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World Highlights Tour

CYNTHIA WERNER, November 12, 2010

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I have been travelling as a lecturer for the past five days as a Travelling Aggie representative on the World Highlights Tour, organized by TCS & Starquest Expeditions. The trip started with an opening reception and dinner at the Dorchester Hotel in London, where I had the opportunity to meet many of the 88 passengers onboard this private jet tour of Turkey, Egypt, India, Jordan, and Morocco.  The passengers include people of all ages who are eager to see sites like the Giza Pyramids, the Taj Mahal and Petra.  Some of them are celebrating a significant honeymoon, some are travelling abroad for the first time, and some are trying to knock off a few destinations on their personal “bucket list.”  The logistical groundwork for this trip is amazing and ensures that passengers do not waste any time dealing with some of the typical inconveniences of international travel. For example, after touring several sites in Cairo this morning, we headed to the airport, walked through the airport to a shuttle bus, and then boarded our private jet for a short flight to Luxor.  About twenty minutes after we arrived at the airport, we were heading down the runway!  Then, when we arrived in Luxor, we immediately got back onto a bus to tour the Luxor museum, while our bags were magically transported to our individual rooms.

The trip is well named – we are scheduled to see all of the major highlights in each destination.  So far, one of my favorite highlights in Turkey was the visit to the Haghia Sophia museum, which was open exclusively to our group on an official holiday.  We learned how the former church had the largest dome in the world for nearly a thousand years, and many of the Christian images inside the church were covered with plaster when the church was later converted to a mosque.  In Egypt, the highlight so far was the visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza.  It’s difficult to imagine the amount of labor and ingenuity that went into the construction of these tombs.

On the flight from Istanbul to Cairo, I presented my first lecture on the looting and trafficking of Egyptian antiquities. The lecture covered the long history of looting in Egypt, as well as current efforts to repatriate Egyptian antiquities housed in major museums around the world.  Later that day, we viewed the King Tut collection at the Egyptian Museum, and the guide pointed out how many of the items from the tomb are located around the world.  Amazingly, the very next day, one of the passengers showed me a New York Times article about the Metropolitan Museum’s recent decision to repatriate items from King Tut’s tomb!
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