Showing posts with label Middle East. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Middle East. Show all posts

British Adventurers to Walk 1000 Miles Through the Heart of the Middle East

British adventurers Dave Cornthwaite and Leon McCarron – two men whose past expeditions we've covered regularly here on The Adventure Blog – have joined forces for an epic journey on foot through the heard of the Middle East. The two men are preparing to set out on a three-month, 1000 mile (1600 km) trek with the intention of sharing stories about the real people who live in a part of the world that is often misunderstood by so many others.

Dave and Leon have dubbed their expedition Walk the Masar – which means "path" in Arabic. Their journey begins in Jerusalem, with the intention of circumnavigating the Dead Sea completely on foot. They'll travel along the West Bank, crossing over into Jordan, and walking into the Sinai Peninsula, eventually making their way to Mt. Catherine in the middle of the desert there.

The duo should be en route to their starting point within the next few days, as they intend to start the journey in early December, with the hope of wrapping it up by early March of 2016. Both Dave and Leon will be posting regular updates to their respective Facebook pages, sharing stories of their adventures and posting about the people they meet along the way. Their hope is to lift the veil of misconceptions that seems to cover the Middle East, and reveal the stories of the real people that live there.

Neither of these men are strangers to traveling in remote regions of the world. For Dave, this will be his 12th expedition as part of his Expedition 1000 project, which is an attempt to complete 25 separate journeys of 1000 miles or more completely under his own power. Past expeditions have seen him skateboard across Australia, stand-up paddleboard the length of the Mississippi, and swim the Missouri River. Leon has had similar experiences as well, trekking Iran's longest river source to sea, walking from the Gobi Desert in Mongolia to Hong Kong, and crossing the Empty Quarter on foot as well. This latest undertaking will only add to their already impressive resumes.

Find out more at and on Dave and Leon's Facebook pages.

Adventures in Egypt: Quiet and Calm in Cairo

Egypt is a country that has always held a certain mystique amongst travelers. In fact, you could make an argument that it was actually the world's first tourist destination. After all, travelers have been coming to this land for centuries just to catch a glimpse of the ancient wonders that exist here. People like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte, just to name a few. But in recent years the country has been making news for other reasons.

In 2011 the arrival of the Arab Spring proceeded the overthrow of a long standing dictatorial government, and ushered in a period of uncertainty and unrest. With protests in the streets of Cairo being broadcast on the nightly news, it appeared that Egypt had descended into chaos. Those images sent many would-be visitors scrambling to other destinations, as security concerns took hold. For a time, the country's famous monuments – including the Pyramids and Sphinx – were empty, as travelers stayed away amidst the turmoil.

But those days are long gone now. Newly elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has brought a sense of calm and stability to Egypt, and it is having a positive effect not only on the people that live here, but the tourism industry as well. While crowds are still at a minimum, there is a strong sense of optimism in the air as foreigners begin to return at last.

I've been in the country for five days, and have already gotten a sense that things are both different, and the same since my last visit back in 2005. There is a heightened sense of security in the major cities, and around the famous tourist sites, but there is also a clear feeling that the instability of the past few years is over, and that Egypt is ready to get back to work. That work includes welcoming thousands of travelers to its shores.

I am traveling with a group of tourists on the Absolute Egypt tour offered by G Adventures. On our second day here we had the privilege of spending some time in Giza at the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. There was a modest crowd at those sites, far from the mobs that were often found there in the past, but up significantly over recent years. Sharing those sites with a multitude of visitors from across the globe is part of the fun however, and there were easily a half dozen languages being spoken in the small crowd gathered there. That bodes well for the future of Egypt, which had seen a significant downturn in its economy due to the loss of incoming visitors. But now, the guides that I have spoken to say that things have definitely taken a turn for the better, and arrivals are up sharply so far in 2015.

What does all of this mean for travelers hoping to come to Egypt? I would say that now more than ever is the time to go. If you've always wanted to visit this place, there may be no better time. Security is good, crowds are low, and bargains can be had. That might not be the case later in the year, or moving forward. Once travelers deem the country safe enough to return, it is likely to be very busy once again.

