Egypt: Pyramids and a Revolution

iphone-20120513200017-1.jpg
iphone-20120513200017-2.jpg
iphone-20120513200017-3.jpg

15 May 2012

Egypt is a country in transition. The recent revolution has left the infrastructure in disarray. The first thing you notice is the trash. The previous waste management company was fired and the new one seems to be still negotiating terms, while the city of Alexandria is drowning in a sea of trash. Looks like the perfect recipe for a plague. Add to that the economic depression and you observe that virtually all new construction was abandoned for financial or tax reasons. There are so many vacant building the city looks more like a Third World country and many areas look like a war zone. What a shame for a country with such a long and honored history. It was sad to see.

In twelve hours we traveled from Alexandria to the Pyramids and the Sphinx, then to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Tourism is a leading industry and last year they had almost none. Though it has returned some this year (post-revolution) it is still significantly reduced. I see no reason for that to change, unless there is significant change internally. There is a level of desperation existing just below the surface that shows itself at times and could lead to significant chaos. Though the leadership and intellectuals try to suppress it with rhetoric like "Muslims + Christians equal Egypt" or future hope. With locals rejecting the low-grade fuel forced on them, the infrastructure in disarray, and an uncertain economic future, I am discouraged about the country's prospects and would not return.

The pyramids were impressive as you neared them. Surprisingly they are adjacent to town. The vendors are the most aggressive, rude, and persistent I have encountered anywhere. Most of which I attribute to the above circumstances.

The Egyptian Museum is in such disrepair and lack of maintanence that they decided to relocate it to a new facility somewhere rather than attempt to restore. I preferred the British Museum or the traveling exhibit, which is a shame for it was once one of the great museums of the world. What I thought would be a highlight of this trip, may be its greatest disappointment.

Cynthia Whitcomb, screenwriter and playwright, who is teaching our writing group during the cruise, checked off "ride a camel" from her bucket list.

Fortress of Louisbourg

August 12, 2010 Lousibourg, Cape Breton, NS

Louisbourg RV Park on the waterfront:

From the wharves we can see the Fortress of Louisbourg looming over the sea.

Louisbourg is the largest reconstructed 18th-century French fortified town in North America.

The French came to Louisbourg in 1713 after loss of territory to the English in Newfoundland and Acadia (Nova Scotia) in the War of the Spanish Succession. Louisbourg soon became France's most important stronghold and seaport in the Atlantic on account of trade and the thriving fishing industry.

In addition to arms and imported goods, livestock and gardens were integral to the community's health and survival.

By 1760 the English ruled and the fortifications lay in ruin. The reconstruction and reenactments are based on life as it was in 1744.

Red Coat and Blue Coat interpreters march, pipe, drum and fire off a cannon.

Lloyd buys bread the size, and half the weight, of a cannonball. And about the equivalent in flavour.

Jay's workout for the day: cannonball presses.

The crier reads aloud from a scroll which states that the guy in white stole a bottle of wine. The French officers will parade him through the streets, drumming all the way, then fasten him to a pole with an iron collar where he will serve his time: 2 hours a day for several days. In fact, he served five minutes before the interpreters ignored the unsympathetic crowd and let him go.

Jay writes his name with a quill pen next to the recently freed thief.

Since we couldn't elect Eric for public punishment we ordered him into the lime kiln for a time out. ;)

Back at the campsites, the boys strum it up. It's difficult to see, but Jay and Eric each trade a hand to play: Jay's left hand plays Eric's fretboard and vice versa (their right hands strum their own guitars).

In the evening we attended a ceilidh next door at the Louisbourg Playhouse featuring Jason Kempt, Beverly MacLean, Erin Martell, Lyndon MacKenzie, and Troy Young. Celtic music is expected and oatcakes hoped for, but this ceilidh included a box drum called a cajón and comedic costumed sketches too.

In the morning we had time to enjoy the sun and cereal by the sea.

-P

Glimpses

July 29, 2010 Lunenburg, NS

Glimpses, presented by AllsWell Productions, is back for a third season at the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Glimpses offers a great introduction to Lunenburg, or a refresher, on the local history and characters in a script, song and slides format. It's one of the better edutainment performances we've seen, and one of the funniest. Good times!

"All the songs are original from the pens of Hank Middleton, Vince Morash, Sherry Dean, Dave Brumwell, and (our friend) Jon Allen. Admission has been by donation with a portion of the proceeds going to local historical societies."

Jay didn't waste any time finding a jam session. Hank Middleton, the feature musician for the night's performance, jams with Jay while some of the cast grooves along in the background after the show.

