FFPC: Everybody’s Going Somewhere

Family out enjoying the nice day on their boat, on the Baltic Sea.
Getting on a small airplane for the journey from Serengeti National Park to Arusha, Tanzania
Cattle on trucks, Daraw, Egypt
In Daraw, all the traffic was stopped for a very long time at a railroad crossing.
“People movers” at Charles deGaulle Airport, Paris, France
Rush hour on Champs Elysee, Paris
Bus in Cairo traffic, Egypt (I was trying to take a photo of the building across the street but the bus got in my way!)

Marching band on the move, Vienna, Austria
Bicyclists waiting for light to change, Vienna
Canal tour boats in Amsterdam, Holland
Mother & son out for a bike ride, Regensburg, Germany
Wake of cruise ship at sunset on the Baltic Sea

Sandy’s Friendly Friday Photo Challenge: In Transit

CFFC: Pick a Topic #3

This is the photo for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge Pick a Topic #3. She suggests:
Public transportation, bus, RV, trees, bird, whale, tent, grass, bridge, water, white, green, window, or come up with your own topic.





People boarding a bus in Tanzania


Tour buses lined up next to Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem, Israel



Gull on the Jordan River



Blue Whale on Route 66 in Oklahoma

portable mural20180614_134018


WWPC: Ways and Means in Miltenberg

Miltenberg, Germany, a beautiful small city with some 9,000 or so inhabitants, is located in northern Bavaria on the Main River. This post features ways – how people move around – and means – what is used to get around – in this picturesque town, for Which Way Photo Challenge, now with a new host, Alive and Trekking.


This photo was taken from the Main River, not at Miltenberg, but representative of personal watercraft.

Journey to Egypt, Part 18: The Crate Maker of Fares Island

December 31, 2018

Our dahabeya Aida docked this morning at the island of Fares. We were going to see a local craftsman, the last crate maker in Upper (southern) Egypt. Transportation to the crate maker’s home was via “tuk-tuk,” two passengers per vehicle!
We bumped and jostled along the dusty roads of Fares village, observing our surroundings through fringed open sides.
We could peek at our driver through a heart-shaped cut in the material in front of us.

Our little caravan of tuk-tuks finally arrived at the crate maker’s home and were taken around to the back of the house.DSC_0416
We saw piles of date palm reeds, the raw material of the hand-made crates, which were stacked up behind the craftsman’s work space.


The crate maker’s work space

Mohammed (the crate maker – not to be confused with our guide of the same name!) has his reeds shipped to him from elsewhere, from mature date palms (at least a year old). The reeds have to be dried but no longer than 20 days. The dried reeds are strong, yet pliable for splitting and cutting holes in them.


One of the crate maker’s assistants

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years.  We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.


First, he cuts the reeds into the lengths needed.


Mohammed uses pieces that have already been cut at the correct length to measure other pieces.


He then cuts the section of reed lengthwise with a scythe, which requires great precision.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.


Mohammed steadies the section of reed while he uses a large nail and makeshift hammer to cut holes along its length.


As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

However, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week.


An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

Mohammed could not stop his work as he talked to us – he was working on an order for 20,000 crates to hold mangoes, which are grown in this area. These will be shipped to Cairo, and some of them exported. The crates can be different sizes and last 7-10 years.


Sample of one of Mohammed’s more elaborate creations, which was passed around among us.

Mohammed uses both his hands and his feet to make the crates. Machines cannot do this job with the same precision. People who practice this craft don’t stay in it long, due to the position of their body, sitting on the ground for long periods, which is why it is a dying craft.


As  he works, he answers our questions which are translated by our guide Mohamed.

Mohammed himself is 58 and has been doing this work for over 40 years. We asked if his children are learning this craft. He told us his children are in school – he doesn’t want them to learn the craft, which taxes the body and presumably doesn’t pay very well.


These piles of reed sections are ready for assembling the crate – the pieces with holes drilled in them will anchor the side pieces (the narrower pieces in the other pile) that fit through the holes.


An assistant awaits instructions against a backdrop of date palms.

SONY DSCHowever, he does have assistants, so between them they can produce 5 million crates a year. He himself makes 150 crates a week. Because he was kind enough to invite us to see him at work, three women from our group became his temporary assistants!


Mohammed hands Lizz some materials…


…and shows her what to do.

Through demonstration and imitation,…


Assembling the base of the crate

…Lizz, Kathy and Michelle were able to be efficient crate producers, and with their help, Mohammed was able to finish twice as many crates in the time we were there!


