Best Libraries In The World

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Best Libraries In The World

“I have always imagined paradise will be a kind of library.” Jose Luis Borges

Libraries are not just stern places where loud conversations – even accidentally – are greeted with cut-throat looks from the opposite side of the reading table. Libraries are full of stories and anecdotes waiting to be uncovered. Their architecture and interiors are often unexpected and sometimes even astonishing.

 National Library, Beijing, China

The National Library of China is the largest in Asia and one of the largest in the world  What makes it even more special? Its collection of cultural and historical literature is vast with more than 24 million books. If you’re not after literature or a place to read, then its collection of manuscripts and inscriptions may tempt you. Among its collections are manuscripts from Song, Shang, and Ming dynasties, stone tablets known as Xiping Stone Classics, tortoise shell inscriptions, and many ancient Chinese writings.

Trinity College Library, Dublin, Ireland

Founded in 1592, Trinity College is the oldest university in Ireland. Built between 1712 and 1732 the Old Library is the University’s earliest surviving building. The library houses Ireland’s National Treasure which is the Book Of Kells sacred manuscript created by Celtic Monks in about 800 AD which features the Four Gospels of the New Testament. It is decorated with metallic gold Celtic style writing, symbols and stunning artwork. Walking through the doors of the Long Room is suddenly overwhelming. IT is a 65 meter long gallery housing about 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books under a jaw-dropping barrel-vaulted ceiling.The weather being famously unpredictable in Dublin makes the library is a great place to stay dry.

Real Gabinete Português de Leitura, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

This is Brazil’s most important library, a Neoclassical treasure trove chronicling the country’s history in more than nine million items. A highlight is the Teresa Cristina Maria collection: a 22,000-strong photo series, depicting key Brazilian events and notables. 

Joanine Library at University Of Coimbre, Coimbre, Portugal

Coimbra’s university, founded in 1290, is Portugal’s oldest and most distinguished university. The Baroque library was built between 1717 – 1728 and houses about 40,000 books which are – in part – protected by bats (bats eat moths). It is really impressive  The library is a Portuguese National Monument and is one of the oldest of the university.

Bibliothèque Sainte Geneviève, Paris, France

Located opposite the Pantheon is the historic public library Sainte Genevieve. The steps have become somewhat famous after Woody Allen chose this location for his film Midnight In Paris.The vast collection of the Abbey  Saint Genevieve was in need of a home and it took seven years of construction in 1839 by architect Henri Labrouste. The public university library now holds around two million books and documents and the magnificent cast iron ceiling of the two story reading room is breathtaking.

National Library of the Czech Republic, Prague, Czech Republic

The National Library of the Czech Republic is part of the Clementinum, a massive complex of historical buildings that also holds the Astronomical Tower (a weather center since 1775) and the Mirror Chapel, a popular setting for classical music concerts. Regularly named one of the world’s most beautiful libraries, this Baroque marvel dates back to 1722. this The largest hall of the library is also the most impressive. Featuring a balcony with a highly ornate railing and stairs, the Library Hall is decorated in rich golds, mahogany woods, and ceiling frescoes by Jan Hiebl. The beauty is in the original details: the labels on the bookcases have been there since the 1700s and none of the features (including floors or wood trims) have been replaced since the library’s creation.The Library Hall is also home to some of the oldest books in Europe.

The Royal Library, Copenhagen, Denmark

The Royal Copenhagen Library known as the Black Diamond juts over the canal. The interior boasts a huge ceiling fresco and canal views. The permanent exhibition, Treasures in The Royal Library, currently includes a Gutenberg bible, philosopher Søren Kierkegaard’s notes, and Hans Christian Andersen’s diary.

Bibleoteca Vasconcelos, Mexico City, Mexico

This library was designed by Alberto Kalach and the construction was completed in 2007. Inside, instead of plain white walls and carpet, you’ll see transparent walls, mismatches floors, balconies and pathways, and books, lots and lots of books.

