Nov. 9th, 2009 | 09:12 am
Apr. 9th, 2009 | 01:31 pm
kisses.....you can never get enough !
old and charming
well yeah- you just cross when you can
a seller of cheese.....and perhaps also eater of cheese?
flying sand reflecting light
i love sand and patterns - beautiful
fresh fragrant spices - he grinds up the large herbs and branches in a large coffee mill like machine
and of course you are served sweet tea as you enter to drink while choosing and smelling the assortment of spices
dancing with the Bedouins in Jordan - everyone has their mobile-phone ("stereo") or MP3 with a small speaker playing all day while walking or standing - "music must be there"
The Dead Sea
Uhmmm full body mask at the dead sea - real nice (afterwards : ))
Apr. 9th, 2009 | 12:54 pm
I have reached the Mecca of Consumerism!
This desert city offers more than 40 shopping malls - one is over 12 million sq ft and includes an ice rink, another a ski slope……….that and sky scrapers seems to be the main attraction in Dubai……which leaves me a bit bored!
the most cranes i have ever seen in one place - there is construction all over the place
brand names / sky scrapers
i guess streets are popping up so fast that there is no time to be creative..
somehow numbers fit this city better anyway....
almost half of the population of Dubai is Indian - and many work in construction
burj al arab (only 7 star hotel in the world)
had a few drinks and tapas there tuesday night (min. order apply) after making a reservation / getting dress code / signing a contract !!
Mar. 30th, 2009 | 09:00 pm
After a few days in the beach city of Aquba we have now gone back to the desert again……you would have thought 3 days in chilly Wadi Rum would be enough, but no my skin is not yet dry enough (Khalil who was born in Petra, told me not to wash my face so I will try that here : ) I also know how good it is for me to see how SPOILED I am, with a having a heated apartment, ability to take a hot shower 24/7, having access to all kinds of good food and beautiful weather. I have really noticed how I feel like doing less in cold weather - even my hygiene lacks........not so much fun taking a shower in a 3 celsius bathroom.
On the way to Petra we stopped at a lookout in the middle of nowhere, to see the beautiful scenery. A man in army pants is walking to a gate of what I thought to be a military base, and he invited us in for tea (using sign language) Trying to explain to us that it is not a military base he calls a friend on his cell, who tells me we are having tea on the property of King Hassans palace – not bad. We have a few glasses of sweet tea and the guy plays a few tunes on his homemade metal tube flute in the sun. Very cozy.
Entering Petra, we as always when arriving, we start looking for a hotel/hostel, and within a few minutes we run in to the Spanish girls again who are leaving for beautiful Aleppo in an hour. It is funny on this trip I have recognized quite a few faces of people that I have seen in Damascus or Amman etc. Thee girls are staying at Valentines Hostel which is in my price range below $ 10 – and this place has the cleanest bathroom so far for this trip- yeah!! After buying food for the next day, I hit the hay pretty early as we want to get up early to be in the park before all the bloody tourists..: )
Got a 2 day pass for Petra today and walked and walked and walked in the sand and never ending stairs for 10 hours. The buildings are beautiful and some are super well preserved – amazing with the wind and sand for almost 2000 years. At 5 we drag ourselves home through the crowd of tourists, many Italians, Germans, and French. The light is really nice and I always have energy left for a few shoots (sorry most are not taken with the small point and shoot I use for the blog – takes waaay to long to download on the slow internet café computers)
Have a nice shower at the hotel and go downstairs to the “livingroom” that most hostels have to share a pot of tea and write and wait in anticipation for the buffet dinner that I am having tonight (Kevin had it last night while I wasn’t that hungry and came back raving!) At 7.30 pm a huge table is set with about 40 plates of mezze’s and a lot of different eggplant dishes (my favorite at the moment) tabouleh and cauliflower, so I have a FEAST!! am really missing vegetables after so many days of pita with triangle cheese or hummus and street falafel.
At the table 2 Danish girls are sitting next to me out of all the people eating – it is a very small world, we have a nice chat.
