2020/02/15: Home Sweet Home

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
On our trip we had a total of 7 flights. On the first 5 flights we didn't have any problem with security --- they did check our computers and cameras but that was expected. Going through security to get into the airport in Amman for a flight home was a different story. They pulled us aside and wanted my suitcase, day pack Ed's camera bag opened. The cameras need checking --- no big deal. The interesting part was how concerned they were about my binoculars and Ed's GPS. Took them about 15 minutes to decide that both items were OK and could be packed in my suitcase --- that's where the binoculars were to start with. First time those items have been a concern. On the security check to get to the departure area we were stopped again. This time there was a check for residue on the computers and cameras (again normal) but Ed's "poofer" caused great concern. The "poofer" is a plastic squeeze bulb for blowing dust off of camera parts. It took about 5 minutes before someone figured out that it was OK.

After that flights were pretty good. We did run into extra turbulence because of Storm Dennis that was closing in on the coast of Ireland and England.

Neighbours who had to be Toronto yesterday picked us up at the airport. Lucky for us the cold snap was over and the temperature was just below freezing. We were glad Brian was driving as neither of us really wanted to be driving in the blowing snow that plagued us most of the way home.

All in all we had an amazing time on our trip. The likely hood of going back to Egypt is extremely small but I would definitely consider going back to Jordan especially Petra. Right now the Petra area is my "happy place". I could sit in the hills and stare at the rocks all day long.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
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The bus took us on a drive around Aqaba as we didn't have much time to the town.

We have a long drive ahead of us today as we go to visit a resort on the Dead Sea. The road that would normally be used is closed to large buses so we have to drive the Desert Highway almost to Amman then go east to the Dead Sea.

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Along the highway we saw sheep, goats and camels grazing. Any bit of grass will do.

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In general I was impressed with the driving and driving rules in Jordan but they don't seem to care how you ride in/on vehicles.

To help break up the trip we stop at an old Castle, but not one that is related to the crusaders.

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Looking into the castle.

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A view of the Jordan Valley. A lot of crops are grown in this valley

Just past the view of the Jordan Valley we started going down the mountain and hit sea level. Then we continued to drive further down the mountain.

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The area by the Dead Sea is about 15 to 20 degrees C warmer than Amman, so a lot of people head towards the Dead Sea and have picnic lunches when it's cold in Amman. The interesting part is where they stop ---- any piece of land on the side of the road is good enough. We did see a number of people by the beach but more just along the side of the road or on the edge of fields.

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Since people are picnicking along the side of the road, the vegetable market is there as well. There were cars and trucks park on the side of the road selling vegetables for at least a kilometer.

Finally we have made it to the resort and we're ready to play in the dead sea. The dead sea has a large salt content so even people who say they can't float, float. I put my feet straight down and put my arms up in the arm I remained at exactly they same depth as when I laid back in the water. It was so much fun. Another great part was that the water was actually warm, OK I made a funny face when I went in but after a minute I was nice a warm and having a great time.

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Sharon, me, Ed, Eileen and James all "mudded up". We were standing in front of a sign that indicated we were at the lowest place on earth ---- Ed's GPS indicated that we were 429 meters below sea level.

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Ed and I floating. To repeat myself, playing in the Dead Sea is a lot of fun.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Shortly after leaving Wadi Musa we stopped at a view point for a great view of our Wadi Musa hotel, the trail to the siq, the start of the siq and mountains of Petra.

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This photo gives you a good idea of what the rocks are like, if you look closely you'll be able to see people on the trail between the entrance to Petra and the siq.

Next stop was the village of Wadi Rum, where we boarded our "desert vehicles" for a ride through the desert to a "Bedouin camp" for lunch.

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I was expecting jeeps and we ended up in the box of a pickup truck. It was a fun ride as long as you were hanging on tight.

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Looking back at two of the other trucks with members of our group.

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We stopped and climbed a sand dune.

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Camels enjoying a stroll through the desert.

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I guess with tomorrow being Valentines Day I had hearts on the brain and found a hole in the rocks that looked like a heart. Ed and I attempted to make hearts with our fingers. It's not really in focus because Ed took it from the speeding bus but he really liked the camel crossing sign.

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Scenes from the movie Lawrence of Arabia were shot in this canyon. A lovely Bedouin tea house / gift shop is set up here.

