Art, architecture, history, travel

Near East


The Ancient Near East (Ancient Near Eastern Studies) 2014

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image. Category:Maps of the ancient Near East (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ancient Near East

I know things are a little hot there right now, but if you ever get the chance I recommend a visit to the cradle of ancient civilization. Mesopotamia. Including the ancient states of Sumer, Akkad and Babylon. Modern Iraq. Significant expeditions have been led over the years by various institutions and artifacts are on display at major art museums throughout the world. A good alternative given the political situation there now.



  • Louvre, Paris: Standard of Ur, Stele of Narum-sin, Law code of Hamurabi, Sargon of Akkad
  • Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York: Ashurnasirpal II
  • British Museum, London: Layard excevator of Nineveh and Nimrud, Assysia, Leonard Woolley
  • Berlin Museum: Ishtar Gate of Babylon
Map of the Ancient Near East during the Amarna...

Map of the Ancient Near East during the Amarna period (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Ancient Near East.

Ishtar Gate

Ishtar Gate

Tel asmar statuette

Tel asmar statuette


Last Stop Jerusalem, On to Israel 1982

We are on the third week of our honeymoon. We crossed the Allenby bridge over the Jordan River to enter Israel. The customs was intense. They even took our shoes and magazines. They gave the shoes back, but kept the magazines. Our destination was the ancient city of Jerusalem. Israel is a country of 8,500 sq mi. The climate here is low 70’s and dry in June. Some places have air conditioning.Jerusalem1

We found a nice hotel with a nice patio porch outside the Damascus gate. They had a nice breakfast. The food situation is still Middle Eastern, but with a twist. Many restaurants are small, privately held with three or four tables only. We are staying near the Arab quarter.

I will relate two coincidences. We met a man, who had a nephew who owned the Falafel House a restaurant in Clifton in Cincinnati. I met this man and talked to him before our trip. We also met an Armenian at a souvenir shop in the old city. He told us his name Karagesian meant black eyebrows. Bedukian a famous flavor chemist is also Armenian.

Map of Israel

Map of Israel

We know some Karagesians, he said they were related. The old city is divided into four quarters Armenian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim. The language of Israel is Ivrit or modern Hebrew.   Arabic and English are also widely spoken. Known as Palestine it was a British mandate and before that part of the Roman and Ottoman Empires. Sacked by Roman general, later emperor, Titus in 70 ad, destroying the second temple. Site of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. On medieval maps Jerusalem was considered the center of the earth.

Crusifixtion P. P. Reubens

Crucifixion P. P. Reubens

Six churches share custody of the Christian relics.

There are many religious sites in Jerusalem including the Mount of olives, site of the Last supper(Cenacle), Golden Gate, Solomon’s stables, Absalom’s tomb and the Western Wall.

We followed the Stations of the cross. Culminating at the church of the Holy sepulchre on  Golgotha. The Aedicule shows the place of the burial of Christ.

Jerusalem, Grabeskirche, Eingangsbereich

Jerusalem, Grabeskirche, Eingangsbereich (Photo credit: Wikipedia) Holy Sepulcre

Way of sorrows via Dolorosa we had trouble finding the sixth station. A man had to show us were it was. I t was hidden inside of the Ethiopian church

Here are some things we bought, an olive wood creche. A bible with an olive wood cover. A book form the British & Foreign Bible Society describing 900 languages, one of my favorite books. We went to the Hadassah medical center at Mount Scopus to see the Chagall windows. We couldn’t get in, unlike Peru they weren’t friendly at all.  If you missed it by ten minutes that’s just tough, come back tomorrow.

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Dome of the rock is one the Temple mount. Also the Al-Aqsa mosque site of the assassination of Abdullah the grandfather of the King of Jordan in 1951.

Stopped for a Gin tonic at the Intercontinental Hotel. It was so good after walking in the hot sun all day. We had two, even at $3.00. Worth every penny. It even had ice and a whole bottle of tonic, apiece. Next time we’re definitely staying here.

We visited the tomb of the patriarchs in Hebron. The burial site of Sarah, Abraham, Rebecca and Isaac. We also saw Rachel’s tomb it is right by a bus sop in Jerusalem.

