3 April 2023 – Bad Vöslau Austria and Prague Czechia

Sometime in mid-March, I tried out an inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) for the first time. I’m a big guy, so standing and balancing was a challenge. I lasted about 5 minutes before I toppled into the water. Later, when reviewing YouTube, I discovered that the best way to maintain balance is with forward motion, like riding a bike. Balancing in still water and not moving is quite difficult for a beginner.

On 24 March, we made another quick trip to Austria to visit with our son Raoul, his wife Amelia, and our grandson Thorsten (now 2 1/2 years old). We have weekly video chats with Thorsten, and try to visit him in person when possible to reinforce family ties.

We bought and used an “e-sim” for our phones, and setup a 30 day plan (covering 35 EU countries) with 3GB of data for $18 CDN. This took effect from the moment the plane touched down in Vienna, and was very convenient as we travelled through Austria and onwards to Prague.

Thorsten is now going to Kindergarten, so with his busy weekly schedule, we decided it was time for us to visit someplace new. This time, we took a train to Prague Czechia (the Czech Republic), a country and city that we have never visited before. That brings the tally to 76 countries. The train was a great experience, on time and economical. As senior citizens, we are getting discounts now.

This, of course, gave us the opportunity to sample some local delights. We had a few beers.

One day, I had a hot dog (long awaited pork) for lunch and Diane had what she described as the best hamburger in a decade!

Prague is the capital and largest city in the Czech Republic (Czechia) and the historical capital of Bohemia. Now that is something that I did not know. The city is situated on the Vltava river and home to about 1.3 million people – and receives more than 8.5 million international tourists every year. Prague has a rich history and Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectures. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Bohemia and the residence of several Holy Roman Emperors, most notably Charles IV (1346–1378).

Prague is home to a number of well-known cultural attractions, many of which survived the violence and destruction of 20th-century Europe. The main attractions include Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, Old Town Square with the Prague astronomical clock, the Jewish Quarter (where we stayed in our AirBnB). Since 1992, the historic centre of Prague has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

We took a stroll across the Charles pedestrian bridge. It was cold but still swarming with tourists.

The city has more than ten major museums, along with numerous theatres, galleries, cinemas, and other historical exhibits. An extensive modern public transportation system connects the city. The City centre was surprisingly busy, despite the cool weather conditions. This is probably the coldest environment we have been in since leaving Canada 14 years ago. This did not seem to deter the thousands of tourists though. If it’s this busy now, I’d hate to see what the crowds are like in July!

We had a traditional lunch of slow roasted ham, bread dumplings, potatoes with cabbage.

One morning at precisely 11am, we observed the changing of the hour at the Astronomical Clock, constructed on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square. The clock mechanism has three main components – the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details; statues of various Catholic saints stand on either side of the clock; “The Walk of the Apostles”, an hourly show of moving Apostle figures and other sculptures, notably a figure of a skeleton that represents Death, striking the time; and a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.

Afterwards, when we climbed the stairs, we had a look inside at the mechanism.

The rooftop views were very scenic.

Along the street, we sampled TRDELNIK, a rolled and cooked pastry.

One day we ventured to the National Museum, but mistakenly visited the National Museum of Technology, which was also right next to the National Museum of Agriculture. When we did visit the real National Museum, we were very impressed with many of the exhibits. This particular exhibit of sea birds was the best I have seen.

I ate potato soup in bread, and a spicy goulash, while Diane had regular goulash.

One day, we walked (and those cobble-stone streets are murder on our feet) over to visit Prague Castle, built in the 9th century. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was the seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, Prague Castle is the largest ancient castle in the world, occupying an area of almost 70,000 square metres (750,000 square feet), at about 570 metres (1,870 feet) in length and an average of about 130 metres (430 feet) wide. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Prague, the seat of the Archbishop of Prague – and inside the complex of the Prague Castle. This cathedral is a prominent example of Gothic architecture, and is the largest and most important church in the country. It contains the tombs of many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors.

Inside the cathedral, we found the Chapel of St John of Nepomuk, and the vault containing the remains of St Ludmila. These are the remains.

We visited the statue of “Good King Wenceslas” (positioned just in front of the National Museum) – and I recalled that there is a Christmas carol that tells a story of a Bohemian king who goes on a journey, braving harsh winter weather, to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen. What is “the Feast of Stephen” then? Saint Stephen’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Stephen, is a Christian saint’s day to commemorate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr or protomartyr, celebrated on 26 December in Western Christianity and 27 December in Eastern Christianity. King Wenceslas refers to Saint Wenceslaus, sometimes called Václav the Good, who was the Duke of Bohemia from 921 to 935 and venerated as “the righteous king” for his great piety and charity. After his murder in 935, he was sainted and Holy Roman Emperor Otto bestowed on Wenceslaus the posthumous title of King.

We also stopped by to see Kafkova Hlava or Kafka’s Head. This eleven-metre-tall statue is a technical marvel of the 21st century in the centre of Prague. Forty-two moving panels rotate to create the face of the famous Czech writer Franz Kafka. The statue created by the artist David Černý is situated near the Quadrio Shopping Centre, it combines art with modern technology adopting the traditional “golden hands” of Czech craftsmen. If you haven’t already seen it, watch the “The Metamorphosis”. Wait for all of the panels to align and reveal the face of Kafka!

After returning to Alanya, we are on a schedule now, aiming for departure from Alanya and Türkiye in “early May”.

23 February 2023 – Alanya Türkiye More Renovations and Updates

The days on the calendar are flying by, as we approach our departure from Alanya.

The first big news is that I ripped out our 220V Jenn-Air Electric Cooktop. This was a good product when I bought and installed it in 2000, but it has never really done what I expected. Due to the very high wattage (almost 4000W), I could never use it on shore power and was only connected to the generator. In North America, I would have had to use a two-phase 50A shore power cord (much more expensive than a single phase 30A cord), and at a marina – those dock pedestals are not nearly as common as the 110V single phase 30A receptacles. Therefore, we had a bit of a “white elephant” in place – with this cooktop that could only be used with the generator. The next kick in the head is that the Onan generator has never been all that reliable either. I bought what I believed at the time to be a very good product, but as I’ve learned from others – there does not seem to be such a thing as a “very good generator”. With all this in mind, I have been thinking for years to get away from relying on the generator and build up more solar.

This photo shows the space where the Jenn-Air used to be. You can see that the downdraft extraction pipe is still there. I have filled the void with plywood, as a base for the new stove.

With Ahmet’s help, we found a shop in the industrial area (the Sanaya) that could produce a countertop special to our needs. We researched granite, Corian, and quartz, and eventually decided to buy a quartz “off-cut” from someone else’s project.

As usual, Ahmet got us a bargain.

Once this new quartz countertop was in place, we needed to focus on the small details. A small, but important piece of wood trim was needed here, outlined by the red oval.

When I was building the boat more than 20 years ago, I would make this kind of trim myself, since I had a table saw and router table on the boat. So…..back to the Sanaya with Ahmet to see the “Master Carpenter”.

This is the same area, now showing the trim pieces added and the quartz cutout for the stove.

By the way, the little green can to the left is a small propane cylinder attached to a gimballed mountain camping stove. It is rarely used, but usually for hot beverages when underway.

When we are underway, there is a bit of motion inside the boat (side to side) and since we don’t have a proper gimballed stove, this is how we cook. We use a rice cooker, or in this case – our InstaPot – fastened to the side. As long as the pot isn’t full, this works very well for soup, curries and stews. Diane is very skilled at making tasty meals when underway, in an anchorage or at dock.

A few weeks later and our friend Jean Yves returned from a visit to Canada, carrying our new 110V stove (sourced on amazon.ca and delivered to our brother and sister-in-law in Canada) with his luggage. The stove fits perfectly. Our friend Kevin (on NOCONO MOON) brought back the necessary GFCI receptacle and box for us, because there is no possibility of sourcing those 110V components here in “220V-land”.

As you can see, once the Jenn-Air cooktop was removed, so was the pipe connected to the down-draft extraction fan. I bought a “grow-op” 110V extraction fan (on amazon.com and delivered to Türkiye and stuck it up into the ceiling, using the existing on deck piping. It seems to work well and the pipe is now gone.

The galley also got a new light, directly over the cooking area, which means that Diane has a much better view of what she is cooking.

This winter has been a bit severe at times, but seemingly very short. It already seems like it’s over, nearly a month earlier than last year. In order to help cope with the high humidity and condensation on the hatches and port lights (when it is very cold outside), we bought a small dehumidifier. This device plugs into 220V shore power and consumes less than 200W. We leave it running when the boat is closed up, and it pulls 5-6L of water per day out of the air. With the dryer air, it is warmer – and, there is no sweating on the hatches and port lights.

We did get hail twice during the winter. Here is some looking forward on the raised cabin deck.

We even had to use our electric blanket for a couple of weeks.

Another inside project was the construction and installation of a new LED light positioned over the saloon table. This light provides a great illumination for dominoes games, and even sewing or electronics projects. Why didn’t I think of that years ago? This required LED purchases from AliExpress and another trip to the Master Carpenter.

Our neighbour Pam Sellix (with her husband Eric) celebrated a birthday, and we had many of the neighbours over for cake and coffee.

When Jonathan was here during Christmas, he brought us a replacement Magnum Energy MS-2812 Inverter/Charger (30kg in checked baggage). Although it was “possible” to use the existing remote and programmed for Constant Current / Constant Voltage charging, I thought it best to go the next step and acquire a new remote ME-RC50. This model has the latest firmware and together with the MS2812 has all the programming features necessary for LiFePO4 batteries.

