Tag Archives: africa

“Ancient” Egypt from a hot-air balloon.

After a long stream of intensive excursions around the Pyramids, museums, the Valley of the Kings, and Luxor, what better way to take the foot off the proverbial peddle than with some… hot-air ballooning?! Indeed – there’s no better way, especially when you take into account the “bonus”: it’s not just modern-day Egypt you see down below during a flight – plenty of Ancient Egypt (its remnants) is down there too ->

But, if you know just a little about hot-air ballooning, you’ll know about how you normally have to get up at the crack of dawn to have a pop at it (“pop” perhaps not the best choice of verb for ballooning:). Is it something to do with the wind (calmer early morning)? Or is it something to do with what best suits the balloon operating company? I’m not sure…

Aaaanyway, you guessed it, we were up at the crack – 4am to be precise – after crashing three (3!) hours earlier (ugh; where did that proverbial easing off accelerator pedal go?!). Still, once up and out, our crossing one of the world’s most famous rivers (JIC: the Nile) cheered us up a touch. Our moods crashed back down not long after though when the coach we were in got caught up in some horrendous traffic; back up went the moods when we made it to the site in time to see the balloons being inflated (this was going to be an up-and-down day in more ways than one:). I’ve seen hot-air balloons being inflated plenty of times before, but that doesn’t make the spectacle any less interesting somehow:

Just before 6am we finally took off!… ->

Ok, so it’s not quite Cappadocia with its hundreds of balloons, but still… uplifting ). I counted around 30 other balloons up in the air with us:

And there’s the line of coaches that brought all the tourists to the site:

Over there – the Nile and the sunrise:

Aerial views of villages:

Another view – this time of a much older, abandoned settlement:

Actually – you see the many holes/entrances/doorways down there? They’re actually entrances to illegal tunnels that appeared when the locals discovered ancient underground burial sites in their “basements”:

Here comes the sun ->

Onward we fly…

Somewhere over there – the Valley of the Kings ->

More ancient temples ->

The sun coloring in the landscapes a hue of orange:

More ruins of tombs and living quarters of “black market archeologists” ->

The Temple of Hatshepsut:

Assorted pics:

And that was that for our spot of Egyptian ballooning. But we weren’t finished with Egypt just yet; more still to come…

The rest of the photos from Egypt are here.

Luxor, rather – Thebes. More than a day it sure needs.

Next up – Luxor. But you need the luxury of plenty of time for this one, which, alas, we didn’t have…

Luxor (formerly – Thebes), for a long time the capital of Ancient Egypt, has one really rich history – and a very long one: it’s nearly 5000 years old! All the same, a lot of it remains to this day – along both banks of the River Nile – albeit in ruins. Statues, columns, temples (and surely tombs?:) – and all of them simply must-see…

First up for us was the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (I knew there just had to be ~tombs!)… ->

Mortuary temples like this one were erected close to the royal tombs of Ancient Egypt, and designed to commemorate the reign of a Pharaoh while alive, and then be used by his imperial cult after death…

Not bad for a purely ritual building )…

Read on…

Flickr photostream

  • Japan / Jun 2024
  • Japan / Jun 2024
  • Japan / Jun 2024
  • Japan / Jun 2024

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The underground labyrinth of tunnels and tombs of the Valley of the Kings.

I remember how, a few years ago, strolling around the rocky landscapes not far from the Namibian town of Lüderitz (which is the place where what is now South America broke away from Africa, and why the rock formations there are so unique), I was so amazed by the unusual rocks there that I uttered the words, “Mom, I want to be a geologist!” Just the other week, I uttered something similar. I was in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. And this time my refrain went: “Mom, I want to be an Egyptologist!”

Such a rich (ancient) history presented in a language unknown to me – it was something I wasn’t expecting somehow. The experience turned out to be just marvelous…

Read on…

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Cairo (city) through the eyes of a day-tripper.

My regular readers know perfectly well how I get all over the world – from the freezing far farthest north, via sunny equatorial tropics, and back to freezing temperatures in the farthest south. Some places are fancy, shiny and hi-tech (like Singapore and Dubai); others – not so much (like Madagascar and Zambia). But no matter how “not so much” a place may be, I always try to stick to the good bits in my reports here on this blog – never dwelling on the downsides to a place. However, when it came to Cairo, I had some trouble adhering to this personal policy of mine…

There are some nice new neighborhoods in Cairo. There’s New Cairo for example – a rather decent, modern district on the outer edge of the capital. And there’s Smart Village – a hi-tech business and ministerial district also on the outskirts, and also looking good.

