Thursday Doors: A Nubian Lodge

Norm’s Thursday Doors is back! I haven’t been anywhere, like most of us. So I went into my archives and found photos of this charming place that we stayed one night at in Abu Simbel City, in southern Egypt. This region, which is today southern Egypt and northern Sudan, was traditionally the home of the Nubian people. Nubia (also known as “Kush” in ancient times) was often fought over, conquered and reconquered by the Egyptians while the Nubians rebelled for independence; in the end, Nubia became a part of Egyptian society while retaining some local cultural elements. Egypt even had a few Nubian pharaohs.

Traditional Nubian villages were colorful collections of domed houses. They used dome structures because clay bricks made from the mud produced by the Nile’s annual inundation were conducive to this architectural style.  Also the domes kept their houses cool in the hot weather. The men painted the house interiors white, while the women were in charge of painting the exteriors and they chose colorful pigments – blues, oranges, yellows, etc.

Here are some photos of Nubian-style buildings, taken from our tour bus as we drove through Abu Simbel City.

Many Nubian villages were displaced from their land with the building of the Aswan High Dam and had to be relocated, so in the years from 1960-1967, they were moved to a remote area in the desert north of Aswan.  The Egyptian government provided them with houses made of concrete, with flat roofs. This caused the interior of the homes to be very hot in the summer.  Furthermore, these houses were inadequate because of their size – while previously Nubian families enjoyed houses with nine rooms, they were now forced to live in 4-room houses shared by two families.  Crowding combined with the heat caused sanitary conditions to deteriorate.  Nubian children began to attend Egyptian schools in which the language of instruction was Arabic.  As fewer Nubians grew up reading and writing their native language, their culture threatened to die out.

In recent decades, the Nubian people have sought a revival of their culture and their written language.

The Eskaleh Lodge belongs to a musician and his wife who wanted to share their culture with the world, and is decorated with Nubian arts and crafts. The lodge is built in traditional Nubian style, characterized by domed roofs and archways. The domed ceilings keep the rooms cool. The lodge is a series of hallways and courtyards flanked by rooms.

An interior door admitting entrance for staff only.
This is one of the entrance gates to the lodge.

There is native artwork on display in hallways and public areas.

Traditional Nubian music is heard in the public areas of Eskaleh Lodge. A professor who came to give us a lecture about Nubian history and culture played for us on a mandolin-type instrument.

Most interesting was an instrument called a kisir. This 5-string harp-like instrument became katar (something like this) in Arabic, and in Spain it became “guitar.” The kisir is played by moving one’s fingers on and off the strings as the other hand strummed, much like how the guitar is played today.

Abu Simbel City is a colorful town in which the Nubians have begun to construct their buildings in the traditional way and return to some of their customs. Until recently, few tourists visited the area because it was so remote or took day trips from Aswan (about 2 hours each way) to see the Abu Simbel temples. That is why the Eskaleh Lodge is so important – there are still few lodgings in Abu Simbel and the lodge is a beautiful example of the revival of Nubian culture.

Thursday Doors: The Richards House B&B

The Richards House is a Bed and Breakfast lodging in Dubuque, Iowa. I reserved online in advance and had no idea what it would look like, but I guess I imagined a sunny white or yellow house with a fancy sign out front. Instead, when we arrived at the address at dusk, my heart sank. It looked like a haunted house! Even spookier because it had been raining!
I reminded myself of the old adage, “You can’t tell a book by its cover” but even so, I mounted the wet stairs* with trepidation. And we were richly rewarded – inside the house, we were surrounded by old-fashioned opulence! The family who built and owned this house previously were obviously quite wealthy, and the neighborhood contains many big old houses that most likely have been repurposed.
20181001_090245All the doors and windows at the Richard House had stained glass on and over them.


These elegant double doors were the front entrance to the house.

Even the door hinges were beautiful!
Our hostess, Michelle, showed us many features of the house, including these door hinges. She and her partner have owned the house for 29 years, which she calls “a work in progress.” They bought the house as a “fixer upper.”


