An assault on the senses – Welcome to Egypt!

I have travelled far and wide, but nothing…….no amount of reading nor research, could have prepared me for Egypt! It has been an assault on the senses in a variety of mind-blowing ways! Egypt requires you to use all of your senses… at once, which often proved to be a difficult, if not at the very least, a supremely challenging task. Not impossible though, as I believe that all things are possible, but, truth be told, this country has pushed me to the upper echelon of my highest limit!

Egypt is dirty, exciting, chaotic, frenetic and steeped in a multitude of ancient historical monuments! The people are as varied as the country itself…….kind, helpful, out for your money, and always hassling you. People want to chat! People want “baksheesh” (tips) for everything from lifting a bag to giving you directions! We met a plethora of supremely kind folk who were willing to give us their hearts! We met an equal amount who were eager to rip you off in a heartbeat! You work it out! We still haven’t, and we have been here just over three weeks. So, go figure…..we are still trying to!

Our introduction to Egypt was a good one. We met a young Egyptian doctor, called Basem, on the plane, and before we knew it, he was offering to drive us to our hotel. I must add here that we arrived in Cairo at midnight. So, upon arrival, he was picked up by his Dad, who was equally as sweet and helpful, and they proceeded to drive us to “our hotel”, which by the way, was not on the way back to their home. Our hotel was one that we had picked from our guide book. I mean, at 1.00am, it’s hard to do the usual check and scourge for a decent place to stay.

As we drove towards downtown, our heads were reeling. Everywhere around us, all the signs and publicity were in Arabic! Yes, yes, we know that that’s obvious, but we still could not read it! What a change from the, “This is easy, I understand Spanish” that we had experienced over the last several months. Everything looked so different, but we were too tired to take it all in. Upon reaching our hotel, we checked in and crashed!

If Cairo was confronting in the quiet and early hours of the morning, you should have seen it at 10.00am! Smoggy, polluted, car horns honking incessantly, and people trying to sell you anything from perfume to “sheeshas” (a typical Egyptian, water filled smoking pipe)….. and Ombi trying to take this all in, wearing a pair of (long) shorts and a singlet top, which clearly covered my cleavage. But, uh-uh, this was not going to cut it, and I was soon inside my hotel room slipping on a long pair of pants, and a longer sleeved t-shirt. I would soon add a scarf around my shoulders to that repertoire! It was either that, or be constantly stared at! Not trusting my Italian temper…..I opted for the scarf! Let me tell you that wearing long pants (which I did for almost my entire duration in Egypt) has been yet another challenge. I never knew that I had it in me to do this in nearing (and sometimes more than) 40 degree temperatures!

One of the first things that Alex and I both sadly observed about Egypt is how very, very dirty it is. Trash absolutely everywhere! In the streets, in museums, at outdoor archaeological sites, and pretty much anywhere else that bits and pieces could be shoved and thrown! Trash cans? What and where were they? Surely the government should thus assume some of the responsibility of a nation hidden beneath layers of rubbish. To be honest, it took away from many of the places we visited. When we went to the Great Pyramids at Giza, for example, we probably spent an equal amount of time viewing the garbage beneath us, as the spectacular pyramids above us!

Cairo is certainly a place that would take weeks to explore, so I think that we gave it our best shot in the 4 or 5 days that we spent there. There are so many components to the city, and we knew that seeing it all would be impossible. Before I go on, I would like to mention that, although statistics vary, the religious breakup of the country is as follows: 85% Muslim, 10% Coptic Orthodox and 5% other. Although there were so many absolutely beautiful and architecturally ornate mosques, there were also some equally as beautiful churches. We spent our first day wandering about, observing both the architecture and the people. We also wandered over to the historical Khan Al-Khalili, where there is a huge bazaar. It really is exactly like you see in those Indiana Jones adventure type movies……narrow cobblestoned streets, with vendors selling everything under the sun, from spices to stone statuettes of Tutankhamen. And let me tell you, here I was really able to gain a new insight into what it was like to be hassled. They would NOT let up….. I tried ignoring, hiding under my scarf, speaking in a made up language…all to no avail! They persisted on hassling and subsequently fraying my nerves!

