Save the monuments

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I am looking at old travel diaries, recapturing mental snapshots of trips past. Some of those highlights follow:

  • Valley of the Kings, Luxor, Egypt. Memories include the bright colors in the paintings on walls inside ancient tombs.
  • They are better protected now. On my first visit, in 1976, I could take photos with flash in some tombs; on my third visit, in 1983, I could take no tomb photos.

  • Abdulazizkhan Complex, Bukhara, Uzbekistan. This 15th century mosque-school is one of many in a city that gave its name to my best carpet. My visit was so short I recall Bukhara's exotic charms in a general way; the details are on film.
  • Butrint Archaeological Site, Sarande, Albania. Ruins span the centuries here, but an odd memory surfaces first: We gathered laurel (as in wreaths worn by athletes), which I carried to my kitchen. Laurel and bay leaves are the same.
  • Petra Archaeological Site, Jordan. The astonishing red-hued Petra, carved out of sandstone cliffs, sits in a desert. But it rained a bit during my visit, which meant riverbeds that were dry in the morning were by afternoon carrying lots of rushing water.
  • Irkoutsk Historic Center, Irkoutsk, Russia. Besides this city's picturesque 18th century wooden houses, a key memory is the student who eagerly engaged us in a discussion of American politics -- and sought to buy jeans.
  • Cusco Historic Center and Machu Picchu, Peru. I loved Cusco's huge, smooth stones, first finished by the Incas, later used in Spanish construction.
  • I took photos in the open market, but one likely subject was not agreeable; she threw a carrot. The next day, the sky at Machu Picchu, high in the Andes, was fittingly misty.

    Why recall these journeys? Because all the sites are on the World Monuments Fund list of 100 most endangered monuments. Indeed, mishandled tourism is one of the threats.

    It is in our interests to save these and other such monuments so future travelers can collect memories, too.

    Growing interest in unusual destinations adds to the urgency -- and it improves the chance of success because more people want conservation efforts to succeed.

    Finally, I find that one of the endangered 100 is a few blocks from my New York apartment. It is the 19th century Seventh Regiment Armory. One does not drop in, which is one reason I have not been inside.

    It is the setting for special events, and I regularly receive mailings for Wendy's Antique Show there. I regularly toss the mailers. Next time, I won't.

    Meanwhile, let's send our checks to the World Monuments Fund at 949 Park Ave., New York, 10028.

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