Known to the ancient Greeks as ‘Philadelphia’, Amman, Jordan’s capital, is full of ancient ruins, and authentic markets. I spent a month in Amman, studying Arabic, last January, and ventured down from Jordan University into the Wasat Balad (Amman’s old town center) every chance I got.
Below are some of my favorite spots, as well as the best sites in Amman, and day-trips within an hour by public transit. The nearby towns of Madaba and Jerash are not to be missed on a trip to Amman!
I spent most of my winter break traveling around Egypt, and these are some of the most important lessons I learned. If you plan on visiting Egypt, this will help; I wish I’d known all this before I went!
Aswan, the largest city in Upper Egypt, is a Nile-front paradise, where felucca sailboats gracefully navigate the river and its many islands. Aswan was regarded in the ancient times as the gateway into African trade routes, and today maintains its unique mix of Arab and Nubian culture. Across the water, West Aswan and Elephantine island are brimming with picturesque traditional Nubian homes, beautiful gardens, and ancient ruins from the Pharaonic, Hellenistic, Coptic, and Islamic eras.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Aswan; I spent a week exploring its many sites, and still didn’t see everything!
Don’t let the 12-hour overnight bus-ride from Cairo be a deterrent: Siwa, an oasis town in the Sahara desert near the Libyan border, is an enchanting place with dozens of natural hot and cold springs and ancient ruins.
When most people think of Egypt, they think of the Pyramids, mummies, and ancient gods. Across the Suez Canal from ‘mainland’ Egypt lies an entire region of the country that is often forgotten, with a very different culture.
The Sinai peninsula, which connects Egypt to Israel-Palestine, is rich in history, as well as natural wonders. South Sinai is an excellent place for hiking and SCUBA/snorkeling, with several national parks from the ‘Colored Canyon’ of Nuweiba to the coral reefs of Ras Mohammad.
Traveling to the Israeli-occupied Palestinian ‘West Bank’ isn’t on everyone’s Christmas list. However, over one million people make the pilgrimage to Bethlehem, where Jesus Christ was born, every year.
Transylvania, Romania’s central region, is not as spooky as it is portrayed in the book ‘Dracula’. The region charms visitors with its medieval towns, iconic castles, and opulent churches. And no, there aren’t any vampires here… at least, that’s what they say.
Bosnia’s capital city, Sarajevo, is truly where East meets West. Here, humble wooden Ottoman shops juxtapose the luxurious Austro-Hungarian residences in the old town. Further down into the new city, are Sarajevo’s gritty communist blocs, alive with bars, the art scene, and the U.N.’s permanent mission to Bosnia.
Many tourists skip the Balkans, thinking that it’s dangerous, or that there’s nothing worth seeing. The Balkan years ended over a decade ago, so the region is completely safe and there are a million things worth seeing! Serbia is the heart of it all, and a great place to start.
Ohrid, a town in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, is a popular tourist destination for Eastern Europeans, for its affordability and range of activities. The entire town and lake of Ohrid are UNESCO World Heritage sites, for their ancient cultural significance and natural beauty. Continue reading “A weekend on Lake Ohrid, the “Balkan Pearl””→
Bucharest, like many capital cities in Eastern Europe, is often overlooked. When I told people I was going to Bucharest, they asked me, “Why would you go there?”. Even in Romania, passing travelers told me to skip it. I didn’t have a choice, I was flying out from Bucharest and ending my three-month long Balkan adventure.
I loved it. In fact, I wish I’d had more time there.
Bucharest at first looks like a post-apocalyptic Paris but is very much alive. This inexpensive city is a great weekend getaway or the beginning of a trip through Romania.