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By: Idries J. Abdur-Rahman, MD
Anybody that knows me knows that I believe travel is a transformative experience meant to indulge all five senses, an experience that makes life richer and fuller. I really do love every part of the travel experience (well I’m not a huge fan of flight delays) BUT there are still those standout moments that forever change who you are. So, I have decided that every month (or so, I have to be honest here) I will write about one of my life changing travel moments. Some may be big, others less so but they are all experiences that have in some way touched me. So, here we go………….
One of my favorite travel memories occurred with my youngest son out on the frozen tundra outside the northern Swedish town of Kiruna. Any Northern Lights (aka Aurora Borealis) hunter knows that to see the Northern lights you have to go….well, you have to go north. Now technically, you can also see the Lights in the southern hemisphere (where they are called the Aurora Australis), but to see these you have to be in Antarctica, a continent that I would one day like to visit but a place that has a decidedly under-developed tourist infrastructure. So, north it was for us. For many years, my son and I had wanted to experience the Northern Lights and the year prior we actually took a trip to Tromso in Norway where we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the lights through it was very faint and short lived. We left Norway happy that we had at least seen the Northern Lights (albeit for only 15 seconds) but we were also disappointed that we really didn’t get that full Northern Lights experience.
No parent likes to see their child disappointed, it just runs counter to our inner drive to make sure that life brings them nothing but the best at every turn. My youngest son however has Aspergers Syndrome and rightfully or wrongfully I have always felt just a little bit more protective of him. I’ll admit that this is probably my way of trying to make right some perceived cosmic wrong, my unconscious over compensation for a world that doesn’t always see him or treat him the way that it should. Now, for those of you that don’t know, many children with Aspergers (and other Autism spectrum disorders) tend to fixate on random things (for years Noah’s fixation was tornados and storms), so when my son began to fixate on seeing the Northern Lights, I really wanted to make that happen for him. Sure, we had a great time in Tromso but I still felt like fate and I had been unable to deliver what he wanted.
HIT THE ROAD AND MAKE YOUR HEART HEALTHY!
By: Dr. Idries J. Abdur-Rahman, MD
As a self avowed travel junkie, it really doesn’t take much to get me on an airplane (a truth my wife most certainly will attest to). Oh my God, that fare is so low honey, we just have to go! Well yeah, that fare is a bit high but if we wait it will probably just get higher! Wow, I have two weeks off and nothing to do, lets go somewhere. Jeez, I’ve been working nonstop and I am so stressed, lets go somewhere! It’s a never ending litany of reasons/excuses and I’m okay with that, no travel shaming here. Yes, I am filled to the brim with steaming hot wanderlust; experiencing new people, places and cultures is my crack (I know that’s not dignified, but it is what it is). Anywhere but here is my happy place!
Unfortunately, most people don’t suffer from my affliction. As a matter of fact, the good ole U S of A (my home sweet home) along with our North American neighbors Mexico and Canada are among the world’s most “vacation-poor” countries meaning we receive fewer vacation days per year on average and we use only a fraction of what we receive. Joining us on the list of vacation-poor countries are the Asian nations of Japan, Singapore and South Korea. On the flip side, some of the most “vacation-rich” nations (nations that on average receive and use more vacation time) include the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland) along with Germany, France, Spain, and Brazil. Do you think it is a coincidence that the Scandinavian countries are also consistently ranked amongst the happiest in the world? There is an undeniable link between taking time for ones self and ones overall level of happiness. As a travel junkie and a doctor however, I have always felt that it goes further than that. I have long believed that travel not only makes you happier but it also makes you healthier. Well, thank you science because not only have you proven me right once again but you have also given me yet another excuse to travel.
RETURN OF THE CHINESE BODY SNATCHERS!:
By: Dr. Idries J. Abdur-Rahman
The phenomenon of the Ghost wedding or Mínghūn (冥婚, which translates to “spirit marriage”) has been a tradition in China dating as far back as the 17th century BC. Many in China believe that the spirit of a person who dies before marriage will wander the afterlife lonely and aimless. As time passes, these spirits will become restless and angry leading them to return to earth to haunt and curse their surviving family members. Preventing such an outcome is the primary reason for the Ghost Wedding. If a deceased person is united with another peron in marriage even after they have died, the two souls will spend eternity together and never return to earth. Even though Ghost Weddings were outlawed by the Chinese government in 1949, as China becomes more wealthy they seem to be making a comeback.
In traditional ghost weddings, the bereaved family employs the services of a spirit world matchmaker whose sole job is to find a suitable spirit spouse for their deceased loved one. This involves getting to know the likes and dislikes of the dearly departed and finding another departed soul with whom they would likely be compatible. Once a suitable match is made, the families meet and if they agree on the suitability, they arrange the wedding ceremony. The ghost wedding ceremony is much like any other ceremony and it includes a dowry (usually money or jewelry), the exchanging of vows and a post-wedding celebratory feast. The bride and groom are usually represented by dolls made of paper maché and bamboo dressed in full wedding regalia. At the reception, the happy couple is surrounded by paper cut outs that represent things that the couple would use in their daily lives (furniture, money, etc.). Once the ceremony is complete, the actual corpses are exhumed from their original graves and reburied together in a single grave. The paper cut outs are burned so that the items will accompany the new couple to their home in the afterlife.
“Travels with Darley” is a popular web and TV series that is featured on AOL, Amazon, the Huffington Post, MSN Travel, PBS and Create TV. Dr. Jamil was recently asked by the good folks at Travels with Darley to write a guest post about one of his favorite cities. A city that he also happens to call home, the one and only Chicago. Check out a snippet from his guest post below.
