As it happens, I have known Ed Reynolds since Jr. High School in Westport, Ct. I will not say how long ago that was. Even then, we both shared a love for travel, classic cars, and the open road. I felt that Ed would be an interesting individual to interview. He has many passions besides travel, such as flying airplanes, computer science, and old cars. He still has the 1952 MG we used to take to the beach.
Brenda: Ed, I know you recently traveled to Iraq. Tell me why you went and your impressions. For example, were there any surprises, negative or positive?
Ed: Why did I go? Because I had never been and the opportunity presented itself in early 2009. The Iraq Ministry of Tourism announced they were ready for foreign visitors to tour their country. They re-established a relationship with a UK Tour Agency that had conducted tours for over 20 years before the War. The first group of tourists safely toured the country, in March 2009. Advantage Travel and Tours, Poway, CA, arranged to be the first US Tour Agency to conduct a tour in the fall of 2009. They contacted
their regular customers and signed up a group that had traveled together to unusual destinations in the past. I was one of those that signed up to go.
We flew via Istanbul, Turkey, to Baghdad, arriving just at daybreak. The first surprise was the elaborate security surrounding the Baghdad International Airport. It took us eight hours to process through Customs and Immigration and be cleared to leave the airport.
The second big surprise was we saw no US Troops around.
The third surprise was our hotel. It was a former Sheraton and we could see that at one time it was a beautiful place to stay. But the sanctions after the first Gulf War and then the second Gulf War had made it difficult to maintain. As an example, only one of six elevators was in operation and several floors were not in use.
A fourth surprise was the security provided by the Ministry of Tourism for our protection. We were treated like VIPs with two plainclothes armed
guards, plus English speaking guides from the Ministry. On our travel between cities, we had armed escort vehicles front and rear from either the
Iraqi Police or Military.
Driving around Baghdad, we could see what a magnificent city it once was. However, many stores were closed and trash piles were in the streets. Blast barricades and check points slowed traffic around the city, yet there were large crowds of people shopping and numerous cars on the roads.
When we drove to Erbil in the Kurdistan state to the north, we found the highway to be excellent. We saw a lot of new villas under partial construction along the way, but not a lot of activity finishing them.
Erbil was a vast contrast to Baghdad. It had well lit stores, neon signs, and wide clean boulevards. It was similar to the cities in Iran and other Middle East cities.
The archaeological sites we visited were worth the trip, especially Babylon.
The main negative we observed during our trip was the strong friction between Shites, Sunnis, and Kurds. It leads us to believe that a unified country is going to be hard to achieve. It is the same friction that existed between Northerners and Southerners, Christians and Jews, blacks and whites, and
straights and gays that has existed in our country’s history.
Brenda: I’m curious, how many countries have you been to?
Ed: I have been to 131 of the 192 UN Countries; 372 places (out of 872) on the “Most Traveled People” list (www.Mosttraveledpeople.com); and 197 destinations (out of 321) on the “Traveler’s Century Club” list
Brenda: Tell me about your next adventure…where and when?
Ed: My next adventure is in the reservation phase with Advantage Travel and Tours. Many of the same folks from the Iraq tour are involved. In November, we are scheduled to visit the less traveled to countries in north and central Africa, such as Mauritania, Western Sahara, Algeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Equatorial Guinea, Benin, Cameroon, Gabon, and Ethiopia. Obtaining visas and coordinating flight schedules between the countries have posed challenges. There are no or limited flights between many of the countries.
Most travel is from Europe to each country for businessmen and the locals going on vacation to visit Europe. So unless you want to keep flying back to Paris on expensive flights, it is difficult to find flights between the countries.
Brenda: I know you keep a journal and write a blog. How can we read it?”
Ed: It is at: http://edreynoldsjr.blogspot.com/
Here is the recipe you asked about.
Dawa Cocktail from Ed Reynold’s blog:
I had now visited all the recommended sites in Nairobi and was ready for the last adventure: Dinner at Kenya’s most famous restaurant, Carnivore
and its Samba Saloon. Carnivore has a large barbecue pit, where real swords of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and farmed game meat are cooked. Then they are brought to your table and pieces are sliced off for your eating pleasure.
I was early for my reservation, so I sat in the bar where they served me a Dawa (a mixture of Vodka and honey with a lot of ice cubes). They provided a
short stick, about as big around as a stubby pencil. Using this, I was supposed to keep stirring the honey until it was fully dissolved. By that time, the ice had melted, so I ended up with a sweet vodka and water in a short tumbler.
At the bar, I met Brian Allen, a young American doctor. He was completing his residency as an anesthesiologist at a Kenya Hospital that has an exchange program with Vanderbilt University. It was Brian’s last night in Kenya and the Carnivore was recommended as a must visit before he left the country.
Since we both were scheduled to dine alone, we asked to be seated at the same table. Brian was good company.
The meal started with a carrot and mint soup and a
circular tray holding various condiments. We could use these with the offerings, like mint sauce for the lamb.
On top of the tray was a flag in a stand. When we had our fill of meat, we were supposed to remove the flag to signal that we were ready for dessert.
The meat was prepared like a Brazilian Chiaroscuro, except instead of a BBQ spit, the meat is cooked and taken to the tables on swords. The waiter sliced off as much as we wanted. They served lamb, rump steak, pork, turkey, ostrich meatballs, and chicken.
It was very interesting and after one and one-half hours, we removed the flag and had pineapple pie with ice cream for dessert.
Ed Reynolds, Jr.
Home Fax: 818-884-2025
Thank you Ed for your interesting interview and cocktail recipe.
Finalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards,”$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book.”