For my part, I am enjoying returning to a country that I wasn't sure I'd have the chance to experience a second time. The Pyramids and other monuments are timeless however, and it is a humbling experience to witness them first hand. In a few days I'll head out into the Sahara on a completely different adventure than I had last time I was here. I'm looking forward to getting off the beaten path to a degree, and seeing more of this amazing country. Of course, I'll also be sharing a lot more about the things I've seen and places I've gone in the days ahead, but for now I'll just say that all is well in Egypt, where history continues to unfold.

The Adventure Blog is Back on Hiatus – I'm Egypt Bound!

I have a quick note to post to end the week. I wanted to let regular readers know that The Adventure Blog is going back on hiatus for a couple of weeks while I head to Egypt for a new adventure. I depart tomorrow (April 18) and will return on May 5. During that time I hope to have the opportunity to post about the journey, but I'll have to wait to see what kind of Internet service will be available. Hopefully I can post some regular updates however, so you can get a feel for what I'm up to.

I'll be traveling with a group hosted by G Adventures, who are easily one of the best adventure travel companies that I've ever had the experience of working with. The company has invited me to join one of their regular groups who will be taking part in their Absolute Egypt tour. While there, I will of course see the wonders of this famous country, including the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Valley of the Kings and Queens. But I'll also be camping in the Sahara, sailing on the Nile, and meeting with locals too.

This will be my second time in Egypt, but the first since the Arab Spring. It will be interesting to see how things have changed since I was last there, and what life is life for the people of this amazing country. The story that I will be looking for is the return of tourism to the Middle Eastern nation. The travel industry is vital to the economy there, but it has been crippled due to unrest in recent years. I've heard reports that the major attractions and monuments have been all-but empty at times, and I want to see if that remains true. 2015 is the year that travelers are expected to return to Egypt, but it is unclear of that has started to happen just yet.

While I'm away, there will obviously be a lot going on, particularly with the spring climbing season in the Himalaya. If you're looking for regular news from Everest and the other big mountain, than I'd suggest reading Alan Arnette's regular reports, and dropping by Explorer's Web from time to time too. I'll be trying to follow the unfolding season as best I can as well. I'll be home in time for the first summit pushes on Everest and Lhotse, although some of the other mountains may see some action ahead of the major push on the Big Hill.

While I'm away, stay safe, enjoy some adventures of your own, and hopefully I'll have some good things to share from Egypt soon. If Internet connections are reliable, I will at least post some photos on my Twitter feed at @kungfujedi.

I'll be back before you know it!

Archeologists Uncover "Huge" Structure in Israel that Predates the Pyramids

Archaeology fascinates me. I love the fact that we're still uncovering hidden things from our past, and learning about early civilizations. That's why this story caught my attention when I came across it yesterday. It seems that archaeologists working in Israel have unearthed a massive structure near the Sea of Galilee that is is believed to have been built sometime between 3050 BC and 2650 BC. That would make it older than the Great Pyramids in Egypt, and even Stonehenge in the U.K.

 The structure was previously mistaken for a defensive wall of some sort, although no settlement was known to have existed in that part of the country. It is immense in size, stretching for 150 metes (492 ft), and has a volume that is said to be roughly 14,000 cubic meters (500,000 cubic ft). It is believed to have been a standing monument of some type, although what it was used for remains a bit of a mystery. Researchers speculate that it was used as a landmark built to "mark possession or assert authority."

The crescent shaped structure may have been built by a local chieftain in the Mesopotamian civilization. Its shape could have held some significance within the lunar cycle, or  it could have also been a monument built to Sin, the culture's moon god. The closest settlement is a town called Bet Yerah, which translates to "House of the Moon God." It is just 29km (18 miles) away, which is about a days walk for ancient travelers. There is some speculation that the monument was built to mark the borders of the city's territory, and to potentially ward off would-be invaders.

The age of the structure was determined by dating fragments of pottery that were found at the site. The monument is so old, that it actually predates the Old Testament, and provides clues about life in the region that is often referred to as the "Cradle of Civilization." Researchers say the site would have required a massive amount of labor to build. They estimate that it would have taken between 35,000 and 50,000 days working days to construct the monument, which translates to a team of 200 people working for roughly five months straight just to achieve the lower end of that estimate. In an agrarian society dependent on food production, that would have been incredibly tough.

Reading a story like this one, it makes you wonder what else is out there, just waiting for us to stumble across it.