Sunday Special – The Forbidden City, Beijing, China

Found within China’s capital city of Beijing is an incredible palace complex that served as the home of emperor’s for a span of over 500 years. The Forbidden City, named so as only emperors, their immediate families, and officials where the only ones permitted inside, is a massive 72 hectares / 178 acres complex that has approximately 980 buildings. Surrounding the complex is a wall standing 10 m / 32.8 ft high and houses 8,700 rooms. Additionally there is a 52 m / 170 ft moat. That is one secure palace! Construction on the complex began back in 1406 CE and was the imperial home through the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Since 1925 the Forbidden City has been under the care of the Palace Museum and in 1987 it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with being deemed the largest collection of preserved ancient wood structures anywhere in the world. Due to its size and historical and cultural importance there are ongoing renovations occurring at the palace so at any time only about 80% of the complex is open for visitors.


Hall of Supreme Harmony, found within Beijing’s Forbidden City – Photo credit: Daniel CaseHall of Supreme Harmony, Forbidden City, Beijing, with tourists 2CC BY-SA 3.0




Sunday Special – The Alhambra, Granada, Spain

In the Andalusian city of Granada you can see the stately Alhambra, a red-brick fortress and former residence of kings standing on the rocky hillside overlooking the River Darro.  It’s name in Arabic, qa’lat al-Hamra, translates as The Red Castle, reflecting the colour of the fortress.  Considered one of the finest examples of Muslim architecture in all of Spain it  is not a surprise that it is one of the most visited places in the country.  The history surrounding this complex spans centuries. Historical records indicate that it was built in the 9th century CE as a minor military fortress though its illustrious history truly began when it was rebuilt in the 13th century and a royal residence was constructed by the Nasrids. Reconstruction the oldest part of the complex (the Alcazaba) took place along with additions of towers and ramparts. Through the centuries it became a citadel with the adding of courts, royal palaces, a medina, army barracks, gardens, and more. It grew in size and splendour.  Later constructions were in the Renaissance style, during the time when King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella held court there. In the early 1500s Charles V tore down and began building a new palace that bears his name.  Time went on and the fortress was eventually abandoned through the 1800s and even Napolean had a hand in the destruction of a portion of this incredible complex. Seemingly lost, Alhambra was found again in the 1900s. Extensive restoration of the complex and UNESCO World Heritage Site designation in 1984 has given life once again to the is fine example of Moorish design. 


Inside a Nasrid Palace in Alhambra – Photo credit: Ronny SiegelAlhambra in Granada 011CC BY-SA 4.0


Alhambra at night – Granda, Spain – Photo credit: Javier rodriguez jimenez037 (2)fotofrafia nocturna del patio de los leonesCC BY-SA 4.0


Alcazaba portion of Alhambra, Spain – Photo JebulonAlcazaba, Alhambra, Granada, SpainCC0 1.0


The Last Little Bit of Jordan

Well I am back to regular life and right in the thick of it. It is my busy time at work so that is my main focus for the next several months (gotta fund my travels). I hope to get Sunday Special back on and also a few other posts as well. Please bear with me! 🙂

After Wadi Rum we still had adventure ahead of us. Our group’s last stop before returning to Amman was in the south of Jordan, in Aqaba. Here we spent a perfect afternoon aboard a boat aptly named “Freedom” while cruisin’ the Red Sea. And for those of us who wanted (and I wanted) we could snorkel with the fish. Additionally, from this area we could see Israel & Egypt across the way. Heading a bit further we could also see Saudi Arabia. This section of the Red Sea is a confluence of nations.

Soon the group tour was coming to a close. We headed back to Amman and had our final farewell dinner (& some shisha) the next night. I still had two days so I did some sightseeing, shopping, and took a cooking class. At the cooking class (on a patio kitchen) we enjoyed our dinner and were able to see part of a Jordanian wedding ritual next door. The bride was being picked up the groom and friends where she was serenaded and celebrated. What an unexpected treat!

The Red Sea!

Our boat – Freedom

Heading out to sea.

Enjoying a Jordanian beer.

Dinner in Aqaba.

I really enjoyed the food in Jordan. These cheese stuffed appies were so tasty.

When in Amman one should visit Hashem for the best falafels!

Again, best falafels EVER!! 😋

So many spices!

Shops along the street

Our G Adventures final dinner

The Jordan group

Strawberry flavoured shisha 😋

Visiting Amman’s Citadel – history upon history as many ages have left their mark here

A number of Roman ruins

The Temple of Hercules

The Monumental Gateway / Entrance, built during the Umayyad Period (the first Muslim Dynasty)

The interior of the Monumental Gateway. I love this building.

The hand of Hercules

Next it was off to the Roman Amphitheatre.

Ms Brown taking it all in.

An interesting museum beside the Amphitheatre houses clothing & jewellery of the Bedouins.

They are everywhere. LOL

Saw a bit of the famous Rainbow St

Group cooking class at well-known Beit Sitti Cooking School & Restaurant

We prepped those!

Looks good and smells even better

Musakhan Um Azmi finished and ready to eat. So tasty it was. 😋

The dinner I helped make.

My new Pandora charm, my souvenir for the great trip!

All photos taken and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World

Wadi Rum – The Highlight Of My Trip

Sometimes the best part of travel can be that your expectations are not what you expected, in a good way. I honestly thought that visiting Petra was going to be the pinnacle part of this trip. It was truly amazing, that is for certain, but Wadi Rum Desert was definitely the highlight. Perhaps because I didn’t know what to expect in the desert that I was so mesmerized by it. The tour itinerary for Wadi Rum included going a 4 x 4 drive, having meals and spending a night in a Bedouin-style camp, and an optional hot air balloon flight (which I signed up for). It sounded fun but it was so beyond my expectations that it deserves the title of “trip highlight”. Oh and instead of staying in the Bedouin-style tent/cabin I decided, along with a few others in our group, to sleep out under the moonlight within the camp grounds.

The trucks that zoomed us around the desert

The landscape of Wadi Rum, Jordan

Lines in the sand

Stopped to climb a bit up this dune – the finest sand I’ve felt (and kinda hot on the toes!)

The natural arch and set for Star Wars nearby

Nature is incredible!

The sun casting long shadows

A beautiful desert sunset

Waking up to a desert morning after sleeping under the moon and stars

Early morning balloon ride!

It may be early & I’ve looked better but I am thrilled to be here!

Wadi Rum From the sky

All photos taken by (or for) and owned by Eeva Valiharju / Wanders The World.