This corner of our room shows the door to the room and the open door to the bathroom.

The bathroom had some old-fashioned features, including a genuine “water closet” that made a loud racket when the flush chain was pulled!

Our bathroom did have a modern shower with a glass door, but one of the rooms downstairs had a half bath plus this:20180930_171912This shows most of the room we stayed in – I was standing in front of the door when I took this photo.
Our chandelier and fireplace (there are fireplaces in each room, each of them surrounded by unique tiles).


Michelle invited us to have a “snack” – in the hallway outside our room was a refrigerator with boxed wine and two crystal cake holders, one of which was blueberry cake and the other pumpkin cake, both left over from that morning’s breakfast.  Plates, glassware and silverware were provided. I poured Dale and myself glasses of wine and helped myself to a large piece of pumpkin cake.
I wanted to take pictures of everything in the house before we left! In the morning, we joined five other people at the dining room table for an amazing breakfast – warm (freshly made) blueberry cake, bacon, egg casserole, French toast, freshly squeezed orange juice and rich coffee served in mugs with “The Richards House” embossed on the side.


Dining room windows


Dining room chandelier

Door to our room from the outside
Doors to other rooms (I think the house can accommodate 8 couples maximum at one time):
There is also a living room, or parlor, with this baby grand piano. Michelle told us that when they first got it, it had several coats of white paint on it!
Other fireplaces (there were a few more I didn’t have a chance to take photos of):

Looking down on the reception table from upstairs* where our room was:
Window on the stairwell:
Ceiling and embossed wallpaper details:

For $85 per night, this place was a steal, with all the amenities that were offered! There are different prices, I think, depending on what room you are in. A young single man paid $64 for his room. This was our last night in Iowa – the next night we were in our own bed. I strongly encourage anyone who stays overnight in Dubuque to book lodgings at the Richards House. You will not be disappointed – it’s so much cozier and interesting than a hotel room!

*If you have trouble with stairs, please note there is a stairway (about 6 steps) to get up to the front door of the house, and you should let the proprietors know that you need a downstairs room.

Posted for Norm’s Thursday Doors, 10/4/18.



Getting Our Kicks: On the Road in New Mexico (Clines Corners & Tucumcari)

June 12, 2018

After we left Santa Fe, we took a shortcut to get back to I-40 – which was also the 1937-1985 Route 66 alignment – on state highway 285. At the intersection of 285 and I-40 is the town of Clines Corners, NM. Well, it’s not a town exactly…

In 1934, Roy Cline built a garage and gas station near that intersection.  When Route 66 was realigned in 1937, it did not go by his gas station. So he tore it down and built a new one at the current intersection of I-40 and 285.  It was bigger and better, including a restaurant and a Conoco station with two modern electric gas pumps!
Clines Corners NM (2)In 1939, Cline sold his business and it has undergone several expansions since then.Clines Corners NM (3)On old postcards, one can see a large TRAVEL CENTER sign which is not there now. It was knocked down by a “bovine projectile” – during a wind storm, a cow was lifted into the air and crashed into the sign!
Clines Corners NM (4)The Travel Center sign at Clines Corners (now cow-proof!) as it looks today:20180612_130644
Old Conoco gas station
Much more interesting is the décor inside the store/restaurant. There’s a Subway, but also a 1950s style diner.

Entrance to the restrooms
In a back hallway, on the way to the restrooms
Route 66 kitsch and a rustic bench

When we left Clines Corners, we pretty much didn’t stop until we got to the eastern New Mexico town of Tucumcari.  We bypassed Santa Rosa, but for those who love old cars, Santa Rosa has a Route 66 Auto Museum, which contains more than 30 vehicles from the 1930s to the 1960s. Displays include extensive auto and Route 66 memorabilia.