A magic moment, or a magic few hours, was sitting outside one of the mosques near Khan Al-Khalili bazaar and chatting to some enchanting ladies and young women we met there. They could barely speak English, and our Arabic was pretty appalling (although by the end of our stay in Egypt, we had learnt quite a few words). They were beautiful people, and shared their food with us as well as buying us some more! Sign language, gestures and our guide book’s basic Arabic section, all helped out, and we were able to make ourselves understood. The moral of the story is that if your desire is to be understood, you will be! We felt humbled and honoured, and as we left, one of the young ladies hugged me and told me that she loved me! I walked away and cried! To touch someone’s heart in such a significant way, and then have them touch yours is a feeling beyond description. To feel the moment! I will cherish that forever!

Another day was spent at the infamous and extraordinary Egyptian museum of Cairo. More than 120,000 relics and antiquities from almost every period of ancient Egyptian history are housed here. Despite its fame, however, we were saddened , yet again, by the haphazard way that everything was thrown together, often leaving large slabs of history, literally, within arms reach of its visitors, many of whom took up the opportunity, to touch. As a result, many pieces are damaged and well on their way to becoming destroyed. Having said that, nothing can take away from what this museum actually houses. The highlights were the Tutankhamen Galleries and the Royal Mummy Room. We have seen the treasures of this young king a million times before on the likes of National Geographic, but seeing it live was something else. This young pharaoh ruled during the 14th century before Christ, from 1336 BC to 1327BC. I felt like I had become one with history, and was blown away by the antiquity! The Mummy Room…how does one explain what it feels like to be separated, by merely inches, from mummified beings that existed so very long ago! Five and a half hours later, and still not having seen the entire museum, Alex and I were hungry, thirsty, tired and suffering from “Pharaonic phatigue”. Time to leave. Of course, as soon as we stepped out the hassling would begin yet again…taxis, perfume, papyrus……..”La, shokran” (no thank-you in Arabic) would end up being a phrase that I would use endlessly and tirelessly, and eventually firmly, in a bid to alleviate the rigours of a country where…….to hassle or to hassle MORE….that is TRULY the question!

No trip to Egypt would be complete without a trip to the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, of course. Think Egypt, think pyramids! It would be like coming to Australia and not visiting the Sydney Opera House! Only 12 kilometres from central Cairo, the pyramids are actually the last survivors of the Seven Wonders of the World. The structures are monstrous, and their age and outstanding shapes truly illicit taking your breath away. I tried to ignore both the excessive trash as well as the lack of trash cans, and try to fathom what my eyes were beholding. Again, seeing them in documentaries paled in comparison to the vision that beheld me! There are many theories, but what we do know about these pyramids is that they were massive tombs ordered to be constructed by the pharaohs. What we don’t know was how they were built! As I looked up and stared, it was a magic moment! My mind wandered, and along with it a multitude of thoughts flooded my brain cavity! Alien constructions? As I peered skyward, the idea did not seem all that foreign! Perhaps even more spectacular than viewing them from the outside, was what we saw when we went inside. The lengths gone to, to ensure a safe and sacred central burial, were again, beyond comprehension. Tiny, cramped and lacking air, with thousands of tons of stone surrounding it on all sides………this is what the ancients had seen fit for their nobility!

It only took us a few days to work out how very hot and dry Egypt was. After all, besides the cities and towns that lie along the Nile, the rest of the country is total desert. To be more specific, the entire country is a desert, with the places along the Nile being more fertile. It is in this country where we learnt that water truly was our best friend! Alex and I had been drinking no less than 4 to 6 litres each per day! Any less, and exhaustion, dehydration , fatigue and headaches seemed to set in. Needles to say, we have had our share of all of the above during our stay here.

The food has been great too, with several vegetarian options. Falafel (fried broad bean paste), fuul ( beans), tahina (swsame seed paste) , baba ganoush (made from eggplant), lentil soup, aish (bread), shawarma (kebabs). As usual, Alex and I try and get to the local hangouts – much cheaper, and usually tastier than the tourist options. Lipton’s must love Egypt! They drink lots of tea here (specifically Lipton’s), as well as ahwa (coffee). Ahwas are also the names give to the local coffee houses, where in addition to Lipton’ tea, which is usually drunk without milk but with sugar, you can also smoke a sheesha, or water pipe. We did not try it, as neither of us smoke, but it’s quite interesting to watch the locals.

Coffee houses are mainly frequented by Egyptian males, and foreigners, although we noticed that some young women are making inroads into this ancient pastime, which seems to be so very much a man’s world in Egypt! I must add that we have both been bowled over by the amount of men that smoke in this country…and that’s just cigarettes! You rarely see women smoking!

