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.

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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.


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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.

Thursday Doors: Besaw Island

While on our 5-day Nile River cruise in Egypt, we stopped at an island where we visited a farmer and his family, and we were shown around the area where he lives. For Norm’s Thursday Doors feature this week, here are some doors and other sights on Besaw Island.


Farmland on Besaw Island



The farmer showed us a banana plantation (he doesn’t own it) and told us about the process of growing bananas.

On our way to our host’s house, I took most of these photos.


Note the objects hanging from the top of this man’s door – pairs of cow hooves!

This door is at our host’s house.
Although the family’s house is small and they don’t have much, their house is neat and the food they served us was delicious!


Someone painted this door after the farmer (Sayeed) and his wife (Zena) got married, with beautiful flowers, hearts and Arabic writing.


Dale watches as group member Cary plays with one of the family’s children. 



Fields of Ancestors

Frank at Dutch Goes the Photo has a Tuesday challenge and the theme this week is field.

Last year in May, we took a road trip to the Dakotas. It was our first visit to North Dakota. Fields are ubiquitous in North Dakota – wide fields of planted crops or endless prairie.

Some fields harbor the secrets of the grave, the souls of ancestors. At the Son of Jacob cemetery, in a remote corner of east central North Dakota reached by a long strip of road surrounded by undulating grasses, one can visit scattered graves of Jewish pioneers who settled in this area more than a century ago. Most of their descendants have scattered, too – finding opportunities in larger communities, universities, or even fertile farms. Only the bones of their ancestors remain here, but some of their pioneer soul remains too.
A sign informs the infrequent visitors that this cemetery is built on a native prairie, much like the land the original settlers encountered.

Farther west, in central North Dakota, is the Knife River Indian Villages National Monument. At first, these fields seem completely empty – not even grave markers to indicate people are buried here.KODAK Digital Still Camera
Yet here were villages that harbored a sizeable population of the Awatixa, ancestors of the Hidatsa culture.KODAK Digital Still Camera
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Look closer across these fields with their tall grasses and unceasing winds and notice undulating mounds and large round depressions – these are the traces of a once thriving village, Awatixa Xi’e, full of earth lodges. When their houses collapsed, they left circular mounds and depressions, where hardened floors once were. KODAK Digital Still Camera
KODAK Digital Still Camera
The village was situated next to a river, which allowed the people to become more settled. However, it also exposed them to contact with the agents of change.
2017 Summer&Fall 195.JPGThe Awatixa died from European diseases or were absorbed into the European American economy, but the clues they left behind tell us about their lives.  This is a reconstructed earth lodge.2017 Summer&Fall 187.JPG
The interior of the dwellings looked something like this.

Archaeologists learned a lot by excavating middens, or trash pits. They found bits of pottery, bone tools, flaked stones, and a lot of bison bones. The Awatixa grew corn, a vital part of their sustenance. They built flat boats from which to fish or for transportation. A museum on the site contains artifacts and provides information about the villages in this area. Walking paths lead through the fields where the villages once stood.

The Knife River Indian Villages site is an interesting and informative place to visit for anyone who wishes to learn more about the peoples who came before us. Although only fields are left, the information provided allows the life of the Awatixa to come alive.

Irkeepus Cultural Boma

Feb. 7, 2018

In the afternoon, six of us visited a Maasai village where tourists are welcome, the Irkeepus Cultural Boma. This community makes money from tourists: $20 to take any photos you want and be shown around, encouragement to buy their crafts, and donations for their school.

811The village, or “boma” (compound) consists of one large extended family: the chief, his 15 wives and about 70 children and grandchildren. A total of 86 people live there. Each wife has her own house. The children are welcome in any house and treat all the wives as their “mothers.” Maybe the relationship is more like aunts. Our guide, probably the best English speaker there, was the son of wife #4. He led the tour: first there was a dance we were all invited to join in on – the women adorned us with necklaces – which consisted of everyone standing in a row holding hands, bending our knees and moving our feet to the beat of the song, which we tried to sing with them – it was repetitive. Every so often one of the men would jump high into the air – impressive!




SONY DSCThe second demonstration was to show us how they make fire. Their first attempt at this was not successful so they had to start again. The first step is to rub a stick against a stone with depressions in it until it sparks. Then they put dried grass on it and finally breathe on it very slowly and gently (pole-pole*) to coax the fire out.
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2-7 Maasai fire demonstration5
Our guide’s (and everyone’s in the village) native language is Maasai, which is oral – not written. In school he learned to read and write in Swahili (his second language) and English (his third language). After he finished high school, he returned to the village.

