Asia, Countries, Cruising, Deals, Europe, Ireland, UK

Cruiseday Tuesday – Israel by sea

They got there how they could… by Cyprus and overland across the desert, but how about cruising imo Israel?

You can with our old friends at Royal Caribbean on Odyssey of the Seas with a 12-night with Holy Land With Overnight in Athens.

Master of all he surveys: In Athens

From £1176, leaving Rome. Depart September 7, 2021. And with Athens thrown in too. Efcharisto.

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Ship ahoy: There’s a cruise ship off here

Imagine digging into your milk and honey at breakfast as you cruise into The Land of Milk and Honey.

No, who am I kidding? It’s all about refuelling on the meats of the world at the buffet on Oasis of the Seas.

 

Don’t worry, you can work it all off on the FlowRider surf simulator through the day.

The closest I’ve got thus far is across the narrowest stretch of the River Jordan.

Channeling my inner Moses at Mt Nebo

At the purported Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist.

And at Mt Nebo where Moses looked out onto a Promised Land he would never be allowed to enter because he’d had a tiff with God.

Lord, I am heartily sorry… and a favour about that Royal Caribbean cruise to Israel.

An Italian teaser

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Venice: And let’s catch a gondola back to Padova

And another oasis… a glimpse of the city on the lagoon, Venice, from down water on the River Brenta.

When I visited neighbouring Padova which has its charms too with one of the oldest universities in the world and Giotto’s fresco which inspired a certain Michelangelo.

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Our own Le Boat

Venice and its environs have been refreshed by the lockdown and have never been more beautiful.

And of course the best way to see this region is on the water. Try Le Boat, your private craft which sleeps four to ten and where you get your own sundeck.

Venice is a given, but why not head to Trieste too where you will see what seduced James Joyce of all people.

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A tavola pronto: Dinner on the water in Italy

While go the other way to the south and enjoy the nature of the Po Delta and the colourful villages.

A seven-night self-catered cruise, started and finished at Le Boat’s base at Casale, on board the Caprice, sleeping up to six, arriving September 19.

Priced from £1429 per boat/£238pp. Transport to and from the base is not included. Le Boat (023 9280 9124).

MEET YOU ON THE WATER

 

 

Adventure, Africa, Countries, Culture, Deals, Ireland, UK

Give us this Day – Ramadan a ding-dong

Whatever you’re doing I hope you’re having a good Eid and a good feed Abdullah, after our Ramadan a ding-dong in the Atlas Mountains.

Because I know that Abdullah, just like all my Muslim friends, has earned it after all that fasting.

I don’t know how they do it, and I don’t know how Abdullah did it as he whizzed around the Atlas Mountains.

We still love Morocco… we think!

On not even a drop of water or a water biscuit.

Fast and furious

There was water though, and when it falls in Morocco, it does so in epic proportions.

And as quickly as Abdullah swept the rain off his minibus window than Allah chose to drop more rain on it.

What’s all the fuss?

And all this while negotiating his way around the narrowest and highest bends with cliffs eroding and crumbling on us.

Quite what he thought of us piling into a chicken tagine while he starved he was courteous enough to keep to himself.

A light show in the sky

But Abdullah would have the last laugh only he was spiritually cleansed.

I’m all right, Jock

Because your favourite Travel writer took sick in the Sahara Desert.

I did though get to ride my first camel (my second would come on my G Adventures trip to Jordan).

And see a light show in the sky, complete with shooting stars, as I spent the night on the toilet seat.

And the train moves on

Looking out above as there was no roof on the shack… and no flush either.

I’ll be coming round the mountains

And I was still paying for it the next day when my host Alice came looking for me in my tent.

It’s all well and fine the Berbers singing on

And as punishment I had to ride my camel back to the minibus and back around those winding mountain roads.

The rains had abated though… Praise be Allah!

I would, of course, now go with my friends at G Adventures, while equally Sunway in Ireland pride themselves in being all over Morocco.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage, UK

Eid celebrations around the world

The best way to learn about a culture is to go where they play and pray so the disruption to the Eid celebrations around the world diminishes us all.

I have a special connection with Eid.

As it was one of the early stories I covered as part of a column ‘Church News’ which I broadened beyond Christianity.

Eid ul-Adha, to give it its first full name, means ‘the celebration of the sacrifice’.

And it brings to an end the holy month of Ramadan.

All our story

It marks the story of Allah asking The Prophet Mohammed in a dream to sacrifice his son Ismael.

Which Jews and Christians will know as the Abraham and Isaac story.

