Cyprus to Beirut, Lebanon, and back!

Although several in the group stay on Cyprus to visit several sites in the Nicosia area, most of us hopped back abroad our Explorer jet for the 50 minute flight to Beirut. A beautiful city with again more of a middle eastern flair we start with a tour of the National Museum which houses one of the world’s best collections of Phoenician art. In addition to the beautiful art, we watched an eye opening video showing the restoration of the museum after the nations tumultuous civil war during the late 1980’s.

statue

sarcophogusThen off to lunch, after a stop at the striking Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque, located, interestingly, right next door to the Maronite Cathedral of St. George (the former built in 2007, and the latter in 1894). After lunch, we had some free time to wander the local streets, and sneak in an ice cream, before having to head back to the bus for our return flight to Cyprus.

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque

Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque

soldiers

Although we felt safe, the military presence is a strong one.

The bronze Martyrs statue are the only features left of the Martyrs' Square. The statue, which was inaugurated on March 6, 1960, is the work of Italian sculptor Renato Marino Mazzacurati.[1] The statue, riddled with bullet holes, has become a symbol for all that was destroyed during the Lebanese Civil War.

The bronze Martyrs statue in Martyrs’ Square. The statue, which was inaugurated on March 6, 1960, is the work of Italian sculptor Renato Marino Mazzacurati. The statue, riddled with bullet holes, has become a symbol for all that was destroyed during the Lebanese Civil War.

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Saudi Arabia to Cyprus

Panagia tis Aggeloktistis

Panagia tis Aggeloktistis

You know we’re well taken care of when our three hour flight to Larnaca, Cyprus feels “too short”. So before you know it we’re clearing immigration and customs and touring the church of Panagia tis Aggeloktistis, notable for its 13th century frescoes that decorate the interior. We then proceed to the Neolithic settlement of Choirokotia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which predates by many thousands of years the first ancient Greek settlements from 1200 BC.

Neolithic settlement with Sandra Pearson, Paul Heafy, and Anne Caple

Neolithic settlement with Sandra Pearson, Paul Heafy, and Anne Caple

Choirokoitia, occupied from the 7th to the 4th millennium B.C (!)

Choirokoitia, occupied from the 7th to the 4th millennium B.C (!)

 

We then check in to the hotel, note the beautiful pools and ocean views, freshen up, and then head to Professor Simon’s lecture on his experience as a US diplomate over the years. Then down the road where we dine amidst cafe’s and old churches, with local music and dancers. A wonderful meze dinner… the plates just kept coming…

A new day, time to head to our Explorer jet.

A new day, time to head to our Explorer jet.

 

Al Ula and Mada’in Salih, Saudi Arabia

Ancient Nabataean tombs

Ancient Nabataean tombs

Up and out, back to the airport, where we board our chartered flight to Al Ula in the north. Striking desert and rock formations as we land, and continue during our bus ride to the ruins of the 13th century mud-brick village en route to lunch at the Arac Hotel. We eat quickly as we’re eager to move on to see the Hijaz railroad depot, built by the Turks in 1905, and famous as the site of attacks led by the legendary Lawrence of Arabia. But even more impressive is the ancient Nabataean city of Mada’in Salih, a sister city to Petra along the trading route, set amidst the spectacular expanse of golden sand and curious rock formations. Great to get out of the buses for a stroll along the dunes and photos amongst the ancient tombs. Time to roll out the Stanford banner: group photo! After too little time we’re back on the buses for the ride to the airport. When was the last time your bus was stopped the highway to let the camels cross? Thought so.

Larry and Jeanne Aufmuth

Larry and Jeanne Aufmuth

Our fearless leaders in the desert.

high tech

New technology meets traditional culture…

Contemplative professor.

Contemplative professor.

GO STANFORD!!

GO STANFORD!!

