Twelve days before Christmas, Melanie Rivers, 25, returned from an amazing 11 week adventure. Prior to the start of her career as a Licensed Psychological Examiner she researched and planned her day by day itinerary. The family travel agent of three generations helped make her dreams come true. The entire trip was done by herself with no aide of modern technology.
The first part of her trip was to revisit London. Here she got to view and do things not previously able to enjoy on two previous visits. She had already mastered the mode of travel via tube and loves it. Her itinerary of London is mostly complete. Among her favorites were touring Windsor Castle, Sigmund Freud House, Charles Dickens House, and the British Library and Museum.
From London, with her Turkish Visa already in hand, and being met by private transfer she would explore the wonders of Turkey. Melanie was on a three day tour of Mount Nemrut and Harran that turned out to be the driver, the guide, and herself. Needless to say she was catered to immensely. On her two week Turkish Delight Tour, the group learned of the Turkish customs revealed through their visit of many cities. The tour originated from Istanbul which included cities along the outlined areas of inclusion. Wearing appropriate attire, beautiful Mosques were able to be entered. The guide, a delightful and most knowledgeable man knew the best places for purchases of preference and went with the group into these establishments to ensure the best prices. When the driver said be at a certain location for pick up that is exactly what he meant as he did not wish a ticket for stopping too long. After the tour she was on her own to explore Istanbul for five days. She enjoyed the archaeological sites along with learning about the Turkish history. At one point she ended up on the Asian side of Istanbul; "a city on two continents is unbelievable." She found the Muslims advance understanding of math and science quite interesting.
After England, and Turkey she was off to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates. Upon arrival she was met by private transfer to hotel. She did get to visit the "Sheikh Zayad Mosque" a treasure to its society. It is one of the most opulent mosques in the world. Just 40 years ago these towns were little fishing villages. Now among the most technological advanced, leading, and wealthiest in the world since the discovery of oil in the 1970s. The much less modern town of Al Ain was visited where she better understood their history, culture, and life prior to the oil’s discovery. It was here where she had to sit in the "women and children room" to eat a meal. Her most memorable experiences while in the United Arab Emirates were: to touch penguins at ski Dubai, to hold a falcon and learn of the history of falconry in the region, to ride a camel, and learn about Salukis, a type of dog. If it was not so incredibly hot (still 90s in November) she might be tempted to move there.
Enjoying mountains more than beaches, Oman was most beautiful with its mountains. This country is one of only a few where frankincense trees grow. It is said that the three wise men came from this area as they saw the star and followed it to Bethlehem where they found baby Jesus. Myrrh smelled slightly better than the frankincense that was not pleasant to one’s nose. The Grand Mosque and Opera House were both very beautiful. She enjoyed haggling with the shop keepers at the old souk. Being in Muscat on a weekend meant the museums she longed to visit were closed due to their holy days. Seeing the Arabian Sea was another memory. She had an incredible and wonderful visit to Job’s Tomb. While in route they had to stop for camels to cross the road.
In Morocco she toured the Atlas Film Studio where movies King of Heaven, The Gladiator, The Sahara, The Mummy, Cleopatra. Lawrence of Arabia, Hidalgo, and Patton were filmed. Two highlights of the entire trip was riding a camel in the Sahara Desert and eating at Rick’s Café from the movie Casablanca in Casablanca! Oh, the mosque in Casablanca with architectural elements from three religions (Islam, Christianity, and Judaism) with its retractable roof and being the largest in the world was extraordinarily magnificent. In Tangier she visited the old legation building and museum where the US planned strategy for North Africa during WWII. Interesting, Morocco was the first country to recognize and sign a treaty with the newly created United States of America in 1777 and are very proud they did. She was amazed by all the amazing and wonderful architecture as well as extraordinary craftsmanship of leather, silver, stone, and wood. As she travelled all day by bus to get to a small sea town called Essaouira to make purchases of some items made from a unique type of wood called thuya. The marquetry work is excellently executed and is so beautiful. Seeing the Atlas Mountains adored with snow made them a stunning sight to behold. Her love of history and geography, have made these mountains her favorite because the Greek god Atlas was ordered to hold the world on his back. She particularly loved the French influence of their food as she ate delicious crepes, French baguettes and pastries. The mint/green tea quickly became her favorite. Also enjoyed was the couscous rice and tagines, which are different types of meats and vegetables or couscous. As is their custom in the United Arab Emirates, it was strange to separate the men from the women on public transportation. She is most thankful to have had the opportunity to learn and experience the Muslim culture and visit these historical countries. She was given the best hospitality and kindness throughout her trip, except for a few taxi drivers.