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The way it usually is

It should come as little surprise to us that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have the same roots and stories.

But it is nowhere more evident than at the crossroads of the great religions in the Jordan valley and in Israel.

Ever the diplomat

Where I would readily recommend my G Adventures host Zuhair Zuriqat.

His diplomatic prowess in managing our international party surely marks him out.

To broker the peace in this part of the world.

Now you know I love a festival as much if not more than the next man or woman…

And that those festivals normally involve drink.

Festival time

But not always.

I am transfixed by religious festivals too and will gladly travel the world to witness or take part in them.

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Joy in our hearts

Of course, the world being a smaller place, particularly now, we should also acknowledge that many of these festivals are on our doorstep.

Which is why it is alarming to hear that the lightning lockdowns in the north of England on the eve of Eid weekend may be deliberate.

Eid is all about extended families coming together at each others’ houses.

And there is more than a hint of mistrust from our politicians here who do not think that Muslims can adapt their customs accordingly to the pandemic.

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Our cup of tea… and I love reship

When in fact they are already doing so around the world with Turkey a prime example.

Of course Istanbul as we saw on our televisions with the Hagia Sofya celebrations last week is even more epic when its citizens come out to pray.

But they too are adapting their Eid to the current circumstances.

Sing out

That means communal prayers are cancelled to be replaced with broadcast prayers from the minarets of mosques.

Now just think about that… would our Government cancel Christmas, and with just a few hours’ notice?  Time will tell but you have to think not.

EID MUBARAK OR (AS THEY SAY IN TURKEY) BAYRAMINIZ KUTLU OTSUN

 

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

The Sunday Sermon – the Hagia Sofia

Hate has no place in the house of God – Desmond Tutu

The anti-apartheid hero and man of God was talking in metaphors, and about South Africa, but his balming words fit Hagia Sofya in Istanbul just as well.

When Turkey President Recip Erdogan championed Hagia Sofia’s return.

In prayer

From a museum to a mosque it drew 250,000 of the faithful to pray on the streets of Istanbul.

And it roused an outcry from the Christian churches, the Roman Catholic, the Russian Orthodox and Greek Orthodox.

Which rung way beyond the ancient high walls of the iconic Istanbul building.

Orthodox

Iconic, yes, to the Orthodox churches.

For whom it is one of their holiest places and who focus on icons for their worship.

Fount of all wisdom

So the sight of drapes covering the mosaic of Our Lady was bound to have raised their ire.

Of course central to Islam is that Allah and the Prophet Mohamed, and Jesus or Our Lady, cannot be represented by images.

Crossroads

Istanbul is unique among the great cities of the world, one foot in Europe, one in Asia.

Royal splendour

Which is why the great Christiian churches of old which called Constantinople, Istanbul’s old name, home are prefixed with their country of origin.

Powerplay

There is, as there always has been in this part of the world, a powerplay going on.

And we, those of us who have been to Istanbul, and those who have yet to, must not fall for it.

Circle of trust

Because this should not, or ever be, about Islam v Christian.

And yes President Erdogan is tapping into Islamic popularism but that does not have to equate to anti-Christianity.

Icons

And we will still be able to visit it as a mosque which we will do.

Our house

Because as I discovered in Sarajevo with Marian Pilgrimages and Jordan with G Adventures and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time God is the same whichever house you’re in.

Adventure, America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

On the Road again

Seeing we’re back on the road. and spurred by the excellent PBS series ’10 that changed America’ https://www.pbs.org/show/10-changed-america/which also includes monuments and bridges among others…

I give you my favourite streets I know from around the world…

The Beale Deal

That’s Handy…. Memphis

Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee: And naturally I channeled my best Marc Cohen, took a selfie next to WC Handy, partied the night away at BB King’s Jazz club and scoured Elvis’s tailors Lansky Brothers.

Visit https://www.deep-south-usa.com/ and The Promised Land.

The road BC

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And a desert runs through it. Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com

King’s Highway, Jordan: And the ancient traders of the Middle East, Asia and Asia Minor have been here before.

Carrying silk and gold, frankincense and myrrh and exchanging it for water in Petra. And you can still follow that route today. See www.visitjordan.com, http://www.gadventures.co.uk and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Royal march

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History under your feet. Photo by Anna Urlapova on Pexels.com

And a walk I would regularly and will yet do again. At the top of Edinburgh’s High Street is the Castle, in the middle St Giles kirk where Jenny Geddes threw a chair at the preacher.