Finally, I decided to replace two more solar panels. Since arriving in Alanya in July 2020, I have now replaced 8 of our 10 solar panels. These last two are identical to the two flexible panels I replaced a few months ago. Our total solar array is now 1740W, although 720W of that is in flexible panels and they rarely give out more than half their claimed wattage. In any event, we are now well electrified for living on the anchor. As long as the suns shines, we have power for hot water, cooking, battery charging, refrigerator and freezer, ultrasonic anti-fouling, phone and computer use etc. This is pretty much everything.

31 December 2022 – Alanya Türkiye Visit of Joana and Jonathan

This post is just a few days late, but contains some updates. First off, at this time, I usually provide a map and summary of our travels in the year. However, we sailed ZERO miles in 2022. For one reason or another, we never sailed anywhere! We did leave the dock for a daysail, but really – never clocked any miles. We will correct that in 2023. We have plans ……

Secondly, we were recently blessed with the Christmas holiday visit of our daughter Joana and her boyfriend Arend (both coming from the Netherlands) as well as the visit of our son Jonathan (coming from Halifax Canada).

One activity that Alanya is known for is paragliding. Although Jonathan’s knee injury prevented him from taking part, he was an active observer, watching both Joana and Arend taking their first flights.

We had an enjoyable drive up into the mountains surrounding Alanya, and stopped at this restaurant for afternoon tea. What a vista!

Alanya Castle itself is not much to look at, but there are some nice views. There is a very long wall, but not much of a building remaining.

Mamure Castle, is situated about 2 hours drive East of Alanya along a beautiful, but twisty mountain/seaside view road. If you drive too fast, you can actually get seasick on the switch-backs! Mamure Castle was built on an ancient foundation, a previous Anatolian Castle and Roman city, constructed in the 4th century.

Between 1300 and 1308 AD, Karamanoglu Mahmut Bey captured the castle with 35,000 soldiers and restored it to a large extent. That is why the castle has been called Mamure Castle (Mamure means “prosperous”). During that period, a mosque with cupola and outside baths were constructed within the castle walls.

The castle was repaired and enlarged in the 15th and 16th centuries and built on 20,000 square metres, formed in 3 parts. There is a courtyard in the east, a fortress in the west and an inside fortress which was constructed to the south. It has 39 towers and the main entrance is in the north of the courtyard. There is no furniture inside the castle, but it does offer impressive views.

Our friend Kevin on SV NOCONA MOON had recently taken delivery of new sails, new jib and main sails. So, we were treated to an afternoon sail in remarkable winter temperatures.

We had our LazyBoy sofa recovered in India. It was a bargain, but the material was not leather and really did not last with the heat and humidity. The issue was that it was cracking in many places, and although we paid for leather, and we thought it was leather – it wasn’t leather. So, we again unbolted it from the floor and took it to a proper furniture reupholster shop here in Türkiye.

We had it recovered with a “leather-like material” that is 97% PVC and 3% Vinyl Acrylic. This time, we actually paid for a separate, removable, washable slip-cover. Hopefully that will help to keep it looking good. This photo shows both the cover, and underlying material. We are very pleased with the quality of workmanship.

Jonathan brought with him our replacement inverter, so we are back in business again with our 110V distribution. What I believe happened two months ago was that an intermittent short developed inside the inverter. This meant that the inverter wouldn’t run to make 110V AC 60Hz power, and it tripped the 400A Class T fuse protecting the battery bank. When I had no more Class T fuses (these are getting hard to source), then it tripped the BMS protecting the battery bank. Although the inverter is protected by an ANL fuse, this just doesn’t trip fast enough for a LiFePO4 battery bank. So, I have added an additional MRBF 200A Terminal Fuse, (sold by Blue Sea Systems) to the terminal of the inverter. Hopefully, if this new inverter fails in a similar way, with an intermittent short inside the box, it will burn this terminal fuse, before the battery main fuse – and not cause a loss of power to the boat.

Alanya Türkiye – Odds and Ends

11 December 2022

Since it has been nearly two months since my last blog, I think it is time for an update. Yes, of course, we are still in Alanya Türkiye.

We have had irritating problems, of one kind or another, with our Volvo tachometer for years. With an upgrade in mind, I purchased and installed this innovative little tachometer called a Tiny Tach. I placed the supplied sensor on a fuel line, and it senses the fuel pump pulses and produces a very nice, accurate display. We have tested it, and are very happy with the result.

Several months ago, we decided to upgrade our E-bikes (that were just one year old) and bought much higher quality models, again made in Türkiye. These Bison E-bikes have the motor built into the pedal gears rather than the back wheel hub. The bike is lighter and smoother. We added baskets and Diane made custom Sunbrella seat covers. Although they do not have fenders, or even lights, they are a much higher quality product. We don’t ride at night anyway.

We are playing Mexican Train dominoes again. This time with Kevin and Sandy from SV NOCONA MOON. They are relative newcomers to the yachting and live-aboard life, and it is our pleasure to introduce them to this popular cruisers board game.

We experienced an unexpected and traumatic fault with our Magnum Inverter/Charger 2800W. This device is almost the only way of supplying 110VAC to our 110V appliances (vacuum cleaner, rice cooker, insta-pot, coffee bean grinder, small battery chargers etc). When the device was turned on, it produced a short, and burned the battery fuse, many times. This fault occurred after a big lightening storm, so there is that possibility also. After removing and testing it for several days, the fault was narrowed down to either a series of MOSFETs on a main circuit board, or the transformer. Neither of which conditions, we were told can be repaired in this country. We need parts. After seeing the cost and lengthy timelines (9-10 months) associated with getting replacement parts in from Magnum, I took the unprecedented decision to replace it, with an identical but new replacement. It was, after all, more than 12 years old. A new one is “on it’s way”. This is our source of 110V power, so we have had to make do with a 3000W transformer and a few extension cords, in the meantime.

One day, we took a day trip to Gazipaşa, to the East of Alanya. This is where the Alanya airport is, and there is also another marina there, although it is not yet complete and ready for use. We had lunch in a small restaurant with a beautiful park-like setting.

Although we rarely go out in the evening, we were recently introduced to a restaurant called “Lost in Alanya”, and it has turned out to be our favourite restaurant. We have since learned that the owner has opened another restaurant right next door called “Found in Alanya”.

We went for dinner with Kevin and Sandy (of SV NOCONA MOON) to the home of our friends Ahmet and Muse. It was absolutely wonderful to have real Turkish dinner in a local home with friends.

They surprised us with a Christmas tree in their living room.

One of the reasons we like this cruising life so much is the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, from all countries – and sometimes see them again and again. To prove my point, a month ago, we went to a small social gathering of the marina live-aboard community and “re-met” Robin (of SV KATYDID), who we last saw in Cochin India in March 2019.

On 29 October, Türkiye celebrates their national day. We were delighted to be spectators to a cultural dance organized by the marina.

The spectators cheered, and some of the children even got in the mood. Lilly, a 3 year old member of the live-aboard community really enjoyed the dancing!

Finally, I’ll talk about our solar panels. We have 10 panels in place. I purchased and installed 4 flexible solar panels on our hard top (hard bimini) when in Malaysia 2018. When these 4 panels arrived, they were rolled in a tube, and one had stress cracks in it. I was always suspicious of the output of this panel, but could not tell with any certainty if the cracks impacted the performance – because all four panels were connected to the same controller.

Earlier this year, I replaced that single controller with two Victron MPPT controllers, and then it became obvious that one side was dramatically under-performing. So, I have been thinking about replacing that single panel for nearly a year. In the end, it was impossible to find an identical replacement (physical size, power output and performance), so I decided to replace two 200W panels with two 175W panels, giving the best fit and best performance. This photo shows the old and the new panels, side-by-side, and I’m happy to report that the new panels, even though they represent 350W of power compared to 400W of power – deliver 50% more power!

Christmas will be here soon, and we are excited because both Jonathan (who lives in Canada) and Joana (who lives in the Netherlands) are flying to Türkiye to visit us.

17 October 2022 – Visit to Eastern Türkiye (Mesopotamia)

Diane and I have just returned from a long-awaited and very interesting 8 day tour of southeastern Türkiye, reported to be the origin of civilization itself. Unlike most of eastern Türkiye, the southeast is not mountainous, but rather an arid plateau at about 600 meters altitude. The region is more or less bordered by the great historical rivers, the Tigris (Dicle) in the east and the Euphrates (Fırat) in the west. Many of the people living here are Turkish citizens of Kurdish descent.

Evidently, the land can be fertile if it is irrigated. That is why the Turkish government has invested decades of work and trillions of Turkish Lira in the Southeastern Anatolia project. This giant public works venture has brought dozens of dams and hundreds of kilometres of aqueducts to the region, vastly increasing its capacity to grow crops and supply electricity. This once poor region is beginning to show the results of massive long-term investment.

We started on a Thursday, when we were taken by van from Alanya to Antalya, where we spent the night in a hotel and then took an early morning flight to Adana, connecting with a tour bus to Antakya (a distance of 210km). On the way Friday morning, we stopped for a group “Turkish” breakfast.

At Antakya, we visited the Hatay Archaeology Museum – known for its extensive collection of Roman and Byzantine Era mosaics. There are many important artifacts from the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Chalcolithic, Bronze Age, Hittite, Hellenistic, Roman, Eastern Roman, Seljuk and Ottoman periods in the museum. Of particular interest, we looked at a display about cranial deformation. Recovered skulls appear elongated as a result of being bound during infancy and early childhood when the cranium is still soft. A few of the human figurines recovered have been depicted in ways that suggest elongation of their heads. In this photo, Eric stands behind one of the recovered skulls to provide a baseline for comparison.

This statue of the Hatay Hittite King (soldier) is one of their most popular exhibits.

