Detroit, 2010

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Detroit: Blighted But Also Blessed

My parents used to live close to Detroit on the Canadian side of the border in a town called Sarnia. That’s not where I grew up. It’s just where my parents retired to.

On one of my annual visits to see my parents I thought it would be a good idea to travel the short distance to Detroit and spend a few days there. Why not? It was just over the horizon after all. I booked a hotel online and headed across the border. This was on a Sunday in March, 2010.

After I was checked into my hotel I grabbed my camera bag and went out to have a look around. Downtown Detroit was deserted. I saw more cars than people, and I didn’t see many cars. I could walk for blocks without seeing any sign of life. Many of the buildings were shuttered and desolate. Even many of the stores that appeared to be still in business were closed.

I walked over to Woodward Avenue, the main north-south roadway. The street was mostly desolate but I saw a restaurant and bar called the Hockey Town Cafe that was open and I could see some people inside. Next door was a grand old theatre called the Fox. It was quite imposing and obviously still in operation. Even here though it was largely barren of other people. The occasional car or pedestrian would pass. Of the few people on the street some appeared to be homeless.

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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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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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