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Battle of the Titans: Ancient Sites vs Mass Tourism

Stonehenge Summer Solstice 2009 - 333 to Stonehenge

Throughout the ages theyve survived intense battles, powerful natural disasters, adverse weather and incompetent archaeologists. Fascinating, beautiful, but surprisingly fragile, ancient sites are now under a new kind of attack mass tourism.

Gone are the days of the Victorian explorer discovering magnificent ancient sites half buried by sand or jungle. Cheap airfares together with a plethora of guide and travel books, not to mention the Internet, encourage us to follow in the footsteps of historical figures and see ancient sites for ourselves or, in some cases, take advantage of the sunny weather and cheap booze – with a bit of culture thrown in to boot.

Over the years, as visitor numbers have increased, the unofficial site guardians (in some cases nomadic tribes or the local community) have been ousted to make way for car parks, ticket booths, cafes and trinket sellers, as locals and governments alike cash in on the money tourists bring.

Not all bad when you consider that some of the money does go to maintaining and restoring the site and, with the boost to the local economy, facilities are upgraded and more people are employed.

Visitor Numbers

The latest biannual watch list compiled by the World Monuments Fund (WMF) places over 93 sites in 47 countries at risk from urban development, tourism, neglect and bad planning, while the Lonely Planet estimates 1.5 billion people will be travelling each year by 2020. With these forecast figures, well be faced with a delicate balancing act between the demands of economic growth and the need to maintain the culture of an area and preserve unique sites.

Some ancient sites have more than 1-2 million visitors per year. Because of the size and location of the sites this might appear to be not too much of a problem; that is until you look at the degree of wear and tear. Sula Rayska of Rayska Heritage, a consultancy firm specialising in heritage projects, points out: People always visit the most popular and best advertised. The lesser known ancient sites attract fewer tourists and get less wear and tear, whereas places like Stonehenge and Hadrians Wall can suffer from too many people.

Even the smaller sites have their problems. English Heritage recently announced a scheme for an emergency excavation of parts of The Nine Ladies on Stanton Moor in Derbyshire’s Peak District. Each year around 40,000 people visit the 4,000 year-old stone circle and recent soil erosion has revealed evidence of a 10th stone. Damage has also been caused by visitors digging holes for campfires and even chipping off pieces of stone as souvenirs.

Overseas sites are experiencing similar problems. Visitor numbers to Ephesus exceeded two million last year according Seluk district governor Aziz nci in an interview with an Anatolian news agency earlier this year. Three years ago there were just 1.6 million tourists.

Many tour operators are worried about this massive increase. Mike Belton, owner of Amber Travel, Turkey-based specialists in small group activity and custom travel in Turkey, comments: The latest development is the arrival of the super-cruise ship that can drop 5,000 people onto Ephesus in a couple of hours. That is in addition to the other ships also docked and unloading and the regular round-trip/resort-based visitors.

For places such as the tombs in the Valley of the Kings, which were never intended to have hundreds of visitors each day, visitor numbers are not only a logistical nightmare, but a real threat to the site.

Preservation schemes such as building walkways and viewing platforms alleviate some of the wear and tear problems, but ultimately, in some cases, the number of tourists per day and duration of visits must be limited. These procedures are being applied in places such as the Valley of the Kings and the Hypogeum in Malta where humidity levels as a result of increased visitors are destroying the site. Although visitors may get upset by such strategies, they have to be put in place for the long-term protection of the site.

But there are ways in which visitors can also help with preservation strategies. Responsible tourism can include timing visits during off-peak hours or off-season and visiting lesser known places, comments Lisa Ackerman from the WMF. The idea is to enhance the visitor experience, not restrict it. For instance, Pompeii is crowded mid-summer, but the ruins are open year-round.

Herculaneam is often far less visited, but suffered the same fate of destruction from the eruption of Vesuvius. We need to move people away from believing there is only one experience to have when you visit a country, a capital city, or famous spot, she highlights.

Damage Control

The Treasury - used as target practice in WWII. Image Credit - JK JohnsonThroughout the ages, apart from wars, ancient sites have been battered and bruised by individuals. Sites throughout Turkey, Egypt and the Middle East had crosses carved into them by the early Christians and more recently, amateur archaeologists such as Heinrich Schliemann butchered parts of Troy. Even the British army is guilty, for it used the Treasury at Petra and the Sphinx as target practice in World War II.

Weve all been trained to be respectful in museums and to refrain from touching the art or the walls; so too at historic sites. Tourism and heritage professionals need to do a good job of helping tourists understand the fragility of places, says Lisa.

Many ancient sites throughout the world now have signs requesting people to stay out of some areas and refrain from taking photographs. And bins are provided for litter. Signage works to some extent, but you still need attentive site officials and/or tour leaders to make sure the rules are adhered to. As Sula points out, Smaller sites need watching because although they attract fewer people, there are also fewer people to watch and make sure they are not vandalised. Sula also notes treasure seekers with metal detectors are causing problems at ancient sites.

The smaller tour operators are doing their bit in trying to drive the responsible tourism message home. Adventure travel specialists Tucan Travel ask that travellers respect signage, take only photographs and leave no litter or graffiti behind, even if others have done so. Do not attempt to bring home any rocks or stones or other souvenirs of the location and dont purchase such items from vendors as this can encourage the ongoing destruction of local areas of interest.

Generally speaking, because of the very nature of the tour, the type of people using the smaller tour companies probably already follow responsible tourism codes. That said, the excitement at being at a place can sometimes mar peoples judgement.

Take for instance Uluru (Ayers Rock). Compared with some ancient sites, it attracts relatively few visitors, drawing just 350,000 visitors a year. In years gone by it was traditional to climb the rock, and although the Uluru-Kata Tjuta national park service says the number of visitors choosing to climb Uluru has dropped from 74% in 1990 to about 38%, it still amounts to more than 100,000 people climbing the monolith each year. Jo George, owner of The Rock Tour, which specialises in small group outback tours in Central Australia, points out: apart from being culturally insensitive they are causing serious damage to the rock.

Ayers Rock is under threat of erosion from climbers. Image Credit - Digital Reflections.First we damage it by whacking whopping great big chains into it for the tourist and now were eroding it, says Jo. Theres a point about 40km away from the rock from which, when its wet, you can clearly see where the path is and the erosion its caused. Scary when you think it took millions of years to form, and in the space of about 60 years our actions have brought about such noticeable destruction.

Jo believes its up to the tour operators to ensure clients act responsibly. His company actively discourages clients from climbing the rock. Compared with other tour operators of a similar size, we average the smallest number of rock climbers in our groups, partly because none of our guides climb the rock.