-P

Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic

July 29, 2010 Lunenburg, NS

Exploring the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic is an ideal activity on a humid grey day, and more of a pleasure with family (Tina, Dwayne, Shannon, Coletyn) ...

... and friends.

That's the Faires family in Cape Sable's wheelhouse.

Here, our 3 year old nephew Coletyn hoists a lobster and trap into a fishing boat while big sis Shannon watches on.

Coletyn hoists a sail, many times, with sound effects. So cute.

No one else in the family cared to face their weight.

My oldest brother, Dwayne, and my niece, Shannon, try to coax Coletyn to look through the whale's eye, but he's busy scooping sand from the sandbox inside the whale.

Three floors of exhibits and many interactive attractions.

Shannon and Dwayne board Cape Sable while the Faires's and Lloyd head down the wharf toward the boat building barn.

Little dory man.

-P

"Shadow Country" Country

February 27, 2010 We listened to Peter Matthiessen's "Shadow Country" en route to Chokoloskee Island, to stretch our Chokoloskee Island experience.

"In 1898, 42-year-old Edgar J. Watson became a living legend when a book credited him with shooting the outlaw queen Belle Starr nine years earlier. The descendant of a prominent South Carolina family, the legal or common-law husband of five women, the father of possibly 10 children, a leading pioneer on the southwest coast of Florida and a man killed by a large group of his neighbors in 1910 ..." in the land of walking trees, the mangroves.

Established in 1906, the Smallwood Store Ole Indian Trading Post and Museum stayed open and active until 1984.

Here we were told that Chokolskee isn't really an "island" at all, rather just a huge mound of seashells accumulated by early inhabitants, the Native Americans, with a smattering of soil on top.

In 1887 Ruby Tigertial, a Seminole native, wore at least two hundred strings of beads. "It was an effort for her to move her head ..."

Not a fitting souvenir for two vegetarians: "White Trash Cooking I" and "II".

Ha ha ha! Okay, not so funny... kinda creepy.

-P

Darrell Scott & Kenny Malone Jammin at Hippie Jacks

Tonight's entertainment was an extraordinary concert in the lower level of the TN State Museum by Darrell Scott on acustic, baritone, and steel guitar and Kenny Malone on percussion. The two rocked the house with several standing ovations. Kenny is a Nashville session icon and has backed many of the greats like Ray Charles and Marty Robbins. Darrell is a Grammy nominated song writer and sang many of his original songs from both his past and upcoming double album. The concert was filmed with five HD cameras to be televised on the PBS Jammin at Hippie Jack's. Jack Stoddart from the previous post is the original Hippie Jack. He and his family host and film the concerts on his farm in the Tenessee mountains.

We sat next to a young woman who is a river biologist for the state. She collects, counts, and records the insect populations of the middle Tennessee rivers and streams. We learned tonight that a river is any body of water that flows for more than 99 miles and everything 99 miles and less is a stream. There is no telling the knowledge you can gain visiting a museum. Tomorrow the Grand Old Opry. -L

Adding my two cents... Darrell has "a collection of weird instruments" including baritone guitars and an aluminum guitar - bright green and thick with a hollow neck and a hubcap for a resonator plate. We wish we had a photo of the guitar to show you. We do have a photo of Darrell and Kenny:

Darrell's best instrument might be his fine-tuned voice - full, layered and rich.

-P

Darrell Scott & Kenny Malone Jammin at Hippie Jacks

Tonight's entertainment was an extraordinary concert in the lower level of the TN State Museum by Darrell Scott on acustic, baritone, and steel guitar and Kenny Malone on percussion. The two rocked the house with several standing ovations. Kenny is a Nashville session icon and has backed many of the greats like Ray Charles and Marty Robbins. Darrell is a Grammy nominated song writer and sang many of his original songs from both his past and upcoming double album. The concert was filmed with five HD cameras to be televised on the PBS Jammin at Hippie Jack's. Jack Stoddart from the previous post is the original Hippie Jack. He and his family host and film the concerts on his farm in the Tenessee mountains.

We sat next to a young woman who is a river biologist for the state. She collects, counts, and records the insect populations of the middle Tennessee rivers and streams. We learned tonight that a river is any body of water that flows for more than 99 miles and everything 99 miles and less is a stream. There is no telling the knowledge you can gain visiting a museum. Tomorrow the Grand Old Opry. -L

Adding my two cents... Darrell has "a collection of weird instruments" including baritone guitars and an aluminum guitar - bright green and thick with a hollow neck and a hubcap for a resonator plate. We wish we had a photo of the guitar to show you. We do have a photo of Darrell and Kenny:

Darrell's best instrument might be his fine-tuned voice - full, layered and rich.

