Path: Travel > Destinations > Middle East 2005 > ME2005 Mails English

ME2005 Mails English

Following is the full text of all English emails we sent during this trip. The texts are original copies, shown here as sent: typos, errors, warts and all (the same in French or German).


Subject: Cairo and so on...

Date: Mon, 7 Feb 2005 16:49:28 +0100 (MET)

Hi folks,
so far, so good! We are now in Cairo for about six days and we are suffering
a severe case of mosque overload. We have not realised during our first
visit that there are so many of them! And dutiful as we are (he, he) we did
them all. As well as many churches: Coptic, Orthodox, Catholic, well, you
probably get the idea...
We've also been to Gizeh, admired the big pharaonic piles (a little
disappointing but we knew this from our first outing). The site, however, is
still fantastic and we enjoyed every minute (we stayed the whole day, until
sunset: the site was totally empty by then, quite a difference to the
hullabaloo during the day).
Alexandria was nice as well though there is not much to see. It has a much
more European flair than Cairo, although some of the outlying quarters are
very definitely Arabic. Seeing the green endless waters of the Med was
surprising after the days in the Cairene half-desert.
Tomorrow we'll do another day in Islamic Cairo, the finer bits, so to speak.
And on Wednesday, we board the train (7am, brrr) to Aswan, where we should
arrive at 8pm. We'll see how it goes.
All is well, the food is very good (Middle Eastern with Egyptian
additions) and the weather is also OK, sunny, if a bit on the cool side
(about 15c).
All the best, the next mail will probably come from Luxor in about a week.
Vero+Thomas

Subject: Aswan - Luxor

Date: Tue, 15 Feb 2005 10:19:35 +0100 (MET)

Dear all,
so we are now in Luxor for the third day and we really enjoy ourselves (not
meant to make you jealous!). The weather is rather warmer and sunnier here
in the south and Aswan was really relaxing and nice. The setting with the
Nile and the many islands, the desert on the other bank, the fellucas
sailing up and down... you get the picture:-)
We explored all the stuff we had already seen and, having more time at our
disposal, did quite a few bits we hadn't. Also Thomas is now training for
his certificate to be a fully-fledged felluca captain. Taking the rudder is
easy, if a bit tiring after a few hours (amazing how much force one needs to
get such a boat change course), it is handling the sail that is the really
tricky part. But he is working hard on it... And Vero is laughing all the
time:-)
Next we came up to Luxor and it was a complete change of scene in more than
one sense. The Nile is not as beautiful though the mountains on the West
Bank (where we have the valley of the kings and Hatshepsut temple among
other things) are very nice. But it is incredibly touristy: so many tour
groups that there are actually traffic jams *inside* the temples. No joke.
And the locals are much more pushy when it comes to selling tours, hotels,
taxis -- whatever you want or don't want, they have it and they are keen to
make this clear beyond doubt.
But it is still nice to be here.
That's it from Luxor, we shall leave in three days towards Sinai. Internet
is more limited there so it is possible that we send the next mail from
Aqaba in Jordan in about two weeks' time.
All the best and till next time!
Vero+Thomas

Subject: Luxor - Hurghada - Suez

Date: Sat, 19 Feb 2005 18:41:49 +0100 (MET)

Hi all,
following the success of our last installment and given that in Sinai
internet access is not obvious, we have scheduled a quick one from Suez.
We spent another two days in Luxor, on the west bank. On the first we
did a short trek into the desert of the Theban hills and visited the
temple of Hatshepsut (or, as the locals say, Hotchickensoup). Nice
walk, if a bit sweaty, and a nice pile. The day afterwards we did
another, much longer trek deep into the ocre-brown-red desert landscape
("go west", literally) and after about four hours ended up in the
valley of the kings, littered with all the famous tombs of the New
Kingdom pharaos. In the evening we treated ourselves to the sound and
light show in Karnak temple: a bit pompous (some of the commentary
would have been really good for a Monthy Python sketch, if you know
what we mean) and longwinded. Well, these are the duties of a tourist:-).
Then we drove up (with a bus, not the train) to Qena, Safaga and ended
up in Hurghada, where we stayed for the night. We spent a depressing
afternoon there: the place (we talk about downtown, not the resorts
which may or may not be nice) is filthy and smelly (mind you, Egypt is
in general not terribly clean, but Hurghada is very much a class of its
own -- and not only in this respect).
We left this morning... or we tried. It turned out that the guy from
the bus company had only a very dim idea about his company's timetable
to Suez, so there was no 8am bus, as promised. And no 9am, 10am bus...
But there would be a bus, we were told. Eventually, there is always a
bus.
We had to wait in that hot and dusty and boring bus station because the
bus that would (eventually!) turn up might be early... Then again, it
might be late. Well, Hurghada being Hurghada, there was not much to
choose anyway.
The bus came (at 11am) and went (with us inside, luckily:-)) and five
hours later we were in Suez. Not a bad place, though we have only seen
a few bits and pieces. But the sight of these huge cargo ships floating
through the Suez Canal, with sheer desert on either side, is still
amazing.
Next installment from Nuweiba or Aqaba, as detailed in the last mail.
That's it, have a good time!
Vero+Thomas

Subject: Sinai

Date: Fri, 25 Feb 2005 17:09:15 +0100 (MET)