Tucumcari is more famous than I expected. A friend of mine back home texted me that she was reading a novel set in Tucumcari and would I please take some photos so she could visualize what it was like. Apparently there are at least two songs written about the town. My son knows one of them, which is why he knew the name Tucumcari. (I had never heard of it before, and wasn’t sure even how to pronounce the name of this town.)

When you enter town from the west, you see this landmark on the right side of the road.
20180612_154832dAlso this kitschy taco place…
Our AAA guide said that the “neon lights still beckon travelers.” That may be true, but it didn’t look as exciting perhaps in the daytime.
We did see some murals on the sides of a few buildings.


The iconic Blue Swallow Motel
Del’s Restaurant, where we stopped for dessert
The waiters all wore cowboy hats.

More motels and gas stations…
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…and shops


modern sculptures
more murals
and other remnants of a more prosperous past.

For your listening pleasure – not just one, but TWO songs called Tucumcari!


Getting Our Kicks in a Wigwam and a Bottle Forest (Route 66 Day 2, Pt. 1)

June 7, 2018 (San Bernardino, CA – Kingman, AZ)

On Day 1, we explored Santa Monica Pier but bypassed several L.A. area sites. That night, we drove to San Bernardino, where we spent the night at the Wigwam Motel! There were original seven in this chain, but only three survive, two of which are on Historic Route 66. Since I first saw one of the others in the chain, in Holbrook, Arizona, in 2006, I have wanted to see what it was like to stay in one of these “Wigwam Villages!”




In case you can’t find your way to the office, this wooden statue will point the way!



Display in front of the motel office

Inside the office (coffee is available at any time):

This motel is well-maintained and the rooms are all in wood & concrete “wigwams” (or teepees), 30 ft. tall, built in the late 1930s.  Being the last built in the chain, the Wigwam Motel in San Bernardino is designated Wigwam Village #7. I recommend this motel for a unique lodging experience and plenty of kitsch!  (Other than the wooden statue, I did not find anything offensive to Native Americans.)


Our wigwam, #14, with the door open while we loaded up our car in the morning.

The inside of the room had some funky touches, such as these lavish curtains and cactus bedside lamp; also notice that the room is not square, and there is a triangular mirror.

The bathroom had old fashioned fixtures, but everything worked just fine!
Although there was help-yourself coffee in the office, they didn’t serve breakfast, but the motel manager recommended Chris’s, which was right down the street and also had plenty of Route 66 memorabilia.


Weird tree at the intersection across from the motel

Chris’s Burgers has an extensive breakfast menu, and the food is decent.

The front of the restaurant makes it very clear that it is on Historic Route 66 or at least capitalizing on the route’s popularity!
The décor inside Chris’s is a 50s style diner.

We continued on I-15 (which parallels Route 66) until we got to Victorville. To get to our next destination, we took Exit 153. Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch is about 12 1/2 miles north of Victorville on Route 66 (SR 66). Its official address (for those using GPS) is:
24266 National Trails Hwy, Oro Grande, CA 92368.  To watch a video of the creator, Elmer Long, tell  the history of the bottle ranch, click on the blog California Through My Lens. The blogger describes this place as literally a forest of bottle trees (large metal pipes with bottles hanging from them), located along the Mother Road, Route 66, right in the heart of the California desert. 20180607_113654.jpgI found this place fascinating and took many pictures. Dale, however, got bored with it after awhile.  Personally, I love public folk art and this is the perfect example of a folk art creation. I will let the photographs describe our visit and hopefully inspire others to visit as well!20180607_113653d
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Flora & Fauna of Ndutu Safari Lodge

Feb. 8-10, 2018 we stayed at Ndutu Safari Lodge in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area in the Southern Serengeti. The woman who runs the lodge is British and a long-time friend of our guide. This was the only place we stayed three nights and it was my favorite of all the lodgings we had, primarily because of the genets.