Tomorrow we will hike the other side of Petra and on Thursday we are off to the Dead Sea for float and mud treat : )
in front of the Treasury at Petra at 7 am
entrance to the rose city
"high tea" having lunch on the edge of the mountain - with a view of the main street and all the tiny tourist!
dinner is served.
Mar. 30th, 2009 | 11:17 am
After a few days in Amman it was time to head south for Wardi Rum. Changing our status from backpackers to proper tourists we rented a car as Kevin has gone tired of busses? So Friday we get picked up at the hostel, after having walked 4 km to the rental place the previous day. The driver takes us to the airport as he has to pick up several cars from there we are told. By the exit to the Amman airport, which is about 28 km outside of center he stops in the middle of the off ramp and tells us he will catch a ride from another rental car, this way we don’t have to deal with airport and can just go straight on the fwy. All right then….so like where do we leave the car when we return and do we need to go around to make sure there are to dents etc. on this car. Naa he knows what it looks like and just leave it between terminal 1 and 2 and lock the key in the trunk. They make it really easy here. So I start driving as Kevin is not used to driving on the right in the UK. The landscape is bare and soon the radio is bare too so I zone out and drive across the desert. Along the road is lots of police and several speed check points so I drive just under the 110 km allowed. I am driving behind a small pick-up filled with goats in the bed (there are many of those on the road and Bedouins walking them on the side of the road) and when he pulls into the side I see a police also waving me into the side. I pull to the side and think ups…….. I hope he does not require seeing my drivers license, as I did not bring mine on this trip and it did not seem important at the rental place who only wanted to see Kevin’s even though I was on the contract. This could be interesting. When the goat-truck leave, the cop looks at me and smells tourist as I smile, so he says “just go” - maybe these are his only 2 words in English, I don’t know but I happily drive off : )
Entering Rum Valley, we are told at the visitor center that the jeep tour is 80 jd pr day + lodging!!! Wow – if only we had the 4 Spanish girls (that we meet on the bus from Damascus – Amman and then again in the back of a bakery/restaurant, where I went in to get a sweet night snack – yes…. with all the sweet sweet tea being offered everywhere I am now into dessert ?- where we just say hi to them) So I drive about 20 yeard’s into the park and Kevin’ looks into a truck parked on the side………..there are the 4 Spanish girls – also in Wadi Rum!! So we arrange with the Bedouin guide to split the price (yeah) for tour/lodging in the desert. A bit of back and forth as usual and then we leave the car on the lot and get our stuff in a hurry…. Off we go as we want to make it out for sunset. Stuffed with backpack 2 girls on the truck bed and the rest of us in the back seat Yousef our guy drives into the desert……….I am not sure if there are signs that are just visable to Bedouins but he surely drives like there are……….left and right while the sand whirl’s around us – it all looks the same to me. Get to our camp in about 30 min and I get my camera out in a hurry as the sun is staring to set. Afterward we have tea and then dinner in front of the fire – it is about 3 cel. that night and very windy so I don’t get much sleep under my blanket in the sand but still loving sleeping out in the fresh air where the most amazing star filled sky is just above. Uhmm life is good.
The next day Saud drives around the desert alllllll day - a really fun day with great company.
this is a mushroom - yes it is cant you tell
our handsome guide Saud digs it up - says it is good for the stomach
he also teaches us games to play in the sand on one of our many chill breaks
and afterwards the girls enjoy it !!
my new husband
cooking fornew husband...................
Eating by the camp fire
our tent the first night in Wadi rum
on the way to Wardi Rum
dont everyone have to have a pic. sitting on a camel when in the desert?
meet this guy here in Aquba, while walking around looking for toothpaste - showed me around town and invited me to tea where we meet his friend who then invited me to dinner - which turned into going to select fresh fish and having it cooked at the place to pick it up an hour later (went and got Kevin back at the hotel so he could join us) after getting drinks (this bedouin drinks beer!!!) and then watching american comedian jeff dunham - a really funny night..............love meeting all these people so spontaneously and making so many friends.
helping out at teh local corner cafe in Amman - notice the pictures in the back.