-P

The King's Rides

Elvis had a lot of toys. He had dune buggies, a go-cart, tractors, a pedal car, a skidoo converted to drive on grass, and some "normal" stuff too. Thirty-three of those toys are featured in the Car Museum.

The pink cadillac:

The car below is my favourite vehicle, which has everything to do with the colour, but my favourite feature of the car museum is the home movies, movies that Priscilla and Elvis's friends filmed. They show him at home. He liked to play.

And he had custom jets.

The Lisa Marie (No interior photos allowed. Elvis had all kinds of controls to play with in the cabin. Inside, the Lisa Marie is groovy, and brown.):

One day Elvis realized that his little daughter had never seen snow so he loaded up the family into the jet Lisa Marie and flew to Colorado. Little Lisa Marie played in the snow for a few minutes then everyone piled back into the plane and zipped home again.

Elvis's other jet is a Lockheed Jet Star and this is her cockpit (which looks like something I would see in a nightmare):

Here's her cabin:

Elvis hardly used the Jet Star. Why would he when the Lisa Marie had "a luxuriously appointed living room, conference room, sitting room, and private bedroom, as well as gold-plated seatbelts, suede chairs, leather covered tables, 24-karat gold-flecked sinks and more."? Instead, Colonel Parker, Elvis's manager, and staff shuttled in the Jet Star from city to city, wherever the concert tour took them.

-P

The King's Rides

Elvis had a lot of toys. He had dune buggies, a go-cart, tractors, a pedal car, a skidoo converted to drive on grass, and some "normal" stuff too. Thirty-three of those toys are featured in the Car Museum.

The pink cadillac:

The car below is my favourite vehicle, which has everything to do with the colour, but my favourite feature of the car museum is the home movies, movies that Priscilla and Elvis's friends filmed. They show him at home. He liked to play.

And he had custom jets.

The Lisa Marie (No interior photos allowed. Elvis had all kinds of controls to play with in the cabin. Inside, the Lisa Marie is groovy, and brown.):

One day Elvis realized that his little daughter had never seen snow so he loaded up the family into the jet Lisa Marie and flew to Colorado. Little Lisa Marie played in the snow for a few minutes then everyone piled back into the plane and zipped home again.

Elvis's other jet is a Lockheed Jet Star and this is her cockpit (which looks like something I would see in a nightmare):

Here's her cabin:

Elvis hardly used the Jet Star. Why would he when the Lisa Marie had "a luxuriously appointed living room, conference room, sitting room, and private bedroom, as well as gold-plated seatbelts, suede chairs, leather covered tables, 24-karat gold-flecked sinks and more."? Instead, Colonel Parker, Elvis's manager, and staff shuttled in the Jet Star from city to city, wherever the concert tour took them.

-P

Elvis Lives: The King and Pop Culture

The trophy building exhibits an enormous collection of gold records and awards. Every wall looked like this:

Or this:

A gorgeous Gibson guitar, just one of an extensive envy-inducing collection:

Jay Faires, how do you like that one?

Since we're film fanatics and since everything in this museum is a little ... before my time, I especially enjoyed the Elvis in Hollywood Exhibit and the old movie posters.

That one makes me giggle... :D

This one probably does nothing for you, but I felt a little flutter in my heart:

They're movie scripts. :)

Stay tuned. More to come.

-P

Elvis Lives: The King and Pop Culture

The trophy building exhibits an enormous collection of gold records and awards. Every wall looked like this:

Or this:

A gorgeous Gibson guitar, just one of an extensive envy-inducing collection:

Jay Faires, how do you like that one?

Since we're film fanatics and since everything in this museum is a little ... before my time, I especially enjoyed the Elvis in Hollywood Exhibit and the old movie posters.

That one makes me giggle... :D

This one probably does nothing for you, but I felt a little flutter in my heart:

They're movie scripts. :)

Stay tuned. More to come.

-P

The King

Memphis has a host of kings: The King of Beale Street (Preston Shannon), B.B. King (also The King of Blues), Martin Luther King, but my mother first acquainted me with the Memphis king that stole her heart, The King of Rock-n-Roll.

Source: www.elvis.com

We had to "do" Graceland. We enjoyed it even more than we expected for the fact that we learned more about the man himself. As for the Graceland tour, big-haired women corralled us through the main floor of the house in 10-15 minutes I think. Check it out:

The living room just beyond the foyer to the right:

To the left, the dining room:

The kitchen just down the hall:

We weren't allowed upstairs. The guide said, "It's private." Um. Okay.

