Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Colorful wooden boats on Phewa Lake in Pokhara, Nepal

Pokhara is the second largest city in Nepal as well as the second most popular tourist destination in the country. I’ve visited Pokhara at least ten times over the years and it offers much for tourists, but for me the city’s most impressive sight has always been the colorful wooden boats on Phewa Lake. The boats in the above photo are available to rent for the day, with or without a man to row. From the center of the lake, on days when skies are blue, boaters are treated to a spectacular view of the Annapurna Himalayas reflected into the blue-green waters. Read More

Monkeys at Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu, Nepal

During a recent visit to Kathmandu, I took my friend, Jane, to Pashupatinath Temple. Considered by Hindus to be one of the holiest sites in Nepal, Pashupainath is the location of the burning ghats where members of the Nepal Royal family were historically cremated and also one of seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley. I didn’t tell her ahead of time, though, that it’s also one of the best places in the city to see monkeys. After we’d peeked in the front door of the main temple (non-Hindus are prohibited from entering) and walked along the ghats, I steered her toward a stairway leading to an upper terrace that surrounds the grounds. There, a couple dozen monkeys scampered up and down the stairs or perched on the concrete railings. Read More

Camel strikes a pose before the Step Pyramid of Djoser, just a twenty minute ride from Giza, Egypt

The Step Pyramid of Djoser, located just 19 miles outside of Giza, is the oldest pyramid in Egypt. Though there are a couple of other competitors, it may also be the oldest known cut-stone building complex in the world. Today it is the centerpiece of the necropolis of Saqqara, a large cemetery that served the ancient Egyptian capital city of Memphis for more than 3,000 years. The Great Pyramids of Egypt were also a necropolis, though they were reserved solely for the burial of Pharaohs. In comparison, the Saqqara complex contains the tombs of at least 16 kings, as well as high officials and non-royals. Read More

Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as Pyramid of Khufu, just south of Cairo, Egypt

I’d long wanted to visit the Egyptian pyramids, but kept putting it off due to scheduling and concerns over safety in the region. Last fall, I finally made it. One of the biggest surprises for most travelers is the location of the pyramids. Photos show them surrounded by sand, as if they are solitary structures far out in the desert. In truth, they are located on the opposite side of a busy street that fronts the archeological park in Giza, the city located just across the river from Cairo.

From the balcony of my hotel I had a prime view of all three of the largest pyramids, but looking at them from afar is deceptive. To feel their enormity, one must stand right up against them, and this is where the next misconception comes in. With the exception of entrances where visitors are allowed go inside, I had expected the pyramids to be somewhat protected from human touch. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Read More

Young girl creates modern day hieroglyphics on a wall in the tiny village of El Kab, Egypt

When our traditional dahabiya stopped for a visit in the small village of El Kab, Egypt, children flocked to the dock to sell their handmade baskets. This little girl, however, was more interested in drawing on a nearby stone wall with a piece of charcoal. Extracting myself from the fray, I wandered over to see what she was doing. With no shared language, we couldn’t communicate, but I tried to convey that I liked her creations with sign language and smiles. She flashed a shy smile of appreciation, nodding when I pointed to my camera for permission to take her photo. Read More

Kom Ombo Temple, near Aswan in Upper Egypt, is the only temple in Egypt dedicated to two separate gods

Kom Ombo Temple may be the most unique temple in Egypt, as it is the only one dedicated to two gods. Beyond the double entry are two separate but connected Hypostyle halls where reliefs of the gods have been carved into massive sandstone columns. The falcon-headed god Horus commands on the left side, while the right side is the domain of the crocodile god, Sobek. Beyond the entry hall, symmetrical sanctuaries, halls, and courts lie on either side of the center line, equal in everything but the deity they worship. Read More