 The Library Of  Alexandria, Alexandria,  Egypt

The ancient library of Alexandria was built by the order of Ptolemy ll in the third century BC. It contained 700,000 books and was the greatest library in the world at that time. This was the first public governmental library in history. Any scholar such as Archimedes who studies in the library of Alexandria had to leave a copy of his writings in the library. This was one of the reasons the library was rich with books, researchers, and studies that were contemporary at the time. There were many theories as to how the library burned -one was that it was Julius Caesar. Centuries later, Hosny Mubarak made an international architectural design competition to build a library on that site.  The prize was sixty thousand American dollars which was won by Snohetta, a Norwegian architectural firm. The oval shape of the library from outside is a symbol of the continuity of life. The library is surrounded by a great wall that was made out of Aswan Granite and it contains writing and inscriptions in 120 languages. The objective of the new library is the same objective of the old library: to act as a public research library and to support the people of the Arab world and the Middle East to retain their old position as scholars and researchers in different fields of science.

NY Public Library, NY, USA

The New York Public Library  which opened in 1911  by combining the collections of the Astor and Lenox Libraries with a $2.4 million trust from Samuel J. Tilden that was given to, “establish and maintain a free library and reading room in the city of New York.”It was the largest marble building in the United States and  home to over one million books.The Beaux Artes building is located at Fifth Avenue and 42nd St. Two stone lions guard the entrance. Though originally named Astor and Lennox,  Mayor Fiorello La Guardia renamed them Patience and Fortitude during the Great Depression.

Fly safe,

JAZ

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Ruins That I Would Like to See

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Ruins I Would Like To See.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   But I have promises to keep,   And miles to go before I sleep,   And miles to go before I sleep.”Robert Frost

Our world is so filled with places that I want to see. It’s hard to say whether a single lifetime would indeed be enough to experience all of it. Most of us will probably never see everything that the world has to offer us, but it’s worth a shot. Here are the ruins I still haven’t seen and want to. 

Tikal, Guatemala

The Mayan ruins in Guatemala are ancient wonders built between the sixth century BC and the tenth century AD. Reclaimed by the jungle hundreds of years ago, they’ve been partially excavated and stand as reminders of a great civilization. It’s the tallest pre-Columbian structure in the Americas and famous for its view..

 Terra Cotta Warriors, China

IF you’ve heard of Xian in China before I’m pretty sure it’s because you’ve also heard of the Terracotta Warriors, a collection of terracotta sculptures created to represent the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. This figures were only discovered in 1974 by 3 farmers and have now become one of China’s most prized possessions. Estimates from 2007 were that the three pits containing the Terracotta Army held more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which remained buried in the pits.

Great Wall, China

When i was very young, I saw a picture of the Great Wall Of China. While its length was beyond  my comprehension, I vaguely remember sitting down and being absolutely in awe .It is the coolest landmark in the world. The Great Wall was unified and constructed during the Qin Dynasty over 2000 years ago.  Using hundreds of thousand of workers and prisoners, the wall was constructed over decades of work. It was almost destroyed by the Mongols and Chairman Mao but in 1984 when a new ruler came into power, Deng Xiaoping he re-opened its doors to the rest of the world and opted to rebuilt the Great Wall to restore National Pride.

 

Chichen Itza, Mexico

 Chichen Itza is the most well-known and frequently visited Mayan ruins site in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. It has a fascinating 1,000-year-old history. One thing that makes  Chichen Itza so intriguing, other than the giant stone pyramid, is the mysterious decline of the Maya people themselves.By the time of the Spanish conquest, this great city and others like it were virtually ghost towns. Mexico’s most famous ruins are astonishingly well-restored site compared to other Mayan ruins in the region. 

Giza, Egypt

The Giza Pyramid complex is located just at the outskirts of the Egyptian capital Cairo. Set in the desert, it comprises three Pyramids that each have a mini-complex of its own and the Sphinx. The Sphinx is an iconic Giant statue of the mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. There are many theories about why the pyramids were constructed in the first place. The most accepted one was that they were constructed as a tomb for the great pharaohs that ordered them built. Many theories abound as to how is it that these massive structures were made especially during ancient times.

