Egypt! The land of the pharaohs, the pyramids, and The Nile! Ever since we
have been married, Egypt
has always been at the top of our trip wish list. In 2010, our dream came true.
Believe me, I felt like pinching myself from the time we landed in Cairo to
sailing into the Temple of Abu Simbel
not too far from the Sudanese border.
|Giza & The Sphinx|
We awoke the next morning to a breath taking view of The Nile. After breakfast, we left for the pyramids at Giza. We climbed up to the entrance of the largest one but did not go inside since you had to crawl most of the way through it. From there, we went to the Sphinx. I remember thinking how close this monument was to town. There were street merchants all around, but they didn’t hassle you. I remember buying two necklaces from the cutest little boy.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Egypt without a camel ride so that was our next stop. The camels looked regal with their colorful woven blankets and handlers in traditional garb. I got up on one which surprised me!
After lunch in a local outdoor restaurant where they cooked chickens in the ground and had restrooms that were mere holes in the dirt (culture shock), we drove to the step pyramid, the oldest pyramid on record.
Since it was the prototype, its structure was not perfect, but it was situated in n the Sahara desert. Not too far away, lush tropical greenery from Nile irrigated fields served as home to water buffalo and donkeys.
Our second day in Cairo, we visited the largest mosque in Egypt and the Cairo museum. The museum was raided with relics destroyed during the Arab Spring. The Arab Spring began less than two months after we arrived home. Filled with ancient treasures, the coral colored building was not air conditioned back then except for Tutankhamen’s room. At the time of our visit, the museum housed many royal mummies and archeologists had just discovered a new one of a queen. Tutankhamen’s burial mask was inlaid gold as were his two sarcophagi.
The next day, our flight to Luxor left at four AM. From the airport we went to
the temple of Karnak filled with statues and drawings. I was
greeted by a small dog sleeping at the feet of the statute Ramses. That same
day, we went to the Temple of Luxor with its enormous columns and its promenade
lined with small sphinxes.
That evening we took a horse and buggy ride with Omar and his horse Rambo through the market where your eyes feasted on colors and your nose inhaled spices before attending a light and sound show at Karnak. We watched the show, but could see men digging not too far away reminiscent of Indiana Jones.
One our tour, we visited the Temple of Horus with paintings dating back to 1500 B.C and visited the museum at Luxor.
Leaving Luxor, we toured the Valley of the Kings. We went inside the tombs of Ramses II and Ramses VI and of course the most popular Tutankhamun’s tomb which housed his gold sarcophagus and mummy. The young king’s room had paintings of baboons on the wall. Before this turns out to be a book, I’ll skip down to our trip to Abu Simbel. Along the way, we visited temples and ruins on islands since we spent three days on a Nile riverboat. We approached the massive temple at Abu Simbel by boat on Lake Nasser and the sight of it when we approached was jaw-dropping.
|Original 2000 years old un-retouched|
It was quite a walk to the large temple of Ramses with its enormous statues that greeted us at the entrance. Inside the temple were colorful drawings and painting that looked like they had just been finished. From there we visited Queen Nefertiti’s temple with smaller but just as beautiful statues. We stayed for the light and sound show which took my breath away with its beauty in multi colors and pictures projected upon the Temple.
We were in Egypt two weeks and toured the entire length of the country by boat, plane, bus, and riverboat. Our guides were professors of antiquities from the University of Cairo. I feel so very fortunate to have participated on such a journey that I filled the pages of a journal.
|Abu Simbel- The small figures at the bottom are people!|
I love to travel and always have a wish list but this trip is by far my most memorable.
In my writing, I Travel as well, only through Time Travel like in The Duchess’ Necklace. Thank you for allowing me to share this with you.
April in Iceland
Did I read that right? April 19, 2018 is the first day of summer in chilly Iceland? That’s correct; facts like this that makes Iceland a fascinating country to read about and visit. So much so that in grammar school, my fourth grade geography project was a clay model of the island featuring its most active volcanoes. I read books about Iceland dreaming to visit it one day. In 2011, my dream to visit this pristine Island nation came true and I loved every minute of it.
|Beautiful Iceland in August!|
To us, April signals the beginning of Spring, but this time of year, Icelanders celebrate summer since April begins the end of the long dark winter days as the days get longer with more sunlight. Sumardagurinn Fyrsti or The First Day of Summer happens on the second Thursday after April first each year. This date also marks the first day of the month Harpa. Harpa is believed to be the name of a young maiden so the day also celebrates Maidens’ Day when young men have to be attentive and courteous to all the young women they meet.
The formula for finding the date of this holiday goes back to the Icelandic calendar and the ninth century when it was believed that Iceland had only two seasons: summer and winter. This calendar was continued through the 19th century when they switched to the Gregorian calendar. It is no longer a religious holiday but a national flag day.
Even though the temperature is only 0 to 10 degrees Celsius on that day, it doesn’t stop all the outdoor events such as games, parades, and picnics. Children are excited because parents traditionally give them small gifts known as summer gifts. The traditional food is Icelandic pancakes which are crepe-like flat pancakes. They are rolled with sugar or are filled with whipped cream and jam. Sounds great to me!
