dead. Later that evening, we took the train to Aswan. Along the way, we stopped at Abo Simbel, Luxor, Karnak, Philae, Deendeera, Abydos, Hurghada and finally flew to Alexandria. We spent two days touring Alexandria. Taking in the new Library of Alexandria and Fort Qutbay as well as the Greek and Roman Catacombs under the city. We drove from Alex. back to Cairo where we toured the city in detail (Muhammad Ali Mosque, the Giza Plateau, Pyramids and Sphinx, Saladin’s Citadel, etc). We also took in Sakkara and Memphis and viewed the Red and Bent Pyramids as well as the Alabaster Sphinx and the Statue of Ramses II along with the Ziggurat of Zoser and the surrounding pyramids.
Then we were off to Israel. We spent about 5 days in Jerusalem viewing the old City and took day tours out to Nazareth, Akko (Acre), Ceaserea, the Dead Sea, the Jordan River and Masada. We met an old friend (Mali) from my days in the MFO in the Sinai. And we got the excellent airport treatment for which Tel Aviv is so famous. But that’s a story for another day.
Finally, we were on to Turkey. I wanted to see the Hagia Sofia. Primarily. That said, I was a bit anxious about Turkey. I’ve been to quite a few Muslim countries and Islam hangs over them like a pall. I don’t particularly care for it. It’s quite heavy and puts a damper on things. Israel did not have this except in the Palestinian areas of the Old City in Jerusalem.
We arrived in Turkey and I was quite pleasantly surprised. Islam is an undercurrent in Istanbul. They’re Muslim. You know it. They know it. No one gives a damn. I like that. It’s how it should be with all religion and it’s how it is in most non-Muslim places.
It was refreshing. I don’t think I saw but 10 Chadori/Hijab wearing women and they all seemed to be tourists. Nothing oppressive in Turkey about religion. They seem to all get along. I met quite a few Nestorian Christians and they had the same attitude. We’re Christians. So what! There’s none of the demand that their religion be respected at all cost. I like that.
Turkey was clean as well. That’s another thing about Muslim countries. They’re dirty and run down. Even newer places. It’s as if Allah has declared that “thou shalt not do maintenance.” lol Cairo is the worst. They built the city hundreds of years ago atop ruins. They didn’t remove anything. They cleared no land. Just started building atop the rubble. When those buildings started falling apart, they just built around them. And the dirt and grime. It’s everywhere.
Not so in Istanbul. It’s a beautifully maintained city. Clean streets.
And the people. Everyone was so nice. And they smiled. Very few mean spirited folks or scammers around. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember anyone even attempting a scam on us. We asked directions when we were lost and we were simply given directions.
The food was great as well. They had these pancakes with beef or veggies or jellies. Whatever you wanted. AND THEY WERE DELICIOUS. Of course, the Lamb Kabob was excellent. I ate so much kabob, I thought I was going to explode.
The Hagia Sofia or Aya Sofia was wondrous. Incredible. Amazing. It was gargantuan. The famous religious depictions were beautiful. Centuries old Art.
The Blue Mosque or Suleimein. One of the most beautiful structures I have had the pleasure to visit. More lovely inside than the Mohammad Ali Mosque in Cairo. Insanely intricate and well maintained as well. Simply beautiful. Can’t say it enough.
We walked around the city several times. Stopped by a few museums. The Istanbul Archaeological Museum was huge. Relics from Troy, Persia, the Ottomans, the Greeks, the Romans, and everything in between. It was amazing.
Then we went up the hill to the Topkapi Palace. I didn’t know much about it. I knew it was supposed to be gorgeous and historical. I hadn’t researched it. We almost didn’t go. Huge mistake. If you make it to Istanbul, you must go to the Topkapi Palace. Aside from it’s beauty and historocity. It has what are called “The Sacred Trusts.”
The Sacred Trusts are actual artifacts handed down (or stolen) from Empire to Empire from the time of Mohammad. His clothing. His water bowl. The plates off of which he ate. And not only Mohammad. There are relics from Fatima and “the Companions.”
That is some serious history.
There are also pieces of the Kaba’a from Mekkah and old keys and locks to the Kaba’a and the Grand Mosque there in Mekkah.
I could scarcely believe my eyes when I walked in this room. When I laid my eyes upon the Sword of Mohammad, I thought I was seeing things. I had to rub my eyes. Take my glasses off and clean them and take a second to let it sink in.
Imagine finding the sword of Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great. Imagine finding the actual clothing that Jesus wore or the actual cup and plate from the last supper.
