Alexandria

After living in Egypt for almost two years, I finally made it to the city of Alexandria.  Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt.  It is located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

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29511767_10155065166871082_3544319928393528554_n.jpgOur first stop was the Citadel of Qaitbey. The Citadel of Qaitbey was considered one of the most important defensive strongholds for Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea Coast. The Citadel was built on the exact site of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; the Lighthouse of Alexandria.  Some of the actual stones and bricks from the lighthouse were used to build the Citadel.

 

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Our final stop was the Library of Alexandria. The Royal Library of Alexandria was one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world.  The library is famous for having been burned down resulting in the loss of many scrolls and books.  Its destruction has become a symbol for the loss of cultural knowledge.  The library was later rebuilt and is a commemoration of the past Library of Alexandria.

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Jordan

One of the best parts about living in Egypt is the ability to travel on long weekends.  This long weekend I got together with two of my friends and flew to Jordan.  One of the items on my bucket list has always been to see Petra.  Many of you may know it from the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  The City of Petra was hidden in the mountains of Jordan for thousands of years when a young Swiss explorer Johan Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it in 1812. In the last scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade the Treasury serves as a secret temple lost for hundreds of year. And that is actually what it is.

26992235_10154922637361082_4609829483367128581_n.jpgWe flew into Amman and rented a car.  The next day we began the road trip to Petra. We stayed in a beautiful hotel right at the beginning of the walking path to Petra. Petra is half-built, half-carved into the rock, and is surrounded by mountains full of passages and gorges. There are dozens of tombs and carved or constructed structures and sites within Petra.  However, our first day it was pouring rain.  The path to Petra is made from rock so we were trudging through rushing water past our ankles.  The view, however, was worth it. The picture below is of the treasury of Petra.

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The next morning, we were up early to beat the crowds of tourists.  It was worth it to have the treasury, basically to ourselves.  Except for the camels of course.

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Next we climbed the trail ( uphill stairs for two hours) to reach the viewing point of Petra.  When we reached the top we had an amazing view, as well as tea from a friendly beduin.

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29345361_10155069592846082_475804711_n.jpgAfter spending the day at Petra, we headed back to Amman.  Before we flew back to Egypt, we made a detour to see the dead sea.  With 33.7% salinity, the dead sea is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water. Because of the high salt levels, nothing can live in the Dead Sea.  Its eastern shore belongs to Jordan, and the southern half of its western shore belongs to Israel. It is also the lowest elevation and is the lowest body of water on the surface of Earth.

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Even though it was a short trip, we were able to catch a glimpse of the culture and history of Jordan.

A Picture Perfect Christmas

Over Christmas, a friend and I travelled to South Africa and Zimbabwe. We had an amazing trip! One full of adventures and new experiences.

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Our trip began in Cape Town, South Africa.  Throughout our stay, we stayed in a variety of different hotels and hostels.  This was my first experience staying in hostels.  I found it was a great opportunity to meet new people.

 

 

In our first few days in Cape Town we took advantage of the walking tours to help

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introduce us to the city.  This helped us learn the history of South Africa and the city of Cape Town.  I was also very excited to see so much green.  The trees and gardens were a welcome sight after Egypt.

 

 

 

29345340_10155069461776082_1079495659_n.jpgOne of the areas we learned about on our walking tour was a popular daytime destination,  Bo-Kaap.  It is known for its narrow cobbled streets lined with colourful houses. The brightly coloured houses on either side of the street were to celebrate the district’s Muslim identity. In earlier days, all the houses of Cape Town were painted white. The change happened when the Bo-Kaap community residents bought their houses from the city council and as owners then decorated their own homes with bright colours as an expression of long-subdued individualism and a celebration of their new-found freedom.The Bo Kaap is also home to the countries oldest mosque.

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26993746_10155137323432483_3382572310563348690_n.jpgWhile in Cape Town we made the spontaneous decision to fly down to Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls.  Victoria Falls is the largest waterfall in the world and and one of the seven natural wonders in the world.  While there, we did a variety of different activities.  We did a sunset cruise down the river where we saw hippos, crocodiles, and other animals.  We did white water rafting down the Victoria Falls River.  This was quite the adventure, and my first time white water rafting. There were a variety of different rapids, each with its own unique name (each more terrifying than the last).  I found it to be a littler nerve racking to think that there were crocodiles in the water that we were falling into.  While in Zimbabwe my friend (who is much braver than I am) decided we needed to do the gorge swing over Victoria Falls.  At first, of course, I absolutely said no. However, I eventually decided that I would attempt it. Imagine swinging in a Screen Shot 2018-03-26 at 7.38.05 PM.pngchild’s swing in the playground…now imagine a giant swing 95m long and 120m high above water…now imagine a 70m free fall before you begin swinging. The Gorge Swing is suspended across the gorge at a point where the width is 316m and 120m deep. A harness is attached to the jumper and then the jumping ropes, the other end of which is pivoted to the middle of the cable. The jumper leaps off the edge of the gorge, free falling about 70m before going into a 95m long pendulum type swing.  My friend jumped immediately after being harnessed.  I was not so quick.  It took a long time of me standing and looking over the edge to be convinced.  It wasn’t until a 7 year old boy watching got bored and yelled, “someone push her” that I decided it was probably time for me to jump…  I am not able to upload the video of me jumping, but if you would like the video of me jumping please let me know!