This has been only a sliver of what we saw, felt and experienced in Cairo. Where to next? We looked at the map, and figured that an oasis sounded exotic, and figured that it certainly would be fun! But which one? The Siwa Oasis, of course! Why? Of all of the oases it was the farthest away, and so we figured that it may be a little less touristy and isolated. But, did we know how hot it would be?

“The art of life lies in a constant readjustment to our surroundings.” – Okakura Kakuzo.

Until the next installment, Ombi.

Photos: 1.-View of the Citadel from the top of a mosque, Cairo. 2.- On the streets of Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar. 3.- View of Cairo with the pyramids in the background. 4.- One of the courts inside a mosque, inside the Citadel, cairo. 4.- Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar. 5.- With some of our new Egyptian friends, mosque near Khan Al-khalili. 6.- Pyramids of Giza, Cairo. 7.- Looking towards Cairo; view from the Giza pyramids. 8.- The great pyramid of Keops at sunset.

The ¨Americas¨ sojourn comes to an end.

Again, both Puebla and Taxco were places that I had visited on my last Mexican trip, but I remembered both fondly, and embraced the opportunity to be able to “show” Alex. The beauty of this world trip has been both experiencing new places with Alex, as well as revisiting places that I have already visited, also with Alex! I must say, the sharing has been phenomenal! The experiencing of new things together has been amazing, but going back to places already visited and being able to share them with my soul mate has also been a unique as well as an extraordinary experience.

Puebla is very close to Mexico City, and the largest place we had been to in ages. It is also renowned for its superb food. As it is quite large, it did not seem as intimate as the places we had been to in recent months, but again, if you take the time to walk, probe and explore, the little treasures that can be found are astonishing. Puebla has many colonial pockets, which can again be seen in its various buildings and edifices, many of which are adorned with the ¨azulejos¨(painted ceramic tiles), for which the city is justly famous. We only spent a couple of days here, but as usual, we wandered around, visited markets, and chatted to the locals.

Taxco, or Silver City, was next. I had forgotten how beautiful this little silver mining town really was! Clinging to a steep hillside, its extremely narrow cobblestoned streets twist and turn when you least expect them to, revealing awe-inspiring views at almost every turn. Rather than ¨Oh no, not another colonial city¨, Taxco was literally, a breath of fresh air! Unlike many other colonial Mexican towns, it has not become swallowed up and surrounded by industrial estates. What this means is a view that is truly postcard-esque!

Taxco is reknowned for its silver mines and subsequently its many shops selling quality silver jewellery, both wholesale and retail. It was very easy to wander the winding roads and alleys and pop into several of the plethora of silver shops in town. Subsequently easy, was buying a few
choice pieces. I did not have the advantage of buying wholesale this time, and although considerably more expensive than Asian silver, the quality is far superior. Did I become really excited over all the silver jewellery after 5 years of having had a business selling it? No, not really! Alex and I had some real reflection time here! We had a great 5 years in the jewellery business, but neither of us would consider doing something similar again! That was then, this is now!

Perched up on a hill, on one of the highest points in Taxco, is a Rio de Janeiro-like statue of Christ. The walk up took about an hour, and although steep in places, it was well worth it. What can I say about the views? Just when you think it can´t get any better, it does!

Last, but certainly not least, Mexico City…….that huge sprawling metropolis which is home to some 18 million Mexicans! Consider that it is almost the entire Australian (20 million) poulation! As we entered the outskirts, and the traffic picked up, as well as an the insane amount of cars, we tried to conceptualise its enormity.

Once we arrived at the southern bus terminal, we made our way to my friend Claudia´s house, in San Angel, a picturesque and safe part of town. I met Claudia on my last trip to Mexico in 1999, and we have stayed in touch ever since. That first night the three of us stayed up into the early hours of the morning, chatting about a multitude of things. It´s always lovely to be able to intoduce Alex to the friends I have met whilst travelling.

The next day, along with Claudia, we went into the city centre and did some of the touristy things, like visiting the huge Zocalo (or central square), and various markets, including the quirky Mercado de Sonora, which supposedly has all the ingredients for Mexican spells and healing. All things esoteric are up for grabs here, from potions on how to find your true love to a ¨limpia¨, or spiritual cleansing. Some things were a bit OTT (over the top), but it´s all part of the experience!