Luxor, Egypt

Established on the shore of the great Nile river and surrounded by both mango plantations and desert, Luxor is one of the greatest open air museums. containing some the largest and most striking ancient monuments ever constructed.. The history of Luxor (originally called the city of Thebes) dates back to 3,200 B.C. Nevertheless, the city didn’t prosper until the 2,134 B.C., during the 11th Dynasty, when Mentuhotep ll brought peace and stability to the region, and Thebes started to grow as a city, becoming, during the 18th Dynasty, in 1,550 B.C., the religious and political capital of Ancient Egypt.most of their tombs, monuments and temples still remain, very well-preserved, including the tomb of the world-famous  Tutankhamen..

Stonehenge, England

What were they for? How did they get here? What do they mean? So many questions surround the ring of massive prehistoric stones found at Stonehenge and the fact that we’ll probably never have any concrete answers only adds to the mystery and allure of the site.How these stones ended up in perfect architectural symmetry in the middle of the English countryside, long before modern machinery would have made it a much simpler feat, is perhaps what entices so many people to visit this ancient iconic site year after year.

Pompeii, Italy

In 79 AD somewhere around 20,000 Pompeians went about their daily lives giving nary a thought to the volcano they lived alongside. August 24th would change their lives forever. On that fateful day as Mt. Vesuvius spewed, though much of the city was destroyed, Pompeii was also buried under 20 feet of ash and pumice. Centuries of history were sealed away until 1748. It was Rocque Joaquin de Acubierre that discovered Pompeii. Due to the lack of air and moisture, artifacts buried under the ash and pumice at both archeological sites were extremely well preserved. 

Great Mosque, Mali

The iconic Grand Mosque in Djenne, northern Mali is the largest free standing mud brick building in the world and harking back to a time of tribal empires long since fallen.A new layer of adobe plastering is used to fill the cracks which occur in the extreme summer heat, and repairs made to damage done with the pounding of the annual rains. The worst kept secret of Djenne’s Grand Mosque is that it is not the original. Though it is surely the finest example of Sahelian adobe architecture in the world, it was in fact built by the French in c. 1908. The original dated back to the 13th century but did not stand the test of time and of the elements.

Borobodor Temple, Indonesia

Borobudur is the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction. Located on the island of Java, the temple was constructed in the 9th century, before being abandoned in the 14th century as the population converted to Islam. Protected by UNESCO, it was restored in the 1970s and later opened to the public (while still being used for religious pilgrimage).

Ellora and Ajanta Caves, India

The Ellora and Ajanta caves are located outside of Aurangabad, which is an eight-hour train ride from Mumbai. The Ellora caves were built between the fifth and tenth century. There are 34 caves, some Hindu, some Buddhist and a few Jain. The Ajanta caves, like the temples of Khajuraho, were “lost” for centuries until an Englishman discovered them in the mid-19th century. They are all Buddhist, and known more for their paintings 

Carthage, Tunisia

Carthage was the centre of the Carthaginian Empire in antiquity. The city has existed for nearly 3,000 years, developing from a Phoenician colony of the first millennium BC into the capital of an ancient empire. Carthage is 15 kilometers north of Tunis and these ruins once were the most important trading base in that region with a population of over half a million. Do you know Hannibal? He came from Carthage and tried to battle the Romans but was defeated two centuries BC. Half a century later the Romans took Carthage and destroyed most if not all of the city. They rebuild their own Carthage and made it the capital of the Roman province Africa. 

Fly safe,
JAZ

Maktesh Ramon, Israel

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Maktesh Ramon, Israel

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”  Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince

The drive from Tel Aviv to Mitzpe Ramon was fairly smooth thanks to Waze which was invented in Israel. The majority of it was through the barren Negev Desert.

We checked into our rooms at the beautiful Beresheet Hotel which is located right on the Maktesh (Crater). I had done the research. I walked out on the terrace and stood in awe.(sunrise)

Even knowing about it, the beauty just snuck up on me. The rich, vibrant colors, shapes, layers and textures were beautiful and peaceful. We looked out over the vast expanse and soaked up the natural splendor of the Maktesh.

There are only seven formations in the world like this, with all of them being located in Israel and Egypt. The Makhtesh Ramon is the largest and best known of all.

A maktesh is a geological landform with steep walls of resistant rock surrounding a deep closed valley which is typically drained by a (river).

