A New Purple Douglas Iris

In January I divided some purple Douglas iris plants, and yesterday I noticed the first bloom from the transplants. I had hoped for blooms this first spring. The purple flowers are more fragile than the white irises, but I admire the deep color and veins of the purple iris.

All eight transplants survived, showing that the purple irises are as hardy as the white irises. The Douglas irises (iris douglasiana) are California native plants, and they are in the shade of a coastal live oak. I used a normal lens (105 mm) with a short extension tube to get a larger photo of the flower.

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My First Camel Ride and the Sphinx

After seeing the pyramids and Khufu Ship, we went for a camel ride and saw the Sphinx. This was my time being close to camels, and I had the impression that they could be temperamental, so I was a bit apprehensive.

Getting on the camel and staying on the camel is tricky. You mount the camel when it’s sitting down, which is good. But you’re sitting on a saddle on top of the camel hump, so we still have to climb up to get on the saddle.

But then, the camel has to stand up. I forget which comes first, but the camel gets up with its front legs and hind legs separately, and the camel legs are long. So when the camel rises, its body is severely tilted, and you need to lean far forward and back to stay on the camel. From the photo, you can see that it’s a long way down if you fall.

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Khufu Ship

The Khufu Ship is a large, ancient boat discovered disassembled in a pit next to the Pyramid of Cheops. “Like other buried Ancient Egyptian ships, it was apparently part of the extensive grave goods intended for use in the afterlife, and contained no bodies, unlike northern European ship burials.”

About 4,500 years old, the ship is “one of the oldest, largest, and best-preserved vessels from antiquity. It measures 43.6 m (143 ft) long and 5.9 m (19.5 ft) wide.” Khufu is another name for King Cheops.

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Egyptian Pyramids

The Egyptian pyramids, funerary monuments to pharaohs, are incredibly old, a testament to the wealth, government, and culture of ancient Egypt. Above, the first pyramid, the Step Pyramid of Djoser, was built in the 27th century BC, 4,800 years ago. The Egyptian pyramid fields are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

As you’ll see, the pyramids are huge and precise. Building them required a civilization with manpower, engineering, and political will. Ancient Egypt had the wealth and organization to specialize crafts and devote tremendous resources to build these tombs, at a time when the rest of the world lagged far behind.

The initial tomb design was a mastaba, which “comes from the Arabic word for a bench of mud”. A mastaba is a solid structure of mud brick. Located in a Cairo suburb, the Step Pyramid is constructed with six steps of cut stone, with each step taking the form of a mastaba on top of the earlier one. Stone is stronger than mud brick, enabling a taller and more durable structure.

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Lawrence in Arabia

Our Jordanian guide told us about T. E. Lawrence and Jordan being surrounded by Israel and powerful Arab countries like Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Egypt. Steve, a person in our tour group, suggested reading Lawrence in Arabia. Knowing little beyond seeing Lawrence of Arabia starring Peter O’Toole, I took Steve’s advice.

Lawrence in Arabia

Lawrence in Arabia was an eye-opener and sobering. The Middle East is important, and Lawrence played an outsized role. The British looked down on the Arabs. British diplomats lied to the Arabs to encourage their revolt, without intending to fulfill the Arab self-determination they promised.

Above are dunes of red sand at Wadi Rum, Jordan, where Lawrence passed through and where much of Lawrence of Arabia was filmed.

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Cairo’s Museum of Islamic Art

After the Gayer-Anderson Museum, we visited Cairo‘s Museum of Islamic Art, “considered one of the greatest in the world, with its exceptional collection of rare woodwork and plaster artefacts (sic), as well as metal, ceramic, glass, crystal, and textile objects of all periods, from all over the Islamic world.” As expected, the Islamic art focused on geometric and vegetal patterns and Arabic calligraphy.

The museum reopened in January 2017 after “a car bomb attack targeting the Cairo police headquarters on the other side of the street caused considerable damage to the museum and destroyed many artifacts” three years before. We noticed that the police headquarters has a curved blast wall that directs any blast away from the police building and toward the museum.

Inside, there were few visitors on a weekday afternoon, and the museum was excellent.

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Gayer-Anderson Museum

As we were leaving Cairo‘s Mosque of Ibn Tulun, our guide gestured to a building on the right and asked if we wanted to see the Gayer-Anderson Museum. It wasn’t on the itinerary we negotiated with the tour company, but we had considered it, so we said sure. We’re glad he asked. The museum is “one of the best-preserved examples of 17th-century domestic architecture left in Cairo”

Above, the minaret of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun is framed by the wooden latticework on the rooftop terrace of the Museum. This rooftop terrace was used in the James Bond film The Spy Who Loved Me.

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