Middle East

The Driest Place on the Planet
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Tomorrow’s weather forecast for Aswan, Egypt: hot, no rain.

Technically Aswan is not the driest place on the planet. That distinction goes to The Dry Valleys in Antarctica, which last saw precipitation two million years ago, give or take a few days. Aswan, though, is the world’s driest permanently inhabited town. The last time it rained here was in 2006. Before that it was 1994. Do the math and the average annual rainfall works out to 0.5 millimeters, or about the thickness of a stack of five sheets of typical photocopy paper.

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One Fish, Two Fish,
Places That Look Dr. Seuss-ish

Anyone who grew up on The Cat In The Hat and Green Eggs and Ham remembers the illustrations of one Mr. Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. Trees with elongated trucks or with improbable collections of limbs. Stark and scraggly landscapes with oddly balanced rocks and unlikely geometric shapes. Architecture with unusual protrusions and awkward angles where no two windows exactly the same. These were some of the hallmarks of the world Dr. Seuss illustrated in his 60 children’s books.

Here’s a look at some places on Planet Earth—places you can visit on your next vacation—that resemble scenes from a Dr. Seuss illustration. So, in the words of the doctor himself . . .


…be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!


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Egypt’s Time-Forgotten Eco-Resort

The resort itself feels a little like the casbah in Star Wars (except without the space aliens and bar fights)

We are prepared to stand by this bold statement:

The Adrere Amellal is the single coolest eco-resort on the African continent!

Set within a scenic oasis, at the foot of a dramatic rock-mountain, amidst the desert in Egypt, the Adrere Amellal has the feel of a place time forgot. The local Berbers here still live much like they’ve done for centuries, wearing their traditional clothing, speaking their native Siwi (not Arabic) and harvesting the bountiful dates and olives by hand.

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5 Luxurious Airport Hotels

Airport hotels have got a bad name. You might have spent the night in a soulless concrete box by the tarmac, its hallways lined by hollow-eyed passengers en route to a better place. But it doesn’t have to be like that. The next time you’ve got a stopover between connecting flights, you can spend the night in heavenly comfort at one of these luxurious airport hotels. You might be tempted to book a room even if you aren’t using the airport!

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5 Amazing Towns on Perilous Cliff Sides

Castellfollit de la Roca has a doubly impressive location—it's perched atop a spit of land with cliffs on two sides.

Spot Cool Stuff loves a good cliff-side town. There’s something about them that’s romantic, daring and a little impossible. Here are five of our favorites places where no one with vertigo would want to live:

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Ice Bars In Warm Places

At almost any bar in the world you can get a drink with ice. At a few you can get a drink in ice. While sitting on seats made of ice. At a table made of ice. Surrounded by walls made of ice.

The concept of the ice bar originated, logically enough, in Sweden where both water and freezing temperatures are abundant. These icy drinking establishments soon became popular around Scandinavia, partly because they combined two elements Scandinavians tend to embrace (cold and alcohol) and partly because these bars’ LED lighting, artworks of frozen water and and intimate settings made them great places to chill out. (Pun. Sorry.)

Today, there are more than two dozen ice bars around the globe including ones in Amsterdam, London, Poland, Canada and Alaska. Not all of these frozen saloons are in places with cold climes. Hence this Spot Cool Stuff overview of ice bars in warm places.

For the purposes of this review, a “warm place” is anywhere it doesn’t snow in the winter and regularly gets hot in the summer. So, the ice bar in Beijing doesn’t count. The one in Shanghai would have had it not recently closed.

All of the selections on this list, like most of the ice bars anywhere, charge an entrance fee to get in. Usually this fee includes one free drink and use of cold-weather clothing that is designed as much to protect patrons from the bar’s sub-freezing temperatures as it is to protect the bar itself from the patrons’ body heat. To help keep their establishments below freezing, ice bars also have strict limits on the number of people allowed in.

And with that, let’s kick back with a cold one and tour the world’s ice bars in warm places . . .

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5 Cool Cargo Ship Cruises

Conjure an image of what’s it is like to go on a cruise. Are you picturing buffet dinners? On-deck spinning classes? Retirees playing shuffleboard? Many cruises really are like that. But if you’re looking for a different sort of cruise scene consider traveling by cargo ship.

Cargo ship travel is the un-cruise. There’s nothing fabricated about it. Every day thousands of freighters ply the high seas. Some of them have extra state rooms and accept passengers to tag along for the ride. This is as “real” as travel gets.

Of course, cargo ship cruising is not for everyone. Cargo ships don’t have swimming pools, evening entertainment, rock climbing walls or organized mixers on Lido decks. Go on a cargo ship cruise and there might be as many as four or five other paying passengers like yourself. Or, you may be the only one. And while cargo ships often have comfortable sleeping quarters they’re unlikely to be luxurious.

To book passage on a cargo ship you can go directly through some shipping lines. But we recommend working through a travel agent that can vouch for the quality of the food and accommodations and can make sure your itinerary includes sufficient shore leave time. One of the best agents for cargo ship cruises is Intrepid Travel. Here’s a look at their five cool cargo cruise ship itineraries:

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Eating In The Dark

Here’s a restaurant theme you didn’t see coming: darkness.

The concept of purposefully eating in complete pitch-black dark originated with Jorge Spielmann, a blind clergyman from Zurich. When guests ate dinner at the Spielmann house some would wear blindfolds during their meal to show solidarity with their host and to better understand his world. What Spielmann’s sighted guests found was that the blindfolds heightened their sense of taste and smell and made their dining experience more enjoyable. That gave Spielmann the idea to open a dark restaurant, which he did in 1999.

Today you can stumble into dozens restaurants around the world where that question made famous in an American commercial in the 80s — Where’s the beef? — takes on a whole new meaning. Most dark restaurants employ blind waiters, offer a single set menu, and ban anything that could give off light (like cigarettes, cell phones and cameras) from the dinning area. All of them also have normally lit bathrooms though you’ll need to ask your waiter for help in finding it.

Here’s our illuminating look at some of the world’s dark restaurants:

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