FriFotos: places I’ve called HOME around the world! (photo essay)

To travelers and nomads, home is typically a state of mind. However, for FriFotos this week, I wanted to take you on a photographic journey to some of the places I’ve called HOME around the world. From sailboats to hammocks; concrete blocks to tiki huts: ¡Bienvenidos a mi hogar!

Home around the world: FriFotos photo essay

Home around the world, Puerto Rico

My humble home in Puerto Rico. Solid concrete = hurricane-proof!

The beginning and the end: my parents house and neighborhood in Gurabo, Puerto Rico. Closer to the city of Caguas, though!

Home around the world, Puerto Rico concrete houses

The neighborhood I grew up in! A dead-end street with beautiful palm trees and mountains in the vicinity.

Due to hurricanes, most houses in Puerto Rico are made of solid concrete throughout:  including walls inside the home. Only the wealthy can afford intricate homes, as it is more expensive and difficult to build and mold concrete houses. However, if you just want one big concrete box, that won’t be too expensive!

The million-dollar home in Tampa, Florida

Home around the world, million-dollar home Tampa

The pool area, part of a yacht, the lake, and other million-dollar homes in the area.

In the summer of 2010, I was lucky enough to score a housesitting and pet sitting gig in an affluent neighborhood in Tampa, Florida.  For 2 full months, I lived like a rock star!  A yacht, a boat, fun neighbors, great food! I also got to hang out with the amazing family when they were around every couple of weeks. I bonded with my hosts so much that I now call them my American family. I even call the married couple mom and dad!

Whenever I can’t go back home for Christmas, I spend the holidays with them 🙂

Home around the world, American family

My new American family!

Don’t worry though, my first familia will always be in Puerto Rico. I simply call them mami and papi to differentiate my 2 sets of parents 😉 lucky to be surrounded by so many wonderful people—much love indeed.

A hammock, overwater hostel, and a sailboat in Panama

Home around the world, Aqualounge Hostel Bocas del Toro

Aqualounge Hostel in Bocas del Toro, Panama. Only reachable by boat!

Home around the world, Bocas del Toro hammock

My bed for a couple of nights in Bocas del Toro, Panama

While this hammock and overwater hostel in Bocas del Toro were my home for less than a week, I had an amazing time! Great drinking specials, quirky characters, and fun parties.

Home around the world, sailboat Kuna Yala

View of Kuna Yala village from my sailboat cabin

More about this trip: Panama, my last college spring break! (photo essay)

This trip got even better with 4 days sailing down the San Blas Islands—in great company as well. Just imagine this bubbly Puerto Rican, a loopy captain, 2 diplomats from the US foreign service, 2 retired lawyers, and a Kuna Indian fisherman…!

College campus in Morocco

Home around the world, Al Akhawayn University Morocco

The gorgeous campus of Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco (Amina Lahbabi)

In the fall of 2009, I studied abroad in Ifrane, a small town by the Atlas Mountains of Morocco, for 4 months. The American-style college is called Al-Akhawayn University and I had a blast! Gorgeous grounds, architecture, and people. The dorms were even better than in most colleges I’ve seen in the USA, which was crazy!

Home around the world, Moroccan college dorms

One of the dorms! Photo courtesy of Munir Sayegh

I felt most at home in the classroom of my World Religions class with Portuguese professor Jacques, though. Handsome, wise. He taught me so much about unknown cultures, religious traditions, rites, etc. I haven’t been that happy in many other places! Unfortunately, no photo of handsome Jacques available.

 Cluttered roofs and sleeping on an ancient felucca in Egypt

Home around the world, Cairo apartment

Cluttered roofs and dirty apartments — commonplace in otherwise-fascinating Cairo, Egypt

I must have moved about 4 times during my year of Arabic studies in Egypt.  Issues ranged from roommate conflicts to sketchy bowaabs (building doorman)—you name it! And even though my digital camera died within the first week in Cairo, my first flatmate—Natalia—took a good picture of one of the apartments (photo above).

Umm yeah…with my student budget (relying exclusively on a scholarship), I couldn’t afford a maid to keep the apartment dust-free nor a better view than that one. All in all, a very humbling experience. Seriously, cleanliness…one of the many things we take for granted everyday.

Home around the world, sleeping on a felucca

Relaxing morning, sleeping on a felucca!

It goes without saying that where I felt the most at home during my year in Egypt was while drifting down the Nile on a felucca for 3 days and 2 nights.  Absolutely magical.

Home around the world, felucca sunset

Sunset during my 22nd birthday (by Aswan, Egypt)

This photo essay is almost 800 words now, so enough of home for today! 😉

Hope you enjoyed it.

Felucca Sunset Egypt

Yup, that’s me on the felucca once more. Had to save the best shot for last!

Where’s home to you? How many countries have you lived in?