Bethlehem The birthplace of Jesus. We met a man outside the Church of the Nativity. He showed me a hand illuminated bible written in Syriac ܡܫܝܚܝܘܬܐ ܣܘܪܝܝܬܐ and told us the sad history of his church. He invited us to come back and visit him in the winter at Christmas. The start of the Crimean was over custody of the keys to this church. The entrance to the church is a half-door to keep the Turkish from riding their horses into the church.

Al Aqsa in Jerusalem ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Al-Aq...

Al Aqsa in Jerusalem ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Al-Aqsa Moskeen i Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Milk Grotto, this is where Mary and Joseph are said to have stopped during the Flight to Egypt.  Quite a day for an old Sunday school teacher/

It is impossible to sink in the Dead Sea. It was warm enough for me to go swimming, however. The Dead sea is 400 m below sea level. En gedi and Bersheba are near by.

We spent the night at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv TLV, before returning home in the morning. We weren’t allowed to leave the airport because of the Israeli Invasion of Lebanon, which started that day June, 6 1982. We had to sleep on the chairs in the airport. This is the airport serving   Israel. 

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Jordan اَلأُرْدُنّ‎ Al-ʾUrdunn We left Cairo and flew to ‘Amman the captial of Jordan.

Jordan  al ‘Urdan  اَلأُرْدُنّ‎  Al-ʾUrdunn

 ‘Amman عمانis the capital of Jordan. Jordan is a Kingdom.  We flew from Cairo CAI to ‘Amman  AMM on Royal Jordanian. The Queen of Jordan attended Princeton in the United States. It is a very civilized country. The offices are very business like. We visited some airline offices collecting information for our next trip. At that time, it is not a very large city. Originally just a rail stop on the Hejaz railway. Msgr. Diviney, the priest who married us, had a nephew working in ‘Amman, as an architect. We didn’t have a chance to look him up. ‘Amman has grown considerably since then. It is now a city of several million. Like Rome it was originally laid out on seven hills.
Got my copy of Hans Wehr Arabic-English Dictionary. I carried it all the way back home, long before the days of Amazon when you can get any book you want from anywhere. We forgot to bring the pop tarts. We are getting very tired of falafel. The food is about the same as in Egypt except you might get a green salad if you are lucky. The climate here is different. The altitude is higher. Still a desert but not as hot as Cairo. Sometimes, they even get snow in the winter
I decided to get a haircut. The barber gave me an Iraqi magazine and a calendar. The censors took the magazine when we got to Israel, but they let me keep the calendar. It was here that I was introduced to the curious Eastern practice of hair threading.
map_maan_jordan 0385418957
We were waiting at the bus stop a man approached us. I said to him Wain al Ballad? How do we get downtown? He offered to show us around the old city. An elderly man, he seemed nice we decided to trust him. He took us to his office. We had tea.
It turned out he had a business importing replacement windows to Jordan from the United States. The windows were made in Cincinnati, of all places. He wanted to talk to us about the United States and Ohio.  He had never been there. He introduced us to the people in his office. They had lots of questions, too. They were all so nice. We enjoyed our visit. They did show us the sites.
They add cardamon to the coffee here.  They have nice sweets and pastries, too. Tea is ubiquitous. Coffee is more expensive. Ninety percent of everything here is imported. The manufacturing base is almost nonexistent. They even sell slushies, just like in the US. A good deal in a hot country. We saw many trucks on the highway carrying freight to and from Syria. They grow oranges here.
‘Amman is an ancient city, a Greek and Roman colony, mentioned in the Bible as Philadelphia in the Decapolis. There are ruins and a Roman amphitheater downtown.  It has grown 10 times since we were there. There have been two wars, since we were there. King Hussein died in 1999.
We rented a  car and drove to Petra, Aqaba and could see Eilat in Israel. The power went out for a while. Luckily we had brought a flashlight with us. Petra is the ancient stone city of the Nabataeans. Like Machu Picchu has remained hidden until modern times (1810.) The rose-red city half as old as time. Carved into solid rock it is a true archeological marvel. It was the highlight of the trip. The entrance is hidden by a path through sheer rock. There was no hotel in Petra.
In Aqaba we rented a tent on the shore of the Red sea. We were only 12 miles from Saudi Arabia, but we didn’t have a visa. So we didn’t stop there. We did our laundry.
What no Surf? KT went swimming in the Red Sea, too cold for me. We decided to do something different. We saw little rotisserie chickens like in Germany–Wienerwald and Chinese food. We tried them both. This is truly and interesting place. Even the Chinese food tasted like falafel. I think it’s because of the oil. There must be a Chinese restaurant in every town in the world.
We were influenced by the movie Lawrence of Arabia and the book Seven Pillars of Wisdom. On the way back we stopped in Wadi rum, a desert oasis, to visit the Bedouins.
We had to leave Jordan by bus and cross the Allenby bridge over the Jordan river into Israel. It is impossible to cross the other way. A man invited us to visit him in Syria. We said maybe next time. I would love to visit Damascus. You cannot have an Israeli stamp in your passport. They are very serious about this. I had bought some tea cups like I had seen in Turkey and Russia. I left them in the waiting room. I can’t tell you what a stir that caused. The driver said you left a package at the bus stop? We had to drive back immediately and get it.
On the way to Jerusalem we drove by Jericho the oldest city in the world. The bible is coming alive here.
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More on Egypt 1982