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After our exciting time in Zimbabwe, we flew back to Cape Town.  We had a busy time checking items off our bucket list.  Our next trip was a road trip.  We hired a driver to take us to a few places around Cape Town. Our first stop was the beautiful Boulders Beach. It is one of Cape Town’s most visited beaches and the only place in the world where you get close to African Penguins.

 

After this stop, we continued to the Cape of Good Hope, which is a peninsula 29547276_10155069462851082_93786772_n.jpgjust outside the city of Cape Town in South Africa. The Cape of Good Hope is at the tip of the Cape peninsula and in the past marked the point where a ship traveling south from Europe turned east.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Next, we were off to cage diving with great white sharks.  The water was freezing and we had to be in wet suits.  The shark hit our cage and the fin touched my friends hand.  After jumping off the cliff at Victoria Falls, this was the least terrifying part of our trip.

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We spent Christmas Day having afternoon tea.  It was relaxing to spend the day with tea, and delicious food. A Christmas tradition I would like to continue.

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South Africa seemed to include a trend off jumping of cliffs.  One of the last activities we did in Cape Town was paragliding off of Table Mountain.  Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa.  Paragliding gave us a whole new view of the city.

Although the days were long and packed, the tours of these beautiful countries created memories that will last a lifetime.  Being on the bottom of the globe puts Africa into a new perspective

 

Look Who’s Here

In November, Johnathan came to visit me in Egypt! I was very excited to be able to share my favourite places in Egypt!

Johnathan and his friend came to meet my students.  My students were so excited, and made cards and pictures to welcome them.  They prepared questions to ask Johnathan, and of course challenged him to a game of soccer at recess.

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pyramids.jpgOur first destination was to the pyramids.  They were just as hectic as always.  People seem to want more pictures of foreigners, than of the pyramids.  At one point Keisha and Johnathan were posing for a photo holding a baby.  We visited the three pyramids, rode a camel, and saw the sphinx.

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16387975_10154199639612483_7428756906845612843_n.jpgJohnathan and Keisha visited Khan el-Khalili.  Khan is the largest market in Egypt.  No visit to Cairo is complete without a stop at the Khan El-Khalili bazaar. Shop owners calling you to their stalls, the scent of spices, the hustle and bustle of trade, and the many beautiful objects that can purchased will have you lost among alleys for hours. Put your haggling skills to the test when buying statuettes, spices, souvenirs, silver jewellery, t-shirts, galabiyyas, or handmade rugs and paintings.

We went for a felucca ride on the Nile, followed by my favourite restaurant in Cairo.  We took them for Lebanese food, where they tried chicken shawarma hummus, fresh Egyptian bread, and chicken fettah.  Johnathan, of course, wanted a burger and fries instead, but at least he tried new foods.

16830826_10154077097076082_1248299741416660389_n.jpgJohnathan and Keisha also took a trip to Luxor.  He visitedThe Karnack Temple, Luxor Temple,  Valley of the Kings, and took a hot air balloon ride over Vally of the Kings.

Even though I enjoy traveling overseas, nothing beats having family to spend time with and show them my life. Although it’s goodbye for now, I had a blast showing Jonathan my home, and even though it was new for him I am sure he enjoyed the sights and foods!

Lebanon

lebanon-map.gifMy first long weekend I spent in Beirut, Lebanon. Beirut is a short flight from Cairo and is one of the oldest cities in the world.  Our time there was spent site seeing, shopping and eating (mainly eating).  Lebanese food is my favorite cuisine.

IMG_5606.JPGOur hotel room had a beautiful view of the city, especially at night.  Our hotel also had a pool on the top floor.  The roof opened up to the sky with quite a view of the city. IMG_5640.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_5607.JPGThe city was much different from Egypt.  It was modern, clean, people followed traffic rules, and the city was very modern.  It was full of unique restaurants, coffee shops and buildings.  We spent the majority of our time wandering the streets.  IMG_5590.jpg

We also visited a stunning set of rocks called Pigeons’ Rock (also known as the Rock of Raouché).  They are located at Beirut’s western-most tip. The two huge rock formations stand tall out of the water.  We noticed that locals love to walk along the water during the day, and it is especially busy at sunset.