Dear all,
first of all many, many thanks to all who sent news and weather reports
from home (especially the latter make for nice reading -- though,
believe it or not, we got really drenched a few days ago, on the way to
the monastery of St Catherine). We very much appreciate these mails!
Because that's where we are now: in the middle of the Sinai desert (we
always thought desert means no rain but the abundance of spring flowers
and our own experiences over the last couple of days show that this is
not always true).
We are in a Beduin camp about two miles from the monastery, style
Nepalese lodge: simple, but adequate. And Sallah, the guy who runs the
show, has an old computer and Internet access. So we decided to
continue with our story.
After leaving Suez we arrived in St Catherine, very late in the evening
and were picked up by Sallah, who was looking for lost souls at the bus
station. We decided to stay with him in his camp and so far we have not
regretted it. He is a very friendly man; in the evenings he does a fire
and hot sweet tea and tells us beduin stories. Weather is on the cool
side here (perhaps 12 to 15C in the shadow), as we are about 1700
metres above sea level, but for winter it's not bad:-)
We walk a lot, as you can imagine, and the landscape is simply amazing.
Rugged in the extreme, deep canyons, high ridges, with the colours so
vivid: from the gold or red or grey of the earth to the green of the
palm trees and the flowers, the white and tender pink of the trees in
blossom to the dark blue of the sky (when it doesn't rain, that is).
The first day we visited the monastery, as did about 10000 other
tourists (only as slight exaggeration) and afterwards climbed Mount
Mousa (or Mount Sinai, as it is called in the West) and were actually
alone on the summit. We had done this climb before but it is still a
great experience and an incredible view (about 2300 metres above sea
level). The next day we did a nice, long walk through a couple of
connected wadis, which proved interesting as we had no maps, no guide
and no firm idea about the exact route. But with our trusty old compass
and some lucky guesswork we found our way through the maze of valleys
and empty ravines.
The following day we did pretty much the same, only with some other
wadis. This time we somehow got lost (these wadis all look the same,
sooner or later) and had to return on the same route. Which was nice as
we went through a deeply cut, narrow wadi, a bit like a deep gorge but
without any water, though sudden heavy rainfall with the ensuing flash
flood would be a pretty nasty experience (which, despite some drops of
rain, did not happen).
On the way we met an old lady, covered from head to toe in black clothes
(memories of "A Life Of Brian", a Monty Python classic). It turned that
she was not a local as we had assumed but a Frenchwoman who lives alone
in a hermitage in the middle of nowhere. She seems to be a kind of nun,
attached to St Catherine monastery. And she is there in her cave since
1986! She must have some pretty tall stories to tell but alas, she was
not going to tell them to us, although she was very friendly. (We later
learned from Sallah that she is a rather taciturn woman, which is what
a hermit should be, of course.) Incredible what people one meets by
chance.
Today we climbed the highest mountain in all of Egypt: Mount Catherine,
slightly less than 2700 metres high. A monk of the local monastery, who
clearly was into climbing as well, found the remains of the holy
Catherine (who had long ago died as a martyr) on the summit of that
very mountain, more than thousand years ago (funny what you find on
these mountain tops -- we found nothing in the way of dead martyrs,
alas). The views from there are of course even better than from Mount
Sinai. A craggy, rugged, torn sea of rocks, wave after wave after wave,
 and in all colors -- almost a pity that we have no camera with us so
 that we can show you that sight.
We mostly cook for ourselves in the communal kitchen; however if there
are groups around they normally have so much food prepared for them
that they can't finish it all off: we get a share which is nice.
Tomorrow we will take the bus to Nuweiba; perhaps we will indeed laze
on the beach for a day. Or do some snorkeling. Then again, maybe we
won't. We'll see. The next message might come from Aqaba or, if the
Jordanian beduin are as connected as their Egyptian brethren, from Wadi
Rum.
All the best
Vero + Thomas

Subject: Dahab - Aqaba

Date: Thu, 3 Mar 2005 18:19:20 +0100 (MET)

Dear all,
as you can see from the subject line we are now in Jordan. From St Catherine
we wanted to go to Nuweiba but a few other travellers convinced us that
Dahab would be a better choice, for the atmosphere and snorkelling as well.
So we decided on the spot to detour to Dahab and it was indeed worth it: an
ex-Hippie place, where you can still find the odd bango (Egyptian for
hashish) smoker but nowadays mostly in the hands of respectable divers and
snorkellers, such as ourselves:-) The whole thing is much more interesting
and "individual" than, say, Hurghada (for those who know it: the feeling is
not unlike Pokhara in Nepal).
We stayed there two days, snorkelled a lot and enjoyed the general
atmosphere which was very laid-back and easy-going. Nice coral reefs and
many colourful fish, but the water was so cold (and the wind so strong) that
after half an hour of swimming we had to leave the water, shivering
violently (though we repeated these half-hour shifts, after some warming up,
for another three times). The next day we went to two different reef sites,
however the weather had turned *really* windy (great day for the
windsurfers) and we got *really* pummelled by the waves. It was fun in a way
but also pretty exhausting. The afternoon was better, though. Again four
sessions and we definitely were knackered in the evening.
Next day we drove to Nuweiba and jumped aboard the ferry to Aqaba. This may
sound energetical, but the ferry was very, very, very slow indeed. (There's
also a fast boat but it is much more expensive). We left Nuweiba almost
three hours behind schedule and arrived in Aqaba at about sunset. Customs
formalities were relatively quick though, and despite being so late in the
evening we easily found a simple and cheap hotel.
The next day we did sightseeing but Aqaba is not the most attractive town
under the sun. It is not bad but after a few hours you have done all
worthwhile sights. So the next day we once again took to the waves and
snorkelled in the famed Jordanian coral reefs -- which we found a bit
disappointing after all the hype we had heard and read before. Some were
better than the Dahab reefs but on the whole they are rather similar.
So tomorrow we will continue to Wadi Rum, probably stay there for about a
week. There seems to be only very erratic Internet access from there so
perhaps the next message will come from Petra. Insh'allah.
All the best to all of you!
Vero+Thomas

Subject: Wadi Rum - Petra

Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 09:24:10 +0100 (MET)

