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Barbara A. Porter, Has led numerous archaeological tours from Algeria to Iran in the decade before becoming the Director of the American Center of Oriental Research in Amman in 2006. She received her A.B. from Bryn Mawr College and her M.A., M. Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University. From 1978 to 1986 she was on the curatorial staff of The Metropolitan Museum of Art (Egyptian Art and Ancient Near Eastern Art) and in the 1990s taught at New York University. She presided over ACOR’s 50th anniversary year in Jordan (www.acorjordan.org). She grew up in Lebanon in the 1960s and due to her service on the board of the American Community School at Beirut since 1996, she has returned to Lebanon often.

Scholar Bruce Wannell, has been traveling for over 40 years through North and East Africa, the Levant, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central Asia, Northern India and the Deccan sometimes living in such places for an extended period of time. He possesses an encyclopedic knowledge of Africa, Asia, the Near East and the Islamic world and is a linguist fluent in French, German, Italian as well as Arabic and Persian languages. Mr. Wannell was educated at Wellington College near Sandhurst in Surrey and at Oriel College, Oxford, in the UK. His background has served him well as he regularly translates and gives lectures related to his field of expertise. He has also worked as a teacher with refugees. Bruce enjoys an eclectic array of pastimes, from gardening to French cuisine and chamber music (piano and harpsichord, accompanying instrumentalists and singers in the classical and Baroque style). We believe he is the perfect companion to accompany you across this rich historical crossroad of civilizations. His engaging, captivating personality and eloquent, narrative style will entertain as he seeks to enlighten you on the interdisciplinary subjects related to the history of the Babylonians, Assyrians, Chaldeans, Sumerians and Syriacs.  

David William

For as long as I can remember, I always had a deep rooted need to travel. After graduating from university with a degree in hospitality & tourism management that included two years abroad, one in Oxford, England and the other at École Hôtelière in Lausanne, Switzerland my career as a hôtelier was on a successful track, but I longed to get away. Twenty years ago, I finally found my niche as a travel consultant and tour leader. During the last two decades, I have had the opportunity to organize and lead groups worldwide. I have organized every imaginable tour from remote, rugged expeditions to overland African journeys to luxury yachts in the Mediterranean. Leading groups and experiencing their excitement as we travel together is the best part of my job. This path has given me the opportunity to visit 50 States and over 160 countries on all seven continents. My passion for travel and my tour leading skills and my love for Africa are the perfect mix that equips me to share this special tour with you. It’s the 2nd tour that Spiekermann asked me to lead it for them so they can ensure smooth sailing along the way and careful supervision of all the trip details. I look forward to meeting you.

Professor Denise Schmandt-Besserat, Is professor emerita of Art History and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. A graduate of L’Ecole du Louvre in Paris, she is a renowned Near Eastern archaeologist. She has worked on archaeological collections in all the major museums of the Middle East, Europe and the US. She is the author of When Writing Met Art (2007), Before Writing (1992) and When Writing Came About, which was selected by American Scientist magazine as “one of the 100 books that shaped science in the 20th century”. Her work on the origins of writing and mathematics has been covered by Scientific American, Time, Life, the New York Times, and the Washington Post. She has appeared on television programs such as Out of the Past (Discovery Channel), the Nature of Things (CBC), Search for Solutions (PBS) and Tell the Truth (NBC). For many years Denise has led our tours to the Near East and Central Asia and her lectures and handouts will add to the enjoyment of your tour. You can get acquainted with her and her scholarly work on Wikipedia and by browsing her web site: http://sites.utexas.edu/dsb

Lecture Change


  1. Iraq.. March 07 to 23, 2020


Professor Dorothy Keller,
She is a Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Saint Joseph in CT and studied at the University of Hartford Art School where she earned an M.Ed. degree. In addition, she holds an M.A. and C.A.G.S. in Religious Studies from the University of Saint Joseph. She has received more than 10 awards and had at least five radios and T.V. interviews in the past eight years related to the discoveries she has made throughout the years. On May, 13, 2017, she received: Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa (an honorary degree). Professor Keller has traveled extensively throughout Europe, the Mid-east, and Asia and has participated in numerous archaeological digs. She says: "It is my experience that traveling is important in order to understand the cultural context of the Art in question. I will not teach anything that I haven't seen in person hence our field trips to art museums and galleries. It is also through travel that one makes interesting discoveries about themselves." Professor Keller will gladly share her knowledge of key archaeological, religious, and historical sites in Afhanistan. Using critical thinking and insight she will make valuable connections between the worlds of art, philosophy, religion, science, politics, technology, etc.



