Although the primary theme of my blog is travel, I can’t resist sharing some beautiful sunsets from my own neighborhood in Iowa City, Iowa. After all, it’s my blog and I can go a little off topic if I want to!
I don’t have to travel far to see beautiful sunsets. These seven photos were taken from my front door, looking across the street at my neighbors’ houses.
And this photo was taken about a half hour’s drive from our house, at Coralville Lake.
We had interesting colors in the sky shortly after sunset on June 9, 2018. This photo shows what I saw when I looked out the front door of our house. It reminds me of the purple sky color that people in Scotland refer to as “the gloaming”.
I love seeing the sun reflect off the edges of clouds. In this case, the clouds on June 15, 2017 were very dramatic and worthy of a photo!
On June 6, 2019 the sunset offered two different works of art. The earlier one was more subtle colors, and the later one more vibrant. Both were worth taking the time to capture them with my camera:
Sometimes, it’s not possible to watch the sun set because of storms passing through. These clouds looked much darker and more menacing in person than they do in the photo. They were the leading edge of a real toadstrangler (strong thunderstorm). The National Weather Service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning, so of course I needed to head out into my driveway to capture this photo of it approaching!
Coralville Lake and North Liberty
There’s a lake about a half hour’s drive from our house known as Coralville Lake or the Coralville Reservoir. It’s near the town of North Liberty, Iowa.
Also at Coralville Lake, this photo was taken June 6, 2019 from the docks at Bobbers Restaurant near North Liberty, Iowa.
One evening while in North Liberty, Iowa at sunset, I captured this scene:
The City of Coralville
This photo was taken May 25, 2019 of the sun setting over Coralville, Iowa, as seen from the bridge that goes over the Iowa River at Iowa River Power restaurant.
After the sun has set, then it’s time to appreciate the moon! Here are some photos of the moon. All were taking in the vicinity of Iowa City and Coralville, Iowa.
On September 27, 2015, we had a beautiful view of the Blood Moon, which occurs when a lunar eclipse covers the full moon, causing it to take on an eerie reddish color. Our neighborhood held an eclipse viewing party so we could watch the eclipse progress together as a group.
One of our favorite restaurants for casual dining is Bobber’s, which resides on the shores of Coralville Lake outside of North Liberty, Iowa. We timed our visit on September 17, 2016 so we could be there at moonrise, watching the full moon rise over the lake.
I visited my brothers at our family farm near Strawberry Point, Iowa on October 16, 2016. This photo shows the full moon rising behind the barn.
On November 15, 2016, we had a beautiful view of the moon rising behind the houses across the street from our house. I grabbed my cell phone and sneaked onto the lawn of our neighbor across the street so I could take this photo. Fortunately, that neighbor is a close friend, and I knew she wouldn’t object to my trespassing!
On May 14, 2018 my husband and I were driving around Iowa City when the full moon began to rise. We pulled off the road into a park so I could take this photo.
In my travels to Egypt, I’ve come to know Nubian people in Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel. Although they are certainly Egyptians (and identify as such), they are a distinct ethnic group, different from the Bedouins, Amazigh, and other ethnic groups that together create the rich cultural heritage that makes up modern Egypt.
Sometimes I go back and update old blog posts. This can happen if I get new information, new photos, or need to correct old information.
I just spent a month in Egypt. I took more photos and learned new stuff. So I’m adding my new material back into older blog entries.
Here are ones I’ve recently updated:
African Sunrises and Sunsets. I removed Egypt from this page, so that now it contains only Morocco and Senegal. (But I did leave ONE photo from Egypt on it.) I created a new page to show off my photos of sunrises, sunsets, and moons from Egypt.
Our stereotypes of ancient Egyptian dance involve awkward-looking poses with right-angle positions of the elbow and wrist. People assume that such images appeared on temple and tomb walls. But, did they? Here’s a look at some of the dance scenes appearing in temples and tombs in Egypt. Continue reading “Backbends of Dancers in Ancient Egypt”
One of the most popular images sold on papyrus at souvenir shops in Cairo is that of the Three Musicians. The original scene appears in the Tomb of Nakht. Most organized tours won’t take you there, because it lies in the Valley of the Nobles where the tombs are generally small and less impressive than the Valley of the Kings.
The tomb of Nakht is small, too small for most tour groups to cram everyone in. If a group of more than a handful of people goes, chances are they will need to take turns going in while the others wait outside. Because the tomb is small, there aren’t many scenes to view inside. Most tourists would rather see the spectacular tombs found in Valley of the Kings.
