Text Index: Middle East on the Matrix

Middle East Home Page:  The slide shows on this page offer an overview of the Middle East in general: its people, the ancient ruins, the magnificent mosques and the sweeping landscapes. Photos from each of the following countries are included.

The Arab Republic of Egypt:  An introduction to this fascinating country. The ancient pyramids, temples and other structures of the Pharaonic era are legendary throughout the world. Their reputation has not been overstated! They must be seen to be believed. But modern Egypt also offers much to the visitor. The Egypt pages that follow are divided into two categories: historical and modern. The historical pages present a chronological look at Egypt's famous archeological sites. The pages relating to modern Egypt follow a geographical path through the country.

The Old Kingdom:  The Old Kingdom period of Egyptian history stretched from 2667-2345 BCE and witnessed the first successful stone structures in the world, the rise and fall of pyramid building and the creation of the Great Sphinx.

The New Kingdom:  The monumental structures built by Queen Hatsepshut and Ramses II, as well as the tomb of King Tutankhamun all date from Egypt's New Kingdom (1550-1069 BCE). Highlights include the Temples at Karnak, Abu Simbel and the underground vaults in the Valley of the Kings.

The Ptolemaic & Roman Eras:  After Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 BCE, one of his generals, Ptolemy I (Soter I) began the Ptolemaic line of pharaohs that ended when Queen Cleopatra was defeated by the Romans in 30 BCE. The Ptolemies continued the Egyptian tradition of building on a grand scale and their work can be seen in The Temple of Horus at Edfu, the Temple of Sobek and Haroeris at Kom Ombo and The Temples on Philae Island. Rome added Kiosk of Trajan on Philae Island as well as structures in Alexandria.

The Christian & Islamic Eras:  Christianity came to Egypt in the first century CE and over succeeding centuries became the predominant religion until the Arab invasion of 641 brought Islam. Although a predominantly Muslim country today, Egypt still has a small but thriving Coptic Christian minority with monasteries in Wadi Natrun, south of Alexandria, and churches in Cairo. Islam, in turn, has created the grand mosques of Cairo, including the Sultan Hassan Mosque, the Rifai Mosque and the magnificent Mohammed Ali Mosque.

Alexandria & Sharm El Sheikh:  Two seaside cities with very different feels. Alexandria, an ancient city founded by Alexander the Great, retains much of its Mediterranean look and feel and remains a vital trade center for Egypt. Sharm El Sheikh, on the other hand, is a beach resort that caters to Europeans and offers a gateway to world-class scuba diving in the Red Sea.

Along the Nile:  A Nile cruise offers access to some of the finest archeological sites on the planet, but also consists of long lines of gigantic floating hotels, crowds of tourists and eager vendors. Here's a look at both the good – and the not so good – aspects of several days on the Nile.

Cairo:  The Egyptian Museum, the Khan el Khalili bazaar and the views of the ancient Nile more than offset the heat, the dust and the traffic of this sprawling city. Cairo is pulsing with life and is at the center of the modern Arab world.

The Islamic Republic of Iran:  Modern Iran is a country trying to find its identity and place in the world. It was fascinating to see the current efforts to balance fundamentalist Islam with the unstoppable influences of modern culture. In addition, Iran, of course, is heir to the glories of ancient Persia. The historical sites in Iran are magnificent. The Iran pages that follow are divided into two categories: historical and modern. The historical pages present a chronological look at ancient and Islamic Persia. The pages relating to modern Iran follow the route we took through the country on our three-week visit. For those seeking even more information, there is also a detailed account of the trip and a timeline of Persian/Iranian history.

Ancient Persia:  The photos on this page follow a chronological path through Persian history starting from Cyrus the Great (who reigned from 558 to 529 BCE) until the Arab invasion in the mid-seventh century. During this period, the world's first monotheistic religion, Zoroastrianism, dominated Persia, great kings built the ancient cities of Pasargad and Persepolis, and history was carved in stone throughout the country.

Islamic Persia:  Islam first arrived with the Arabs in the middle of the seventh century CE, but was followed by the numerous other foreign conquerors that swept through Persia in succeeding centuries. A distinctive style of architecture developed, featuring intricate brick work, decorative tiles, vaulted arches and domes. Mosques and mausoleums from this era rank among the most spectacular buildings in the world.

Tehran:  Tehran is the capital of Iran and a city that teems with millions of bustling inhabitants. There is not much historical interest outside the museums, but the parks and vibrancy of the city make it well worth a visit.

NW Iran and the Caspian Sea:  A tour through the vast landscapes of northwestern Iran, with stops along the way to meet curious schoolgirls, friendly Kurdish women and children, the mountain village of Kandovan that is carved from the rock and the labyrinthine indoor bazaar of Tabriz. As we approached the Caspian Sea, the landscape turned a lush green and we traveled through many seaside towns and villages, with a detour into the picturesque mountain village of Masouleh.