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The Bedouin camp where we stopped for lunch was actually a luxury tent hotel at the edge of a small town. The food was cooked in a traditional Bedouin style --- dig a hole in the ground, put a metal drum in the hole, make a fire in the drum, put food on a tiered rack and put in the metal drum, put a lid on the drum, cover with dirt and cook for several hours. Well, traditional might have been a little less sanitary.

After driving another hour or so we arrived in Aqaba which is a resort town on the Red Sea. Our hotel is downtown, a few blocks from the water. A number of our group opted to take a glass bottom boat tour which involved a drive to a resort on the beach. The tour took us over a sunken ship, a coral reef and a plane wreck.

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We saw lots of coral, some interesting fish, an eel and lots of jelly fish. This looks like a sketch but it's a photo.

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The desert comes right up to the Red Sea.

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We enjoyed a beautiful sunset on the boat. The best part of Aqaba was the mid 20s C and a warm breeze on the boat. I'll just have to keep remembering this till summer arrives in Ontario.

2020/02/12: More "Wow"s Today

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
This morning we boarded the bus for a short drive to Siq Al Barid (Little Petra) where we visited Al Beidha, a neolithic village, and Little Petra.

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Al Beidha dates back 9000 years and along with Jericho constitute one of the oldest archaeological sites in the Middle East. This settlement was abandoned in 6000 BC keeping the site intact (thanks Lonely Planet). Which makes this site unique from other neolithic sites we've seen.

Little Petra is thought to have served as a trading post and supply depot for visiting caravans.

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I love the mix of natural formations in the rock, elaborate carvings and simple caves.

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After an interesting climb we looked at a vivid fresco of vines, flowers and birds on the ceiling of a cave. This is a rare example of Nabataean painting.

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Climbing down after viewing the painting on the ceiling.

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On the drive back to Wadi Musa, we stopped to admire the view of Petra.

This afternoon we had free time where we could go to a couple of the local museums, hang out at the hotel, walk around town or back into Petra. Guess where we went ..... you guessed it ---- Petra.

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The light on the Treasury was amazing. I'm not sure if these guys are suppose to be Romans or Knights guarding the Holy Grail in the Indiana Jones movie.

There were definitely a lot more people at 12 noon then at 7 am. Our objective was to hike the trail to the Monastery which meant we had to walk most of the way through the site. We had hoped that a lot of people wouldn't walk this trail but that wasn't the case.

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On top of all the people on the trail there were the donkeys who were taking people to the top and back down. It was interesting when the trail narrowed and donkeys and people were trying to get by.

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Looking back as we ascend the trail. Any place the trail was wide enough stands were setup selling scarfs, jewelry, pieces of rock, juice, ect.

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Another view along the trail, this time looking up. I love how trees will grow anywhere they can.

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Not sure why this donkey was wandering around loose but he found a spot with an amazing view. I just love the colour of the rocks.

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We made it --- the Monastery. The size of all of the carved out buildings makes you feel very small.

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There was a small outcropping of rocks on which there was a trail to top and view point. This view of the Monastery is from part way up that trail.
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We did go up to the top and bought a refreshment from a Bedouin and had an interesting chat with him.

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Back down and walking back towards the Treasury. Who can resist camels --- I think they are so cute.

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And then there are goats --- gotta love those ears and faces.

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
The ancient Nabataean city of Petra is a world wonder. The city lay forgotten for centuries, known only to the Bedouin who made it their home until it a Swiss explorer happened upon it in 1812. Built partly in honour of the dead, Petra necropolis retains much of its sense of mystery thanks to its inaccessible location in the heart of a wind-eroded landscape. (thanks Lonely Planet!) In 1985 Petra was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO. At this time the Bedouin were relocated to a new town just outside of Petra.

Our hotel in Wadi Musa is closer to the entrance to Petra than the Petra visitor centre is. Once you go through the entrance to Petra you walk 15 minutes to the Siq, the stunning 2 km canyon that you through to get to the city of Petra.

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It was mostly cloudy and about 1 C when we walked in.

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As you near the end of the Siq you start to see the Treasury (the icon of Petra) and then you see it.

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As we wandered through the site the weather cleared. Even though the temperature didn't get above 5 C it was quite warm when you were in the sun. As the day went on we kept taking layers of clothing off.

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We did a hike that involved a lot of stairs. The stairs are carved out of the rock --- in some places they were like regular stairs in other places the stairs were not as defined so a little harder to navigate. The donkeys didn't have any problems climbing the stairs.

