Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

At El Kab, Egypt, children sell baskets they make from candy wrappers

Sailing the Nile River with Nour El Nil in a recreated traditional Dahabiya boat allowed us to put in at smaller sites that cannot be accessed by larger vessels. El Kab, a small village south of Luxor, Egypt, was one such site. In addition to visiting the ancient city of Nekheb, which is located a short distance behind the present day village of El Keb, we enjoyed bartering to buy these baskets that local kids make from candy wrappers. Read More

Tomb of Sennedjem, Temple of the Artisans at Deir el Medina in Luxor, Egypt

Interior of the Tomb of Sennedjem at Temple of the Artisans at Deir el Medina in Luxor, Egypt. Though every one of the tombs has a prominent sign saying “no photos,” in many cases an Egyptian guide would follow me inside and allow photos in return for baksheesh (a bribe). In most instances I declined, but this particular tomb was so beautiful that I did pay for the privilege of taking a photo. Of course, all my photos are taken without flash, so I was not guilty of degrading the artwork by doing so. Read More

I looked up from my yogurt and fresh fruit just as a wonderfully strange bird landed on the low wall around the rooftop of Beit Sabee Guest House. The Hoopoe is a fairly common bird in Egypt, but I’d never seen anything like it. His red-crested head swept backward to a perfect point, while his long stiletto beak arced downward – two ends of a double-tipped javelin. One beady black eye peered at me with curiosity. Slowly, I picked up my camera and snapped a photo. Seconds later he unfolded his peach and black-striped wings and launched off the ledge into the vast sepia-colored plain on the West Bank of the Nile River.

Breakfast on the rooftop patio at Beit Sabee Guest House on the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt

Breakfast on the rooftop patio at Beit Sabee Guest House on the West Bank of Luxor, Egypt

I closed my eyes, leaned back, and basked in the sunshine. The rich fragrance of fresh-ground coffee suffused the air. A light breeze rustled fronds of the date palms in the surrounding gardens. Scores of unseen birds chattered and chirped. I was utterly at peace. A faint whooshing sound interrupted my reverie. Perhaps a leaf blower, I thought. A few seconds later, I heard it again, this time louder. “What is that?” I wondered. The third time was so loud that I jumped and opened my eyes. So close I could have reached out and touched it, an enormous hot air balloon floated past the rooftop and into the desert. Read More

Woman in Luxor invites me into her home to see her Egyptian traditional bread oven

On my way to the ancient tombs and temples in Luxor, Egypt, this woman invited me into her home to see her Egyptian traditional bread oven. The delicious smell of fresh-baked bread stopped me in my tracks as I wandered past her house. Lined up in a row on a stone bench were a dozen or so loaves of the flatbread that is so popular in Egypt. She spoke no English and I spoke not a word of Arabic, but somehow we made a connection and before I knew it I was inside her home and she was demonstrating how she rolled and formed the dough before sliding it into the beehive-shaped stone hearth. Read More

Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt is the second largest ancient religious site in the world, after the Angkor Wat Temple of Cambodia

Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt is the second largest ancient religious site in the world, after the Angkor Wat Temple in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Construction at the massive site began during the reign of Senusret I in the Middle Kingdom (between 2050 BC and 1710 BC), when the city was still known as Thebes, and continued into the times of the Ptolemaic Kingdom (around 305 BC). The site was revered by more than 30 different pharoaohs and each one added something more to the complex. Read More

The boy couldn’t have been more than seven or eight years old but he seemed perfectly at ease with the Bedouin men sipping tea in the cafe at Petra, Jordan. He tossed his unruly black curls out of his eyes, flashed a pearly smile that split his deeply tanned cheeks, and lit up a hand-rolled cigarette. Outside, two immense camels sat on their haunches under a searing sun. Every few seconds, one of them brayed in protest, exposing its blocky yellow teeth to the world. Multi-colored striped blankets were mounded between the front and rear pommels of their saddles, but no amount of cushioning could hide the fact that these ungainly beasts are a nightmare to ride.

Camels owned by the Bedouins of Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan, are used to transport tourists around desert sites

Camels owned by the Bedouins of Petra and Wadi Rum, Jordan, are used to transport tourists around desert sites

When both camels started screaming in unison the boy jumped up from his bench and made a beeline for them. “I hope he’s careful,” I thought. Camels can be bitingly mean. My alarm turned to astonishment when he picked up the rope of the lead camel, put one foot on its flank, and swung up into the saddle effortlessly. Boy and camel rose in one fluid motion, as if they’d been born that way. The second camel grudgingly rose and the trio galumphed off in a cloud of ocher dust. I shouldn’t have been surprised. Bedouins learn to ride in the womb. Read More