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The food was incredible! Lebanese food is popular in Egypt, but as I discovered, not as good as authentic Lebanese food in Lebanon. We tried many different restaurants from hole in wall restaurants we found on side streets, to fancy restaurants on the bay.  In Lebanon, meals usually start with mezze.  Mezze is a variety of small foods to start the meal.  These include dips such as hummas (made of blended chickpeas and typically eaten with pita bread.) or tabbouleh or fattoush (salads) or stuffed grape leaves.

Food Lebanon.jpgOur favourite restaurant served a variety of courses.  One of the first courses was garlic shrimp.  Our favourite order was shrimp fettah. Fettah is made differently depending on the country, but in Lebanon it has rice, some sort of meat, bread chips on top and yogurt.We returned to the same restaurant so we could eat it again.  The meal ended with an entire platter of fruit and a selection of dried fruit.  The serving size was enormous and we did not see anyone who even made a dint in their dessert.  As well as the fruit, we were also served a traditional Lebanese dessert.

Overall, my short trip to Lebanon left a lasting impression on me. From the unique architecture, natural coastline beauty, and authentic cuisine, I have marked this country as one that is definitely worth the trip back to. I only hope that the next time I return,  I am lucky enough to have a travel partner as amazing as mine was!

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Korea

Seoul is full of soul! Even on a cold winter’s day the city feels warm and alive with its fall colours and friendly people. After flying into the airport, the city is only a 45 minute train ride away, and then our hotel only 5 minute ride from the station! As we drove up, the hotel was lit like a winter wonderland, lights hanging from the trees out front looked like they came right out of the movies and ushered us into beautiful lobby with pillars towering throughout the lobby that lead right up to the Christmas tree! The entire hotel was decorated for Christmas.  Rising above the city was my room, situated on the 9th floor it gave the most impeccable city view with the ice rink, and sea of lit trees below. After a scrumptious lemon and salmon slab with cheesy mashed potatoes it was time for well-deserved rest!

The following day we went the N. Seoul tower in Nansam Park. It was a short ride up on the gondola with fascinating views of the urban metropolis sprawling out below us. The park was beautiful, being a mountain in the center of the city; it offers a breath of fresh air in the concrete jungle. Walking around gives beautiful views of the now seasoned cherry blossom trees, with their faded pink petal falling and landing all over the place. The fading color was not all lost though as all around the park is filled with the vibrant color of the love locks that fill the grounds with messages written on them. On a pathway that meanders through the trees, 24232466_10154802086721082_8251325290297702426_n.jpgI was able to place my own lock. Finally, we made our way up the tower on top of the mountain. Blasting of to the top of the tower the ride takes 20 seconds and includes a rather comedic lift off sequence. At the top of the tower there are no shortages of panoramic views. 360 degree views of Seoul give perspective to how large the city is and to the architecture within the city itself. Plastered on the windows of the tower are the names of major cities and how far away they are giving us a real idea of how far we have come from home!

 

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Next stop was Gyeongbokgung Palace, the central palace 24177048_10154802058106082_7471160437439914762_n.jpgthat houses Korea’s cultural heritage as well as its current President! The palace is made in a series of concentric rings leading all the way into is main building which houses the throne for the at the time emperor of Korea. The architecture of the buildings was amazing and the colours that 24232253_10154802058201082_1825795222709179582_n.jpgthey were painted in couldn’t be done justice by the meager cameras we used to show them off. After our food Korea.jpgwalkthrough of the palace we stopped for authentic Korean cuisine. As usual, one of my favourite parts of travelling is trying different kinds of food! Korean cuisine is largely based on rice, vegetables,  meats and soup. Traditional Korean meals are noted for the number of side dishes that are served with your meal.  One of those being Kimchi, which is salted and fermented cabbage.  I have a student in my class from Korea who just moved to Egypt.  Her family helped me plan where to go in Korea, and especially what foods to try.  She suggested a Korean style sushi roll filled with seasoned meats and vegetables called kimbap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the palace was the walking center of Myeondong. The 24294143_10154802058051082_5241760159006991354_n.jpgstreets were lined with store after store, and restaurant after restaurant, letting us feel like we were in a mall that was outside with snow falling above us. After a few rounds of Starbucks and an upcoming dinner reservation we headed back to the hotel. Arguably the fanciest dinner I have ever had, we 24231823_10154802057976082_4934397247845915051_n.jpgdressed up and went back to the tower. Only this time when we went up, it was even higher and, the floor was spinning! Our restaurant was revolving giving us a fully automated panoramic view of Seoul at night while we wined and dined on some very small portions!

