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Middle-east

Mithra

When the Orient arrived at the gates of Rome, it brought with it a rather discrete deity. This god was born to a virgin on the 25th of December. He was frequently represented as an infant, seated upon the knee of his mother before a group of kneeling wise kings who offered gifts. He was…

Urfa

Abraham, contrary to what was commonly held until recently, did not come from the village of Ur in Mesopotamia, but rather the town of Urfa in southern Turkey. The confusion, as one might have guessed, was likely a consequence of phonetic confusion. Long ago, Abraham, the father of monotheism, had lashed out against Nimrod, the…

Göbekli Tepe

Professor Klaus Schmidt was one of the most distinguished German archeologists to have worked on Turkish sites. One day he was informed that at Göbekli Tepe, not far from Urfa in southern Turkey, a gang of laborers had uncovered a large monolith. They were making preparations to destroy it so they could continue their work and not…

The Sultana

It was during the 13th century, in a world of men, that one woman would distinguish herself. Shajar al-Durr, once a Turkish slave, was the wife of the Sultan of Egypt, Al Salih Ayyub. Shajar possessed a tremendous character and refused to be locked in the harem, so she followed husband, even to war. Before…

The Countess of Palmyra

I discovered Palmyra in the winter of 1964. It was cold, terribly cold. We were staying at the Queen Zenobia Hotel, the only hotel around. This structure, located amid the low and crumbling ruins of the area, had been built by Countess Margot d’Andurain. Margot, a French woman, had long ago married a garrison officer in Palmyra,…

Southern Turkey, 2014

The south of Turkey is a vast region, infrequently visited and little known, teeming with monuments that carry the mark of a rather unique synthesis. The typically Oriental styles mix with a strong Greco-Roman influence, along with the many strange local traditions, all of which, yields a profound originality to the cultural testaments of this region. I am…

Tomb

The location of Alexander the Great’s remains continues to be one of the great mysteries of history. One that has passionately occupied the minds of generations of experts. According to some, Alexander was ultimately buried in Siwa. I couldn’t miss seeing this site, my hero’s resting place. Since visiting, my opinion had crystallized. – – – –…

Initiation

It was fifteen or twenty years ago. We took the desert road from Cairo to Alexandria, then turned left and continued along the sea until Mersa Matruh, the famous port used by Queen Cleopatra and General Rommel alike. From there, the road turns right, through the desert to the oasis of Siwa, some 200 miles…