Monday, December 31, 2012

Twelve of Our Most Memorable Moments in 2012

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

As 2012 draws to a close in just hours, here are a few of our favorite moments we experienced. 

 We have enjoyed learning and experiencing Saudi culture. There are times when it is frustrating to the extreme but part of learning about a new culture is accepting it as a whole, good and bad.

 Compound life with amenities such as multiple swimming pools, a water slide, and a wave pool have pretty much rocked. We spent most of our summer in the pool, when we weren't eating birthday cake or suffering through a Saudi summer. Bubba J hated pools and water when we moved to Riyadh, but not plays in the water with confidence and aplomb, hence his fearless and frequent descents down the waterslide.

Our oldest has had a chance to explore aspects of old Saudi culture with some friends. We've enjoyed his pictures and stories of his adventures, including holding a falcon.

I spend my afternoons teaching seventeen young pianists the piano. In December, I held a recital for my young students and was pleased with hard work and performances. It is so rewarding to work with children and watch them develop skills and talents.

We swam outside on Christmas Day. We didn't have to go anywhere to do so. We just walked outside our door and jumped in the pool. Having lived in Wyoming, Utah, Sweden, and New York, this is an unparalleled luxury. Swimming is awesome.

Camels, camels, and more camels. We enjoyed a very interesting day at a camel auction out in the desert where thousands of camels and their owners gathered to buy and sell camels.

My daughter got to see the Sphinx. And we spent a fabulous week in Egypt.

T fulfilled a life-long dream when he recently held a peregrine falcon, an animal he has studied intently for two years.

The desert is spectacular and we have enjoyed our explorations of it in many ways.

We agreed to hamster-sit two hamsters for friends over the summer, but have since obtained ownership for two cute little hamsters. They've been a source of amusement, frustration, lots of messes, and fun. Bubba J in particular adores them.

And finally, we enjoy the luxury of being able to scooter, bike, or rollerblade around the compound without problems!

What would you list as twelve of your greatest moments of 2012?

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Egypt Day 4: The Citadel and Mohammed Ali Mosque

I could bore you with an endless notes about the origins and the purpose of the Citadel and Mosque, but I won't. We were hot and sweaty when we arrived at the Citadel. The sun beat mercilessly down on our heads. Before entering the Mosque, we removed our shoes and then stepped into a beautiful open courtyard that was refreshingly cool. I don't know how or why it was so cool, but the temperature was decidedly different inside the walls of the mosque.
After admiring the beautiful tile work and architecture of the courtyard, we went inside the mosque. I know many of my readers have never stepped foot inside a mosque and may never have a chance to do so. So for their benefit, I'll describe the interior of the mosque. It was open and spacious, with no furniture. The floor was covered in Oriental carpets from the 1800's. The carpets were pretty dirty. I'm sure they get cleaned, but dirty seems to be a state in most mosque carpets I've seen over the past year. There was a beautiful chandelier in the center of the room. Doors opened allowing cross-breezes to keep the interior delightfully cool. It was a quiet room, without pictures of saints or religious paraphernalia. The intent of the room is to give many faithful Muslims room to pray. During prayer times, unbelievers are not allowed to enter. But otherwise, anyone is free to visit the mosque.

After enjoying the coolness of the mosque, we walked outside to look out over the city of Cairo. Cairo has an incredibly hazy skyline. Between the smog and the sand, it is hard to see much of the city. But still, we enjoyed looking over the city. As we stared at the landscape, the call for prayer began, with various voices bouncing and echoing off one another. This is a sound that I'll never forget from my time in the Middle East. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

The problem with travel is that. . .

once you start it is really hard to stop. Some people are addicted to extreme sports like rock-climbing, sky-diving, or bungee-jumping. Me? I'm addicted to travel. My heart rate accelerates and excitement bubbles in my veins when I am exploring. I love people watching, listening to the rhythm of foreign languages, and looking at new landscapes or architecture. The world has so much to offer in terms of experiences and I want to have them all. Seriously. 

If you've traveled or lived in other countries, do you feel the same way or do you hate traveling? 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas from the Middle East

Merry Christmas to you and yours. While some may find the idea of celebrating this most Christian of holidays far from family and the familar comforts of home sad and lonely, we have had a delightful Christmas season. We are grateful for the friends we've made in such a short time. We are grateful for the opportunity to share music, friendship, food, and laughter with new friends. May this day be one of happiness and peace to you all.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Egypt Day 4: The Ancient Egyptian Museum

In the first book of my favorite mystery series, the Amelia Peabody Emerson series, Amelia meets Emerson for the first time in the museum in Cairo. In The Crocodile on the Sandbank, Emerson, who has a violently explosive temper, chastises Amelia for getting too close to the artifacts, yells at the museum director, and generally makes an enormous scene. It is a hysterically funny scene, not the least of which is a serious concern for the artifacts and history of ancient Egypt being lost through poor conditions and mishandling.

I have a penchant for museums. My children can attest that anywhere there is a museum, they are sure to be dragged to it and forced to endure going through exhibits looking for interesting history treasures. We've breezed through the Louvre, devoured bits of the British Museum, explored tiny Swedish museums, gotten lost in the Metropolitan, and wandered through the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. We are to say the least experienced museum consumers.

Sadly, I do not have photos from the museum because cameras are not allowed inside. But this blog, where a friend of mine is posting photos and journal entries from a trip her grandfather took around the world in 1932, shows a picture of the museum in 1932. Just be sure to scroll down a bit in the entry to see the picture. There are also some wonderful photos of the pyramids, the Citadel, and the Sphinx.

We went through the museum with a guide who whisked us through  at a record-breaking pace. There were certain highlights that she wanted to hit at our request, and time was short. Also, this particular museum is overwhelming just for the sheer number of artifacts on display. While I appreciated seeing so much in such a short time, I missed the enchantment of wandering through displays and coming upon a treasure or artifact that takes your breath away. But I did get to see many of King Tutankhamen's amazing treasures, so I can't really complain.

But first, a word about the general state of the museum. The museum is not in great shape, the air conditioning was dodgy at best, which made me feel concerned about maintaining a good temperature for the artifacts. The labeling system really could be updated, and the security in the museum seemed a little weak. That was terribly disappointing. The museum only charges $10 for admission which is shockingly low. I would have been happy to pay $30 or more for admission, especially if the admission funds would be funneled toward better conditions in the museum.

Some of the highlights are:

1) Walking through the exhibit hall and seeing King Tutankhamen's beds and burial artifacts.
2) Seeing how big the boxes were that contained the mummy--they were massive.
3) Looking at tiny statue of the Pharaoh Khufu for whom the great pyramid of Giza was built.
4) Going through the hall of mummified animals which included mummified, crocodiles, fish, baboons, and cats.
5) Seeing the massive statuary that once graced temples and tombs was really awe-inspiring.

So even though I was annoyed at the poor state of the museum and didn't like being rushed, I still think you should visit the museum if you ever get the chance. If you are a person who enjoys tours, take a tour. But if you really don't like doing tours, then don't take one through the museum. You'll get just as much out of it and perhaps more if you go exploring yourself.