The following day, we set off on the tour arranged by ur hotel (One of the most popular tours in Korea).   Our tour started early and drove us in a large tour bus out to the final stop on the Korean metro line to North Korea that was not operational.  Next was the 3rd infiltration tunnel that the north had dug into the South’s territory in hopes of getting a preemptive strike. We took a monorail down into the tunnel that was backbreakingly small in its height. Next was the lookout hill where we could use optiacals to see into the propaganda villages and the guard towers that litter the Demilitarized Zone. Finally after a quick lunch, we were on our way to the Border. Called the Demarcation Line, it is the literal line in the sand that divides North and South Korea.  After standing on the steps behind the infamous blue buildings we were able to take pictures of the north and their lone guard standing motionless outside their building. It was a sight to see. The South Korean soldiers were sharp as tacks as they watched the line and escorted us into the negotiation building. Once inside we circled around the table that is used for negotiation and it was explained to us how the discussions are done. No one sits at the head of the table except the translators and no one is allowed to cross the speaker wire that separates the table in two. After walking through building we finally got to “cross” the border (the other half of the room) and stand in North Korea.  We were then escorted out of the JSA and returned to Seoul for the remainder of our time in Korea.

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It was a short trip, but one packed with so many surprises and so many items crossed off the bucket list. Seoul was well worth the time and effort to view, and will forever be one of my favourite countries to visit.

 

Greece

 

IMG_5335.JPGThere is only one word to describe the Greek experience, and that word is; exquisite. From the architecture to the natural beauty, and from the food to the company I kept, the trip was nothing short of that. On a quick trip from Cairo to Athens, my crew of two and I landed and met a friend from my previous trip to Italy!

IMG_5285.JPGAthens, part city and part coast is situated right on the edge of the Aegean Sea, and has the feel of a coastal Mediterranean city that you might not expect from such a large and sprawling metropolis. Despite the sea of buildings that extend as far as the eye can see, Athens has another skyline. A picturesque rangeIMG_5287.JPG of mountains runs through and around the city giving the skyline a dramatic horizon. In the center rises the fantastic plateau of the Acropolis, arguably the most photographed site in the city, the Greek flag flies proudly over this landmark that is the symbol of IMG_5289.JPGdemocracy. The symbol for western democracy constructed around 2,500 years ago, is the Pantheon, a temple for the Goddess Athena, for which the city is named. From this site we trekked all around ancient Athens to the IMG_5303.jpghistorical sites that are now preserved and integrated into the city today. Totaling around 22 kilometers our group was tired, but it was well worth it to see the ancient city temples, centers, and most notably, the temple to the Greek god of gods, Zeus. The temple of Zeus lies in the heart of Athens and was to be dedicated to the god himself. Construction began around the year 100 B.C. the temple was one of the great projects of its time, being extraordinary in height and in the grandeur of the masonry on the columns. Sadly the temple was sacked for material and now remains as a few sanding columns on the original sight, though that shouldn’t discourage anyone from beholding the magnitude of their presence. As another installment of our walking tour, we came across the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown soldiers. Right next to the Parliament of Greece lays this memorial to those who fought for their Country of Greece and were not identified or who were never found. This tradition is common practice in many countries and is described as a great honor to be one of the guards selected to guard the tomb. The changing ceremony is very unique and a precise. As one could expect from the military the IMG_5318.JPGmovements of the soldiers as they march and maneuver towards the tomb and towards each other are sharp and highlight the amount of practice and discipline these Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 5.00.42 PM.pngmen have. The guards stand their post 24 hours a day 7 days a week never letting the memory fade, and is something that is thought provoking and very humbling to watch.

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On one of our days in Greece we took a full day boat cruise from Athens to  to Poros, Hydra and Egina in the Saronic Gulf.  At each of the islands we enjoyed time to stroll, sightsee, try different foods and even swim.

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IMG_5334.JPGGreek food was as delicious as I had heard it would be! I tried greek salad of course! Gyros: meat (pork) roasted on a vertically turning spit and served with sauce (often tzatziki) and garnishes (tomato, onions) on pita bread, IMG_5333.JPGor served as a sandwich wrapped in pita bread.  I also tried Moussaka an oven-baked layer dish (Close to lasagna).  There are two different kinds one with ground meat and one with eggplant . I IMG_5417.JPGtried Souvlaki which is grilled small pieces of meat (usually pork but also chicken or lamb) served on the skewer.

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Overall, my trip to Greece was beautiful (and I think I may have gained about 10 pounds with all the amazing food).  I can’t wait to go back and explore the next item on my bucket list….Santorini.