We walked a lot that day, and saw a lot of the city. We watched the world go by as people wheeled and dealed anything from fake copies of movies and CDs to 1 dollar sunglasses (and thus I was able to pick myself up another pair, let´s see how long these ones last!). It was a hubbub of activity!The next day we visited Teotihuacan, 50 kilometres from Mexico City. It was once Mexico´s biggest and most ancient city, the culture even preceding the Aztecs. Its enormity was overwhelming, as unlike Palenque, it has no jungle to hide amidst or behind. It was us, the monuments, and the sun! The impressive pyramids of the Sun and Moon are what the site is mostly famous for, as they loom high and large, and appear to dwarf the rest of the city!

Xochimilco is another interesting place in Mexico City. On the outskirts, in the south, it lies on a series of canals and waterways, where you can take a gondola-type boat, and cruise these canals. It was raining when we went, so we did not indulge, but apparently such a trip, includes people in boats selling anything from food to flowers, as well as musicians strumming their tunes. I would immagine that it would be something akin to the floating markets of Bangkok.

The day before we flew out to Egypt, we decided to visit the, also justly famous, National Museum of Anthropology. As far as I am concerned, it is amongst the top 5 museums I have visited in the world! It sits at the top, in my eyes, due to the presentation, and quality of information and artifacts. We spent 4 and a half hours there and were still unable to see it all! The museum is vast, and to do it justice, it truly needs a repeat visit. Easier said than done! Alex and I were astounded by the number of different peoples and cutures of Mexico, and it appeared as if each region was a different country! Oh, to be able to see it all! Hopefully, we will
be back. We left, physically and mentally exhausted! That night, we also spent relaxing and chatting to Claudia. We tried to watch a movie, but too exhausted, we fell asleep!

Finally, it was our last day in Mexico, and thus in the Americas! We took it easy, got ourselves organised, packed our bags, had a great last couple of Mexican meals (thanks to our personal chef, Claudia), and then the three of us made our way to the airport, via public transport, of course. Again, we were forced to say goodbye, and both Claudia and I had tears in our eyes….Claudia we await you in Australia!

Wow, we had seen and done so much! Everything from climbing mountains so high that our limbs ached with pain, to seeing children desperately search for food in a tip! But it was all worth it! We lived, we laughed, we cried and we learned!

Time to move on! Another day, another country! Egypt, here we come!

“To aquire knowledge one must study. To aquire wisdom one must observe.” – Jordan Dykes.


Dedication:
This one is for you Alex! You are my passion and my joy! You are my truly amazing, compassionate, intelligent, sensitive and extraordinary partner, husband and soul mate. Travelling with you has been the experience of a lifetime, and despite all of my travels, this has been my favourite trip to date! Thank you for your love and acceptance, not only of me, but of the world! I hold you close to my heart and my soul, and that is where I keep and will continue to keep your energy and spirit for every existing second in this lifetime, as well as future ones! I am so incredibly proud of you, and I admire and adore you! You will never walk alone!

(Photos: 1.- Cowboy kid (future Pancho Villa), Puebla. 2.- on the streets of Taxco . 3.- Taxco- beautiful terracotta rooftops and colonial buildings. 4.- The Zocalo, or central square, was alway known as, and continues to be a central meeting point, centre of Mexico DF. 5.- Ombi and Claudia -Dreaming about how life was in Teotihuacan, near Mexico City. 6.- Colourful boats on the canal, Xochimilco. 7.- The infamous and original Aztec Sun Stone, found at Teotihuacan. Anthropology Museum, Mexico DF. 8. Ombi & Claudia, eating some of Claudia’s home- made enchiladas, with some extra hot and spicy sauce. )

The many faces of Mexico.

Despite our four blogs on Cuba, I still feel that there was so much that I excluded. This was not intentional, but rather every time I touched on a topic, I felt like was opening up a whole new big can of worms, unable to control the tangents produced! Hopefully, we will be able to share many more Cuban tales face to face.

Last but not least, these are our final blogs on the Americas, (as we publish this blog, we have already spent over 3 weeks in, and are about to leave Egypt. Although hard to believe, we have already surpassed the nine month mark! This time has been spent in North America, including Canada and Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean). Whilst we have enjoyed ourselves immensely as well as seen and learnt a lot, we also feel ready for a change of pace and culture.

