Sunday, May 31, 2015

Athens, Greece

The Parthenon was built 2500 years ago, but it still commands the world's envy. As a definition of Western civilization, it has been replicated again and again on every inhabited continent. That diffusionary process began with Alexander the Great. Albeit from Macedonia, he loved (and spread) the culture of the Hellenes. [2006]

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Palmyra, Syria

The Roman city of Palmyra may have been named after its date-producing palms, but it seems to have been equally proud of its grape-producing vines (and wines). So proud, the Palmyrenes built their boastfulness into their architecture. It's easy to recognize the leaves and tendrils, but how do explain the shape of the grapes? [1996]

Friday, May 29, 2015

Palmyra, Syria

For a synoptic view of Palmyra, the ancient city of palms in the middle of the Syrian Desert, you must find someone in town to take you to the nearby heights. If you find the right person, he will have two things: a motorized three-wheeler and a key to the castle. Don't try it now, though, the Islamic State is in control. [1995]

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Palmyra, Syria

The ancient Roman city of palms, Palmyra, may soon be no more. It may have survived the elements and marauders for 1800 years, but it may not survive the Islamic State's take-over of the Syrian Desert. Next stop: Damascus, only 150 miles away. This view is from the Ayyubid castle atop a nearby peak. [1995]

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Jerusalem, Israel

You might recognize these circles as kippahs (in Hebrew) or yarmulkes (in Yiddish). They are skullcaps worn by Jewish men during prayers (and on the street). Normally, they are simply black or white, but they can be fashion statements, too. In fact, they can be political statements: Witness the American flag next to the Israeli flag on one of them. [1997]

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jerusalem, Israel

Look to the left: all men. Look to the right: all women (and children). Both groups are praying in the great open space in front of Jerusalem's Western Wall. It wasn't the wall of Herod's temple; it was the wall of the 'temple mount' on which the temple stood. Of the temple itself, there is nothing left. [2010]

Monday, May 25, 2015

Jerusalem, Israel

Cute and colorful: In fact, this minaret is far more colorful than the city itself. Its job is to bring the color of Muhammad, green, to the roofscape of old Jerusalem. Actually, its real job is to give the muezzin a place where he can issue the call to prayers five times a day. Think he could do that from the balcony you see here? [2010]

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Swansea, Wales, UK

For Methodists, it's Aldersgate Sunday, a commemoration of the day, in 1728, when John Wesley felt his heart 'strangely warmed' with the holy spirit. Here he is in Wales, preaching the gospel. It is part of the tradition of "open air evangelism" that would give the American landscape so many camp meetings in the 1800s. [2005]

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Marrakech, Morocco

For sale in Marrakech: ammonite fossils from 350 million years ago. This one is freshly scavenged from the High Atlas. It is waist high and waiting for a tourist to take it home. [2005]

Friday, May 22, 2015

Zagora, Morocco

Before there was the town of Zagora, there was Jebel Zagora. Wedged between the mount and the river Draa is the palmarie, where every square inch of space must be devoted to agricultural production. But, wait! Do you see the castle in the middle? It's a tourist hotel. [1989]

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Zagora, Morocco

Welcome to the palmarie, the floodplain of the Draa River in Morocco's pre-Sahara. The entire riverine oasis is devoted to the date, the staple crop of the arid lands of North Africa and beyond. Unlike other staples (like the potato), the date delivers its punch with sugars not starches. And, the palm itself gives you roofs, baskets, fuel, and fiber. [1989]

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Tbilisi, Georgia

Site and situation are concepts used to understand the location of cities. They work for vendors, too. Her site is among the best: She's on one of the widest sidewalks in the city. Her situation is also advantageous: She's right in front of the bus stop. [2015]

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tbilisi, Georgia

Here's a firm that began in Massachusetts and now serves a global market. In its spread around the world, how has Dunkin' Donuts adapted to local markets? How has it tried to fit in with Georgian culture here in Tbilisi? [2015]

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cardiff, Wales, UK

She is far from her homeland, lucky to be in Wales and lucky to be in a neighborhood with so many other Somali families to make her transition to modernity a little bit easier. Modernity? Not in reference to the hijab, which is a traditional part of Somali culture, but to the jogging stroller. How much more hip can you get? [2015]

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Queensway Quay, Gibraltar

Queensway Quay Marina extends Gibraltar's terra firma just a little bit farther out into the harbor. The redevelopment of historic Ragged Staff Wharf began in 1990, but the the 'breakwater' island was not added until the 21st century. Now, the marina looks like an aqueous town square that has been turned into a parking lot: for yachts. [2015]