Dear all,
sorry for the long silence, but as expected in Wadi Rum there was no
Internet access. And Petra being Petra, we simply never managed to leave the
site until after dark, when the Internet cafe was terribly cold...
But finally here we go: going from Aqaba to Wadi Rum was not at all obvious
as it was a Friday (so no buses); after much haggling we found a taxi driver
who took us and another couple we had met along the way there. Public
transport in Jordan is not in a very good shape, it seems... somewhat like
in the UK:-)
We spent six days in Wadi Rum, and walked and walked and walked (there's
nothing much else to do anyway). But the scenery is fantastic: a desert
where some crazy gods have thrown in a dozen huge mountains and big red
dunes as well as complete silence. There are simple treks like
circumnavigating Jebel Rum (finding the way was the main challenge here) and
more interesting scrambles through interlinked mazes of small ravines and
canyons.
We had five days of very good weather and sun all day round; the sixth
though was a different story: it began overcast and around 1pm it started to
rain. When we arrived at the camp site where we were staying we were (once
again in the desert!) drenched. And it didn't stop: a nice downpour almost
for the next twelve hours. The tent, decrepit as it was, kept the rain water
at bay though. So it was not too bad after all (or we have been in Britain
for too long:-)).
Then we drove to Wadi Musa which is the "support town" for the site of
Petra, one of the much anticipated highlights of our journey. Again we had
to use a taxi as the promised bus shuttling between Wadi Rum and Wadi Musa
didn't show up.
When we arrived it was still very cloudy and it was COLD. And we mean really
cold, like in winter. Amazing that it's just a one-hour drive between the
warmth of Wadi Rum and the fridge that is Wadi Musa!
The place is a hole: a rather uninspiring place where there is nothing to do
other than to sit in the hotel room and shiver.
But of course there is Petra. And Petra was a revelation. It's a site like
no other. First there is the most amazing landscape of deep gorges, crags,
dried-up wadis and rounded, green (!) hills (we liked the scenery even more
than Wadi Rum): a Michelin guide book would give it three stars. Trekking
around, loosing ourselves in the valleys and ridges here, was pure pleasure.
Then, of course, there is the Nabatean architecture, hewn into the sheer
rock. This has to be seen to be believed. It is simply beyond words. The
Nabateans were obviously slightly mad when it came to rock: wherever you are
there are some remnants of their incessant sculpting the sandstone. Stairs
beginning nowhere and ending nowhere, tombs, niches, arches, temples, caves,
tunnels, god blocks... you name it, the Nabateans have hewn it. And they
have this endearing way of doing small, completely meaningless things every
now and then: for them working the rock must have been a joy. The Romans
have added their bits as have the Christians: there are some very attractive
mosaics in a church dating from the 6th century. So another Michelin
three-stars on top of the landscape: a total running of six stars.
But we're not finished yet. On top of all that are the most incredible
erosion patterns we have ever seen. The sandstone is formed by millenia of
wind and water: rock bridges and arches and holes abound, there are boulders
in the shapes of all animals you have ever seen (as well as a few you
haven't) -- all that of course peppered with bits and pieces of Nabatean
"rock art". The most fantastic aspect of this erosion process, however, are
the colours: the sandstone shows every imaginable shade of grey, red, ocre,
yellow, dark blue in always new combinations and patterns. It is a natural
art gallery. And this is finally what pleased us most in Petra: that
incredibly colourful kaleidoscope made just of rock and erosion. So another
three (or even four?) stars for that.
If you now think that Petra is a must: yes, we definitely think so. Try to
see it if you haven't yet. It is worth it.
Tomorrow we'll continue to a place called Shobak with an old Crusader castle
and then to Dana, a nature reserve. Next will be Karak (another Crusader
castle) and Madaba, with famous mosaics. We'll report.
As always, we hope you're all well and that the cold wave hitting Europe is
finally over (it probably is because it seems to have arrived in Petra!).
And thanks for all the news we get from those who answer... they're really
appreciated!
Vero + Thomas

Subject: King's Highway - Amman

Date: Wed, 23 Mar 2005 16:48:16 +0100 (MET)

Dear all,
first, again a big thank you to all who wrote back. We love your reactions,
not least because many of you are well-travelled and give your own
impressions of the things we saw.
We are now in Amman, the Jordanian Capital. After another day in Petra,
sadly our last, we commenced the long trip up north along the so-called
King's Highway: a pittoresque and rather long-winded back-road along the
spine of the mountains between Petra and Amman with fantastic views from the
cliff tops down to Wadi Araba and the Dead Sea, about 1000 metres below.
Public transport (ie. buses) is not as good as the views though: we had to
resort to quite a few hitch-hiking episodes in between. But the Jordanians
are mostly friendly and hiking never poses a problem.
We first saw Shobak (a very ruined crusader castle: Crac de Montreal), Dana
(a beautiful canyon from the heights of the mountains down to below sea
level and a nature reserve, but we stayed only one day), Karak (with yet
another crusader castle, Crac de Moab, this one slightly less ruined and
much bigger and more interesting to explore -- it has a zillion nooks and
crannies), Lot's cave (Lot was the guy with a salt pillar as wife:-)), and
the place where Sodom was, before God in his infinite wisdom decided to raze
it with four other places, Wadi Mujib (a huge canyon, billed by the
Jordanian Tourism Board as the Middle Eastern Grand Canyon: and it is indeed
nature on a very grand scale) to Madaba with its many mosaics, the most
famous of which is a map of today's Israel and Jordan down to the Nile,
dating from about 550 AD (nice, long sentence, this one). The map-cum-mosaic
is an amazing sight but if the priests would every now and then clean it,
the whole thing would be even more impressive.
There are many more mosaics in and around Madaba and we spent a good three
days with exploring the region. There was for instance a hill (Mount Nebo,
again with an impressive view down to the Dead Sea, Jericho and Israel) on
which Moses died, all these years ago. Nowadays there's a church and it is
filled with... mosaics. Some are really beautiful, others less so, mostly
because there's more dust than mosaic.
Finally we drove the last 30 or so kilometres up to Amman. Our expectations
were pretty high because our trusty old guide book says that it is the "most
underrated and overlooked capital in the Middle East". Well, if Amman is
really overlooked, then there is a reason to it: it is a very, very ugly
city: dusty, grey, full of run-down buildings, breathing a run-down
atmosphere and more dirty than we expected. And it has almost nothing in the
way of sights. There's a couple of mosques, none of them older than fifty or
so years (Amman is almost completely a creation of the 20th century),
there's an Umayyad palace from the 8th century which is just a shambles of
stones and overgrown pathways and finally a few Roman remains. The theatre
is nice but that's it, more or less.
Of course the huge influx of Palestinian refugees during the last 50 years
hasn't helped: a lot of the buildings have been erected in a haphazard,
hasty, incongruous way: no nice town planning here. So Amman will not keep
us too busy, although we'll stay for about five days here, doing mostly
daytrips: floating in the Dead Sea, the Eastern Desert castles, Umm al
Jimal, Salt...
Next we'll go up to Irbid, our base for another four days or so of daytrips.
We'll certainly get in touch from there, because Irbid is the Internet
capital of Jordan (there is a huge university there).
We are OK so far, everything works just fine, only the temperature leaves
somewhat to be desired: around the 12 to 14C mark. Not what we are used from
the desert but of course much better than Petra! So we just try to squeeze
by:-)
All the best and keep the replies coming.
Vero + Thomas

Subject: Some observations

Date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 17:40:01 +0200 (MEST)