Middle East travel bucket list: Thanksgiving photo essay

Happy Thanksgiving! I know it is not until tomorrow, but by then my Playa Del Carmen adventures will be in full swing 😉 And so today, I want to be thankful for my world travels. This Thanksgiving #TravelBL special will be all about Middle East travel bucket list items I have crossed off already. More inspiration for you, fond memories to me.

But… why a Middle East travel bucket list?

You must be asking yourself this question. There are several reasons…

Middle East travel bucket list, Abu Simbel

Nefertari: we finally met! At Abu Simbel Temple, Egypt

When I was awarded a full $20,000 scholarship to study Arabic in Egypt for a year, it was a dream come true in so many levels. I had been obsessed with Nefertiti, Nefertari and all those majestic temples ever since I first saw them on a history book in elementary school.

My love for travel started this way.

After watching countless of documentaries on History and Discovery Channel, I wondered whether there were other civilizations like this in the world. How big (or small) is the world we live in, anyway? What other wonders are there to see? The more I learned, the more obsessed I became with traveling the world. I always say travel taught me English.

Basically, my wanderlust was ignited by Ancient Egypt and the Middle East.

Middle East travel bucket list, Medinet Habu

colorful wall at Medinet Habu temple – Luxor, Egypt

And since I’m being thankful for my world travels today, I want to pay tribute to this region, which has transformed me in so many levels. Also, most of my world travels were done while living in Egypt and Morocco, so they hold a special place in my heart..

Today, a toast for the Arab world with this Middle East travel bucket list!

Sailed down the Nile River — and on an ancient boat

What most people don’t know is that the felucca is not only a traditional sail boat in Egypt, but the Eastern Mediterranean, comprising the island of Malta — all the way to Iraq. What’s more: The felucca even made it to the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, back in the 19th century! (Wikipedia, felucca article). It is said that the glorified version of the felucca, known as a dahabeya, was also used by pharaohs and even Napoleon himself.

Middle East travel bucket list, felucca trip

Our felucca trip crew! I’m the second on the right

I was lucky to spend a few days sleeping on board. I drifted on this simple beauty, so close to the historic Nile river. I still slap myself, thinking it was just a dream. And what a dream it was — I have never been so relaxed in my entire life. The most sublime experience though was getting to swim in the longest river in the world + actually stepping out of the felucca to visit ancient Egyptian temples. Just wow!

Middle East travel bucket list, swimming in the Nile River

Yes, the Nile River can be THAT clear! Your felucca captain will know where to stop for you to swim safely

Middle East travel bucket list, African sunset

Me and an African sunset from a felucca on the Nile

Spent my birthday in Philae temple, Egypt

While I had already visited the Giza pyramids several times (and they were a sandstorm of disappointments), Philae was the first ancient Egyptian temple I ever visited. And I got to see it on my 22nd birthday too — what a treat!

Middle East bucket list, Philae Temple from the Nile

The Philae temple complex was much bigger than expected. A portion of it may be seen from the Nile River — like right out of a movie!

Middle East travel bucket list, Philae Temple,

Me at Philae Temple — on my BIRTHDAY!

Saw The Treasury and Monastery in Petra, Jordan

While the Pyramids of Giza were a sandstorm of disappointments, the ancient city of Petra was a completely different story. I cried when I saw the Treasury. I remember vividly how I sat at its feet for at least 30 min., staring at its majesty. Even though it is an extremely touristy site, I visited early in the morning. While there were still some foreigners around, my experience was not tarnished — at all. To this day, I still wonder why Petra had such an impact on me. Just remembering the 2 days I spent there take my breath away…! Definitely a huge item off my Middle East travel bucket list.

Read more: The Treasury, Petra: A tear-jerking Kodak moment

Middle East travel bucket list, Petra Treasury

The Treasury, Petra by Bernard Gagnon

Middle East travel bucket list, Petra

Me contemplating The Treasury

The most surprising, unexpected part of my trip, though? I freaking climbed the monastery — like, to the VERY top. No harness, no equipment at all. I remember slipping once and thinking I was going to die. Still, making it to the top was priceless and worth every scary step!

Also read: How I Climbed the Petra Monastery with a Bedouin (photo essay)

Middle East travel bucket list, climbed Petra monastery

How to climb the Petra monastery: Looks easy, but it SO isn’t! The path looks deceivingly easy, when it is in fact extremely slippery and precarious

Middle East travel bucket list, climbing Petra monastery

Almost there! See that tiny Bedouin on the top right? I made it THERE!

Middle East travel bucket list, on top of Petra monastery

“I’m queen of the world! Wohoo woohoo WOOOOO!”

Old Jerusalem: Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulcher

This one was huge: I didn’t get to visit Old Jerusalem once, but twice. There are so many things to do in Jerusalem — I am so lucky I got to experience them at a relaxed pace, on 2 different visits. My first trip was with the group of study abroad students during Eid El Adha — an experience in itself. the second time around, I was embarking on my epic Solo Middle East road trip. Highlights included the Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Western Wall, and the Church of Mary Magdalene on Mount of Olives.