Our cozy courtyard in Damascus with very cold bathroom outside
Mar. 25th, 2009 | 01:25 am
Kevin, Sunuki and I, were off to Damascus in a bus filled with beautiful young Syrian soldiers. Driving south the landscape changed from lush green farmland to pine-trees and then finally to white sand and delicious curvy dunes - so there was a lot to look at….that and the soldiers : ) .
We arrived around 5 pm after and as always had a conversation with a few taxi drives trying to get our business. We took the best bid and set of to the center of town in search for a hotel. Well, this was a busy Saturday night and as it was getting dark as we walked the streets with our sacks, visiting at least 7 hotels – all full. Finally a 3 star (I think the owner added the last two golden stars from a pack of kids stickers) but at least we had a bed for the night. Sunuki wanted to try another place and said he would be back – he knew of a Korean Guest house (unpublished). He came back shortly and said the House was EMPTY. We decided to check it out before dinner and entered through and old door on a small street – just like a private recidence. Inside was a small living room and with a large stove in the middle and then a door to enter the large courtyard. Here where several Korean men were feasting on a vast selection of Korean dishes, keeping warm in the cold evening by the fire in a metal drum place next to the fountain with goldfish! A mini oasis – with a large orange tree and all. This would do well for the next day even though the room upstairs was a dorm for 8 pers. So far it would only be the 3 of us.
Not having had a hamam in Istanbul I thought I would try one here. So Sunday I set off on foot through the old city and the souq and vast small labyrinth streets…….impossible not to make a few stops along the way. Finally finding the place after asking a few times for direction and taking loads of pictures along the way. So I enter this little place through a carpet hanging in the doorway (sans door) and am greeted by a woman in pink undie's smoking a cigarette in front of the would have been a fountain. So far so good! To my right is a hefty woman by a desk who is fully clothed so I figure she is the one I will pay. She gives me the options and enters the price on a calculator…..I choose the full bath which includes scrub and massage. While she scratches herself (yep there…and several times!) I pay here and am given a sponge and a piece of soap. My valuables are locked in a small box and I get the key for my wrist. So far so good. I go up on one of the 3 small 10' pedestals where you can undress – across from me on another pedestal space a few older women are smoking and drinking tea. So I undress and with my soap and sponge in hand enter the small maze of the hamam. The first room is the scrub room and off to the side the very small massage room – all very busy. So I take a small shower in the stall and site down on a metal bowl, figuring I will wait for my turn. Well, I must admit I get a bit uncomfortable sitting there while a few ladies look at me, no one speaking English. So I figure I will sit in the steam room for a bit (almost slipping in a cigarette butt on the floor). After a while the itchy lady from the front comes in…..and yes I do believe she was smoking, so I point to her as she is the only one that knows about my scrub/massage. She tells the massage lady something and then the massage lady motions for me to come in there. Well, everyone is still busy on the floor and at the small floor sinks, so I wait a while until my turn. Then I am told to lie on the floor, and actually am given a pretty good scrub – they do look a bit as it is obvious I am not a frequent hamam go'er or scrubber, as there is fine lines of gray dead skin rolling from my skin. Then off to the massage with is done with warm soapy water – and more like a stroking wash than a massage. All in all a very interesting experience - and I got clean!
On my way home I am stopped by a man in front of a store who of course asks me where I am from; Germany? Danish actually but I speak german. Ahh he smiles and tells me in gebrochen german that he was a body builder there. So he invites me in the back for coffee. As we sit there and he makes the strong black liquid on the small burner he tells me he lived in Lubeck in 1965 and we try to have a conversation – mostly about coffee and the preparation that I say I will use when I come home. So he gives me a fresh bag of ground coffe to take home to Denmark (was trying to keep it simple with the very limited german he spoke and the very very limited Arabic I speak) So after coffee I thank him and we give each other a kiss on each cheek – and then he points on his mouth, and I remind the lusty old man that I am a happily married woman and point to the silver bands on my finger. (sometimes it's just easier to say i am married as everyone ask us - so we save time trying to explain)
Tuesday evening Sunuki invited us for a traditional korean dinner, prepared by the owners wife (the dishes still vivid in my mind from saturday evening) as he was leaving the next day to Cairo (where he had met Yi and her moher a few weeks earlier), and like a lot of people I have met here in the Middle East most likely will not see again. So we saved our appetite all day, except for bakdash in the souq, and had a wonderful meal in the diningroom as it was to cold outside........followed my a few games of Yatzi.
