November 28, 2018

A Very Thankful Thanksgiving


This past week was our annual Thanksgiving holiday here in the US.  It is a wonderful time to get together with friends and loved ones without all of the busy-ness and pressures that are associated with the upcoming Christmas holiday.  Ordinarily, I travel to Indiana to spend this holiday with relatives on my mom’s side of the family.  This year I was invited by my aunt on my dad’s side of the family to join them in Florida.  When I was younger, our family used to travel down to Florida frequently to visit, but I hadn’t been there in years.  The last time I saw my aunt and cousins was in 1995!  What a wonderful opportunity to get reacquainted and catch up.  Also, even though I had been back from the trip to Turkey and Lebanon for a full 3 weeks, I didn’t feel fully recovered.  I needed a vacation from my vacation! 

My aunt rented a beach cottage on Sanibel Island that was within walking distance of her house.  My cousin, her daughter and I stayed there, while my other cousin and his wife stayed with my aunt.  So there was a lot of going back and forth, especially on Thanksgiving Day with the meal preparations.  The weather was ideal, and it was so nice to reminisce about our childhoods.  Activities included a lot of walking on the beach, a boat trip to an island north of there to a great seashell hunting beach, lots of good food, and my favorite, birding at the Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, which was just a 5 minute drive away.  Sanibel Island has numerous wildlife refuges, and the bird watching was superb.  Below are some photos.  
I’d also like to take this opportunity to send great gratitude and appreciation to the readers of this blog, my many clients and students, and all of my friends and loved ones for your friendship, love and support over the years.  Just know that I send my thanks back to you tenfold!  You have played an important part in my life.  Blessings, Carla

November 15, 2018

Our Last Day and Some Final Thoughts

Our final day of the trip had arrived.  Upon leaving the delightful city of Zahle and our excellent hotel, we arrived at the archeological site of Anjar.  It is on the Damascus Highway, and less than a kilometer from the border with Syria.  This is also one of the only archeological sites in Lebanon that does not involve layers of time and different occupations.  It was built around 714 AD by the Umayyad Dynasty, and overrun and abandoned by 744 AD.  Here are some photos.  Note the brilliant blue sky, the first of our whole trip!
The ridge in the background of this photo is on the Syrian border.  We were that close. 

Our last and most fabulous lunch of the trip was at the local tourist restaurant Shams.  In addition to more food than could fit on our table, the restaurant featured indoor gardens, a bowling alley and even sushi.  It was quite a place. 

On our way to the Beqaa Valley a few days previously, some of us noticed a huge sodalite pillar situated near the edge of the highway.
On our way back over the mountains, we were looking for that pillar so that we could stop and take some photos.  Our Lebanese guide directed the bus to pull over, and we jumped out to find not only the larger pillar near the highway, but another one in addition to a large rose quartz on either side of the doorway to the “Gemstones of the World” store.
This turned out to be a very large gem and mineral store owned by a Brazilian family.  What a surprise.  As some of you may know, I collect crystal skulls.  I am always on the lookout for them, but none had been found at all on this trip until today.  I was thrilled to find two great ones here.  That made my day.

Upon arriving back in Beirut, I walked the Corniche with two friends from the trip.  What a delightful way to end the journey. 

All in all, this was a very action packed and challenging trip, and I do not regret going.  However, this is why I won’t be traveling with Megalithomania in the future.  This is the second trip that I have taken with them, and I would definitely not travel with them again because of some very unprofessional behavior from Hugh Newman and Andrew Collins (and Brien Foerster).  The way that they run their trips is this.  They hire a tour company that makes arrangements for the transportation, retains a local guide, and makes all of the arrangements for food and lodging for the group.  Then Hugh and Andrew carry on as if they were fellow travelers instead of the leaders of the trip.  This included being late to the bus numerous times and holding up our departure, standing in front of something that people were trying to photograph, Hugh's constant filming of everything, and Andrew’s ongoing obsession with the incident at Gobekli Tepe. 

I am not alone with the complaints.  We had many disgruntled people there at the end.  The trip to Mexico was even worse.  Megalithomania failed to assist in making sure that people got to the airport on our final morning, in addition to other issues, so that there were many very angry travelers upon departure.

Bottom line, what we paid for the trip enabled Hugh and Andrew to travel for free, and they spent most of the time filming and furthering their own research instead of guiding us through the various sites.  In addition to all of that, they use their research and photography to earn extra money for themselves after the trip is finished. As our “employees”, they should have been focused on us, instead of themselves.  If you can tolerate all of this, by all means, travel with them as they go to some interesting places.  I will not be traveling with Megalithomania again. 

November 14, 2018

The Quarries

During the two days that we were in the Baalbek area, we visited 3 ancient quarries. Limestone was what was being removed here, not only by the ancient inhabitants going back who knows how far, but also by the Romans. 

Our first stop upon getting into the area was at the quarry where the “Stone of the Pregnant Woman” was located.  Mythology states that if a woman touched the stone, it would enable her to become pregnant.  It must have been quite a pilgrimage site.  It’s a good thing that the women in our group were past childbearing age, or we could be in trouble!  By best estimates, this accurately cut stone weighs 1000 tons.  Yes, tons!  Above is a photo of the group standing next to it for perspective. 

The largest foundation blocks that we saw at Baalbek were estimated to weigh 800 tons, and no one knows how they were moved and put into place.  This one is more massive than those.  You can see where the level of the surface soil was until it was removed.
In the process of excavating, another massive stone was uncovered below and next to the first one.  Its weight is estimated at 1650 Tons.  It is possible that there may be more here further below these.
The question is, who quarried these stones, how were they going to remove them, and where were they going to go?  From his experience with quarries around the world, Hugh Newman has a theory that one massive and possibly unmovable stone is always left in the quarry.  Why, who knows! Certainly we saw that at Karahan Tepe, and it is also true at the red granite quarry in Aswan, Egypt, with the unfinished obelisk that is larger than anything else found in that country.
Our next stop was the quarry across the road.  Here we have another cut stone weighing over 1200 tons.  Slices and chunks have been taken out of it presumably for other building projects.  BTW, it was at this point when the big wind and rain storm blew in.
The last stop after our day at Baalbek was to a quarry in a residential neighborhood that was rarely visited by tourists.  It was a hidden gem!  We first visited a cave that was dug into the ground by the Romans.  The purpose of this was to get to the best quality of limestone.
Note the outlines of the chunks of stone that had been removed by the Romans  To me, that does not match up with the massive stone foundations that we had seen at Baalbek.  I am convinced that those were there before the Romans arrived on the scene.
Now we went cross the field to what I have dubbed “The Sun Temple”.

Certainly the rock on this outcropping had been carved, but not necessarily to remove it as building material.  Here is a very fancy cave that had been carved.  Note the vertical grooves at the back, and the light coming in through a square opening on the left side, illuminating a pattern on the grooves.

Of course, we were there at the wrong time of year to see either solstice or equinox sunrise or sunset phenomena, but I am convinced that that was the purpose of this site.  Every ancient agricultural society had to keep track of the seasons in this way.  Also note the “stairway” to nowhere that was to the left of this cave. 
This is a common sight in Peru, and I also noticed at least one of these at Hattusa. 

Around the corner and further to the left on the same outcropping was another carved cave.  It was oriented to the west, and the setting sun was shining into it.  Here is a photo of it with a shadow, and then one without the shadow cast by the sun.
Again, one would have to be here during those sun calendar events to see exactly what was going on.  It looked like a winter solstice shrine, and the exact date of the solstice would be determined by where the shadow lined up with the appropriate carved "step".