Friday, October 24, 2008

aaaaand i'm back: the overview

Why hello there! I'm back from a terrific Middle Eastern trip, and well overdue blogging about it. Leslie and Konga have already beat me to the punch.

My camera's got 391 pictures from 14 days of traveling; we saw brillions and brillions of things. I only got through one book, that's how busy we were. I want to write about el tripo in some detail, because some day I hope to play tour guide myself. It's totally understandable if you'd rather drink camel spit than read about every single freaking tell, so to make skipping easier, I'll give a trip overview here, and then blog in separate entries about the rest.

The trip was an official tour, my very first, and it worked out quite well. There were about 40 of us, mostly family -- great aunts and second cousins and uncles et al. (Poor Peter couldn't make it; he had to stay home with the nose to the grindstone. Bless his reliable heart.) We all crammed onto a bus with local tour guide, corporate tour guide, bus driver, security guard, and Mike Wilcox from the U of UT (Biblical history superstar), and proceeded to blast through Egypt, Jordan, and Israel/Palestine.

I've spent time in these countries and neighboring ones before (up to a sum total of 12 1/2 months now, woot!) but it's always been to study the language, and I've enjoyed myself most when hanging out with the local folk and exploring solo. This time was much more traditional (some might say "ugly") tourist. We were whisked en masse from bus to site to bus to store to bus to hotel. So it wasn't quite the cultural experience I've had before, because pretty much every moment of every day was scripted. Also, we were totally subject to the local guide's lust for commi$$ion; because we were herded to specific restaurants and specific souvenir stores, we paid Maximum Rip-off Price for felafels and trinkets. (Seriously. $13 a felafel sandwich is absurd, no matter how lousy the dollar is right now.)

There were some advantages to being part of a tour group, though. Not having to organize the logistics of travel (negotiating with cab drivers, figuring out where to eat, tracking down hotels) meant we were able to see an incredible number of things in a very short time. The historical lectures we got, particularly in Israel and Palestine, were also exceptional. Traveling with such pleasant people was another real plus, and so was getting access to some extraordinary sites (like an active archaelogical dig that was uber Indiana Jones). I would totally do it again.

And the loot? I bought me: 3 necklaces (turquoise, dove w/olive branch, and widow's mite, which occasioned some very elaborate and probably illegal early morning meet ups), a fabulously gooey mud mask from the dead sea, and a lovely lion-n-lamb olive wood piece.

Great family. Great place. Great trip.


  1. Welcome back! That sounds like so much fun. I can't wait to hear about the details in future blogs. I think I would prefer a more low key, one on one local flava trip. That long on a bus and I'd be puking.

  2. Oh! I think I might need to see those places. I want to hear the illegal necklace purchase story. :)

  3. Is it OK to be insanely jealous? I miss you desperately!!