Posts Tagged ‘travel’

R&R in Damascus—الإستراحة والإرتياح في الشام

Friday, June 26th, 2009
damascus5

Our day in Damascus was slow, easy and relaxing. We wandered again around the old city, visiting the palace of As`ad Pasha al-Azem, the 18th century governor of Damascus. It was bigger and more elabrate architecturally than its smaller cousin that I wrote about in Hama, but the latter had been more carefully restored and, on a purely aesthetic level, found it more impressive. This Azem Palace in Damascus was more like a museum, with the focus being on the objects filling the rooms, and less on the rooms themselves. The cheezy dioramas were still there, and there were a great many artifacts that had been left in the old house or recovered from elsewhere. There were copious signs detailing the historical context of this period of the Ottoman Empire, although there was only passing mention of the diversion of resources (including the cutting off of Damascus’s public water supply) that was necessary to build this magnificent palace. What mention there was of such matters was left unexamined, while other signs made note of all the luxurious appointments built into the palace, such a retreat and respite being a virtual necessity for a man holding such grave daily responsibility as the Pasha. What a bunch of hogwash.

Perhaps the reader is thinking, “and what about you, o intrepid traveler? What has been so taxing about three weeks of vacation (and two more to go), wandering about the countryside of Syria, treated as a guest of honor wherever you go, that you should be in need of such ‘rest and relaxation’ in Damascus?” Touché, dear reader, touché. And it is not without a twinge of guilt that I announce that I’ll be giving up on the part of this trip that has been genuinely challenging: the cycling. Between my bum knee and Elaina’s “delicate constitution”, as she puts it (with a touch of irony, I presume), cycling through the much less hospitable (in terms of the terrain and the elements) territory of Jordan seems like stubborn folly. Instead, we’ll be doing the unthinkable: renting a car. It’s a little more than we’d like to spend, but will allow us to visit the sort of out-of-the-way places we might have hoped to have seen by bike, and is certainly cheaper than a knee operation.

With that in mind, the only obligation we spent the day attending to was figuring out how to get ourselves to Amman via bus (it was not possible to rent a one-way car to al-Aqaba from Damascus). The rest of the day was spent wandering, resting, relaxing and generally vacationing, in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Try not to let your jealousy get to you.

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Trip to Upper Egypt & Sudan—رحلة إلى الصعيد و السودان

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Derailed - 11

This is coming a bit late, but I wanted to get some photos up from our recent trip to Upper Egypt and the Sudan.  Adrienne has a more of the story here. (more…)

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New Year’s Resolutions—عزائم للعام الجديد

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

My apologies to those who had been following my blog and were disappointed to find that I wasn’t updating since last spring.  My access to the internet over the summer while I was bopping about North America was somewhat limited and it became difficult to get back in the habit of posting when internet was available again.  In addition to this, I groaned every time I thought about trying to critically engage with the dominant political discourse around the US elections or the “world financial crisis”, a phrase I became tired of just as quickly in Arabic as in English. (more…)

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Collecting places—مجموعة الأمكنة

Sunday, November 4th, 2007

States I’ve Visited

There’s something insidious about this website (click on the map to go to it) that will generate such a map for you based on the states you click, designed for you to be able to show off the states you’ve visited (there is another version for the world traveler).  And, no, it’s not because all of the states are red.  It’s because it is one of the most crass illustrations of that crass urge of so many tourists and travelers (I engage in it myself) to collect places—their cultures, their terrains, their vistas—as so many notches on the belt, as so many state-shaped vinyl stickers on the back of the recreational vehicle.  (more…)

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