2009
12.29

Map UAE

I will only spend a long weekend in Dubai, but I am looking forward to it.  Thanks, Shireen, for connecting me with your family!  At this point in my trip, I know how much I will appreciate to spend time in a real home!  🙂

Map UAE

2009
12.27

This is probably the most ambitious itinerary I have ever put together.  No room for mishaps.
Ganesh be with me!

IRAN: ITINERARY-TENTATIVE ROUTE

30 Day Visa – Overnights (#of days) with 20 days extended route in case of visa extension
Approximate Time Frame: Monday, March 8 through Monday, April 26      ** = Must see

Arrive in Teheran (2) by plane from Dubai (1)
1day Teheran (more later) (2)
Trip planning and arrangement of tickets with Mozaffar’s office
General Town and Museums (Northern Part)

Transit to Kashan (3) from Teheran via bus or train (3)
Exploration of Kashan (4)
Madrasa and Palais
Day excursion to Abyaneh (5) via bus
Interesting village architecture
Sasanid fire sanctuary
Return via Bagh-e-Fin by bus – stop if time permits
Gardens and historic Hamman

Transit to Esfahan (4) from Kashan via bus (6)
Three day Exploration of Esfahan (**) (7,8,9)
Numerous mausoleums, mosques, palaces

Transit to Yazd (3) from Esfahan via bus (10) Note:                Yaruz March 21-24
Two day Exploration of Yazd (11,12)                                         Travel may be delayed!
Desert architecture
Zoroastrian Towers of Silence

Transit to Bam (2) from Yazd via train or bus (13)
Exploration of Bam (**) (14)
Medieval fortress of sun-dried bricks/earthquake

Transit to Kerman (3) from Bam via train or bus (15)
Exploration of Kerman (16)
Bazar, city and Ethnological Museum
Excursion to Mahan (17) via bus
Paradise Park, Mausoleum

Transit to Shiraz (7) from Kerman via plane (18)
Two day exploration of Shiraz (**) (19,20)
Overnight excursion to Persepolis (**)/(1) via bus (21,22)
Day excursion to Bishapur (23)
Mountain reliefs
Day excursion to Firuzabad (24)
Circular village with mountain reliefs, palaces, Sasanid city
Day excursion to Naqsh-e-Rostam (25)
Transit to Teheran (2-4) from Shiraz (26)
Visa extension requested – check in with Mozaffar’s office (27)
General Town + Museums (Northern Part) (28, 29)
Rebook flight in case of Plan B via Turkey

Plan B: Departure from Teheran to … Turkey? – if 30 day visa expires (30)
Plan A: Receive 20 day visa extension and continue West:

Transit to Tabriz (3) from Teheran (31) via plane
Exploration of Tabriz (32)
Covered bazar, museum, mosque
Day excursion to Kandovan (33) via bus
Village cut out of native rock
Day excursion to Jolfa (34) via bus
Armenian monastery

Transit to Ardabil (3) from Tabriz via bus (35)
2 day exploration of Ardabil (**) (36,37)
Sufi Monastery, mausoleums

Transit to Rasht (4) from Ardabil via bus (38)
Visit Majid’s family in Kalachay/Kalayah? (39)
If public transportation allows, stay with Majid’s family instead of in Rasht
Day excursion to explore Rasht (40)
Port and Swamp area. Explore by foot and boat
Day trip to Masuleh (41) via bus
UNESCO recognized village

Transit from Rasht to Hamadan (2) via plane (42)
Exploration of Hamadan (43)
Largest Jewish settlement and Mordechai/Ester Mausoleum
Circular city plan

Transit from Hamdan to Khermanshah (3) via plane (44)
Day trip to Bisotum (**) via bus (45)
Darius Rock Relief and others in both places (Bisotum and Taq-e-Bostan)
Day trip to Taq-e-Bostan (**) via bus (46)

Transit from Khermanshah to Ahvaz via plane and on to Dezful (3) via train (47)
Day trip to Choga Zanbil (**) via bus or train (48)
Ziggurath !
Day trip to Susa via bus or train (49)
Ruined palace city

Transit from Dezful to Teheran (2) via train (50)
Departure from Teheran via Frankfurt to Detroit by plane on Monday, April 26th

2009
12.26

Map Iran

1,650,000 sqare miles makes Iran about 10 times bigger than Syria – oh my gosh! And I have only 30 days to get through this…! ET

Map Iran

2009
12.24

Map Afghanistan

Map Afghanistan

Only the North of Afghanistan is safe enough to travel, but challenging due to rough terrain and roads in need of repair. I most likely will have to hire a guide for this stretch of my journey – ironically, this may turn it into the most luxurious part of my trip… ET

2009
12.23

SYRIA
ITINERARY-TENTATIVE ROUTE:

30 Day Visa – Overnight Quartier (#of days in parenthesis) Approximate Time:
Monday, February 1 through Monday, March 1

Arrive in Damascus (7) by bus from Beirut (1)
3 days Damascus (4)
Hauran (from Damascus going South)
1 day excursion to Bosra train/bus/car?
1 day excursion to Shahba train/bus/car?

Transit to Palmyra (2) by bus from Damascus (7)
2 days at archaeological site – walking (9)

Transit to Deir Az Zor (2) by bus from Palmyra (10)
1 day excursion to Dura Europos by bus/car/taxi? (11)

Transit to Raqqa (2) by train from Deir Az Zor (12)
1  day excursion to Resafa by bus/car/taxi? (13)

Transit to Aleppo (7) by train from Raqqa (14)
3 days Aleppo walking (17)
1 day Simeon Monastery by bus/car/taxi? (18)
2 days Dead Cities by bus/car/taxi? (20)

Transit to Hama (3) by train from Aleppo (21)
1 day Apameia  by bus/car/taxi? (22)
1 day Krak des Chevalier by bus/car/taxi? (23)

Transit to Amrit or Tartus (2) by train from Hama (24)
1 day Safita by bus/car/taxi? (25)
1 day Amrit and Arvad  by bus/car/taxi/boat? (island) (26)

Transit to Damascus (3) by train from Amrit (27)

1-3 days Damascus and/or buffer time/ walking – leave early or stall.