Planning Tours and Changing Thinking

Jo also attributes the smaller numbers to the way he has planned the tour itinerary. Most operators visit the rock on the first day and then spend the next couple of days visiting Watarrka (Kings Canyon) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas), says Jo. We visit the rock on the last day of the tour, giving our guides the chance to speak to the group about the cultural aspects of the rock as well as the erosion, and the clients have the time to actually think about their actions before they do them.

His guides are not only knowledgeable, but are trained to think ethically, morally and respectfully. We have high standards which our guides have to abide by. They will be sacked if they dont.

This attitude is very much echoed throughout the smaller tour operators, who usually rely on word of mouth and repeat business.

Mike also highlights the importance of behaving decently with all the people who work with the tour. As well as visiting sites, both popular and off the beaten-track ones, his tours often encompass the cultural aspect of Turkey thus giving a holistic experience of the country. Often the guardians and guides at the sites give as many lasting memories as seeing the ancient sites themselves, he says.

The smaller tour operators tend to visit sites at less popular times, such as early in the morning. They include the off-the-beaten-track places and, because of the nature of the tour, the guides and tour leaders interact far more with their groups and thus have an influence on the way in which people behave.

Travel Industry Initiatives

Oftentimes, tourists lack respect for local cultures. Image Credit - David Evers

What the smaller operators have been practising for years, the travel industry now appears to be promoting: responsible tourism. The Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) boasts of being the first tourism industry association to incorporate into its business charter a commitment to Responsible travel and green tourism. Sustainable travel guidelines for its members are based upon five key objectives:

  • To protect the environment its flora, fauna and landscapes
  • To respect local cultures traditions, religions and built heritage
  • To benefit local communities both economically and socially
  • To conserve natural resources from office to destination
  • To minimise pollution through noise, waste disposal and congestion

Other companies such as, which offers access to over 300 responsible holiday tour operators, are actively encouraging people to think about their travel and make informed decisions as to how they take their holiday and how they behave when abroad. As pioneers in this field, took the step of acknowledging and rewarding the efforts within the tourist industry by launching the Responsible Travel awards in 2004.

Nearly all major operators, travel agents and travel industry bodies have something about responsible tourism on their web sites. This is all well and good at a corporate level, and is a great marketing tool, but whats the grass roots reality? Speak to anyone in the field, and youll find its a very different story.

One leading package tour operators web site sets out its responsible tourism policy with the words we respect the natural and cultural heritage of all countries and understand that this is an important part of the tourist industry. We will encourage our customers to respect the tradition and integrity of local cultures and aim to promote the purchase of local produce, where practical.

Dress Responsibly Too

However, people on a package tour holiday are some of the worst offenders.

The clients of these big operators are still walking around town centres and ancient sites in bathing costumes and showing tattoos. Who would go to their own local supermarket in a bikini or a pair of brief bathers, or, indeed in their bra? We see it here in Turkey, and you get the same behaviour in Spain, Italy or Dominican Republic. It really upsets the local people, who are torn between their natural inclination to welcome visitors as guests and their understandable revulsion at such unsightly and inappropriate displays of flesh, says Mike.

Furthermore, in my experience as both a holiday maker and a tour leader, some of their reps have little or no cultural knowledge or understanding, have no interest in the countrys history and their sole aim is drinking cheap beer and getting a tan. With these people setting the standard, its hardly surprising if the clients follow suit.

So how do the larger companies get their responsible tourism accreditation if this is the reality? The accreditation process is apparently a lengthy, paperwork-filled nightmare and the smaller operators who are already practising responsible tourism simply havent got the time or resources to gain official recognition for it.

The stadium, Aphrodisias. Image Credit - Hector16

The Future

Up and coming sites such as Sagalassos in Turkey need to be carefully monitored and managed, as do sites which will increase in popularity because of upgrades, such as the addition of the new museum wing in Aphrodisias.

Funding is always an issue when trying to tackle all the work needed to be done. There is not only the business of monitoring and maintaining the sites, but also careful planning for the development of roads and parking for tourist vehicles which need to be in harmony with existing characteristic buildings and vistas.

New technologies can be used to improve advocacy efforts but some simple methods to increase responsible tourism awareness can be used.

Mike suggests reiterating the messages at several key points in the travel process: Clients need to be told how to behave and dress appropriately for the different environments they will be in during their holiday. This includes being told when booking, when checking in, on the plane (info video etc) and then again on the transfer bus. By doing this, the basic behaviour expected in ancient sites and dress code suggested as a courtesy to the local people is reinforced.

We live in a vast and fascinating world. Today people often visit so many more sites than they might have thought possible. We have the privilege of seeing landscapes, streetscapes, historic buildings, the remains of ancient cultures and the extraordinary, unique places that define the world in which we live today. These are not just slices of history; it is very much the opportunity to understand how cultures around the world have evolved and adapted to social, economic, and lifestyle changes.

WMF and other heritage conservation groups strive to do so much more than simply fix old buildings. We want the public to understand these places to be cherished not only because they might be old or sacred or beautiful, but because they tell the stories of exceptional people who constructed them and care for them today.

The challenges ancient sites are facing in modern times are very different to what theyve seen in the past, but thankfully, theres an increasing army of organisations, businesses and individuals to help with the fight.

Without Evidence: Atlantis Theories, Slightly More Left of Centre

Plato has a lot to answer for when he wrote about Atlantis. Its been the inspiration behind TV series and Hollywood films; some even made for reasonable entertainment (think Captain Nemo and Man from Atlantis), and some, well sank (think Kevin Costner in Waterworld). Even James Bond, in The Spy who Loved Me, had an Atlantis element. He saved the earth from arch-villain Karl Stromberg, a powerful shipping magnate whose scheme for world domination was to blow up the land leaving the chosen few living safely beneath the ocean.

Atlantis has it all; an ancient thriving city with ambiguous plans to be a super power which disappeared somewhere into the ocean – perfect fodder for the imaginative theorist.

1. Atlantean Crystals

The renowned psychic Edgar Cayce first mentioned Atlantis in a reading in 1923. He proposed Atlantis was an ancient, now-submerged, highly-evolved civilization with ships and aircraft powered by a mysterious form of energy crystal.

This crystal was an Atlantean power crystal which gathered solar, lunar, stellar, atmospheric and Earth energies as well as unknown elemental forces. Cayce believed the Atlanteans used the crystal initially to rejuvenate their bodies and so had a youthful appearance despite being several hundred years old. He said the energy was also used to power crafts and vehicles which could travel on land, in the sky and under the sea at the speed of sound.

