Category Archives: Middle East

Travel News: Turkey Resumes Visa Application Services for US Travelers

travel news (3)

Turkey Resumes Visa Application Services For US Travelers

Washington Post reports that after suspending visa services for Americans, which prevented travelers from visiting Istanbul and taking the Bosphorus ferry, In early October, Turkey had suspended visa application services for Americans. Turkish Airlines was offering refunds on Turkey-bound flights through Christmas, and US citizens with plans but no visa were stuck in limbo. Early last month, the country partially lifted the directive. US travelers can apply for visas at Turkish embassies and consulates, or third party visa companies. However, Americans cannot obtain the document through two previously available channels: the online system called e-Visa and visa booths at Turkish airports. To apply for a visa, start by filling out the online form and select a date for an in-person appointment with consular services. The next available time could be two weeks out, so plan accordingly. For the interview, bring a bank statement, proof of travel insurance, one passport photo, a passport valid at least six months after time of entry, your travel itinerary and $160 in cash. The process should take about five business days, and travelers can pick up their visa-adorned passport at the consulate. Companies that help tourists obtain travel documents have also resumed their visa services to Turkey. Justin Chapman, director of sales at VisaHQ, said the firm’s average processing time is 20 to 25 business days. He added that travelers typically do not have to step foot inside the consulate, but never say never. “The embassy may request an appointment,” he said.

Airline Food Quality: Delta Healthiest And Hawaiian Airlines Worst In The US

Travelwire reports American and Delta Airlines have once again started offering complimentary meals in economy class on U.S. domestic flights, something passengers haven’t seen in more than 15 years. Delta is the clear leader among the major carriers and is tied with Virgin America this year as the healthiest airline. The worst airline food when it comes to health is on Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines. United, the 4th largest airline in the US, needs to change the way it thinks about its food offerings. They have very little food transparency on the website, meaning that nutritional information is not available. In addition to its complimentary snacks, American began providing complimentary main cabin, but nothing very healthy. To read more on this issue: http://www.dietdetective.com/annual-airline-food-investigation-2017-18/

Hurtigruten To Expand In Arctic in 2019

Hurtigruten has announced an expanded Arctic deployment for 2019, not only sailing from Tromso to Russia, but offering expedition cruises in Svalbard with five ships, and a Northwest Passage transit on the new Roald Amundsen. It will be the first time a hybrid ship has sailed the Northwest Passage. In addition, the company announced that both the Roald Amundsen and Fridtjof Nansen will offer expedition sailings along Norway’s coast in 2019. Among new expedition offerings are departures from Tromso calling at Murmansk and Frans Josef Land. A 15-day expedition departure on the Spitsbergen will cross into Russian waters and Murmansk before sailing the Barents Sea to Franz Josef Land for five days of expedition landings.

United Airlines Will Be First US Carrier Since Continental To Fly Mainland-Tahiti

Besides Hawaiian, the only US carriers to serve Tahiti have been Continental, South Pacific Air Lines, which flew Papeete to Honolulu and Pago Pago, American Samoa, in the 1960s and Pan American World Airways, which flew from Los Angeles and Pago Pago in the mid-1960s. Continental flew Los Angeles-Papeete in the late 1980s, according to the Tahiti-Polynesia Handbook published in 1989, and may have continued into the 1990s. In an era of growth enabled by strong economies, high demand and deliveries of new widebodies led by the Boeing 787, United has now announced 13 new international routes, some primarily business and some primarily leisure, in 2017.
They include San Francisco to Munich, Zurich and Tahiti; Newark to Buenos Aires; Porto, Portugal and Reykjavik, Iceland; Los Angeles to Singapore; Chicago to Mazatlán, Mexico; Denver to London Heathrow and Cozumel; and Houston to Mazatlán, Mexico and Sydney and Dulles to Edinburgh, Scotland.

US Customs & Border Protection Is Piloting Facial Recognition

Business Travel News reports US Customs and Border Protection is investigating whether forthcoming biometric facial scans for departing foreign travelers could speed up other airport processes, like Transportation Security Administration checks, baggage tagging, lounge entry and even duty-free purchases. The agency will introduce facial scanning in 2018 to reduce the need for fingerprinting on arrival.

Etihad Sells The Good Life To Economy Passengers

Airline Ratings reports Gulf carrier Etihad is to start charging for some items in economy class, but there’s no need for clanging alarm bells. Instead of the usual charging for goods or services that were once free, Etihad is giving economy passengers the opportunity to buy a few extra comforts. All the free stuff in Etihad economy, including complimentary meals and drinks will remain but passengers will now be able to sample some of the good things usually reserved for people at the pointy end. This includes male or female Christian Lacroix amenity kits with exclusive Omorovicza skin care, products, Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut NV champagne or Christian Lacroix cotton sleepwear. Those wanting to chug down a Planet Coffee cold brew coffee will also be able to do so and in 2018 the airline will be selling what were once known as selection boxes containing sweet or healthy treats. The move comes as the Gulf carrier has been selling other “enhanced services” to passengers, including pay-for-lounge access and chauffeur transfers at some airports as well as neighbor-free and extra-legroom seats.