Middle East travel bucket list, Dome of the Rock Jerusalem

Me at Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem! CLICK on photo to ENLARGE

Middle East travel bucket list, Temple Mount in Jerusalem

Me at Temple Mount: Dome of the Rock on left; Al Aqsa Mosque right behind the arches (CLICK on photo to ENLARGE)

There are many other things from my travels that I am so thankful about. Unfortunately, not much space or time. I will leave you with a few other unforgettable experiences that I got to cross off my Middle East travel bucket list, though!

Experienced the desert — and a real oasis

Middle East travel bucket list, ride a camel

Wee!

Middle East travel bucket list, visit an oasis

Baharyia Oasis panorama by fellow student Margaux de Borchgrave

Visited “The Athens of Africa” – Fes, Morocco

Fes Bab Bou Jeloud

Bab Bou Jeloud, Fes, Morocco by Bjørn Christian Tørrissen

Bathed in mud and floated on the Dead Sea

Middle East travel bucket list, float on the Dead Sea

Floating on the Dead Sea! I’m on the far left

Middle East travel bucket list, Dead Sea mud bath

My (muddy) kiss from the Dead Sea!

Want to learn about more about my epic world travels? Check out my lengthy solo female travel photo essay, where I outlined everywhere I went shortly before, during, and after my 16-month study abroad stint in Egypt and Morocco!

What are you thankful for?
What’s on your Middle East travel bucket list?

Ancient ruins and other close-ups: A FriFotos special

TGIF! After a hiatus, I join FriFotos for another week to celebrate the theme “Close-up.” I’ll show you photos of my favorite ancient ruins and other close-up shots from sights I’ve encountered throughout my travels in Egypt. Enjoy!

The Ramesseum: Luxor, Egypt

The mortuary temple of the infamous “Ramses The Great,” The Rammesseum is kind of an off-the-beaten-path ancient ruins site. In fact, when I visited back in June 2008, I had the whole place for myself — midday! It was great. I even had time to kill as my cabbie wouldn’t come back for another hour:

Ramesseum Luxor, ancient ruins head

Beheaded! Oh yeah, Karma…

Ramesseum Luxor, ancient ruins feet

Feet?

Ramesseum Luxor, ancient ruins statue

Love staring up high statues

Town’s ferry: Luxor, Egypt

I traveled throughout Egypt independently. My morning routine included reading up the history of most sites I visited before heading out. For Luxor, one of Egypt’s top tourist towns, I simply took the local ferry (picture below) to the West Bank, bargained down a daily rate with a cab driver (in Arabic!), and saw all sights on my own. Later that day, I took the same ferry back, hired a pink bike (US$1.50/day), and saw the rest of the town’s sights. Best game plan ever!

local Luxor ferry, Egypt

local Luxor ferry, Egypt

My favorite soft drink in the whole wide world: Fayrouz pineapple

Fayrouz, not to be confused with Lebanese legend Fairuz, means “turquoise” in Arabic. She happens to be my favorite Arab singer. And favorite color. And favorite drink. The universe knows me well.

Fayrouz pinapple, Luxor Egypt

I don’t ever drink soda, but when I do, it’s FAYROUZ

Hatshepsut temple: Luxor, Egypt

This shall be the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the only woman Pharaoh! She wore a fake beard in order to look like a man in statues and drawings. Rumor has it that people from her kingdom attempted to destroy all evidence of her ever reigning. Clearly, they failed. GIRL POWER!

Temple Hatshepsut, woman pharaoh ancient ruins

Strong woman in history: Hatshepsut, “the Djeser-Djeseru” or “Holy of Holies” (Wikipedia)

Temple Hatshepsut, woman pharaoh ancient ruins

We are powerful

Oh, today I found out this was also the site of the massacre of 62 people, attack conducted by Islamist extremists back in 1997 (according to WIkipedia)…

Have you been to any of these ancient ruins? Comment below!

Ain Sokhna, Egypt: Beach Thursday video and naughty Arab lesson

It is Beach Thursday and I have a video that will teach you something naughty 😉 I didn’t even dare to post it on my Travel the Middle East site! See it until the end, as the lesson is on the last half of the Ain Sokhna video:

Beach time! Naughty Arab lesson found at 1:55

Yes, I just taught you the middle finger or Arab sign language for “f**k you.” You know, travel brings many things with it. I can’t just paint a pink picture on my blog every single time. Keepin’ it real! 😉

About Ain Sokhna, Egypt

Literally meaning “hot spring” in Arabic, Ain Sokhna is located in the Eastern Desert and happens to be the highest peak there (Wikipedia). It is a popular beach spot, but mostly to Egyptians. In fact, I didn’t even see one other foreigner during my visit, except for the fellow Couchsurfers that were with us. As I was told by my host Moussa, the resort we stayed at is of mostly middle-class Egyptians.

Photo time!