  1. Afghanistan.. October 05 to 16, 2020

Elena Dak,

Elena was born in Venice in 1970 and has been working for more than 20 years leading tours in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. She enjoys tremendously leading people to meet and learn about the ethnic groups in many parts of the world. She is deeply interested about nomadic peoples and was involved in many research projects related to a variety of nomadic people such as the Touaregs in Niger, the Wodaabe in Tchad and the Rabari in India. She graduated from the University of Ca’ Foscari in Venice in Conservation of cultural heritage with ethnographic orientation. Now she is studying in Bicocca University to get her PhD in cultural anthropology. She wrote 3 books on the nomadic lives of various tribes and still contributes to Africa Magazine and Erodoto108. She was also nominated to give Ted Talk in Milan in October 2018, which is a very prestigious venue for learned minds.

Iman R. Abdulfattah, A PhD Candidate in Islamic Art and Archaeology at Universität Bonn in Germany. She specializes in the material culture and built environment of medieval Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean. She obtained her MA in Islamic Art and Architecture from The American University in Cairo (AUC) in 2004, and BA in Near Eastern Languages and Literature from New York University (NYU) in 1996. Iman has taught various courses in the field of Islamic art and architecture, Islamic history, and Norman Sicily at NYU's School of Professional Studies since 2018. Previously, from 2005 to 2010, she worked as a Project Manager and Assistant to Dr. Zahi Hawass of the Ministry of Antiquities in Egypt, where she developed the concept for a number of  museum and heritage projects. Among her diverse activities, she also worked at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Islamic Art in Cairo, and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. She has authored a number of publications on the art and architecture of the Mamluk and Crusader periods of Egypt and the Levant, as well as on contemporary crafts in Egypt.

Dr. Mehreen Chida-Razvi, Earned her BSc and BA from the University of Florida, Gainesville, before moving to London, England where she completed an MA in Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and a second MA and a PhD in the History of Art & Archaeology from SOAS, University of London. She specializes in the history of Islamic art, architecture and material culture in the early modern era, with a particular emphasis on the Persianate regions of Mughal South Asia, Iran and Central Asia. Dr. Chida-Razvi’s primary research examines the history of architecture and the built environment and she has carried out extensive fieldwork and site-research in Pakistan and India. Another area of particular interest is the cultural and artistic interactions between Europe and the Persianate world and the social and historical circumstances which allowed for such connections to take place. Since 2007 Mehreen has given lectures and taught courses on Islamic art and architecture in London and Oxford, and has furthermore been an academic contributor and consultant for a documentary on  Taj Mahal.

Lecturer Michel Behar, Boasts an impressive list of credentials and just reading through it makes you want to meet this person and share the road with him. A Dutch citizen, after his studies of Russian and Arabic in the Netherlands he took a course of advanced Arabic at the University of Khartoum in Sudan. Fluent in 12 languages including Farsi, English, Turkish, and French, he has an understanding of 7 others. He has been a tour manager since 1987 leading groups for US, Dutch, Swiss, German, and British companies. He has accompanied custom tours as a leader/photographer for many prestigious institutions such as the American Museum of Natural History, Harvard Museum of Natural History, the American Institute of Archaeology, and the universities of Berkeley, Stanford, Harvard, Northwestern, Princeton and Wellesley. He has traveled extensively throughout the world and visited all 21 Arab countries and for the last 20 years has turned his passion for photography into a second career. Touring has afforded him the opportunity to capture stirring images from out of the way places in Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia just to name a few. His work has been exhibited in museums in the Netherlands and New York. He currently lectures on current affairs related to the Near East and the ethnic groups inhabiting this region. During this same period he has dabbled in journalism writing for several European newspapers on topics as varied as technology and economics. He maintains a travel blog has done freelance work for travel guides and likes of course what else World Music. He also is an expert in Sahara led tours such as in Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mali, Niger, Egypt, Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa, and West-Africa.

   Mr. Mohamed Halouani, A Tunisian native, Mohamed transformed his profound passion for travel and history into a creative and diversified educational career, designing and carrying out multiple archaeological and cultural trips for various institutions such as The Detroit Institute of Art, the Textile Museum, the American Museum of Natural History, and many more organizations. After having received his degrees in English and Spanish, Mr. Halouani completed his European Master’s in linguistics and Hispanic studies at the Sorbonne University in Paris where he now resides. He has extensive knowledge on Islamic architecture and Eastern decorative elements, as well as, archaeology and history. An excellent lecturer on ethnographic and anthropological subjects, he will introduce you not only to the historical jewels of the countries but he’ll also reveal to you their culture and history and introduce you to the tribes and villages.

Nancy Weber, loves travel, learning languages, people, and sparkling wine!  Nancy worked in the chemical industry in the US and Canada, and lived and worked in Russia for four years as a business training consultant.  She also lived in Jordan and Iraq for eight years, working as a training consultant and as Iraq's Country Director for an NGO.  Nancy speaks Russian, and she loves Russia and adores the people who live there.  Nancy traveled to the North Caucasus last September with STS - she was so happy to finally see and experience Chechnya and Dagestan!  She has traveled extensively and enjoys visiting off-the-beaten-track places the most, especially those countries that see very few tourists/travelers.  She is thrilled to be returning to this beautiful part of the world and reconnecting with its fascinating people. 