The Hatay museum is well known for it’s collection of mosaic floors that have been removed, carefully transported and relocated for display. Amazing.

Of course, this sarcophagus, discovered in the basement of an apartment building under construction is pretty significant as well.

Under the Romans, Antioch-ad-Orontes (Antakya) was the capital of the province of Syria with about 500,000 inhabitants. It became one of the empire’s largest cities – only Rome and Alexandria were larger – with a sizeable Jewish community. Saint Peter came here to preach, and Saints Paul and Barnabas used it as a base for missionary work. There were many converts from the local Jewish community, but it was here that the Saints decided to extend their mission to the Gentiles and call their followers Christians. We visited the first cave church in the world, originally built for the Apostle Peter – and modified to a three nave church in the 11th century AD. Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus came to Hatay and made his first religious meeting in this cave. According the the Catholic Church, he is the first Pope and Jesus’s heir. He was killed by crucifixion in 67AD by order of Emperor Nero of Rome.

Next, we stopped to see 23 centuries of history on 3D display at the Necmi Asfuroğlu Archaeology Museum – also known as the Museum Hotel. When construction started on this hotel in 2010, they discovered what ended up being the world’s largest intact mosaic floor. Thirteen different civilizations (over fifteen centuries) are believed to have contributed to the mosaic, beginning in 300BC when the Greeks were ruling this area. Naturally, construction of the hotel was halted for six months while excavations took place. Then it was decided to shift gears and incorporate the antiquities into the modern hotel. The owners invested ten years in excavations and hotel construction.

Afterwards, we stopped in at the first mosque of Anatolia – the Habib’i Neccar mosque. In Antiquity, there was most probably a pagan temple in place of this current mosque. During the Christian era, it was converted into a church named after John the Baptist. In the Medieval Age, the city was captured first by the Rashidun Caliphate in 637, by the Byzantine Empire in 969, by the Seljuk Turks in 1084, by the Crusaders in 1098, and by the Baibars of the Mamluk Sultanate in 1268. Each time, the building was changed from church to mosque and from mosque to church, and of course has suffered from earthquake damage over the years.

Saturday morning, we stopped at the Harbiye waterfalls, located in a pleasant natural park full of cafes and restaurants. This photo (taken at 9am) shows restaurant seating where your feet are in the cold water while dining – a popular feature during the summer heat. The water rushes down the slopes, supporting dozens of restaurants and scenic views.

I bought this little stone carving of a Hatay region Hittite King (symbolic of the Iron Age), a memorable souvenir from a local stone carver for only 50TL ($3USD).

In the valley, on the way to Gaziantep, we saw a lot of different crops growing (corn and cotton being the most common), and farm workers were picking cotton by hand. We continued on to the city of Gaziantep (a distance of 205km), one of the oldest cities of Hittite origin. The city was part of the Kingdom of Armenia, the Hittite Empire, the Persian Empire, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine Empire, and the Ottoman Empire, among others.

Gaziantep, we visited the world famous Zeugma Mosaic Museum with a rich collection of Mosaics from the ancient city of Zeugma – largely flooded by the construction of the Biricik dam.

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Here we saw the famous Gypsy Girl (comparable in Display to the Mona Lisa).

We were very impressed, but had our fill of mosaics by now.

After lunch, we stopped at Gaziantep Castle, first built by the Hittite Empire as an observation point and later fortified by the Roman Empire into a main castle on top of a hill in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. It underwent further expansion and renovation under Emperor Justinian between 527 and 565 AD. The circumference of the round castle is 1200 meters. The walls are made of stone and the castle consists of 12 towers. Inside the castle the story of Türkiye’s war of independence is told using posed figures and story boards – very similar to what we saw in Ankara at Anitkabir (Atatürk Mausoleum).

We walked through the authentic old quarter of Gaziantep and the very cozy coppersmith’s bazaar. Here, we were amazed by the quantity of peppers on display.

In the evening, we went out for a cultural evening and dinner. Although this was planned for 7pm, and our group arrived at 7pm, there were problems. There was no printed menu, so you had to use your phone to read a QR code, and see the menu online. When the waiter came to take our orders, he went on to explain that despite the lack of printed menus, most items had different costs than what is displayed (even on the Internet – due to inflation (which made everyone very suspicious). For example, my meal was 170TL instead of 169TL – so, no big deal. But, when the food was delivered at 8:15pm, of 14 guests – both Diane and I were the only ones who did not get a meal, any meal. To make matters worse, it was obvious that several groups who arrived after us were already midway through their meals when “most of ours” arrived. So, Diane and I, announcing our zero tolerance for idiots – simply walked out and opted out of any further evening group meals. It was simpler for us, and Diane went on the Internet later that evening to write a scathing review of the restaurant’s service. Very fitting I would say. One of the not talked about challenges for this trip is to actually find good restaurants that have alcohol on their menu. Apparently, many of the locals will not frequent restaurants that serve alcohol. As we realized in the coming days, alcohol was nearly never on the menu.

On Sunday, we passed groves of pistachio trees, where the nuts are harvested in July/August every year. The trees were only 2 – 2.5m tall but can bear fruit up to 300 years. There were also many olive groves, trees that can bear fruit for 2,000 years.

We took a boat trip on the Euphrates River, the longest and one of the most historically important rivers of Western Asia. Together with the Tigris, it is one of the two defining rivers of Mesopotamia. Originating in Turkey, the Euphrates flows through Syria and Iraq to join the Tigris in the Shatt al-Arab, which empties into the Persian Gulf.

These are the remains of a Roman era castle, currently under restoration.

This trip took us to the half-flooded village of Halfeti. flooded when a damn was installed some years ago. The water is about 60 feet deep at this point, evidenced by the partially submerged minaret.

Several times over the course of this trip, we happened upon women, and also men – dancing to their traditional music. They didn’t dance for us, not for any money – just because they wanted to. It’s their culture.

Later, during a lunch stop, we saw some men playing OKEY at a coffee shop.

As we closed in on Mount Nemrut, we drove alongside a rare site in Türkiye, a producing oil well near the Karakus Temple. Remarkably, I discovered that there are 4 oil refineries in Türkiye, although national oil production is very low.

We walked over this Roman Cender bridge, built over 2000 years ago, made entirely of stone blocks, no iron (250m long, 7m wide). Up until 10 years ago, it was in regular use – until they built a new modern bridge nearby.

In the UNESCO-listed area of Mount Nemrut, we visited the Karakuş burial mound. This is an ancient burial monument known as a Royal mausoleum. It was built at the time of the Commagene Kingdom by King Mithridates II for his monther Queen Isias and two sisters, Princesses Antichos and Aka I in 30-20 BC. The monument consists of three Doric columns, each 9m/30ft high on top of a hill that rises high above the surround terrain with views for miles in all directions. The columns are topped with reliefs and statues of a bull, lion and eagle.

Next on the agenda was Mount Nemrut: a majestic burial mound at the top of the mountain constructed over 2100 years ago – and named one of the 100 must-visit places by the International Association of Travellers. After driving to a parking spot “near the top” of Mount Nemrut (starting temperature 18.5C), and a challenging uphill march of about 50 minutes (with thinning air), we reached the large burial mound that King Antiochos of Kommagene had built for himself (altitude 2150m) in the year 100BC.

After viewing the great statues of the gods at sunset on the east and west terraces and enjoying the unbeatable view (temperature had now dropped to less than 12C at bus level, not mountain level), and taking a few sunset pictures we (together with a few hundred other tourists) proceeded to the hotel for the night (departing at 1815).

We stayed overnight at a hotel in Adiyaman and on Monday, we drove to Urfa (distance 242km) and first stopped at the Ataturk dam, essential for the electrical and agricultural improvements in this area. It was constructed by Turkish engineers in the 1980 – 1992 timeframe and has 8 turbines.

We had a chat with two women picking cotton on their father’s farm. The one who has her hair covered is married. This farm is a good example of how the GAP agricultural project has enriched these people’s farms and livelihood through irrigation.

At Urfa, (the city of the prophets), there was a lot to see. The Prophet Abraham lived around 2000BC. He rejected the claim that Nimrut, the ruler of Urfa was God. Abraham destroyed statues worshipped by the people of Urfa and this incited the local idol worshipers to burn and “support their Gods”. A great fire was set on the place where we now see the lake. Abraham was thrown into the fire, and God cooled the fire. According to tradition, the place of the fire turned into water and the glowing embers of the fire into goldfish.

We visited the cave of the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham (2000BC).

Later, at Harran, there is a display of the last remaining Syrian houses built with mud. The city of Harran is mentioned in the Old Testament in the Book of Genisis and has a history of more than 6,000 years. The people living there are descendants of Akkadian and Sumerian peoples, and speak Arabic as a first language, together with Turkish and many also speak English. The city is well positioned along the historic Silk Road. These houses are located a mere 10km from the Syrian border, yet we saw no sign of refugees or any increased military presence.

These old-style beehive style houses were warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Overnight, we stayed in Urfa and of course, had some very tasty kebobs.

On Tuesday morning we drove to Göbeklitepe (a UNESCO site) (literally “Potbelly Hill”), the place where human history is being rewritten. This historic site is the oldest discovered temple in the world and was built between 9,000 and 10,500 BC. It is more than 6,000 years older than Stonehenge in England and the pyramids of Egypt . As of 2021, less than 5% of the site has been excavated. Some have suggested that the site was chosen because of it’s high vantage location and proximity to good hard quarry stone.

The site comprises a number of large circular structures supported by massive stone pillars – the world’s oldest known megaliths.

Evidence indicates that the inhabitants were hunter-gatherers who supplemented their diet with early forms of domesticated cereal and lived in villages for at least part of the year. Tools such as grinding stones and mortar & pestle were analyzed and suggest considerable cereal processing. Archaeological evidence hints at large-scale hunting of gazelle between midsummer and autumn.