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Upper Rock, Gibraltar

What does it look like walking down from the Upper Rock? Take a gander. Eventually the nature reserve gives way to the city, a wedge of 30,000 people still loyal to the British (more or less). How do you explain the abundance of high-rises in a city the size of Goshen, Indiana? [2015]

Friday, May 15, 2015

Sanahin, Armenia

Tables, a class of board games that includes Backgammon, have been played since the first cities made their appearance in Lower Mesopotamia, just to the south, three millennia B.C. The setting here is Sanahin, but it might as well be Ur. The expression "turn the tables" originates with this class of games. [2015]

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Yerevan, Armenia

In a group of five men assembled on Freedom Square, he stood out. And, when one wayward American complimented him on his mustache, he stood up. His upper lip seemed to embody the spirit of Armenian nationhood. And, with one snap, the history of Armenia was recorded for posterity. His friends looked on in admiration. [2015]

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gaziantep, Turkey

They love their "gypsy girl." In fact, she has rock-star status in her home province and is becoming one of the iconic images associated with her home country. At the museum, she has a room of her own. In town, she mixes with the people, and when she finds someone her own age, she's ecstatic. Actually, though, she's almost 2,000 years old. [2014]

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Gaziantep, Turkey

A branch of the silk road crossed the Euphrates at Zeugma. With the wealth that poured into the merchant city, mosaic art flourished. Those mosaics, now in a museum of their own in nearby Gaziantep, include the so-called "gypsy girl." She has become the face of the city, the brand by which Gaziantep is known. [2014] 

Monday, May 11, 2015

St. Paul, Minnesota, USA

That's what a capitol building should look like (and so many do). As of today, Minnesota has been a state for 157 years, and St. Paul has been the state capital for the entire time.  As for the building, it was completed in 1905. [1991]

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Angels Camp, California, USA

What's on your laundry list of requirements for a mate, of goals for your marriage, of rules for dealing with in-laws, of strategies for raising your kids, of ideas for improving your home town? Hang it all out to dry and get on with life! [2002]

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Marietta, Georgia, USA

Stop! No left turn onto Roswell. That's where the aliens landed. Everybody thinks the incident happened in New Mexico, but the street sign here suggests a Georgia connection. [2013]

Friday, May 8, 2015

Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Here's your invitation to interact with the photograph. First, what's the make, model, and year of the car? Second, what kind of tree has been assigned the duty of providing shade? [2008]

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Havana, Cuba

Here's your invitation to interact with the photograph. First, what's the make, model, and year of the car? Second, whose iconic image is on the wall watching? [2014]

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, UK

The street market must go on even when it's cold and even when it's rainy. A few layers will fix the former and a few stripes the latter. Beyond the canopy, colors are few in the dead of winter. But, under cover of canvass, flavonoids create a warmth of their own. [2015]

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Four horses await four horsemen and the apocalypse. For the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, it was an apocalypse. They were defeated by the Mexican Army. Five years later the French ended their rule of Mexico.  The battle took place on the Fifth of May: Cinco de Mayo. [2015]

Monday, May 4, 2015

Holyoke, Massachusetts, USA

What would you expect to find in Holyoke's Veterans' Memorial Park? Veterans, of course. Many decades ago, these two fought in Vietnam. Now they enjoy autumn's sunny days and falling leaves as they get ready for yet another winter. [2013]

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Springfield, Illinois, USA

What is the name of the Boy Scout Council in Springfield?  Hint: Notice the headgear. Central Illinois' Scouts took over downtown Springfield two weeks ago for Lincoln Pilgrimage week-end. This week-end the commemorative Lincoln Funeral Train begins its centennial tour in Springfield. [2015]

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Washington, DC, USA

Two years ago, the National Mall was thronged with people of all races commemorating the "march on Washington for jobs and freedom." It was the 50th anniversary of the march and of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. Given the events in St. Louis, New York, Baltimore and other cities, it is time to stop and ask ourselves: What would MLK do? [2013]

Friday, May 1, 2015

Tampa, Florida, USA

Could 2015 be a repeat of 2004 when the Tampa Bay Lightening won the Stanley Cup and gave it a year-long Florida vacation? As absurd as it seems, they dominated the regular season and are now in the finals. Absurd? Would you really expect a champion ice hockey team to come from a city in Florida? [2014]