I’m no believer in any of these religions, but, I have a keen interest in history. As a personality from an earlier age and a great historical interest, I have much respect for Mohammad. He built an empire from nothing. He created a religion and a culture which has lasted for over 1300 years. It’s not his fault that his religion and his culture has been hi-jacked by complete asses like Osama bin Laden, the House of Saud and the followers of al Wahhab. That’s not to mention the Iranian fools. And, still yet, it doesn’t take into account the idiotic Apologists in Europe and America who sell their lies to an ignorant populace.
At any rate, it was a singular experience for me to be able to gaze upon the Swords that Mohammad and his companions used to rise up out of the desert and plant the seed that created one of the worlds greatest empires.
I was awe stricken.
After Istanbul, it was on to Ephesus to see the Greek Ruins, the House of Mary where Jesus’ Mother supposedly lived out her last days and the Temple of Artemis. Next day it was on to Pammakule. These places are so full of history and culture that there is no possible way for me to do them justice. The Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
In this trip, we’d been fortunate enough to visit 3 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. The Temple of Artemis, The Pharos of Alexandria (Fort Qutbay) and the Pyramids at Giza.
In my estimation, Abo Simbel is a great worthy of this acclamation as well. Abo Simbel is a wonder of any age much less to marvel that it was built thousands of years ago. But then again, Egypt is full of wonders that defy description, dazzle the eye and boggle the mind.
From Cairo to Istanbul in 28 Days. This was a great trip and we all very much enjoyed ourselves.
Hope you enjoy the pictures…Dave
(some of the pics in the slideshow are from earlier trips to Paris, Rome, Athens, Santorini, etc)
Took this pic on the road to Herat…near the Airport. It looks hazy because I took it through a bullet proof window. Thick and dirty glass…so it looks like it’s foggy but, really, it’s a clear day. And warm for this time of year. Last year, we had sub-zero weather and 3 feet of snow. This year. It’s 50 degrees out. Can’t complain about that…
Camels are always fascinating for some reason. Wish I could have snapped a clear shot, though. Could have been a great shot. But this one is ok, I suppose.
Opposite side of the road from the Camels. Took this shot going out today, This is the end of the mountains as you hit the plains rolling west through Herat and into Iran. It’s the same route that Alexander and others used to enter Afghanistan over the millenia.
Big old dog…the Afghans usually cut their ears off and use these bad boys for fighting. Note those huge paws. If he was well fed, he’d have to weigh in at 100-125 lbs. Imagine that coming at you. This dog was at one of the Police Stations off the main road to/from Herat. Kind of a guard dog or early warning system. Hear them barking or growling…look out. May be the Talibs coming at you.
The lovely restroom facilities. This is a relatively nice one. ‘Nuff said…lol
This little boy was with his father. They were contractors building a new room on the roof of the police station. Water pumps. In America, this would seem a foreign concept. But. This is how much of the world gets their water. Many do not have this luxury. It’s a walk to the creek or river or a well.
Old school AC. I had no idea. Had to ask.
Herat has a “season” that is called “the 100 days of wind.” It’s actually closer to 120 days. The wind blows. Hard. Constantly. For 120 or more days. HARD! Did I say hard? The wind can knock you down it blows so hard. It’s actually a blessing. Without the wind, it would be stiflingly hot.
Most of Herat is without electricity. More of Herat is without air conditioning. So…they set up a water jug or container of some sort over the brambles in the windows that allows a slow drop into the wood. The wind blows through the brambles into the windows and is cooled by the water. Cools the air in the buildings. AC!
I’m assuming that this is a Mother and daughter out for an afternoon stroll or heading to market.
This is the famous Minarets of Herat. Centuries old. They are starting to fall because of the traffic on the road that runs between them. Personally, I can’t believe that they laid a road between them. If you get up close, you can still see remnants of the oven baked tiles that once covered the Minarets completely.
I was not able to visit these ancient edifices. Afghan friends used my camera and snapped these photos for me. I’d love to see these myself. Walk up and touch them. It would be quite and experience.
A falcon or hawk lazily swoops in between the Minarets searching for prey. There are 5 remaining towers in the Musalla Complex. The others have fallen. I think there were originally 7. The site was built in the 1400s by Queen Gawharshad–wife of one of the Timurid Shahs. The complex consists of the 5 remaining minarets and several shrines and libraries.
The famous Masjid Jami of Herat. One of the most beautiful structures I have ever seen. It rivals the Muhammand Ali Mosque in Cairo for magnificence. This is the peoples Mosque. It is the place where the city congregates each Friday. Building on the Mosque began in 1200 AD. I’m not certain as to how long it took to complete construction. It has been badly damaged several times. Genghis Khan conquered the city on his way through the region and left the mosque severely damaged.