I noticed that the fabric side tarps (for shade) are held taunt with lines and Harken self tailing winches – 13 of them. I examined them. Every single winch was loaded counter-clockwise instead of clockwise, and none used the self-tailing feature. All were loaded with “riding turns” and would be very difficult to tighten or loosen. The person who installed these 13 $3500USD winches had no idea of how to use them. I notice stuff like this.

Then we drove to the beautiful historic city of Mardin (210 km), founded as early as 150BC and under UNESCO protection. One of our stops was the Mor Behnam church, one of the most important historical sites in the old part of Mardin.

This Assyrian/Orthodox church dates to the fourth century. Although we were not permitted to take photos inside, I did notice that the bible on the pulpit was written in Aramaic, the language of Jesus Christ. How cool is that? Who speaks Aramaic now? Google says that Aramaic remains a spoken, literary, and liturgical language for local Christians and also some Jews. Aramaic also continues to be spoken by the Assyrians of Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Türkiye and northwest Iran, with diaspora communities in Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and southern Russia.

As we walked uphill towards the castle on the top of the city, I took this photo. Sadly, it was not possible to actually visit the castle.

We walked through many of the side streets and up the slopes below the castle and went upstairs to a coffee shop to see over the Mesopotamian plain. We stayed overnight stay in Mardin.

Wednesday morning, we visited the Deyrulzafaran Monastery, a silent witness to Anatolia’s ancient Christian past. This monastery was founded in the 5th century but has been endlessly expanded and renovated over the years.

The original site is said to be a pre-Christian Assyrian Sun Temple, attesting to the ancient Syrian presence in the region. At the monastery, and in the local area – I saw many young people wearing a crucifix around their neck. This photo depicts the cave area and hole for sunlight worship.

Armenian bishops are “buried” in this monastery sitting in a chair with their robes on waiting for the rebirth of Jesus, not prone in a coffin.

Then, we went to the ancient ruins of Dara, one of the most important settlements in Upper Mesopotamia, founded in 505 as a military garrison town to protect the eastern frontier of the Eastern Roman Empire from the Sassanids. This ancient city consists of structures carved into the rock and is spread over a large area. It has been preserved with a wall 4 kilometres in length. There are remains of churches, palaces, bazaars, dungeons, armouries and water dams. There are also cave dwellings around the village, dating back to the late Roman period.

First, we looked at the rock-cut chambers of the necropolis, following the tradition of pagan beliefs. Paganism is a very old belief system relying on respect for nature and sanctity of everything be it an animal, earth, plant or rock. With the spread of Christianity, simple graves became more popular than these rock-cut tombs (obviously less effort required as well).

Next, we saw the Church cistern (also in Dara), which was later used as a jail. The columns and stone block walls are very impressive, but wait until you see the inside. The sign said that it held 2,000 cubic meters of water.

Sadly, the sanctity of this piece of antiquity has been spoiled with hundreds of cigarette butts left by scores of uncaring visitors (likely not foreigners).

Driving only only 5km from the border with Syria – there was still no sign of any military presence, but then, suddenly – we drove right alongside the border and did see barbed wire and a wall less than a hundred metres from the highway. This wall is apparently 564km long, 2m X 3m concrete. The space between the wall and the fence is mined, and a variety of electronic surveillance is weapon systems are employed.

In the afternoon, we visited the Mor Gabriel Monastery, the oldest surviving Syriac Orthodox monastery in the world. It is located on the Tur Abdin plateau near Midyat, founded in the year 397. It is in amazing condition, and incredibly clean.

The monastery is an important centre for the Syrian Christians of Tur Abdin with about fifteen nuns and two monks occupying separate wings, as well as a fluctuating number of local lay workers and guests from abroad. I asked to take a photo of one monk, but he refused. The monastery is currently the seat of the Metropolitan Bishop of Tur Abdin. In its history, the monastery has produced many high-ranking clergy and scholars, including four patriarchs, one Maphrian, and 84 bishops. There are, apparently – 12,000 people buried inside the walls of this monastery.

We stayed overnight in Midyat, the heart of the motherland (the Tur Abdin plateau) of the Arameans. A town known for the beautiful architecture that can be found in the historic district. The old quarter of jumbled honey-coloured stone buildings amid a labyrinth of narrow streets is truly beautiful. The streets wind around tiny houses and ornate mansions, passing under arches and through ancient doors that open into cool courtyards. Here is where I’d like to mention an odd subject – bedsheets, or how to make a bed “Turkish style”. We are accustomed to sleeping on a bed fitted with a bottom sheet, a top sheet, and a blanket or cover of some description. In Türkiye we have stayed in many different AirBnB’s, and Hotels, and it seems that they never include the top sheet. The blanket lays directly on your skin, and what blanket there is – is never big enough. Single people that were on the same trip were not fussed about this because they had a double/queen/king sized bed with a blanket that was the same size – and it’s not tucked in at the foot end, and it is just barely the same size as the bed, not larger at the sides, not at all. With one person sleeping in the bed, this is no problem. However, I can’t understand how two people can share a bed fighting over this skimpy little blanket! Consequently, in most hotels – we asked for additional pillows, another top sheet, and even a second cover.

Since we have seen so many Orthodox Churches here, I questioned what is the difference between regular Christianity. Google says: “The Orthodox Church believes the Holy Spirit “proceeds from God the Father,” while for Catholics and Protestants, the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”.

We first visited the Virgin Mary Church. According to the local Syrian community, this 6th-century church was originally founded by the Three Kings of the East.

In the city centre, we stopped in at a silversmith shop, where the craftsmanship was truly amazing.

We then proceeded to the Staats Gasthuis, one of the famous places where popular Turkish TV series and movies are shot. The state guest house has 3 floors and offers a wonderful view. Today, the state guest house is run by the Midyat Municipality.

We looked out – and saw many rooftops where there was a metal bed frame, always painted blue. This scene, we recalled from our visit a few days ago with the “bee-hive” houses. Apparently, in the summer heat people like to sleep outdoors and above the reach of scorpions – and BLUE repels scorpions.

We had some fresh squeezed orange juice.

Pam had some henna applied to her hand.

Then, we drove to Hasankeyi, an ancient town and district located along the Tigris River in the Batman Province in southeastern Türkiye. It was declared a natural conservation area by Türkiye in 1981. Despite local and international objections, the city and its archaeological sites have been flooded as part of the Ilısu Dam project. By 1 April 2020, water levels reached an elevation of 498.2m above sea level, covering the whole town.

I was told that this relocation of the town was not without problems. The people protested to the government and most apparently without housing for 4 years, and many left the area never to return. They just moved here to this new town 3 years ago.

The houses were not free, many people could not afford to buy the provided houses – and some people from outside the area (who were not displaced by the rising water levels) even tried to get in on the deal and buy a subsidized house. Also, the constructed houses were identical, which made it difficult for seniors to return to the right home in the evening.

This is an old mausoleum originally built in the 14th century by a Persian leader buried there. It is round on the outside but octagonal inside. It was moved uphill and seems to be in it’s original spot (but it’s not).

We heard that there are still 3 families living in the caves because they have domestic animals – not permitted in the new town. These people have electricity and running water, but have remained living in the caves – basically because they cannot afford to move. The water level in this photo (Fall) will rise 3-5m in the spring.

In summary, the damed area runs for a length of 180 Km along the river and impacted on more than 200 villages. This particular village dates back 12,000 years, and was inhabited at the same time as Göbekltepi.

Back to the subject of oil wells -we saw more as we drove through the Batman region and even one exploration well drilling just outside of the town of Karpuzla.

This is a photo of one of our group members, Wolfgang (on the right), together with a local.

We stayed overnight in Diyarbakır (Midyat – Savur – Diyarbakır (149 km)).

On Friday, we enjoyed a walking tour of Diyarbakir, the entire city centre is within the ancient city walls, making it effectively one big open-air museum. The city wall was built in 346AD and much of it has been renovated. The 5700 meter long city walls of Diyarbakir are 10-12 meters high in places. It is remarkable with its 82 bastions and the main gates that open in 4 directions. The beautiful reliefs on the bastions can be seen almost everywhere. The walls of Diyarbakir, one of the rarest castles in the world and considered the longest city wall in the world after the Great Wall of China, bears witness to a long history.

Along the way, I stopped to get new foam insoles in my sandals. We were clocking 10-15,000 steps per day, on rough ground – so my feet were getting pretty sore.

I took a photo of this local, relaxing at the Ulu Mosque.

These pictures were taken at the Four-Legged Minaret, part of the Sheikh Mutahhar Mosque, built by Akkoyuniu Kasim Han in 1500. It is interesting because the minaret is built on 4 monolithic columns.

We visited St. Giragos Church, the largest Armenian church in the Middle East. It was damaged by PKK Terrorists in 2015, underwent 7 years of renovations and reopened in 2021. I did not go inside, dissuaded by a very officious sign clearly listing 14 restrictions – I was wearing shorts. Also on the list was “no photography” and “no handguns”.

There was a group of 4 plainclothes police officers who just walked out of the church, all with guns – but no shorts.

Unfortunately while our group was walking down a small alleyway, a teenage boy stole Wolfgang’s gold necklace from around his neck and ran off with it – disappearing in the maze of streets and alleys. The police response was swift and concerned – and remained with us for more than an hour. But – even more amazing, we were informed later that day (while at the airport preparing to fly back to Antalya) that the thief has been arrested and the necklace recovered!

We saw the Virgin Mary Syriac Church. This church was first constructed as a pagan temple in the 1st century BC, and the current construction dates back to the 3rd century. The church has been restored many times, and is still in use as a place of worship today. I saw another Aramaic Bible on the pulpit.