Delta To Charge Basic-Economy Passengers $60 To Check A Bag To Europe Next Year

CNBC reports US airlines collected nearly $4.2 billion in checked baggage fees last year. That sum could rise even more as airlines bring such fees international. Starting in April, Delta Air Lines will charge passengers who book highly restrictive basic economy fares $60 each way to check a bag for travel between the US or Canada and Europe or North Africa. The airline, among others, is taking basic economy abroad, in hopes that it will drum up more revenue as record numbers of passengers are traveling by air. Airline executives, including those at Delta, estimate that about half of passengers opt to pay for a higher coach-class fare than selecting the cheaper basic economy. The fee to check the bag, $60 each way, is the same sum that Delta is offering travelers to “upgrade” to regular economy, which offers a free checked bag.

The Futuristic New Cruise Ship Which Lets Guests ‘Walk On Water’

MSC Seaside has been designed to “bring guests closer to the sea than ever before. Among MSC Seaside’s unique design features are a wrap-around seafront promenade (dubbed to be the widest on any ship ever built) tracing the perimeter of the 323 metre-long ship, dotted by a series of bars and restaurants, while its two 40 metre-long glass-floored catwalks have been designed to simulate the feeling of “walking on water”. Guests can enjoy 360-degree views from two panoramic lifts that transport passengers between decks. MSC Seaside will offer modular cabins that can accommodate up to 10 guests. Other vertigo-inducing highlights include a glass-bottomed pathway (known as the Bridge of Sighs) at Deck 16 where guests can capture never-before-seen views from 40 metres above the ocean, as well as two panoramic glass lifts offering 360-degree vistas while transporting guests between the ship’s main pool areas and other decks. Designed to “bring guests closer to the sea than ever before”, more than 75% of the 5,119-capacity passenger ship’s cabins offer ocean views, including a selection of adaptable modular cabins that can accommodate up to 10 guests. The new ship also houses the most interactive water park at sea, built with five attractions including the first-ever “slideboarding” facility, featuring 160 meter-long dueling waterslides. Other entertainment options on offer include the two longest zip lines at sea, each stretching 105 meters, a full-size bowling alley, an interactive 5D cinema and an F1 racing simulator.

Russia To Implement Tax-Free System To Boost Tourism

Travel & Tourism Industry News reports Russia is ready to implement a tax-free system on some retail goods starting from January 2018 for tourists. According to the authors of the initiative, this should become a driver of the inbound tourism in Russia as well as a boost for trade and retail in the country. However, they also warn that next year the system will only work in a pilot form in an attempt to understand the benefits of the project. The tax-free system will be launched in six Russian cities: Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kaliningrad, Vladivostok, Sochi and Veliky Novgorod. It is expected to apply mainly on luxury goods, clothes, souvenirs, but not cigarettes or alcohol.

Leave a comment

Filed under Airlines, Europe, Turkey, USA

Holiday Recipes from the Middle East: Sambousek

cs

Happy Holidays from Caravan-Serai Tours and Willamette Intl Travel!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

Sambousek: Bread pockets filled with zataar or cheese

This is a tasty appetizer and really easy to make in advance. The sambousek can be frozen after they are cooked, then thawed and warmed in the oven before serving. The first part is the basic dough mix, then the cheese and zataar fillings. Also, when we made them at the Petra Kitchen, we cut the dough into circles using wine glasses as the cookie cutters, and placed them on a cookie sheet liberally coated in oil and cooked them, open faced, in the oven. This is just an alternative method, and might be easier if you are making a large batch.

Sambousek Dough

  1. 2 cups flour
  2. 1/2 cup warm water
  3. 1/2 tsp salt
  4. pinch of sugar
  5. 2 tsp active dry yeast
  6. 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • Dissolve the yeast in 4 tsp of warm water and mix until until smooth
  • Sift sugar, salt, flour into a large bowl and make a well in the middle
  • Pour yeast water, oil ad remaining warm water into the well in the center of the bowl
  • Mix by hand until smooth
  • Transfer dough to a floured flat surface and knead well by hand
  • Place mixture in an oiled bowl and cover with a clean cloth and place in a warm spot. Let rise until doubled in size.
  • Return dough to floured surface and knead well again.
  • Divide dough into smaller balls and roll flat into circles and use cutter to cut into smaller circles with the cutter
  • Using a fork, lightly prick the dough on one side