Cairo is a fascinating city it reminds me of Istanbul in a way. It is not my first time to an Arab country, that would be Morocco. Egypt was under the rule of the Mamluks in the 13th century.  Occupied by Napoleon and the French for a short time, in the nineteenth century it was ruled by the Ottoman Turks. The Maghreb begins to the west of Egypt.

Mohammed ‘Ali was an Albanian governor of Egypt, not the boxer of course. There is a Mosque (masjid) near downtown named for him. He is revered as the founder of modern Egypt. In the early twentieth Egypt was a British protectorate. The Suez canal was built in the 19th century with British and French financing. It shorted the trip to India considerably.  For a short time Egypt was an independent kingdom. Cairo is the most populous city in Africa. The most populous country in Africa is Nigeria. The continent of Africa is larger than North America.

Upper and Lower Egypt

Upper and Lower Egypt

In Egypt Cairo is known as misr, the Arabic name for Egypt itself. For as any Cairene will tell you’ Egypt is Cairo and Cairo is Egypt. Cairo is the center of the Arab film and music industry. It is the media center of the Arab world. Oum Kulthoum was a very famous classical Egyptian singer known as the star of the East.

Climate Cairo is a desert. I have known two Egyptians.

Jumping off the Bus. We have started riding the bus. Well the curious thing is there aren’t any real bus stops here. When you get close to where you want to go you just pull the cord and the bus sort of slows down and you jump off. One time we ended up in the middle of a traffic circle. I think cabs might be safer.

No one will ever give you the price for anything here. Ask for the price and the answer will be, as you like. Then the haggling begins.

The Khan al Khalili خان الخليلي is the famous souk or market. It is truly remarkable. The sell everything from gold to shoes, clothes and spices from all over the world. The Egyptian cotton is especially nice. I bought an inlay tile box there.

We went to the Ramses train station to buy tickets for Luxor, ancient Thebes. The train is overnight deluxe first class with little amenities like an airplane, but of course you can lie down and walk around. The staion was very crowded. We met an Islamic woman and her husband at the station. The had a small booth selling books and appliances. They were very friendly and anxious to talk to us. Curious about what we were doing in Cairo, the United States, did we have children and things like that. I think they had met few Americans. They especially wanted to look in KT’s purse. She wore a bright green jilaba with a white lining and a hijab. He husband was dressed in a dark suit with no tie.

I reached out my hand to shake hers. She drew it back. She wasn’t allowed to touch another man. We bought a green copy of the Koran, القرآن al-quran. I still have that. They invited us to the back of their store to watch Egyptian tv and drink tea. It was a small B&W version. They had never met an American who had studied Arabic.