We climbed the city wall for a great panoramic view of the city and the Mesopotamian plain.

We then drove to the The Ten Eyes Bridge over the Tigris River. This magnificent bridge, is known by four different names: Ten Eyes Bridge, Tigris Bridge, Silvan Bridge and Mervani Bridge. In some sources about the history of the bridge, it is known that it was built in the 6th century during the reign of Anastasias I. The bridge was destroyed by the forces besieging the city over time, and was later repaired.

At the end of the day Friday, we took an evening flight to Antalya, and then an organized bus to Alanya. As we returned to the boat at 0230, we were exhausted. This trip was a memorable one, we saw so many of the wonders of Türkiye, all rolled up into one 8 day trip. However, it comes at a price, not a significant financial price but a different kind of “price”. Even with a small group of only 12 tourists, everyone has different interests, and different capabilities. The older people get, the more uncompromising they become – and sometimes for good reasons. Three of the 12 were unfit to visit many of the sites. There are a lot of steps, a lot of stairs, rarely any ramps for wheelchair or walker bound tourists – and often not even a handrail. The safety standards for touristic sites in Türkiye are well below that of North America and Europe and it has become much more noticeable with this trip.

TRIBUTE TO NAZER

16 August 2022 – Tribute to Nazer

On 30 July 2022, the cruising community lost a valued member with the tragic passing of our dear friend Nazer Muhammed Ali. Nazer has been a great friend to all cruisers that stopped at the Cochin India International Marina since it opened with the Vasco de Gamma Rally and even for decades before. My wife Diane and I, as well as hundreds of international cruisers – have been invited to Nazer’s home for a meal and to meet his immediate family. It was there, surrounded by his family and his very modest possessions that we came to really understand this man.

Many cruisers cared for Nazar like family and he remains dear to them. For those world sailing cruisers passing through India, Cochin (Kochi) is a common destination, one of the few ports of entry with a convenient marina. For a very modest fee, Nazer helped hundreds of cruisers to navigate the myriad of Indian bureaucratic requirements on arrival and departure. His fee for this “all afternoon effort” was a paltry 1000 Indian Rupees, about $16 CDN. My experience with agents in other nearby areas, shows that they demand $250-500 for similar services.

With practically no formal education, Nazar spoke and understood five (5) languages, with English being his weakest. He could slowly read English, but only CAPITAL LETTERS. Sadly, not all cruising sailors treated Nazer kindly. I have witnessed the unwarranted, rare but hurtful insults sometimes said of him. Some people saw him as a caricature rather than as a warm and helpful soul. Nazar could make happen whatever you needed, quickly and cost-effectively, accomplishing magic almost daily and with a smile. Through great effort, he got us hard-to-get supplies and arranged hard-to-find technical services. He constantly advised us on navigating Indian culture. He was our personal Tuk-Tuk driver, and frequent tour guide during our 10 month stay. We came to know Nazer and all members of his family, and had lunch in his humble home where his wife Zakeena, where with next to nothing, treated us to a meal fit for royalty. Our’s is a common story, repeated again and again.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, with it’s resulting lack of international sailboat movements, combined with Indian federal and state laws and regulations forcing him to retire his two-stroke tuk-tuk, literally destroyed Nazar’s earning ability. This put a great deal of stress on his heart, which sadly gave out over the past two years. His ongoing medical needs rose, and became unaffordable. Nazar epitomized kindness, forgiveness (of mean cruisers), generosity, resourcefulness, devotion, and Indian pride. He loved his family, his faith, his country, and his clients. We love him. His spirit lives on through all who had the pleasure and privilege to meet him. Our condolences are extended to his family and friends, and to those future cruisers who won’t enjoy the supreme pleasure in meeting him. India lost a wonderful ambassador.

Nazer was an orphan, and his wife Zakeena is too. They were both raised as orphans in a Catholic orphanage. They have no parents, brothers or sisters. Nazer always said the the cruising community was his family. In this photo, Diane and I took him to his first fast food hamburger experience. He was elated.

Nazer is survived by his wife Zakeena, son Nisam, daughter Nis Ni (in Dubai), daughter Tazini (in Canada), youngest son Nizar and several grandchildren. Zakeena is entitled to a state widow’s pension of about $10 per month, and in my estimate – this is less than 3% of Nazer’s former monthly income. Nazer’s burial and funeral expenses have already been paid, through the generous private donation of two couples.

I have created a fundraising page to solicit contributions to meet Zakeena’s immediate and intermediate needs, lessening the distress caused by the unexpected loss of her husband’s income. To that end, I will disburse funds on a regular and as-required basis to Zakeena – until the fund is empty. India in general, is a very poor country, and my belief is that Nazer would have been very proud to know that the Western friends he has made over the years have come together to help provide for his widow, with the strength of Western currency donations.

https://fundrazr.com/c23au9?ref=ab_9BbGP8

26 July 2022 – Alanya, day to day

This blog is a catch-up, of a few events that happened over the past month.

My friend Turgay, his wife Pinar and daughters Petek and Pelinsu visited us for a day. They drove down from Ankara and were on holiday “in the area”. So, we invited them over for a day sail and BBQ mixed grill. The sea state was very light, but unfortunately, there are no photos of our day sail.

But, we do have a few photos afterwards when we had our mixed grill. As always, it was a pleasure to have visitors and to host them for a few hours.

We have taken quite a few custom machine work jobs to our Turkish machinist Iliyas, who owns and operates Dere Turne (the Turkish word for lathe) in the Sanaya. Diane and I were very pleased to be invited to Iliyas’s home to have dinner with him and his family, together with our friends Ahmet and Muze (We really needed them for translation). Iliyas lives in a modest apartment together with his wife and two children. It really was our pleasure to be hosted in a Turkish family’s home.

This selfie includes Diane, but not me.

Here is another item that falls under “improvement”. There is a requirement for a light, at least an “all round” light visible on a dinghy. I rarely see one, probably because it is difficult to fit a light to an inflatable dinghy. Here, I bought a white, all-round light (solar and battery powered) and tasked Iliyas to craft an aluminum mount for me.

The pool is now finally open at Alanya Marina. When we arrived two years ago, one of the advertised features was a pool, but it was unfortunately closed due to COVID-19 restrictions. A few weeks ago, they reopened the pool and we are taking advantage of it, migrating there most afternoons for exercise and relaxation.

This is what it looks like when one of the tourist pirate boats docks right behind us, obscuring our view of the mountains and marina.

When we don’t go to the pool, of course we go to the beach. There are many beaches in the area of Alanya, and this one is only a few minutes (by bike or walking) from the marina.

This is what it looks like at lunch time, when tour boats seek refuge from the waves. Apparently the tourists don’t eat lunch when they’re sea sick. When it’s windy, the bay is packed!

Diane and I finally paid a touristic visit to the Red Tower, an example of a medieval Mediterranean defense structure from the 13th century.

The Red Tower was built by order of Alaeddin Keyqubad I, the Seljuk ruler, to Ebu Ali Reha el Kettani who was a master builder from Aleppo in order to protect the harbour, shipyard and Alanya Castle against attacks from the sea. The tower is reputed to be able to hold over two thousand (2000) men during a siege. There are total of fifty-six (56) crenel windows at facades of the Red Tower, twenty-two (22) spans for pouring hot pitch and water and six (6) gargoyles inline to repel attackers.

Inside, the structure was devoid of furnishing, but it did offer spectacular views, if you were able to ascend the extremely steep stair cases.

Adjacent to the Red Tower is yet another pristine beach and waterfront area.

Another minor issue, our Oster blender blade died (again). This is our smoothie machine! We were unable to find a replacement in the area, so we had our broken one repaired (by Iliyas of course), and it served the job for a few weeks while we waited for Amazon to deliver a new one (and another spare).

Finally, here’s another item that falls under boat improvement projects. We have seven (7) Goiit (French made, and still exists) hatches that I installed new during the building process. Over the years, I have had various failures with these hatches, particularly the closing handles. They are plastic and they break. I have bought new ones, and have had replacements made with a 3D printer, but what I really needed – was a way to stop them from breaking. I came up with this semi-circular aluminum disc (made by Iliyas) to fit over the handles to provide structural reinforcement. Now, I think I’ve got it. These photos are of my prototype. The finished product has cleaner lines.

Trip to Ankara, Türkiye

25 June 2022 – Trip to Ankara, Türkiye

Last weekend, we took a quick trip to Ankara, the capital of Türkiye- to see my friend Turgay and his wife Pinar (and daughters Petek and Pelinsu).

Since the rental car price was quite expensive (apparently required an extra insurance cover just to drive 525km), we decided to try “the bus” (a private bus line). The buses are all very modern, and we booked through an online app called BusBuddy. Many options were available, for timing and stops. Unfortunately, what should have been a good experience (nice bus, clean, comfortable) turned into an uncomfortable experience because the A/C was completely ineffective. Why? On 3 out of 4 “legs” (and 2 different buses) our driver was a chain smoker who drove with his window down, and the A/C running, which actually made the A/C completely ineffective. What should have been a comfortable 22-25C cabin temperature was a humid 32-36C cabin temperature – caused by an inconsiderate addict. I took photos, and complained on the bus, at a major bus stop, and afterwards online. Lesson learned – next time, take a different bus company and check their policy beforehand.

On arrival in Ankara, we stayed 3 nights at the Occidental Hotel. We were pleasantly surprised at the quality and economy of this hotel. Occidental, by the way, is the opposite of “Oriental”. It means “coming from the West”. We even got a Seniors Discount.

