Posts Tagged ‘Middle East’

An Egyptian Family Odyssey

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010
Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

Enjoy riding camels with the whole family!

There is something exotic and adventurous about Egypt. Every child knows that in a desert somewhere in the North African desert, there are gigantic pyramids, “cursed” tombs, and an abundance of mummies. Exploring Egypt as a child provides an experience that lasts a lifetime, possibly resulting in your child becoming an archaeologist, historian, or diplomat.

You might not expect your mummy-obsessed child to want to  be a SCUBA diver,  particularly in the desert land of Egypt. But in locations like Alexandria and along the Nile River, archaeologists and environmentalists need to go underwater to do their research.

For environmentalists, there is the concern about rising sea levels, which would affect Egypt’s coastal cities and communities along the Nile river. For archaeologists, Egypt’s many shipwrecks and submerged buildings are of great interest, as they provide a record of Egyptian nautical history, as well as many stone and metal artifacts.  These kinds of materials do not deteriorate easily, and while underwater, objects can be preserved from wind, weather and war.

So even if your child wants to be a certified SCUBA diver, you may find yourself visiting her in Egypt someday.

Have you been to Egypt? What was your favorite highlight?

Take the whole family to Egypt! Our Egyptian Family Odyssey has dates available in 2010 and 2011.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest of all the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and is the only one still intact. As the burial chamber for the fourth dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu, it took an estimated 20,000-30,000 workers to build over a 20 year period.

Here are a few more facts about the iconic architectural marvel:

1. The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure for over 3,800 years, until Lincoln Cathedral’s spire surpassed it around 1300AD in England.

2. It is estimated the Great Pyramid consists of more than 2.3 million limestone rocks, unless it was built on top of a substantial core of rock. While this is possible, scientists still aren’t certain.

3. Contrary to popular belief, the pyramids were not built by slaves. They were actually built by workers who lived in the surrounding villages. While no ancient artwork already discovered depicts female workers, archaeologists have found the skeletal remains of women which show evidence of heavy lifting of stone. Therefore, it has been concluded that women may have had a part in the building of these massive structures.

4. You can enter the tomb of the Great Pyramid, but you’ll have to the use Robbers’ Tunnel dug by workmen employed by Caliph al-Ma’mun around AD 820. Recently, the entrance to the Pyramid has been restricted to groups of 100 morning and afternoon. The reason for this involves the moisture in our breath. When we exhale, the moisture creates salt within pyramids and tombs resulting in damaging cracks.

5. Under the leadership of Zahi Hawass, Secretary General of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquties, photography inside the pyramid is now strictly forbidden.

Do you think the amount of visitors to the Pyramids in should be limited in order to preserve them?

Witness the sheer magnitude of the Great Pyramid with your own eyes on our Egyptian Odyssey tour.

Photo: What happened to the Sphinx’s nose?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009
The mysterious Sphinx and the Great Pyramid

The mysterious Sphinx in front of the Pyramid of Khafre on the Giza Plateau, Egypt

Legends have passed over hundreds of years regarding the simple omission in this photograph of the Sphinx and the Pyramid of Khafre, part of the Giza Pyramid (or Great Pyramid) complex in Egypt. Where is the Sphinx’s nose? Many of us have heard the tale that a cannonball fired by Napoleon’s soldiers hit the nose and caused it to break off. Sketches of the Sphinx by the Dane Frederic Louis Norden were created in 1737 and published in 1755, well before the era of Napoleon. However, these drawings illustrate the Sphinx without a nose and clearly contradicts the legend. So what really happened?

The Egyptian Arab historian al-Maqrīzī wrote in the 15th century that the nose was actually destroyed by a Sufi Muslim named Muhammad Sa’im al-Dahr. In 1378 CE, Egyptian peasants made offerings to the Great Sphinx in the hope of controlling the flood cycle, which would result in a successful harvest. Outraged by this blatant show of devotion, Sa’im al-Dahr destroyed the nose and was later executed for vandalism. Whether this is absolute fact is still debatable.

Have you seen the Sphinx up close? Share your story below.

How big is the Sphinx? See it in person on our Ancient Civilizations of the Red Sea  tour, featuring free air for a limited time.

My Journey Through Egypt

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Sheila Lyons is a Smithsonian Traveler from Southern California. Here, she shares her reflections on her recent travel to Egypt with Smithsonian Journeys.

A Smithsonian Traveler takes a camel ride in the Egyptian desert

The Egyptian Odyssey was the trip of a lifetime. It was clear to me that every aspect had been researched and developed thoroughly. Amal, our Egyptian guide, and Dr. Rhanda Baligh, our study leader, were incredible. Hassan, our Egyptian tour manager, had everything under control and coordinated side trips in our free time. I loved how we seamlessly moved from location to location.

We were a group of 17 which was nearly perfect. Having Amal and Randa travel with us the whole time was really a treat. They are both so personable and all around exceptional people.

Amal, our local guide, is a treasure. She added an unexpected pleasurable element to the tour. She is so bubbly and outgoing. I loved her way of describing all the sites. She has incredibly good English. Amal always seemed to time our stays at each site perfectly. Just enough lecture and just enough free time. She is worth every penny she is paid – in fact she deserves more!

Dr. Baligh’s lectures were very educational and insightful. She has excellent delivery skills that are both informative and entertaining. Randa is a lovely person and a delight to have along. She is obviously incredibly knowledgeable and I like that she is so familiar with the US that she can do comparisons and contrasts between the cultures of the US and Egypt.

Hassan is a terrific asset. He always made us feel safe. We knew we were in very capable hands. We were all aware of our security guard being present at all times but did not feel it was necessary.

The extra stops at the perfumery, rug makers, spice market, papyrus store, etc. were lovely. It was nice to have the chance to purchase locally made quality products. The Aswan Spice market was fabulous. Only a few of us made this side trip, but I think everyone would have enjoyed it! There is a lot crammed into each day, making me feel that I really got my money’s worth.

Where have you traveled most recently? Share below.

See Egypt for yourself. Click here for travel opportunities with Smithsonian Journeys.

Traveled recently and want to share your thoughts? Click to see more information about submitting your post  for publication on our blog.

Photo: Not Your Usual Mid-Winter Stroll….

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

After graduating from London University with a degree in biology, lan Felstead took a summer job helping British tourists find their way around in Tuscany. This work ignited a lifelong passion for travel, and he has worked in the travel industry ever since. Today, his work with our partner Cross Culture Journeys takes him around the world. Here, he discusses Petra.

Variegated sandstone burial chambers at Petra. Photo: Paul Cowan

This winter, swap your overcoat for a sun hat and take a stroll through the natural canyons of the 2,000 year-old rose-red city of Petra, Jordan. Carved out of the solid rock by the ancient Nabateans, it became a fabulously wealthy city–only to be lost to outsiders for more than a millennium, and re-”discovered” by Europeans in 1812. Now it is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most impressive tourist destinations in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

What was the fate of this hauntingly beautiful place? How did the Nabateans become so wealthy in the inhospitable desert? Why was Petra finally deserted, and left perfectly intact?

Learn about such destinations as Petra on our small-ship Red Sea cruise this coming January. Accompanied by Smithsonian Journeys Study Leader Kenneth Perkins, as well as expert Egyptologists and guides, gain a new understanding of the history, the treasures, and the contemporary culture of the mesmerizing and contrasting lands of Egypt and Jordan.

So leave the hat and scarf behind, and enjoy a sunshine-filled tour of discovery this winter–and if you book by December 15, receive a free airfare bonus!

Click for our Ancient Civilizations of the Red Sea tour.

Which UNESCO World Heritage Site would you want to visit?