Then there’s the spot where Deacon Brodie, the inspiration for Jekyll & Hyde was hanged on the gibbet he invented where locals spit on the ground in disdain. Before you get to the foot and see the new Scottish Parliament and the Queen’s residence, the historic Holyrood Palace.

And there’s also a Medieval street underneath the Royal Mile which was closed odd during the Black Death https://www.realmarykingsclose.com. See http://www.edinburgh.org, Edinburgh – an old friend and http://www.visitscotland.com.

Appian I know it, clap your hands

When in Rome. The Scary One and Daddy’s Little Girl on the Appian Way

Appian Way. Rome: What did the Romans do for us? Well, they built roads to last.

We didn’t get to the Appian Way and the Catacombs when Mrs M treated me to a 40th Birthday treat but it was all the better for taking the kids half a dozen years later.

See https://www.rome.net/, Small roads lead to Rome.

She’ll crucify me if I go without her

Via Dolorosa, Jerusalem: And the one I have still to visit when I will walk in the footsteps of Our Lord. The winding route from the former Antonia Fortress to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is about 600m.

And particularly as I put work first and turned down and joint Jerusalem and Jordan trip because I didn’t want to leave my employer in the lurch for a fortnight. See https://www.itraveljerusalem.com.

So I’ve missed out your favourite. Let me know and we’ll share. And I won’t tease you. I’ve got another five More on the Road coming hot on the heels.

MEET YOU ON THE ROAD

Asia, Countries, Food & Wine, Music

Rainy Days and Songdays – the Big Rapper in Jordan

With lockdown bringing a revival in camping, what’s your campfire song? You’ll go some to match the Big Rapper in Jordan.

There must be something about the desert that brings out the entertainer in me… and it transpired in St Lucian Big Jerry too.

I came late to rapping…

When I slipped my ‘A Wake Up For The People’ into the set of our poetry performance group The Forth Stanza’s show at the Edinburgh Fringe https://www.edfringe.com/

Bandanaman, RapperMan

A line or two of which I reprise for you here….

Wham, bam/Come home Uncle Sam/Bored of Ford/Get Carter/Shelter the Shah/Hostages to barter/Joni warned us of the Devil’s bargain/And told us to get back/Get back to the garden… We are stardust, we are golden/And we’ve got to get ourselves/Back to the garden

It’s a ramble through Modern Western History which I sang heartily among a company of Berbers by a Moroccan campfire.

Before sidling off to be violently sick (dodgy beef tajine in the Atlas Mountains. Honest!).

Moroccan roll

Still I saw the most wonderful light show in the sky www.visitmorocco.com.

With Happy Hannah in Petra

We weren’t even on the booze in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan, a mostly dry country, some 15 years later.

Not that you missed it with the fruit and rosehip teas.

The post-banquet entertainment in our G Adventures https://www.gadventures.co.uk/ was by the man I tagged Big Rapper.

Carry on camping

You see I was holding him to his promise of a rap which he had made the day before by the Dead Sea The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time.

Now I’d say Jerry has a career awaiting in the music business if he fancies it.

Judging by his rap which conjured up the spirit of the Middle East and Jordan’s place in the region as an honest broker.

The perfect couple

Jerry and his girlfriend Hannah are the type of young people you would choose for your own son and daughter.

Only they found each other and are due their first child any month soon.

The Little Rapper

Good luck guys with your Little Rapper. And if you want a song to send your baby to sleep I can send you a video.

Of Bandanaman sampling Joni Mitchell https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=cRjQCvfcXn0 in my ‘A Wake Up For The People’.

Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, UK

The Sunday Sermon – asylum seekers

The angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream saying ‘arise and take the young child and his mother and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word – Matthew 2:13

My home city of Glasgow www.peoplemakeglasgow.com was stunned by the knife attack in a city centre hotel ‘used to house asylum seekers during lockdown.’

Now as a journalist of 30 years standing I know of the importance, nay duty, to give a full account.

Glasgow’s miles better

But does drawing attention to it being a temporary home for asylum seekers not point to this being the motive for the attack?

And, of course, it doesn’t take much in this climate to ratchet up distrust of asylum seekers.

Those very same critics though use the name of Our Lord God daily.

Glasgow has made great strides since I was a boy.

I was educated in a privileged all-Catholic, all-boys, private school in a predominantly Pakistani area.

And the poor corner shop owner had to put up with all kinds of abuse.

School’s out

Us boys were on the surface taught about Christian equality.

But we were in fact indoctrinated to believe Catholics were the master race.

Of course Our Lord and God was an asylum seeker himself when his family took refuge in Egypt from the infanticidal King Herod.