Professor Norman Jones, Professor of History of Religious Studies at Utah State University. Holding a doctorate from Cambridge University, he specializes in the interplay of religion and culture, especially on the cultural fault lines where religions meet and national identities are shaped through religious allegiances, as in the Balkans. He teaches the history of Christianity, and his publications, focusing on the early modern world, include work on the relations between Christianity and Islam. He has been a visiting professor at Harvard, Oxford, the University of Geneva, the University of Hong Kong, and Cambridge, as well as the Huntington Library and the Folger Library. His expertise will deepen your understanding and enrich the experience.

Dr. Richard Lobban Jr, Dr. Lobban was Chair and Professor of Anthropology and African Studies at Rhode Island College where taught for thirty-six years.  He has also taught at the University of Khartoum, American University in Cairo and conducted research in Tunis, Egypt and Sudan.  He is the Executive Director of the Sudan Studies Association. He has published scores of articles, reviews, book chapters and encyclopedia entries, and a number of books on the Middle East including reference books on Sudan, on Middle Eastern Women. Among other things he specializes on urban and complex societies as well as gender, ethnicity, race and class, especially in the Middle East. His most recent books are The Historical Dictionaries of Ancient and Medieval Nubia and of Sudan as well as a translation from French of the 19th century account by Pierre Tremaux who traveled in the region. He travels to Egypt and Sudan often over the last four decades including Nubia, the Nuba Mountains, the South and the East. At present he is co-director of archaeological excavation in northern Sudan and he teaches African studies at the Naval War College, when not leading tours to Egypt.  He is a founder, first President and Executive Director of the Sudan Studies Association.

Shukria Dellawar, A peace and security expert, human rights advocate, and a gender specialist. In her current role, she is serving as FCNL's Legislative Associate for the Prevention of Violent Conflict and the Coordinator of the Prevention and Protection Working Group (PPWG). PPWG is a coalition of human rights, religious, humanitarian, anti-genocide, and peace organizations dedicated to improving U.S. government policies and civilian capabilities to prevent violent conflict, avert mass atrocities, and protect civilians threatened by such crisis. Ms. Dellawar is also the Policy Director for the Afghanistan Peace Campaign. Over the course of the last decade, Ms. Dellawar has worked in various capacities to maintain focus on peace-building efforts in Afghanistan. She served as the Director of the Afghanistan Study group with CIP in 2012, working closely with policy-makers in Washington DC to address insecurity, corruption, and human rights violations. Shukria has led several fact-finding missions to Afghanistan as a policy expert, bringing critical issues to the forefront of policy decisions. She has worked in the defense sector as a political analyst and cultural advisor and testified before Congress as a Subject Matter Expert in several briefings. Additionally, she has worked in the development sector on women’s empowerment. Shukria holds a Bachelor's and Master’s of Science degree from George Mason University’s School of Conflict Analysis & Resolution. She has contributed several op-eds to US newspapers. She is fluent in English, Dari, Pashto, and Urdu/Hindi.

Dr. Tobin Hartnell, As a student at the University of Chicago, Dr. Tobin Hartnell directed an archaeological survey of Persepolis, the capital of ancient Persia. He currently serves as Assistant Professor of Mesopotamian Archaeology at the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS), where he also runs the AUIS Center for Archaeology and Cultural Heritage (CACHE). His most recent archaeology project is at the Assyrian religious capital of Ashur, where he will use remote sensing and geophysics to detect buried archaeological structures. He has worked in the region since 2000 and lived in Iraqi Kurdistan since 2014.

Professor Yalda Razmahang An Iranian-born American who lives in Iraq. She currently serves as an adjunct lecturer at the American University of Iraq where she teaches Art History and World History. She obtained her B.A and M.A in Archaeology from the University of Tehran. Then she pursued and completed another Master’s degree from the University of Lyon in France in Ancient Near Eastern Archaeology, where she is now a Ph. D. candidate. She has an international diploma from AFTA (Australian Federation of Travel Agents) and she holds Iranian tour Leader’s certification. Yalda participated in a few excavations in Iran at Gohar Tepe, Beshahr as well as Chogha Dowsar in Susa. Additionally, she worked at Tehran National Museum as a Guide and Museum’s Education Supervisor for 5 years. In 2011 she also worked as a Research Assistant, for the Oriental Institute, University of Chicago and gave several papers in various conferences from 2016-2018 on Digitalization and the protection of ancient sites. Being so well rounded and experienced not only in the field of archaeology but also in the business of tourism, Yalda is the ideal scholar that can lead this special tour to Iran.