I’m a journalist, travel writer, editor and copywriter based in Melbourne, Australia. I write pacy travel features, edit edifying websites and fashion flamboyant copy. My articles and photographs have appeared in publications worldwide, from inflight to interior design: I’ve visited every continent, and have lived in three. Want to work together? Drop me a line… 

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Women in Saudi Arabia

Until late 2019, I could not visit Saudi Arabia as a solo, female traveller. Only business visa holders and religious pilgrims could visit Saudi Arabia, and even then, as a woman, I would have needed to be accompanied by a male guardian. Living in Egypt in the late noughties, my father had passed away, I was unmarried and neither of my brothers wanted to visit Saudi Arabia. It remained one of a few countries I had not visited in the Middle East, yet with an all-pervasive influence in the region’s economy, politics and societal expectations, there was a Saudi-sized gap in my understanding of the region.

Then, just before COVID closed the world down, Saudi Arabia threw out its own rule book, and brought in e-visas for independent travellers, issued online and almost on the spot.

I am so proud of this story, published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) newspapers, about my adventures in the Saudi city of Jeddah and the AlUla oasis, up toward the Jordanian border. To read more about travelling as a woman, and meeting the women of Saudi Arabia, click on the link below.

https://www.traveller.com.au/visiting-saudia-arabia-as-a-woman-i-went-to-the-notoriously-sexist-country-as-a-solo-female-tourist-h24v9q

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 


The rise of women-only tours in Islamic countries

Coming to you – most appropriately – from Cairo today, I’m sharing my latest story about the rise of women-only tours in the Middle East and surrounds.

When talking about travel in Islamic countries, top of the list of reasons why people refuse to visit is the treatment of women: the lack of access to education and financial independence, enforced dress mandates or the “guardianship” laws and customs that in extreme cases reduce women to the legal standing of a child. There’s also the fear of being ignored, duped or even groped.

Yet to avoid the region would be – in my opinion – to miss out on some of the world’s most lavish ancient civilisations and rich modern cultures.

Click here to read my cover story in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers, in Australia.


Walk into Jordan’s colourful, poetic heart on the Jordan Trail

With its Crusader castles and Roman ruins, the Dead Sea and the rose-colored jewel of Petra, the Jordan Trail leads walkers into its poetic, colorful heart.

Long-distance walking holidays are a worldwide phenomenon, not just in the US with its vast trails, or the routes that criss-cross the United Kingdom, or here in Australia, which has seen a boom in waymarked trails. In the peaceable Middle Eastern country of Jordan, the 400 mile Jordan Trail winds through wadis (valleys) and ridges and into Jordanian life, visiting 75 towns and villages along the way, from Umm Qais in the north to the Red Sea town of Aqaba in the south.

Travelers have always found refuge and wellness here – be they spice traders on the ancient trade route, pilgrims journeying south to Mecca, Roman lovers of luxury or today’s hikers on the Jordan Trail.

Click here to read my latest story and to soak your imagination in the fabulous photography in the current edition of Arrived magazine.


Podcast: travelling in the Middle East

Recently, I went to Saudi Arabia for a holiday. Is that a weird thing to say?

Travelling in the Middle East is a guaranteed dinner party starter: travellers either love it or swear they’ll never set foot in any of its countries – from Egypt to the United Arab Emirate, Saudi Arabia to Qatar.

I love the architecture, the languages, the desert landscapes and the blue waters that fringe the Arabian peninsula. I guess that’s why I keep returning.

I chatted to host Ben Groundwater, with Lisa Pagotto, founder of the awesomely adventurous travel company Crooked Compass on the Flights of Fancy podcast to tease out travel in this most misunderstood of regions.

Click here to listen to the full podcast. Go on, you know you want to!

 


On high on the new Ain Dubai: the world’s largest ferris wheel

Hello blog! It’s been a quiet few months as I hit the road for two months in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Dubai. My first story in this fresh new year has an appropriate high note – it’s my review of Ain Dubai (in English, Dubai Eye), the world’s largest observation wheel.

Ain Dubai’s opening coincides with the world fair, Expo 2020, which is currently running in Dubai, until March 2022. Remember that when Paris hosted the world fair, Exposition Universelle, in 1889, it built the Eiffel Tower as the main attraction. And it worked.

Back in Australia, there’s welcome news that the Sunday Traveller section in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers has returned after nearly two years’ snoozing, just as Australia welcomes the news that our international borders will finally be thrown open to tourists.

While we Australians were allowed to leave in November (necessitating a rush for the border – I can confirm that the few flights available were absolutely mobbed by those of us desperate to reconnect with our families, who we’d been separated from for at least two years), now, anyone vaccinated can enter the country.

Click here to read my story, which runs on the Traveller website and appeared in print in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (Melbourne) newspapers.

PHOTO CAPTION: Ain Dubai is the world’s largest observation wheel. Credit: Belinda Jackson


Ten great car-free towns: from Hoi An to Hydra

Is there nothing better than a car-free town? I’m thinking those little hilltop towns dotted through Italy, the ancient marketplaces of the Middle East, the pedestrian zones of the otherwise honking, fume-laden roads of South America’s great cities.