Like Jesus, Moses was a refugee too, in modern-day Jordan www.visitjordan.com.

Jordan could teach us a thing or two about how to welcome assylum-seekers.

Palestinians welcome

And two million Palestinian refugees calling the Middle Eastern statehome.

I saw first hand how hospitality is at the centre of the Islamic faith.

And our guide Mr Jordan himself Zuhair was quick to remind our mainly Christian G Adventures International group www.gadventures.com and The water of life, Petra, and the sands of time of tolerance.

And that Islam, Judaism and Christianity shared the same story and prophets.

We would do well to remember when we are quick to demonise asylum seekers.

Adventure, Asia, Caribbean, Countries, Europe, Sport, UK

My Sporting Weekend – cow fighting breaks out

Lockdown has stopped us humans competing against each other but animals continue to do it, well, naturally.

I got to hear of the strange sport of Combat de Reines In Switzerland where cows fight each other www.myswitzerland.com and Swhisskey on the rocks.

And I intend to make it my mission to seek out this ultimate moortial (sorry) arts duel on my travels as well as these other animal v animal contests.

Kicking seven cow bells out of each other

A bit of stewarding doesn’t go amiss

Combat de Reines, Switzerland: These contests date back to the 1920s when the skiers were on a break in the summer.

And they attract as many as 50,000 spectators across the season.

Although I’m assuming the cows are happy to fight behind closed doors (or in the open field) without us there.

The mootivation (ouch) for the cows is herd dominance although some need jivvying up and prefer to munch the grass.

Camel ye, come all ye

And in the red corner. https://wrestlingtv.in/have-you-heard-of-camel-wrestling-check-how-popular-it-is-in-turkey/

Camel wrestling, Turkey, Middle East, Asia: And your otherwise loping humpy desert dweller will bear his teeth…

If you try to jostle him along. Or put a female camel on heat between two males.

So not that different from humans then really.

The season is November to March so there’s still hope.

And here’s some Turkish delights and Jordanian japes to tantalise you… https://www.goturkeytourism.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam. And www.gadventures.com, www.visitjordan.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam.

Herd up your haggises

http://www.facebook.com

Haggis hurling, Scotland: OK, this isn’t actually a sport but try telling that to the young Irish group I was with a couple of years ago.

Dry-witted Aberdonian Stevie informed our party that because we were running late he’d have to take the haggis farm off the agenda.

Distracted by another question Stevie might not have returned to the subject.

Had I not reminded him and warned him that this might yet appear in their articles as fact.

Invented in 1977 by a Robin Dunseath in 1977 it is still going strong. And check out www.visitabdn.com and Aberdeen – a light in the north and wwwvisitscotland.com.

One for the puperazzi

Catch that wave

Dog surfing, Huntington Beach, California: And to think I might never have learned about this sport of canines had I not pried.

The good folk of HB had invited me out for breakfast in Dublin to tell me about their new hotels and I probed them for info about their beaches.

I discovered that they have a popular annual dog surfing competition and that Garrett McNamara and his Brazilian labrador Bono lead the way.

And no, I never did hear if this Bono wore shades too all the time. Maybe the next time I get out to HB I’ll check it out.

Visit https://www.surfcityusa.com, www.visitcalifornia.com and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/19/my-weekend-with-marilyn-2/amp/.

I haven’t heard if September’s big surf is going ahead but the Pacific is a big ocean.

Acting the goat

Goat racing, Tobago: And a skill I got me, Marsha.

Marsha had gone through our coach asking us what we were good at, with housebuilder Antony scoring highest and me lowest.

But I showed her! Me and my goat Bandanaman only beat Antony and his kid in the goat race.

The big event is held in Buccoo at Easter and if there’s any justice myself and Bandanaman will be at the starter’s gate.

Although I might pass on the crab race.

Visit https://www.visittobago.gov.tt and https://www.google.ie/amp/s/jimmurtytraveltraveltravel.com/2020/03/17/ready-steady-goat-racing-in-tobago/amp/.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Flying, Ireland, UK

Give us this Day – charity begins abroad

The collection plate has for a long time been coming around twice.

While there’s always someone at the church door with another charity box.

You might recognise them from coming around your house.

We have, of course, been given a reprieve during lockdown.

Give a little bit

Doctor’s orders… my Dear Old Dad

Of course charities are having it tough right now with many of us left cash-strapped by the Covid crisis.

But while there’s less to go around just now we’ve been here before and found an enduring solution.

Tithes, integral in Islam, used to be a central plank in Christianity.

But they’ve not gone way.