A Chicagoan’s Weird, Wild and Sort of Wacky Travel Guide to Chicago
Chicago local Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman of The Twin Doctors Travel Bag shares the best of cool Chicago.
While many may affectionately call this bustling metropolis by the lake, this Gotham of America’s breadbasket, this hub of transport, business and culture the nation’s “Second City”; I as a proud Chicagoan am here to tell you that Chicago takes a back seat to no one and nowhere! So, as a city that is truly second to none, Chicago has a little something to offer everyone. From those visitors with highbrows to those visitors who are browbeaten. From those visitors with the virtues of a saint to those visitors with the vices of a sinner. If you can’t find something to do in Chicago, well then my friends simply put, you’re just not looking hard enough…….
Read the rest of Dr. J’s guest blog on Travels with Darley.
The Dublin Flea Market, Merrion Square and “Slán go fóill“ Ireland
Dr. Jamil and The Twin Doctors Travel Bag spend the final day of their Ancestry.com inspired “Heritage Tour” of Ireland exploring the Dublin Flea Market, the Merrion Square Art Exhibition and the Dublinia interactive living history museum.
The Dublin Flea Market
So folks I have a confession to make today, and this really is difficult for me to say. In fact, I don’t know that I’ve ever actually said this before; but here goes. In addition to me being a shameless over-consumer of Irish Soda Bread; and in addition to me being someone who is powerless over his addiction to Irish Soda Bread, I am also an antique loving purveyor of all things bric-a-brac and junk. Some might call me a shameless debris picking, refuse and rummage sifting junk addict. But I personally chose not to use those adjectives to describe myself. I find those adjectives to be hurtful and judgmental, and frankly people they do little for my self-esteem. So I would prefer to call myself a “Purveyor of All Things Antique, Vintage and Slightly Worn”. Quite a title I know, but it does have a ring to it you must admit. And know that if there is a flea market or an estate sale to be visited, then no matter the day, no matter the time and no matter the location, I am there. And I will rescue all things antique, vintage and slightly worn!!!! And so on my final day in Ireland it should come as a surprise to no one that I took a few hours out of my day to visit the Dublin Flea Market.
Limerick, Shannon, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher
Dr. J and The Twin Doctors Travel Bag spend day 3 of the Travel Bag’s Heritage Tour visiting The Burren, Limerick, Doolin, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher; while examining the connection between the 19th century Irish potato famine and the country’s at times tortured history with mental illness.
After spending day two of The Twin Doctors Travel Bag’s Ancestry.com inspired Heritage Tour exploring Ireland’s Boyne Valley, the Newgrange megalith and the crypts and burial vaults of Dublin’s St. Michan’s church, I hit the sac early. Like they say, early to bed early to rise. And so I rose early, up at 5:30AM the next day. By 6:15AM, I was in a taxi heading towards Dublin’s Heuston train station. My plan was to spend my third in Ireland traveling south of Dublin. Arriving at Heuston station a little after 6:30AM, I located my tour group, checked-in for my journey and was then in no time seated comfortably on an Irish Rail train. We were due to depart Dublin for Limerick at 7AM. The tour, which was being operated by Rail Tours Ireland, would be using a combination of both train and bus travel to take us to the otherworldly Burren region as well as to the cities of Limerick, Doolin, Galway and the Cliffs of Moher.
Dublin’s Body Snatchers and Napoleon’s Teeth
Dr. J and The Twin Doctors Travel Bag continue their Ancestry.com inspired Heritage Tour of Ireland by exploring Dublin’s massive Glasnevin Cemetery. A place where Body Snatchers once roamed. After that, Dr. J sets out in search of the great Napoleon’s Bonaparte’s missing teeth.
The Brazen Head Pub
After leaving St. Michan’s Church, its burial crypts and “Igor The Creepy Custodian” all behind, I walked about 4 blocks to The Brazen Head pub. Opened in the year 1198, The Brazen Head pub is officially “Ireland’s Oldest Pub”. How much of the original pub structure is still standing is up for some debate, but what is not up for debate is the true sense of history that you feel when walking through the doors of The Brazen Head.
Newgrange and Dublin’s Mummies
Dr. Jamil and The Twin Doctors travel bag continue their Heritage Tour of Ireland by visiting the ancient Newgrange megalith of the Boyne Valley and the legendary mummies of Dublin’s St. Michan’s Church.
People, I am not only a Doctor; I am an OB/Gyn Doctor!! That means that I deliver babies for a living, and so as a result, I have no internal body clock to speak of. After all, an internal body clock would only serve to slow me down. It would function to make me less effective at what I do because, after all, ready or not, babies come when babies want to come. And when babies are coming, well God bless those precious little nocturnal angels, they don’t care whether or not it is 2PM or 2AM. They don’t care if you’re tired, and they most certainly don’t care whether or not you’ve had enough sleep. So, over the years I’ve developed the ability to endure extreme sleep deprivation while still being able to function and carry on normal day to day activities. Trust me when I tell you that this little skill of mine often times comes in handy when I’m travelling. Now if you’re wondering exactly how I am able to endure extreme sleep deprivation and still maintain my ability to function, it is simple. Some years back I took the unusual step of torching my body clock.