We wandered around the hotel grounds. Rooms and cottages, all fashioned out of stone, are scattered around the main building that houses the restaurant and spa.

There were two swimming pools, one indoors, and a Turkish hammam at the spa.

Carefully designed to fit in with the desert environment, Beresheet Hotel was built using local materials and designed with a desert theme that includes bright colors and wood crafted furniture.

My two and a half-year old god-daughter is happily exploring with me. “Good life?” I ask ( a question that is usually reserved for when we are eating dessert) “Good life. she replies.

The next day we take a half-day jeep tour and descend into the crater.

Our guide builds a mountain with sand, showing us that the outer layers were composed of hard limestone, while the peak and the bottom layers were soft sandstone. Then he flattens the mountaintop and scoops out a bowl instead. Wind and water have scoured away at the soft sandstone for millions of years.

It is not a crater caused by a meteorite. It is technically a maktesh which is an erosion crater.

I loved the solitude.

There was nothing but us. The Negev Desert just seemed to sprawl endlessly out away from civilization.

Maybe it is the extreme quiet, the vast emptiness and loneliness that comes with being in a wide open space.

I don’t know. But I do know I love the sensation.

Maktesh Ramon is surprisingly colorful inside and we have a plan.

The next day we drive on the two lane road through the crater to gather different colors of sand to make our own sand art.

And by we I mean the women.

There is one place in the maktesh where they allow you to do that. We were on a mission to get every color.

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We head to the alpaca farm. It’s about five minutes from the town but we are driving on a small side road through empty desert. It definitely felt longer.

It was not a busy day, the alpacas and llamas were hungry. Even in the middle of the Negev desert, it felt like every animal farm, I had gone to with my kids.

We stop at Jinkys in the center of Mitzpe Ramon for some delicious falafel and hummus.

I am looking for a small industrial park built decades ago to provide work to North Africans and later Russian immigrants. It now houses art galleries and boutiques. The Faran organic cosmetic factory and store is located there and I buy camel soap- a perfect gift from Israel.

We drive back tired and relaxed. Whatever little problems we had before we came, the desert stillness had driven away.

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Fly safe,
JAZ

 

Ten Countries With The Worst Air Pollution

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Ten Countries With The Worst Air Pollution

“I’m always amazed at the human capacity to not make fundamental changes, but instead merely adapt. I see these pictures of people in Beijing and New Delhi, walking around with masks on, because you can’t walk outside your house and breathe? If you can’t breathe?…If that’s not the cue to make a fundamental change, I don’t know what is!” Bill Maher

Every country these days has bad air pollution. Cities are usually worse than rural areas. China is famous for terrible air pollution but they are trying to be better. Here are the top countries for air pollution.

1.The World Bank says Pakistan’s air pollution is the most severe in the world.
The harm caused by air pollution in Pakistan’s urban areas exceeds most other high-profile causes of mortality in the country, including traffic-related accidents. Declining government attention to air quality leads to weak implementation of environmental policies.

2. Air pollution in Qatar vastly exceeds safe limits and is damaging the health of the population. It can be explained in part to the country’s building boom, vehicle exhausts, smelting plants and the burning of organic materials.

3. Along with all the other problems, walking the streets of Kabul is a health risk. Thick columns of smoke from ovens and factories and bumper-to-bumper vehicles producing harmful gases create various types of respiratory disease. No city in Afghanistan has a proper and technical management of solid waste. They are dumping waste in valleys and open fields, which is extremely dangerous not only in polluting the air, but also for underwater pollution. Three to five thousand people a year die of air pollution related illnesses In Afghanistan.

4. Air pollution kills fifteen thousand Bangladeshis a year according to the World Bank. Large numbers of children, street children, local street-walkers, and rickshaw pullers in Bangladesh are at particular risk from this air pollution. According to this report, there are two major sources of air pollution in Bangladesh, vehicular emissions, and industrial emissions. These are mainly concentrated in the cities. Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities in the world, with an estimated population of more than 8 million. Air pollution has emerged as an acute problem in the city. Blackening of the city air and reduced visibility can be observed at times.