For your entertainment, photos of the grounds. Enjoy! (Note: Yes, I know I blatantly ignored all rules in regard to how to dress in Egypt or any conservative country, but I was told by Moussa this was a safe spot to wear my tank top. And, as a Latina, feeling ubber liberated, I so did…!)

Ain Sokhna beach, Egypt

Me at Ain Sokhna beach. The sandy part

Ain Sokhna sandy beach, Egypt

Ain Sokhna sandy beach teni (again)

Sokhna mountains

Barren mountains, too! This is from the rooftop of Moussa’s apartment, with his cousin and fellow traveler Jaimie (Aussie)

Sokhna resort view

Ain Sokhna resort view from our friend’s flat

Sokhna hookah

Hookah time! We went to a café/resort on the road from Ain Sokhna to Cairo

Have you been to any off-the-beaten-path spots in Egypt?

Christmas traditions around the world + photos!

In the Western & Christian worlds, we celebrate Christmas this weekend. In celebration, I decided to compile some unique Christmas traditions around the world! Since our globe has more than 200 countries, the list below includes only the ones I have personally visited and/or lived in. This way, we keep the number close to 30 😉 Hope you enjoy it!

Aruba

Christmas traditions around the world, ajaca

Ajaca: Traditional food eaten during Christmas in Aruba, it is made of plantains and stuffed with pork, chicken or beef (Photo:Mourinhospenis.tumblr.com)

In this beautiful Caribbean island, it is commonplace for families to go to church together on Christmas Eve. Then, families gather again for Christmas dinner the next day and sing Aruban songs as they eat ajaca (also eaten in Puerto Rico, but known as “pastel”), salted ham and salmon.

Austria

Christmas traditions around the world, Austria markets

Christmas market in Vienna, Austria (Photo: Manfred Werner)

While Christmas markets are very popular in several cities across Europe, they are particularly important in Austria. The most popular in this quaint country are found in Vienna (in front of the City Hall), Innsbruck (in square by the Golden Roof), and Salzburg (by Residenzplatz/the big Cathedral).

Barbados

Christmas traditions around the world, Barbados

Christmas Pantomime by St Winifred School, Barbados (Photo:Bajanchristmas.wordpress.com)

In the Barbados, a curious tradition is that children put on a pantomime show (instead of a traditional Christmas play) for school. This is also common Christmas tradition in Jamaica.

Curacao

Christmas traditions around the world, Sinterklaas

Sinterklaas (Dutch Santa Claus) and his helper, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter). Photo: Looi at nl.wikipedia

In the Dutch Caribbean (including the ABC islands of Aruba, Bonaire & Curacao) they celebrate what it’s called Saint Nicholas Day. What’s really special in this region, however, is Sinterklaas: The Dutch Santa Claus! He makes an appearance on December 5th and gives out the gifts then! Oh, it is also feast day 😉

Dominican Republic

Christmas traditions around the world, Three Kings

"Los Tres Reyes Magos," meaning "The Three Magic Kings" (Photo: Studioporto.com)

While many Latin American countries celebrate both December 25th (Santa Claus/Christmas) and January 6th (Three Kings Day), only the latter is celebrated in Dominican Republic. There might be some exceptions to the rule, such as wealthy families exchanging gifts on both days. This, however, is rare. What, then, happens on January 6th? Children leave grass for the “camels” of the Three Kings to eat under their beds (not tree!) and then see their gifts there the next morning.

Egypt

Christmas traditions around the world, fattah

Egyptian fattah (Photo: Mylifeinapyramid.com)

Christmas in EGYPT? That’s right! While more than 90% of the population in Egypt are Muslims, there is still a Christian minority, called the Coptic Church. Also, as an Orthodox Church, so they actually celebrate Christmas on January 7th, a day after Three Kings Day in Latin America (Epiphany). Then, on Christmas Eve, everyone goes to church midnight service wearing a brand-new outfit, then goes home afterward to eat delicious fata (pictured above).

England

Christmas traditions around the world, Boxing Day

Keswick Boxing Day Hunt, Market Square, Cumbria, Lakes District, England in 1962 (Photo: Phillip Capper, Wiki)

Some peculiar Christmas traditions in England are the Queen of England’s speech (radio and televised) on Christmas Day and the celebration of Boxing Day on Dec. 26th, which nowadays involves giving small amounts of money as gifts to those who have helped you throughout the year (i.e. the mailman, the newspaper boy, etc.). When it comes to food, Christmas lunch includes a chestnut-stuffed turkey, Yorkshire pudding and roast beef or roast goose.

Germany

Christmas traditions around the world, suckling pig

Suckling pig: Traditional German dish eaten on “Dickbauch” feast day (Photo:Whydyoueatthat.wordpress.com)

As in several European countries, the day that German kids actually receive gifts is December 7th. Thus, on the night of December 6th, children place a boot or shoe by the fireplace (similar to the mistletoe tradition!) and wait for St. Nicholas to fill it with gifts! Another funny fact? Christmas Eve is called “Dickbauch” (which means “fat stomach”) and if you do not eat well on that day, you will be haunted by DEMONS! Say wha!? Interesting Christmas superstition indeed!

