Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel
Massive aquarium at Atlantis Resort in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates

Click on title to view photo in large format. At Atlantis Resort in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an enormous aquarium on the lower level allows guests close-up views of giant manta rays and sharks. The resort stands at the head of Palm Jumeira, the largest man-made island in the world, which was built in the shape of a palm tree. The five-star Atlantis in Dubai was modeled after its sister property in Read More

In the United Arab Emirates, shoppers go crazy taking photos of the new Tesla cars on display at Dubai Mall.

Click on title to view photo in large format. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), shoppers flock around the new Tesla cars on display at Dubai Mall. Several Emiratis made serious inquiries about purchasing one of these revolutionary, all-electric cars. In one instance, a salesman quoted the price Read More

Every morning, I passed Aisha on the sleepy sand streets of Bodufolhudhoo Island. Her black head scarf and ankle-length cloak revealed only her face and hands. I longed to speak to her, but after greeting me with a radiant smile and a heartfelt “Good morning,” she always lowered her eyes demurely and continued on her way. Like all the women in the Republic of Maldives, she seemed painfully shy.

On day four, I finally screwed up enough courage to ask her a question. “Can you tell me what your head scarf is called?” After she explained that the scarf was called a hijab and the cloak an abaya, I blurted out the question I’d wanted to ask for years. “Aren’t you hot?” I had long wondered whether the traditional clothing worn by Muslim women made them hot or was cooling because it afforded protection from the relentless sun.

Main road on Bodufolhudhoo leads to the harbor

Main road on Bodufolhudhoo leads to the harbor

“No, I’m not hot,” she claimed, even though perspiration beaded her chin and upper lip. We stepped into the shade, where Aisha explained that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, states that women should cover themselves so as not to offer temptation to men. Efforts to remain chaste begin at an early age in the Maldives.

Though I’d previously understood that girls begin wearing the hijab and abaya after the beginning of menses, Aisha donned the traditional garb around the age of six. “I cried and cried. I didn’t want to wear it. But my father explained it was necessary because only my husband, brothers, and father should be allowed to see my body. He was protecting me so that he could deliver me to my future husband as a pure virgin. Today it is a pleasure to wear it! By doing so I honor the scripture and my husband.” Read More

At the end of the day, local youngsters on Bodufolhudhoo Island in the Maldive Islands gather beach mats used by tourists

Click on title to view photo in large format. At the end of the day, local youngsters on Bodufolhudhoo Island gather beach mats used by tourists. This tiny speck of an island is located in the Alif Alif Atoll group in the Maldive Islands. It is so small that I was able to walk entirely around it in 15 minutes. As all citizens of the Maldives are required by law to be Muslims, the dress code is extremely conservative. However, residents of the island have set aide a strip of private beach Read More

Blue-faced Honeyeaters at Rainbow Beach. Shown at leftis the less colorful female. On the right is the male, who has the brilliant blue eyebrow that earned the species its name.

During my recent trip to Australia, I was fortunate to enjoy a few days of camping at pristine Rainbow Beach on the Sunshine Coast. Each morning I was woken by flocks of Blue-faced Honeyeaters, who regularly descended on our campground. These birds were so bold that they ate broken crackers out of my hand. Males of most species are more colorful than the females, so they can lead prey away from nests where the female is sitting on eggs or raising chicks. But the Blue-faced Honeyeaters displayed one of the most stunning differences I have ever seen in birds. Read More

The vast and magnificent Carlo Sand Blow at Rainbow Beach, on the Sunshine Coast of Australia

Click on title to view photo in large format. In the U.S., we would call it a giant sand dune. In Australia it’s a sand blow. The Carlo Sand Blow, located at Rainbow Beach on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, is one of the country’s biggest. A short climb via steps up the rear of the dune leads to a viewing platform at the top, which offers sweeping views toward the Pacific Ocean, Double Island Point, and the village of Tin Can Bay. But you may want to Read More

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