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The first part of our meal: hummus in the center, freshly-baked pita behind it, and those balls in the front are some sort of slightly sweet fried dough.

Impressions of Kuwait City souk

As two colleagues and I sat down at a restaurant in Kuwait City in the evening, looking forward to a relaxed meal, a man at the next table spoke to us. A small man with uneven teeth and a thick mustache, he wore a traditional robe called a dishdasha and a headdress. He started with…

The remains of a doorway with a view at Belvoir Fortress in Israel.

Defense (with a view) at Belvoir Fortress

The Crusaders, arriving in what is now Israel back in the 12th century, didn’t waste any time staking their claim. Their effort to dominate and control the “holy land” for Christianity was bloody and misguided and, in many ways, shameful. Yet it has left us some fascinating historical structures to study and enjoy. I’ve already…

The Torah ark at Um el Kanatir shows detailed carvings.

Um el Kanatir: ancient synagogue in the Golan Heights

When I write about off-the-beaten-path sights, I don’t necessarily mean that they’re hard to get to. I went to Um el Kanatir in the Golan Heights on the advice of Sara Zafrir, owner of Genghis Khan in the Golan, who insisted it was worth the effort. (Disclosure: I received two free nights in Sara’s hostel in…

Our first glimpse of the A380 in Dubai Miracle Garden.

Dubai Miracle Garden: Absurdity in the desert

The taxi ride promised little excitement. It was mid-afternoon and the traffic flowed smoothly past the shiny tall buildings. Impossibly green grass and brilliant pink flowers edged the wide highway, and beyond that we saw sandy vacant lots, parked cars, huge billboards advertising the next luxury development or flashy car, construction sites spiked with tall cranes….

Visiting Burj Khalifa

Visiting Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world … for now

About a year ago, I was in Dubai for a workshop, and decided to go see the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world (830 meters). Getting there involved taking Dubai’s spotlessly clean and well-run metro to the Dubai Mall: the largest mall in the world. Trekking across the mall to the entrance, I…

This image, part of a larger mosaic in the Dionysus House, is called "the Mona Lisa of Zippori" according to the park's leaflet.

Zippori National Park and its spectacular mosaics

“Sixteen miles all around Zippori is a land flowing with milk and honey.” This sentence from the Jerusalem Talmud (Bichurim 71d) opens the text given to visitors to Zippori National Park, north of Nazareth. On the spring day when I visited, I could believe it: carpets of wildflowers covered the rolling hills in all directions….

a Mesopotamian matriarch from ca. 2000-1750 BCE in the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.

Bible Lands Museum: The history behind the Bible

The premise, or perhaps I should say the Unique Selling Point, of the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem is to illustrate each and every civilization mentioned in the Bible. Unlike some Bible museums, this one is not dogmatic: it shows the actual history of each civilization. Here, the Bible isn’t just a religious document: the stories…

A man leads a donkey in Nazareth Village: Biblical Nazareth

Biblical Nazareth: my observations

In biblical Nazareth, a man, dressed like an extra from The Ten Commandments, wanders slowly by between the gnarled olive trees, leading a donkey by a rope. He lingers for a while near our assembled group. The camera-toting tourists, dressed in shorts and tank tops, crowd around. The effect of being in biblical Nazareth is…

A section of the border wall, with the Banksy Hotel just out of the frame on the left. Visiting Bethlehem.

Visiting Bethlehem for a Day

While visiting Bethlehem is mostly about seeing the birthplace of Jesus, it’s been in the news recently for a much more modern reason: the opening of the Walled Off Hotel. On a recent day trip to Bethlehem with a group of fellow bloggers, this hotel, designed by the mysterious graffiti artist, Banksy, was our first…

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