Iceland

Christmas traditions around the world, Yule Lads

Two of the Yule Lads on a billboard in Iceland (Photo:WikiCommons)

Icelandic Christmas is great, as it lasts 26 days and brings about 13 different “Santa Clauses” (also called “Yule Lads”) and they start bringing gifts 13 days before December 25th! The story behind them is that their parents are mean mother Grýla (who takes away the naughty kids in town!) and father Leppalúði, who is not that bad. Their children then are the infamous Yuletid, and each day of the Icelandic Christmas a different one comes to town, either bringing gifts or a prank, or both! 😉 on December 12th, children place a shoe by the window and expect one of the many “Santa Clauses” to leave gifts – but if you have been naughty, you get a potato instead! The major gift exchange and Christmas celebration, however, happens on Christmas Eve, when many Icelanders also go to midnight mass.

Israel & Palestine

While Jews celebrate Chanukkah around the same time, a minority of Christian Arabs do celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Messiah, on December 25th. Celebrations are particularly evident in Bethlehem and the Church of Nativity, where it is believed to be the location of the manger where Jesus was born more than 2,000 years ago. See the video above to get a taste of Christmas in the West Bank/Palestine!

For part 2, and many more traditions from other countries, CLICK HERE!!

What are your favorite Christmas traditions around the world? Why?

Traveling through Egyptian food: Photo essay

Ahlan wa sahlan! It is Cultural Tidbits Monday and today we Travel through Egyptian food! As you already know, on this mini series, I’ll be featuring some of my favorite ethnic foods and restaurants through educational (and quite yummy) photo essays. Let’s get started! As I lived in the Arab world for almost 16 months, I will admit that the Egyptian food selections of today’s photo essay are pretty biased (read: My favorite dishes). However, that does not make each dish any less of an Egyptian food right? That being said, I did my best to pick some of the most distinctive dishes among my favorites. Enjoy!

Mezzes

Egyptian food, taameya

Egyptian food: Taameya inside a pita (Photo: Politicalmonkey2010.wordpress.com)

Taameya / falafel

Had to start with the taameya: The Egyptian falafel. Mashed beans made into balls, then deep fried. Middle Eastern goodness that most of us have tried at least once. The Egyptian taameya, however, is a different kind and has a quite distinctive flavor and deep pistachio-green color: Different from any other falafel I had tried elsewhere. They use different kinds of beans in different Arab countries, thus the different falafel varieties. Certainly, one could travel all over the Middle East simply trying to find the perfect ball of falafel. A mission I might attempt to accomplish soon…

Baba ghanoush

Egyptian food, baba ghanoush

Baba ghanoush: Pita dip made of mashed eggplant mixed with spices, typically bathed in olive oil and garlic

I will never forget the baba ghanoush I had on a daily basis in Cairo, particularly the one at my favorite restaurant in Dokki, called Taza. Walking distance from my house, it was part of my evening walk back from Arabic classes at AUC. Its garlicky, even smoky kind of flavor is what made Taza’s baba ghanoush the best in town. I tried many others and none can compare, so make sure you head to 146 al Tahrir Street if you go through Cairo, Egypt and sample this Arab delicacy. What is interesting is that this great review comes from a person who usually hateseggplants. So if you are like me, please don’t give your back to this dish: It is a must-try!

Fuul

Egyptian food, fuul

Egyptian fuul (mashed fava beans, simmered for over 8 hrs) with crazy toppings. Photo: Politicalmonkey2010.wordpress.com

Ahh, fuul. This Egyptian food is so dynamic (is that the right adj? lol) that I would sometimes eat it 5 times a day without even thinking about it. I would had it with falafel and eggs in my morning pita pocket; for lunch with a couple of kofta pieces; a pita pocket filled with just fuul as a snack – the possibilities are endless. Basically, fuul is to Egyptian food what rice and beans are to Latin cuisine (now we’re talking, I know). My favorite concoction must be fuul alaskandereya(literally meaning “Alexandria fuul,” from the Egyptian city on the Mediterranean): Fuul spiced up with hot peppers . They were basically the Robin to my Batman when I lived in Egypt.

Kibbeh

Egyptian food kibbeh

Egyptian food: Kibbeh

Egyptian food open kibbeh

Egyptian food: Opened kibbeh (Photo: Cassaendra, Sittoo’s, Parma, OH

Another mouth-watering Egyptian food, kibbeh rounds up my Top 3 mezzes list. What I find the most curious about this dish is that it looks and tastes so similar to a Puerto Rican fast food, called the alcapurria. While the Boricua appetizer is made of either cassava or plantains, the shell of the kibbeh is made of cracked wheat. Also, the ground beef that fills them is spiced differently. However, when it comes to looks, the Puerto Rican alcapurria seems like an elongated kibbeh. Wow, this is truly torture…I want some now!