In the early 1970s this theory became popular again, when a naturopathic practitioner from Arizona allegedly found a mysterious crystal in a pyramid when he was separated from friends whilst diving from the edge of a submarine drop-off called The Tongue of the Ocean.

Although he hadnt a torch Dr Ray Brown entered the pyramid as apparently it was well-lit, though there was no direct light source. Inside he found a metallic rod with a red gem and a crystal sphere in a pair of metal bronze-coloured life-sized hands.

As Brown departed, he felt a presence and heard a voice telling him never to return. Dr Brown didnt tell authorities about the find or his experience until 1975 when he exhibited the crystal for the first time.

2. Location, location, location

Edgar Cayce also saw the location of Atlantis, with suggestions varying from the Pyrenees and Morocco to the Yucatan, in Mexico. However he suggested the Bahamas might be the best place to look:

There are some protruding portions… that must have at one time or another been a portion of this great continent. The British West Indies, or the Bahamas, are a portion of same that may be seen in the present. If the geological survey would be made in some of these especially, or notably in Bimini and in the Gulf Stream through this vicinity, these may be even yet determined.

Meanwhile, when the writer Graham Hancock put forward the theory that an unknown advanced civilization had existed on Antarctica, some suggested it was actually the lost city of Atlantis. Another suggestion for Atlantis location is the Celtic Shelf, the continental shelf surrounding much of England.

3. The Egypt connection

In one of Cayces readings, he said the civilization of Atlantis had entrusted their knowledge and technology to the ancient Egyptians, and even predicted that parts of Atlantis would rise in 1969. One of todays experts on the Giza pyramids, Mark Lehner started his Egyptology career as a follower of Edgar Cayce. Lehner first went to Egypt in the 1970s in search of the Atlantian Hall of Records which Cayce believed was buried beneath the right paw of the Sphinx.

Lehner converted to more traditional Egyptology after his initial journey to Egypt and went on to study in the American University in Cairo. He is now involved with projects such as the Giza Mapping Project.

4. The Nazi Quest

The Nazis pretty much touched base with every ancient legend/civilisation in their quest to find the origins of the Aryan race, and dominate the world with supernatural powers. And Atlantis was no exception.

Himmler was a member of the Thule society, named after the mythical land of Hyperborea-Thule. Some of the devotees believed Thule was the remnants of Atlantis. In 1935 the Ahnenerbe Forschungs und Lehrgemeinschaft (Ancestral Heritage Research and Teaching Society) was formed by Himmler tasked with providing scientific, anthropological and archaeological evidence to support the theories of the Thule Society and in so doing determine the origins of the Aryan race.

The science fiction writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton referred to the Thule in his novel The Coming Race, and inferred would-be world conquerors would receive a psychokinetic power called vril.

The Thule Society believed the mythical land of Thule lay between Greenland and Iceland. However one follower, Karl Haushofer, was convinced that the key to the harnessing of the power of vril lay in Tibet and in 1938 the Nazis led an expedition to study its inhabitants and explore the theory further.

(Author’s note:I think there’s a fifth Indiana Jones film in there somewhere.)


5. Atlantis in space

This list wouldn’t be complete without an alien theory, and the writer Alan Alford makes the case for Atlantis not being of earthly origins. Going back to its Egyptian roots, Alford claims Platos Atlantis was a political allegory or possibly an allegory for the creation of the universe.

He has suggested that Atlantis was in fact a metaphor for the primeval underworld, and was destroyed by a planet which blew up in some ancient era.

He writes: “This example of Atlantis, illustrates how the implications of an exploded planet cult in ancient Egypt extend well beyond the boundaries of Egyptology itself, leading to a radical reappraisal of the so-called ‘gods,’ which came down from heaven to Earth. The identification of these gods (the Anunnaki, the Nephilim, the Builder Gods of Edfu, for example) as meteoric planetary fragments inevitably begs the question whether God, the son of God and the angels of God are echoes of this ancient and profound inter-planetary creation cult.”

I am sure there’s far more theories out there – .But I wonder what Plato would think of all these?

For a more serious look at ‘Atlantis:The Evidence’, catch historian Bettany Hughestonight on BBC Two in the Timewatch Special.

Travel the Spice Route: Maps and Tips to Plan Your Trip

sinai spices sharm el-sheikThe ancient Spice Route (probably named as a result of the ancient Incense and Perfume routes) was an epic journey which initially began in Arabia, but eventually evolved to link Moluccas (the Indonesian Spice Islands) with Arabia and from there into Europe.

The route generally is believed to take in Malacca, Sri Lanka, and Kerala in India. At Kerela, it split into two, with one route to Europe going via Baghdad and the other Accra.

Arabia had the monopoly on the spice route for over 2000 years, and its said that both the Roman invasion of Persia in 24 BC and the discovery of America are partially attributed to Europeans wanting to break that monopoly.

The Spice route was initially an overland route but it later developed into a marine route. This resulted in Alexandria becoming a major port and the naming of its Pepper Gate entrance as a consequence.

Now I should imagine the route is predominately an airborne one, but visitors still go to these places, both for trade and holiday purposes.

Spices in Antiquity

The ancient Egyptians used spices in their embalming process as early as 3000 years BC and in 2600 BC, records indicate labourers building Cheops great pyramid were fed Asiatic spices to give them strength. Hatshepsut also brought aromatic herbs and spices back from Punt (modern Ethiopia/Eritrea).

Archaeological evidence in Syria suggest cloves, which could only be obtained from the Moluccas, were popular in Sumeria (circa 2400 BC) and there are even biblical references to the Spice route, with Joseph (he of the coat of many colours) being sold to a spice caravan by his brothers.

The Route in Arabia

The Spice Route through Arabia - Click the image to view a larger version.Perhaps the Nabateans can be credited with developing the first spice routes circa 950 BC when they began trading with India and China using camel and donkey caravans. These early routes focused on getting incense, perfumes and other spices that could bypass the Persians then be sold to the Greeks.

This route began in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, where some of the finer perfume and spice plants were already being grown. The spices then travelled north, following a route parallel to the Red Sea. There are reportedly approximately 65 resting stations along this section.

At Dedan, in Northern Saudi Arabia, the route divided with one veering north eastward, towards Mesopotamia, and two others towards the sea. These second two deviations ultimately brought the perfume, spices and incense to the Nabatean capital, Petra; one continued inland directly to Petra while the other went southward to the port of Leuce Come, on the east shore of the Red Sea. From there this route continued by land to Petra.