So, here are our Mexican tales:

Our last three weeks here have been exciting and varied, which includes the food! We both agree that Mexico has, without a doubt, the best food in all the Americas! That´s a huge statement to make, but with the variety of ingredients, sauces and variations as well as takes on many recipies, it´s not a hard claim to make or justify! Mexico´s cultural blend, which includes the Maya and the Aztecs, has added not only to their culture but to their cuisine. Once we landed back in Cancun, we underwent a reverse culture shock, as we were thrust back into ¨comercial-landia¨. Everything Cuba had lacked,
Cancun made up for 100 fold, and Alex and I found ourselves in a deep discussion about what is worse, too much or too little! We both have our views, but let’s leave them for when we come home and can catch up face to face.

We spent only a couple more days in Cancun, the intention being to re-stock on
all the bits and pieces that we had either given away or used up in Cuba,
and catching up on our e-mails and blogs. Once those tasks were
accomplished, we checked out of ¨Resort Capital¨ (we saw nothing of this
side, as we had absolutely no interest!), and caught an overnight bus to the famous Palenque ruins. This ancient Mayan site, similar to Tikal in Guatemala, is also situated in the
jungle. Also similarly, it is hot and humid. It is exactly the dense
jungle covering the hills surrounding Palenque which adds to its mysticysm
and splendour.

Our Lonely Planet Guide to Mexico says, ¨As you explore the ruins, try to
picture the gray stone edifices as they would have been at the peak of
Palenque´s power: painted blood-red with elaborate blue and yellow stucco
details.¨ As I walked around and tried to behold this vision, and the howler
monkeys screamed incessantly from the jungle canopy…… I think I saw it! I
truly think I saw that mysterious and ancient Mayan city!

Palenque was a bit of a hit and run, with its main attraction being the ruins. Having said that, a walk around town and the markets always gives a
fabulous insight into the culture. It´s always a brilliant way to find authentic food as well as meet the locals!

Our next stop was San Cristobal de las Casas, in the state of Chiapas. The road between the two towns was spectacular, with lots of lush, rolling mountains, steep drops, steamy lowlands, cloud forests and winding roads. A little too windy in fact! Actually, windy enough that I felt sick enough to vomit into a plastic bag (always a good thing to keep on hand). I watched as my breakfast of mango and yoghurt morphed into a mango smoothie! OK, too much information, I know! In the process of all that hullabaloo, I lost (yet another pair!) of sunglasses, which is why I
categorically refuse to spend more than a couple of dollars on any given pair!

I love San Cristobal! I loved it 8 years ago and I loved it again this time! It is reknowned because of its Zapatista rebels, who in 1994 chose it as one of only four places in Mexico to launch their revolution, which was basically a pro-indigenous struggle.
(Video: Free Speech by Ohki Simine Forest).

San Cristobal is a colonial highland town, with warm days and cool nights. Its cobblestoned streets are a pleasure to explore, and although windy, not quite in the ¨smoothie¨ type of way! We ended up staying at a hotel called Posada Mexico, which was managed by a terrific bi-lingual guy called Omar (posadamexico@hotmail.com). It was right in the heart of town, and had great
ammenities including free breakfast and internet, as well as the use of a kitchen. Veggie, here I come!

The best part of this hostel, however, was the people we met: There were Sam, Ollie, Jack and Zoe from the UK, Nick Gone Walkabout (check out his site, (www.nickgonewalkabout.co.uk) also from the UK, Koen and Willemyn from Holland, Riccardo from Italy, and Pascal from Switzerland. We had some great times talking about everything from politics to religion to throwing cigarette butts on the ground (a reknowned pet peev of mine!) There was lots of debating and discussing, and although the consensus was not always mutual, the vein of thinking made me realise that I was not alone in the world! Thanks guys, it´s always a bonus for Alex and I when we realise thatwe are not the only aliens on this Earth!

The town is indeed surprisingly attractive, especially the various facades of different churches and buildings. It´s a terrific place to just cruise, wander and take it all in. There are many men and women wearing traditional dress and selling their wares. We also visited the Museum of Mayan Medicine, which was very interesting and informative. The alternatives to modern medicine are many, and these people have been safely and effectively practising this way of
healing for centuries. (www.medicinamaya.org)

An insightful day trip from San Cristobal was to San Juan Chamula, 10 kilometres away. It has a very stong, traditional and tightknit Mayan community who are from the Tzotzil group. Both the women and men dress as they did centuries ago. It was especially intriguing to see the men in
their traditional dress. As we went on a Sunday, we were able to see both the weekly market, which is held on this day, as well as the Sunday celebrations outside the central Catholic cathedral. Like many other indigenous groups, their religion is a fusion of Catholicism and their own traditional religion, making way for some very unique religious practices. Sitting back and watching the men partake in a ritual in the central plaza was a real eye-opener.