Transit to Dubai on a Thursday via air plane from Damascus (30)

Making an itinerary without any idea of local terrain, bus or train schedules, or any idea how much time each activity might take is a huge pain in the neck.  It will be interesting to see how close to this plan the actual trip will be.  🙂  ET

2009
12.22

Map Syria

185,000 square miles make Syria 18 times bigger than Lebanon but only 1/10 the size of Iran. Looks like I have to get used to new dimensions. ET

Map Syria

2009
12.20

Map Lebanon

At 10,500 square kilometers, Lebanon is only 1/10 of the size of Michigan – it’s tiny! I will spend likely about two weeks here to get acclimated and to get into a travel rhythm.

Map of Lebanon

2009
12.19

HOW TO POST A COMMENT

In order to leave a comment you have to leave the home page and go into the specific entry of the day.  All of your comments are emailed to me.  I would love to have your feedback!  ET

2009
12.18

Planning for a 3-4 months trip to countries for which you need visas can be a bit of a headache.  Every country has its own requirements and rules, restrictions, and fees.  No rhyme or reason to it.  I had to map out the order in which to obtain visas by one most important factor:  How long is the visa valid after it has been issued.  I called every embassy to find out.

In my case:  Syria is the most generous with a 6 months validation.  Lebanon and Iran both issue visas good for three months after approval and Afghanistan… screwed me over by issuing a two months validation period which rendered the entire document invalid, as it will take me 2.5 months to get there! A full week of holiday closings between Christmas and New Years now leaves me with 13 days to straighten this out.  This was not the plan!  I think it is not wise to let a passport go much longer than a month prior to travel.  But I have no choice.  I will keep my fingers crossed.

This leads me to one other issue:  What if?  Unexpected things can happen. As I have a plan A travel plan, I also have plan B and C mapped out.  I could not obtain my Iran visa ahead of time as I needed to send my passport out to obtain the other visas.  In addition, it would be 3.5 months after issuing the visa, before I would reach Iran, conflicting with their requirements; so a visa has to be obtained on route.  I solicited the help of an Iranian travel operator.  I don’t like to put my fate into the hands of strangers.  If all goes well, I will pick up my Iran visa in Damascus.  But if not… there is always Turkey.  No visa needed for German nationals.  And there is Jordan.  I will travel to Detroit to get a visa in one day in person.  Jordan is not on my travel list, but if stranded I have friends there.  So, in case I get mugged, or lose all my money otherwise, break a leg, or have other catastrophic events, I will have a visa to a place where I can recoup.  This is a reassuring thought.

2009
12.17

If you know me, you will agree:  I am a conservative dresser; covered, usually, from neck to toe with baggy clothes in subdued colors.   In Pakistan I got a lot of compliments for my outfits.  Without even trying, I fit the cultural expectations of modesty, yet looked still different enough to do justice to my identity as a foreigner and a visitor.  The only addition I had in Pakistan was my scarf.  Even that, I forgot at the most crucial moment when visiting Benazir Bhutto’s grave and… I got away with it.  I expect no problems on this trip in Lebanon, Syria, UAE, and even Afghanistan.

Iran, however, seems to be a different ballgame.  Dark colored chadors (burkas which show the face) I am told, are expected of respectable women and there is no way I can go that far.  I would get away with less if I were with a male companion, but I am alone.  In a chador one no longer has arms!  To carry a back-pack and to photograph I need arms.   Just imagine that backpack underneath the chador… The alternative?  No body shape whatsoever!

Today, I did a home fashion show.  I managed to wear six layers of clothes; one layer baggier than the previous.  This catches two birds with one stone.  I have to manage huge temperature drops from January to April, from night to day, from mountain to sea.  Wearing six layers is useful.  In fact, I turned the house heat down to 55 and was more than warm.  The trick is that even after taking off one or two layers, the remaining layers have to be as effective in concealing the body and in satisfying the sharia fashion police as the full six layer fleet.  I managed!  I look like the most ridiculous shapeless square you can imagine.  I think I will pass.

Shoes- don’t forget to think about feet:  Women cannot show ankles, feet, leg shapes, or wear open shoes.  Cabela’s came in handy:  I got men’s hunting socks and ugly, big, clunky shoes that will repel rain and manage mud and dirt.  Those socks are the warmest socks I have ever seen.  Pair them with tights underneath, leggings on top and baggy linen trousers and those clunker shoes, and you have the most bewildering layering of colors and textiles in that leg area which surely will pass inspection.  I know that I will need to wear sandals as my feet will not last in those clunker shoes.  But with this combination of four layers of pants and socks nobody can accuse me of not trying.

And finally, I had a stroke of inspiration when I read that most respect is given to women who are married.  I need a wedding band!  Thank goodness for that gone-by marriage.  I searched the house and found my old wedding band.   I am going to wear it.  And I will go by “Um Martin” – in Jordan I was addressed like that as “the mother of Martin”.  I wonder if the same standards apply on my trip this time or if all of this will be different.  I will find out.  For now I can only prepare and get ready.  Better to err on the side of caution.

Note: The picture of me wearing a hijab or rusari (head scarf) was added after my trip.  It was taken at the visa extension office in Shiraz where they did not like my uncovered picture from the first Iran visa.