5. There is a black cloud over Cairo, Egypt. The smog is  caused by farmers piling up rice straw and burning it, because they lack the means to transfer the rice straw from their fields to recycling centres. Millions of cars prowl the traffic-clogged streets, while a thousand factories belch smoke into the air. On a bad day, the smog in Cairo and the Delta cities is unbearable.

6. The United Arab Emirates has air that is a bit worse than China and twice as bad as India. Cement manufacturing, power generation, desalination and cars all add to its pollution. But one of the biggest contributors in the region is dust made of sand, kicked up by construction or windstorms. The combination is lethal.

7. Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia is the world’s coldest capital. One third of the people live below the poverty line and burn coal for warmth. The toxic fumes make air pollution worse than Beijing. Children and old people are affected the worst but the government does not see it as a priority.

8. India’s cities are consistently ranked among the world’s worst polluted cities. Sometimes the air quality numbers are worse than the highest number in the world pollution index. More than 2.5 million premature deaths in India last year were attributed to air pollution. Crop burning, diesel fuel, dust, wild fires and coal all contribute to the increasingly polluted air.

9. Bahrain is another unhealthy country for breathing. Diesel car exhausts , factory fumes and dust storms contribute to particles in the lungs. It is a wealthy country and not heavily populated and should be doing more to correct this.

10. The pollution from Katmandu floats toward the Himalayas. Nepal has become one of the worst countries for air pollution due to car emissions, brush fires, burn farming, brick kilns, and cooking stoves. The black carbon emissions are affecting the nearby glaciers in the Himalayas which affects the water supply for that region.

Other countries with high levels of air pollution include Ghana, Jordan, China, Senegal, Turkey Bulgaria, Mauritius, Peru and Serbia .

Fly safe,
JAZ

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America

Countries My Friends And Family Have Emigrated From To America.

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark.” Warsan Shire

Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, England, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Haiti, Hungary, India, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica,  Japan, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand,  Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, Philippines, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Serbia, Scotland, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Syria, Turkey, Viet Nam, Zimbabwe.

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Growing up in New York, with immigrant grandparents, the Statue of Liberty meant something. “Tell us the story of when your parents saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time again” we asked.   My mother would say that to her parents and many like them, the statue meant freedom to live in a country where you could be whatever you wanted to be. America was the place to go to flee from oppression, racism, class-ism and poverty. We understood that it was something special to be born in a country with ideals like that.

America is not perfect. We have racism and poverty. But that doesn’t destroy the dreams it was built on. Millions of people came to America to build a better life for themselves and for their families and still do to this day.

On the Statue of Liberty, there are words I know so well: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” That’s the spirit that made me feel like an American.  I wouldn’t be here without that philosophy.

Fly safe.

JAZ

What Do You Carry For Good Luck When You Travel?

“You know what luck is? Luck is believing you’re lucky…to hold front position in this rat-race you’ve got to believe you’re lucky.” –  Tennesse Williams said by Stanley Kowalski in Street Car Named Desire

I am a believer in good luck charms when you travel. I never get on a plane without one. There’s a fine line between a bit of harmless (and possibly helpful) superstitious behavior for luck, and developing an obsessive and crippling dependence on some elaborate routine.

My good luck charms vary. For years I had a lucky flannel shirt that I wore on the plane. I convinced myself, it kept me safe from plane crashes, hijackings, robberies and getting caught bringing too much in at customs. I’m sure anything could have happened without it. Now it is all about some talisman or amulet to keep me safe while I travel. It changes but I wear the same one for a whole trip.

A talisman basically brings you good luck, as opposed to an amulet, which is designed to protect you from evil. For me it is an object designed to attract positive things – such as good luck, interesting people, unexpected adventures – and to protect you from negative things while you travel.

When I was briefly into Kabbalah, I wore a red string around my left wrist. It is used to ward off bad luck caused by the evil eye. It was knotted seven times and blessed. I figured if it was good enough for Ashton Kutcher and Madonna, it would keep me protected as well.

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After that I still liked red for luck. When it comes to red in China, you can never wear too much. Red symbolizes good fortune,happiness and joy. A circle always symbolizes wholeness or unity so I sometimes wear red bracelets when i travel.