What I'll call Elvis's playroom, where he could watch all three channels (the only three channels that existed at the time) at once:

Folded fabric covers the walls and the ceiling in the billiard room.

The Jungle Room (my personal favourite), where wood monkeys grin all around and green shag covers the floor, and the ceiling:

The Graceland Platinum tour includes:

  • an audio-guided tour of Graceland Mansion and grounds
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' two custom airplanes
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' Automobile Museum
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis in Hollywood Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis Lives: The King and Pop Culture Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Private Presley Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of '68 Special Exhibit

So. More to come...

-P

The King

Memphis has a host of kings: The King of Beale Street (Preston Shannon), B.B. King (also The King of Blues), Martin Luther King, but my mother first acquainted me with the Memphis king that stole her heart, The King of Rock-n-Roll.

Source: www.elvis.com

We had to "do" Graceland. We enjoyed it even more than we expected for the fact that we learned more about the man himself. As for the Graceland tour, big-haired women corralled us through the main floor of the house in 10-15 minutes I think. Check it out:

The living room just beyond the foyer to the right:

To the left, the dining room:

The kitchen just down the hall:

We weren't allowed upstairs. The guide said, "It's private." Um. Okay.

What I'll call Elvis's playroom, where he could watch all three channels (the only three channels that existed at the time) at once:

Folded fabric covers the walls and the ceiling in the billiard room.

The Jungle Room (my personal favourite), where wood monkeys grin all around and green shag covers the floor, and the ceiling:

The Graceland Platinum tour includes:

  • an audio-guided tour of Graceland Mansion and grounds
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' two custom airplanes
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis' Automobile Museum
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis in Hollywood Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Elvis Lives: The King and Pop Culture Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of Private Presley Exhibit
  • a self-guided tour of '68 Special Exhibit

So. More to come...

-P

Taos Pueblo

May 7, 2009 Pueblo means an American Indian settlement in southwestern U.S. and the members of the settlement. There are 22 "Pueblos, Tribes and Nations" in New Mexico. Each Pueblo has a distinct community and language. The origin of Taos Pueblo dates back to approximately 1000 AD and can be toured for a small fee plus a $5 charge for each personal camera you will use.

Very few of the 2800 Native American Pueblo residents live in the old section pictured in this post. Those that live in the old adobe buildings are chiefly artists and vendors who sell silver and turquoise jewelry, wood and hide drums, moccasins, dream catchers, beadwork, painted pottery, baked goods, and antiques.

An oven and drying racks in the plaza, sandwiched between the river and dwellings:

nm-p--090507-0043

One of many friendly Pueblo artists and me wearing one of his creations: a silver and turquoise necklace.

nm-p--090507-0047

Most of the residents live in modern homes on Pueblo land, within a three mile radius of the old adobe buildings. All that we met seemed glad to tell us of their customs and creations. Even the dogs were sociable - dogs galore, but none of the barking variety (not sure if they were that well trained or just drained from the heat and constant wind).

Saints in the church below are costumed according to season. About 90% of the Pueblo Indians are Catholic, yet they mesh Christianity with their own religion, which has a strong identification and correlation between Mary and Mother Earth. The residents are very secretive about their religion for fear of "exploitation", a wariness harboured since the Spanish Inquisition.

nm-p--090507-0032

Every structure is made of adobe: a dirt, straw and water mix shaped into blocks or poured into some other form. The walls can be several feet thick. Roofs are typically supported by large timbers and topped by smaller branches of pine and/or aspen and packed with dirt.

An oven in front of residents's galleries/shops/workrooms:

nm-p--090507-0039

A Tribal Council appoints a Tribal Governor and War Chief each year, but this system is strained and criticized by the younger generation, particularly the young women who are the most educated of the population. The young complain that "the elder men who make up the Tribal Council have a system for keeping themselves in power," "they keep the women out," "They buy laptops and don't even know how to use them - not even email," "we cannot progress," etc. It's a lamentable governing situation that will not hold up for long.

nm-p--090507-0038

Tiwa is the native language spoken in the Taos Pueblo. English and Spanish also have their place.

nm-p--090507-0044

The church below was built in 1619 then bombed in the 1680 Spanish Revolt and left to Nature. The cemetery is considered a resting place. Therefore, residents only enter the sacred ground twice a year for specific ceremonies and the greenery is left to grow freely. The gravesites are "reused" and when the crosses weather to decay they are stacked against the old church wall.

nm-p--090507-0042

The best bet is a one hour guided tour. The second best bet is the blue corn fry bread with honey and cinnamon (even with a constant sprinkle of dust devil)!