2-7 fence made of nettles & acacia thorn branches-Maasai compound

This fence of stinging nettles and thorn branches surrounds the compound. It’s very effective at keeping wild animals out!

The community has 40 heads of cattle, as well as goats and sheep. A man’s wealth is measure by how many cattle he has and David thinks the chief has more than 40. Bride price starts at 4 head of cattle and can go higher. They use their animals for meat, milk and milk products (such as yogurt and to a lesser extent, cheese). They also drink goat’s and sheep’s milk. That’s about all they eat except for fruit they can get from local trees.

2-7 cow shed & storage shed

Cow shed and storage shed

The huts are round with a curved entrance, a bit like the beginning of a spiral, because, we were told, it keeps the wind from getting in – the wind is strong at this high altitude on the crater rim. The man showing Dale and I the house told us to be careful when entering  because the inner wall of the entrance had been freshly plastered with cow dung! They have to do this about every 3 months to replace the dung that has dried – they strip this off and apply fresh dung (and there were several cow pies in the yard outside the compound!). The dry dung they strip off is then used for fuel.

2-7 Dale & Katy in front of Maasai house

Dale and I standing in front of the hut we were shown into – we are of average height, which shows how small the house is.

Inside there’s a fire pit for cooking and keeping warm but no vent in the ceiling, as I would expect, having seen several types of Native American houses. He pointed out a tiny vent hole in a bedroom wall. Still, the smoke hung in the air. The guide said the smoke is good for getting rid of insects. Apparently the fire is extinguished when the family goes to bed. The smoke fills the hut only when no one is there. It clears out the bugs so the family can sleep.837
The hut was very small and dark – we had to use cellphone flashlights. There are two bedrooms side by side, used primarily for sleeping. They lay soft branches and leaves on the floor and cover it with a cow hide. Some other small rags were in one of the rooms – to use as pillows, perhaps? Or a blanket for a young child.

Most activities are conducted outside, which is why they don’t need much inside their house. The boys love to play soccer in the yard. Girls help their mothers make crafts with beads and wire.
Children of both sexes attend school. The elementary school is an adobe structure outside the compound walls.
2-7 elementary school at Maasai village
20 children from the village and 20 from a neighboring village attend school here. The community is proud of its school, which they built themselves, funded with donations from visitors.  Although they value education, when the boys get a little older they are allowed to get out of school to herd the cattle if they want to.
2-7 blackboard at school-Maasai village
The one-room school has rows of benches with table surfaces attached as desks. There were many adults and children inside; the adults were having a village meeting. We met a couple of the teachers, who greeted us warmly, especially when we told them we had also been teachers.2-7 teachers at Maasai school
On the back wall were the children’s drawings of animals, each one labeled with its Swahili name. on one wall was an ABC chart using syllables, like we teach Spanish to primary kids! The blackboard in the front had a lot written on it. At a desk in the corner sat an administrator and a secretary, both men from the village. They were there because of the meeting.
2-7 children in school at Maasai village
A group of small children clustered together at desks behind two teachers. They were shy until I held up my hand for a “high 5” and they all knew what it was – is high-5 universal? They extended their little palms for me to high-5 them. (I found out the Maasai handshake is actually a version of this – you touch the palm of the other person but don’t grasp their hand.) Then I did a fist bump and the kids all know that too and wanted to “fist bump” with me!  That’s how I broke the ice with them. Then they all sang two songs, the second a version of the ABC song – halfway through it diverts into some other words, perhaps the Swahili alphabet.

As we were leaving, I extended a fist bump to one of the teachers, telling him we had learned it from our president (meaning Obama, who was familiar to them). One of our group members reminded me he wasn’t our president anymore. I replied, “I know, but I wish he were.”
The people had adorned a fenced-in area with all their craft items. I liked the little animals made with beads and wire and decided to buy a lion since we had seen many lions today. I had the lion in my hand when I was at the school. I showed it to the children and said, “A lion, see?” Then I made a roaring sound, which made them laugh.
Perhaps $35 was too much to pay, and I could have bargained, but I didn’t. These people needed the money – their life was hard and they worked hard from a young age. There was a donation box at the school, so Dale put all his leftover euro coins in it!2-7 beaded lion I bought from Maasai
I have read that 85% of Tanzanians are poor and I’m sure that is true for the Maasai who live traditionally. Yet financial poverty is not total poverty: their possessions are few but they have their cultural traditions and when they look out at the countryside where they live – that vast country of green, gentle hills and huge sky, where one can admire giraffes, zebras, or gazelles that pass by, they can be sure that, in fact, in some ways their life is very rich. The beauty of nature is all around them, they live in harmony with it, they are surrounded by loved ones, and are comfortable in their traditions.