Once in Petra, the route splits again with one route heading north to Damascus, and the other heading west. This western route went through Israel to Gaza and from there to Egypt or to Greece and Rome in Europe.

There were two routes through Israel to Gaza; one taking in points at Moa, Mahaml, Avdat and Haluza and a secondary route via Hazeva, Mamshit (Mampsis) and Beersheba. This has been approved, recognised and acknowledged as the World Heritage Perfume Route by UNESCO since 2005.

Places to Visit

Travel in Saudi Arabia is can be difficult, particularly for single women, so perhaps its best to start at Petra. This magnificent rock city was the main point for spices arriving from the Far East and I assume, it was here traders would decide on what was to follow the northern or western routes.

There are specialist operators offering tours which take in the points of the Spice route in Israel and Jordan. Given the terrain and location of some of these sites, many of these tours, are done predominantly in 4x4s and involve camping (or glamping if you’re lucky). Along the route, as well as major towns, you can see the ruins of stopping stations for the camel trains, (known as caravanserais or kahns) as well as army outposts usually built on hills to protect the caravans with their valuable cargos.

Route via Moa, Avdat, Shivta and Halutza

Although the ruins at Moa, Katzera and Ein Saharonim are minimal, the surrounding scenery is stunning. You can often get glimpses of desert wildlife at Ein Saharonim which boasts of being the deepest point in the Ramon Crater.

Flour mill in MampsisFor more substantial remains, Avdat is definitely worth a visit. Situated 650m above sea level, some of its impressive structures include walls, pillars and Roman baths, Shivta has impressive arches and other structural remains.

Quite a few of the structures in Halutza were destroyed at the end of the Ottoman period, but you can still see walls and building remains.

Route via Hazeva, Mamshit (Mampsis) and Beersheba

Although Mamshit was quite a small city, it is one of the best preserved in the area.It has a bath house, and mosaics can be seen in the church.

Sometimes known as the capital of the Negev, Beersheba is a vibrant modern city. Excavations of the remains of ancient Beersheba began in earnest in the late 1960s and visitors can now see well preserved buildings such as houses, stables (or storehouses) and an altar.

Although it would be nice to visit the final part of the Spice route in Israel, currently the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office advices against travel in Gaza.

Pigeons, Post, and Spartan Runners: Sports PR in the Ancient Olympics

By ancient Olympic Games standards, the recent Australian Special Olympics IX National Games, an event held for athletes with an intellectual disability, were relatively small. As the Communications Manager for the games, my job was manic, but fortunately I had a team of volunteers to help coordinate the multitude of print and broadcast media on event as well as updating the Special Olympics Australia website, facebook and twitter at regular intervals throughout the day.

Between frantic phone calls, tweets and manically hitting of the send email option, I did ponder for a moment how promoting and communicating results to the masses for an event such as this must have been in ancient times at the original Olympics. For one thing, the communications manager (if there was such a thing) would probably have been a lot less stressed as there were fewer modes of communication! But how on earth did they get the job done?

Ancient Communications

Old Roman roadIn ancient Greece and Rome, to get the most up to date news, unless you were ranking high enough to be sent a piece of papyrus, youd have to wander down to the local agora and look for messages or listen to a herald. The original heralds were thought to be Spartan runners, much like the ill-fated runner of the first Marathon.

Having found out the news from the local herald, it would thereafter have been word of mouth. Instead of an instant click of a PC or mobile phone, there would be a whisper in the ear and it would be several hours or days until the whole city and then neighbouring towns knew about it. Unfortunately word of mouth isnt necessarily the most reliable form of communication (although you still shouldnt believe everything you see in the papers or on the internet either).

For a forthcoming event, there would have been a lot more planning in its promotions. Many ancient events such as the Olympic Games were based on rituals and hence scheduled around planetary activity. In some cases ancient mechanical calendars were used to decide on the date of the games. Once the date was established, several days or even months of travelling would have to be factored in to get the message to the appropriate audience and still give them time to travel to the event.

The First Postal System

The Persians were allegedly the first to develop a postal system, put in place in about 540BC by Cyrus to control his new empire. Obviously having a system which could send and receive messages quicker than rivals was a distinct advantage, and Darius improved the system a generation later.

He extended the network of roads across the Persian Empire, which enabled both troops and information to move with startling speed. The royal road from Susa to Sardis, about 3200 km, has posting stations where new men and fresh horses would be available at any moment to carry a document through the next day’s journey. This system sped up the time a message spent in transit, enabling it to cover up to 200 miles a day.

The ancient Egyptians were the first to domesticate pigeons and the ancient Greeks used pigeons to deliver messages from at least 5BC. Genghis Khan developed their potential fully, using them to carry news of each new conquest to back to Mongolia.

Beacons were used to denote victory or a warning, but fire was also used as part of the first semaphore system as described by the Greek historian Polybius (203-120 BCE). Both parties would have a set of five tablets on which the alphabet had been divided into groups of five letters. To send a message, the signalman raised a torch one to five times on his left side to signal the tablet from which the required alphabet would be obtained. He then signalled one to five times on his right side to denote the position of the character on that tablet.

And the Winner is….

Ancient Olympia Stadium - Site of the First OlympicsAs for publishing results, the Romans established a pretty elaborate display of gestures which could be read from afar where voices wouldnt carry. It should be noted at this point, contrary to what Hollywood tells us, the origins of thumbs up arent necessarily of Roman origin.

But for some fans, if they didnt live locally, they wouldnt find out if their favourite athlete or gladiator had won for several days.

A little different to today. Being cooped up in a press office most of the time, I saw very little of the Australian Special Olympics competitions but, thanks to email and mobile phones, I knew who’d won within minutes and could then distribute results to appropriate media at the click of a button.

On a personal note, and having mainly seen the four walls of a press office throughout the event, my lasting memory of the Special Olympics was participating in the parade of volunteers at the closing ceremony. As we did a lap of honour around the stadium to an audience of some 5000 people, the thunderous applause and sea of faces was positively overwhelming for those ancient competitors, being in a stadium of some 40,000 people, the experience would have been awesome.

How Safe is it to Travel to Cairo?

Main Street of Khan EL Khalili Bazaar #2The man with the toothless smile and sharp eyes beckons you over to see his papyrus, meanwhile another calls you to his perfume shop. Sales pitches vary: Special price for pretty lady or if youre male, You want something for your wife, not your wife? OK, for your mistress then?

Apart from the hassle of the hustlers and the danger of having an over-priced piece of papyrus on your wall when you get home, what other risks do you face in Cairo? Is it safe to travel there at all?