That’s right folks, you heard me correctly. A number of years ago I made the difficult, life altering decision to torch my body clock. And let me tell you. After making the decision to torch my body clock, I never looked back. I just ripped that sucker right out of my body, and then in a moment of absolute catharsis, I set it asunder! I incinerated it! And in doing so, I freed myself from it’s clutches and from the unrealistic expectations for rest that it placed upon me. You too my dear friends could do the same thing of course, that is if you knew where your body clock was located. I being a Doctor who has removed his own body clock could of course tell you where yours was located, but as a board certified OB/Gyne physician, I have been sworn to secrecy by both The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology and by The American Medical Association. So for me to break my silence and to reveal the secret location of the human body clock would be akin to professional suicide. So friends I’m sorry, but the secret of the body clock’s location must remain just that, a secret. This all being said, because I don’t have a body clock anymore, after just a few hours of sleep I woke up bright early at 6:30AM to begin my second day in Ireland. You can read more here about The Twin Doctors Travel Bag’s Heritage Tour and about my first day back home in one of our ancestral homelands, Ireland. Read More
Don’t Blame The Lady, Blame The Tiara
Dr. Idries takes a humorous look at what happens when a women wearing a tiara misbehaves on an international flight.
Its a pleasant afternoon as you board your Turkish Airlines flight from Istanbul to New York City. You’re just getting settled into your seat when you first see her. There she is prancing down the aisle tanned as can be with a tiara perched atop her perfectly manicured coif. To each her own you think until you realize that she appears to be making her way to the unoccupied seat next to you. Yep, she’s your seat mate for the next 11 hours and lucky you she’s a chatty one! She’s a bit obnoxious as she goes on and on about how she just spent the last five days on a yacht perfecting her already perfect tan but its not until she decides to use you as a pillow that you really start to object to her presence. And then it happens, just as you are finally able to drift off to sleep she begins to use the armrest as a weapon of mass destruction, up and down up and down she bangs it bruising your defenseless thigh. Wondering what this crazy lady might do next, you get up to summon a flight attendant but its too late. As you stand from your seat you feel a not so gentle nibble upon your buttocks. That’s right, the tiara wearing arm rest wielding maniac just bit you square in your a**!
Dublin, Here Come the Black Irish
Dr. Jamil and The Twin Doctors Travel Bag visit Ireland as a part of Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries’ genealogy heritage tour. First stop, Dublin!!!
Look out Dublin, here come the black Irish!!! There is an old Irish saying; or should I say that there is an “ole” Irish saying, and it goes something like this my lil’ lads and lassies. “If you’re lucky enough to be Irish, well then you’re lucky enough”. Sweet, simple and to the point, this old Irish maxim encapsulates everything that is the Irish and every thing that is Ireland. You see the Irish would rather be nothing but Irish; and the Irish would rather be nowhere but in Ireland. After all, what better place to be than a small island nation of 6.5 million people that is quietly nestled in the north Atlantic? What better place to be than a country renown for it’s legendary hospitality, it’s robust and beautiful natural scenery and it’s Guinness drenched nightly life? Visit Ireland, and you’ll find that you too want to be nowhere else but in Ireland. Visit Ireland, and you too will find that you wish, if only just a little bit, deep down inside, that you too were Irish. But, while we can’t all be Irish, we can all at least spend some time in Ireland. And while there, we can all feel just a little bit Irish if only for a brief moment or two. But while we…., no correction, but while YOU all are not lucky enough to be Irish, it turns out that Idries and I are. Boom, in your face!!! Now I know what you are thinking and I can see the skepticism in your eyes as you ask the question, “you two are Irish? Well then if you two are Irish where are your freckles? Where is your ginger hair? And my oh my, isn’t that’s one hell of a tan you two Irish ‘brothers” have?” Well, let me start be saying that I understand your skepticism, I mean, I really do. And I will be the first one to grant you that our “tans”, while pretty awesome if I do say so myself, are in fact permanent ones. And I will also not quibble with the fact that Idries and I don’t have those signature Irish freckles or that trademark ginger Irish hair. Nonetheless (and I’m saying this with my best righteously indignant voice), I feel that it is a bit, oh I don’t know, shall I say, a bit presumptuous of you to assume that Idries and I don’t have those trademark Irish freckles. After all, how do you know that those lovely little Gaelic freckles aren’t just hiding behind our awesome Irish tans? But alas my friends, you are in fact correct. We are freckle-less. But freckles or no freckles, Idries and I are still in fact Irish. Or at least, we are sort of Irish.
Jordan’s Dead Sea Floaters
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag visits the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea in Jordan
If you saw Idries and I floundering pathetically in the crystal blue waters of Bora Bora a few years ago while on CBS’ The Amazing Race, then you know with an unassailable certainty that under most circumstances at least, we just don’t like the water. Now sure, there are always going to be exceptions to the rule. And when it comes to us and to water, there are a FEW exceptions. Yeah, that’s right, there are some exceptions. Under certain “well controlled” circumstances in fact, you might just say that both my brother and I think that water is just fine. Heck, you might even say that under certain “really well controlled” circumstances we both even think that water is down right delightful. After all, is there anything more welcoming, more inviting, more refreshing on a blisteringly hot summer’s day than a big cup of clear, cold water? Of course there isn’t. Or better yet, is there anything finer than a gently warmed cup of soup or broth, constituted lovingly over a hot stove using just the right amount of water to create a savory concoction that soothes the heart and warms the soul on a bitterly cold winter’s day? If there is something finer, well I sure can’t think of what that thing is. So look, SOMETIMES water is awesome! And sometimes I truly appreciate water. But know this. When it comes to water, and when it comes to my appreciation of water, this is pretty much where I draw the line. In small consumable amounts, water is awesome! I love it! But when water is part of a large and foreboding body, say like when it is part of a pool, a lake or an ocean, well then I’m not feeling the love for water anymore. Under those circumstances, when water is just sitting there, silently mocking me while playfully exploiting each and every one of my deepest, darkest, longest held fears of drowning and losing every bit of control; well then water is not so welcoming and refreshing anymore. No, then water becomes the stuff of nightmares!