Dear all,
we're now in Irbid, north of Amman. This will be our base for the next four
or five days; afterwards we'll cross the border to Syria.
We did some more sightseeing while in Amman (mostly daytrips to interesting
places in the vicinity) but this will have to wait until some later time.
This mail will mainly deal with some of the things we found interesting but
which won't fit into the "touristy"  category.
The Jordanians are supposed to be very friendly, more so than the Egyptians.
Well, we found the picture is quite mixed. As long as someone is not in the
tourist or another trade so that no money exchange is involved he (it's
almost always a "he") will be very friendly. Often people go out of their
way to help us (even if we have no problem that would need addressing).
Hitch-hiking is a rather good method to meet friendly locals and we have
done some pretty long itineraries which are normally impossible without own
transport (ie rental car) by this method. Invariably it takes less than
four or five cars (which in the middle of the desert can mean ten minutes or
more) until we get a lift: sometimes an old truck, sometimes a pick-up, once
even a shiny new Mercedes S600... and so we floated with some 180 or 190km/h
through the desert. An amazing feeling, like a ride on a magic carpet (it
was an amazing car as well:-)).
Back to friendliness: shop keepers, restaurants, hotels etc. is a more mixed
picture. Some (a few) are honest but most are simply not. The level of
dishonesty towards tourists is amazing and much worse than in Egypt. In
Egypt it is only in the tour-group-swamped places like Luxor that you have
to be very much on your guard. Here it is everywhere, literally everywhere.
And once you show that you know the true price for something (or that you
understand the Arabic numerals on the price labels) the Egyptian ALWAYS
cheerfully back down. With a smile ("Well, at least I tried") they give you
the correct price as a matter of course. Not a Jordanian. He sometimes does
but he is always grumpy. And often he simply refuses to do business. There
is a hardness in their character that is completely missing in the jovial,
fun-loving Egyptian soul.
Other travellers have given us similar impressions beforehand: an Aussie we
met in the Sinai said that he found the Jordanians "harder" than the
Egyptians. We didn't then understand what he meant exactly but now we know.
Perhaps it has to do with the fact that they are at heart Bedouin. Or
perhaps the fact that more than half the population is of Palestinian
origin. (Though many, many of the refugees are very well-off these days.)
Cars in Jordan: either they're Asian (Japanese or Korean) or German. It's
really true: there is almost nothing else. Quite a few of the German cars
are second hands imported from Germany: a mark of pride is to leave the old
German number plate on the car and put the (much smaller) Jordanian plate
over it, to show off that this is the real thing. Even if the car is not
imported from Germany they often put a fake D sticker on it. Crazy.
Germany: Thomas, being German, is ALWAYS congratulated for the quality of
German engineering and German cars and German football (the latter must be
based on a rather outdated view of the German side, though). That's OK, it's
always a nice starter for a conversation.
Slightly more disconcering is the fact that many people also bring old Adolf
Hitler into the picture and expect Thomas to share their, hm... appreciation
for his doings. And it is almost impossible to explain why we think of
Hitler not as the greatest statesman the world has ever seen. So we normally
quickly change the subject...
Women on the street are not always obvious. In the bigger towns or cities
like Amman there are quite a few around (some even rather "sexy", in tight
jeans and even tighter blouses, though ALWAYS with a head-scarf, as if their
hair is the only thing that interests men...) but in more rural places there
are very, very few to be seen. And seeing a woman in a restaurant is an
event in itself: during our almost four weeks in Jordan we only saw one, in
Petra, with her husband, for sure, and they were clearly Jordanian tourists.
There is no cafe/restaurant culture here (not even in Amman), although the
weather really asks for it.
Then again, in all ads and publicity women NEVER wear a head-scarf (neither
does Queen Rania in the many portraits that plaster the country) and they
are always clothed "Western style". And pale complexion, again like a woman
in the West. This is very similar to India where all ads showed women we
simply never ever saw on the streets... Many women use a cream to give them
a more pale skin (honestly, that looks really horrible).
Paradoxically, our women try to get a nice tan and theirs try to whiten.
That's a bit of what we saw and observed although as usual there would be
much, much more to talk about. But one can only sit so long in these gloomy
Internet cafes...
We will write another message from Irbid, probably in four days or so, and
then we'll talk again more about the places we saw.
We're fine, the weather is fine as well (at last it starts to get nicely
warm: something like 25 to 28C in the sun).
Hopefully you're all OK as well...
Till next time!
Vero + Thomas

Subject: All the ruins...

Date: Fri, 1 Apr 2005 16:31:05 +0200 (MEST)

Dear all,
here we go again. First of all a few more short observations about Jordan:
the west part of the country is incredible green, some of the hills look
very much as if they were in Wales (like near Capel Curig, which is a famous
rain spot...) Sure, it's spring (and the locals keep telling us that in two,
three months all that remains will be brown, baked earth) -- nevertheless,
the amount and shades of green must be seen to be believed. That's of course
only in the hills and mountains above the Dead Sea and to the north west,
the spine of the country, so to speak. Further in the east the desert
reigns. Though, all rain we had so far fell in the desert...
The kerbsides are enormously high here in Jordan, sometimes almost half a
metre, and they're always painted yellow/black. So you can imagine how
walking through a town feels: up, down, up, down... but we are lucky, as we
have no pram to push around. The (very few) ladies we saw with one were not
really having a good time.
We thought that the Egyptians are crazy when it comes to the use of mobiles,
but they are tame customers compared to the Jordanians. Here it is mobile
heaven (or hell): literally everyone has one and oh boy, they use them.
Sitting in a local bus sometimes feels like you're in the middle of a huge
calling centre.
Back to the trail: we saw many places while we were in Amman, but it would
be too long and boring to talk about all of them in detail. So here's just a
quick run-down: the eastern desert circuit, which means the castle of Azraq
(Lawrence of A country), Qusayr Amra, an Umayyad palace with erotic frescoes
(which we found not too erotic but then the Umayyads were muslims) and Qasr
Hraneh (that was when we hitchhiked back to Amman in that fabulous Mercedes
S600).
Then Mafraq and Umm al-Jimal ("Mother of Camels"), a very nice place without
any tourists, but full of attractive black basalt ruins with many
interesting architectural details.
Then Salt, Wadi Seer and Iraq al-Amir (and more ruins, of course)... and
then, last but not least, ...... the Dead Sea. All the guide books and also
other people had warned us that this is an unmissable experience but one of
the sort you never want to repeat because the water is so salty and slimy
and leaves an immensely uncomfortable layer of salt on the skin.
In the event we liked it very much and we will definitely swim there again,
if we are in the region once more. Floating on the water, unsupported, feels
(and looks) amazing and is unlike anything else we ever experienced in
water. Probably astronauts feel not dissimilar when they float in space.
Anyway it was really worth it, especially as this was one of THE highlights
Vero was looking forward to. She was delighted!
A few people asked re our mail about Amman being such an ugly city, how
comes that the place is so famous for its art scene. Amman is indeed a kind
of centre for the arts in the Middle East and we can only speculate why the
place has so many ugly buildings and so much art. Perhaps it is a kind of
compensation. Anyway, West Amman is not as ugly as East, North and South:
everyone will tell you that that's the place where the rich live... and
consequently the avenues are broader and not lined by rubbish (most aren't),
the houses are more lavish and the gardens are greener. However, on the
whole we stick with our original statement: Amman is a concrete jungle.
We moved to and stayed another four days in Irbid, about 60km north of Amman
and saw more ruins (what did you expect?). There were the huge Roman remains
of Jerash, very nice and in a rather good state of repair. However, we found
Palmyra (in Syria) perhaps more attractive, mostly because its isolated
desert location is incomparably more dramatic than Jerash's ruins in the
middle of a modern, bustling town.
Then Umm Qais, more ruins, with lots of Byzantine churches (if we had one
dinar for every church we saw, we would be among the rich folk who own one
of these nice villas in West Amman). The views from there over the Yarmouk
gorge and to the Golan heights (Israeli occupied, but Syrian territory) is
amazing, though the heights are not as high as we expected them to be. There
is also a famous hot spring with baths nearby (the place is called Himmeh)
where we met Julia Roberts (actually only Vero did, because the baths were
doing alternating two-hour shifts for men and women; Thomas only saw a
glimpse of a lady, clad in white, and a cavalcade of black Mercedeses,
disappearing in the dust: the world is an unjust place).
There were more ruins in Pella and Ajlun, the first is Roman and Byzantine,
the latter Saracen: a castle built to counter the influence of the
crusaders. We will spare you the details.
Tomorrow we will cross the Syrian border from Ramtha to a place called
Deraa; from there we may go on to Damascus or may just stay for one night
and visit Bosra in the afternoon. We'll see.
A word of warning: the internet in Syria was very underdeveloped when we
were there the first time, two-and-a-half years ago. We have no idea how it
is today. We will sure try to keep you updated, but it is quite possible
that this is not as easy or obvious as it has been so far. Anyway, the idea
is to spend five days in Damascus, then four or so in Aleppo, four in and
around Lattakia, four in Hama, two in Palmyra, two in Deir-ez-Zor and
finally two in Qamishle, in the far north-east, in Kurd country. From
Qamishle we would cross to Nusaybin in Turkey.
That's it once again: last mail from Jordan, but we'll keep you posted!
All the best... Vero + Thomas