Cairo does have a certain charm, but a first visit can be daunting. As a result of the massacre at Hatshepsuts temple, and in the aftermath of the 7/11 attacks, there is heightened security. If youre not used to seeing armed soldiers or police on the street, this in itself can be unsettling and this is before you start thinking about why they are present. Being a predominantly Islamic country, tourists are a potential target. But tourism is Egypts main source of income. After the 1997 massacre, the whole country was shut down for three months, and with over a million visitors from Britain alone entering the country each year, Egypt is keen to protect its assets.

Relatively Safe

Compared to other cities such as Addis Ababa in Ethiopia and Karachi in Pakistan, both of which have high terrorist warnings, Cairo is positively safe. It hasnt got the dangers associated South American cities, plus there isnt a war on in Egypt. In my opinion, it would be unwise to start venturing into countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq at the moment.

At time of writing the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office states there are no travel restrictions within Egypt and according to the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, most visits are trouble-free. Out of the one million British national visitors, 558 required consular assistance in the period 01 April 2009 31 March 2010. There were a variety of incidents and offences including hospitalisations and a small number of rape/sexual assault incidents but by far the most common request was for help with lost or stolen passports. The website states that the majority of consular cases occur in Cairo and the Red Sea resort, Sharm el-Sheikh.

Passports are worth a lot of money on the black market, and tourists are targetted.Passports are worth a lot of money on the black market, and tourists are obviously targets. Residents and visitors alike are meant to carry photographic ID on them in Egypt, so carry a photocopy of your passport and leave the real thing in the hotel safe. Cairo is not alone with its problems with pickpockets. I have been pick pocketed in London and whilst in Rome a friend had toilet paper that resembled a wallet in their jeans back pocket removed.

There are general rules which any traveller should follow to avoid opportune crime such as pick pockets: dont wear anything which makes you look affluent, keep jewellery to a minimum, avoid obvious designer branded clothing and luggage, dont carry a lot of money and wear a money belt.

To avoid harassment, women in particular should dress modestly. This applies not just in Cairo but all over Egypt, although the Egyptians are more accepting of western dress in the resorts by the sea.

Don’t photograph officials, or anyone else for that matter, without their consent. Image Credit - David Dennis.

Safety Advice

It is always good to get off the beaten track and discover the real Cairo, but chose your area carefully. There are certain areas of western capital cities I would be very uncomfortable visiting, and some of the poorer areas of Cairo are no different.

Taxi drivers, shop assistants and even someone on the street may approach you and offer to show you the city. Be wary. The chances are youll be charged an extortionate amount for this guide and be dragged into numerous papyrus/jewellery/perfume/alabaster shops to help you part with your hard earned money; at worst, I have heard youll be threatened and be forced to hand over your wallet or taken to the nearest cash point and told to withdraw money, although these instances are rare.

Taking photographs is obligatory in Cairo, but the man on the camel at the pyramids will probably ask you for some money. Remember too, photography of or near military official installations is strictly prohibited and dont photograph officials, or anyone else for that matter, without their consent.

With over six million people living in Cairo, and a further 10 million living on the outskirts, it is hardly surprising traffic is another danger, and not because of the pollution. You take your life into your own hands with some taxi drivers, who in their aim to please appear to take enormous risks in the traffic chaos. One taxi driver once told me Egyptian roads do have markings, but theyre for decoration.

Enjoy the City of 1000 Minarets! Image Credit - Kate Andrews

Crossing the road can be a feat in itself, and people appear to be oblivious to the moving traffic. I would usually wait and cross the road in a crowd, working on the principle of the more people crossing, the less chance I would have of being hit!

Relax – Enjoy it!

Much of the above advice can be attributed to most cities around the world. I would give similar advice to people visiting for example Istanbul, Prague, and Athens. As a tourist, you are vulnerable simply because you dont know the area and your attention is focused on seeing the sites, not who is standing next to you.

Cairo is an electric mix of ancient and modern, and east and west; street sellers will entice you with nuts and falafels or you can have exquisite dining in one of the many fine restaurants. Designer shops are in the affluent areas, but try your bartering skills in the Khan El-Khalili markets. Plus there is the mystical call to prayer will wake you at dawn – Cairo is affectionately known as the City of 1000 Minarets by some.

Ancient Cairo and its sites have withstood millennia, and a trip to see the pyramids is a must. But also make sure you find some time to sit in a tea shop and watch the men smoking shisha pipes, smell the exotic spices in the market, take a boat trip on the Nile and generally immerse yourself in Cairos modern culture.

Love and War in Ancient Lycia – Antony and Cleopatra’s Romantic Turkish Getaway

Maybe its because Antony and Cleopatra did much of their romancing there, or perhaps its the azure sea, sandy beaches, traditional villages and lazy pace of life which make the Lycian coast in south west Turkey the ideal place for a romantic holiday – an experience that you can win in our Ancient World in London competition.

But the history of the Lycian Way is peppered as much with war as it is with romance, and its tumultous history helps make Lycia a fascinating area of Turkey to visit.

The mountainous, rugged territory behind the idyllic coastal scenery isolated Lycia from the rest of Anatolia, making the ancient Lycians fiercely independent and giving them a distinctive place in ancient Anatolian history. This independence caused the inhabitants of the chief city, Xanthos to make a funeral pyre of their own city and burn themselves alive rather than be conquered; first by the Persians circa 540 BC and the second time during the Roman civil war circa 42 BC when the inhabitants of Xanthos refused to assist Brutus.

Thought to be an indigenous pre-Hittite race, the Lycians had their own distinctive language and script and Herodotus wrote they reckon their lineage not by their fathers but by their mothers side.

The Lukkas of Lycia

xanthos house tombAncient Egyptian records referred to the race as Lukka and indicate the Lycians were allies of the Hittites. When the Hittite Empire collapsed, they emerged as an independent Neo-Hittite kingdom.

The Lycians were mentioned in the Iliad as allies of the Trojans, but in the 6th century BC, Lycia succumbed to the Persian Empire. After a little spat with Athens in 429BC, it was mostly left to rule itself during this time.

As an area Lycia organised itself to form the Lycian Federation. This was a democratic grouping, which consisted of 23 voting units and was charged with electing national officials and municipal authorities. These democratic principles are said to have influenced the United States constitution.

Lycia remained officially under Persian rule until it was conquered by Alexander the Great in 334-333BC. After his death, the Ptolemies ruled Lycia and Greek gradually replaced the Lycian language and Greek constitutions were adopted. Antiochus III defeated the Ptolemies in 197BC and he gave the kingdom to the Rhodians. This was bitterly disputed by the Lycians who succeeded in 167BC in having the relegation revoked.