There are superstitions around this happy day. Many fill a dish with water and leave it outside in a sheltered place the night before the holiday. If the temperature dips below freezing, and the water freezes, it’s considered good luck for a good summer with bountiful crops for the farmers because summer and winter meld together on Sumardagurinn Fyrsti.
|Blue Lagoon Swimmers in August Evening|
Lucky for me, we went in August when the temperatures were milder but not hot! We visited Reykjavik, took a dip in the warm Blue Lagoon even though the outside temperature was only fifty degrees and covered our faces in Silica mud. The warm volcanic waters and the steam rising from them made our experience surreal. We toured the island visiting amazing waterfalls such as Gullfoss, whose waters fall from many sides of a mountain, to adorable Icelandic ponies, to the Golden Circle with its shooting geysers and volcanoes. The color of the land scape changed from green pastures to black volcanic rocks. In Thingvellir National Park we saw above ground the boundary between the North Atlantic tectonic plate and the Eurasian Plate. We were amazed to see the bright green streaks of the Northern Lights peak from behind the clouds one night. Iceland is a magical and beautiful country and I am lucky to have visited there.
There has been no royalty since 1944 when a monarch ruled the country from 1918-1944;
But royalty takes center stage in THE DUCHESS’NECKLACE, available in print and e-book. My fictional duchess, Amelia Augusta Ethrington, Her Grace the Duchess of Abbington, is fourth in line for the British throne. 18th century royal marriages were less about love and more about standing and property. Amelia refuses to marry not wanting to relinquish a smidgeon of power to a husband. Because of this, she has to quench her desires in one night stands with traveling nights and younger men seeking favor. She’s too modern a woman for 18th century rules and needs a modern man who will accept her for her intelligence, independence and feistiness. She needs a man from the present. When circumstances in her life go awry, she finds one by chance through Time Travel.
A deceptive Traveler from the present romances her only to steal her necklace, her sole claim to royal title and standing, before returning to the present. She Travels to get her necklace back: finding the love of her life was a side benefit but with that benefit came the most difficult choice of her life. Love in the present or wealth and privilege in the past as a duchess?
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EASTER FUN FOR EVERYONE!
Happy March! Happy Spring! St. Patrick’s Day. Daffodils. Tulips. And this year, the last day of March is one day away from Easter Eggs.
Yes Easter eggs. I love them. I love to color them in pretty pastels and share them with my friends and family. Of course I love to eat them. It’s hard to imagine but the tradition of coloring eggs goes back to ancient Egypt when during the spring festival of Sham el Nessim, a non- religious holiday still celebrated today, hard boiled colored eggs was a traditional picnic staple. It is believed that Egyptian Pharaohs hung dyed eggs in their temples to symbolize renewed life.
There are many spring holiday customs, but I learned about my favorite Easter egg tradition many years ago after I became engaged. My husband, who is of Armenian descent, taught me the Armenian Egg Cracking Game. One Easter week-end, we visited his Aunt Toorvanda who was getting ready for the holiday by baking her delicious rolls and dying eggs on the top of the stove in a large pot of boiling red onion skins. The eggs, now all the same color rose red, become harder with extra boiling and thus a more formidable competitor.
The competition is usually saved for after Easter dinner. The dyed eggs are placed on a platter in the center of the dining room table. The excitement builds. This is the Super Bowl for eggs.
First you must select your winning egg from the platter. The pecking order (bad egg joke) can be derived by seating position or maybe last year’s winner goes first whatever system is fair for everyone. Remember, you must choose wisely and look for an egg that’s lean with an elongated shape. After you select your champ (keep positive thoughts in mind), you must then select your competitor from those at the table. Draw straws, pick numbers or just say I want Uncle Adam.
Once you know who your competitor is, you have to decide who goes first. Flip a coin. But I’ve been told, it’s best if they go first. Remember this is serious stuff so getting as much good advice as you can, will only lead to victory.
Now hold the egg between your thumb and index finger of both hands so just the tip of the egg peers through the top. Make it as hard as possible for your opponent to crack your egg. Protect that egg with your index finger and thumb. Like football a good defense makes a strong offense. If your egg does crack, no worries, just flip it over and let them have another whack on the other side. Sometimes you can still win the match with one good side, but when both sides crack, you’re toast (Sorry).
If your egg does not crack, you move up the line of contenders until the last man standing has a perfect egg or one good side left. He or she is the winner!
What’s the prize? You get to eat your egg first and have good luck for the year, a prize worth coveting.
At our house, we still carry on this tradition each year only we use my favorite colored eggs and we compete at breakfast. Contestants pick their favorite color but the rest of the game remains traditional with a lot of fun and laughs!
I have since learned that other countries have similar traditions such as Greece, the Ukraine, and Estonia among a few .I would love to visit Armenia, but haven’t as of yet, but I have visited Estonia. The Estonians celebrate Easter in a big way as well with a big mid- day dinner, an Easter egg hunt, and egg painting. Similar to the Armenian tradition, the eggs are dyed with red onion skins or beetroot juice before setting them on a platter as a centerpiece for Easter lunch. After lunch, the egg cracking begins. If your egg is not cracked, you are the winner.
Very beautiful hand painted and decorated eggs are also part of Estonia’s traditions. I remember we went into a small coffee shop near Lake Bled and its castle and the proprietor hand painted the hollow eggs herself. To my surprise, my husband bought one and saved it for my Christmas stocking.
So this holiday, try something fun and different with your family. Celebrate with an egg cracking contest and start your own Armenian tradition.