Main courses

Egyptian food: Fiteer

Egyptian fiteer (Photo:Twincitieseats.blogspot.com)

Fiteer

Doubling as appetizer/desert for a table or a meal for one, fiteer is another Egyptian food I often have dreams of at night. A hybrid between a crepe and a pizza pie, fiteer is made of several light, buttery sheets put together and then stuffed with all kinds of ingredients: From veggies to lamb, to cheese and chicken, even Nutella (chocolate spread) and nuts! It is absolutely delicious, could either be your app or desert, and you could eat it every day for a month and not get tired of it: Too many varieties to choose from!. Be careful when eating it hot from local restaurants and stands though: The nastiest case of Pharaoh tummy, aka food poisoning, while I lived in the Middle East was caused by some old cheese stuffed in my fiteer from well-known Egyptian rest. chain GAD. So smell your food and make sure the cheese looks melty and “right” prior to consumption!

Kushari

Egyptian food, kushari extra onions

My favorite kushari: Extra fried onions, please!

Egyptian food kushari

Mix well — and never judge a book by its cover!

Oh my kushari. The quintessential Egyptian food, you can’t say you’ve been to Egypt if you haven’t eaten this dish. At first sight, it looks like a bunch of leftovers of macaroni, rice, lentils, fried onions and salsa dumped together. However, if you can get past the looks, your taste buds are in for a real treat. I love to add some extra garlic sauce and double the fried onions topping, in addition to a hint of the super-spicy Egyptian pepper sauce provided. Your kushari stand attendant always remembers how you like it if you are a regular like me, which is a plus (because, naturally, i would then get 3 times the fried onion topping. Aiiiiwa!). Best in town is debatable: Current competition is between Koshary Abou Tarek (16 Maarouf St., Champollion, Cairo) and Koshary El Tahrir (12, Youssef El Gendy St. ,Off of Bab El Louk St.). Naturally, reviews are quite mixed. I went to both and can’t pick a favorite, so I recommend you pay a visit to both restaurants and decide which is the best Cairene kushariyourself!

Shish tawook

Egyptian food, shish tawook

Shish tawook: The Egyptian chicken kebab (Photo: Basel15, Wiki Commons)

Typically known as simply “the grill,” my favorite plate of animal goodness includes some shish tawook/shish kebab and lamb kofta. I would typically buy this dish at least once a week at Taza rest., ask for a tower of pita and simply roll the bread around the meat, then dip it all in the big plastic container of baba ghanoushI would always get on the side. Egyptian food heaven: I dare you to try that.

Kofta

Egyptian food, kofta

Egyptian kofta: Lamb meat wrapped around a thick skewer, grilled, then skewer is taken out prior to serving (Photo: Food Stories, Flickr)

That shall be it for part five of the mini series, Traveling through food! Hope I piqued your interest (and appetite) for Egyptian food further and you venture out to try something new.

Egyptian food, sweet fiteer

Sweet fiteer, topped with honey and cheese, for dessert: Anyone? (Photo: Bootsintheoven.com)

Have you ever had Egyptian food? What’s your favorite dish?

Travel bucket list photos: White Desert, Egypt (moon on Earth!)

Since I’m too busy enjoying the Puerto Rican sun (*wink*), I’m just going to feature one thing for Travel Bucket List Wednesday this week: The White Desert in Egypt. The amazing moon-like landscape is something you can’t believe from pictures–you gotta see it on your own! And so I did, crossing yet another awesome item off my travel bucket list, in the fall of 2008. Below, some awesome pictures to get you excited about making YOUR own travel bucket list a reality. Cheers!

* White Desert in Egypt – check!

white desert Egypt

Me (left) and Marine (right) exploring the White Desert

travel bucket list white desert Egypt

Margo (left), me (center) and Marine (right) seeking shade from the hot desert sun under a MUSHROOM!

Climbed to the top!

View FROM the top, at the moon on Earth - the White Desert in Egypt! 😉

[click here for more amazing photography of the White Desert]

What’s on your travel bucket list? What have you crossed off already?

My travel bucket list: The R-rated version

Whether you call it a bucket list, or travel bucket list, or things to do before I die; or if you simply call them dreams or goals: Everybody has one of those “lists,” either written on paper, on a computer, in their mind, or in their heart. My bucket list has always involved traveling, and so I have called it the travel bucket list, and this shall be part 3! (click for part 1 and part 2). It contains my written dreams and goals yet to accomplish. Yet, in the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to cross some “items” out! And so here, for the first time ever, I make it openly public!

For Travel bucket list Wednesday this week, I have decided to give the usual list a little twist: And turn it R-rated. So anyone under 18, please stop reading. Mmkay?

