Our Adventures in Sri Lanka

Safaris to spot leopards and elephants, swimming in the Indian Ocean, sipping tea in the mountains, and several more!

Our Nile Cruise

Starting in Cairo, we sailed to Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Aswan.

Trouble at Sea: Our Red Sea Dive Trip in Yanbu, Saudi Arabia

The Red Sea is one of the top diving destinations in the world, but Saudi Arabia is a very restrictive country to get into. That alone would have made the trip memorable...but then things went south and the Saudi Coast Guard and a hospital got involved.

Our Expedition to Jordan

Highlights included tracing the steps of Indiana Jones into Petra, following Lawrence of Arabia into Wadi Rum, and floating in the Dead Sea.

Discovering Turkey

We emersed ourselves in Istanbul, explored the white travertines of Pamukkale, and traced history through Laodikeia, Hierolopolis, and Cleopatra's Baths.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Jordan Trip Summary

Over four days, we saw some of the most famous attractions in Jordan: Petra, Wadi Rum, and the Dead Sea. Truly amazing scenery, and so many photos that each location gets its own post.
The Monastery at Petra

Our 2016 Jordan trip itinerary:

The Treasury at Petra
Riding camels into Wadi Rum
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Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Dead Sea

One of the highlights of our trip to Jordan was swimming in the Dead Sea. I knew that it was the saltiest body of water in the world, but I was surprised at how salty that really is. I mean, significantly saltier than I'd imagined. Actually, it's hard to grasp just how salty it really is unless you've been there, but I'm going to try to describe it to you in this post.
Our view of the Dead Sea
The kids were up by 6, which was unfortunate after our long day yesterday driving from Wadi Rum to Aqaba, with a brief stop over at Kerak Castle before rolling into the Mövenpick around 9pm. The resort is quiet, dare I say "dead"? I've heard that tourism in the region has decreased, and we've only seen a few other guests since we arrived.
Mövenpick Resort and Spa, Dead Sea
After breakfast, we went for a swim in the Dead Sea. But I would hardly call it 'swimming', since you generally feel like you're rolling around on slippery water bed. How's this for an absolutely terrible visual image:
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Saturday, February 27, 2016

Kerak Castle

Kerak Castle is a large crusader castle located in Kerak in Jordan. It is one of the largest crusader castles in the Levant. Control of it passed from the Crusaders to Saladin, the Mamluks, and the Ottomans. So much history in one place that it's hard to keep it all straight, but you can see each group's influence in the architecture.
Following our guide through Kerak Castle
We had started the day having breakfast in Wadi Rum, after which a truck took us back from the campsite to our car parked at the tour guide's office. We drove down to Aqaba, Jordan to see the town, then waited for McDonald's to serve lunch at 10:30am because our kids were getting hungry and it was the first place that was going to open. After our early lunch, we drove north towards the Dead Sea, detouring along the way to see the Kerak fortress. At one point, it held 1000 soldiers and 100 horses (in double-decked stables, no less).
The only sign we had to tell us about this place. The guide was helpful.
The tour included barracks, dungeons, dining halls, and stables.
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Friday, February 26, 2016

Wadi Rum

The Wadi Rum Protected Area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site The 74,000-hectare property, inscribed as a mixed natural and cultural site, is situated in southern Jordan, near the border with Saudi Arabia. It features a varied desert landscape consisting of a range of narrow gorges, natural arches, towering cliffs, ramps, massive landslides and caverns. Petroglyphs, inscriptions and archaeological remains in the site testify to 12,000 years of human occupation and interaction with the natural environment. The combination of 25,000 rock carvings with 20,000 inscriptions trace the evolution of human thought and the early development of the alphabet. The site illustrates the evolution of pastoral, agricultural and urban activity in the region
Wadi Rum is spectacular
Woke early to drive from Petra to wadi Rum. Stopped by police asked if we had reservations "you are welcome" and visitor center had way too many guys hanging out, like tour reps. One guy in a brown thobe took our admission fee to the park and told us how to get to Jordan tracks where his uncle would meet us - recommend. same brown thobe right by a mosque (only one in town).
Stored our baggage in office and then
Map of Wadi Rum

Rode camels, or as my daughter called it "we're camel-backing" to Lawrence's Spring. Well, most of us rode...my father-in-law David walked halfway instead of riding the camels,



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Thursday, February 25, 2016

Petra

Petra is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, built by the Nabataeans in 312 BC. Now, I don't mind admitting that I was under the impression that Petra was really just that temple-looking thing carved into the rock of a narrow canyon that you've probably seen in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. But I noticed that some times the photos of Petra had sky behind it or it was at the bottom of a canyon.
The Monastery at Petra
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Friday, February 05, 2016

Day Trip to Taif

We started our modern-day caravan into the Saudi Arabian countryside at the Red Sea Mall in Jeddah. Our guide is driving a Bentley. This is going to be a fun day.

We drove east for a while to get out of the city, then we turned off on a ring road to take us around the holy city of Mecca. We saw a herd of camels on the road (just like in Turkmenistan), but there were several others roaming around like little mountains with legs. There were also herds of goats and sheep that looked like fluffy white clouds floating on the surrounding hills.
Camel pretending to be a mountain.
Free-range sheep.
Now, a bit of geography: Jeddah is on the west of Mecca, Taif is on the east of Mecca. You might think "hey, we can just take this road straight through Mecca" but you'd be wrong. To enter into Saudi Arabia, you have to identify your religion on the visa paperwork.  Pro Tip: They don't care what religion you are if it's not Muslim. They really should change it to ask "Muslim" or "Non-Muslim", but they give you a blank to fill in just in case you want to get into any religious arguments about the existence of a particular deity. Anyways, there are checkpoints outside of Mecca where the guards check your documents and won't let you through (at best) and might arrest/deport you (at worst) if you are not a Muslim and driving on a Muslim Only road. So we ended up on what expats nicknamed "The Christian Highway."
Turn Right...NOW!
Approaching the mountains.
If I asked you to tell me what you picture Saudi Arabia looking like, my guess is that you'd say "lots of sand and camels." And I guess you'd be right, but did you know that there are also mountains and monkeys? We wound our way up the mountain road, stopping frequently (like everyone else) to take pictures of the monkeys on the side of the road.
Trunk Monkeys looking for work
Maybe they are apes, like in Gibraltar where they tried to climb into our baby stroller...but I think the big difference between the two is the tail.
My friend wouldn't translate the graffiti for me,
so my guess is that it's pretty good.
Shortly after the monkeys, we arrived the farm of our guide/host. It was not what I was expecting.
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End Of Tour Summary: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

We spent two and a half years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on our second tour in the Foreign Service with the US Department of State. As you migh...

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