The vertical pieces are fit through the holes on the horizontal pieces.

12 horizontal pieces and 4 vertical pieces form the frame.
They’re almost finished as Mohammed fits in the bottom cross pieces.
Michelle takes over to help make the next crate.


Michelle slides a horizontal piece through two verticals to construct the frame.


Photo op! Mohammed will not actually have Michelle make the lengthwise cut!


Michelle helps finish a frame.

A small crate with a handle was given to Lizz as a gift for being a great assistant! Everyone was given an ankh made of date palm reeds.
Kathy was the last volunteer.


Kathy hammers a length of vertical piece into a hole.

Two of the finished crates!

We thanked the craftsman and his assistants and family and said good-bye, then we headed back to our tuk-tuks for the ride back to where Aida was moored.  As we approached the pier on the river, I saw a snake handler with several cobras! (Fortunately, we were some distance away; I took this photo with my telephoto lens!)

The Doors of Fares Island

On Dec. 31, 2018, during our cruise on the Nile in Egypt, we cruised to Fares Island, where we took “tuk-tuks” through the dusty street of the town on our way to visit a crate maker (more about that in a separate post).


Dale and I in the cabin of the “tuk-tuk” where we shot photos out the open sides with fringe hanging down along the top.


Of course, we took as many photos of doors (mostly gates that open onto courtyards) as we could as we rumbled along.
You will notice the mostly uniform brick walls surrounding the doors – this brick comprised many of the walls in the town.
It was interesting to speculate what lay behind these gates, but none were open for us to peek in.




This gate was open, but we only caught a glimpse of more brick wall inside! Anyway, I loved the colors of these gates and the shuttered orange window on the right.


Gathering place — nice ornamental gate in the background.

DSC_0419 (2)

These little boys laughed and waved as we passed; a watchful woman stood in the background.


We went over a very noticeable bump while shooting this photo – it came out a bit skewed, but I like the colors and design so I included it anyway.


20181231_161614 (2).jpg

This colorful entrance was for a tourist trap near the ruins of Kom Ombo (not on Fares Island, a little further south on the river).

Posted for Norm’s Thursday Doors, May 9, 2019.

Journey to Egypt, Part 2: Giza – Pyramids, an Ancient Boat, Camels, & the Sphinx

December 24, 2018

Our first full day in Cairo began with a trip to Giza to see the famous pyramids and the Sphinx. Egyptologists have identified 118-138 pyramids commissioned by ancient pharaohs as burial tombs. The oldest known pyramid is the step pyramid located in Saqqara, which we did not visit.

Egyptian pyramid building was developed over time. The step pyramid was the first pyramid structure, but to develop a smooth, continuous line took several attempts before the geometric measurements were just right. If too wide at the base, the pyramid would cave in for lack of sufficient support. If too narrow, it would become “top-heavy” and collapse under the weight of the stone. There is a pyramid known as the “bent pyramid” (which is not at Giza), that has sides that are somewhat curved.

The pyramids of Giza, including the Great Pyramid, are located in the Giza complex about 13 km (8 miles) from downtown Cairo, on the edge of the Western Desert.


One of our first views of the Great Pyramid, the sun rising over it.

They were built at the height of pyramid building during times of absolutist rule, about 2580-2560 BCE (Before Common Era – formerly known as BC, Before Christ). The largest and oldest of these, the Great Pyramid, or The Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), was part of a complex consisting of a valley temple (which no longer exists) and the mortuary temple of the pharaoh Khufu (2nd pharaoh of the 4th Dynasty in ancient Egypt’s “Old Kingdom”), of which only the basalt pavement remains. The mortuary temple was connected to the pyramid containing the pharaoh’s tomb. The complex took about 20 years to build and the pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for over 3,800 years.


Map of Giza complex

Originally the Great Pyramid was covered with a smooth layer of limestone and some of the stones used can be seen around the base.

The pyramid consists of 2.3 million blocks of stone obtained from nearby quarries. Since building it took 20 years, this means that an average of 12 of the blocks would have to be put into place every hour, 24/7!  The largest granite stones used in the King’s burial chamber, weighing 20 or more tons each, were transported all the way from Aswan, more than 800 km (500 miles) away!


Looking up the east side of the Great Pyramid

Although the Greeks suggested the pyramids had been built by slave labor, modern discoveries of a work camp associated with Giza indicate that they were probably built by skilled workers, organized into groups according to skill level.