Mar. 25th, 2009 | 01:04 am
Zeymal invited us to join him and his family for dinner one evening in Gerome - we were handed a fork and then it was dig in from the large pan that came straight from the oven - with spicy delicous baked veggies and chicken in sauce that his son had made..............and ofcourse soft white bread to scoop everything up with.
helping making breakfast for everyone in the cold rooftop kitchen - tomatoes, olives, feta, egg, jam and bread
Julie and Kevin in one of the amazing caves in Gerome (cappadocia) with fresco in the background
The butcher of Latika and me...........started taking pictures in the farmers market there and then EVERYONE wanted to have their picture taken - and some a picture with me
ahh arabic coffee
ahhh satelite TV - a must in Syria!
that and indoor fluorescent tube lighting........hmm cozy
and of course pictures of the much loved president Bashar al-Assad
Mar. 24th, 2009 | 02:51 pm
after the souq and much walking about (we are doing a min of 7-8 hours pr. day) Muhammed, Kevin and I went to an all male cafe for a tea and a nargileh.......when in Rome - right. We had been looking at so many as Kevin had promised to bring one to his friends in Manila that he will be visiting in a few weeks. I only had a few hits of the sweet apple aroma - actually quite nice, and enjoyed the atmosphere in the room, well that and the fact that the coal-changer guy had a bet going from a group sitting at the end of the room as to how old we were. They had guessed 25-30 for me...........I told the guy to tell them 25 would be fine - that made my night ! !. Across from us sat Iraqis playing what looked like domino, it is estimated that there is about 2 mil. Iraqi immigrants in Syria.
One day we went to see the Grand Citadel where I met a lovely couple from Homs and had a nice conversation. They were both teachers, Halimah in english and her husband in arabic. They invited us to their home in Homs (about 3 times) but as they were in Aleppo for 3 days and we were off to Homs the next.......she said time will see and ofcourse you are welcome many many times as most Syrians do. You are welcome in Syria.
After the Citadel we took a walk in the very enchanting Christian Quarter of town. Departing that close quarter we walked out onto a busy street and a guy jumps in from of me saying Hellloo (as almost all males/children do) and hands me an orange from one of the many crates filled with fruit and vegetables. I thank him and walk on, then he runs after us and hands Kevin a lemon (a lemon) and wants us to come to his stall where he finds small plastic stools for us to sit on, while he gives some coins to a girl and makes signs that we are about to get something to drink....something special from Aleppo?? so we sit down and Ahmed (this jolly fella's name) sits down in front of us on the sidewalk in his rubber boots - he reminds me of a fisherman from my hometown. Then he pulls out a black plastic bag, that has another 3 black plastic bags inside. Two contains coins from all over the world and another a stack of small notes that I assume he has been given and Kevin gives him a few coins from England. Then our sodas come - sweetest sweet red soda with a very distinct flavor - and a straw in each bottle. So we sip while he takes pictures on his cellphone of us and then shows me a picture of a very lightly dressed woman that I assume is dead as he points to the ground and sticks his tongue out and to the side. I point to the sky and he nods and shows me he loved her very much.