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Sometimes a little scrambling was involved.

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The views from the ridge are incredible. Looking down on the theatre.

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At the end of the trail was a little hut that sold drinks and had an incredible view of the Treasury.

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Donkey's are the main transport especially for going up and down the hills. In the background is the town that the Bedouin were moved to. This photo doesn't show it but when you are on the trail you can see the caves the Bedouin use to live in and the houses they now live in --- interesting contrast.

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There are a lot of dogs running around loose in Petra. We came upon a herd of goats and this dog.

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The siq again, this time as we are walking out. The sun brought out all the colours in the rock.

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All I can say is WOW!

2020/02/10: Snow?

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today is another cool day but it's OK as we are spending a good part of the day on the bus driving to Petra.

We stopped in Madaba which is a small town known for it's mosaics.

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St. George's Church has been totally rebuilt but parts of the original mosaic floor from AD 560 remains. The floor represents the oldest map of Palestine in existence and provides many insights into the region.

Not too far from Madaba is Mount Nebo and the Memorial to Moses.

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A view from Mount Nebo. If you look in another direction you can can see the Red Sea and Jericho but unfortunately not so good today.

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Mount Nebo is where Moses is said to have seen the Promised Land. Moses Memorial Church was built around 4th century foundations in 597. It has undergone major renovations. There are 3 mosaic floors built one on top of the other. The top floor has been removed and hung on the walls revealing the 2nd mosaic floor.

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An Italian designed bronze memorial at the viewpoint for the Red Sea and Jericho.

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We were suppose to visit Shobak Castle (built by the Crusader King Baldwin 1 to 1115) but due to the weather it was closed. We get to stop and take a photo.

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Ed took advantage of the situation and threw a snowball at me.

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A view from the bus window. Yup, that's snow on the ground and on the trees.

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Just as we drove into Wadi Musa (the town by Petra) we stopped at Moses' Spring. This is one of two possible locations where Moses supposedly struck the rock with his staff and water gushed forth. What I found interesting is the young lad who came to the well and scooped up some water for the neighbouring tea shop.

2020/02/09: Roman Ruins

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
The forecast for today is showers with a high of 5C, but happily we just had some rain in the morning then it was mostly overcast and it maybe hit 6 C. Unlike some other people on the tour I was prepared for the cool weather --- 2 pairs of pants, a t-shirt, light fleece sweater, a down sweater, gortex jacket, toque and gloves. If it gets colder I have long johns and 2 more layers for the top ---- I might look like the Michelin man but Iíll be warm.

We started the day visiting some sites in Amman with the Citadel being the first stop. The area known as the Citadel sits on the highest hill in Amman and is the site of ancient Rabbath-Ammon (bronze age). Unfortunately, an earthquake in AD 749 destroyed or partially destroyed all the buildings in the area.

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Two giant pillars from the Temple of Hercules

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The Citadelís most impressive series of historic buildings is focused around Umayyed Palace (built by Umayyed Arabs). The 2 end walls of the building were left standing after the earthquake. The remainder of the building was restored including the dome.

There is a small but very interesting archeological museum on the Citadel.

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Two-headed bust from plaster and bitumen. Pre-Pottery Neolithic 6500 BC . Anthropoid coffins --- the face on the wall would cover the empty spot on the left hand coffin. Typically in use from the 13th to 7th century BC.

After this we had a quick visit to the forum, then went for a stroll through some of the downtown area of Amman. We stopped at a bakery for a treat, walked through a fruit and vegetable market and stopped at a falafel stand for another treat. One of the really nice things about Jordan is that we can eat fresh fruit and vegetables again --- the water is treated!

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The forum.

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Those are big cabbages --- Toniís hand is for size comparison.

About an hour north of Amman is the modern city of Jerash. The ruined city of Jerash (known in Roman times as Gerasa) is Jordanís largest and most interesting Roman site. Within it is Hadrianís Arch, the Temple of Artemis (goddess of hunting and fertility), the Forum, the South Theatre, the Upper Temple of Zeus and the list continues. Iíve identified places in the photo best as I could using the map of Jerash in my guidebook.

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Hadrianís Gate

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On the outside of the Hippodrome (ancient sports field). Ed liked the symmetry of it.

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Nymphaeum, the main ornamental fountain of Jerash dedicated to the water nymphs. On the backside of the fountain was a waterwheel and a water driven reciprocating stone saw.