From Oaxaca, we also did a day trip to the Sumidero Canyon, with Otisa Travel (www.otisatravel.com). The Grijalva river runs through the canyon creating a 25 kilometre reservoir. The trip culminates when you reach the hydroelectric dam, and then of course you must turn around and return to the point of origin. It is a truly spectacular fissure in the earth, and the views afforded from the boat which we took to view it were impressive! The towering rock walls, interesting rock formations, wildlife and crocodiles kept us more then entertained for a couple of hours. Before heading back to Oaxaca, we spent an hour or so in a little town called Chiapa de Corzo. Whilst the others in our group went and got some lunch, we rushed off to to the ruins of an old church on top of a hill, which provided us with some more dramatic views.

Next, and another overnight bus trip away, was the town of Oaxaca, also in Oaxaca state. Unlike Central America, we would undertake many overnight trips in Mexico. The country is huge and the distances great, just take a look at the map! Oaxaca is yet another colonial and cobblestoned town, but with an energy quite different from San Cristobal´s.

We were exhausted upon arrival, and were dreading the search for a place to stay. I was in no mood to walk around with a heavy backpack, but a girl´s gotta do what a girl´s gotta do! The search came to a fruitful end, and we ended up staying right in the city centre at a place called El Atrio (www.mexonline.com/elatrio.htm). Run and owned by a delightful Mexican/French couple, Luz Maria and Jean-Marc, it was clean, safe and comfortable. We had some very absorbing and thought-provoking conversations with Jean–Marc about the protests that occurred here just on a year ago (Oaxaca protests). Again, they were socially motivated. I think that it is simply human nature to want and aspire for some poitive type of quality of life!

The food in Oaxaca was amazing! I may have already mentioned that Mexican cuisine is exquisite! Mole (pronounced mo-lay) is a sauce that is included in many dishes, and sometimes contains chocolate. ¨Gorditas¨(or fat ones) are thick tortillas filled with various ingredients, including broad beans, cheese, mushrooms and meat, and topped with, amongst other things, nopales (sliced cactus paddle!) They are then dressed in one of a variety of piquant sauces. Lush! They certainly had me licking my chops! The “real” Mexican food makes our western version (which the Mexicans call tex-mex) appear very lame! Nachos, burritos and cheap & nasty cheese, please move over!

Visiting the ancient Zapotec capital of Monte Alban was definitely another highlight. Only kilometres away from Oaxaca, it sits on a flattened hilltop a little under half a kilometre above the valley floor. As far as I am concerned, it is one of the most impressive ancient sites in all of Central America and Mexico, and its 360 degree views, without a doubt, adds to its grandeur. Alex and I spent hours here, looking around, feeling the energy, and wondering what life must have been like for these ancient peoples!

That night, Alex and I sat down to discuss what and where we would go to next. As our around-the-world ticket expires on the 18th of August, we decided that we would have to pick up the pace in Mexico, or we would get to Europe with very little time left on our ticket. If Mexico is big, the world is even bigger!

¨ The only way to make sure people you agree with can speak, is to support the rights of people you don’t agree with.¨
– Eleanor Holmes Norton ………..(How is that for food for thought!)

Ombi

Next: Puebla, Taxco and DF (Mexico City).

(Photos: 1.- Lunch – Preparing traditional Mexican tacos, Ombi style, in San Juan Chamula.
2.- The ancient Mayan site of Palenque, Chiapas state. 3.- Mayan paintings. 4.- San Cristobal de las Casas at sunset, central plaza church. 5.- With our new friends from Hostal Mexico in San Cristobal. From left to right: Alex, Pascal, Jack, Zoe, Nick, Ombi. In front, Ollie and Sam. 6.-Men wearing traditional dress, San Juan Chamula. This is a Mayan community from the Tzotzil group, Chiapas. 7.- Sumidero Canyon. 8.- Early delivery of Corona beer, Oaxaca. 8.- On top of the Mayan world, Oaxaca. Monte Alban was the capital of the ancient Zapotec kingdom.)