Ian in Luxor

Ian Luxor 6

One of my favorite people in this world is Ann Wood, a Brooklyn-based artist and dear friend whose blog is filled with delights — from papier mache ships with billowing sails made from vintage materials, to finely crafted horses, spiders and owls that she sells in her online shop. Ian Luxor 3But her newest passion is to craft little birds from materials she finds at flea markets and on E-bay — Victorian lace, satin, old cotton aprons, etc. Lately, Ann has taken on a project to produce a bird a day, much to the excitement of her fans (who must number in the thousands, given the many comments she gets and how quickly the birds sell when she puts them in the shop). Each bird is unique and has a name.

I count myself among the lucky few to have one of these birds — and even luckier to have one of the (ahem) early birds, one of the first Ann crafted last year. Ian is my companion here in Cairo. He has his own shelf on the entertainment center and gets a little exercise every week when the housekeeper comes on Tuesday. She moves him away to dust the shelf and then puts him back in position, never in the same spot. (And yes, Cairo is probably the only place I’ll ever be able to afford a housekeeper.)

Ian Luxor 9When another friend visited this past week, we did a whirlwind couple of days in Luxor, and I took Ian along. The photos here are from Ian’s first trip outside of Cairo here in the land of the Pharaohs. He seemed particularly impressed by the number of birds in the heiroglyphs, and said he is now a huge fan of ibis-headed god Thoth and, of course, Horus, the falcon-headed son of the gods Isis and Osiris.

 

Ian Luxor 8

Ian Luxor 2 Ian Luxor 4

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Petra at Night

Petra Treasury through canyon at night

To see the Nabataean ruins of Petra by day is amazing (and I’ll write more about my trip there soon), but two times a week, there is an event at night that offers a beautiful and mysterious walk by candlelight into the mile-long chasm leading to the first marvelous ruin at Petra, the stone-carved facade of Al-Khaneh, a tomb known more commonly as the “Treasury.” Petra at night 1We arrived just after dark, with a few hundred other tourists. It had been a long day for me: two tough hikes inside Petra — to the ruins known as the Monastery, and up a climb to an overlook that looks down at the canyon and the Treasury — and my feet and legs were jellified. But once we entered the gates, I knew this was going to be a special evening. To get to the Al-Khaneh site involves a kilometer or more walk down a pathway and then into the sheer-walled canyon known as As-Siq. Petra at night 2At the end of that winding path is a view to the Treasury, peeking through the crack in the canyon walls. At the evening walk, candle-filled bags known as luminaria line the pathway and light up the natural stone hallway. With the clear night sky, and the near-full moon rising, I set my camera on long exposures and used a borrowed mini-tripod to capture a few images along the way.

Petra at night 6Once you arrive at the Treasury, the canyon opens up and the central area is filled with hundreds of candles, with the audience seated in a circle around the natural courtyard. Bedouin musicians play, and a haunting flute tune echoes around the canyon walls. Bedouin men serve the audience tea as they sit on woven mats in the candlelight.

Though I got quite a blister on the walk out after the third big hike of the day, it was an evening stroll well worth the injury.

 

VIDEO: To view some of my video of the Treasury (during daylight), click here. You’ll need quicktime player (downloadable for free online), and it may take a while to load. I’ll write more about Petra and the beautiful desert landscapes of Wadi Rum soon.

R.I.P. KV

About a year ago, novelist Kurt Vonnegut wrote this in a widely-read article:

No matter how corrupt, greedy, and heartless our government, our corporations, our media, and our religious and charitable institutions may become, the music will still be wonderful.

If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph:

THE ONLY PROOF HE NEEDED
FOR THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
WAS MUSIC

Here here, Mr. V.

Kurt Vonnegut died Wednesday evening after suffering brain damage in a fall a few weeks ago.

So it goes.

Easter at Mount Nebo

Nebo Sunset

One of the disadvantages of living overseas is that I miss the rerun of The Ten Commandments on television this time of year. I love that famous, and anachronistic, Edward G. Robinson gangster sneer: “Moses, where’s your Messiah now!?”

So I made up for it by visiting Mt. Nebo last night with my traveling pals (J and K) and another friend, Carolyn, who lives in Amman. Nebo, according to the book of Deuteronomy, is where the following happened:

And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan.

Dan could not be reached for comment.

Brazen Serpent SculptureWhether this is the actual site where this event occurred is up for debate. But a sunset stroll up the hill from the parking lot, to see the small church there and the glorious view across the landscape, was a balm (close to Gilead) for a well-traveled soul, and as fine a place as any to celebrate Easter.

You could see at least as far as the Dead Sea, but the haze kept Jericho hidden from view. The sun glowed in my favorite light of the day on the Brazen Serpent Sculpture by Italian artist Giovanni Fantoni — designed to symbolize not only a crucifix, but also the bronze serpent Moses created in the wilderness — and through the stained glass windows of the 6th century church on the mountain top.

Church altar at NeboMt. Nebo is in an area where many Jordanian Christians still live, and it’s an area also known for its mosaic work. We entered the church just after a mass, apparently for some Italian pilgrims, had finished.

Candles on altar in NeboThe candles were still burning on the right of the altar as the priest closed up for the day.

The floors of church there are adorned with finely detailed mosaics excavated from archaeological digs, and the rustic columns stood strong in the shafts of waning sunlight.

Back at the taxi, we asked Kamal, the very religious Muslim driver, if he knew when Moses (known as Musa in Arabic) lived. He said he wasn’t certain, but he did know that Moses, also an important figure in Islam, was at least ten meters (more than 30 feet) tall and was most likely a black African.

He was serious.Shaft of sunlight in church

As we were pulling out of the parking lot, SUVs with secret service officers arrived in advance of a sunset visit by the American ambassador to Jordan.

Looks like we got there (and out) just in time.

Benches and sunlight in nebo church Round stained glass in Nebo church

Greetings from .jo

Just a quick note from an Internet cafe in Aqaba, Jordan.

 My trip has been truly awesome so far (and I rarely use that “a” word, but it applies to so much here).

Petra was amazing.  So much bigger and expansive than I had imagined.  And the desert landscape of Wadi Rum was likely where the words picturesque and gorgeous were coined.  I stayed in a bedouin camp (run by Zidane, and he calls it a Bedouin Meditation Camp) for a couple of nights and slept under the stars — and a very bright full moon — one of those nights.

Lots of hikes and my first camel trek.  But I have a blister the size of a Buick on the pad of my left foot, and that’s slowed me down a bit.

Will post photos and (gasp!) video next week.