Mashhad and NE Iran:  Mashhad is one of the holiest cities in Iran and the Holy Shrine of Imam Reza is one of the country's most spectacular religious structures. In the surrounding Khorassan Province there are less spectacular but still worthy sites such as the tenth century (Seljuq era) tomb of general Arsalan Jazeb and the Safavid era mausoleum of Khaje Rabi. Also, on our way to Mashhad, we stopped off for a visit to a street market in the colorful Turkoman region of the country.

Yazd, Shiraz and Central Iran:  The city of Yazd is built in one of the harshest deserts on earth, yet through a unique and well-adapted architecture every breeze is captured and water flows into the city through ancient tunnels from distant mountains. Yazd is also the modern-day center of the ancient Persian religion of Zoroastrianism, the location of an important fire temple and the site of the eerie "towers of silence" on the outskirts of the city. This page also presents photos of nomads in Iran's central desert and a quick glimpse at the city of Shiraz.

The Magnificent City of Isfahan:  Isfahan was easily my favorite city in all of Iran. The imposing Imam Square and the surrounding mosques, palaces and shops is one of the most memorable places I have visited in all the world. The parks along the river, the ancient bridges and the friendly people add to this grand city's mystique. There is also the wonderful Abbasi Hotel, a converted caravansary. As we left Isfahan on our way back to Tehran, we stopped in the city of Kashan and the scenic mountain village of Abyaneh.

Timeline of Persian/Iranian history:  When I returned home and started sorting the photographs, I found I had difficulty putting historical sites in the proper perspective. To help in that regard, I created a timeline of Persian and Iranian history. Others may also find it helpful.

Detailed description of trip in Iran:  I was so surprised by the warmth and friendliness of the Iranian people that when I returned home I decided to write an article about the trip to give people in the U.S. another view of a country that we usually see only on the evening news when anti-American demonstrators play for the cameras. I never quite finished the article, but this draft (with links to photos) offers a detailed view of my three weeks in this fascinating country.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan:  The Kingdom of Jordan was an unexpected surprise. The landscapes of Wadi Rum and the ancient stone city of Petra were overwhelming sights and should be on every traveler's "wish list." In addition, the Roman ruins at Jerash are among the most extensive I've seen and the drive along the King's Highway offered spectacular views and many historical stop offs.

Wadi Rum & Jordanian Desert:  A look at the spectacular landscapes of the Wadi Rum area of Jordan, the seaside town of Aqaba and Bedouins in the southern desert.

Amman & The Dead Sea:  A view of modern Amman, the capital of Jordan, plus a few photos of the Dead Sea.

Ruins at Jerash & Amman:  The Greco-Roman ruins at Jerash are one of the best=preserved sites in the world. Also, some ruins in the city of Amman.

Ruins at Petra:  The Nabataen city of Petra, carved into the sheer rock of the Jordanian desert, is an unbelievable sight!

The Republic of Turkey:  More than any other country in the region, Turkey is a crossroads between Asian and European cultures, and ancient and modern societies. There are several slide shows here of photographs from the exotic city of Istanbul, the ancient Greco-Roman ruins at Ephesus and Pergamon, as well as a cruise along the beautiful Bosphorus.

Istanbul:  Although no longer the capital, Istanbul remains Turkey's largest city and its main commercial and cultural center. It is one of the most interesting cities in the world, both for its historical sites that span the Byzantine and Ottoman eras and for its modern dynamism. Among the major tourist sites are the overwhelming Aya Sophia (Hagia Sophia), the magnificent imperial mosques and the sumptuous palaces of the Ottoman sultans at Topkap─▒ and Dolmabah├že. There is also fine Byzantine Art, but my real favorite is just spending time in streets and markets of Istanbul's various neighborhoods.

A Cruise on the Bosphorus:  The narrow Bosphorus Strait joins the Black Sea to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Asia from Europe. A cruise along this ancient waterway was a delightful way to spend an afternoon.

Ruins at Ephesus:  The Greco-Roman ruins at Ephesus are a must-see for all enthusiasts of Greek, Roman or early Christian history. The city was once home to the Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World until the Goths arrived.

Ruins at Pergamon (Pergamum):  Pergamon was an ally of Rome in Asia Minor and an important center for the arts. The surviving ruins are not as extensive as Ephesus, but still well worth a visit.

Middle East Information:  Tips and information for travelers considering a trip to the Middle East. There are links to embassies, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, visa information, and recommended books, hotels and travel agents.

Middle East Regional News:  Recent news items from the Middle East.