Delay My Flight I’ll Slap Your Face
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag takes a slightly humorous look at a recent case of passenger “airport rage” in China.
When was the last time that you arrived to your departure gate for a flight feeling harried and slightly discombobulated? When was the last time that you rushed through traffic to get to the airport on time? When was the last time that you endured long lines, both while checking in for your flight and then while passing through security? When was the last time that you schlepped along with all of your luggage in tow, meandering hopelessly through an expansive airport terminal building before finally reaching gate A666. Gate A666, the most far-flung of the airport’s many gates, because of course, why would your plane be leaving from anything other than the most remote of gates? When was the last time that you arrived at gate A666, only to then be told upon reaching said gate that your flight had been delayed? When this last happened to you, did you then respond to the pronouncement of the delay by telling the snarling, grizzled, seemingly sadistic gate agent from Hell something along the lines of, “if you delay my flight, I’ll slap your face”? Now, I’m not asking you whether or not you wanted to respond to the news of your last flight delay like this. After all, who among has not wanted to respond to such delays by threatening to slap the messenger? Slapping the person deliverng the bad news is after all so much easier than slapping the person who is actually responsible for the bad news after all now isn’t it? But no, what I am asking you is whether or not upon hearing about your last flight delay, did you actually threatened to slap the gate agent who was tasked with delivering the disastrous news? If you did threaten him or her, how did that work out for you? Were you gifted a shiny new pair of metal bracelets that you were then required to wear as you were unceremoniously led away from the airport and to the nearest jail?
As Though They Have Nothing Left
Dr. Jamil reflects on the week that he and his brother spent in Jordan working as part of a medical mission providing care to displaced Syrian refugees.
Sometimes with adversity, inwardly, a person may gain so much; while outwardly, to many, it may look as though they have nothing left. Is this really so surprising though? After all consider, what can a person do when everything of material value has been taken away from them? Where can a person go when their home has been reduced to ash and to rubble? Who is a person, and who will they become when everything that once defined their very existence on this earthly plane has been laid bare? Who are they, and who will they become when they awaken to a reality that obscenely informs them that their former existence was nothing more than an illusion? A vivid dream perhaps, and one in which the specter of stability, normalcy, happiness and contentment looked and felt so real; but turned out to be no more real than the fairness, justice and repatriation is that they now so hopelessly long for? So take a moment to ask yourself the following. Does your nationality define who you are? Does your money define who you are? Are you your bank account? Do your friends define who you are? Do your family members define who you are? Does your job define who you are? Does your home define who you are? Do your borders define who you are? If these things do in fact define who you are, then who do you become when they’ve all been taken away from you? Who do you become when you’ve been stripped bare, rendered naked, and left with nothing more to hide behind? Who do you become when you are forced to face yourself and to define yourself simply by who you are and not by where you live, what you have, or who you have left? Spend some time in Jordan with Syrian refugees, and you will quickly come to know what it is that a person may gain inwardly when it looks outwardly as though they have nothing left.
Today we cried.
Dr. Idries discusses his time in Sweileh.
Today we cried. We had been strangers just moments before and now the three of us just sat there in that small blue room with the dusty curtains and together we cried.
On day 5 of the Jordan medical mission I found myself in Sweileh, a small town to the north of the capital city Amman. Our team today was smaller than on previous days and included myself, an Internist from Chicago, a Dermatologist from Ohio and a General Practitioner/Acupuncturist from New York City. The Sweileh clinic is a multi-specialty clinic that provides services to the local Syrian refugees who again lack access to medical services because they do not reside within refugee camps. Like all the days before, we arrived to find a waiting room that was bursting at the seams with people needing to be seen. The clinic director took me to an exam room with powder blue walls where I found an exam table, a pretty decent ultrasound machine and a closet full of medications. As we got settled, the gracious clinic staff brought us coffee, tea and pastries and advised us that they were available if there was anything that we needed. I have to admit that I always felt a bit guilty when clinic directors brought us food and beverages but anyone who has travelled in the middle east knows that this is just typical Arab hospitality. Great staff, nice facilities and a table full of coffee, tea and pastries! The day was definitely looking up.
Jordan Medical Mission Day 3-Idries
Dr. Idries discusses his third day on the Twin Doctor’s Travel Bag medical mission.
Dr. Idries Day #3-ZATAARI:
Today was the day that I knew would be the most impactful, today was the day that I would go to the Zaatari refugee camp. The Zaatari refugee camp is located in Al Mafraq approximately 40 miles northeast of Amman and only 4 miles from the Syrian border. Zaatari was never designed to be a longterm solution and it’s current population of more than 80,000 people (camp was designed for a maximum of 60,000) are situated on a parcel of land measuring only 2 miles by 1.5 miles. Over the years, Zaatari has almost become a self contained city and with only rare exceptions the Jordanian government no longer allows residents to regularly leave it’s confines. There are 24 schools in Zaatari for the more than 25,000 children (meaning an average of 1,000 students per school). Thanks to many governmental agencies and NGOs there are multiple medical centers within the camp as well as food and sanitation facilities and services. Despite the basic services available to residents of Zaatari, services that other non-camp refugees can’t access, life there is by no means easy. Most homes consist of a small, single-room shipping container with corrugated metal roofs, all of the roads are un paved (making for a very dusty environment leading to tons of respiratory illnesses) and privacy is virtually nonexistent. Many of the residents have been in Zaatari for years and most of the children know no life before Zaatari. The residents of the camp have no idea when (or if) they will ever leave or if they will ever see their homeland again.