The Pyramids

Giza Great sphinx

The great Pyramids are what everyone wants to see. They are truly awesome. We didn’t go inside or even ride a camel. It was just too hot. We did meet an interesting man, however. He waned to give me a haircut. His name was Mohammed Jesus. He Even had a testimonial letter in English. Mohammed Jesus has been my barber for fifteen years he has occasionally done a good job. Even the newspaper al-Ahram means the pyramids.

Saqqara step pyramid

The Saqqara step pyramid is another group of pyramids outside of Cairo. They date to the third dynasty and are much older than the pyramids of Giza.

When we told people we were recently married they predicted One year one baby boy, two years two baby boy .   .   .  .  One man offered me 100,000 camels for my wife. That’s a big compliment. One thousand is considered an infinite number. Blondes are not common here. They wanted to touch Katie’s hair. I brought a beautiful Irish Catholic girl to Cairo.

We spent our honeymoon in Egypt 1982

Egypt has been in the news a lot lately. That’s where Katie and I went on our honeymoon.

I had wanted to go to Egypt, ever since I had taken a class in ancient art at Vanderbilt. We studied the art of ancient Greece, Mesopotamia and Egypt, Including the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms of Egypt.

We flew  from Cincinnati to New York Kennedy  airport  JFK. Margaret was still living in New York. We were looking for Margaret at the airport everyone sounded like Margaret. We flew on TWA to Egypt. When we told the stewardesses that we were on our honeymoon, they bought us a bottle of champagne. We really appreciated that.

Trans World Airlines Jet

Trans World Airlines Jet

My Greek friend from Regensburg had been to see the pyramids and told me how great they were. If you live in Athens with the Parthenon that’s quite an endorsement.

Athens We didn’t stay long in the airport in Athens, but I did want a cup of coffee. I had some change from other trips I had taken. I asked the man what kind of money they took. He replied, sir we take any kind of money you have! With that KT and  I started a list of funny things people said to us on the trip. Another man came running up to us at the airport shouting, are you strange here?

The plane made a scheduled stop in Athens ATH then on to Cairo CAI. We cleared customs and passport control. Unlike Europe they really look at your documents here. You have to buy a $2 cultural stamp to aid the reconstruction of Abu Simbel even though weren’t going there.  We got in at night. We took a taxi from the airport downtown.

With the help of a tout we found the Hotel Tulip. What a dump! The bathrooms were the worst. I hear it has improved. You still can’t beat the location, though. I think it cost $6 a night. KT held that over my head for years. Right in downtown Cairo at Midan Talaat Harb, not far from Tahrir Square. Tahrir square isn’t a square at all. It’s a traffic circle with a large pedestrian walkway.  Even then they were using a computer for check in at the hotel. Common now but not in 1982. Most places were still using those little cards.

Athough it means third war in Arabic Talaat Harb was a person. He set up the Bank of Egypt in the 1930’s.

Travel in the middle East is not as easy as in Europe. You are marked as a take from the beginning. Kids follow you around asking for bakshish–money.


Cairo We began our walking tour of Cairo with Garden City the embassy district. We learned the Arabic word for notebook, daftar they also use the French word or bloc-note. I need one to record my photographs. They have all kinds of interesting shops here, including dentists and prosthetic arms. We saw a really old jar of Tang in a window. The company I worked for at the time made an ingredient for Tang.Even then the banks were protected by machine gun nests.

That night we went to the island on the Nile. It is very hard walking around here because of the traffic. Went to the Nile Hilton for a beer. The food situation is very interesting. We have been eating a lot of falafel and chicken. Even though it is hot here, we have to keep covered up with long pants and long-sleeved shirts because of the sun. It is fun walking around and looking at things, because it is so different from home.  The farther South you go the hotter it gets. Thirty in Cairo, forty in Luxor, even hotter in the Sudan.

We saw the Mamluk treasures including the Mosque of Ibn Tulun and Sultan Hassan madrassa, near the Citidel of Cairo. One thing we missed which I wanted to see was the Coptic or Christian sites of Cairo. We just ran out of time.

Not far from Tahrir square are the headquarters of the Arab League and the American University of Cairo.  The AUC has a wonderful press to purchase books in English and Arabic.

Even though I studied Arabic at Regensburg, I can’t understand anyone here. Arabic is a digloss and the vernacular is impossible. It’s a completely different language. I studied modern standard Arabic or MSA.