Nakht lived under the reign of Tuthmoses IV, around 1401-1391 BCE. He was a scribe and a temple star watcher.
However, I’m a different type of tourist. I enjoy seeing the things that the big tours don’t go to see. I have visited this tomb several times because I like this scene so much, I enjoy going back to see it again.
Here’s the image on a papyrus one I bought in Cairo in 1999:
I asked my guide to tell me about the overall scene. In particular, I asked him if this was a temple performance done by priestesses. He emphatically said NO. He pointed off to the right a section of the scene that doesn’t appear in this photograph which showed Nakht and his wife watching, and he said that this was merely entertainment for the pleasure of Nakht and his family.
Music and dance in ancient times were NOT always about religion. Sometimes they were, but not always.
Another part of the artwork inside this tomb features a cat, curled up in a ball. We hear so much about the Egyptian cat goddess Bastet, but I find this image charming because it looks like a family pet snuggling up for a nap.
Egyptologists call this Theban Tomb TT52. They believe it’s from around 1400 BCE, which means it’s about 3,400 years old.
Temples and tombs from ancient Egypt offer many tributes to motherhood. As of 2019, I’ve found one tomb at Saqqara with a madonna scene, and several temples along the Nile cruise route with motherhood-related images, including Luxor Temple, Edfu Temple, Kom Ombo Temple, and Philae Temple. Here’s a look at the ones I’ve discovered in my travels so far.
Tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep (Tomb of the Brothers)
At Saqqara, which is just outside of Cairo, the tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep, often known as the “tomb of the hairdressers” or the “tomb of the brothers” features two beautiful scenes of motherhood near its entrance.
These are the oldest images from ancient Egypt that I have found so far celebrating motherhood. Although scholars have not determined the tomb’s exact age, the current theory is that Niankhkhnum and Khnumhotep served either Nyuserre Ini or Menkauhor Kaiu. Assuming that theory is correct, this tomb would thus have been built in the latter part of the 25th century BCE, making it over 4,000 years old.
One of the images at this tomb shows a small child playing around his mother while she does her daily housework.
The other shows the mother nursing the baby when it’s time to feed him. It’s really interesting to see this madonna-type image that was created about 2,500 years before the time of Christ.
The birth room of the Luxor Temple tells how Queen Mutemwia became the mother of Amenhotep III. It offers a fascinating story of immaculate conception, annunciation, and birth about 1,300 years before the story of Jesus Christ. The bottom row shows the ram-headed creator god Khnum molding two children, one to be the physical body, and the other to be his ka (spirit version). The story goes on to show the god Amun coming to her, the conception, the pregnancy, and the birth. The intent of the story is to justify Amenhotep III’s right to be revered as a god, just as the later story of Jesus used immaculate conception to justify his claim to be the Son of God.
In this segment of the wall, we see Queen Mutemwia (top right) sitting on the birth chair giving birth to her son s the deities Isis and Khnum rub her hands.
This birth scene would have been commissioned by Queen Mutemwia’s son, Amenhotep III, to support his divine claim to the throne of Egypt. Scholars estimate that his 37-year reign begin in 1386 BCE or 1388 BCE, which places the age of this scene as being more than 1,000 years before the temples of Edfu, Kom Ombo, and Philae (mentioned below) were constructed.
Interestingly, I had visited the Luxor Temple approximately 8 times without ever seeing this birth story. Finally, I visited the temple for about the 9th time in 2019, and this was the first time a guide showed me this scene. It’s not something that every tour of the Luxor Temple includes. If you want to see the birth room, you may need to insist that your guide include it in the tour.
The Edfu temple honors Horus the Elder and his wife, Hathor. Some of its walls feature scenes of Hathor nursing her infant, Horus the Younger. Some of these scenes were damaged by early Christians during the Roman era, in an attempt to obliterate the earlier Pagan beliefs.
Near the entrance to the Edfu temple is a special room known as the mammisi, or “birth room”. This is a small chapel located just outside and in front of the main pylons, and it celebrates the birth of “Horus, the Unifier of Two Lands”. The mammisi features several images of Hathor playing musical instruments, including sistrum (rattle), frame drum, and lyre.
The Edfu temple that stands today is relatively young, but resides on the site of a much older shrine. The structure that stands today was built after Alexander the Great conquered Egypt, leading to the era of Greek Pharaohs that ended with Cleopatra. The first stone of today’s temple was laid in 237 BCE, and it was consecrated in 142 BCE. This is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt due to having been buried for centuries under sand and river silt deposited by the Nile inundations.
