April 2022 - Be On The Road | Live your Travel Dream!
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Thursday, April 21, 2022

Sanliurfa: The Ancient Gem in South Eastern Turkey

Bird's eye view of Urfa city

This city has recorded history from the 4th century BCE, but it may date back at least to 9000 BCE. About 12 kms from it, is the famous Neolithic site of Gobekli Tepe, the world’s oldest known temple that was founded in the 10th millenium BCE. It is located near to the ancient Mesopotamian settlements of Harran and Nevali Cori. It is nicknamed the ‘City of Prophets’, owing to its association with Jewism, Christianity and Islam and because of the belief that it was the hometown of Abraham. I am talking about Sanliurfa, the historical city, located in South Eastern Turkey and not too far away from the Syrian border.

Abraham Cave and Urfa Landscape

Known in ancient times as Edessa, the city of Sanliurfa is made up of a beautiful mix of Turks, Kurds and Arabs. Most tourists to Turkey hardly make their way down to this south eastern part of the country. May be, they are worried about border conflicts or may be it is just too far away for them. Either ways, they are missing on a beautiful Middle Eastern city with a gorgeous flavour of culture and architecture. The locals are warm, super friendly and eager to strike a conversation with you.

Sanliurfa locals ready for a pose     
    
History, culture and local food are on the top of must-experience attractions in Sanliurfa. A Sanliurfa experience starts with a visit to the Cave of Abraham that is home to many mosques and Balikligol (a holy fish pond). It is here that you will see the Mevlid-i-Halil mosque, built next to the site where prophet Abraham is believed to have been born. And a short walk away is the 9th century Urfa castle from where you can catch a bird’s eye view of Urfa city. As you meander in different directions from the Cave of Abraham, you will pass through colourful atmospheric bazaars, Turkish baths, traditional Urfa houses, Rizvaniye mosque, Ayn Zeliha, the great mosque of Urfa, Sanliurfa museum, Golbasi garden, Urfa Armenian Protestant church, the Syriac orthodox church of St Peter and St Paul and the ruins of the ancient city walls.
   
Balikigol in Urfa old city     
    
And when you head a little but out of the city, you have the 11,500 year old temple at Gobekli Tepe, the temple of Nevali Cori (Neolithic settlement dating back to 8000 BCE), the Euphrates river, the fortress of Rumkale near the Euphrates river and Attaturk dam. If you are really into ancient history, I am pretty sure that you will unearth many other hidden gems by talking to locals or sticking with people with interest in archaeology.
   
Inside a scarf store at Sanliurfa old city     
    
Sanliurfa is that beautiful mix of offbeat culture, rich ancient history, authentic Middle Eastern experience and friendly locals. It takes a while to reach this part of the country and having experienced it first hand, I cannot stop recommending it to you. If you like history, lazy city walks, chatting with locals, exotic locale and vibrant markets, this place is for you!    
   
Sanliurfa city and mosque as seen from the castle
 
Best season to visit:    
    
Summers are very hot at Sanliurfa and are best avoided. The best season to visit would be the cooler months between October and February. Days can be warm even during this time, so it will be best to wear a headscarf, hat, sunscreen and sunglasses.   
   
Famous hand made leather shoes of Sanliurfa

How to reach there:

You can either fly into Sanliurfa or get in by road. Sanliurfa has daily flights from Istanbul and Ankara, but the number of flights are low. If you don’t have a lot of time at hand, you should fly. If you have time on your hand, I would recommend traveling via Mardin or via Ankara so that you can visit some of the lesser visited destinations of Turkey.   
   
Sanliurfa's Abraham Cave

Where to stay:

There are many village homestays, traditional guest houses and hotels to choose from. The Yuvacali village home stays are best if you wish to experience rustic life along with rich Kurdish hospitality.

Street Moment from the bazaar of Sanliurfa, Turkey

Where to eat:

You can eat at your place of stay or at one of the many restaurants in the local bazaar. The iconic dishes to try out are cig kofte or raw kebabs, pistachio Kunefe desserts, Lahmajun (Turkish Pizza) and Liver kebabs. Zahter Kahvalti is a great place to eat some traditional local food.