The Egyptian museum was one of the highlights of the trip. Mummy of king Tut. It is full of antiquities. It was not far from our hotel.

Luxor  الأقصر or ancient Thebes is the home of the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and many other things such as the tomb of Queen Hatshepsut. The fifth pharaoh of the eighteen dynasty (New Kingdom) of Egypt. Wife of Tutmoses II, often considered one of the most successful pharaohs of Egypt and the first woman of history, even older than Cleopatra. She ruled 27 years in her own right after her husband’s death until usurped bby her son Tutmoses III. She lived 1550 bc. Her tomb was being excavated by the archeology society of Poland at Deir al-Bahri. One of the highlights of the trip for us. We had the whole place to ourselves.KT got her picture taken with the mummy for a dollar.

The Nile is fantastic and fits right in with my love of rivers. Like the Rhine the Nile flows from south to north. Luxor is in Upper Egypt, that is the south. Very important in ancient Egyptian history. The source of the Nile was unknown for centuries. It is one of the world’s largest rivers. Longer than the Mississippi.


There is no set fare for the ferry here. Everyday we paid half what we paid the day before and no one ever complained. We never saw what the Egyptians paid. You cannot drink the water or swim  in the Nile for fear of contracting schistosomiasis. A waterborne disease carried by snails. Treatment is difficult. It is a tropical disease affecting over 120 million people, mostly in Africa and Brazil. It’s nothing to be taken lightly.

You have to cross the Nile by boat to get to the side with the monuments. We rented bicycles to get around.  We rode our bikes by the Colossi of Memnon just like the 150 years old painting in the art museum in Saint Louis  they haven’t changed a bit. Erected 1350 BC they are the first things you see on the way to the Valley of the Kings. We have to be more careful KT is getting sick from the sun.

Medinet Habu and Karnak are one the right bank of the Nile they can be explored in the evening. There is also a nice museum in Luxor. Small but not as cluttered as the National Museum in Cairo.

We saw the famous Winter Palace Hotel. For people who come by boat from Cairo, the boat docks right there. the people get right off and enjoy a cold drink before sightseeing. We should have done that too. We are trying too hard to save money. It is our honeymoon after all.

We are staying at the Hotel Luxor. We learned or lesson in Cairo, we looked at the room first this time. After exploring Luxor for a few days, we headed south. The train made a stop in the interesting town of Kom Ombo. The farthest south  we made it was Aswan.

When we returned to Cairo we stayed at a hotel near the al Azhar University. The second hotel was much better. There was some kind of festival going on. It may have been Eid,  the end of Ramadan.

Does London remind anyone of Italy, 1974? 1974

7/27 Saturday London

Rome Piazza Navonna

Walked down Oxford Street today and then went to Harrod’s. I like going out by myself because I can do what I want. When I meet someone from the group I can stay with them awhile but I don’t feel obligated to stay with them. Harrod’s is really a fantastic place. I still can’t figure out its shape, but I think it’s square. When I ask people on the street where to get things, they name a few shops and then say “Try Harrod’s. It has everything.”

Went to Fortnum and Mason. What a fantastic store!

Men in morning suits assist people with their shopping. It’s really cute. The crowds are similar to those at Via Veneto, but not really. Anyone can walk along Via Veneto and window shop. Not everyone can or would come to Fortnum and Mason. People on Via Veneto are well dressed (those who buy), but in a different way. Some people send their butlers to Fortnum and Mason. No one would do that on VV. The FM crowd is more quaint the people are older and there are more women. Also, FM isn’t as crowed as VV.

The Kremlin Moscow

VV sells more clothes and other things than FM. FM is most famous for its food hall. Personally I like Fortnum and Mason better than the Via Veneto.

English: The Clock striking One at Fortnum and...

English: The Clock striking One at Fortnum and Mason (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I really liked Billy, the musical we saw. I thought I wouldn’t after seeing the pictures on the marquis. After the play Ann, Lisa and I went to Trafalgar Square and had a riot with the pigeons. I took a little boy’s picture and he thanked me in a cute way. When his sister told him people swam in the fountain on New Year’s Eve; he wanted to swim right away. I helped another boy fish tins out of the water.