Most of the limestone casing that covered the structure were loosened by a massive earthquake in 1303 CE (Common Era, formerly known as AD). In 1356 AD these were taken away to build fortresses and mosques in Cairo.


I am 5’6″ – compare my size with just one of the huge stones behind me that were used to build the Great Pyramid!Most of the limestone casing that covered the structure were loosened by a massive earthquake in 1303 CE (Common Era, formerly known as AD). In 1356 AD these were taken away to build fortresses and mosques in Cairo. 

The original entrance to the Great Pyramid is on the north, about 17 meters (56 feet) vertically above ground level. This entrance, although blocked off, can still be seen today.
20181224_095949You can also climb partway up the pyramid under this sealed entrance.

M&M on Great Pyramid (2)_LI

The red arrow points to Dale and me climbing up the base of the pyramid. 

This diagram shows the entrance, passages and chambers inside the pyramid, but access today is forbidden. In the King’s Chamber, the only object is a rectangular sarcophagus, which was likely lowered into the chamber before the top of the pyramid was added.

On the east side of the Great Pyramid were three smaller pyramids for King Khufu’s three wives and it is possible to go inside one of these. A cavernous hole in the side of this structure is the entrance. You descend into a lower chamber on a ramp fitted with slats to maintain your footing. I took one look and said, “No, thanks!”
However, Dale and some of the others in our group did go down there. Inside the chamber there is really nothing at all to see. Someone took these photos of Dale and fellow group member Nancy Wheeler inside the empty chamber.

Around the outside of Khufu’s pyramid are boat pits large enough to hold full-sized boats. The ancient Egyptians believed that boats would be necessary to transport the king and his family to the afterlife.


These heavy stones were laid on top of the boat pits to preserve and seal in the boats underneath. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

One of the ships sealed inside the pits has been reconstructed and now resides in the Giza Solar Boat Museum.


Heading toward the Giza Solar Boat Museum




Model of Khufu’s boat, inside the museum (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)



The Great Pyramid with queens’ pyramids alongside, from the causeway near the Sphinx.

Next we took a camel ride.
I had never ridden a camel before so my only experience riding an animal was on horses. First the handler has the camel get down into seated position so the rider can mount.  Its front legs bend first, then its back legs. Camels have very flexible knee joints! (I hope they don’t get arthritis!)
Mounting the camel wasn’t that easy – I had trouble getting my right leg over its back!
Once I was on, the handler motioned for me to hold onto the saddle horns, both front and back, while the camel stood up again, going through the same motions it used to sit down. It was like being on a bucking bronco!

I continued holding onto both saddle horns, even though it was a bit awkward, until the handler told me to hold only the one in front. He also motioned me to sit farther forward, almost until I was practically sitting on the camel’s neck.
I then gripped the front saddle horn and hung on for dear life. A camel moves very differently from a horse – it’s almost an undulating motion, as if we were at sea…perhaps that is one reason why camels are called the “ships of the desert.” Their bodies, while seemingly gangly, are uniquely suited to the desert environment.

My experience, however, was not helped by the fact that my camel was a naughty beast! Instead of following the handler’s instructions, who eventually had to hold him on a tighter rein, he would wander in the opposite direction until pulled back, or approached another camel for a little tête-a-tête! Also, he kept bumping up against another camel ridden by a young woman in our group, so that my foot was crushed between two camel bodies! (No harm done, except that my shoes smelled like camel for the rest of the trip!)


The handler insisted on taking multiple photographs of us on our camels – this is the best of them, in my opinion!

I was greatly relieved when it was time to get off – although it required that “bucking bronco” movement again!

Here are some sketches I made of my camel in my journal later:
20190205_163056_002 - camel sketch20190205_163300 - camel foot sketch
After this memorable experience, we visited the Sphinx and the Valley Temple of Khafre (see map above), but first, we viewed the Giza plateau from the vantage point of a hill where we had gotten off the camels.

The Sphinx, while it dwarfs in comparison to the pyramids behind it, is the largest sculpture in the world carved from one solid piece of rock: cut from limestone bedrock,  the head has since been restored using layers of blocks.

The Sphinx was a mythical creature with a lion’s body and a human head. The Great Sphinx of Giza is thought to represent the king Khafre, whose pyramid tomb stands behind it.  Although the head and much of the body has eroded over time, its long front legs and paws are solid rock.DSC_0051

The Great Sphinx faces east and is 73 meters (240 feet) long from paw to tail. At its highest point it is 20.21 m (66.3 ft) tall, and 19 m (62 ft) wide at its rear haunches. It was built during Egypt’s Old Kingdom, during the reign of King Khafre (c. 2558-2532 BCE).