Going through my Dad’s personal effects I came across documentation from his contributions to the Church.

A percentage of his income.

Middle Eastern culture

A design for life: In Jordan

One of the joys of visiting the Middle East is immersing yourself in Islamic culture.

And it is heartening to find holiday providers who feel the same.

Such as G Adventures https://www.gadventures.co.uk and http://gadventures.iewho through their Planeterra Foundation https://planeterra.org help build community projects in their destinations.

Which I found when I visited Jordan www.visitjordan.com.

We can often be suspicious when we hear of the biggest companies allying with charities.

And Celebrity Cruises https://www.celebritycruises.co.uk/?ecid=ps_accord_google_brnd_bndpurebrand%5Bexact%5D_gbr&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIu5TajbvM6QIVYIBQBh1PvARHEAAYASAAEgKjY_D_BwE and Malala Yousafzai didn’t initially seem to be ideal bedfellows.

A very young Godmother

But the Nobel Prize winner has lent great credibility and authenticity as Celebrity’s Godmother I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out To Here to their involvement in the destinations they visit.

Now I’m as guilty as the next man of glossing over Liam Neeson et al’s message to give on airlines… and then failing to fill those little envelopes.

But once I get back on a plane (and I mean that to be soon) I will ensure I empty my pockets into the envelope.

There are some out there who need no pricking of their conscience.

The Scots who give 

And a square meal for all around the world

Such as Scots Magnus and Fergus MacFarlane who were so moved by an article in The Glasgow Herald on the Marian apparitions in a small Bosnian town that they went out there.

And then began a charity drive through the Balkans Wars which grew into the phenomenon that is Mary’s Meals https://www.marysmeals.org.uk/who-we-are/our-history/marys-meals-a-fruit-of-medjugorje/

Which helps give a square meal to those in less developed countries to provide a springboard and which you can see out in Medjugorje.

Where I visited with Marian Pilgrimages https://marian.ie and What’s the story, Medjugorje? Wouldn’t you like to know.

And Sarajevo’s rebuild

Christians and Muslims: In Sarajevo

You can also take a day out to Sarajevo where Muslim and Christian have come together over time.

But where still the human instinct to give through charity has helped rebuild the central city of Sarajevo  Sarajevo revisited: Arnie’s story.

America, Asia, Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Give us this Day – the sermon on the mountain

Watch therefore for ye know neither the.day nor the hour that the Son of Man cometh – Matthew 25

Ignoring that this is the Parable of the Ten Virgins and that it deals with how prepared or otherwise they were to serve the bridegroom.

But there is a message here about preparedness and the buzz phrase ‘stay alert’ and, scholar that he is, I’m sure Boris Johnson would know of the passage’s significance.

All of which Biblical touchpoints brings me to a mountain looking over Jericho, Jerusalem and The Promised Land… www.visitjordan.com and Wham bam, thank you Hamam

The Promised Land: On Mt Nebo

Which is the closest Moses got to taking his people home which was of course the central theme of the sermon on the mountain.

He died atop the mountain, punishment for an earlier row with God.

No, not that one, but a homily in the church given by the Sri Lankan pastor in Mt Nebo.

Alas, I was whisked away from hearing his pay-off as our G Adventures group www.gadventures.co.uk were bound for the desert.

As you all know by now I make a point of going where people play and pray.

And listen to the sermons.

Here’s to Moses

When your holy man (and it’s almost always a man) gets to pace the stage.

Use his hands and tease, cajole, comfort and berate us.

It’s no coincidence that some of the world’s greatest orators have been preachers… Martin Luther Dresden’s renaissance and https://www.dresden.de/en/tourism/tourism.php.

And Dr Martin Luther King Easy DC and https://washington.org,

Me and Martin: In Dresden

Though, of course we could never see Martin Luther in his pomp now but you couldn’t help but get a sense of the man in Saxony.

And there is a preacher at Luther’s church, the Frauenkirche in Dresden worthy of his famous predecessor.

As he recalled his own father taking him to the ruins of the church where only the statue of Luther still stood and vowed that one day it would be rebuilt.

His near namesake is all over Washington where his statue remains unfinished in homage to the unfinished struggle.

While in Memphis https://www.civilrightsmuseum.org his last resting place The Promised Land the Civil Rights Tourist will want to take in the Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) in Memphis, Tennessee.

Where he gave his rousing ‘I have been to the Mountaintop sermon https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=zgVrlx68v-0.

Like Moses he (and me) did not get to the Promised Land but he has seen the glory of the Lord.

And we will too when all this is over.