The crowds at Trafalgar are different from those at Piccadilly. There are more English at Trafalgar and people of all ages. There are many more young people at Piccadilly. Many families come to Trafalgar. There are more typically English at Trafalgar and more children. From the above stories, I’ve decided people are friendlier at Trafalgar. I had no experiences with kids at Piccadilly. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean I don’t like Piccadilly. Piccadilly is more a night place. I was there during the day and it’s really different; nothing happens. We saw no student hangouts or squares in Moscow, or places where people really hang out, but then Red Square was closed.

The Kremlin seemed really empty, despite the long line everywhere in Russia I wouldn’t call a museum, store, etc. a hangout. Those people were there for a different reason. The Piazza Navona is similar to Trafalgar. There were lots of kids there too, but not with their families. There was a street soccer game. There were old people too, but there were fewer people at the Piazza Navona than a Trafalgar.

Kremlin and Piazza Navona

For Dinner we ate at a Chinese restaurant. I had roast duck that was really good. I tried the girls’ food too: Sweet and sour pork and curry chicken, which was also good. I also had Chinese tea, strange but good. After dinner the girls left and I went to Piccadilly. I saw a building on fire and watched that for awhile.

From what I’ve seen and heard people say, England (at least London) is a lot like the U. S, besides having a common language and history we share many of the same problems: Inflation, housing, pollution, and energy. From signs in the tube it looks like they’re having trouble with mass transit (not enough employees). On top of it all they have Ireland, a sore thumb like Watergate that no one really understands or can explain. Maybe there were the same similarities in other countries, but because of the language barrier I didn’t notice them (not being able to communicate with ordinary people or read signs or newspapers).

7/28 Sunday London

Cheri Queen of the Tootses

Sunday a day to relax. My first day of breakfast since Moscow. I had Corn Flakes. Was it good! Went to Hyde Park with Cheri ‘queen of tootses (toots (toots) pronunciation like took n. Slang. Babe; sweetie. Girl or young woman) , Kim, Susie, Lisa, David and me. Made a hilarious pose with a statue (wait till you see the pictures). Went for a rowboat ride and had a ball. My first time in a rowboat. Ate lunch in the park. Went to speaker’s corner. Located on the corner of Park Lane and Cumberland Gate, opposite Marble Arch tube, Speakers’ Corner is the spiritual home of the British democratic tradition of soapbox oratory.

Every Sunday since the right of free assembly was recognised in 1872, people from all walks of life have gathered to listen to speeches about anything and everything… and to heckle.

The coherence of the speakers varies greatly as do the topics of discussion, but as a whole it makes for great street theatre. So, if you have a burning desire to share your opinions with the world, take something to stand on and start pontificating.

Although Sunday morning is the best time to visit, speakers can now be found on the corner throughout the week.

What are you waiting for?

We saw communists and socialists, but the most interesting was the anti-American. We had just been in the Soviet Union so we had lots to say.

We had fun defending America against him, along with other people. One of his points was that America didn’t send enough aid to countries like Greece, Chile and Bangladesh. Then he contradicted himself by saying we were involved where we shouldn’t be. He said we had no business in other countries like Vietnam. Basically, when we weren’t involved we should have been and when we were we shouldn’t be. Despite what he had to say, the fun was in arguing with him. Even though, I didn’t agree with him, it’s good he had a chance to say it. Some of his speech was sarcastic and funny.
He said he was a CIA agent sent to start revolutions and wars in other countries. When he started attacking Blacks a Black man came over from another soapbox and they started arguing. It was hilarious.

After speaker’s corner I looked at the artwork on the railings and ran into Mr. Cordell. I bought a beautiful acid etching of the Tower Bridge.

For dinner we went to Oliver’s. I went on the metro and passed right by it. The food was good and I liked the dessert, especially. I think Susie had a good time for her birthday. After dinner Kent, Phil and I went out to a Pub and had two pints of beer apiece. We talked and listened to people and watched two dogs playing in the pub, one was a cute bulldog. When we got back we all had to go to the John so bad it was funny.