Destination: Jordan

A Tintin Tour of Jordan

The Guardian’s Georgia Brown made an unconventional trip to Petra—guided by a “Tintinologist” and a copy of The Red Sea Sharks. We’ve talked before about Tintin’s appeal to travelers, and in her dispatch Brown’s guide notes another aspect of that appeal:

Thousands of tourists visit Petra every week, but this summer I was part of the first small group of adventurers to arrive at the rose-red city in the footsteps of Tintin, led by one of the world’s leading Tintinologists, Michael Farr.

For Michael—who, dressed in beige linen suit and explorer’s hat, looks to have stepped from that golden era of travel—this is clearly part of the delight. A natural raconteur, he explains that Tintin creator Hergé’s drawings were astonishingly accurate, from his rendering of landscapes such as the Middle Eastern desert and local costumes, down to the accuracy of Egyptian hieroglyphs painted on a tomb or the Chinese lettering on a street banner. When fans of the comics see images of the real thing they perhaps cannot help but be reminded of the books in which they first saw them.

(Via The Book Bench)

An Unexpected Trip

Katherine Lonsdorf went to Jordan to broaden her views. An assault by a cab driver changed her perspective forever.

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Political Geography and the Jordanian Gerbil

Foreign Policy takes a look at a fascinating study that suggests political boundaries could have an impact on the development of animals living on opposite sides of the line. One of the test cases: Israeli and Jordanian gerbils. From the story:

A second study revealed that Israeli gerbils are more cautious than their Jordanian friends… The agricultural fields on the Israeli side of the border not only create a gulf between habitats and thereby cause an increase in the number of species in the region, but they also hail one of the most problematic of intruders in the world: the red fox. On the Jordanian side, the red fox is far less common, so that Jordanian gerbils can allow themselves to be more carefree.

(Via Kottke)

Dead Sea, Jordan

Dead Sea, Jordan REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed

A tourist covered in mud reads a book on Jordan's side of the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth.

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More Bad News for the Dead Sea?

More Bad News for the Dead Sea? Photo by amanderson2 via Flickr (Creative Commons)

Because of a marked decrease in water inflow from the Jordan River, the famous salt lake is shrinking so fast that some scientists believe that it could dry up in 50 years. But politics could also displace it from the list of the world’s top natural wonders, Reuters reports. The countries bordering the sea—Israel, the Palestinian territories and Jordan—must sign off for the Dead Sea to qualify for votes in 2010-2011 at the New Seven Wonders of Nature competition.

Is the Dead Sea Ailing?

Is the Dead Sea Ailing? Photo by Mark Cartwright via Flickr (Creative Commons).
Photo by Mark Cartwright via Flickr (Creative Commons).

Water levels have been dropping dramatically at the giant salt lake in the last 30 years, risking the viability of the thousands-year-old tourist attraction and Biblical landmark, Science Daily reports.

Researchers at the University of Technology in Darmstadt, Germany, discovered that the lake has lost 14 cubic kilometers of water in the last 30 years, an alarming drop which could translate into problems such as receding shorelines that could make it difficult for tourists to access the waters and the formation of a dangerous landscape of sinkholes and mud that could also damage roads.

The high-mineral concentration in the Dead Sea—the lowest body of water on Earth, at 400 meters below sea level—has attracted health tourists for thousands of years, apparently intriguing the likes of Aristotle, Cleopatra and the Queen of Sheba. Modern doctors also tell their patients that soaking in the Dead Sea can ease skin ailments. Today, the area is bustling with resorts, spas, restaurants and hotels.

The scientists say climate change hasn’t caused the drop; rather, it’s a result of spiking human water use in the area.

The Call to Prayer: ‘An Audible Pinprick to Your Conscience’

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Women’s Travel Email Roundtable, Part One: ‘He My HUSBAND!’

Four accomplished travelers -- Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Liz Sinclair, Terry Ward and Catherine Watson -- talk about the rewards and perils of hitting the road alone as a woman

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U.S. State Department’s New Cultural Ambassadors: Ozomatli

Never mind that members of the Los Angeles-based Latin-funk-rock band Ozomatli oppose just about everything the Bush administration stands for. At the behest of the U.S. State Department, they’re touring the Middle East and beyond, from Jordan and Egypt to India and Nepal, as cultural ambassadors. “Our world standing has deteriorated,” saxophonist Ulises Bella told the Los Angeles Times. “I’m totally willing and wanting to give a different image of America than America has given over the last five years.”


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New Seven Wonders of the World Named

President to Brazilians: Christ the Redeemer Needs Your Vote!

Petra Makes Push for Seven Wonders Status

Until last century, Petra was virtually off limits to non-Arab travelers. And in recent years, troubles in the Middle East have kept travelers away. But now that Petra has been shortlisted for the New Seven Wonders of the World list, the Jordanian government is making a push to show off the “rose red city half as old as time.” The BBC’s Jon Leyne reports that Petra “has probably not seen such a buzz of activity since civilised life ended there in the 8th century AD.”

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Seven New Wonders of the World Fever: Catch It

Photo by Jim Benning.

Yesterday, we noted USA Today’s list of Seven New Wonders of the World, and we briefly mentioned another list of Seven Wonders in the works. Today, published a story about that other list, and according to the report, it’s generating loads of interest. More than 20 million people so far have cast votes for their favorite wonders in a global competition started in 1999 by Swiss adventurer Bernard Weber. A panel of architectural experts, including former UNESCO chief Federico Mayor, helped narrow down the nominations to 21 sites, from Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China (pictured) and Turkey’s Hagia Sofia to Petra, the Statue of Liberty and the Eifel Tower. The public can vote until July 6, 2007. The winners will be named the next day.

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Writers on Ruins: An ‘Anthology of Archaeological Travel Writing’

Most contemporary travel writing focuses on the here and now, with only brief glimpses back. But recently, Oxford University Press published a collection of travel stories about visits to ruins entitled From Stonehenge to Samarkand: An Anthropology of Archaeological Travel Writing. The book features old and relatively new stories by such writers as Tom Bissell (a World Hum contributor), Paul Theroux, Robert Byron and Mark Twain. The New York Times called it a “smart” collection,  and the Washington Times declared it “an admirably well-produced survey of the personalities and accomplishments of those pioneering people eager to recapture past relics of human history.”

Tourist Architecture: Kitsch Curios and Vainglorious Monstrosities

I think the proposed Grand Canyon Skywalk is unnecessary. Jonathan Glancey thinks it’s a travesty. And his criticism extends to other questionable developments in well-traveled spots around the world. In Saturday’s paper, the Guardian’s architecture correspondent listed his picks for worst additions to natural landscapes around the world. He pulls no punches.