Subject: Damascus

Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2005 08:30:44 +0200 (MEST)

Dear all,
so now we're in Damascus and we love it. We had somewhat forgotten how nice
Syria is as a place: untouristy, friendly people, good food... And Damascus
is a hell of a nice place: a bit perhaps like Madrid, where there are not
too many sights, but the atmosphere, the way of life is just great, so
relaxed and easy-going.
Here's a funny observation: when we first came to Syria, from London in
autumn 2002, Damascus felt very much like an Arab city. Now, coming from
Egypt and Jordan, having 8 Arab weeks under our belt, it feels almost
European. Strange.
We're on the move to Palmyra and Qamishle. There will more to come probably
only when we arrive in Aleppo. All is well, though.
All the best
Vero + Thomas
PS: All of you who envied Vero and her encounter with Julia Roberts (or who
commiserated with Thomas's plight): check the date of the mail. Himmeh and
the baths are there indeed but as for Julia Roberts...

Subject: Palmyra - Deir-ez-Zor - Qamishli - Aleppo

Date: Sat, 16 Apr 2005 08:49:16 +0200 (MEST)

Dear all,
we're now in Aleppo, after a big loop through the Syrian desert. We saw
Palmyra (loved the ruins amid the desert, the sunset and the atmosphere,
though it was less quiet than last time when we were literally alone for 2
days). Then we went to Deir-ez-Zor, for the mighty Euphrates and also made a
day trip to the ruins of Dura Europos. Very ruined, these ruins, but
nevertheless impressive: a plateau high above the green belt of the
Euphrates, with the desert stretching behind to infinity.
Then Qamishli, a mostly Christian/Kurdish place with a different atmosphere
to the other places we've seen so far. We went to the far northeastern
corner of Syria, to a place called Ain Diwar. There, there are amazing views
over the Tigris and the snow-capped Turkish mountains in the distance. We
went even down to the river, the heat notwithstanding.
Then a long bus journey to Aleppo where we did all the obvious things:
Citadel, mosques, the covered souk (better than any other souk we've seen so
far; let's see for the Istanbul souks) and St Simeon and a nice place called
Qalb Lozeh, a byzantine church in the middle of nowhere: difficult to reach
but we are now getting really experienced with the hitch-hiking thing!
Amazingly enough, it ALWAYS works out...
Tomorrow we go to Hama, 4 days, then Lattakia, from where we try to send
another mail.
All is well and we hope that's the same with you as well. Keep the mails
flowing!
Vero + Thomas

Subject: Aleppo - Hama - Lattakia

Date: Fri, 22 Apr 2005 16:39:42 +0200 (MEST)

Hi folks,
here's the last mail from Syria. We have completed our Aleppo-based circuit
and moved on to Hama, a rather nice place along the banks of the Orontes.
There are amazing waterwheels in Hama; one of the things we were looking
forward was seeing (and hearing!) them again. They were used in the old
times to transport water into faraway fields, but nowadays they are just
tourist attractions. But they are really lovely monsters, not least because
of the endearing quaint noise they produce.
We visited quite a few places from Hama (makes a good base): Qasr Ibn Wardan
(a Byzantine palace + church in the desert), Apamea (a kind of
Palmyra-in-the-fields), Qalaat Shmeimis and Homs, and of course the Krak des
Chevaliers. The latter was as impressive as the first time round: probably
the most intact crusader structure in the region. (If you give us a few
crusaders, we'll supply the castle.)
Today we moved to Lattakia, where we are trying to avoid the sticky heat by
sitting in this Internet cafe. Tomorrow we'll visit Tartus, Qalaat Marqab
(yet another castle) and the Mediterranean coast. The final full day in
Syria will bring us to Qalaat Salah-ad-Din (the second best of these
castles) and into the mountains. And then... it's Turkey!
We'll probably get in touch next from Cappadocia, in about a week or so. All
is OK, we are doing fine, though there are only four-and-a-half weeks
left:-(
All the best and thank you once again for the mails.
Vero + Thomas

Subject: Antakya - Kayseri - Cappadocia

Date: Mon, 2 May 2005 16:06:01 +0200 (MEST)