Another girl get waved over by Ahmed, and gets few coins to get something else - she comes back and hands him the coins and off he goes and comes back with 2 slices of cake for us.....service! Before he sits down again Kevin asks if he has a restroom, before answering he takes Kevin's hand and across the buys street they run hand in hand (so romantic) So there I sit with my 2 slices of cake in my lap and 2 bottles of red soda with straws on the concrete by my feet, next to a mountain of potatoes on a 12" tall plastic stool in Aleppo - relaxing. A few locals pass by and look at me, perhaps thinking; ahhh hard work being a tourist, or is she really going to eat tow slices of chocolate pudding cake with pistacios ontop?. I take a bite and it is pretty tasty - not too sweet. The guy who works with Ahmed (or so I presume) points his finger to the site of his head making the "he is a little crazy" sign. All of a sudden a truck pulls up with a few very official men in uniform, one starts taking crates of oranges into the back of the truck and the guy who had just signed crazy to me tries to defend the oranges (or perhaps his or Ahmed's store) and a big quarrel starts and his facial expressions change rapidly. A group of people join in to see what is going on, and loud Arabic is heard from everal onlookers. Back and forth with the oranges and some spinach, and I start to feel sorry for the guy. Then Kevin is back - Ahmed had taken him to a private home to use the facilites, and had started running fast when he had seen the comotion infront of the store. The truck takes off and the guy is gone (not sure if he is in the truck) and Ahmed starts a very old moped a few times infront of me, and looks at me fast before driving off down the street in the direction of the truck. We sit for a few seconds unsure of what to do, then get up and look at one of the customers who sticks his arms out as if they are handcuffed - not sure if he means the guy or Ahmed, and tells us to leave.
The whole incident lasted perhaps 10 - 15 min. from being handed an orange on the street, to having soda and cake with a jolly Ahmed telling stories (in arabic & sign language) and proudly showing us his coin collection - to the arrest. It seemed to be like viewing a movie in fast forward - a bit surreal. How fast things can change.
Palmyra in the rain (Yi and Kevin)
team korea hungry after Palmyra
Mar. 18th, 2009 | 02:52 pm
We have now entered Syria.....so no more turkish delight : )
We had a few nice days in Gerome and meet some very nice people - one girl from quebec that we went to the open air museum with one morning and mostly we hung out at the local CD/internet shop owned by 2 brothers who are really into music. Got some cool turkish music and they played and sang and served turkish coffee -where I felt we were part of the family.
Left on the night bus to Anatakya with some good tips from our kind host Zeymal who had visited Aleppo just a few weeks prior. As we drove further south the scenery changed and the snow dissapeared and were replaced by green and furtile fields - that and a few layovers and bus changes in the middle of roads into small micro-busses as they call the 1985 Kia 10 seaters - havent quite figured out why the large bus could not make it into the station and had to load off a few people knowing and unknowing (as in Kevin and I) passengers - as they did not mention anything people just got out of the bus and we barely made it a few times - but luckily people are very helpful towards people who look perplexed.....did not sleep much on the very bumpy ride and arrived at the turkish/syrian border with only minor confusion and it only took 2 hours of in and out of offices and our passports changing hands at least 11 times by other passengers, turkish and syrian officials.....but at the end we got our passports back.
Yeahhh we are in Syria. I love it here.
Having left the border in a big bus we were again loaded into a small and VERY old micro-bus at some "gas" station in the middle of nowhere about 45km from Aleppo and after about 40 min. dropped of in the middle of the dusty and busy farmers market part of town. On with our backpacks and trying to find out what was going on, groggy as we were from lack of sleep, in the middle of prayer call, honking cars, shouting vegatable sellers and courious Syrian men wanting to help us. Heaven really!
Following our noses and Kevin being pretty good with a map, we walked to a part of town with several hotels, walking past spice stands and mountains of dates and other mouthwatering goodies and found a nice place that was in lonely planet. Ahhh really nice to see a bed. But it was only 4ish so who cares about bed or showers. I wanted dates and I had no Syrian currency. Walked to the forign exchange place to trade in our turkish liras but it was closed so we found an ATM in a hotel and got 1000's of syrian pounds (that they call lira here - don't tell the british). With cash in our pockets we realized that we had not had anything to eat since dinner the privious evening (have been squeezing in a few DOA's unknowingly) so we had dinner at a very dirty restaurant with excelent babaganoush.....uhm. At 8pm we were back at our hotel and pretty much a sleep.