Jordan, Moses and the Promised Land
Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries take some time out from their Syrian refugee medical mission to visit some of Jordan’s historical biblical sites.
Jordan, a country whose official name is the “Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”, is a small Arab nation bordered by Israel and Palestine to its west, Saudi Arabia to its southeast, Iraq to its northeast and Syria to its direct north. Despite it’s location sandwiched amongst some of the world’s hottest conflict zones, Jordan remains a relative oasis of peace, calm and stability. Jordan officially became independent of British influence in 1946, and it has existed as an independent constitutional monarchy since that time. Today, Jordan has a population of well over 6.5 million people; with 4 million Jordanians living in the capital city of Amman.
Jordan Medical Mission Day 1-Idries
Dr. Idries discusses his first day on the Twin Doctor’s Travel Bag medical mission.
Dr. Idries Day #1-IRBID:
The first official day of my Jordanian medical mission was spent in the city of Irbid. With a population of over one million, Irbid is the second largest city in Jordan (after Amman). Located only 12 miles from the Syrian boarder, Irbid has one of Jordan’s largest refugee populations numbering more than 136,000 at last count. As the Syrian crisis continues to develop, more than 1,000,000 refugees have crossed the boarder into Jordan, a country that itself only has a population of about 6,000,000. While the Jordanian government initially provided medical and financial support to refugees, as the refugee numbers continued to swell the government could no longer sustain the burden financially. Ultimately the Jordanian government stopped providing refugees with financial and medical assistance while also making it illegal for them to find employment (in a bid to reduce the already high level of native Jordanian unemployment, about 20%). To make matters worse, refugees living outside of the organized refugee camps cannot receive foreign governmental nor NGO aid. The ultimate result is a situation in which refugees living outside of refugee camps have little or no resources to provide for their daily needs much less to seek even the most basic of medical services. This guaranteed that our first day in Irbid would indeed be a busy one.
The total team for this mission consisted of 65 medical professionals including primary care and specialty physicians, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, acupuncturists and photo journalists. Each day we were split between 8 different locations and my first day was spent at a clinic in Irbid. The Irbid medical team for the day included myself, a dentist from Manchester in the UK, an ER physician from Tacoma, Washington, an Internist from Los Angeles, California and a Pediatrician from Houston, Texas. The 75-minute ride from our hotel in central Amman to Irbid was dominated by sometimes heated discussions about what lead to the Syrian crisis, who was ultimately responsible, what the relationship was between the Assad government and the rise of ISIS in Syria (and elsewhere) and the political reasoning behind the virtual silence and inaction of the US, the EU and the most of the western world when it comes to the Syrian conflict. With such lively discussion, we reached Irbid in no time.
New Delhi and the Semi-Nude Massage
Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries wrap up their final day in India by touring New Delhi and by getting semi-nude massages before then flying back home to Chicago.
By Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman and Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
Having already toured Old Delhi immediately after our arrival to the Indian capital city; our fourth and final day in India started with a tour of the more contemporary New Delhi. And so, after taking quick showers and getting a bite to eat at the hotel’s breakfast buffet, we checked out of the hotel bright eyed and bushy tailed; with our booties clean, our bellies full and our luggage in tow. And for those of you who read the end of our last blog entry “The Taj and Agra’s Mighty Sheroes”, you may be wondering whether or not the following day’s breakfast buffet was either frustrating or disappointing? Well, we are glad to report that the breakfast buffet was neither frustrating or disappointing. Instead, the breakfast buffet was one of those universally recognizable “all-you-can-eat” buffet’s that we portly Americans know and love. There was none of the sacrilege from the night before. There was no perversion of the principle “all-you-can-eat”, and there was no artsy interpretation of how food at a buffet should be presented. No, instead there were just pre-warmed plates, piles of food sitting and waiting to be plucked from beneath smoldering heat lamps and pre-poured drinks. Drinks, that would not be long for this world if we had anything to say about it. And, as these two unashamed, unabashed, self-deprecating greedy pigs made up for the farce that was the previous night’s “buffet”, all again was well in our world.
Tokyo, Good Eats and French Car Tires
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag briefly explores the tradition and heritage of Tokyo’s bustling Culinary scene
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
As the famous chef Paul Prudhomme once so rightly stated, “you don’t need a silver fork to eat good food.” Unfortunately, while good old Paul told us what we did not need to eat good food, he failed to tell us what we did need to eat good food. And so it may come as a bit of a surprise to many of you to learn that all you really need to eat good food is an appetite for adventure, a valid passport and a plane ticket to Tokyo Japan. Did you know that the city of Tokyo has more “Michelin Star” restaurants than New York City? Did you also know that the city of Tokyo has more “Michelin Star” restaurants than do the reputed “Culinary Meccas” of London and Paris combined? That’s right folks, Tokyo Japan. If you are like I once was, the phrase “fine dining” probably doesn’t conjure up images of Tokyo. But after reading this blog, I hope that the phrase “fine dining” will conjure up images of Tokyo, good eats and French car tires.
The Taj and Agra’s Mighty Sheroes
Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries tour the Indian city of Agra where they visit the Taj Mahal, the Agra Fort and female survivors of acid attacks.
By Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman and Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
Day # 3 in India began promptly at 8AM when our driver for the day met us, as planned, in the hotel lobby. After exchanging pleasantries, we all made our way from the lobby outside to his waiting car. The car, which looked like an early model 2000 or 2001 off white Toyota Corolla was clean both inside and out. It also appeared to be well maintained, safe, and certainly up to the task of transporting us from Delhi to Agra. Agra, a city of 1.7 million people that sits just 3 hours to the southeast of Delhi. Agra, home to the Agra Fort, the Taj and “Agra’s Mightly Sheroes”. Now if you don’t know who the “Sheroes” of Agra are, don’t worry, you soon will. And believe us when we tell you that these young women are nothing short of amazing and inspirational!
Our driver for the day was a fairly tall and slender man of about 6 feet or so. He wore a neatly pressed khaki uniform that looked like something an old Communist Chinese soldier might wear; and his face sported very prominent cheek bones that were supported by a broad and rugged square chin. Read More
The Taj and Agra’s Mighty Sheroes – A Snapshot
Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries provide a snapshot of their “The Taj and Agra’s Mighty Sheroes” blog.
By Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
We began our third day in India with an early morning drive from our hotel in Delhi to Agra, India’s 19th largest city. Before setting out however, as we walked to our waiting car, we were treated to an impromptu street performance by a young Indian boy. He looked like he was about 6 years old, and both his clothes and his rich brown skin were dirt stained. He wore an amusing looking blue beanie cap that had a fuzzy yellow ball attached to it by a small red string. This little guy was a fleet footed little jester; a comedic virtuoso of the Delhi streets, who entertained us by dancing, gyrating and gesticulating; all while making funny facial expressions that demonstrated a comedic timing that was advance beyond his years. Once his performance was complete, we gave him a few Rupees and a high five to say “thanks” for getting our day off to an awesome start! After that, we jumped into our car and headed for Agra.
Stranded at the Airport in Delhi – A Snapshot
Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries provide a short “snapshot” summary of their “Stranded at the Airport in Delhi” blog.
By Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
Day 2 of our Indian adventure began with an early morning flight 740 miles north, to the capital city of Delhi. The flight, operated by an Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner took just over an hour and a half, putting us at Indira Gandhi International Airport a little after 10AM. With only 2 full days planned in Delhi, we made arrangements before leaving Mumbai to have both a car and a tour guide meet us at Indira Gandhi International Airport. That way we could head straight out from the airport and immediately tour both historic Old Delhi and contemporary New Delhi. Unfortunately, neither our prearranged car or our prearranged tour guide bothered to show up to the airport; forcing us to quickly devise an impromptu Plan B. This Plan B saw us strike a pose, sporting our “I can’t believe that we’re stranded at the airport in Delhi” sad faces before then quickly getting on with things; heading straight out of the airport and into a local taxi. A taxi as it turns out that was sans both air conditioning and an English speaking driver.
Stranded at the Airport in Delhi!!!
After getting stranded at the airport in Delhi, Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries explore the capital city’s “Old Delhi” neighborhood.
By Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries Abdur-Rahman
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
A long hot day of exploring Mumbai made for a restful night’s sleep in our fluffy king size bed at the Mumbai Airport Hilton. And that’s right folks, we said in “our fluffy king size bed” because while our suite at the Hilton was roomy and comfortable, it also only had one bed. And being as dead tired as we both were, neither one of us was too wild about the prospect of sleeping on the couch. And so we did it old school, like we use to do it as children growing up back in the 1980’s. We shared a bed, and best believe folks we slept like little children. And that was a good thing because little did we know that the next day would see us stranded at the airport in Delhi!!! Read More
Passport Photos That Can Make Doves Cry
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag takes a look at why more Americans will probably be getting passports soon.
There are passport photos, and then there are epic, sultry, soulful, sexy passport photos that can make doves cry, women weep and men wish; wish that they were the one and only Prince. Unfortunately for us mere male mortals, there is but one Prince, and there are few epic passport photos like his. In fact, according to statistics recently revealed, only 30% of Americans even have a valid passport. Translation, close to 200,000,000 Americans currently are not in possession of an active U.S. passport. Compare this to a place like the United Kingdom, where it was recently reported by the Office for National Statistics that 95% of people living in Britain are in possession of a valid passport. Because only 30% of Americans currently possess a valid passport however, it should come as no surprise to learn that annually, only 10% of Americans actually travel outside of the United States for vacation. When Americans do travel outside of the United States for vacation, statistics show that they are most likely to visit Europe, the Caribbean, Asia and South America; with travel to each of these regions accounting for 35%, 21%, 19% and 9% of all international vacations taken by Americans respectively. Read More
Why Fear Blow Darts and Cookie Monsters
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag takes a humorous coast-to-coast look at some of the stranger ways that tourists in the U.S. have been attacked.
My fellow lovers of adventure and all things travel, consider this your call to action!! The time has come for us to be heard! The time has come for us to say that enough is enough! My friends, the time has come for us to stake out our place in the world. Now, it is our time to take a stand and to be counted! For years now, we travelers have had to deal with so much! We’ve had to deal with skyrocketing airfares, bogus baggage fees and fuel surcharges. We’ve had to deal with surly staff, fuller planes, larger passengers and smaller seats. And still, like the soldiers that we are, like the veritable Road Warriors that we’ve become; we have not only met these challenges with a sense of class, dignity and unshakeable self-respect, we’ve overcome them. But my friends, times are dark, and I fear that the future for our kind; the future for true lovers of travel everywhere is now more uncertain than it has ever been before. So it is with a great deal of sadness, regret, fear and trepidation about the future that I ask, “Why do travelers fear blow darts and cookie monsters?”
