Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shopping, Cairo Style

Oh, the treasures. So many treasures to be found at the Khan i Khalili, But how to find them. "Good price, for you," the man says as he tries to pull me into his shop. I walk past trying to focus on the task at hand -- finding the beautifully colored, thick Egyptian glass. Alas, there is a shop that draws me. So many lights dangling. Green and blue crystals hanging here. Silver and copper hanging there. A little further in and a whole ceiling is covered with copper and brass lamps of every shape and size.
Just a few doors down the dusty, crowded, narrow street and there it is. Blue glass. Turquoise glass. Red glass. White glass. Pitchers. Glasses. Bowls.

The shop owner, sweating from excursion in the hot shop, reaches for this one and that one, as we ask to see so many. Finally, decisions are made and pounds are exchanged. "Are you happy," the first shop owner, who has escorted me there, asks? "Yes, very happy." A night at the Khan i Khalili comes to an end.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cairo...on the Nile

Sun sets on the Nile. For a moment, you can block out the honking of horns and the congestion setting over the city and just focus on this beautiful moment. Down below, the city is humming but from here, it's just the pink sun and shimmering river saying goodbye to another day in Egypt.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Dubai Some Never See

There is the Dubai you see.
And then there is the Dubai that some never see. Away from the bustle, the malls and the beaches created by man, there is the "historic" Dubai nestled along side of the Creek, where charming little art galleries (unfortunately, many are closed on Friday) and cafes are nestled in. Here is where you can find the textile souk, largely Indian shops with pillow cases, pashminas, shawls and scarves of every color and size.
Cross the Creek and you are in the heart of the spice and gold souks. Saffron and frankinscence mingle with vanilla and cardamon. Gold bangles and diamonds blind the eye. Merchants beg you to come to look at handbags and pashminas just down this corridor in the souk.

Despite the heat and humidity, you can find a soul of a city.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dubai Dreamin'

Mesopotamia. Baghdad. The Tigris River. The words floated on the green and blue map on my screen. We were flying at 41,000 feet en route to Dubai. Hard to believe that just 10 hours before I was saying goodbye at Dulles, giving goodnight kisses to Stefan and Abby who were nestled into their jammies. Then I was off, laptop and presentations in tow, trying not to think about my little ones but the work that awaited.
Now Dubai. A world of contradictions. Modern yet conservative. Liberal yet traditional. After a walk through the massive, crowded Dubai Mall on the start of the weekend here, I'm filled with images of Jimmy Choo, Burberry and Chanel. Yet what sticks most in my mind is the women covered in head to toe black.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Learning, Learning and More Learning

This "new" social media world has me shakin' my head in wonder. What next? Now I've come across (though it's been around for a while) Fora TV...the YouTube for thinking minds. Forget about watching home videos on YouTube and settle in for some discussions on foreign aid, foreign policy and the economy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

South Africa, You Don't Say

I gasped. Not just once, but several times. I held onto the wheel tightly as I rounded the turn. I just had to do it, though I know it was not safe. I had to take a picture of those gorgeous mountain ranges. I was en route from the Cape Town airport to wine country to visit with my friend, Jo. I hadn't seen him in several years and it was going to be a great visit. I didn't anticipate that I would have my breath taken away by the scenery.
We had lunch at a little joint. A bottle of white wine, of course. Or maybe it was two. Jo fired up the barbie for dinner. Guests. More guests. More wine. Friends of mine arrived late into the evening who were also in South Africa. We laughed. Told stories about our Croatia days. We drove up the mountain for brunch on Sunday. Gasps. Many more gasps for air. Now I'm gasping for air again as I look at what Jo has done. This time he has really outdone himself with the Explorer's Club, an exquisite property in the heart of Franschhoek which is a reflection of his travels around the world -- Burma, Thailand, Croatia, etc.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dubai On the Fly

I'm headed to Dubai next week for work -- en route to Cairo. I'm hoping I'll have at least an hour or two to stop by the souk. On my last visit to Dubai, I spent an afternoon there wandering the various stalls, marveling at the gold shops, buying up some exotic-smelling herbs and even splurged on a diamond ring. I also spent part of my free day at the big mega mall, complete with indoor ski slope. My daughter still loves the cheap, toy cell phone I bought with a picture of head-covered Barbie which plays a Middle Eastern tune of some sort.

I need to check out Cool Travel's Dubai shopping guide. She does a lot of writing for various travel magazines and lived in Dubai for a while so certainly seems to know the ins and outs. I took these pictures during my last trip....

Layover Malaise No More

This is just what I love about the New York Times travel section -- it offers up some great practical advice alongside the "36 Hours in ?" series, hotel and restaurant reviews and other travel odds and ends. Today's article about what to do outside of the airport (yes, I said, outside of the airport) when flying through Frankfurt (dreadful), London (hate the transfer), Amsterdam (second on my list), or Paris (first on my list, even if the airport shops are overpriced) is worth the read.
* Photo courtesy of NYTimes

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Feelin' Groovy

Sunglasses made out of wood? What is this world coming to? I stumbled across these groovy shades, ShWoods, today on Daily Candy. Perhaps something for your travel bag?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Work that Matters

As most of you know, I work for an international development consulting firm. Huh, you ask? No worries...I get that response all the time and it's completely natural and valid.
I'm sure if I said Save the Children most of you would know the sort of work they do around the world. Their name pretty much says it all. However, it's hard to grasp the notion that there are development actors out there also doing much life-saving to reintegrate child soldiers, for instance, or help establish citizen groups to fight for human rights. The NGOs do a much better job of getting their messages out and truly marketing through powerful methods, including celebrity endorsements and ad campaigns. Take the Rewrite the Futures campaign which I stumbled across today on YouTube -- it's so very poignant and real.

Admittedly, outside of the non-profit sphere, we've been much less inclined to put our face out there; while the NGOs need to do it to survive financially. But as more and more assaults are taking place against those of us doing good work around the world (we're the "bad" contractors, mind you), we've got to be much more outspoken.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Paris Shopping

I's about Paris again. I haven't given up on a trip there very soon...probably spring time when I can hop over the pond with Abby. How apropos that the last issue of T and L (my favorite travel mag) has a Stylish Traveler article: Shopping: Paris, 3Ways in which the author, one lucky gal, is taken through the streets, shops and flea markets of Paris by three insiders. Suffice it to say I want her job in my after life. The photo above is from Merci. (merci)

Big Apple Shopping

I love Time Out. When I lived in the Balkans, it was one of my go-to guides for restaurants and shopping. I found some great little places in Budapest using it years ago. So, I am now delving into it for my girls' weekend in NYC (with my almost six-year old) later this month to find the best shopping locales for us gals. Reading it now.