In between the paws of the Sphinx, there is a stela (an upright stone slab on which is carved some kind of inscription, like gravestones) created during the New Kingdom by Thutmose IV (son of Amenhotep II) describing a dream which justifies his right to rule. A brief description of this dream is in an online article Between the Paws of the Sphinx by Dr. David Livingston:

Thutmosis had been strenuously driving his chariot over the desert. After awhile, he lay down in the shadow of the Sphinx’ head, all that was visible above the sand. While sleeping, the Sphinx came to him in a dream and assured the future Pharaoh that if he cleared the sands away, the Sphinx would, in turn, make Thutmosis the next ruler. Thutmosis did so and, sure enough, he became the next Pharaoh!


Causeway which originally led to the funerary temple of King Khafre

Although it is possible to look at this stela between the Sphinx’s paws, we did not do this, instead going into the Valley Temple of Khafre which is in front of it.


Why are we all looking down at the ground?



Because Mohamed (our trip leader) pointed out that the original granite floor of the temple was still visible here.

Sources for the historical and technical information above were from the following online articles:
Great Pyramid of Giza
Pyramids of Giza
Great Sphinx of Giza

Next: Christmas Eve Dinner and Visit to a Mosque

Journey to Egypt: Part 1 – In Transit and Arrival in Cairo, Cairo Traffic

December 23, 2018

Dale and I took a flight from Chicago O’Hare Airport late on Dec. 22, arriving in the morning in Frankfurt, Germany, where we had several hours and time for lunch at Goethe restaurant in the airport.


Our journey started at O’Hare Airport in Chicago on the night of Dec. 22.

In the afternoon, we walked through the maze of the Frankfurt airport – down hallways, past duty-free shops, down escalators, more hallways, up escalators and finally a shuttle to the terminal where we would catch our flight to Cairo! Seriously, I walked an entire mile just in the Frankfurt airport!



Whew! We finally reached our gate! Our flight was already getting ready to board when we arrived.

There was a full moon! This is a view I took from the airplane shortly before our arrival in Cairo.
20181223_175604d.jpgWe were met at the Cairo airport by an OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) representative, who accompanied us to our hotel on El Gezirah Island in Cairo – the historic Marriott Hotel. This hotel will be the subject of a future post.

On our way to the hotel, we were told about the chaos of Cairo traffic.  Drivers in Cairo, especially, seem always in a hurry to get somewhere in this city of 20 million people. So a four lane road may contain eight lanes of traffic!


Crossing the Nile from El Gezirah Island to the mainland: On this road, designed for two lanes of traffic going each way, there are actually four lines of cars going one way and at least two going the other way alongside our bus!

Egyptians say that the lines delineating each lane on the road are “only for decoration.” Furthermore, speed limits are merely “suggestions.” Drivers are constantly honking at the perceived slowness of the cars ahead of them, although it rarely does much good: it’s bumper to bumper and no one is going anywhere fast. Except maybe the motorcycles, which zip past lanes of cars and weave their way through traffic.

murals in Cairo from cab1

Murals from taxi on the way to our hotel – notice the dent and scratches in the red car closest to the photographer: nearly every car, it seemed, had suffered dents and scratches in Cairo! (Photo taken by group member Lola Pazos).

The most alarming habit of Egyptian drivers is an unwillingness of many to turn on their headlights at night, because they think having their lights on “offends the drivers coming the other way.” Apparently they are not aware of the purpose of brights!!

At the hotel, we were greeted by our guide, Mohamed, who would accompany our group for the entire tour. All of the other group members had arrived earlier and by the time we arrived had retired to their rooms for the night.

Next: The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx












Getting Our Kicks: Grand Canyon Caverns & Seligman, AZ (Route 66 Day 3, Pt. 2)

June 8, 2018                  Peach Springs – Seligman

Not long after we left the Hualapai Lodge and Tourism Center we arrived at Grand Canyon Caverns, at 115 Mile Marker AZ-66, Peach Springs, AZ 86434.20180608_124517This dry, limestone cavern was discovered in 1927 and extends about 200-300 feet below the surface. An elevator takes visitors down 21 stories to tour the caves, but in its early days, people paid 25 cents to be LOWERED, one by one, down into the cave by a hand-operated winch!
20180608_124959dThe temperature is a constant 56°F with zero humidity.20180608_130615
We were offered two tours – the “short” tour and the “regular” tour. We didn’t want to stay too long and besides, the longer tour requires climbing 70 stairs as well as some tricky maneuvering, so we opted for the short tour. The regular tour is more spectacular, including the massive Chapel of Ages, large enough to hold two football fields, so I would recommend that tour for anyone physically able and willing to do it. For the more adventurous, there are three additional tours, the Wild Tour, The Explorer Tour and the Ghost Walk Tour. You can find out more about the tours and the caverns in general here.