But…

Some of the older districts of Egypt’s capital are just so totally crazily brutal: high-rise residential blocks as densely packed together as is (in!)human(e)ly possible – window to window. Scores of square kilometers of what looked to me like 10+-story buildings with mere meters between them all!

I was so taken aback at the spectacle that I didn’t think to take any photos of of it (remember – I normally snap the good stuff). But now I regret not doing so. So for this post I had to turn to the internet for pics; for example – satellite pictures:

Read on…

The Egyptian Museum – “photograph everything”.

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is simply wonderful! The below pic shows the (entrance to the) current building, but the museum’s in the process of moving to a new, larger complex. Some of the exhibits have already been transferred, but plenty remain – certainly more than enough to fill half-a-day at least…

How long is needed for a full inspection of all the exhibits? I’m not really sure. And a lot would depend on how much detail your guide goes into regarding them all. If plenty – you’d need days here. We didn’t have days, so this was going to be an intensive excursion…

Read on…

Half-king, half-lion: the one and only Great Sphinx of Giza!

Egypt, continued…

I mentioned in my previous post how I don’t really go in for the far-fetched and fantastically mystical theories as to how aliens the Egyptians managed to build such magnificent colossuses so long ago. I think it was simply a matter of a lot of hard physical labor by a lot of slaves paid locals over a long time, assisted of course by rudimentary but crucial engineering tools and devices like pulleys and ramps – not to mention ropes, plus of course horses and camels.

I wonder why there are all these different theories regarding how the Pyramids were constructed, yet hardly any for other pyramids around the world – in the ancient Maya city of Coba or the Pyramid of the Sun (both in what is today Mexico), for example. Maybe it’s simply because those others are so much smaller in size? Or take Macchu Pichu. It too was constructed with massive blocks of stone, and way up in the mountains (no easy feat), yet still – no “conspiracy theories”!

I think the outlandish theories about the Pyramids stem from their being so XXL, so OTT-extravagant, and constructed such a long, long time ago. Folks simply built them? Surely not!

I personally think the Egyptians were to a large extent simply lucky. They had lots of well-nourished manpower that could be sourced from the fertile lands along the Nile, and they had plenty of free time on their hands: there was no one to go to war with, so… they built pyramids! Sphinxes too…

So there you have it folks – my version of the Pyramids’ provenance! (As I always say though – I’m no historian. If there are any among you, dear readers – let me know your theories (in the comments)!) But as regards the genesis of the Great Sphinx of Giza, I – like everyone else, it seems – am much less categorical regarding its origins – at least the timing thereof…

Read on…

Erosion, disintegration, conspirology, and OMG-views: the Pyramids of Ancient Egypt.

As promised, herewith, a continuation of tales and pics and musings from my recent trip to Egypt. I’ll pass over the business segment of the trip (as it was much the same as most business segments when traveling: meetings, new acquaintances, discussions, new products, cyber immunity, and plans for the future), and get straight to our first tourism – the Giza Pyramids, no less (plus a spot of Kasperology)…

The Pyramids of Giza are probably one of the most popular and well-trodden places of interest to the tourist in the world – fantastical objects a gobsmacked public has been beholding with wonder for 4500 years already. Down the years terabytes of photos have been taken of them, zillions of tales written about them, and gazillions of scientific articles and assorted other dissertations published about them – and all that came before my short trip to see them the other week. Nevertheless, I wanted to take some photos of my own to share with you, and also to add my two cents in terms of observations and impressions of, and thoughts on, these wondrously wonderful wonders of the world…

So here we go: Cairo, Giza, the ancient Egyptian Pyramids…

My first impression: complete and utter ecstatic delight. Primordial, colossal constructions built several millennia ago! Just imagine the things they’ve endured and outlived! And did you know they were once coated in smooth granite tiles, or that the upper sections were covered in similarly smooth, perfectly white limestone? (Our guide also mentioned how there’s a hypothesis that states the peaks were covered in gold, or at least gold-colored stone.) One can only begin to wonder how grandiose such a spectacle must have been. What a civilization! And soooo long ago!

Read on…

Walk like an Egyptian.

Hi folks!