Zataar or Thyme Filling (Sambousek b’zatar)

  1. 6 Tbs crushed dried thyme
  2. 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Mix thyme/zatar with oil
  • Place a teaspoon on to each dough circle
  • If you are going to fry these in a frying pan, fold the dough over and seal the edges. If you are going to bake them on an oiled cookie sheet, you can leave them open
  • Fry or bake until lightly browned
  • Serve hot

Cheese Filling (Sambousek b’jibn)

  1. 1/2 cup grated Gruyere or feta cheese
  2. 1 cup grated white cheese
  3. 1 onion finely chopped
  4. 1 tbs sesame seeds
  • Mix stuffing ingredients together and stir well
  • Place a teaspoon of stuffing on each circle
  • If you are going to fry these in a frying pan, fold the dough over and seal the edges. If you are going to bake them on an oiled cookie sheet, you can leave them open
  • Fry or bake until lightly browned
  • Serve hot

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to discuss options for travel in and around the Middle East.

To read what a Sample Tour through Israel would look like, click here.

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Middle East and North Africa such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins.

To read more about Caravan-Serai, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Israel, Middle East

Holiday Recipes from the Middle East: Cucumber Salad & Galayat Bandura

cs

Happy Holidays from Caravan-Serai Tours and Willamette Intl Travel!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

Cucumber & Yogurt Salad ~ Salat Khyar

  • 1lb cucumber
  • 2lb yogurt
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh mint

Peel and dice the cucumbers, crush garlic with salt and mint and stir into yogurt. Add the cucumbers and mix. Serve with mint garnish.

Galayat Bandura

This dish is a popular dish which can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as hot mezza or main course. You can add scrambled eggs, tuna, or chicken – whatever you like! “Gulayat” is the Arabic word for skillet, so the name literally translated means skillet of tomatoes.

  • 1lb tomatoes
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 green chili peppers
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Saute the pine nuts in oil until light brown, remove from oil and save as the garnish (save the oil in the skillet).
  2. Finely chop tomatoes and chilies
  3. Slice garlic and saute in the same oil until light brown, then add the tomatoes, chilies (I recommend starting with half the amount of chilies and taste the mixture after a few minutes to see if you want to add more), and salt
  4. Bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, then reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes
  5. Pour into shallow serving dish and garnish with pine nuts

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to discuss options for travel in and around the Middle East.

To read what a Sample Tour through Morcco & Tunisia would look like, click here.

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Middle East and North Africa such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins.

To read more about Caravan-Serai, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caravan Serai, Middle East, Travel by Taste, Vendors

Holiday Recipes from the Middle East: Tahina Salad

cs

Happy Holidays from Caravan-Serai Tours and Willamette Intl Travel!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

Today’s recipe is another quick and easy salad from the Petra Kitchen:

Tahina Salad ~ Salat Khodra bil Tahina

3 large tomatoes
3 medium cucumbers
1 hot green pepper
1 small onion
1 cup finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup tahina
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup vinegar
2 garlic cloves

  • Peel and dice the cucumbers and onions
  • Chop tomatoes very finely
  • Mince hot pepper and add to vegetables
  • Crush garlic with salt, stir into dressing of tahina, lemon juice, vinegar, and salt
  • Dressing mixture should be the consistency of cream, if too thick add a little water to thin
  • Pour tahina mixture over vegetables and stir well. Serve with a garnish of parsley sprig

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Middle East, Morocco, Travel by Taste

Holiday Recipes from the Middle East: Baba Ganuj

Happy Holidays from Caravan-Serai Tours and Willamette Intl Travel!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

Today’s recipe: Baba Ganuj or Baba Ghanoush

Baba Ganuj

 

2lbs (1kg) eggplants

1 large tomato

1 green pepper

1 medium onion

2 garlic cloves

1 Tbs salt

1 Tbs mint

2 Tbs olive oil

2 Tbs lemon juice

2 Tbs pomegranate molasses

 

  • Roast the eggplant s on a baking dish in medium oven approximately one hour, or until the skin darkens and begins to split, remove from oven to cool
  • When eggplants are cool enough handle, break open and scoop out the insides
  • Mash the pulp with a fork until a smooth puree
  • Add olive oil and lemon juice and set aside
  • Finely chop tomato, pepper and onion, add them to eggplant puree and stir
  • Crush garlic in a pestle with salt and stir into juice and olive oil
  • Add liquid to vegetable mixture and mix well
  • Stir in the mint
  • Serve in a shallow bowl with garnish of tomatoes or parsley sprigs and pita bread

A variation on this recipe is to cook the eggplant on a BBQ, it will enhance the smokey flavor! Enjoy!

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to discuss options for travel in and around the Middle East.

