Monthly Archives: May 2012


Roadtripping Lebanon: Jeita and Byblos

The lower, water-filled cave at Jeita, lights illuminating the stalactites.

“Will you not gasp like that, Mum?” says Z. “You’re embarrassing me.” Even after over two years of travel, the Jeita Grotto quite literally takes my breath away. We’ve taken the cable car up to the higher of two caverns, over a turbid river fringed with cedars, and, from the dank entrance, a vista more […]


Roadtripping Lebanon: It’s Grand Theft Auto!

No weapons, no parking

“Mum!” yells Z from the rear seat, an unusual position for someone who has pursued shotgun since shortly after he started talking. “This is TOTALLY Grand Theft Auto! But I want to be in that car, not our car.” We are endeavouring to extricate ourselves from Beirut, using only a guidebook and a hire car, […]


I F*cking Love Beirut

Beirut Flowers on the Razor Wire

As a child of the 70s, who grew up in the 80s, Beirut has all the magical allure of the forbidden that China did. And, rather as on our first day in Kunming, I looked out of our 32nd storey window and thought, “My god! I’m in China!” so too, on landing at the airport, […]


On Mars in the Wadi Rum


“So, what are you doing about gravity?” asks Z. We’re sitting in a resort in Jordan’s Wadi Rum with an old, old friend of mine from the UK, A, who handily happens to be producing a movie there. And, as you’d expect given the ochre sand and scarlet rocks of the Wadi Rum, it’s set […]


Petrified in Petra (2)

Stripy boulders in Petra.

Even after our traumatic scramble over the cliffs, I still had a yen to see Petra from above – not to mention exploring Wadi Muthlim, the dry river canyon that forms a route into the site. And Z was still curious, too. So, equipped with our guide, we set out for a scramble down the […]


The Friday Photo: Bedouin Girl

Little Bedouin girl with her great-grandfather in a village near Petra, Jordan.

This is Anoud, 2, with her great-grandfather, Mohammed, 93, looking at a picture of him in his British Army uniform from World War II. They live with our guide Shadi and 20-or so other relatives in one of the villages to which the Jordanian government moved the Bedouin of Petra. Anoud is a happy little […]


Petrified in Petra (1)

Shadi on a tricky cliff path outside Petra.

Back in the UK, for our first visit after over two years travelling, at a goodbye dinner that was, sadly, kind of a “hello dinner” too, the conversation turned to Petra, and the iPhone pictures came out. “You enter through the siq,” says one friend, brandishing an iPhone pic. “And that’s obviously amazing, but when […]


Lost City of the Giants


Winding your way through a narrow, towering canyon where camel trains the size of armies once brought frankincense, myrrh, silk and slaves, that first glimpse of Petra, the lost city of the Nabateans, rose pink in the afternoon sun, is gobsmacking. The thing that grabs you, first of all, is the scale. Petra is enormous. […]


My Son’s Brain Is Weird

My Son's Brain is Weird

Here in Aqaba, a coastal town in Jordan which is gunning for second city status but has all the verve and vigour of Bournemouth on a wet weekend, our attention has turned to the bane of our travel life, which is maths. It should, probably, be obvious that world travel, combined with books, the odd […]


Siwa: A Wild West Town in Egypt

Siwa- palm trees and lake

There is something about the desert that sends folk stir crazy, and Siwa, a Wild West town in Egypt’s Western Desert, is about as crazy as they come. The northernmost oasis on the ancient oasis route that runs west into Libya and south into Sudan through some of the most savage desert in the world, […]