The temple at Kom Ombo, Egypt is unique because it honors two different gods – Sobek (with a crocodile head) and Horus the Elder (with a falcon head). It’s a fascinating temple to visit, with many interesting images on its walls.
A unique segment of wall that is popular with many of the tourists who visit Kom Ombo is the scene showing two women using birthing chairs to give birth. The wall to the right of them features images of surgical tools.
The throne-shaped object on the head of the lower woman is a nod to the goddess Isis and her role as a patron of fertility and motherhood.
One of the tour guides I’ve worked with, Abdul Aly, has proudly pointed out that ancient Egyptians have known about the benefits of delivering babies while sitting up in birthing chairs for at least 2,000 years. In contrast, modern Western medicine only started to embrace birthing chairs and the upright posture since about the 1980’s.
Like Edfu, Kom Ombo was built during the period of the Greek Pharaohs, on top of an older temple site dating from the New Kingdom. Construction lasted from 180 BCE to 47 BCE. In addition to the birthing chair scene, I was very fond of the on-site museum featuring crocodile mummies. Unfortunately, the Crocodile Museum at the temple does not allow visitors to take photos. Another of my blog posts shows the Nilometer at this temple.
Philae Island at Aswan hosts the beautiful Nubian temple of Isis. Construction began around 690 BCE, on a site that had hosted an older structure, with most of the temple that remains today being built during the reign of Nectanebo I, ranging from 380-362. In the 1960’s, the island was flooded by the rising waters of the Nile caused by the Aswan High Dam, and Philae was one of the temples moved to a new site on higher ground funded by UNESCO.
There are several images of Isis nursing the baby Horus in this temple. These resemble the madonna-style images of Hathor with Horus at Edfu. There is some overlap of the stories regarding Hathor (which were earlier) and Isis (who came later.) Unfortunately, many of the images of Isis with Horus at Philae were vandalized during the Roman era by early Christians who were trying to obliterate the earlier Pagan religion.
I’ve featured highlights of how ancient Egypt honored motherhood by selecting several must-see images to watch for that are easy to find if taking a Nile cruise or a Luxor-to-Aswan tour or touring Saqqara near Cairo. These are ones I’ve personally noticed so far on my travels to Egypt, but I’m sure there are many I have not yet found. I’ll keep looking, and if I find more, I’ll add them to this blog post.
I encourage you, too, to keep looking on your own. You’re sure to discover more of these images in statues (in museums), tombs, and other temples.
When traveling, I enjoy sampling local food and drink. Egypt has a few beverages that I always try to make a point of enjoying during my visits. Some of these are available in the United States, but many people aren’t aware of them.
Yansoun (Anise Tea)
Yansoun (pronounced yan-SOON) is a tea made from anise seeds, served hot. I never eat anise-flavored food when I’m home in the U.S., but when I go to Egypt I frequently order yansoun with my meals. The higher-end hotels and restaurants don’t offer it, because they associate it with the lower classes. But it should be easy to find in cafes, koshary restaurants, and other Egyptian “comfort food” places.
My Egyptian friends have told me that it’s common for singers to sip yansoun before performing, and even to keep a cup on stage with them, because it soothes the throat and eases any hoarseness. I find that I like drinking it in the evening, because it helps me sleep.
Restaurants typically serve yansoun with a bit of sugar on the side, but I find I like the flavor of the tea just fine even without the sugar.
Karkaday (Hibiscus Tea)
Karkaday is made from the dried petals of hibiscus flowers, and is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and iron. On a hot day, I enjoy drinking it as an iced tea, but near bedtime I like to drink it hot. Most cafes and restaurants that I’ve been to in Egypt offer karkaday both hot and as an iced tea. It’s a beautiful red color. Restaurants often serve it with sugar to add, but I personally like drinking it without.
In North America, it’s possible to order mango juice at Indian restaurants, but in Egypt it’s available at almost every place that offers beverages. Mango juice is reasonably safe to drink because mangos are a fruit that requires peeling. The vivid orange color looks very appetizing, and mangos are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, and vitamin B. I always ask for mine to be served without ice, since ice is normally made from tap water and may contain bacteria.
Asir Farola (Strawberry Juice)
This consists of pureed strawberries, perhaps with a small amount of water added. The vibrant red color looks beautiful in the glass! I always try to drink some while in Egypt, but I recommend exercising some caution – some restaurants don’t adequately wash the strawberries before making the beverage. Even those that wash the strawberries may use tap water to do it, so there is some risk of bacteria. I enjoy strawberry juice very much, and am happy to drink it despite the risks. The vitamin C content will give your immune system a boost.