When I was there at Sanliurfa, I stayed at the Aslan guest house, a traditional looking house that welcomes backpackers and that is located right in the heart of the city and close to all the main places.

There is also a Hilton in town if you wish to splurge.

Holy fish pond of Urfa

Other nearby tourist attractions:

1) Gobekli Tepe: The oldest temple in the world

2) Mardin: Gateway to Mesopotamia

3) Gaziantep: The city that is famous for the iconic baklava

4) Harran: A major ancient city in upper Mesopotamia

5) Karacadag: See rural life here that hasn’t changed much since biblical times. You can still see nomads in their yurts and this is where wheat first originated about 8,800 BCE

6) Lycian way: A 550 km long scenic trek that is home to sensational beaches, great architectural ruins, rich Greek history and stunning views

7) Kayakoy: The Ghost town of Turkey

8) Aphrodisias: Offbeat Greek culture trail in Turkey

9) Cappadocia: One of the most magical places in the world

10) Hierapolis: The ancient Greek spa city

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Monday, April 11, 2022

Why Hotel Security Matters, and How to Improve It

Why Hotel security matters

Security is something hotel owners and operators must take seriously. If you want people to stay in your hotel, you need to have an impeccable reputation. Security incidents can poison public opinion about your establishment, and then you’ll have to fight hard to turn that around.

We’ll talk about some hotel security measures you can implement right now, and we’ll also cover in more detail why you need to have these measures in place.

A Hotel Should Feel Like a Sanctuary

You will likely find there are many ways to improve hotel security, but before we get into some of those, we should explain why a safe hotel matters so much. If you run a hotel, you might have travelers from places nearby, but you may also have some from all across the world. You never know who’s staying there and why they chose your hotel.

Whether your average guest is from close by or some international locale, they will want to feel secure when they enter your lobby. They might feel exhaustion or jet lag. Maybe they just came from a crucial meeting or a funeral.

You have no way to tell whether business or pleasure drew your guest to you. Whatever the case, they should not worry once they’re checked in and headed up to their room.

Your hotel should be a kind of oasis for travelers. If you can’t provide that for them, they will not enjoy themselves, and you can be sure they’ll leave you a poor review when they get a chance.

Your Hotel Represents You

As the hotel’s operator or owner, you should also understand that your hotel is like an extension of yourself. If you’re a fastidious person, your hotel’s neatness should reflect that. A hotel where someone can walk around at will without checking in won’t feel safe, and you wouldn’t want to stay at such a place yourself.

Your hotel’s security should make you feel proud of it. You’re representing not just yourself but the city or town in which you operate. You want someone visiting to get the right impression, regardless of whether they’re from a few miles away or the other side of the world.

Some Ways to Improve Hotel Security

Now that we’ve talked about why your hotel’s security matters, we’ll go over some ways that you can make it better. Making sure you check in each guest when they arrive should be first.

You can have signage telling your guests to approach the front desk as soon as they arrive. If they do that, you can be sure that they have legitimate business there.

To better facilitate this, you can have someone who you place close to the front doors. They can either stand outside or inside. If you can afford it, you might have someone standing in both places.

Once someone arrives and your front desk attendant checks them in, they can give the guest their room key. That key should only open the door to their room and no others. You should also make sure to check each person’s ID who enters the hotel. They must prove their identity to stay there.

Other Ways to Improve Your Hotel’s Security Protocols

You should also have working cameras in the lobby and on every floor. Ideally, you want multiple cameras that can show you various areas.

You can look at those cameras to see if you have any blind spots. You can’t have cameras in every person’s room, but you should have them positioned to watch over every public or shared space.

You can also have roving security guards who can walk around the property and check to make sure everything is quiet and calm. They should have radios so they can keep in touch, and you should have a central security hub where they can communicate with a supervisor.

The guards should know various codes they can use for scenarios that might come up. They don’t want to say something that might cause a panic if a dangerous situation arises.

You should also know the nearest police station and fire station and have their numbers handy. If anything comes up that your staff can’t handle, you’ll want them to contact the authorities immediately.

The larger and fancier your hotel, the more security you will probably need. It might prove costly, but it’s worth it. You can show any guests that you’re taking the best possible care of them.