Today you will learn a lot about me…intimately. I won’t get into details, but I am a quite sensual being (being a Latina just makes matters worse by default, naturally). And so ladies and gentlemen, I present you with my R-rated travel bucket list, aka all the crazy places I want to make love abroad (or anything somewhat sexual) whilst traveling. In no particular order (warning: Most are likely illegal, lol):

* On top of the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt

Great Pyramid travel bucket list

by Alex lbh (Creative Commons)

Ahhh, I’m still disappointed in myself for not making this one a reality when I lived in Egypt. I had a possible candidate, but he chickened out last minute, scared sh**less that he was going to be thrown into Egyptian prison for the rest of his life. I guess he forgot about the ancient art of…bribing. Hey, don’t get me wrong–I’m not talking ill of Egyptians. But hey, everyone knows bribes happen everywhere, and if to cross this one off that’s what it takes, I won’t lie, I might take the plunge or so to speak. This item, by the way, joined my R-rated travel bucket list when one of my good friends in Egypt completed the feat. Indeed, after a diplomatic party at the foot of the pyramids, in full dress (and her diplomat partner in full tux and all), a la James Bond style, they stumbled all over the place, distracting the guards and tricking them into thinking they were just drunk. Then, they waited for the party to be over and the complex to be closed. And so, in the pitch dark, they climbed the Great Pyramid of Giza and, you know it, once at the top they made sweet love to each other. They took several pictures of before and after- including some of the gorgeous Egyptian sunrise from the top of the only Ancient Wonder of the World standing. I have never envied someone so much in my entire life. But some day, oh some day, it will be ME! =D

* With a diplomat…better yet, inside the actual Embassy (anywhere)!

Embassy travel bucket list

by Foma, Wiki Commons

Another one of my half-crossed-off items. Indeed, I had the privilege to join the high ranks of government (or so to speak haha!) with a handsome New Zealand diplomat toward the end of my year living and studying in Egypt (what a closure!). Unfortunately, though, I wasn’t able to do it inside the Embassy…but, it remains on my list. Who knows: I think I want to be greedy next time and want to have the Ambassador instead =D (I told you I was trouble! lol)

* Inside a fairy chimney in Cappadocia, Turkey

Capadoccia travel bucket list

by Cybedu, Wiki Commons

This one should not be hard to cross off at all. The most charming hotels in the region of Cappadocia are carved into the rock, nestled inside those fairy chimneys from above, so this shall be a quite easy feat and (thankfully) all legal and “sane” =) Now thinking about it, this will be part of that 40-day Turkish delight itinerary I’ve previously mentioned on my travel bucket list…! Yay for making the epic Turkey trip even more epic!

* During a hot air balloon ride

hot air balloon travel bucket list

Photo courtesy of Tripadvisor.com

Speaking of Cappadocia…hot air balloon rides are quite popular there. Which got me thinking…and now I want to do it inside a hot air balloon, too. Now that is a thrill ride right there!

* On an helicopter while flying over the Grand Canyon, USA

Grand Canyon travel bucket list

Grand Canyon from helicopter - Brian Snelson, Creative Commons

I just made up this travel bucket list item (I’m not kidding either). I guess I’m just so, ahh, inspired this morning (lol!). I don’t know how feasible this would be, considering how small helicopters probably are, but I guess if I pay enough and bring a blanket this shouldn’t be too hard. And with the breathtaking views of the Grand Canyon just below us…talk about after glow!

* While camping (not so legally) inside the Great Wall of China

Great Wall travel bucket list

Camping inside the Great Wall - Jodi Ettenberg, LegalNomads.com

Thanks, Jodi Ettenberg (Legal Nomads) for this travel bucket list idea! OK, she most likely did not do it while there, but she did camp inside the Great Wall of China and I remember dreaming of doing this ever since I read it on her blog a couple of years back. And so I thought, dang, how awesome it would be to romantically make love while watching the sunrise at the Great Wall of China!? Oh yeah, I’m taking the word epic to a whole new level (I realize I viciously overuse this word, but I don’t care! =D)

* Samba dance in full attire (aka half naked) on the biggest parade of Carnaval in Brazil

travel bucket list Brazil carnaval

Brazilian samba dancer, Flickr Commons

Ok, I realize this might not be so R-rated, but to some folks, it can be. And with the Latina power I hold within (hey, my hips don’t lie), this would probably be one of the funnest (and sensual) times I could ever have. Something about wearing that barely-there outfit after days of tanning my olive skin under the hot Brazilian sun sounds sexy as heck. And I’m sure I’ll probably cross any other item off this R-rated travel bucket list with (any?) guy that sees me cross of this one. LOL!!!! *wink*

* At the Blue Lagoon, Iceland

travel bucket list Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon in Iceland - Sindre Jacobsen, Flikr Commons

A ton of you probably hate me right now and think I’m gross. But hey, it was more of a tease, lasting about 5 minutes due to a strong guilt trip and consideration from us (the other party shall remain unnamed lol). So no, the “deed” wasn’t finished (not even close!), but I guess we were just in it for those few minutes for the thrill and the bragging rights. I know, I’m bad

And that shall be it for my travel bucket list, the R-rated version! It is now an official series: Every Wednesday post will be about my never-ending, ever-long travel bucket list. Until next time!

