The middle east has always captivated us.
Growing up in America, you are practically conditioned to be afraid of the region. As a child of the 80’s and 90’s, I got a quick synopsis of the Israeli and Palestinian conflict in ‘Western Civilizations‘ class in high school, but 9/11 was the coffin nail to the last throes of tolerance for many, and after that, the vicinity became synonymous with terrorism and violence.
So, it only made sense that we visited the middle east to learn more about it first hand and take advantage of seeing it through the eyes of friends we have in Oman, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan. Iran and its fabled cities of Shiraz and Persepolis were on our list, but were too tough to get visas for. Saudi Arabia has introduced new tourism initiatives and is even hiring travel influencers who are trying to give the country’s image a makeover from their double standard of rights between men and women and the country’s grisly public beheadings. That too would be a visit for another time.
Because we landed at 2:00 am in Muscat, we got an airport pickup that took us to a hotel and we were in bed an hour later. The next morning, the Cabalunas (our friends from Korea) met us at the hotel swimming pool and we spent hours in the cool water under the roasting Omani sun with temperatures rising up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. “It’s just starting to cool down, thank God.” our friends told us. With some locations in Oman reported having hit over 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, I imagine some people bursting into flames.
The next day, our friends took us boating in the Gulf of Oman. It was refreshing to be on the water and after driving to the marina, we learned that local workers on a tractor back your boat and trailer in the water for you and you signal to shore when you want them to pull you out. Thomas captained us to a secluded bay and we dropped anchor and waded our supplies to shore to set up camp.
The day was one of those ‘magic’ days. While sitting in the sun drinking beer we adults caught up, the kids explored the wadi and the family dog ‘Jude‘ found a tasty goat’s leg boat to chew on. As the heat became too much, we transitioned into the ocean and played ‘keep away’ with a water ball. Kids against the grown ups and vice versa until the sun went down.
We had started reading ‘The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe‘ while in Oman, but the big news on the education front was preparing for Egypt. Ava had found a book called ‘Ancient Egyptians‘ of the ‘Horrible Histories‘ book series and had read it cover to cover dozens of times since we started our trip in June so she was looking forward to seeing the Giza plateau and the temples at Luxor. She was fascinated by the process of mummification and I thought mummifying a chicken would be a nice applied learning project to learn more about the process, when we learned that old friends had recently settled in Cairo and we would be staying with them instead of an Airbnb. Doing surgery on poultry in the privacy of a stranger’s house is one thing, asking your friends to use their teacups for canopic jars is another.
Google expeditions came in handy as a nice supplement to learning more about this process. I found an expedition on ancient Egypt and we researched the societal structure way of life and construction of the pyramids which Ava added to her learning notebook. The virtual reality interface gives students choice and are an immersive experience that (contrary to popular belief) one does not need VR headsets to experience. Can’t believe that we’ll actually see these structures next week.
The pyramids have endured for 4,500 years and are one of the wonders of the ancient world. Think they’ll hold up 5 days longer?