The archaeological site of Troy is located on the western coast of Anatolia, near the convergence of the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles (ancient Hellespont), the strait that connects the Aegean to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea.

Excavations have revealed 9 main layers of settlement going back 5 thousand years. The Troy immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, which tells the story of the final months of a 10 year siege of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, has been placed in layer VIIa, dated to around 1250 BCE. Scholars generally agree that the Iliad is a fictionalized, mythologized account of an actual conflict, but that the war was most likely over control of the Hellespont and trade access to the Black Sea, rather than the abduction of Helen, the queen of Sparta, as Homer tells it.

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Upper Egypt: 5 Things to See & Do

Southern Egypt is called Upper Egypt because it’s upriver from northern (Lower) Egypt. The Nile is one of the rare rivers that flows northward, from central Africa to the Mediterranean Sea.

Here are our suggestions of 5 things to see or do there:

Over 60 acres of colossal statues, obelisks, relief carvings of pharaonic adventures and pylon after pylon after pylon (10 in total) make up Karnak Temple. The Hypostyle Hall is Karnak’s most famous feature, where the central aisle is lined with 70-foot columns, backed on either side by a forest of 30-foot columns. It’s literally jaw dropping. Relief carvings cover the columns and traces of original paint are not hard to find, especially if you look up.

The mortuary temple of one of Ancient Egypt’s very few female pharaohs is located at the base of towering cliffs at Deir el-Bahri in the Theban necropolis, across the Nile from Luxor. It’s a stunning setting and the temple design is quite different from other Nile Valley temples.

A valley deep within the mountains on the west bank of the Nile, across from ancient Thebes (modern Luxor), holds the burial grounds of New Kingdom pharaohs, their families and members of the nobility. To date, over 60 tombs have been discovered in the Valley of the Kings. In many of the tombs, walls and ceilings are painted in scenes from the life of the tomb occupant, happy experiences to be carried into the afterlife, as well as prayers and spells. The way to the afterlife was treacherous; and tomb paintings envisioned a successful passage, with the help of various gods.

The temple of Isis, also known as Philae Temple, was originally located on Philae Island in the Nile. In the 1960s, Philae Island was largely submerged in the new Lake Nasser reservoir, so the temple was dismantled and moved to higher ground on Agilka Island. Nevertheless, the temple is still known as Philae.

We don’t recommend swimming in the Nile. But a quiet sail on a traditional felucca will get you close enough to the water to dip your fingers.


At the Muttrah fish docks, fishermen unload the day’s catch to sell at the adjacent Muttrah Fish market. Many visitors to Muscat seeking an authentic experience, will rise with the sun  and spend an hour or so browsing the stalls here. It’s an opportunity to observe an important local economy at work and to mingle with friendly locals. With a great variety of fish and sea food, it’s visually interesting, if a bit smelly. 

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Gnawa: Sacred Music of Morocco

Historically, the term Gnawa (Gnaoua in French) refers to the descendants of black slaves in Morocco, the mystical Islam they practice, and the music used in their religious ritual.

Slaves were brought into Morocco from Sub-Saharan West Africa beginning around the end of the 16th century. Enormous gold-wealth and thriving trade networks fueled two great empires, first Ghana (parts of modern Mauritania and Mali), from around the 8th century to the 11th century, and then the Empire of Mali, from the 11th century to the end of the 16th century. In 1591, Timbuktu, a major city of the Mali Empire and a center of Islamic scholarship, was conquered by mercenary armies for Morocco. Mali declined steadily from there and Morocco began to import its people to work as soldiers and imperial domestic slaves. Continue reading