European Football Tournaments.

Yesterday I posted about the World Cup.  Today I am posting excerpts of two letters on European tournaments.  I watched Euro 98 games Austria and Egypt.   During Euro 96 we lived in Tirana.  I’ll start with Euro 2008. A cartoon in one of the local Cairo papers shows two Egyptians looking at the European football tournament, Euro 2008, on TV.  One says to the other “The difference is, with us, football is just a game.”  It is a madness that takes over Europe every fourth June. The roof of the Cairo Marriott is turned into a big screen outdoor football … Continue reading European Football Tournaments.

Marrakesh (Charming Cobras in the Square.)

Marrakesh is a trading center, a vast walled city at the foot of the Atlas Mountains.  For many coming on the caravan trails it was the grandest city they would ever see.  The main attraction of Marrakech, for me, is watching the walls and minaret of the main mosque glow pink in the light just before sunset.  We’ve walked to the gate closest to the hotel to watch the transformation for two nights and can also see it from our hotel window. The main square, the Djemma el Fna makes Marrakesh different from anyplace else.  There really are “charming cobras … Continue reading Marrakesh (Charming Cobras in the Square.)

Take the Train from Casablanca going south. (The Marrakesh Express)

I’ve never heard a train song I didn’t want to ride.  I’ve ridden the Rock Island Line and the City of New Orleans.  Some songs I can never ride.  The Super Chief and Phoebe Snow are 30 years gone.  But you can still “take the train from Casablanca going south.”   We rode the Marrakesh Express.  The song is more about anticipation than the ride, but the ride, while crowded, is worth it.  You clickety clack from the coastal flats through rolling hills and dessert.  There are settlements of brown adobe brick, circled by a wall, looking like they grew out … Continue reading Take the Train from Casablanca going south. (The Marrakesh Express)

Rabat Morocco

From an October 2007 letter:  We’re in Rabat for a Pan-African Community Radio meeting.  In the evenings Suzi and I are free and wander Rabat.  Suzi says “we could live here.”  Rabat is a walkable city, relatively clean, French art deco, relaxed without the hassle (or excitement) of Casablanca.  A teenager grabs Suzi’s hand and starts doing henna artwork before she can protest.  I, of course, have to pay for it, a temporary souvenir of Rabat.  She is the only really aggressive tout we’ve encountered.  It is so unlike Cairo, Casablanca or Marrakech. On Friday we had only morning meetings … Continue reading Rabat Morocco

Ismaïlia and the Suez Canal

The Suez Canal may be the only place where blue water mariners find sandstorms a hazard to navigation.  There’s something otherworldly seeing a huge container ship gliding toward you through a golden brown silicone fog looking like it’s riding on sand.  The camel is not the true ship of this desert, SeaLand is.  The MV Hanjin Helsinki glides by, name written in Chinese characters and Latin letters, hailing port, Hamburg, Germany carrying Costo containers through an Egyptian sandstorm — globalization.  On Saturday we visited the Suez Canal, Ismailia, near the canal’s center, where the waterway cuts through Crocodile Lake (people … Continue reading Ismaïlia and the Suez Canal

Merry Christmas !! Pictures from Bethlehem.

Christmas Day — a good day to post pictures of Bethlehem.  The focal point of any visit to Bethlehem is Manger Square.  It is a pedestrian zone bordered by the Church of the Nativity, the Mosque of Omar, the Palestinian Peace Center and a wonderful falafel shop which also serves freshly squeezed orange juice.  Star Street, Nativity Street and Manger Street converge on the square. Some claim that the Church of the Nativity is the oldest Christian worship site in the world.  It was built during the rule of Constantine on a site selected by his mother, St. Helena.  She … Continue reading Merry Christmas !! Pictures from Bethlehem.

Christmas Eve, Shepherds’ Fields outside Bethlehem.

It’s Christmas Eve.  In the news we have constant reminders that “Peace on Earth” is still a hope not a fact.  This is evident at Shepherds’ Field outside Bethlehem where you can easily see the security apparatus that meanders around the hilltop where shepherds first heard “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” (assuming the angels sang in Latin).  The Franciscans control this hilltop and when we were there in 2010 we listened to them field questions from tourists looking out over the fields asking what exactly they were seeing.  In one of the pictures in this post you can see an Israeli … Continue reading Christmas Eve, Shepherds’ Fields outside Bethlehem.

Jaffa, the other side of Tel Aviv

Henry Ford once said “History is Bunk.”  While I love reading history I understand what he was getting at.  Whose history you read can determine whose side you’re on.  Every side has its own history.  In the Balkans I have the experience to be able to interpret the different histories.  In the Middle East I’m still trying to figure it out.  Palestinians and Israelis read very different histories, and they portray different histories to their public monuments and museums.  In Jaffa the historical sign outside the museum reminds us of each time Jews were driven from the city but does … Continue reading Jaffa, the other side of Tel Aviv

Tel Aviv Bauhaus

Tel Aviv could not be more different than Jerusalem.  It talks like New York and looks like Miami Beach.  While it has more hustle than Jerusalem it was also more laid back.   In Tel Aviv, the Bistro where we ate lunch offered ham sandwiches (we went for the corned beef.).  We could also get a cheeseburger, not Kosher, and not Jerusalem.  With each delivery the waitress said “enjoy” just like in New York.   Tel Aviv has over 4000 Bauhaus school of architecture buildings, built by Jewish Socialists in the 1930s, and because of that, is a world heritage site. We … Continue reading Tel Aviv Bauhaus

The Original Olive Garden, Gethsemane, with very Old Trees

Many Holy Land sites are frauds, built after the fact; like the room sold to tourists as the “Upper Room” of the Last Supper but built in 1099 CE.  But the Garden of Gethsemane is the real thing.  Christ may or may not have prayed there, but  the Garden of Gethsemane has very old olive trees.  When Suzi and I visited the garden we were told the trees are 2000 years old.  Since then, carbon dating in 2012 marked them as only between 900 to 1000 years old.   DNA tests show the trees all came from a common parent.  They … Continue reading The Original Olive Garden, Gethsemane, with very Old Trees