The Lycians enjoyed a couple of centuries of semi-independence and the Lycian Federation came back into prominence.

In the Roman civil wars, after refusing to assist Brutus and gaining favour with Rome, Anthony reconfirmed Lycias autonomy and in 43AD the region was joined to Pamphylia. During this time, Lycias population reached around 200,000.

Chimera of OlymposLegend has it that the Lycian Federation prepared the island of Cedre (Sedir Adasi, also known as Cleopatras isle, situated off Marmaris) for the arrival of Cleopatra. To make Cleopatra feel at home, galleys full of sand was transported from Egypt to be strewn on the shore of Cedra. Analysis has since shown the sand isnt from local strata.

Decline started to set in when the province was divided by Diocletian in the 4th century AD which deteriorated further with Arab raids in the 7th and 8th centuries.

The Chimera and Other Myths

The area enters into many Greek myths. Lycia is linked to Crete as it was ruled by King Minoss brother, Sarpedon, a Cretan exile.

The natural burning flames near Olympos, known as the eternal fires of Chimera, are also thought to be the root of the Chimera legend. This fire-breathing monster, with the head of a lion, body of a goat and tail of a snake terrorised the area and was eventually killed by Bellerophon.

As an aside, the silhouette of the Chimera is the logo for the state-run Petrol Ofisi Turkish filling stations.

Rock Cut Tombs

Much of the Lycian architecture has been overlaid with buildings from the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The most recognisable structures from Lycia are the rock-cut tombs in the side of cliffs throughout the area, such as the ones at Dalyan. Other ‘free standing’ Lycian tombs are said to depict an upturned boat.

There is also the Harpy Tomb which was found at Xanthos. Dating from circa 5th century BC, the marble-reliefed tomb was set on a thick pillar standing over 7m high.

As the original is now in the British Museum, a replica has been placed at the site. It should also be noted, the Trilingual Stele found at Letoon, the spiritual centre of Lycia, had instructions in Greek, Lycian and Aramaic and was crucial in deciphering the Lycian language (read more about trilingual texts and their role in decipherment here).

Lycia is a stunning area of Turkey and is steeped in an amazing, but bloody history. The Lycian Way is a popular destination for walkers who will receive a traditional warm Turkish welcome from locals as they travel the ancient route.
My advice is to stay away from the resorts, and wherever possible find a secluded olive grove to contemplate the past of this rugged, but beautiful area.

To be in with a chance of winning a holiday in ancient Lycia, dive into our Ancient World in London series, and start earning points.

Boudicca and Cleopatra Get Sexy Makeover by Digital Artist Alexia Sinclair

At first glance, Boudica, Agrippinna, Cleopatra and Olympias (Alexander the Great’s mother) dont seem to have much in common other than being strong women accountable for a few deaths along the way. However, recently they have been joined together by a unique series of photographs entitled The Regal Twelve.

Depicting 12 diverse women from across the ages, the series of stunning, provocative, images celebrates the famous, infamous and the obscure. Award-winning Australian fine art photographer and digital artist Alexia Sinclair embarked on the project when she was studying for her Masters and was awarded a travelling arts scholarship and two postgraduate scholarships.

I come from a family of historians and we travelled in Europe when I was young, says Alexia. As I grew older, I became amazed by the history of the world.

When I started researching for this project I came across historical women I hadnt heard about and discovered rulers were not always wonderous and glorious, she continues. Plus I was really interested in the psyche of these women.

Choosing the Rulers

Choosing which twelve historical women to feature was no mean feat and involved a huge amount of research. I had to work my way through 2000 years of history after all, explains Alexia.

The Regal Twelve has taken over three years to complete, partly because of the research and partly because of intricacies involved in compiling each picture.

Sometimes Id do over 100 hours of research and find that actually only one hour was relevant to what I wanted, she says.

What was really interesting, was looking at the change in body shapes and looks throughout the different eras, adds Alexia.

The resulting images of these historical women are stunning. As described on her website, the portraitures have warrior woman-like and goddess-like qualities, each character is transformed through the incorporation of weaponry and armour into a sea of motifs and symbols designed to signify strength. This sense of warrior-woman is a quality that is suggestive of the strength of the modern woman and contemporary notions of beauty.

Tricks of the Photographer

Each picture is made up of different photographs blended to form one image. The backgrounds have been shot in a diverse range of locations, and not necessarily ancient ones, to get the components of the images Alexia wanted.

Plus, when I was photographing the models, I was a director, telling them about the history behind the character they were depicting, so they could be more like actors than just straight models, she says.

I guess Im blurring the line between painting and photography, says Alexia, who as well as making the models’ clothes, also illustrated the flowing hair onto the models’ images after the photos had been taken.

The mysteries behind historical figures will continue to inspire artists, business leaders and individuals alike. Margaret Thatcher has already been the subject of much artwork as has the late Diana, Princess of Wales. Perhaps Mati Hari or even Germaine Greer will also be the inspiration for artists in a few 1000 years time.

Ancient Female Rulers Included in the Twelve

Boudica The Celtic Queen. (AD 26 61)

Standing tall, proud and bare chested, the image predicts Boudica, the celtic Icenian Queen, in full glory and ready to lead her army into war. The horse is one of Australias top jousters while the landscape is a photo of the Hunter Valley, Australia. (See our video about Boudicca here)

Agrippina – The Poisoness (AD 15-59)

Accused of poisoning Emperor Claudius, Agrippinas weapon of choice, toadstools, are clearly depicted in the countryside. The ruins behind Agrippina, which portray her exile, are of a Roman outpost in Morocco. The more contemporary surrounding greenery is again from the Hunter Valley and the Lion, a symbol of Rome, is from a photograph Alexia took for a circus.

Cleopatra – The Seductress (69 BC 30 BC)

By modern standards, the Egyptian pharaoh Cleopatra was not classically beautiful, and its been suggested it was her mind, and probably her power, which were her main attractions. This picture shows Cleopatra as a modern day seductress, enticing men to enter her lair. The fateful asp is also shown. Alexia drew the hieroglyphed tomb wall of this picture. She photographed sand dunes near Newcastle, Australia and compressed the image to give the raked sand effect on the floor.

Olympias – The Sorceress (376 BC 316 BC)

The mother of Alexander the Great is seen here reclining on a rock under a large tree. She was a devout member of a snake-worshipping cult and according to one legend it was snakes which impregnated her with Alexander. The tree is actually in Centennial Park, Sydney, Australia, and the stone she is lying on is also in Sydney.