For $15.95 (no senior discount) each, we got a 25 minute tour. We saw a few interesting formations, such as the teacup handle

20180608_131526 (2)

Helectite – a rare form of selenite crystal; popularly known as a “teacup handle.”

and geodes, like this one jutting out from the limestone surface.DSC05687.JPGThere are few stalactites or stalagmites, as you would expect in a cave;




One of the few stalagmites in the cave


these kinds of formations need water to grow in size and Grand Canyon Caverns are dry. There are no bats living in the caverns either.

In fact, although some fossils were found when the caves were first explored (from a ground sloth), no animals are known to reside in the cavern.

This T-Rex jaw was NOT found in Grand Canyon Caverns!


The most unique feature of Grand Canyon Caverns is that events have taken place and continue to take place down there. There was a newspaper article on display about a couple who got married in the Chapel of Ages. (I would be afraid of tripping or snagging my wedding dress!)
The Grotto Restaurant is an actual café set up inside the cavern. To have lunch there costs $50 per person!DSC_0521
Besides this restaurant, there are accommodations for up to 6 people to stay overnight, as in a hotel room. Except that at night it gets COMPLETELY dark, so flashlights are furnished! There is a TV, but no reception – however, you can watch DVDs.20180608_131736.jpg

The web site states that there is a library of old books and magazines such as a National Geographic collection dating back to 1917. There is also a bathroom! (The plumbing must have been tricky to install…).

Concerts and plays used to be performed in the cavern, and occasionally an event is still held there. There is a stage and auditorium seats.
The Grand Canyon Caverns website tells the history of the caverns – quite interesting – and if you take the tour, you will also hear about Walter Peck, the discoverer of the caverns with dreams of finding gold.

The town of Seligman (Exit 123 off I-40) was our next destination. There are several Route 66 attractions in Seligman. First was the Roadkill Café (22830 West Route 66), which serves burgers, steaks and ribs (not roadkill!) with a décor of animal dioramas and mounted hunting trophies.


We explored the rest of the main drag of Seligman. Along this street are a series of touristy “Old West” type buildings…20180608_140632

and rusty, broken down farm equipment,
a broken down truck with a cactus growing inside…


and of course, old cars.

20180608_143230More touristy shops and such…

including the Rusty Bolt Gift Shop 22345 West Route 66), with female mannequins in front and on the roof, vintage signs, and an Elvis statue.20180608_143911d
The temperature was about 95°F and after all this sightseeing and snapping photos, we decided to go to Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-in (301 E. Route 66) for a cold milk shake.



Instead of ordering drive-in style, you now enter and order at this counter.

After we left Seligman, we headed for Flagstaff, which has a number of national monuments nearby with ancient pueblo ruins at Wupatki National Monument and Walnut Canyon National Monument, and natural features, such as Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. We did not stop at any of these, since we had seen most of them on an earlier trip to Arizona years before, and instead got off Route 66 for a couple of days to attend a 70th anniversary reunion at my high school, Verde Valley School, in Sedona.


I’ll continue our Route 66 journey two days later, when we got back on the Mother Road.


A Photo a Week: Planes, Trams, Buses and Boats

Nancy Merrill’s weekly challenge this week is to show public transportation.  I am posting some pictures from our recent trip to Amsterdam and Tanzania.


Bus in the Serengeti, Tanzania



Trams in Amsterdam – there are various routes and you get catch one just about anywhere in the city. Trams were our main form of transportation in Amsterdam!



This imposing structure is the Centraal train station in Amsterdam. Trains arrive and depart from here which are destined for another part of the city or anywhere else in the Netherlands.



Canal boats seen from a restaurant window.



We took a canal tour in Amsterdam on a boat much like this one.



Tram crossing a bridge, taken from our canal boat tour.


2-2 flight path to Kilimanjaro

Charting our flight path from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania








The prop plane we took from Serengeti to Arusha, Tanzania. There is room for 18 passengers, plus the pilot and copilot.