Friday, December 4, 2009
At the far end of the Corniche, there were some beautiful tiles set into long concrete walls. All of them were depicting life in Qatar; fruit seller, ocean scenes, beached dhows, various fish and other ocean animals. Absolutely gorgeous! Be sure to click on the picture so you can get a better view of the various tiles included here.
We spent the first hour sitting in the plane...waiting...and waiting... Apparently someone had checked in then disappeared so they had to unload to find his luggage. That wasn't bad but...we began to worry about our next flight from Bahrain to Jordan.We landed with 15 minutes to spare so we did the airport jog, weaving through people to get to our gate...to find that THAT plane was late :)
Jordan is very different from Qatar. There are far more mountains in the region around Amman. We are currently in the Dead Sea area, some 280m below sea level. It's quite warm and pleasant. Thanksgiving was spent overlooking the water, watching the sun set over the mountains of the West Bank.
We had a wonderful tour guide, Ahkmid, who was a fountain of knowledge - unbelievable what he knew and how he tied it all in together. He also knew the best places to take fabulous pictures, as well as how to get to the tops of rocks for the best views. We had a small group, only us and Yvonne and Claire, two women who work in Dubai. Absolutely a wonderful group to spend a day with.
Guess I'll start with the history lesson, courtesy of Ahkmid. This is, of course, the short version, skipping all sorts of stuff I'm sure Ahkmid said that I've sadly forgotten. Petra, located in the southern portion of Jordan, was originally settled by the Nabataeans, an ancient Arab tribe that settled in the area of Petra, a strategic location where trade routes that connected China and India to the Mediterranean met. They quickly took over the trade routes, levying tolls, protecting caravans and generally performing many services for the traders. This brought great riches to the area and allowed them to develop an amazing kingdom with influence from Greek, Romans, Christians and Muslims. Monuments they built showed classical Egyptian, Mesopotamian and local styles all fused into one piece - and we're talking at a grand scale. The magnificent Al-Khazneh, the treasury building, is 43m high!!
Not only did they build amazing buildings, they had an unbelievable plumbing system. The Wadi Musa (a wadi is a dry river bed and Musa refers to Moses - though there are disagreements as to which Moses it was named after) is subject to flash floods - to this very day. They built a dam to route the water around the long entrance to Petra itself, having it arrive in a controlled path where they could divert it as needed. (The original dam and created river course was discovered when they decided to build a dam to divert flood waters after a flash flood killed a group of people in Petra.)They used a dike system to bring water into the city and to the many buildings, complete with periodic sumps where the sand and heavier materials could settle out before the clean water continued into the city. The city itself is built into the many mountain cliffs and, not wanting to have to haul water up themselves, they built a siphon system, using terracotta pipes that were progressively smaller, allowing the water to travel uphill, thus furnishing homes and businesses with water!
The entry was through the As-Siq, a long, narrow gorge that extends about 1200 meters. It is on a geologic fault, so the sandstone cliffs on both sides have slipped past each other leaving gorgeously colorful rocks exposed, stiking terraces, odd placed trees and many carvings by the Nabataeans.It is amazing to be walking through the towering gorge with cliffs 80 meters high.
Thursday, December 3, 2009
The caves that dotted the hillside, everywhere there were homes or burial chambers or just...caves...the views from them were very interesting. This one is looking over the middle class burial vaults - had many of the same style of markings on them but the size was a fraction of the "royal" tombs.
Petra, in its heyday, had a population of around 20,000 people - not a small place. While the entrance area had many of the funeral structures for the wealthy families, once we passed the treasury and entered the main town, homes, shops and every day activities began to show up. They had a huge amphitheater that would seat 5,000 and a long shopping area (check out the picture of the outdoor shopping mall) where goods, food, and farming supplies were sold. Sadly few of the homes survived - a large earthquake had hit the area and most of the homes on the mountain had collapsed.
Getting to the castle was quite a trip - and I was REALLY thankful for all of my experiences with driving in Japan on the sidewalk sized streets. The road roamed around the hill, constantly climbing, weaving between parked cars, stopped cars - they stop here also, where they like, but they don't put on the blinkers so one never knows. We made it to the top of the hill, only to discover there are no parking lots...you just find a spot on the hill and stop. One enterprising cafe owner had a table sitting in the street. He immediately saw us, smiled, and moved the table for us. We were, of course, invited to dine at his restaurant once we had finished at the castle - which we gladly did!