Dear all,
we are now in Turkey and this is a completely different country to the three
we have already seen. It is almost like being in Europe, the main difference
being the screaming (though less loudly than in Syria) muezzins. That is
really true: Turkey feels like Europe, even in the not so big places we have
seen so far.
Antakya (the old Antioch) lies on the banks of the Orontes (a river we saw
last in Hama in Syria) and is a lively place. Among other things it has
a rather nice mosaic museum, worth the visit and more. Highly recommended.
Kayseri is a provincial capital in Anatolia, again lively and amazingly
modern. This was a stop on the way to Cappadocia, so we only saw the main
attractions, a covered souk, a citadel, a couple of nice old mosques and
some ancient khans. The road to Kayseri first skirts the Mediterranean
coast, then climbs into the interior. And the countryside is definitely
mountainous: there are high massifs and snowy ridges almost all the way to
Kayseri. And south of Kayseri is a snow-capped volcano, some 3900 metres
high. Amazing.
And then came Cappadocia.
The central triangle around Nevsehir, Uerguep and Avanos is without any
doubt on a par with Petra. It is possibly even more fascinating. Cappadocia
is really a highlight (perhaps THE) of this trip. The landscape is
indescribable, with fairy chimneys built by eons of erosions; deep colourful
ravines, glacier-like formations... but the reality is far better than
whatever we could write. A paradise for hiking and we had our share of fun.
And as in Petra there is a lot of rock carving. This time though it is more
concerned with the interior: there are whole churches, complete with
columns, naves, domes, aisles, cut into the rock. And some of them still
have amazing paintings, sometimes direct on the rocky walls and ceilings,
sometimes as frescoes. Again, all this is much better than any description
could ever be.
The ancient villages of which there are plenty are full of troglodyte
habitations, with quite a few still habitable (and inhabited). The Petra
carvers mostly "did the outside": nice facades etc., whereas here there are
whole villages carved out of the rock. There are even castles with several
levels, tunnels, climbing chimneys and so on.
Anyone who liked Petra will love this part of Cappadocia.
OK, so tomorrow we go to Konya, home of the whirling dervishes, then to
Pammukale and then to Selcuk for Ephesus and Priene. We will probably write
again from there.
We are fine, the weather is less so: a mixture of showers and sun (Turkey
being in this respect also more European than the Arab countries).
All the best and tell us what goes on in Europe!
Vero + Thomas

Subject: Konya - Pamukkale

Date: Fri, 6 May 2005 18:20:22 +0200 (MEST)

Hi, all:
an impromptu message from Pamukkale because our hotel has just received
ADSL... and we are the first to use (and test) it.
So we went from Cappadocia with a sad heart (the landscape is really that
fantastic) to Konya, the birthplace of the Whirling Dervishes. The founder
of that sect came to Konya in the 13th century, fleeing his native
Afghanistan (already then an unquiet place, it seems) and founded his order.
He is buried in Konya and his tomb is the center of much devotion and of a
beautiful museum. His sect and the underlying philosophy are not extremist
at all, quite to the contrary: open and tolerant. It is partly because of
this and one or two similar sects that Turkey never fell for Islamists.
Konya left us with a slightly less modern, more conservative impression:
given the fact that it is an intensely religious city, perhaps not so
surprising. There are many mosques, including a garish one that looks like a
Rokoko church (really true, this one... and after all the nice 13th century
mosques a nearly unbelievable sight).
Then, again across very imposing countryside (the Turkish Lakeland), to
Pamukkale, a sleepy village under a huge white scar: the famous travertine
terrasses. But what a disappointment! No, that's perhaps not the right word:
more sadness that a once great place is now in the process of dying.
Because that's exactly what's happening here: the hotels have been pumping
off so much water that the terrasses and pools are mostly empty. Just dirty,
dusty shells, gleaming in the sun, empty and sad. Pamukkale is perhaps the
most shocking example we've ever seen of a place killed by the extrems of
tourism. If nothing happens the site will be dead in a few decades.
Having said that it is still an imposing sight. But to imagine how it must
have looked in its heyday, to listen to the locals who tell us sad stories
of decline (and then happily turn on the taps to fill their swimming pools
with the precious water)...
But there is always a compensation and here it came in the form of tour
groups, specifically Russian tour groups. We have not written much about
them but we have seen them throughout our journey in all the big places and
we are now pretty good at recognizing them.
The ladies are most obvious (literally). They ALWAYS have supertight jeans
(and we mean supertight) or even supershort shorts (even in churches or
mosques) and nobody else wears these in such abundance. Not to talk about
their supertight halter tops and other assorted thingies designed to show
what they've got.
Here in Pamukkale they come with bikinis to bathe in the few pools and
streams in the terrasses. The general rule is clear: the more naked flesh
you see the higher the probability that they are Russian. So imagine Muslim
ladies, clad from head to toe, rubbing shoulders with almost naked blondes.
It's a sight, we can tell you!
So we spent a very entertaining afternoon watching pretty Russian girls
parading the terrasses (they also have a nice habit of posing for photos in
the most ridiculous or even arousing manner: if you have it, flaunt it!)...
yes, it really was a bit of a change after three long "dry" months in the
Arab countries!
Tomorrow we go on to Selcuk for Ephesus. More in about a week, either from
Canakkale or from Bursa (small change of plan: we don't go direct from
Canakkale to Istanbul; instead we stay two days in Bursa).
All the best from us and we'll be back!
Vero + Thomas

Subject: Selcuk - Bergama - Canakkale

Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 16:39:43 +0200 (MEST)