The green countryside near the village

Money, of course, is necessary also – to buy materials to build schools, to send their children to high school, and to buy supplemental food products, among other things. It’s unavoidable – so if we could help by putting money into their community to help them buy what they need, I’m glad for it.841


*pole-pole: Swahili word meaning “slowly-slowly” but with the connotation of “gently” or “carefully” as well.


Alaska 2016: Our last days – Fairbanks (Part 1)

September 1, 2016

We were on our way to our last destination in Alaska – the city of Fairbanks. We took a bus and had a young, attractive guide named Aubrey. I wasn’t able to take pictures because I didn’t get a window seat. Here’s the one good shot I got:


My husband was next to the window, however, and took these pictures of the scenery:



We made a stop in the town of Nenana, which is on the Nenana River. It is distinguished by two events:  It is the first stop along the route of the Iditarod,


and the “Ice Classic”, which is a contest held annually since 1917.


In the Ice Classic, a tripod made of wood is placed in the middle of the frozen river in late winter.  Townspeople bet money – usually consisting of only a few dollars – on when the tripod will fall into the river; in other words, when the river will thaw. In spite of the relatively small amount of cash that the winner will receive, people in Nenana get very competitive during the Ice Classic, and with the access to the Internet, some people do scientific research to find out what are the meteorological forecasts for the arrival of spring in that region.


Nenana has a small sled dog kennel, where they raise dogs to compete in races like the Iditarod as well as for personal use to get around in the winter. The training the dogs receive is basically the same as we saw in Denali, and visitors are encouraged to hold puppies that are as young as three weeks old!


I held a warm, furry black puppy that trembled the whole time that I, or anyone else, held him. I asked one of the trainers if he was cold or just scared. She replied that the young pups are very new to the socialization process, so they become nervous when held.



Upon arrival in Fairbanks, we were taken immediately to a steamboat dock on the river. First, we had lunch at long dining tables in a room filled with tourists from cruise and land tours like ourselves. Except for our group, the majority of the tourists had been on a Princess cruise.


Line to board the steamboat (taken by Dale Berman)

After lunch, we had a few minutes to shop, where we bought a couple of t-shirts, before we were to board the steamboat. Someone had told me to go directly up to the third level and sit in the front to get the best views.  Rows of chairs were set out all along the open deck. We got good seats next to the railing in the front of the boat.

The steamboat took us on a leisurely cruise up the Chena River.

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

float plane landing

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

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The boat stopped in front of a dog kennel. The trainers told us about their dogs and the training they do with them. Ten dogs had been selected and were harnessed for a short run.

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All the dogs get very excited.

And they’re off!

They run by the back of the kennel, a “caboose” behind them!

When they get back, the dogs are hot and tired and ready….

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…for a frolic in the river!

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Our steamboat ride continued.

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

We  saw captive caribou.

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We arrived at Chena Village, where Athabascan youths show tourists different aspects of their ways of life. This village resembles the original Athabascan village of the early 1900s and is located near the original site.

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First, while we were still aboard, we saw how the salmon are caught, cut and dried.

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

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Fish drying shed

The steamboat docked and we got off. We were divided into several groups, each with a guide who took us around to different areas where we learned about the activities that would have taken place in the village.

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This young man was our guide. He showed us each of the pelts – what animal they were from and how they were used.


Transportation: canoe, snow shoes

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KODAK Digital Still Camera

Clothing – a young woman models a warm fur coat.

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Examples of clothing for men (left of door), women (right)

Animals: Moose were a good catch for trappers, but the people relied on domesticated reindeer for various purposes. (A reindeer is actually a domesticated form of the caribou.)


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Housing: Summer and winter camps

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An outhouse was a convenience in a settled village!

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Winter trapper’s cabin: Most trapping was done in the winter because that is when the animals’ fur would be thickest and warmest. The trappers had to set and maintain their trap lines in the worst winter conditions. “Line cabins” would be built about a day’s journey apart from one another along their winter trapping routes. Simple and rugged, they provided the trappers with adequate shelter during Alaska’s harsh winters, and were meant only to rest, dry out, heat up, and sleep.  Although built for their own use, anyone needing shelter would be welcome to use the cabins.20160901_160514

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Permanent house in the village

All too soon, it was time to board the steamboat once more.

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