Tunisia, 1997

I spent more than a month in Tunisia in January and February of 1997. I had originally intended to be in Tunisia for about 10 days.

According to the then current edition of the Lonely Planet guide to North Africa, Tunis was the best place to get a visa for visiting Libya. In actuality when I went to the Libyan embassy I was told in blunt terms that they would not issue me a visa. No explanation was offered. So that’s how I came to spend over a month in Tunisia.

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Morocco, 1997

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I visited Morocco for 3 weeks in January of 1997. As it turned out this was during the Muslim month of Ramadan during which business hours, train and bus schedules, and visiting times for tourist sites are reduced. Fortunately this meant that there were fewer tourists around. Unfortunately, it meant that I would not have time to visit every place I had hoped to.

During Ramadan Muslims are prohibited from allowing anything to pass between their lips from sunrise to sunset. So no eating, drinking, or smoking is allowed. This only applies to the local populace and no non-Muslim visitors are expected to adhere to these strictures. I was able to eat and drink in restaurants during daylight hours without attracting any notice.

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Jordan, 1989

ancient sculpture at Petra, Jordan



I entered Jordan at the port of Aqaba on the Red Sea in February, 1989. From there I made my way to the village of Wadi Musa which is a base for visiting the ancient ruined city of Petra.

Petra was established by a people known as the Nabataeans and it was an important hub along trade routes running between India, the Arabian peninsula and Rome and Alexandria. From Yemen came incense and aromatic plants such as aloe and myrrh. Spices were transported from India and dispersed throughout the Mediterranean world.

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Syria 1989

Syria is not what you could call a tourist hot spot. With a long standing reputation as a brutally repressive regime that lends support to various terrorist organizations , Syria just wouldn’t strike most people as a nice place to visit. Of course right now there’s a bloody civil war taking place in Syria so it’s most definitely off limits presently. Politics aside, I can only say that I really enjoyed my stay there which was long before the war now underway.

With the almost complete lack of foreign visitors I felt as if I had the place to myself. On top of that, I found the people there to be friendly and they were often quite curious about me as a Westerner. Because there were practically no tourists there was a very refreshing lack of hustlers looking to cajole a few bucks from naive visitors. Nobody was interested in over-charging me or treating me as a walking wallet. After a month in Egypt I really appreciated that.

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Egypt 1989

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Ever since I was a kid I dreamed about seeing the ruins of ancient civilizations. I was a history buff back then and I still am. No place offers more opportunities to explore the remains of long lost cultures than Egypt so it was a real thrill for me to arrive there.

My introduction to Egypt was Cairo. It’s a city that’s noisy, crowded, dirty, and generally chaotic but if you’re looking to escape the ordinary and explore around it offers some fascinating neighbourhoods. There’s an old Christian Quarter, a Muslim Citadel, and a camel market (not for the queasy). I really regret not making time to visit the City of the Dead which is a vast cemetery inhabited by both the living and yes, the dead.

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