Hello all,
today is the 11.5 and there are now less than 2 weeks to go until we're on
our way back to the UK. We are writing this offline in our hotel in Bergama
and will probably send it only in a few days, perhaps from Bursa. Sitting in
the hotel, with no internet cafe clock ticking, makes for a pleasant change
and allows us to write down some observations we have had so far in Turkey.
Our first impression from Antakya, after crossing from Syria, still stands:
Turkey is a thoroughly modern, secular and westernized country. Since three
months this is the first place where we've seen young men and women
hand-in-hand or even, horror of horrors, kissing in the public. Women smoke
quiet openly, whereas in the Arab countries no woman would be seen with a
cigarette in hand.
On the other hand the Turks are less careful in matters of personal hygiene
than the Arabs as any journey in a hot, not air-conditioned local bus will
show.
And travelling here feels like travelling in any European country: it is
clean, sometimes almost sterile; there is no rubbish on the streets; there
are timetables (which the trains and buses actually respect); the people are
friendly but more in the unpersonal, formal way we have so perfected in the
West. Gone is the warmth of the Arabs, the unending stream of invitations to
tea, gone is the chaos and the exotism: taking a train or bus is more
adventurous in the UK than it is here, honestly. So with hindsight perhaps
we should have done the whole thing in reverse: starting in Istanbul and
terminating in Cairo (though this is only feasible in autumn, because of the
weather).
All this doesn't mean that Turkey is not an interesting destination: it sure
is. But this complete break between the 3 Arab countries and this country
came as a bit of a surprise. But that's exactly what travelling is about: to
discover these things.
Another thing we also had not expected is the amazing landscapes: Turkey is
a dream destination for trekkers and walkers. Unfortunately, to get to all
these places, one needs own transport, as they are often out of the way.
(And at any rate, we simply don't have enough time to do this properly.)
To give those of you who have never been here an idea how inland Turkey (we
have not seen much of the coast) looks and feels as a country: imagine a
cross between Switzerland (for some of the beautiful scenery and also the
style of buildings), Sweden (again a style thing: functional but
colourful)and let's say Bosnia (for the mosques and the slightly dilapidated
look of small, out-of-the-way villages): there you have it.
Okay, back to touristic delights. Since Pamukkale and the Russian invasion
we have seen Ephesus and Priene, near Selcuk, and Pergamon, near Bergama,
where we are today. Ephesus is the second most visited attraction in Turkey
after Istanbul and it feels even worse than that. The place is literally
submerged by the number of visitors: the main street feels and looks from
above like London's Oxford Street, only more packed (okay, there were a few
school classes around, but even so the numbers must be staggering).
What makes it worse is that the authorities have thought it necessary to
close off almost all the side streets and other ways, so that people are
literally channeled through the main thouroughfare with nothing much else to
do than to get into each other's way. Given that one of our main joys is the
THOROUGH exploration of a site, this was a bit frustrating (more than a bit,
actually).
Another thing we disliked is the state of the ruins: in Ephesus they are in
a state of unbelievable neglect, especially when considering the huge number
of visitors. With neglect we do not mean ruined: that's what ruins are
about. No, almost everything there is totally overgrown with weeds and
grass; the sights are badly, if at all, explained; yes, the place definitely
looks neglected. So on the whole a certain disappointment.
Priene had a completely different feel because there are almost no visitors
there. And we could investigate everything and turn all the stones we
wanted... but there are simply not many stones left. A nice theatre, a few
re-erected columns of an Athena temple, a couple of public buildings and
many, many foundations. By contrast the labelling there was much better and
the weeds were almost non-existant. Last but not least, down from the hill,
there was the broad plain in which the river Meander... meanders: a rather
nice view, and not only because we like the word and could witness its
ultimate source.
Pergamon is very much what we expected Ephesus to be: a big site (almost too
big, even for our legs), with many nooks and crannies and holes and things
to explore. Not too overcrowded either because there are less visitors and
the site is big enough to accomodate them. In a word: we loved it, though
the Germans have carted off the choicest bits to their Pergamon museum in
Berlin. The setting of the site on-top of a steep hill in-between the
mountains is beautiful, the skill with which the Greeks and Romans built
their temples and terrasses into the rocky landscape is obvious. And the
theatre must be the most amazing in all of Asia Minor: a rather steep affair
(nothing for people with vertigo), overlooking a deep valley as well as the
mountains on the far side. This alone merits the visit. Yes, Pergamon is a
definite highlight, on a par with sites like Palmyra in Syria or Jerash in
Jordan.
Fast-forward two days: we are now in Canakkale, and it's Friday 13.
afternoon. We have been to the Gallipoli peninsula today, visiting the 1915
battle fields and museum. Nice countryside with many cemeteries... left us,
once again, wondering about human bravery and human folly. Perhaps we, in
the consumer paradise of the 21st century, are beginning to forget how wars
determined and often destroyed the lives of our ancestors.
Gallipoli is of course on the European side of Turkey, so we have now
visited three continents in as much months: Africa, Asia, Europe.
Tomorrow we'll see Troy and the horse (believe it or not, there is a wooden
horse for visitors to climb and enter, so that they can feel for a moment
like a mighty Greek warrior of a few thousand years ago -- what was that
thing about human folly:-)?).
Then Bursa and finally Istanbul, the last stop before boarding the plane
home. There will probably one more message, with impressions from Istanbul.
However, we will round-up the whole business once we're in Boringstoke and
have the PCs up and running.
In the meantime all the best for all of you.
Thomas and Vero

Subject: Troy - Bursa - Istanbul

Date: Sun, 22 May 2005 16:28:15 +0200 (MEST)

Hi, folks,
so we've made it to Istanbul after all. More about that later, first a few
words about Troy and Bursa.
Troy was nice though there was not much to see. But the explanations were
nicely done and the location of the site itself is, if not spectacular, then
at least impressive, with Troy on a rocky outcrop with the coastal plains
and the Dardanelles behind. We were not disappointed though some people
suggested that visiting the site would not be worthwhile.
Bursa was very nice: a lively city and former capital of the Ottoman empire,
with a corresponding array of buildings: tombs of many sultans and their
wives, mosques, a citadel and so on. But best of all was the feeling to be
in a real city again and not one of those "artificial" places like Canakkale
or Selcuk or Pamukkale which exist solely for the sake of tourism.
From Bursa we took a bus to Yalova, on the Asian side of the Marmara sea and
from there a ferry to Istanbul's European side, Yenikapi to be exact. What a
romantic idea, to arrive by ship and not by bus or plane:-) But it was
indeed nice, seeing the Aya Sofia and the Sultanahmet mosque floating on
their hill, and many other mosques in the backdrop though we could not leave
the passenger compartment.
Istanbul is a very mixed bag: crowded with foreign and Turkish tour groups,
with almost all hotels filled to capacity (there will be the Champions
League final next Wednesday) -- we effectively had trouble to find a cheap
(ie. less than 50 US-$) room. In the end we succeeded but only with some
luck.
Perhaps the best description of Istanbul is to say that it is a sanitized,
Europeanized, cleaned-up version of Cairo: less smelly, less noisy, less
dirty, less polluted, less rubbishy -- but also less interesting.
The Aya Sofia is amazing, a must-see site. The hugeness of the building is
beyond description, even if parts of it look from the outside more like a
run-down factory of the 19th century. And then the glimmering mosaics...
(there is also a Byzantine church in the Western outskirts with the most
beautiful and complete mosaics we have seen so far: Kariye church. Highly
recommended.).
The Topkapi palace complex, by contrast, left us cold though the Harem was
interesting.
But the big thing here (literally) are the mosques. People who like their
mosques huge should come here: in this respect Istanbul beats Cairo
hands-down. Most are not only big but also beautifully decorated, either
with tiles or paint or both. The variety is amazing and the whole ensemble
came as somewhat of a surprise to us (but we seem to show the first signs of
a slight mosque lassitude now:-))
That's why we will spend the last two days on the Bosphorus: tomorrow a boat
tour almost to the Black Sea and on Tuesday another boat ride to the
so-called Princes' Islands, in the sea of Marmara.
We hope we survive the onslaught of British and Italian football fans (we've
already spotted the first drunken Liverpool supporters, they are pretty easy
to recognize).
OK, that's it. We will finish off the whole business with another mail or
two from Boringstoke, in a week or so, but for now we sign off.
All the best and it was nice to be able to keep in touch like that!
Vero + Thomas

Subject: Wrapping up...

Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2005 17:49:49 +0100

Hello everybody:
we are now back in B'stoke since three weeks and we love it:-). Actually
it's not too bad here in the UK as the weather is rather nice and not
colder than in Istanbul, if you can believe that (Turkey, even near the
coastal areas, was a surprisingly cool place, we found).
We already enjoyed the usual battles, for instance with BT to get our
phone re-connected. (BT must be one of the most incompetent companies on
the planet. If not the universe.) But things are getting back to normal.
Okay. A few people asked about the souk (covered bazaar) in Istanbul. We
didn't mention it but sure, we've been there. Architecturally speaking,
it is among the nicest of the many souks we have seen during our time in
the Middle East but in terms of what the dealers actually sell it's
boringly touristy, possibly even worse that Cairo's Khan al-Khalili
because it is so much bigger.
There are almost no shops left which sell all those amazing things we do
not anymore see in the West or which here tend to come from just a few
companies (in Damascus we found a small alley where they sold just
adhesive tapes: shop upon shop crammed to the ceiling with tapes, in all
shapes, sizes, colours, strengths... That was a pretty amazing sight.)
So on that front no comparison to the "real-life" bazaars of Aleppo and
especially Damascus. Though both these bazaars do have their touristy
patches they are much more geared towards locals and their needs. And in
the Arab countries many things (like bedsteads, stoves and even baskets)
are still made by hand, in the old-fashioned way, whereas in Turkey they
are replaced by cheaper mass-produced stuff. It makes one sad to realise
that the Damascus souk will look like Istanbul's in just a few decades'
time.
Having said that, around the covered bazaar in Istanbul there are many
alleys (but not covered) where they sell clothes, household wares and
the like. Still, the number of these shops seemed fairly limited
compared to, say, Syria.
One thing about Turkey that we have not expected is the cult around
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the "father of the nation". In Jordan or Syria
there are many places with portraits of king or president (in Syria also
many of the late Hafez al-Assad). But well, these places being what they
are... However, with Turkey being so europeanised we simply didn't
expect to see much in the way of portraits of presidents, living or
otherwise.
In fact, in Turkey there are probably more Atatürk portraits
(photographs but also many paintings) around than "King Abdullah"s in
Jordan or "President Bashar"s in Syria. Basically Atatürk is
unavoidable: he pops up everywhere, in the most unexpected of places.
And the man ALWAYS wears that strict, severe expression, especially in
his steely blue eyes. Yes, always: on some portraits Atatürk looks
positively demonic, while on others his stare just implies that you must
have done something very, very bad, that you are not worthy of your
upright and respectable compatriots. But the Turks seem to like that.
Here is a highly subjective list of what we think were the absolute
highlights, our top must-see sites:
1. Cappadocia
2. Petra
After these two super sites there's nothing for a good while and then,
in the order we encountered them:
3. Felucca sailing on the Nile (Aswan)
4. Temple of Luxor (not the big one, in Karnak)
5. Summit of Mount Catherine (Sinai)
6. Snorkeling in the Red Sea
7. Rakabat canyon (Wadi Rum)
8. Floating on the Dead Sea
9. Palmyra
10. Krak de Chevaliers
11. The souks in Aleppo
12. St Simeon (near Aleppo)
13. The mosaic museum in Antakya
14. Pergamon
15. Aya Sofia
16. The mosaics in the Kariye church in Istanbul
Hm... 16 highlights for 16 weeks: how nice.
Some statistics: We covered around 5000 miles, not counting brief local
day trips, which means roughly 45 miles per day. That's a surprisingly
low figure -- we have clearly spent far too many days with unproductive
things, like hiking in Wadi Rum, Petra and Cappadocia:-).
Anyway, about 1100 miles were done in trains (Egypt and Syria) and 100
miles on board of ferries (Nuweiba to Aqaba; Jalova to Istanbul). We
hitchhiked around 300 miles; the remaining 3500 miles were done in
busses, mostly in the big comfy overland type with a/c, not those Indian
style local busses (though we had a few of these as well).
Here are two observations about the West or more correctly the UK: We
just come back from the B'stoke shopping centre and the amount of stuff
there is amazing. Indeed, it is overwhelming. All those things we do not
need, like electrical ice crushers or the 736 varieties of rechargeable
torches, all with different colours. Or how about that electronic pepper
mill with automatic speed control, depending on the granularity of the
pepper corns? Good grief.
Second, there was this small note in a Tchibo's window (that's the guys
who started as coffee merchants and now seem to sell whatever they can
lay their hands on). They have apparently changed the sizes of their
clothing lines, so that the stuff "now fits like gloves". Guess what?
The old size S for women was 8/10; the new S is 10/12. The old XL for
men was 37/39 inches around the waist; the new XL is 41/43. That's a
whopping 4 inches more!
Well, it seems we all are growing bigger and bigger these days:-) As a
matter of fact we found upon returning that people here in the UK looked
definitely more "robust" than those in the Middle East.
Some domestic news: Vero has literally immediately found a temping job
with her old company, Motorola. She is now doing, albeit only for four
months, what she used to do about six years ago: profit and loss
spreadsheets. However, she likes it: she knows the company, the job and
the colleagues. Yes, it is not unlike a journey back in time, the main
difference being that all got older:-).
Thomas is finishing his third novel: probably around beginning of July
the first test readers (beside poor Vero, of course, who has already
twice gone through the manuscript) will have the joy or otherwise to
read the whole thing. It's partly a love story, partly a strange kind of
psychological thriller, a complicated tale and not one with a happy end.
Parts of it may not make for very pleasant reading. Then again, Thomas
insists that happy ends are boring, that he never learned anything
important through a happy end. Go figure.
That's it for now. Next installment comes in four months or so, when we
are doing a four-week hop over to Cyprus: this year is definitely the
year of the Mediterranean.
All the best and thanks for listening!
Vero + Thomas

More? Well, there is a small collection of mails we sent from Cyprus, either in English or in French.


$updated from: ME2005 Mails English.htxt Sat 18 Jan 2014 13:14:24 thomasl (By Thomas Lauer)$