Our first evening at the lodge, we had just sat down for dinner (which was about 7:30 or 8:00 p.m.), when suddenly everyone got up from the table and left the dining room into the lounge, where we first saw the resident genets.
2-8 genet at Ndutu Safari Lodge
Although they resemble cats in many ways, they are not related to cats at all. In fact, they are cousins to the mongoose. Genets are carnivores that hunt mice and other small prey and are primarily nocturnal. 2-8 genet at Ndutu Safari Lodge4
The genet has become the symbol of Ndutu Safari Lodge, because several of them live in the rafters and are fed by the staff, which is why they stay around. They crawl out onto the beams in the evening and gaze down with curiosity at the guests below.2-10 genets at Ndutu Safari Lodge
I never got tired of watching them. Such beautiful and inquisitive creatures, I couldn’t help but fall in love with them! In fact, I confess, I cried the day we left because I would no longer see the genets!

Here is the logo for Ndutu Safari Lodge, imprinted/embroidered on the hats, t-shirts, etc. that they sell in the gift shop.
Ndutu Safari Lodge logoThere were also plentiful birds and small mammals & reptiles at Ndutu, including superb starlings,…

lovebirds and another, light-colored bird (a female superb starling, perhaps),…
and finally, the ring-necked dove. I didn’t actually get a picture of this annoying bird (the photo below was downloaded from Google Images) but it made itself known every morning and evening with its incessant calls that sounded to me like “No Problem,” “Like Father” to Dale, and “Drink Lager” to our guide, David, who also said the name of the bird is appropriate: ring-necked dove, because you want to wring its neck after hearing its constant call (in fact, I still hear it in my mind two months later!).

So this is the sound we woke up to every morning and heard in the afternoons while we were at the lodge.

Among the flora at Ndutu was aloe…
and its flowers, many just beginning to bloom…

these small yellow hibiscus flowers…2-11 hibiscus flower at Ndutu Safari Lodgeand the usual acacia trees and a variety of other plants that grow on the semi-arid plains of Africa.

Tanzania Safari Journal: A hike and a drive in Arusha National Park

Saturday. Feb. 3. 2018

Today, our first full day in Tanzania, I awoke to a loud, animal sound, “Brau, brau, brau, brau, brau, brau, brau!”  I didn’t know what it was but found out it was one of the colobus monkeys that hangs around our lodgings, Rivertrees Country Inn. Amterdam-Tanzaia 391

I got lost looking for the dining room this morning, because we’d arrived late last night. However, I was soon set on the right track and found our table, a long table next to an open area where we could appreciate the wildlife. It reminded me so much of Costa Rica!

Since it was our first morning, our group had an introductory session so we could learn everyone’s names, their passions, and why they came on this trip.

Breakfast was buffet style: there was freshly squeezed juice (including passion fruit!), fresh tropical fruits, breads, jams, cheeses, and an omelet making station where a staff member stood ready to take our orders. Dale had an omelet, I did not. There was enough other food to fill my plate!

Our guide, David, told us the plan for today. We were going to Arusha National Park, along the way perhaps seeing some animals. We would stop at a nice rest area with good bathrooms and a small shop, and displays to read. From there, we would take a hike with an armed guide and have a picnic lunch next to a waterfall. Then we would go for a drive through the park to see animals! We met our drivers, Livingstone and Elias, in the reception gazebo, where we had been greeted last night.225.JPG

They had jars of cookies – one called “Digestives” and the other was ginger snaps – that were kept in the trucks. These cookies were good for the digestion, we were told, to help us with all the bumping around. There was also a supply of water bottles in each of the vehicles, Toyota Land Cruisers.

The Hike

The hike was an opportunity to see some animals, but especially the small things, like bugs and flowers. The guide showed us things along the way. Overall, I found it quite taxing and hot – some areas were hilly and I huffed and puffed. A year ago, I thought, I wouldn’t have been so tired from a hike like this. Also, I’d neglected to put on sunscreen and was wearing a blouse with ¾ length sleeves, so my hands and wrists got quite sunburned.