Turgay and his wife Pinar (and daughter Pelinsu) picked us up at the hotel and first took us to the Anitkabir (Atatürk Mausoleum), Ankara’s most visited attraction and Turkey’s most important modern pilgrimage site. Atatürk (Mustafa Kemal) was the founder of the modern state of Türkiye.

From the left is Turgay, Wade, Diane, Pelinsu and Pinar
It’s a lonely, tiring job.

As well as the actual mausoleum, with its lavish use of marble, the site is centred round a vast plaza and contains a large museum complex. It contains both exhibits on the War of Independence, led by Atatürk, which resulted in the birth of Turkey as a modern nation, and many displays focused on Atatürk’s life.

Wade asks our guide a question, as Diane and Pelinsu stand back
From the left is Wade, Diane, Pinar, Pelinsu and Turgay

Outside, there are excellent views across Ankara from the arcade that edges the plaza. The mausoleum itself is decorated with gilded inscriptions of Atatürk’s speeches. Inside, a cenotaph stands above the placement of Atatürk’s tomb. Visitors entering the mausoleum should respect the atmosphere of somber reverence inside as Turks pay their respect to the founder and first president of their modern nation.

Precision, close order drill.

This photo shows the detailed restoration of Atatürk’s 1935 armoured Lincoln. This car was lovingly restored after 2.5 years of effort in 2018, and is a testament to Turkish craftsmanship.

In the afternoon, we had a walking visit of some historical, restored area of the city, where we came across a fortune teller using a rabbit. The rabbit is presented with a plate of “paper fortunes” and selects one for you. The streets and shops were charming to walk through.

Above, from the left, is Pinar, Diane, Pelinsu and Wade

Later in the afternoon, we did a walking tour of the Citadel and it’s surrounding neighbourhood.

The citadel (Kale) area dates from the Byzantine era and is ringed by impressive fortifications raised in the 9th century. Inside, narrow cobblestone alleyways are rimmed by creaky Ottoman-era houses, some of which have been painstakingly restored in recent years, though others are slowly slipping into various levels of dilapidation. The main attraction inside the inner walls is the Eastern Tower (Sark Kulesi), which offers vistas that span across modern Ankara from its historic ramparts.

Left is Pelinsu, Diane, Wade and Turgay

Stopping for tea in the afternoon, I took a photo of this very large teapot that was used by the cafe.

In the evening, Turgay and his wife hosted us to dinner at a very popular restaurant in the downtown core of Ankara. It was VERY tasty, and there was no way we could finish all the food they brought us.

From the left is Turgay, Pinar, Pelinsu, Diane, Petek and Wade

Sunday morning, we went out for a Turkish breakfast, again at a very popular spot. Again, the quality and quantity of food – did not leave us hungry.

From the left is Pinar, Diane, Wade, Turgay and Pelinsu

Later, we went to a surprisingly crowded shopping mall (Sunday afternoon). Turgay wanted to show me the fishing equipment in Decathlon, but, always on the lookout for something different – I came across this children’s play area. Here, the parents pay for their children to strap in and hop up and down in this bungee thrill ride. First time I had seen this.

We made our way back to Alanya the next day, and are extremely grateful to Turgay and Pinar for showing us a good time in Ankara!

Transom Door Frame Repairs

5 June 2022 – Alanya Marina, Türkiye

It has been 3 months since I last wrote a blog entry. A lot has happened, as we get ready for a summer of cruising away from our dock in Alanya Turkey. We did manage a one-week trip to Austria to visit Raoul, Amelia and Thorsten – but otherwise, we have been in Alanya.

A few months ago, we contracted through the marina to get new dinghy chaps made for our 11 year old Zodiac dinghy. The shop in Antalya also did a number of small repairs and we are very pleased with the results. Our 11 year old dinghy has been given a new lease on life.

I cleaned out our diesel tanks again, this is getting to be an annual event – best done when the diesel levels are low so there is less fuel to pump from tank to tank.

We hauled out for an anticipated period of 2-4 weeks, but it actually took 5 weeks. There were basically three jobs to do:

1. Replace two instrument sensors.
2. Touch-up rust spots on the deck; and
3. Repair rusty area in the frame around the transom doors;

I have no photos for the instrument sensors job but can offer a simple explanation. Last year, when we left for our sailing holiday away from dock, I had to replace the depth instrument. After nearly 20 years of service, our Raytheon ST60 Tri-data (depth, speed, water temperature) finally failed (the depth portion). At the time, I wasn’t sure why, but I had cleaned the contacts and done all the usual things, but it wouldn’t reliably work. I bought a new Raymarine i50 Tri-data, but only changed the instrument (and this worked) – leaving the sensors (two of them) to change in the future. Well, fast forward to this period, and I replaced both sensors (which has to be done with the boat on the hard) – and they now work correctly.

I also have no photos to support the second job, touching up of rust spots on the deck – since it’s a routine job. I had to use tools to dig down to bare metal in a few places where rust was hiding it’s “ugly head”. After many coats of epoxy, and polyurethane, the repaired areas are nearly imperceptible – and the deck looks like new again.

The last job was a big one. When I originally built the boat, I made a mistake (Oh my gosh) at the stern with the transom door lockers. Initially, I surface mounted the Stainless Steel hinges on the steel doors and frame. By the time we got to Columbia (2014), I realized that the best way to recover from this was to ditch the big hinges and steel doors, and fabricated fibreglass doors with smaller, bolted-on hinges. The reason was that I could never really completely weld those Stainless Steel hinges, and the door behind was disappearing in rust. With my new configuration, the doors were repaired, but the transom framing material still suffered, again – because I had failed to originally completely weld the frames on the inside. As the doors and imperfect gaskets leaked, year-by-year, the frames were rusting. This time, when we hauled out – I was determined to fix this last area “once and for all”.

The first step was to hire two local guys (with a MIG welder, grinders, lots of energy and very flexible bodies) to cut out the offending rusting frames. I considered doing this job myself. I could cut out the bad stuff, but I would have to source replacement steel AND overcome the difficult part of welding on the inside of the lockers. The inside HAD to be welded, and well-painted in order to avoid what happened the first time around.

These two guys worked hard in the sun, cutting out about 6” of steel around the door frame, and then replacing it with LASER cut steel found in the local industrial area. I was amazed that this machine was even available in Alanya – but it was.

After replacing the steel and tacking it in place, I was very pleased to see the welder crawl into each of the transom lockers and MIG weld the replacement steel. The other guy did a thorough job of grinding and cleaning up the area – for my subsequent painting.

I spent nearly two days watching these guys work. It was a challenge.

I painted on six coats of epoxy (inside), and eight coats of epoxy (outside). With a steel boat, many layers of epoxy are key to keeping rust away in this salt water environment.

I then finished it off with many coats of “properly mixed” Jotun Jade Mist Green Polyurethane.

I don’t have any paint spraying equipment, so I had a paint shop (again, in the Alanya industrial area) insert “my” mixed paint into their cans. This is a service offered by BEST, where they have “empty” spray cans (filled with compressed gas only) ready to take acrylic (normally) or in my case – mixed polyurethane. So, I spray painted the transom area with “spray cans”, and the result turned out wonderful.

To get these spray cans filled, I first mixed up a small (1500ml) batch of polyurethane paint (two part, plus a small quantity of thinner) and brought it to the paint shop. The owner poured my paint into his container, positioned over the “empty” spray can.

Then, he pressed the paint down into the spray can, where it joined the compressed gas already there. I don’t know for sure, but I think the compressed “gas” was not “air” but an inert gas, probably nitrogen. I believe this because the mixed paint only has a pot life of 6 hours in an air environment, but 5 days later – the paint can still sprays.

This is the END result of the transom. The bad steel has been cutout, new steel welded in and painted – and I have fit new gaskets. The doors are now watertight.

While we were on the hard, I took the opportunity to fix another old problem. I have an anchor chain snubber that is attached to a chainplate, just at water level. This effectively lowers the chain “effort”, but over the years, I realized that it makes noise and wears, because the fit is too sloppy.

This is the end result, after I had two purpose-built washers made by a local machine shop.

Also, as we have come to know many of the Turkish people around us, we have befriended Umut, who owns a steel motor yacht. He owns a banana plantation and has been dabbling in hydroponics, as a way to dramatically increase the yield and shorten growing time of wheat. This is Umut and his latest invention.

We launched on 4 June, just as a rally of 35 sailing yachts visiting from Israel arrived. The docks are full – and there are many Israeli flags flying at their sterns. It is great to be floating again, and preparing for our next summer anchoring holiday.

Cairo Egypt – Holiday Time

4 March 2022 – Cairo Egypt – Holiday Time

As I wrote in my last blog entry, we returned to Cairo Egypt because of “unfinished business”, “being tourists”. I booked our trip through Expedia, including flights and our stay at the 4-star hotel (later reduced to 3.5 stars), the Regency Pyramids Hotel. We met up with our friends Steve and Liz from SV LIBERTE on the first night, and had a cheap dinner at a local fast food joint.

You can’t beat the pyramids view from our hotel room.

The view from the rooftop of our hotel was even better.

