Focus on Archaeology

The one square tower at Al Zubarah Fort in Qatar, with a glimpse of the interior courtyard. Photo by Sameh Mohamed

It is not often that you have the opportunity to experience 5,000 years of archaeology in just eight hours. In March 2016, my husband, Paul, and I visited Qatar, a small country roughly the size of Connecticut that juts out into the Persian Gulf. It shares a land border only with Saudi Arabia to the south.

Most visitors travel to Qatar for business. If they go for pleasure, as we did, it is for Qatar’s futuristic architecture, glittering mega-malls, atmospheric souks and...


The eighth century in Japan was a peripatetic century as far as capitals go. Within the space of one hundred years, AD 694 to 794, Japan’s capital made four major moves. After 16 years in Fujiwara (694 to 710), the capital moved to Nara in 710, then to Nagaoka in 784 and, finally, to Kyoto in 794, where it remained for almost 1,100 years. In 1868, Tokyo replaced Kyoto as Japan’s capital. 

As if all these major moves weren’t enough, there were also minor...


The three castles I visited on my trip to Japan in October-November 2015 — Osaka, Nijo and Himeji — have much in common. Each is a spacious complex in the middle of a large city. Each is surrounded by a moat and by expansive gardens. Each displays monumental gateways, picturesque wall turrets and impressive stonework. Two of the three castles still each have their tenshu, a central tower or keep.

These castle complexes are so grand that they could be mistaken for imperial...


Most visitors to Cape Town in South Africa typically spend three or four days exploring the city and its environs. Among their must-see sights are Table Mountain, the Cape of Good Hope, the penguins near Simon’s Town, Kirstenbosch Garden, Groot Constantia and the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. 

These are among the top sights to visit, and well they should be. They make Cape Town special. But for those with more time and/or with an interest in history, there are several...


One hundred sixty miles north of Cape Town, South Africa, lies Bushmans Kloof, one of the most unique art galleries I’ve ever visited. It’s extraordinary both for its immense size and for the antiquity of its paintings. 

Paintings that are 2,000 to 10,000 years old are scattered among more than 130 caves and rock overhangs in the Cederberg Wilderness area of western South Africa. These rock paintings have been called one of the largest open-air art galleries in the...


(Part 3 of 3 on central Mexico)

Querétaro is one of a trio of colonial cities that are the jewels of an area of central Mexico called the Bajío. Located north of Mexico City, these three cities — San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Querétaro — were the focus of a lengthy visit to the Bajío that my husband, Paul, and I made in the winter of 2015. We rented a house in San Miguel for a month (Nov. ’15, pg. 54) and made multiday excursions to the other two cities....


(Part 2 of 3 on central Mexico)

Having just visited La Cañada de la Virgen, considered the main archaeological site in the Bajío region of central Mexico, my husband, Paul, and I decided we wanted to see more pre-Columbian sites. 

The Bajío is not generally known for its archaeological sites. In fact, most books on Mexico that I looked at skip this region of Mexico entirely when discussing Mesoamerican archaeology. Yet there are hundreds of sites — most only...


(Part 1 of 3 on central Mexico)

About a 4-hour drive north of Mexico City (México, D.F.) is a semiarid region punctuated by hills and valleys called the Bajío. It’s where three of Mexico’s most interesting destinations are located: San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato and Santiago de Querétaro.

My husband, Paul, and I traveled to San Miguel de Allende to exchange New York’s especially brutal winter for San Miguel’s spring-like temperatures, which averaged...