The guide pointed out a bush with small round yellow fruits growing on it. This is a type of apple. In the background, we could see Mt. Kilimanjaro, often shrouded in clouds; like Denali in Alaska, we were told we were lucky to see the mountain so clearly – it was a cloudless, blue sky day!DSC03121.JPG

Before we saw any animals, we came across what the guide told us were giraffe turds! There is actually a way to tell if the turds were from a male or female giraffe – the male turds are slightly pointed on one end; while the female turds are flat on both ends. He picked up a male turd to show us.DSC03171.JPGWe soon came to an open field with some acacia trees where we saw our first big animals: giraffes, of course!  One was lying down in the field; another was  grazing nearby.
We came to a stream that meandered through the landscape. It was a beautiful view!


Dale admiring the landscape. In the background is Mt. Meru.

Near the giraffes was a herd of grazing zebras. A warthog family passed by, their tails held up as they ran! We saw monkeys in trees and a giraffe completely camouflaged by the forest. Skulls of giraffes, monkeys or baboons, antelope and buffalo were displayed on some rocks, which the guide identified for us.


Warthog family

Buffalo and antelope skulls

The sun was hot and I felt the heat. The hike seemed very long, but I didn’t complain, just kept going.  The guide stopped to show us a young acacia tree, which was covered with sharp, white, intimidating thorns! He told us that these thorns were to protect the leaves and branches of the growing tree from being eaten by giraffes! Giraffes can only nibble on the very tips, where the thorns are not developed and are soft enough for animals to consume.SONY DSC
The stream became a river and we crossed on a hanging bridge.  We saw monkeys camouflaged in the trees.

Finally we reached the waterfall. As we approached, we could hear the gushing of the water and felt a cooling mist. We had to cross the stream to get to the place where we would rest and have lunch.

Sitting on the rocks, feeling the cool mist, was a great relief. I somewhat regretted not having my lunch box, but not too much – it would have been a drag to have to carry it. My cousin, Holly, was sitting near me and offered me some of her lunch – including her hard-boiled egg, which I readily accepted. I could use some protein for the return trip! I peeled the egg and wondered whether it was okay to leave the egg shells – the chicken who laid this egg wasn’t native to this ecosystem. I had decided it was probably okay, but Holly picked up the pieces and put them in her box.

The hike back was quite a bit shorter and cooler, because the path led through some woods.  We saw some fragrant jasmine flowers. I never realized they were so small!2-3 jasmine flowers
Those of us who had lunches waiting for us at the vehicles took them over to the picnic tables to eat. I looked up and saw a couple of baboons who had appeared nearby. There was a young one and a larger one, which I thought was the daddy, but may have been its mama. Suddenly there were more, including a female with a baby clinging to her back.


They must have been attracted by our food – in fact, they may be used to associating human presence with food. Hopefully, people don’t give them anything, although the most daring might come over and try to snatch something! They didn’t do that to us, however.

The Drive

After lunch, we got back into the Land Cruisers and headed into Arusha National Park, with bumpy dirt roads. This was our first day out, and everything we saw was exciting.

A young waterbuck stopped and stared at us from the trees; its parents – the male with long slightly curved horns, the female without horns – grazed in the open grass nearby.


We saw buffalo, more waterbucks, giraffe and warthog families, baboons in trees, a bushbuck, guinea fowl,  and various other bird species.



A waterbuck watches as zebras, giraffes and other waterbucks run toward him, apparently spooked by something.


Guinea fowl

I never got tired of looking at giraffes. In spite of their ungainly shape, they move gracefully and peacefully.


One way to tell the sex of a giraffe: the females have tufts of hair on top of their ossicones (the protrusions on their heads), while the male’s are flat.  The giraffes use a tree like this one to scratch an itch on their necks!



Mother giraffe with calves. When the calves are born, they are six feet tall and then grow one inch per day!


We returned to Rivertrees in the evening in time for dinner.


This building at Rivertrees, where our room was, is called the Farm House. The rooms are situated around a central lounge area, with couches, tables and chairs.