Dom (Sometimes Spelled Doum)
The dom palm tree grows primarily in southern Egypt and Sudan. Its botanical name is hyphaene thebaica. Dom fruits have been found in some tombs from ancient Egypt.
I think of this fruit and the beverage made from it particularly as being associated with Nubian culture. The fist-sized brown nuts are soaked, then pureed with sugar and water to make a delicious beverage. I’ve also seen dom nuts used on strings of beads for decorating doorways in homes. The leaves of the palm tree are often used in making baskets.
This photo shows a dom tree whose fruit hasn’t ripened yet. The fruit will turn brown when ripe.
I usually drink dom when I go to Aswan. It’s a little sweet, but not too much. Some places in Luxor and Kom Ombo will also serve it, but I don’t think I’ve ever found it in Cairo.
Sahlab is a thickened sweet drink, served hot. Historically, sahlab was made from orchid roots, but today you’re more likely to find it made with cornstarch, arrowroot, or other thickener. The ingredients include milk, the thickener, and sugar. It is served garnished with chopped pistachios and cinnamon. I like to use it as a dessert drink.
Sugar Cane Juice
Sugar cane is one of the crops that many Egyptian farmers grow. If riding in a bus or train from Luxor to Aswan, you’re likely to see many fields of sugar cane along the way. So it’s only natural that sugar cane juice would be readily available throughout Egypt. There are small storefronts in many neighborhoods of Cairo where you can watch the vendor squeeze the sap out of the sugar cane for you, while you wait.
The juice is a light green color, and of course it tastes very sweet. It is usually served at room temperature. I always try to enjoy at least one glass of it when I’m visiting Egypt.
One time when a friend and I were riding in a taxi in Cairo, the driver pulled off to the side of the street before arriving at our destination. He got out of the car, and went up to one of these sugar cane storefronts in a residential neighborhood. It seemed odd at first that a taxi would stop en route to its destination while the passengers were still inside. When I realized the driver was heading for the sugar cane juice vendor, I thought, “Well, I suppose it’s only fair that taxi drivers might get thirsty while working.” We waited what seemed like a much longer time than I would have expected for him to get his glass of asir (juice). To our surprise, when he returned to the cab, he had not only a paper cup of it for himself, but also a cup for each of us! We so much appreciated his kindness!
I’m kind of amazed that in all my trips to Egypt, I haven’t yet tried erk sous. Maybe I’ll have to try some next time. It is a sweet licorice syrup made from anise.
Erk sous is typically sold by street vendors carrying an urn on their backs, similar to the one in this photo. The photo shows legendary dancer/choreographer Mahmoud Reda wearing an erk sous vendor costume for one of the skits performed by Reda Troupe. The very first Reda Troupe show in 1959 featured such a character in one of its skits.
Lemon Juice, With or Without Mint
In Egypt, the lemon juice is delicious, made from fully ripened lemons, with some water and sugar added. I like ordering a variation of it, which is lemon juice with mint, as shown in the photo. Both are refreshing.
Many restaurants in Egypt don’t serve alcoholic beverages, which makes sense when you consider the fact that it’s a Muslim country. In Egypt, the craft of brewing beer dates back to Pharaonic times. The religious prohibition came later, with the Arab conquest and conversion to Islam.
If you’re a connoisseur of craft beers, leave your beer-tasting mind set at home when you visit Egypt. It’s not the place to explore IPA’s, porters, stouts, red ales, bocks, or other malty brews. That said, places that do a large amount of business with foreigners often offer alcoholic beverages, and there are some local beers you can try.
Today, the two dominant brands of beer you’re likely to find in Egypt are Stella (no relationship to Stella Artois) and Sakara Gold. Both are lagers, and both are manufactured by Al Ahram Beverages Company. Other brand names exist in Egypt, but they don’t have the market share that these two do.
You might be wondering why I haven’t posted any new blog entries lately. It’s because I broke my wrist on November 16, 2018. Ice was involved.
I had to cancel the trip to Egypt I had planned for December 1-17. It’s disappointing, I’d planned to include some adventures in that trip that would have been new to me, such as visiting the Siwa Oasis.
It hasn’t been easy to type in my current condition, therefore I haven’t been creating new blog entries. Expect something new from me soon, once I have healed a little more.