-P

Taos Art Museum and Fechin House

May 6, 2009 The Taos Art Museum fills the old studio and house built by Nicolai Fechin in the late 1920s and early 30s. "Born in Russia, Fechin is one of the most important portrait painters of the 20th Century. His paintings of Native Americans and of the New Mexico desert landscape are considered among his best works."

taos-090505-0040

The building itself is a grand mix of Russian, Native American and Spanish architecture and symbolism.

taos-090505-0004

An example of the intricate carving in a pilar:

taos-090505-0023

About 50 Taos artists are represented in the museum along with with Fechin's works.

taos-090505-0005

The room below, our favourite perhaps, served as a playroom for Fechin's daughter.

taos-090505-0021

-P

Blumenschein Home and Museum

May 6, 2009 We toured the Blumenschein Home and Museum by chance.

nm-p--090506-0031

Technically, the museum was closed for renovations, but we happened by as an elderhostel group appeared for a private tour. We were invited to tag along.

taos-090506-0006

In this case I think we admired the fireplaces more than the art collection:

taos-090506-0017

taos-090506-0018

Ernest Blumenschein and friend Bert Phillips were on a sketching trip in 1898 from Denver to north Mexico when the wheel of their surrey broke on a mountain road just north of Taos. During the delay they became enchanted by the local landscape and culture. Blumenschein returned to Taos with his wife and daughter in 1919 and bought this 1797 building. Mrs. Blumenschein was an artist in her own right and the family's art hangs on every wall.

The painting studio set up that Lloyd admired:

taos-090506-0022

-P

Dinosaur Science with Dr. Spencer Lucas

May 1, 2009 Dr. Spencer Lucas, husband of Yami, paleontologist, stratigrapher, lecturer, author, friend, and more, is a Curator of Paleontology at New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque. Spencer "specializes in the study of late Paleozoic, Mesozoic and early Cenozoic vertebrate fossils and continental deposits, particularly in the American Southwest." and has travelled all over the world, including our beloved Nova Scotia, for work and research: "Go to Joggins," he says.

Needless to say, we jumped at the chance when he invited us for a behind the scenes tour of the museum - a bright highlight of our New Mexico stay.

Spencer explained (quite eloquently yet in clear terms even we could understand) how a fossil is protected and excavated from a dig site . A fossil is blanketed by paper, burlap, plaster and, in this case, a wood frame since it's a large fossil, which forms a "jacket".

nat-history-090501-0013

More than 100,000 fossils and fossil casts reside in this room:

nat-history-090501-0028

Spencer chose a few to explain the dinosaur, the function, the dig for the fossil. Fascinating!

This is one of Spencer's favourite fossils. It's just one small section of the backbone of a Seismosaurus, if I recall correctly. The fossil weighs thirteen tonnes! It was shipped to and from Japan in those metal supports.

nat-history-090501-0024

Here's a full size Seismosaurus, "the longest land animal that ever lived". It has a whiplash tail ...

nat-history-090501-0051

... and is about to take out the pesky Saurophaganax, "the largest Jurassic meat-eating dinosaur".

nat-history-090501-0058

Here they are ignoring the tasty little man below:

nm-p--090501-0002

We had an awesome edutainment experience with our esteemed guide.

We thank you, Spencer!

-P

Alamogordo, NM

March 30, 2009 Alamogordo was the first test site for the atomic bomb in July 1945.

In 1954 Colonel John Paul Stapp rode a rocket sled just outside Alamogordo that decelerated from 632 to 0 miles per hour in one and one-quarter seconds. "His body experienced 46.2 times the force of gravity, in essence making him weigh 6,800 pounds for that brief time. At the time he was leading an Air Force team investigating the effects on the body of high altitude ejection seats."

Just over seven years ago Alamogordo made the news when Christ Community Church held a public book burning. What was thrown on the heap? The Harry Potter series, Stephen King's novels, Star Wars stuff, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare", a ouija board. However, protestors responded: "Cash donations were made to the library, and library director Jim Preston said, "With this money we are purchasing additional copies of Harry Potter, Tolkien, and Shakespeare." So there.

Alamogordo is a good home base for touring the area: hikes, parks, and science-based museums. We've hit the highlights and head out in the morning.

In the meantime, today's a good day to concentrate on work in light of blustery weather. However the sun has made an appearance so we took advantage and snapped a few photos here at Alamogordo Roadrunner Campground.

imgp8257

The yucca is New Mexico's state flower.

imgp8254

imgp8253

imgp8258

Heading back to our site, this little Gambel's Quail let out a "KAA". That little topknot - so cute. :)

imgp8261

-P