Airplane Air Quality and Your Health
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag takes a look at in-cabin airplane air quality and what you need to know to stay healthy while traveling.
If you’ve ever wondered what you need to know about airplane air quality and your health, wonder no more. The quality of the air that we breathe in commercial airplane passenger cabins is very different than the quality of the air that we breathe almost anywhere else. For starters, airplane cabin air typically has 25% less oxygen than does non-cabin air. Additionally, airplane cabin air is typically 50% drier than non-cabin air; a measure taken to protect the integrity of the plane’s metal airframe from corrosion. And finally, half of the air in airplane passenger cabins is recycled or “recirculated” air. This recycled air, initially introduced into the cabin as fresh air, is then continually recirculated among the passengers over and over again for the entire duration of a flight. So how can the quality of airplane cabin air effect our health and what steps can we take to ensure that any effects are minimal?
Gray Skies and Golden Showers
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag takes a look at 2 reasons why some people may behave so badly on airplanes.
By Jamil Abdur-Rahman, M.D.
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
When good airplane passengers go bad, the result can be gray skies and golden showers. What is it about the cozy confines of an airplane that makes some men just want to whip out their little carry on luggage and pee all over the place? Famous French thespian Gerard Depardieu is a bonafide high flying public pisser; although in all fairness to the portly public piddler, he actually urinated in the aisle of an Air France plane bound for Dublin BEFORE it had taken off from Paris. And then there is Jeff Rubin, the 27 year old JetBlue passenger from Gresham Oregon that the media dubbed “The Portland Pisser”. Jeff, while on a flight from Anchorage Alaska to Portland Oregon in 2015 stood up mid-flight, exposed his Hairy Houdini for the world to see and then urinated on the people and luggage in his immediate vicinity. So Jeff too is a certified and bonafide high flying purveyor of midair water sports.
36 Hours In Mumbai India – A Snapshot
Dr. Idries and Dr. Jamil provide a short “snapshot” summary of their 2 part “36 Hours In Mumbai India” blog.
By Dr. Jamil Abdur-Rahman
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
Everything that you could ever want to do in Mumbai you can do in 36 hours. Yeah right, if you believe that then we have a bridge in Brooklyn that we would like to sell to you as well. No, the reality is that Mumbai, a city of over 12 million people, has so many things to see and do, and 36 hours there is nowhere near enough time. While recently in Mumbai however, 36 hours was all of the time that we had. And so now, without any further adieu (drum roll please), we present to you “36 Hours In Mumbai India – A Snapshot”.
36 Hours in Mumbai India (Part # 2)
Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries continue to chronical their first 36 hours in Mumbai India and the start of their whirlwind Indian adventure.
By Drs. Jamil and Idries Abdur-Rahman
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
Marine Drive (The Queen’s Necklace) and Chowpatty Beach
After leaving the Saat Rasta Dhobi Ghat (outdoor laundry) our first 36 hours in Mumbai India continued with a brief stop along what many would call the best known and most recognizable stretch of road in Mumbai, the world famous Marine Drive. Marine Drive, the official name of which is “Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose” Road is a 2.5-mile C-shaped boulevard that links the hustle and bustle of Nariman Point (an area frequently called the “Manhattan of Mumbai”) with the serene greenery of the exclusive Malabar Hill. The focal point of this boulevard is a centrally placed 6 lane thoroughfare. On one side of this 6 lane thoroughfare sits a collection of sun bleached and time weathered Art Deco buildings. These Art Deco buildings are “vintage” in appearance to say the least, looking like something straight out of pre-Castro 1950’s Cuba. On the other side of Marine Drive’s 6 lane thoroughfare sits a waterfront promenade that snakes seductively along the shores of the Arabian Sea. Because of it’s famous “C-Shape”, Marine Drive is also referred to unofficially by the moniker “The Queen’s Necklace”. The moniker “The Queen’s Necklace” has been used to describe Marine Drive because at nighttime the drive, when lit and viewed from afar, resembles an expensive jewel encrusted necklace that has been placed around the neck of a women.
36 Hours in Mumbai India (Part # 1)
Dr. Jamil and Dr. Idries chronical their first 36 hours in Mumbai India and the start of their whirlwind Indian adventure.
By Drs. Idries and Jamil Abdur-Rahman
The Twin Doctors Travel Bag
So, here we are people, The Twin Doctor’s Travel Bag has travelled to the one and only incredible India! India, once the crown jewel of the British Empire is today a country of stark contrasts and contradictions. The world’s largest democracy and the world’s second most populous country (ranking only behind China), India is a nation that has one foot in its past and one foot firmly planted in the 21st century. There is of course the modern India of shiny new high rise buildings, a booming tech industry and the delightfully gaudy and if not slightly over-the-top Bollywood productions. But then there also is the India of long held and sometimes crippling religious and social divergence and the India of heartbreaking poverty and destitution that at times can feel like a weak link in a growing and strengthening chain. Travel however my friends is the Doctor’s prescription for a weary soul. It is the Great Educator, the Great Unifier and the Great Destroyer of barriers and when travelling there is no good or bad, only different and new. Different foods, different sights, different languages, different perspectives, different beliefs, different ways of living and different ways of seeing the world. So, The Twin Doctor’s Travel Bag is here to experience every facet of India and we are really excited that you have chosen to come along on the journey with us. Our first stop will include 36 hours in Mumbai India. Mumbai, the sprawling Indian metropolis on the Arabian Sea. So sit back, kick up your feet and together let’s experience the sights and sounds that make India one of the most unique destinations in the world and Mumbai one of India’s most intriguing and appealing cities!