I’ve been just sooo busy of late. Not complaining one bit though, for much of that busy-ness is… the kind business I like most: travelling plenty for exhibitions, conferences, meetings, introductions, and sometimes lecturing at universities; plus – my ever-present guilty pleasure while on those same travels: small doses of tourism where I check out (preferably new-to-me) places of interest, camera always ready to hand…

Just the other day, my travels took me to a country that’s ever popular with regular tourists, but somehow I – a pro tourist :) – had never been to! Yes, you’ve seen it in the title already. And I’m sure many of you, dear readers, have been to Egypt yourselves. But moi? Jamais. Comment?! Pourqoi?!…

Indeed, though I’d visited precisely 100 countries of the world (my 100th was Angola, in 2020) before this +1, Egypt wasn’t one of them. For one reason or another, I’d always passed it by. My routes have always mostly been northerly (for example to the Americas), westerly (e.g., Europe), or easterly (Asia…). Directly south (almost) – not too often, besides Turkey perhaps…

So, finally, I’ve made it to the land of the pharaohs. Business was done (despite the traffic jams trying their best to foul up our scheduling), and the tourism was plentiful too. But of course it was. This is Egypt: more ancient history than you can shake a stick at…

No prizes for guessing which place of interest we checked out first – yes, of course, it had to be the Pyramids (who knew?!). I’ll be telling you plenty about them later; for now, in this post, some intro snaps for you:

Read on…

Rewind: Africa-fotografia!

NB: With this post – about a place I visited before the lockdown – I want to bring you some positivism, beauty and the reassurance that we will all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile, I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead, I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

Finally, the friends who accompanied me on my pre-lockdown Africa vacation have sent me their edited ‘greatest hits’ photos from the trip. Better late than never, no? But, I wonder – would they have been even tardier if not for the pandemic?! Just joking: they each did have probably terabytes of photos to choose from ).

Anyway, those terabytes of pics from (covering Namibia, Victoria Falls, and Madagascar) were whittled down to the very best, and then I had a go at even further editing them so that they’d ‘fit’ into this here blogpost without it getting ridiculously long. The result is the collection below. Some are mine, which I didn’t publish earlier. But most are my travel companions’ best shots. All righty. Let’s go…

First up: Namibian roads:

Stone fields along Skeleton Coast:

[Yawn]. “Ooh, do excuse me; I must have dozed off. What? Where? Walvis Bay, you say? Well, you’re on the right road. Just keep going, and you’ll come to it in half an hour!”

Pink salt lakes:

Cactii Aloe:

Unsorted unusualnesses:

Dunes, endless desert:

Deadvlei:

Windswept dunes:

Shadow on flying sand atop a dune’s ridge:

Oh my gorgeous!

Unsorted Namibia:

Zambia/Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls. No comment!…

Magic stone mushrooms in Madagascar. Gray tsingi at Ankarana:

Red tsingi – even more striking a thingy:

How cute? ‘Where are the bananas?!’

Night lemurs:

Unfed. Uninterested in anything but passing tourists and the food they give them:

Plenty portraits:

Ring-tailed lemurs:

Indri – the largest lemurs on Madagascar:

Unexpected, uninvited ‘guests’ – of Madagascan proportions:

Karma, karma, karma, karma chameleons: they come and go:

Oh my goodness. Just check out this miracle of nature:

Check out the independent eye movements!

“Who’s that back there?”

A whole new – literal – meaning to ‘I’ll have to keep my eye on you!’ ->

 

Smaller, subtler:

Oh my geckos!

As you can see – an amazing trip!

– The End –

PS: These pics were taken by (besides me): DZ, NI, OR, SS, and AD.

Thank-you to them, and thank-you too, dear readers, for your attention! Hope you liked the pics as much as we liked taking them!

Table Mountain: heavenly going up; hellish coming down…

NB: with this post about the place I visited before the lockdown I want to bring you some positivism, beauty and the reassurance that we will all get a chance to see great different places again. Meanwhile I encourage you not to violate the stay-at-home regime. Instead I hope you’re using this time for catching up on what you never seemed to find the time to do… ‘before’ :).

After we’d checked it from a chopper – it was time for a cable-car ride up the hill that’s a whopper: Table Mountain!

We got up to the top in a funicular car, which has a rotating floor (like in some TV towers) so you get to see all 360 degrees of the view below!

Backgrounder (including its height – 1085 meters above today’s sea level):

Off we go!…

Read on…