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In Japan. I learned about Omamori which are used in both Shinto and Buddhist beliefs. They are rectangular pouches and gain their power from words written on paper or wood and sealed inside a cloth bag and can be purchased a temple. . Each omomori has a different purpose so make sure you get the right one. The words could be the name of the shrine, or a section from a sūtra, or some other powerful word. Never open the cloth to see what is inside! It is disrespectful and the omamori will lose its power. Omamori draw some of their power from the concept of the power of enclosed places. The covering of the omamori encloses the sacred words and so puts them in a separate realm where they can be effective, much as Shinto shrines are set within a separate space marked by torii gates. I usually attach one to a carry on bag  if I’m not wearing a bracelet.

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Having spent a lot of time in Mediterranean countries, I’m a fan of the evil eye charm. You will see them all over Greece, Turkey and the Middle East. It is based on quotes from all the ancient religious texts that” the gaze of someone who harbors feelings of envy or jealousy can bring misfortune upon the one who is seen — the one who “gets the evil eye.”Iit is used  as a safeguard against misfortune –  worn or hanging in their house, businesses or on their babies. I’ve had them on necklaces, bracelets earrings, ankle bracelets and sometimes just on a string.

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There are many others you can use. Ancient Egypt is a good place to go for charms. The Ankh and the Scarab are protection from Evil.

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Religion is another great source for superstitions. St Christopher is the patron saint to all people who travel. A St Christopher medal was once compulsory for any Catholic traveler. The Star of David, Hamsa (hand), the Holy Cross, Celtic Cross, Guardian Angels, beads blessed from a Buddhist Temple, written words, from the Quran, Bible or Torah can also be used.

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Folk tales and Myths have many as well. Four Leaf Clovers, Phoenix, Horns, Fish and Dragons are a few. I always buy the local good luck when I travel.

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Good luck charms feed the human need to look beyond ourselves for solutions to our difficulties, while still encouraging us to do our best. They are more like a boosters than a total solution. When things are tough, it feels good to hold a charm in your hand and hope for things to get better. They seem to be working for me. So go ahead, carry that lucky coin, wear those lucky socks or underwear because you can never have too much good luck.

 

Fly safe,

JAZ

Ten Most Dangerous Countries Not To Visit Right Now

Ten Most Dangerous Countries Not To Visit Right Now

“Hitler didn’t travel. Stalin didn’t travel. Saddam Hussein never traveled. They didn’t want to have their orthodoxy challenged.” — Howard Gardner

I was thinking about the countries I would be most afraid to travel to. I decided to look on the internet at other people’s lists. Many  countries were the same – the usual suspects, unstable governments, high crime rates, drug cartels, terrorists, kidnappings – all things that could ruin a vacation. There were a couple of surprises. Russia and the United States were on a few top ten lists. The reason is that we have enemies. We invaded countries and had a major terrorist attack. We have gangs, crime, drug problems and random, crazy shootings. There are people from peaceful countries that are afraid to come here.

The list of dangerous countries changes with economic and political stability.  I’m not sure of what the time limit is but when a certain amount of time passes and nothing terrible happens, people start traveling to a country on the danger list again. They are not in order because the order changes  based on acts of violence.  Some of these countries have been on this list for a very long time.

1. Syria If you are in Syria, you should leave immediately. Kidnapping  of foreign nationals, terrorism, polio and ongoing military clashes make it an extremely dangerous place to be at the moment. Thousands of people have already been injured or killed. If you insist on going, travel with an armed guard. If you are stopped, they will assume you have picked a side and you could be executed.

2. Afghanistan  It is probably not a good idea to travel to Afghanistan especially if you are from a country in the NATO Alliance. The Taliban  has issued a threat against every citizen of these countries. The American government has pretty much issued the same travel advisory about Afghanistan.  There are a few tourists but keeping them safe is difficult.  Some of them have not come back. Afghanistan has spectacular scenery. There are snow-capped mountains in the Hindu Kush and Pamir ranges, Buddhist monuments and Islāmic temples,. No one knows  if it will ever be safe for tourism because it is ten years after the international community has come in and it is still unsafe.