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Temple of Zeus. One of the amazing things about Jerash city is the number of blocks and parts of pillars that are on the ground. You look around at the pillars and buildings that have been restored, then look at the blocks on the ground and are awestruck as you image what was actually standing when Jerash was an active city.

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From high up at the Temple of Zeus looking down at Forum and the main avenue Cardo Maximus

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Ed and I at the top row of the South Theatre looking down into the South Theatre.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today is a travel day. Our flight from Cairo, Egypt to Amman, Jordan left at noon (a nice sensible time) and we even arrived 20 minutes early. Getting through the airport probably took almost as long as the flight did. There was the typical mile walk from the gate, then a few folks need to stop at the currency exchange, then we all had to purchase Visas, then there was customs and finally bag pickup. But we're not done yet .... a stop to pick up cell phone sim cards for a couple of people and the ATM for a few more. Luckily the lines were small or non-existent or it could have taken a lot longer.Today is a travel day. Our flight from Cairo, Egypt to Amman, Jordan left at noon (a nice sensible time) and arrived 20 minutes early.

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It's chilly and rainy in Amman but we were rewarded with this beautiful rainbow.

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Our guide told us that some tall skyscrapers are being built --- we'll just have to believe him.
Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Today we are spending the day seeing things from the more recent history of Egypt.

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We started with a visit to the Unknown Soldier Memorial. It was here on October 6, 1981 that Anwar Sadat was assassinated. Yes, it was raining. First rain for the trip but luckily it didn't last long.

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The Great Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha or Alabaster Mosque is a mosque situated in the Citadel of Cairo and was commissioned by Muhammad Ali Pasha between 1830 and 1848.

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The ceiling in the mosque. The inside of the mosque was very beautiful.

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Looking west from the citadel we can see the Giza Pyramids in the distance.

Another stop was the Hanging Church, an old Coptic Church. It is called the Hanging Church because it was built on the southern gate of the Roman Fortress. Some of the flooring has been replaced with glass so you can see the air space below the floor. The church was very nice inside but photography was not permitted.

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Outside the church were some mosaics. This one shows Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.

We also stopped to see Ben Ezra which is the old synagogue in Cairo (no photography) and Saint Sergius which is presumed to be the spot where the Holy Family lived during their flight into Egypt. (again no photography)

Last stop was the Khan el Khalili Bazaar.

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The crowds around the churches were really bad and it was worse by the bazaar so I opted to sit in a cafe and people watch while Ed wandered through the bazaar with some of the group.

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The group ended up in an area that had craftsmen. They watch a man making copper plates.

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When we were driving back to the hotel we had one last look at the bazaar.

Egypt has been a very interesting trip, full of unexpected and wonderful things. I'm happy to leave the 25+ million people in Cairo and all the noise it brings. Sitting in our hotel room we hear constant traffic noise and what seems like non-stop car horns.

2020/02/06: Back to Cairo

Category: General
Posted by: The Agnew Family
Another 4 am morning. This time it was to catch a 7:30 am flight back to Cairo. A couple of groups were leaving early this morning so the hotel kindly opened the breakfast buffet 1 hour and 15 minutes early. I'm always surprised how early I can eat breakfast.

Once we were in Cairo we were driven to the The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities. This museum is in the downtown area of Cairo and was opened in 1902. It is a beautiful old building that is overflowing with over 120,000 antiquities. A humongous new museum is being built in Giza with a possible opening date of late 2020 (though the guides question that). I was happy to hear from our guide that this wonderful old building is currently under restoration so it will not be closing when the new museum opens. Apparently, there are enough antiquities to go around especially since they are finding more every year.

The first thing was saw in the museum was a copy of the Rosetta stone. It an one other piece are the only copies in the building. The Rosetta stone is stone tells a story in three languages ---- Ancient Greek, Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics and Demotic script (a language used by the people of Egypt). As scholars could read Ancient Greek it allowed them to interpret and learn hieroglyphics allowing them to study the ancient Egyptians.

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The outside of the museum.

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Amenhotep III and Tiye (I think), Tutankhamun's grandparents.

We did not see the Tutankhamun Exhibit when it came to Canada, so we were really awe struck when we saw a lot of items that were found in King Tut's tomb. Here are photos of a few that impressed us.

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Another room had items found in the Royal Tombs of Tanis.

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For some unknown reason these gold fingers and toes really caught Ed and my attention.

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Ed thinks this is an interesting piece.