Now...our hotel was right across from the main gate and was, appropriately, called "Hadrian Gate Hotel". It was built right on top of a outcrop of rocks and even has a cave underneath. Small hotel but the people were great!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Voyages out in the harbor at night are a bit different from the day. For a start it's much cooler - the setting sun and darkening sky sends promises of cooler weather. The dhow, cruising through the bay, creates its own breeze, keeping things cooler for all aboard. The open top - shunned by many in the heat of the day, was welcomed by all as a great, comfortable spot to sit, visit and enjoy a night away from reports, computers and never ending stacks of papers.
The skyline at Doha is in continuous development. People who have been here for years have memories of a flat, horizontal skyline of the city - (check out the sand dune with trees view) now it is filled with unique hi-rise towers being built for...??? Hmm....no one is sure of the answer to that...has someone already purchased the space? Are they hoping that if they build, someone will come? Are they competing with Dubai (their skyline is very similar...and very tall). We have dozens of buildings in the process of being completed - a crane skyline at the moment, though the cranes are mercifully hidden in the nighttime view.
Jeff, being the movie-goer, eagerly purchased tickets with our neighbor, Roeland, to view as many films as possible. I managed to join them for a few of them, though I admit, not many. They were interesting, some short clips, other longer, generally well done with a wide variety sources and settings. This particular festival included a lot of producers from the Middle East. They had some pretty outstanding films.
Saturday, October 24, 2009
The entire restaurant is a mirrored and tiled marveled. It's absolutely stunning (somewhere I read it was like close to a million dollars to build - I'd believe it). The food was great - most served family style which was very nice - a great chance to try different dishes. Great ending to our fun filled day.
It sounds so exotic, traveling in a dhow, out into the Persian Gulf, sails filled with the wind, birds wheeling overhead… however, things have changed. The sails are gone, the dhows are now fitted with engines which propel the boat at a respectable speed – you notice the cooling breeze but also the non-ending drone of the engine. I was quite surprised to see that the deck is not flat….it’s actually convex – good because the water would all rush to the sides, keeping the floor drier. Now the problem is they’ve covered it with outdoor carpet – nice under the feet but it tends to stay wet.
The first part of the trip was spent at the dock. We have moved to another part of the world and things work differently here. We had the people, we had the water and juice, people brought their picnic lunches and binoculars to watch for birds but the ice….was supposed to be delivered at 11:30….wasn’t…called…be there at 12:00…waited…as 12:30 we finally left. I’m sure there was a van driving around sometime later with a bunch of ice in the back…melting.
This is a shot of our sister ship (with the Doha Skyline) – they were virtually identical except on top – they had more cushions! You can see the nice covered areas and long benches which made it very easy for everyone to have a great seat. While I think they could have held more people, it really was nice to have the space to move around, upstairs for better pictures and back down for the shade. It really wasn’t a hot day, though if you stayed up top all the time you would have thought differently. The wonderful breeze kept it delightful throughout the trip.
They do have quite an efficient system for heading out to sea. Before you actually leave the Doha port area and enter the gulf, they have a Coast Guard station. All of the boats have to check out and if the sea is too rough, they won’t let you go. When we returned, they checked us off again. It’s a great way to reduce the casualties as well as to know if there’s a boat out there that might be in trouble.
Now…the birds…I do mention them a bit more in the next post…mentioning surprise etc. Tried to post this one there too but it just doesn’t seem to want to take 4 pictures so…I’ll add it here, especially since a picture of the Coast Guard station doesn’t seem too snazzy. These birds were found all over the place, we think they might be a gull of some sort but since we aren’t the bird watchers, we identified them as the samurai birds – the black on their heads just seemed to invite that description. If I figure out what they are, or someone who is a bird watcher comments and tells me, I’ll correct my entry.
Now…the main purpose of the trip was bird watching. I am sure most of you who know us will be wondering what in the world we were doing going bird watching. Well, besides the birds, it was a great excuse to get out, take a trip in the gulf, see some new things and talk to people who are not just teachers (there is a life outside the school but sometimes I think we forget that). Hmmm….that did present some problems because we brought school with us. Barb and Linda both teach at the school – Barb is our fearless team leader for grade 3 while Linda is up in the HS. Guess we brought all levels along since Jeff is at the MS. That said, we spent a good part of the time just enjoying the warmth, the conversations with others and discovering that we don’t have the eagle eyes. The naturalist on our boat located some dolphins but, sad to say, we didn’t get to see them ourselves.
As the sun drifted into the horizon, we returned to the port, tired but refreshed.