What’s on your R-rated travel bucket list (bahaha)? What have you crossed off already?

My travel bucket list, part 2 (photo essay)

Whether you call it a bucket list, or travel bucket list, or things to do before I die; or if you simply call them dreams or goals: Everybody has one of those “lists,” either written on paper, on a computer, in their mind, or in their heart. My bucket list has always involved traveling, and so I have called it the travel bucket list, and this shall be part 2! (click here for part 1). It contains my written dreams and goals yet to accomplish. However, in the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to cross some “items” out! And so here, for the first time ever, I make it openly public! Btw, all crossed-off items on this entry are clickable! So if you wish to hear more details and tales about each experience on this travel bucket list, click on any bullet point (opens in new window, btw)! So I present you with items on part 2, in no particular order:

* Get diving certification aka PADI certified

my travel bucket list, diving in Egypt Red Sea

Elacatinus evelynae cleaning my teeth! @Canyon Gardens

After many years of hesitation I finally crossed this item off my bucket list in spring 2009. Diving in Egypt was definitely one of the highlights of my year living there. Nothing rivals the Red Sea and its vast beauty! Lucky me, I got to dive some of the top diving sites in the world as part of my PADI certifications: Open Water and Advanced! In less than 2 weeks and for under $600 US dollars, I got both PADI certifications, paid for accommodation and meals. Still can’t believe it!

* The Great Migration in Tanzania, hot air balloon in Kenya, Big 5 in South Africa..etc etc

my travel bucket list, Great Migration

Great Migration, Masai Mara from the air by T. R. Shankar Raman

At a very young age, I “digitally witnessed” the Great Migration from my living room in Puerto Rico thanks to National Geographic. But now that I am old enough, I wish to witness it LIVE through an African Safari. I wish to do a full-blown safari in Tanzania, while seeing the great Migration up from the air in Kenya on a hot air balloon ride. Also, I wish to go down south to the highly-acclaimed South African reserves and see the Big 5 down there on a different season. And, most importantly, kiss a giraffe, pet a tiger, etc. etc…can’t wait to do all this!

* Take a break and chill at Lake Malawi

my travel bucket list, Lake Malawi

Lake Malawi beach by JackyR, Wiki Commons

Continuing with my African dreams, after I do all of the above in one single trip, I’m sure I’ll be tired as heck. Thus, chilling around Lake Malawi will be the perfect break. According to a RTW Guidebook I read several years ago, this spot is up there with Dahab, Egypt (which happens to be my favorite spot on Earth) on chillaxation and guilty of trapping travelers for weeks to an end. Oh yes please, trap me. Seduce me. I’m so down

* Paragliding in Fethiye, Turkey

my travel bucket list, Fethiye paragliding

Paragliding in Fethiye, Turkey by turkeyholidaytours.com

OK, I’ll admit it: I don’t have the balls to do hangliding. Really, I think I would die. But gliding through the heavens was still a dream of mine, and as I looked for alternatives, I found paragliding! Yay for adding some risk to my travel bucket list! =D Don’t know what makes me feel safer about this, but I’m down! And Fethiye, Turkey seems to be the beautiful, perfect spot for the feat. Ahhh, one day!

* Make the 40-day Turkish itinerary I wrote down 3 years ago a reality…

my travel bucket list, epic Turkey trip

Turkey map by Thomas Steiner, Wiki Commons

Speaking of Turkish delights…I was supposed to go on a 40-day Turkish Odyssey, couchsurfing and road tripping throughout the entire country, circumnavigating it from west to east and back (and note: I planned all by myself for months) back in 2008. What happened, you may ask? Well, I was engaged and studying abroad for a year, so I thought, what most *delightful* surprise than to go visit my fiance for Christmas, when he’s not expecting to see me until June? Bought the flight from Egypt to America in October. Come December, exactly 10 days before my surprise flight–and fiance breaks up with me. Yeah, talk about major OUCH. Still, low and behold, I got my travel bucket list itinerary and months of research saved for when I finally go for the Turkish invasion!

* Dive submerged ancient sites, especially in Italy and Alexandria, Egypt

travel bucket list, diving Alexandria Egypt ancient ruins

Underwater ruins in Alexandria, Egypt by dailyscubadiving.com

So back to the water indeed. I love it, reason why my mom called me “little fishie” when I was young. Grew up in a Caribbean island, kind of expected! So yeah, another diving item on my travel bucket list is to wander through submerged ancient cities and sites. Mix water with history and I’ll get so wet without thinking about it twice (literally)

And that shall be it for my travel bucket list, part DOS! I think I’ll make it habitual and every Wednesday post will be about my travel bucket list. What do you think? =)

What’s on your travel bucket list? What have you crossed off already?