To read what a Sample 5 Day Emirates Desert Adventure with Caravan-Serai would look like, click here.

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Middle East and North Africa such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins.

To read more about Caravan-Serai, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Africa, Egypt, Middle East, Morocco, Travel by Taste, Turkey, UAE, VOTM

12 Days of Holiday Cooking

cs

Welcome to the 2014 12 Days of Holiday Cooking from Caravan-Serai Tours!

Each holiday season our friends over at Caravan-Serai offer an assortment of our favorite recipes from the Middle East, North Africa, and the Caucasus. Be sure to subscribe to our blog for updates!

 

Lentil Soup ~ Shourbat Abas

1 Cup brown lentils
6 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
1 onion, finely chopped
1/4 up olive oil or ghee
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
a dash of pepper
croutons for garnish

  • Rinse lentils and drain
  • Place in a saucepan with the water over medium heat and bring to a boil
  • Reduce heat and simmer for half an hour
  • Remove from heat; strain/mash lentil and water mixture through a vegetable strainer
  • Return pureed lentil mixture to pot and cook over medium heat and stir in cumin, salt, and pepper
  • Brown the chopped onion in oil or ghee, then add to the lentil mixture
  • Cook the lentils and onion over medium heat for 5 minutes
  • Sprinkle the soup with chopped parsley and croutons

This makes a great first course, is easy, and requires very few ingredients! It’s also great on a cold winter day. Enjoy!

Call Willamette Intl Travel at 503-224-0180 to discuss options for travel in and around the Middle East.

To read what a Sample 9-Day Tour of Jordan with Caravan-Serai would look like, click here.

Caravan Serai is a Seattle-based company that specializes in small-group escorted tours to destinations in the Middle East and North Africa such as Jordan, Turkey and Morocco. Expert guides escort guests through fun-filled and tasty itineraries, valuing comfort and safety all the while trekking across ancient paths and historical ruins.

To read more about Caravan-Serai, click here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Caravan Serai, Middle East, North America, Travel by Taste, Vendors, VOTM

On the Ground in Dubai!

Last January 2013, WIT Agent Pam Davis took the nonstop flight from Seattle on Emirates Airlines to the luxury city of Dubai. With the airline expanding new ports all over the world, it’s not uncommon that your trip to Russia or Africa is going to have a forced overnight in Dubai! Why not attach an extension on your trip to explore the Arab World? Check out the details in our On the Ground with Pam.

Dubai 954

Dubai is a fascinating destination. The country is part of the United Arab Emirates—there are seven different emirates which have banded together. The largest of these are Abu Dhabi, the capital, and Dubai. Abu Dhabi has more oil resources while the economy of Dubai is based more on business and tourism.

Dubai 953Dubai 928

Dubai is a country of superlatives. They have the largest shopping mall in the world (complete with an indoor ski slope!), and the Burj Khalifa which is the tallest building in the world (I went to the top in the fastest elevator in the world – it took 30 seconds to climb 125 floors to an observation tower). Everything seems over-the-top. Hotels are opulent, and Dubai 962construction seems to be going on everywhere. I stayed at the Atlantis Hotel, located at the top end of Palm Island,a man-made series of sand islands that jut out into the gulf and from the air look like a palm tree. Even the public transportation is luxurious—the metro line has first and second class cars; the first class cars have leather seats, and each train has a separate car designated for women and children only. There are special pink taxis with women drivers, also designated for women and children.

Dubai 944

The population of the emirate is now 75% expatriate—local citizens represent only 25% of the population. Most of the people are workers who come from India and the Philippines, with some Europeans and Americans who work for foreign companies. The locals have some extraordinary benefits— free housing (and it looks very nice), free education (even at foreign schools), and no income tax. No wonder they love Sheik Mohammed, the hereditary ruler. While the resort hotels accept Western-style dress, much of the country is still somewhat conservative. Men wear traditional white robes, and women wear black burkas which are basically robes covering street clothing when out in public. Inside the shopping malls are uniformed women who patrol the corridors, passing out dress code requests for women whose skirts or sleeves are deemed too short.

Dubai 968

Dubai is on the edge of the desert, and while there I was able to go 4-wheeling in the desert dunes, a Dubai 935popular pastime for tourists and a good contrast to the city and beaches. The service on Emirates Airlines was excellent, and they have an extensive route system connecting their Seattle gateway with the Middle East, Asia and Africa. They also have some good stopover packages—with a 3 or 4 night stay en route to another destination, you can experience much of what Dubai has to offer.

WIT Agent Pam would love to share with you more of her firsthand tips from Dubai! Call her at 503-224-0180 for more information on Dubai or Emirates. 

Dubai 965

Dubai 907 Dubai 911            Dubai 963

Leave a comment

Filed under Airlines, Emirates, Middle East, UAE