For background on Egypt, I went to the CIA World Fact Book to get a good summary of how the country of Egypt developed. The regularity and richness of the annual Nile River flood, coupled with semi-isolation provided by deserts to the east and west, allowed for the development of one of the world’s great civilizations. A unified kingdom arose circa 3200 B.C., and a series of dynasties ruled in Egypt for the next three millennia. The last native dynasty fell to the Persians in 341 B.C., who in turn were replaced by the Greeks, Romans, and Byzantines. It was the Arabs who introduced Islam and the Arabic language in the 7th century and who ruled for the next six centuries. A local military caste, the Mamluks took control about 1250 and continued to govern after the conquest of Egypt by the Ottoman Turks in 1517. Completion of the Suez Canal in 1869 elevated Egypt as an important world transportation hub. Ostensibly to protect its investments, Britain seized control of Egypt’s government in 1882, but nominal allegiance to the Ottoman Empire continued until 1914. Partially independent from the UK in 1922, Egypt acquired full sovereignty from Britain in 1952. The completion of the Aswan High Dam in 1971 and the resultant Lake Nasser have reaffirmed the time-honoured place of the Nile River in the agriculture and ecology of Egypt. A rapidly growing population (the largest in the Arab world), limited arable land, and dependence on the Nile all continue to overtax resources and stress society. The government has struggled to meet the demands of Egypt’s fast-growing population as it implements large-scale infrastructure projects, energy cooperation, and foreign direct investment appeals.

With a current population of about 102 million people, the major sources of revenue are from exported petroleum products, the Suez Canal and tourism. It’s main exports consist of natural gas, and non-petroleum products such as ready-made clothes, cotton textiles, medical and petrochemical products, citrus fruits, rice and dried onion, and more recently cement, steel, and ceramics.

I lived and worked in Egypt during the period 1980-1982, in the Sinai, Cairo and Alexandria. I still cannot get over how different, but yet the same – the city of Cairo looks. It is still crowded, noisy, polluted and everything seems like a sandy colour – but there are so many more high rise apartment buildings. The area around the pyramids (the suburb of Giza) is completely built up. When I lived here 40 years ago, it was just sand and dust. Now it is full of apartment buildings and more city. The honking horns never seem to stop. Diane had ear plugs, handy for sleeping in the hotel room, but I neglected to bring mine.

On our first day on the ground, we took a day trip to see some of the local sites. Our first stop was to see the Citadel of Saladin, a medieval Islamic-era fortification built by Salah ad-Din and further developed by subsequent Egyptian rulers. It was the seat of government in Egypt and the residence of its rulers for nearly 700 years from the 13th to the 19th centuries.

We then went to the Alabaster Mosque of Mohammed Ali, situated in the Citadel and commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha (Ottoman Empire) between 1830 and 1848. Situated on the summit of the citadel, this Ottoman mosque (or Masjid as the Muslims prefer to say, since the word Mosque is a translation of the word), the largest to be built in the first half of the 19th century, is, with its animated silhouette and twin minarets, the most visible mosque in Cairo.

Most experts and media sources estimate that approximately 90 percent of the Egyptian population is Sunni Muslim (same as Saudi Arabia) and 10 percent is Christian (estimates range from 5 to 15 percent). Approximately 90 percent of Christians belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church. We next went to the Cavern Church. Situated in Coptic Cairo, this church is one of the oldest Coptic churches in Egypt, dating back to the 4th century. It is traditionally believed to have been built on the spot where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus Christ, rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. They may have lived here while Joseph worked at the fortress.

Next, was the Coptic Church of St Barbara, the place where many patriarchs of the Coptic Church were elected. The first to be elected here was Patriarch Isaac (681-692). The church is dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus, who were soldier-saints martyred during the 4th century in Syria by the Roman Emperor Maximian. Their sacred remains are kept within the Church.

Finally, we went to the National Museum of Civilization. When I lived in Egypt 40 years ago, the only Museum in operation (that I visited) was packed full of mummies and antiquities and they have been working on a modern replacement for many years, and unfortunately, it is not yet open. However, this Museum of Civilization was still a treat, because it is new and very well presented.

Photography of any kind was prohibited, but I managed to sneak one photo of this mummy, without using a flash.

On 3 April 2021, the museum was officially opened by president Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, right before the moving of 22 mummies, including 18 kings and four queens, from the Egyptian Museum in a glamorous event termed the Pharaohs’ Golden Parade. I remember reading about it in the news and you can see a short video summary of the event below.

The next day, we visited the Saqqara Step Pyramids behind this walled structure.

Saqqara contains the oldest complete stone building complex known in history, the Pyramid of Djoser, built during the Third Dynasty. Another sixteen Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation. High officials added private funeral monuments to this necropolis during the entire Pharaonic period. It remained an important complex for non-royal burials and cult ceremonies for more than 3,000 years, well into Ptolemaic and Roman times.

Later, we went to see the museum at the ancient capital of Memphis.

Then we stopped for lunch, again preferring to sample some of the local cuisine.

After lunch, we went to the Giza Pyramid Complex, and then the Sphinx. The Great Pyramid and the Pyramid of Khafre are the largest pyramids built in ancient Egypt, and they have historically been common emblems of Ancient Egypt in the Western imagination. They were popularized in Hellenistic times, when the Great Pyramid was listed by Antipater of Sidon as one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is by far the oldest of the Ancient Wonders and the only one still in existence.

Standing at the base of the Great Pyramid, you really get a sense for the size of this historic wonder. I still cannot believe that in August 1981, I climbed to the top (and have the photo to prove it).

We couldn’t resist a historic group photo shot.

Next, we went on to see The Great Sphinx of Giza, commonly referred to as the Sphinx of Giza, Great Sphinx or just the Sphinx. It is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx, a mythical creature with the head of a man, and the body of a lion. Cut from the bedrock, the original shape of the Sphinx has been restored with layers of limestone blocks. It measures 73 m (240 ft) long from paw to tail, 20 m (66 ft) high from the base to the top of the head and 19 m (62 ft) wide at its rear haunches. Its nose was broken off for unknown reasons between the 3rd and 10th centuries AD.

The Sphinx is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt and one of the most recognizable statues in the world. The archaeological evidence suggests that it was created by ancient Egyptians of the Old Kingdom during the reign of Khafre (c. 2558–2532 BC). All the chairs are setup in this photo, as there is a “sound and light” show in the evenings.

On Saturday, we took a flight to Luxor and on the first day, visited the East Bank (Karnak Temple and subsequently the Luxor Temple). Luxor, by the way, was the site of a (Osama Bin Laden financed) terrorist act that resulted in the deaths of 62 innocent people (mostly foreign tourists) in 1997. The terrorists were either killed in the attack or subsequently committed mass suicide in a cave. It is a rare, but sobering truth.

Construction of the the Karnak Temple started around 2000 BC, and finished around 305 BC, as various Kings and Pharaohs put their influence into it.

The key difference between Karnak and most of the other temples and sites in Egypt is the length of time over which it was developed and used. Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity not seen elsewhere. Few of the individual features of Karnak are unique, but the size and number of features are overwhelming. The deities represented range from some of the earliest worshipped to those worshipped much later in the history of the Ancient Egyptian culture.

One thing that is not obvious is that the level of sand around the temple is quite a bit different (due to excavation) than it was more than a hundred years ago. Here is a photo I took of a very permanent carving, made by some fellow by the name of L. Buvry, evidently from Berlin in 1852. This carving is much more permanent than your average street graffiti artist makes on city walls. I figured it was about 5m high.

Unlike the other temples in Thebes, the Luxor temple is not dedicated to a cult god or a deified version of the pharaoh in death. Instead, The Luxor temple is dedicated to the rejuvenation of kingship; it may have been where many of the pharaohs of Egypt were crowned in reality or conceptually (as in the case of Alexander the Great, who claimed he was crowned at Luxor but may never have traveled south of Memphis, near modern Cairo).

You don’t have to look hard for signs that some of these Kings were very serious about portraying themselves as real studs, with almost mystical fertility powers. Have a look on the right to see this man’s penis.

There is a newly reconstructed avenue in a straight line for about 2,700 metres between the Luxor Temple and the Karnak area – lined with hundreds of sphinxes. It is closed to cars, walking only.

Here is something that you often see outside the Western world, but not easily decipherable. In Arabic, it states that the entrance fee for adults is 10 Egyptian Pounds, 1/8 of the foreign entrance fee of 80 Egyptian pounds. Also, the student entrance is only 5 Egyptian pounds, likewise 1/8 of the foreign student price. The entrance fees for all of these sites do mount up.

In the afternoon, Diane and I went for a very pleasant sail on the River Nile on a felucca, a traditional sailboat used in this area of upper Egypt.

It had no motor, a drop centre board, and a very crude sail rig — but it worked. The Captain sailed away from the dock, sailed up river, against the current at a speed of 4-5 knots, and then sailed back to the dock after an hour.

The Nile River is incredibly clean in this area, a far cry from the brown septic stained Nile River that passes through the centre of Cairo. In fact, the whole Luxor area impressed me by being so much cleaner than Cairo.

Diane clearly was not seasick.

On Sunday, we visited the West Bank to see the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. In both cases, the crowds of tourists were starting to build. The Temple of Hatshepsut (the guide referred to her as “hot chicken soup”) is a mortuary temple built during the reign of Pharaoh Hatshepsut during the Eighteenth Dynasty of Egypt (15th century BC). It is considered to be a masterpiece of ancient architecture with three massive terraces rising above the desert floor and into the cliffs. Across the river Nile, the whole structure points towards the monumental Eighth Pylon, Hatshepsut’s most recognizable addition to the Temple of Karnak (barely visible in the distance) and the site from which the procession of the Beautiful Festival of the Valley departs.

Next on the agenda was a drive to see The Valley of the Kings, as depicted in this topographic view.

This is where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, rock-cut tombs were excavated for the pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt).

The valley is known to contain 63 tombs and chambers (ranging in size from KV54, a simple pit, to KV5, a complex tomb with over 120 chambers) – and they are still digging, finding new sites. Since the 1920s, the valley has been famous for the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun, and is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world.

We went down (lots of stairs) into only 3 of the available tombs, starting with Merenptah’s tomb.

The tombs of Kings Ramses I and III were also very special.

Later in the day, we took a horse and carriage to the Museum of Mummification. I did not drive.