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Tuesday, April 05, 2022

The Colourful Samburu Tribe of Kenya: A Travel Photo Series

A Beadwork Samburu Model, Kenya

They are related to the famous Maasai tribe living in the Maasai Mara game reserve in Kenya. They are one of the more dominating tribes of north-central Kenya. They are semi-nomadic pastoralists who mainly herd cattle, but also keep sheep, goats and camels. I am talking about the colourful Samburu tribe who live north of the equator in Kenya and live in very diverse and beautiful landscapes that span high altitude forests, open plains, semi-arid grass and bush land to complete desert. One of their main settlements is on the fringes of Samburu National Park in North Kenya and this is where I met them. Experiencing the Samburu National reserve and the Samburu tribe becomes a beautiful one-two combo for a rich wildlife and culture experience.

This travel photo series aims to share with you the colourful personalities and traditional life of the beautiful Samburu tribal people. Hope you enjoy these vibrant visuals of these gorgeous tribal people of Kenya.

Above picture: The Samburu tribe is known for its colourful beadwork jewellery. Here you can see a Samburu woman wearing such colourful head and neck bead jewellery.

A Portrait of a Samburu Man

Above picture: Samburu men also adorn themselves with such colourful bead jewellery making them fantastic looking male models too.

Exquisite bead work on this Samburu woman

Above picture: Here is another Samburu tribal woman sporting colourful beadwork necklace, ear rings and head gear. The concentric rings on the necklace makes her look similar to the long necked Karen tribal women of Myanmar, but thankfully their necks have not been lengthened.

This game played with seeds and compartments is only played by the elderly men of the Samburu tribe

Above picture: Seen in this photo is a game with seeds and compartments played only by the elderly men of the Samburu tribe. This game is very similar to Pallanguzhi, a traditional ancient mancala game played in South India, especially Tamil Nadu and Kerala.

A rich dash of colour on all the Samburu women

Above picture: It is said that the more beads or necklaces are there on a woman, the more beautiful she is considered. Another point on the same line of thought is that, women wore more necklaces as they got richer. Therefore, the number of beads or necklaces indicate status in society, richness level and beauty.

Inquisitive Samburu looks

Above picture: The Samburu people speak the Samburu language, which is a Nilo-Saharan language. Their language is more or less similar to Maa (the language that the Maasai speak). The Samburu tongue is also related to Turkana and Karamojong and more distantly to Pokot and the Kalenjin languages.

Young Samburu Kids strike different poses

Above picture: Like all kids, the Samburu kids are also full of energy and innocent smiles. They can be seen wearing Western attire.

Samburu Elders huddle together under a tree to play a game

Above picture: The elders occupy a very important role in the Samburu society and all the power rests with them. They have a polygamous system where the elders decide who can marry and can have how many wives. This kind of control keeps trouble at rest or at least that is the belief.

The Samburu Warriors strike a pose

Above picture: In the Samburu tribe, the men take care of security, cattle herding and playing mock fight games to improve their warrior skills.

The colourfully decked Samburu tribals

Above picture: While the Samburu women take care of things like building houses, collecting firewood and food from the forest, cooking food, taking care of the young ones and in doing craftsmanship.

Wedding dance enacted by the Samburu men and women

Above picture: The Samburu love to sing and dance, but traditionally use no instruments. They have dances for various occasions of life. The men dance jumping and high jumping from a standing position is a great sport. Most dances involve the men and the women dancing in their separate circles with particular moves for each sex, but coordinating the moves of the two groups. A lot of their dances involve elaborate movements of their chest.

A Mean Samburu Warrior look

Above picture: Girls get married pretty early. Sometimes before they turn 18. Both boys and girls go through an initiation into adulthood, which involves training in adult responsibilities and circumcision for boys and clitoridectomy for girls. Ouch!

Samburu Women welcome the tourists into their village

Above picture: If you wish to marry a Samburu woman, all you have to do is give the chief of the village 2 cows. That is how weddings happen in the Samburu culture.

Women work much harder than the men in the Samburu community

Above picture: The hard working Samburu woman. She works in the forest, inside the house and in the manyatta or settlement.

A Samburu house made from wood, mud and plastic (for the roofing)

Above picture: A typical Samburu house is built by the wives of that house using sticks, mud, dung and plastic (for waterproofing).

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