My top 10 list includes such greats as Jerusalem’s Old City, the Princes Islands off Istanbul and beautiful Hydra, one of the Saronic islands in the Greek archipelago, which holds a special place in my heart for its donkeys and vast, opportunistic orange cat population. There’s also lovely Hoi An, Vietnam’s town of tailors and, of course, the most famous of them all, La Serenissima, aka Venice.

You can click here to read my list, published in The Age and the Sydney Morning Herald’s Traveller section.

Just after it ran, I received an email from a reader telling me that Medina Malta should have made the top 10. Overlooking the fact he had an iconic Maltese surname, he’s definitely got a point – the so-called Silent City, which has been inhabited since 8th-century BC, was another beautiful film location for King’s Landing in Game of Thrones and a worthy contender.  Do you have any suggestions?


Walking between the palaces of medieval Cairo: new TellMeWhere2Go podcast

If Cairo’s on your travel list – as it absolutely should be – but a nasty ole pandemic is stopping you from leaping on a plane, let me help out.

Come stroll with me down Sharia al-Muizz, the thoroughfare of medieval Cairo. It’s a fascinating walk through palaces, mosques, souqs and caravanserais, some more than a thousand years old.

This is my first podcast with TellMeWhere2Go, which launched today.

Click on the Spotify link below to join me in Cairo, then take a virtual trip to some other great destinations on the podcast, from Australia’s Sunshine Coast to the wilds of Rwanda, at www.tellmewhere2go.com

Thanks for listening!


Airline review: FlyDubai to the Silk Road city of Almaty, Kazakhstan

It might seem weird posting a flight review in the midst of a global lockdown, but irrepressible travellers are already looking and booking deals around the world for travel late in 2020 and throughout 2021.

If it’s not on your radar, FlyDubai operates a fleet of Boeing 737-800s out of Dubai Airport’s Terminal 2. It’s currently still on the ground, but when in the skies, its destination list includes some intriguing cities including Prague, Naples and Dubrovnik in Europe, Tbilisi in Georgia and its new route from Dubai to Finland’s fun little capital, Helsinki. It also services the ancient cities along the Silk Road including the Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat and Almaty in Kazakhstan, which is where I was headed on this journey.

The UAE is already opening back up, with sister airline Emirates flying from its Dubai base to Sydney and Melbourne, sprinkling hygiene kits around its cabins, which includes masks, gloves, wipes and hand santiser. Like Emirates, FlyDubai is owned by the Dubai government, and the two often codeshare.

Click here to read my review, published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers. The print edition is currently in slumber, dreaming of its next destination.


Putting Egypt’s pyramids into perspective

I’m not great with tunnels – I don’t like the idea of the weight above me. So I was pretty surprised that I was so keen to get into the Bent Pyramid, the earliest of Egypt’s smooth-sided pyramids, out in the deserts past Cairo.

The tunnel down into the heart of the pyramid is 79 metres long, double the distance of the tunnel in the Great Pyramid. It was so low that I actually scraped my spine, as I was so doubled over.

The pyramid was a practice run ordered by the pharoah Sneferu, father of Cheops (who went on to build the Great Pyramid in nearby Giza). It earned its sobriquet because the architect in charge of its construction realised that the calculations of a 55-degree angle for the pyramid was wrong, and changed it half-way through construction, for a rather wonky look, as you can see.

Still sporting much of the white stone cladding that would have let it shine in the desert, the Bent Pyramid recently reopened for the first time in 53 years, and with Saqqara and Giza, makes up what is known as the Memphis Necropolis, a royal burial ground for Egypt’s kings, queens and nobility (also, lots of sacred bulls, just FYI).

Click here to read about the three burial sites, and how they all link in, in my story published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald/The Age newspapers. Enjoy!


Airline review: Madrid to Cairo with Egyptair

Recently, I completed an epic trek from Cusco, near Macchu Pichu in Peru, to Cairo, Egypt.

Let me tell you, it took some serious, late-night internet hunting! I could have travelled via Sao Paulo, (Brazil) then across to Casablanca (Morocco) and on to Egypt, or from Sao Paulo via a 12-hour layover in Addas Ababa (Ethiopia) and on to Cairo. In the end, the best connections were flying from Lima (Peru) up to Madrid (with three hours cooling my heels in a secondary airport in Ecuador) with LATAM and from Madrid on to Cairo with Egyptair.

This is my review of the Egyptair flight – I’ve flown many times domestically and internationally with the national carrier – on the Madrid-Cairo route, a direct flight of 4 hours 40 minutes.

I’m going to paste my favourite para here, about the food on board:

Chicken or the beef? The beef arrives cubed in a sauce with spiral pasta, and is surprisingly comforting. It’s accompanied by a dried, tired salad, crackers, chocolate cake, a wholemeal dinner role, butter and a triangle of La vache qui rit (The Laughing Cow, incidentally, is the nickname of Egypt’s deposed military dictator, Hosny Mubarak). Because you needed to know that last fact : )

Published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age‘s Traveller section, you can read the full review here.


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