 

 

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

separate lines (and security) for men and women

separate lines (and security) for men and women

Group breakfast and half of us are hard to recognize. Black, flowing abayas and headscarfs are de rigeur and will continue to be a nuisance for the women as they get on and off buses, enjoy our meals, and walk through museums and hinterland deserts. We start today at the impressive National Museum of Riyadh, and explore its eight galleries which celebrate Arabian civilization from 6000 BC to the present. We then visit the downtown “mud fort”, enjoy dates, ginger or cinnamon coffee before the noon call to prayer surrounds us as we return to the buses.

museum

Getting a date with Sandra Pearson

Getting a date with Sandra Pearson

saudi coffee

We drive to the King Abudalaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) for a video presentation, and warm welcome by Prince Turki and members of the Stanford Club of Saudi Arabia. And what would our lunch be without a serving of camel!? Local alumni join each of our lunch table and make for interesting discussion.

Stanford grads, Saudi princes, and camel for lunch!

Stanford grads, Saudi princes, and camel for lunch!

We then return to our hotel for a lazy evening. The more adventurous of us head to the shopping mall, more for the people watching! Here are all the women we’ve hardly seen during the day, all covered head to toe in their abayas, with kids, and occasionally boyfriends, in tow. Haute couture for sure and a Starbucks and Victoria’s Secret (fragrances and handbags only) to round out the experience.

Love Arrow, from Jessie Boucher

We all have friends and family that are not with us on this monumental journey. I have met just one woman and one man who, like me, are traveling without their spouses. Here is a little love message from us especially to you.

Halfway around the world

From our last embrace

Now each day brings me closer

To the most important destination

Home to you

love arrow

To Pam, from Evan, “I love you, Lamb!”

To Rick, from Susan, “xoxoxo”

To Laurent, front Jessie, “bisous mon amour, Henri, et Diva”

Burma to Saudi Arabia

A relatively leisurely departure time (7:30am) and we drive back to He Ho airport for our short flight back to Rangoon / Yangon and bid farewell to our new friends, and fine local guides. We have all truly enjoyed our short time in Burma / Myanmar. Then on to our Explorer jet for a relatively long travel day making our way via India (fuel stop) to Ryadd, Saudi Arabia. Out over the Arabian Sea we cross the half way point on our around the journey around the world, we cannot be further from home. We arrive relatively late and make our way to the Four Seasons Hotel at the Kingdom Centre, Riyadh. Good night.

Chris n Nikki

Chris, our executive chef, and Nikki, one of our talented flight crew, welcome us back on board, wearing hints of traditional Burmese attire.

Inle Lake, Burma

It’s well before dawn. We’re in far away Burma. So it must be time for: Super Bowl! In a crazy juxtaposition we enjoy (?) Super Bowl Sunday this very early Monday morning while local, rural Burma wakes up.

The locals wondered what we were up to: big screen TV, chips, chicken wings, bloody Marys, and a bunch of enthusiastic fans!

The locals wondered what we were up to: big screen TV, chips, chicken wings, bloody Marys, and a bunch of enthusiastic fans!

With some hanging their heads, we have breakfast, and then climb in to “long boats” for a beautiful ride across Inle Lake, observing the local fisherman and their unique one legged paddling technique as we make are way to the ruins of the In Thein temple.

dawn fishing

fisherman

Ruins of the In Thien temple

Ruins of the In Thien temple

Rows of shopping opportunity precedes beautiful temple ruins, and then an equally beautiful lunch deep within a bamboo grove. Local “long neck” tribes women service iced green tea, and we enjoy beef curry, fish in (local) tomato sauce, and chicken served in a carved gourd. Then back in the boats for either a ride back to the hotel for a rest, of another stop and the silk factory.

Delicious lunch in the bamboo grove.

Delicious lunch in the bamboo grove.

silk spinning Andria Heafy

Long boats take us back home.

Long boats take us back home.

Everyone enjoys a bit of down time as the sun starts to settle behind the pool on the deck, preparations clearly underway for our evening event. Faculty Member Tom Simons educates us about South East Asian political history and then the festivities begin – cocktails, carnival games, small market, and then dinner with entertainment. The fantastic night is capped off by the launching of many, many “wish balloons” in to the starry night. Beautifful