Unfortunately, although they described the process of mummification, they only had one mummy to show.

Sunday night, we flew back to Cairo, arriving at our hotel after midnight. On Tuesday, we took a day trip North to Alexandria, a city where I lived for a year, 40 years ago. We took the “desert road”, a distance of about 200km on a very good 4 lane highway (4 northbound and 4 southbound). I can’t even say it looks like a desert road anymore.

We saw many “pigeon houses” along the way. Egyptians raise and eat pigeons and pigeon eggs, in much the same way that the rest of the world eats chickens – but they are a different tasting bird. I ate it a few times, years ago.

All along the road, there are farms, industry and cities. Obviously, the development has been due to the use of deep water wells and government incentives.

The streets of Alexandria looked much the same as I remember them, with European style buildings and tram tracks.

We were told that the taxis in Alexandria are all Russian Ladas, with distinctive black and yellow markings.

At a roadside stop, I spotted an electric vehicle charging station, just over Diane’s right shoulder. It is a green post, with an electric cord and lots of dust (which is normal).

Although I never saw very many solar panels, I did spot one roadside vendor on the corniche with this panel.

We visited the Catacombs of Kom el-Shuqqafa, hewn from the rock on the southern slopes of a hill. Thought to date from the 2nd century AD, they offer an admirable example of the characteristic Alexandrian fusion of Egyptian and Greco-Roman styles. Discovered in 1900 (thanks to a donkey falling into them) they are laid out on several levels of sarcophagi and loculi (shelf tomb) chambers. A spiral staircase leads down into the ground to the main rotunda.

We stopped in at the Yacht Club of Egypt. There were lots of local boats moored in the bay, but only one monohull sailboat. There don’t appear to be any docks. I inquired at the office about stopping in with a foreign flagged boat, but due to the lack of Customs and Immigration facilities, this is a complete non-starter. Maybe in the future?

We stopped to visit Pompey’s Pillar, situated on a hill littered with the remains of ancient walls, architectural fragments, and rubble on which Alexandria’s only fully intact ancient monument is left standing. Pompey’s Pillar rises from the ruins of the ancient and famous Serapeion (Temple of Serapis), which was once used to store the overflow of manuscripts from the Great Library of Alexandria.

We stopped by to visit the Ras el-Tin Palace, or Citadel. This was once a summer escape for Egypt’s sultans when the desert heat of Cairo got too much to bear. It’s also the famed location where King Farouk – Egypt’s last king – officially abdicated in 1952 before sailing out of Alexandria’s harbour and into exile in Italy. Today, the palace is used by the Egyptian navy, which means its glorious interiors are out of bounds to casual visitors, but the exterior walls are worth the walk.

We met a family visiting from Yemen that were thrilled to talk with Western tourists. He and his wife have 5 daughters.

Lastly, we stopped by the Bibliotheca Alexandria. This modern facility finally replaced the building and function performed by the Great Library of Alexandria, one of the largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world – lost in antiquity. In the year 272, the buildings of the museum were destroyed in a civil war under the Roman emperor Aurelian, although the educational and research functions of the institution seem to have continued until the 5th century. The rebuilt library was finished in 2002, and has shelf space for eight million books, with the main reading room covering 20,000 square metres (220,000 sq ft). The complex also houses a conference centre; with specialized libraries for maps, multimedia, the blind and visually impaired, young people, and for children; four museums; four art galleries for temporary exhibitions; 15 permanent exhibitions; a planetarium; and a manuscript restoration laboratory.

On the last full day in Cairo, we asked our driver Mohamed to take us to the “old” Egyptian Museum, followed by a tour of the City of the Dead. The Egyptian Museum is the oldest archaeological museum in the Middle East, and houses the largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities in the world. The museum was inaugurated in 1902 by Khedive Abbas Helmy II, and has become a historic landmark in downtown Cairo, near the famous Tahir Square and home to some of the world’s most magnificent ancient masterpieces. I did visit this museum 40 years ago, and my thoughts then were that it was crowded, stuffy and had way too many objects either on display or in the basement.

Although the Kings mummies (and some of the Queens) have been transferred to the Museum of Civilization, there are still many mummies that remain in this museum, together with many other artifacts. The museum displays an extensive collection spanning from the Predynastic Period to the Greco-Roman Era.

While writing this blog, I came across an easy to use Internet hieroglyphics translator. I’m not sure how useful it is, but its an example of new technology helping to understand old technology.

https://lingojam.com/HieroglyphicsTranslator

These photos depict some relicts found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb.

As previously mentioned, there are still quite a few mummies in the Museum, although they are probably not Kings.

         

Among the museum’s unrivalled collection are the complete burials of Yuya and Thuya, commemorating the unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under one king. The museum also houses the splendid statues of the great kings Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure, the builders of the pyramids at the Giza plateau. An extensive collection of papyri, sarcophagi and jewelry, among other objects, completes this uniquely expansive museum.

Our last visit was to The City of the Dead, a place that I have certainly never been to but was alway curious about. The City of the Dead, or Cairo Necropolis, is a series of vast Islamic-era necropolises and cemeteries situated in the centre of Cairo (great real estate). They extend to the north and to the south of the Cairo Citadel, and separated roughly into two regions: the Northern Cemetery to the north of the Citadel and the older Southern Cemetery to the south of the Citadel.

The necropolis that makes up “the City of the Dead” has been developed over many centuries and contains both the graves of Cairo’s common population as well as the elaborate mausoleums of many of its historical rulers and elites. It started with the early city of Fustat (founded in 642 CE). Throughout history, the necropolises were home to various types of living inhabitants as well. These included the workers whose professions were tied to the cemeteries (for example gravediggers and tomb custodians), the Sufis and religious scholars studying in the religious complexes built by sultans and other wealthy patrons, and the regular inhabitants of small urban settlements and villages in the area. Modern urbanization and housing shortages have led to a large increase in the number of people living in the necropolis zones. Some people resorted to squatting within the mausoleums and tomb enclosures and turning them into improvised housing. Our driver Mohamed told us that the keys and right to use of the family crypts usually passes down from family to family. Some of the people that are living in these family tombs are temporarily occupying the ground floor living space (normally a visiting space for relatives) while the dead are buried below the ground. The tombs themselves were often seen as a better alternative to squatting or low-quality housing available nearby in the inner city, as they provided already-built structures with relatively ample room. From what I can see, they had water, electricity, street lights and even garbage collection.

This is clearly an “occupied” tomb / home, without an external padlock.

There were lots of stray dogs on the streets, as there are in all of Egypt – and this momma was feeding her pups right on the street.

We stopped at a small cafe, a “Dead” cafe, and ate some take out food, primarily Kashary (a kind of macaroni dish with lentils, vegetables and chilli). This is where we bought the Kashary.

This is Mohamed and I eating and what we ate. Diane was also there, but just not in this photo. The food was very good, and very economical.

Estimating the population of the “City of the Dead” is difficult as it does not correspond to just one administrative district in the Egyptian census but stretches across several, with some cemeteries blending into the main urban fabric of Cairo without presenting a clear border between city and necropolis. A commonly cited estimate puts the current population at half a million or more people, and some put it even as high as two million.

The Egyptian COVID-19 vaccination rate is very low, about 30%, although required by law – and yet the number of reported deaths is also very low. It’s suspicious that the actual reported death rate is so much higher in Western countries, and lower elsewhere. When speaking with young men here, they come up with same logic that I’ve heard in many countries. They think that COVID-19 is hardly any more deadly than the seasonal flu. In reality, in a country like Egypt (where the cause of death is rarely determined by a doctor), the published statistics for death “due to COVID” are very unreliable. Although there is free public health care in Egypt, it suffers from long waiting times and very poor services. Most people opt for private health care. Many people that die, just die – and are buried, with no cause of death investigated or reported (as I think is the case in many non-Western countries).

The purpose of our trip was entirely tourism, to see Egyptian sites that we could not see two years ago when we were locked down in Port Ghalib Egypt. We achieved that, but in wrapping up, it saddens me to say that little has changed in the past 40 years, other than the fact that there are more Egyptians, more buildings, more cars and a lot more garbage. Although we did not get close enough for first-hand observation, it appears that the urban planned “New Cairo” city may be a step in the right direction.

This is a photo I took of one of the many canals of the Nile River that are split off in the Cairo area. The current flows slowly from left to right. You can see the pile of floating garbage plugging up the canal on the left side. There is obvious evidence of people dumping household garbage, on a regular basis, into this canal – and not just here, but in dozens of places that I saw. This is not tourist or industrial waste, but simply lazy citizens dumping household garbage in their backyard.

Much to my surprise, I did see garbage trucks in several places in Cairo, picking up garbage from collection points – but they can’t seem to keep up with the demand. Frankly, it astonishes me, and many other Western people that the pyramids and ancient temples were built here nearly 4,000 years ago. Are these local Egyptians really descendants of those industrious, clever people? We stayed in a 4-star hotel in Luxor. At nightfall, I realized that the patio door would not close, and could not lock. Upon closer inspection, I determined that the patio door was actually not installed correctly, and it could never lock. The pin was out of alignment by at least 50mm! The hotel was probably 25 years old, and this had apparently never been addressed before. When I asked to move to another room, they gave me one that was the same, the door would not lock. We finally moved to a third room, which had a locking patio door. Everything in this country seems to be designed by foreigners, built by reasonably skilled contractors and very poorly maintained by local Egyptians. By and large, they seem to have very poor work habits, terrible management practices and lose a lot of their wealth through corruption. Practically everywhere you go, with nearly every encounter with a local Egyptian, he/she has their hand out – asking for baksheesh (a tip). It gets old quickly, believe me. Been there, done that!