Rio 2016 and The Zika Effect
Will Brazil’s current Zika virus epidemic spell disaster for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games?
Wednesday, Jan 20, 2016 (The Twin Doctors Travel Bag) — In the interest of full transparency let me open this article with a brief but important tongue in cheek disclaimer. “I my friends am a proud Chicagoan. I am a Chicagoan born and bred and Chicago is where both my home and my heart is”. Now friends let me be clear, when I say to you all that I am a “proud Chicagoan” born and bred, I really do mean that I am a PROUD Chicagoan BORN AND BRED. I mean that I am “That Guy”, that I am “That Chicagoan” that goes into a restaurant and asks for a “Pop” instead of a “Soda”. Read More
The U.S. Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens of increased threats from terrorist groups throughout Turkey. U.S. citizens should avoid travel to southeast Turkey and carefully consider the risks of travel to and throughout the country. The U.S. Department of State is updating this Travel Warning to reflect the October 29, 2016, decision to order the departure of family members of employees posted to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, Turkey. The Department of State made this decision based on security information indicating extremist groups are continuing aggressive efforts to attack U.S. citizens in areas of Istanbul where they reside or frequent. The Consulate General remains open and fully staffed.
This order applies only to the U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul, not to other U.S. diplomatic posts in Turkey. The Department continues to monitor the effect of these developments on the overall security situation in the country. This replaces the Travel Warning dated October 24, 2016.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer all non-essential travel to Ethiopia due to ongoing unrest that has led to hundreds of deaths, thousands of arrests, as well as injuries and extensive property damage, especially in Amhara and Oromia States. The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services in many parts of the country is limited by the current security situation.
The Government of Ethiopia declared a State of Emergency effective October 8, 2016. An October 15 decree states that individuals may be arrested without a court order for activities they may otherwise consider routine, such as communication, consumption of media, attending gatherings, engaging with certain foreign governments or organizations, and violating curfews. The decree prohibits U.S. and other foreign diplomats from traveling farther than 40 kilometers outside of Addis Ababa without prior approval from the Government of Ethiopia, which severely affects the U.S. Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens. The full text of the decree implementing the State of Emergency is available on the U.S. Embassy’s website.
The Department of State warns U.S. citizens to avoid travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) due to an unpredictable security situation subject to rapid deterioration, activities of armed groups, and violent crime. We urge U.S. citizens who are currently in CAR to consider departing. U.S. citizens in CAR who require consular assistance should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon. This replaces the Travel Warning dated April 14, 2016.
The potential for sectarian violence remains high. Indiscriminate violence and looting has occurred in CAR since the overthrow of the government in March 2013. Despite the peaceful election of a new president in 2016 and the continued presence of a United Nations stabilization force, the security situation remains fragile. In the event of unrest, airport, land border, and road closures may occur with little or no notice.
For further information:
The Department of State continues to warn U.S. citizens against all travel to Syria and strongly recommends that U.S. citizens remaining in Syria depart immediately. The security situation remains dangerous and unpredictable. Violent conflict between government and armed anti-government groups continues throughout the country. There is a serious risk for kidnappings, bombings, murder, and terrorism. This replaces the Travel Warning dated March 31, 2016.
No part of Syria is safe from violence. Kidnappings, the use of chemical warfare, shelling, and aerial bombardment have significantly raised the risk of death or serious injury. The destruction of infrastructure, housing, medical facilities, schools, and power and water utilities has also increased hardships inside the country.
Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIL, al-Nusrah Front (al-Qa’ida’s Syrian affiliate now calling itself Jabhat Fatah al-Sham), and others operate in Syria. Tactics for these groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, and improvised explosive devices. They have targeted major city centers, road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, including in Damascus, Aleppo, Hamah, Dara, Homs, Idlib, and Dayr al-Zawr provinces. These groups have murdered and kidnapped U.S. citizens, both for ransom and political purposes. U.S. citizens have disappeared within Syria. Public places, such as road checkpoints, border crossings, government buildings, shopping areas, and open spaces, have been targeted. Because of the security situation in Syria, the U.S. government’s ability to help U.S. citizens kidnapped or taken hostage is very limited. Although a Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) was announced in February 2016, fighting persists in Syria. Moreover, the CoH does not include ISIL or al-Nusrah Front (Al-Qaida in Syria), which have not renounced the use of violence. The CoH does not make the security situation in Syria any less dangerous for U.S. citizens.
The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens of ongoing instability and sporadic violence in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The potential for civil unrest remains high in Kinshasa and other major cities. In addition armed groups, bandits, and some elements of the Congolese armed forces continue to engage in murder, kidnapping, and robbery in a number of areas of eastern DRC. Very poor transportation infrastructure throughout the country and poor security conditions make it difficult for the U.S. Embassy to provide consular services anywhere outside of Kinshasa. As of October 7, the Department of State ended the ordered departure of family members of U.S. government personnel, permitting family members to return to Kinshasa. This replaces the Travel Warning dated September 29, 2016.
On September 19 and 20, violent clashes over the election process erupted between security forces and demonstrators, resulting in the loss of life and the destruction of property. The potential for additional civil unrest remains high and the security situation in major cities is unpredictable.