The other iconic women in the series include:

  • Alexandra Romanov The Last Czarina of Russia (1872-1918)
  • Elizabeth Bthory The Countess of Blood (1560-1614)
  • Catherine the Great – The Enlightened Empress (17291796)
  • Christina of Sweden – The Androgynous Queen (1626 1689)
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine – The Eagle (1122 1204)
  • Elizabeth I The Virgin Queen (1533-1603)
  • Isabella of Spain – The Catholic (1451 1504)
  • Marie Antoinette – The Extravagant Queen (1755-1793)

To see the full twelve and to buy a copy, visit

Alexia is currently researching renaissance rulers, warlords and falconers for a similar regal twelve male series. Let us know in the comments box below who you think she should include – we’ll pass on your suggestions to Alexia!

Camping Deluxe: Glamp Your Way Around the Ancient World

Safari operators in Africa realised several years ago that there were people who wanted to see the wildlife, but not shake dirt out of a sleeping bag and take a shovel to dig a loo at the end of the day. Now London-based Ancient World Tours, who specialise in ancient sites, is amongst a growing number of companies capitalising on this growing market, and offering camping holidays with a twist of glamour: glamping. I spoke to Managing Director Peter Allingham about the changing face of cultural tourism.

Although the name sounds like something a dodgy pop star would do, glamping(glamour camping)is giving some tour operators the edge in a competitive market. Having gained popularity in parts of Europe, America and Australia, glamping is rapidly becoming a part of a tours itinerary in countries such as Egypt and Jordan.

Innovative operators are actively promoting tours where you can be Indiana Jones during the day, then enjoy a sheiks lifestyle at night. Tours take you to the main sites such as Luxor, but after a day in the desert, hot running water, sit-down flushing toilets, four-poster beds and your own private terrace to watch the sunset are just some of the luxuries on offer when camping in Egypt with London-based Ancient World Tours.

A Big Dose of Arabian Chic

If youre visiting Jordan, Ancient World Tours not only take you to Petra and Jerash, but also offer you a glamp in Wadi Rum. Other tour operators, such as Abercrombie & Kent, claim to make the journey as comfortable as it is enlightening sticking to certain Jordanian traditions like travelling in camel caravans and bedding down in resilient, hand-made Bedouin tents, while making sure guests are taken care of with prepared meals, private toilets, and an inviting atmosphere of Arabian rugs, pillows, and candles.

Luxury travelling in ancient lands isnt exactly a modern phenomenon the pharaohs and high-ranking officials enjoyed a certain amount of opulence as they journeyed around Egypt or indeed, when they were sent off to the afterlife (see some of treats that King Tut had stocked up for the afterlife in this video).

Travel Like a Pharaoh

The difference now is that this style of travel isnt totally elitist. According to Peter Allingham, Managing Director of Ancient World tours, the types of people booking his tours are educated 35 60 year olds with an interest in seeing the country in comfort. “Plus theres modern technology to back you up in the unlikely event of things going wrong; satellite phones, spare tyres and engine parts are now included on the packing list, as well as a few modern health and safety accessories, such as safety belts in vehicles” he adds.

Ancient World Tour glamps in Wadi Rum include proper mattresses, pillows and sufficient space to stand up and store your luggage. “There is a large common tent in Bedouin style with comfortable bolsters and cushions to relax on,” explains Allingham. “In Egypt’s White Desert, we are starting to use our partner’s deluxe camp where there are full-sized beds under larger tents with furniture too”.

Having been a tour leader at the opposite end of the adventure travel scale, a bit of luxury to round off a dusty, tiring day seems very appealing to me. Crawling into a sleeping bag while still encrusted with desert sand or hovering over a hastily-dug hole, acutely aware that sound travels far in the desert night, are not some of the fonder memories of my tour leading days.

An Artificial Experience?

To some hardened explorers, the idea of glamping in places such as Wadi Rum is appalling. Wheres the holistic desert experience, or living like the ancients, when youve got a flush toilet and hot shower? Furthermore, are you really off the beaten track if youve got modern-day luxuries?

There really is something quite magical about escaping modern trappings and getting down to basics. There are no cyberspace viruses or dulcet mobile phone rings to interrupt your thoughts as you contemplate the ancient wonders youve seen that day. The credit crunch suddenly seems insignificant when youve got a full belly and the stillness of the desert gently envelops you with a mantle of unforgiving vastness.

But basics isnt for everyone and off-the-beaten-track places are not as exclusive as they used to be. The adventure travel operators introduced holiday experiences beyond the basic package over 20 years ago, leading tour operators to look for other unique experiences to offer their clients.

VIPTomb Access

Not only do Ancient World Tours offer a degree of luxury and less hardship in down time, but, because of their relationship with the SCA in Egypt,they also give their clients the opportunity of entry to officially closed sites. “Our passengers know that if they want to stand between the paws of theSphinx; enter the tombsof KV5, Amenhotep II & III, Seti or spectacular Nefertari that there are veryfew companies worldwide who can get them there. Our most recent trip included no fewer than 15 special entry permits,” says Allingham. At a time when tombs are being closed to the common tourist over preservation fears, tours like these may be the only chance for travellers to see the incredible tombs of King Tut and the pharaohs.

Ultimately, to survive, tour operators have to look at untapped markets and add new dimensions to classic tour itineraries. The perceived exclusivity and perhaps snobbery of glamping aside, for the paying public, time off is precious and is to be enjoyed. If wearing the little black dress for sunset cocktails on the veranda after a day of learning something new and scrambling round dusty ruins is the preferred choice of holiday, theres now a tour operator offering that exclusive dream getaway.

Of course, the ultimate way to explore ancient Egypt without getting dust in your lens cap or hassled by mosquitos is Heritage Key’s own King Tut Virtual. We don’t offer candles, cushions or a private veranda, but we can certainly offer the thrill of the ancient world, and an excellent chance to dress up.

Honey for my Honey: Ancient Aphrodisiacs

Quartzite figure of baboon

Although Viagra was launched onto the market in 1998 as the new wonder drug for virility, what the makers didnt realise is that its actually been around naturally and has been used since the time of the pyramids. In ancient Egypt, the blue lily was linked to fertility and sexuality and now, thanks to the recent chemical analysis by the Egyptian section of Manchester Museum, it appears there is a scientific reason for this link – the chemical make-up of this plant contains phosphodiesters, the active ingredients of Viagra.

The blue lily wasnt the only libido-booster used by the ancient Egyptians. Lettuce rated highly and was said to be the favourite food of the fertility god Min. Fennel dates back to Egyptian times as a stimulant as does ginger, together with pomegranates and radishes mixed with honey. Honey has long been an ancient love drug and with good reason it contains boron, which stimulates the sex hormones in both males and females.

