Petra Feb 2011

Petra, a prehistoric caravan city in Jordan, was lost to the Western world for hundreds of years.  It is located in the desert between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea on an important crossroad between Arabia, Egypt and Syria.  Petra was once a trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 BC and 106 AD.  Petra is half built and half carved into the rock.  The Nabataeans picked this location for the surrounding mountains with its windy entrances resembling a fortress.  They were an advanced society with ingenious networks of water capture, storage and irrigation systems, hence creating an artificial oasis in the desert. Their architectural style is also a unique combination of Hellenistic and Nabataean, which we were told was their way of making traders visiting the city feel “at home” with architecture familiar to them.

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Masada Feb 2011

Masada is an ancient fortification situated on top of an isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea.  Herod the Great built Masada between 37 and 31 BC as his winter retreat and also as a refuge for himself in case his Jewish subjects rebelled or the Romans attacked.  The fortress has palaces, storehouses, an armoury, barracks, and a large network of cisterns to collect rainwater.

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Jerusalem Feb 2011

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and it is considered the holy city to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  For Jews, King David established Jerusalem as the capital and his son, King Solomon, commissioned the building of the First Temple.  For Christians, the New Testament accounted of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion here.  And for Muslims, Jerusalem is the third-holiest city, after Mecca and Medina.  According to the Quran, it is here in Jerusalem where Muhammad ascended to heaven and spoke to God.  As a result, this small area of less than 1 sq km became of religious importance to the different religions.

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St. Petersburg June 2010

St. Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and is located at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea.  It was the imperial capital of Russia between 1713–1728 and 1732–1918.  St. Petersburg is probably the most westernized city of Russia, as well as being its cultural capital.  We stayed at Hotel Astoria in a convenient location next to St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the State Hermitage Museum.

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Moscow June 2010

Moscow is the capital and largest city in Russia.  The city has served as the capital from the medieval Grand Duchy of Moscow and the subsequent Tsardom to the more recent Soviet Union.  Moscow is considered the center of Russian culture with its large number of museums, academic institutions, and theatres.  It is also the seat of power of the Russian Government located in the Moscow Kremlin where the Russian president resides.  Moscow’s architecture is world-renowned, especially the onion domes of its cathedrals.

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Galle & Tangalle April 2010

Galle is a city in southwestern Sri Lanka and has been the main port of the island even before the arrival of the Portuguese.  Galle Fort of Galle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was first built by the Portuguese in the 16th century and then fortified by the Dutch during the 17th century.   It is now a sleepy walled city seeped with the Dutch-colonial charm of a bygone era.  The Fort area is filled with small boutiques, cafes, and boutique hotels side by side with government offices, courts, and local residences.  After spending several days in Galle, we headed to Tangalle for more of a beach holiday.  Tangalle is known for its sandy beaches on the southeastern coast of Sri Lanka.  In both places we stayed at properties owned by the Amanresorts: Amangalla in Galle Fort and Amanwella in Tangalle.

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Salvador da Bahia Feb 2010

Salvador da Bahia or Salvador is the largest city on the northeast coast of Brazil and was founded in 1549 by the Portugese.  Salvador is one of the oldest colonial cities in the Americas and is also the first slave market on the continent with slaves arriving to work on the sugar plantations.  Hence, it is heavily influenced by African culture, cuisine, and music.  Salvador is divided into “Lower Town” with the port and neighborhoods along the bay and “Upper Town” which is the rest of the city.  These two parts of town are connected by an elevator, known as Elevador Lacerda since 1873.

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