10 hours later -without waking up during the night I am one refreshed tourist ready to go out and shoot photos. After a much needed shower off I go in the early morning light, only to be followed by a man who ask me something in arabic and i kindly smile (perhaps a mistake) because he changes his route even when I try to trick him by turning around and making left/right turns at the very last moment. So not wanting to get lost in our new neighborhood I decide to go back and wait for Kevin.
A few hours later we are out walking to the bus station to get tickets to Latakia where I am currently writing from. Not so much to see here, hence the internet cafe.....a 3 story down packed place where I on the 2 basement floor in the usual smoke of cigarette - however Syria is not as bad as Turkey was - where everyone smoked.....that is until the law changes in about 6 months!!
I degress....after getting tickets to Latakia and back (the needed to call the office in Latakia to make sure there were seats - no computers) and showing out passport at a different window and waiting to get our passports back after about 15 min. Kevin found out that he did not have his ATM card and that he had proberbly left it in the machine at the hotel the day before. So off we go back to the part of town we came from. At a stop light we meet a young man who is named Muhammed (.....i know!) who is a studen at the University in Homes and on a3 week vacation in Aleppo where he is from. We are having a nice talk walking along, and he waits as we go to the hotel to figure out Kevin's ATM card situation and I a quick free bathroom visit (in Turkey all public bathrooms cost about 0.50 cent) Kevin is told to go to the bank in about 30 min after they open they come to open the machine. I tell Muhammed I would like to buy some dates at one of the stalls and he says he knows a better place that these small stalls on the side of the busy street. So off we go to the sooq after getting a few fresh baked pieces of bread.
Ahhhh the Sooq - colors, scents, loads of people walking / talking / smiling.... I am in heaven and an hour later loaded with 2 kg dark saudi arabian dates. YES! We spend quite a few hours there having a break at Muhammed's friend's silk/pashima stall - he is also only 20 years of age but with a sence of humor that way surpasses that. We hang out for a good laugh.
to be continued..............
Mar. 14th, 2009 | 04:52 pm
havıng lunch ın a cave
landed ın Cappadıcıa. Thıs ıs the vıllage of caves, and ı am currently sıttıng on a floor cushıon ın the back of one very cozy cave - havıng hot appletea wıth the ıron stove warmıng up the place whıle the snow ıs whırlıng outsıde.
We left Pamukkale yesterday at 8,20 pm after havıng a really chıll day. It started raınıng agaın after my mornıng walk, so chatted wıth Ben (also from US) who was havıng breakfast next to us. He ıs travelıng ın Turkey untıl July and doıng byzantıne research. Sıttıng ın the cozy front room of our hostel wıth the stove goıng, havıng tea all mornıng long wıth the hustle and bustle from fellow backpackers and the people who lıve and work at Mustafas Inn, made me feel sooo good. Later on we all went across the street to Mehmet for a small lunch and dıd a lıttle walkıng ın the raın. Settled ın for the rest of the afternoon playıng yatzı (beat the 2 boys 3 tımes!) and havıng a good laugh. What a great afternoon - hard work beıng a tourıst!!
We have now settled ın and seen the small vıllage and made my fırst purchase on thıs trıp - 3 cd's wıth tyrkısh and baltıc musıc - Really really good stuff. Had a lısten to all of them at the small record/ınternet store. So we wıll do a bıt more chıllın' tonıght as Kevın dıd not get much sleep on the bus - I am stıll amazed that ı am able to sleep.
Tomorrow we wıll go check out some of the caves around here, the open aır museum wıth fresca's and other goodıes. Just walk around and enjoy thıs beautıful and very fresh and cool landscape.
Arrıvıng ın Cappadocıa
walkıng up the travetıne mountaın ın Pamukkale
wrıtıng at Mehmet's place ın Pamukkale
lıve musıc ın Çanakkale
wıth tyrkısh woman ın Troıa
fınally talkıng to my bank after they closed my CC for 3 days - yeah ı have cash agaın!!
Roman ruıns above Pamukkale