3. Iraq  As the cradle of civilization, Iraq  has always been a pilgrimage site. The lack of security, daily bombings, shootings, and unstable infrastructure make it very difficult to even get a tourist visa. The few western tourists that come to Iraq,  travel with an armed guard in an unmarked vehicle. They try to blend in and not call attention to themselves, and are stopped at many checkpoints. The violence seems to be getting worse so the small tourism that they do have will soon decrease.

4.Venezuela   There is no travel advisory for Venezuela other than avoiding the Colombian border. There are violent street demonstrations, kidnappings and armed robbery. It doesn’t help that Venezuela has one of the top five murder rates in the world.  (Jamaica’s is higher and they have plenty of tourists)  A  friend of mine who travels with the World Athletic Organization  said that he never felt fearful except after landing in Venezuela. It felt like anything could happen in that country. Chavez shut off the internet the weekend he was there.  Whatever improvements the Chavez government brought to Venezuela, tourism wasn’t one of them. The situation has improved since his death, but due to crazy monetary policies, it is hard to attract foreign investments and even tourists. Venezuela has the Andes, the Amazon rainforest, the world’s tallest waterfalls and an amazing Caribbean coastline but they have a lot of damage to undo before there is even pre Chavez tourism.

5. Somalia The situation in Somalia is getting better after a twenty year conflict. A traveler still has to travel with armed guards. The first tourist came to Somalia a couple of years ago. He was retired and visiting all the countries in the world and wanted to check Somalia off his list.  At first, no one believed that he was a tourist. The story made all the newspapers. It is a beautiful country with fantastic beaches and the hope is that there will be peace, tourism and economic stability with this new election.

6. Pakistan Tourism in Pakistan has definitely been declining over the last twelve years. But the mountain climbing community was undeterred. Five of the world’s fourteen highest mountain peaks are in the Gilgit-Baltistan range, which includes K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Last year the Taliban killed ten climbers at the base camp of Nanga Parbat. The mountain climbers who bring so much revenue to the region, stopped coming and that loss has been staggering. The US government feels that we are at risk for random attacks from Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups  throughout Pakistan. The British government advises against travel to Pakistan due to random terrorist attacks and violence.

7. Sudan is the third largest country in Africa and has been affected by civil war for the last forty years. Seeing the Blue and White Nile River and camel market at Khartoum sound appealing, but the recent indictment of Sudan’s president for war crimes and the killing and starvation in Darfur might make it a less than perfect travel destination.  Southern Sudan is considered extremely dangerous due to bandits and terrorist attacks. There is a general threat of terrorism throughout the Sudan and tourists should avoid protests, demonstrations and anywhere there are large gatherings of people. The Australian government asks that people reconsider their need to go there due to violent civil unrest and kidnappings.

8. Democratic Republic of Congo is one of Africa’s most interesting countries. Travelers want to see the Congo River, volcanoes and gorillas. The area is plagued with  extreme violence, instability, kidnappings, robberies and warlords. The travel advisory is don’t go unless you have to or unless you are Anthony Bourdain.

9. Libya is in a state of political instability due to a weak provisional government replacing the Gaddafi regime. There is still fighting between armed militia groups. If you are already in Libya, stay away from large public gatherings, demonstrations, and sites of civil or militia conflict. As of January 2014 the assassination campaign that was mainly targeting Libyans has now begun to affect foreign visitors. It would not be a bad idea to postpone your travel plans to Libya unless of course you are Anthony Bourdain.

10. North Korea I had trouble picking my tenth country. I couldn’t decide between Iran, Egypt, Burundi and North Korea. They are all good choices for dangerous. I went with North Korea because they have nuclear weapons and they make it very difficult to visit. Going in and out of the country is hard and you could be “detained” as an American for the slightest negative remark. This makes it difficult for someone like me without a good filter. Arbitrary arrest of Americans is common.  Walking around without your guide can get you both in trouble. Talking to North Koreans without permission can get you all in trouble. It’s never a good idea to travel to a country that America has recently severed diplomatic relations with if you happen to be American.

Writing this I felt real gratitude to my grandparents that I never met for getting on that boat and coming to America. I appreciate the freedom, comfort and privileges of living here that I usually take for granted. Things aren’t so great with our country right now but maybe the message in the mess is that we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do better.

Fly safe,

JAZ