The Egyptians were also fond of coriander or pearls dissolved in wine and apparently – one Im not so sure of – baboon faeces, which were used to enhance aphrodisiac ointments. Perhaps this is because not only was the baboon admired in Egypt for its intelligence but also for its sexual lustfulness.

Those ancients were a saucy lot and the ancient Egyptians were not alone in their quest for virility-enhancing substances. Indeed, the father of medicine, Hippocrates, and the Greek philosopher Artistotle recommended lentils to help out in the bedroom department.

Aristotle also apparently advised Alexander the Great to ban his soldiers from drinking mint tea during campaigns because he believed it to be an aphrodisiac. Hippocrates would disagree with Aristotle on this one though, as he believed the frequent consumption of mint-diluted sperm hindered erection and tired the body either way, probably best not to let soldiers drink mint tea when they are about to go into battle.

A few years later, the Greek historian Plutarch suggested the way to a strong libido was to eat fassolatha (a bean soup and the national dish of Greece). Other ancient Greek libido-boosters include onions, garlic and leeks although one wonders if the partner would agree with this…. however, they were often eaten with other libido-boosters, honey and sesame seeds.

Oysters are renowned for increasing libido, and in a satire written in the 2nd Century AD by the Roman writer Juvenal, he described the wanton ways of women after drinking wine and eating giant oysters. Another legendary aphrodisiac from ancient Rome which has withstood the test of time is the truffle, which is still among the most prized ingredients of the culinary world today.

Bible in Coptic and Arabic

Moving over to Asia, the Chinese culture has always regarded sexual activity as very sacred, but it still needs a bit of help from time to time. The appropriately named horny goat weed and ginseng were (and still are!) recommended and Deer Antler is another ancient Chinese remedy for sustaining stamina in the bedroom. Liquorice also has its roots in ancient Chinese medicine and it is one for the girls. Apparently chewing on its root is meant to augment ones lust. Another one highly prized by Chinese women as an aphrodisiac is nutmeg but be warned, if eaten in quantity, it can have a hallucinogenic effect.

Even the Bible proffers advice and makes mention of the root mandrake for its potent qualities.

Weird, wacky or unusual as they seem, as the recent analysis of the blue lily shows, under the scrutiny of modern science many of these ancient aphrodisiacs may have chemical stimulants which contribute to maintaining sexual hormone levels and/or sparking neurotransmitters that trigger feelings of love or sexual arousal. So next time youre on a hot date, dont forget your baboon faeces.

Take Only Photos (But Ask First!): World Monuments Fund Guidelines

Tourists in Roman Forum. Image Credit - Mitko_denev.Having been a tour leader for an adventure travel company, I was interested to read the recently published World Monuments Fund (WMF) guidelines for sustainable tourism, all of which have been inadvertently followed for years by conscientious tourists and tour companies.

Getting the Messages Across

But what is blindingly obvious to some, it is definitely news to others. I do distinctly remember seeing in Karnak a large group with a very attractive young lady whose attire was more suited to a swimwear catwalk rather than viewing an ancient monument in Egypt. Whilst I watched with some bemusement at her rippling muscled boyfriend get increasingly more annoyed at the attention she was attracting, I couldnt help wondering why the guide hadnt informed this lady she was in an Islamic country and bearing so much flesh was in appropriate?

Ten Sustainable Tourism Tips

  1. Before you travel, read up on the history and culture of your destination
  2. Walk – don’t drive – you’ll see more and reduce your carbon footprint
  3. Be as eco-friendly as possible
  4. Show respect for and interest in the local culture
  5. Visit lesser-known places off the main tourist trails
  6. Be mindful of visitor wear and tear to monuments
  7. Take nothing but photographs (ask first)
  8. Support the local economy by choosing local restaurants, and buying crafts from local artisans
  9. Help threatened sites, either through donations to organizations like the World Monuments Fund or by volunteering
  10. Raise awareness about responsible tourism by sharing your experiences on Facebook, Flickr, or your own travel blog

In a similar vein, whilst working in Turkey, cruise ships docking in Kushadasi would often operate day trips to Ephesus. I overheard one member of said group ask what the crescent and star represented on the flags she was seeing. When she was informed it was the Turkish flag, she asked “whats it doing in Greece?” Hadnt she been told she was now in another country?

Holiday reps, guides and tour leaders surely must play their part in driving these messages home to people who are not be aware of what their responsibilities as tourists are.

Package Tour Operators

I attended a friends wedding on a Greek Island a few years ago and the cheapest solution was to take a package holiday. The resort was purpose-built with the main focus on the pool and bar area and the reps knowledge of the island appeared to be limited to what day-tours were available and which were the cheapest bars. Finding a restaurant which served local cuisine and wasnt blasting out sky sports was a feat in itself and I positively cringed when I overheard a distinctly northern accent remark she said it was mashed potato, but it doesnt taste like mashed potato.

So how do you get the WMF guidelines through to the 2-weeks in the sun brigade, whos only interested in staying in a resort, getting a tan and drinking cheap beer?

Whilst the WMF suggests using the Internet to research countries, these types of tourists should be reminded they are visiting a foreign country. Travel agents who specialise in package holidays should include more information on the country being visited and remind their clients they are visitors!

Following the Guidelines

Not all the guidelines are easy to follow though. Sometimes its impossible to visit the suggested lesser-known sites by public transport or bike, forcing us to use a tour or taxi.

Recycling is not always an option when overseas where the emphasis is bringing in the money into the area rather than preserving the planet. Friends of mine recently stayed in Portugal and automatically separated their recycling from the rubbish, only to find there was no recycling collection.

The reality of finding eco-friendly hotels in some areas is impossible, but simple actions, such as taking shorter showers in water-sparse countries and turning lights off also contribute to reducing your carbon footprint and impact on the environment.


Panoramic view of ancient theatre of Epidaurus. Image Credit - Valellis George.Unfortunately, the very act of us being in a country will influence the area in negative ways as well as positive.

Asking if you can take a photograph is good manners, but the local often asks for money, because the last tourist gave him some.

Giving to local charities or larger organisations operating in the area as well as supporting the local artisans, patronizing local restaurants will all help to preserve the region.

Spreading the Message and Getting Involved

Using social networking tools and getting involved with volunteer projects all contribute to getting the message across, but old-fashioned talking about our responsibilities as tourists to our family, friends, colleagues and people in the pub helps too.

Travel has never been more affordable or accessible and we can help the WMF, the travel industry and other interested parties to help preserve what we see now for generations to come.