South Australia - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

The area that covers the present state of South Australia was claimed for Britain in 1788 as part of the colony of New South Wales. The province of South Australia was established in 1834 following the South Australia Act that was passed in the British Parliament that year. Compared to the rest of Australia, South Australia is unique in that it was a freely settled planned British province as opposed to a convict settlement. It was established with utopian ideals such as no unemployment, no religious discrimination, and no provision for a gaol. The area became the present Australian state of South Australia in 1901 when South Australia along with five other British Colonies united to form the Commonwealth of Australia. It is bordered by Western Australia to the West, the Northern Territory to the North, Queensland to the North-East, New South Wales to the East, Victoria to the South-East, and the Great Australian Bight and the Indian Ocean to the South. It has a total land area of over 400,000 square miles and a population of over 1.6M.

Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of South Australia were a set of four stamps issued between 1855 and 1856 in a QV keytype design in different colors and denominations. The set (Scott #1 to #4) catalogs for around $14K Mint and around $800 Used. Scott #4 was never put in use and so is the most valuable stamp Mint at $7K. There are also six copies with a ‘cancelled’ handstamp overprint in existence and each of them fetch upwards of $5.75K – they were cancelled in oval by the printers for presentation to members of Sir Rowland Hill’s family. Varieties of the same design and a number of other QV designs were the only stamp issues of South Australia during the period till 1894. Many of them fetch well into the 100s although some of the lower denominations can be had for a few dollars. The most valuable set from that period was a set of fourteen stamps that had high values up to 20 pounds issued between 1886 and 1896. The set (Scott #81 to #93) catalogs for around $47K for Mint and close to $10K for Used. There is a Perf variety (10) of the same set that has similar valuation.

South Australia issued a set of two stamps on March 1, 1894. The first one showed a QV head portrait along with a Kangaroo sitting on a palm and the second one showed a very similar design in the Coat of Arms theme. Each stamp (Scott #102 or #103) catalog for around $30 each Mint and around $4 for Used. South Australia also issued a stamp in 1899 in original design showing Adelaide Post Office. That set (Scott #114 to #117) catalogs for around $20 Mint and around $4 for Used.

Numismatic Profile:



Several private token coins were used in South Australia from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. Prominent ones include Copper Pennies of Crocker & Hamilton of Adelaide, Harrold Brothers of Adelaide, John Howell of Adelaide, John Martin of Adelaide, Martin & Sach of Adelaide, William Morgan of Adelaide, Alfred Taylor of Adelaide, etc. The tokens in VF fetch upwards of $50 depending on rarity.

South Australia continued to issue stamps till around 1912. Stamps of Australia replaced South Australia stamps.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Historically relevant postcards, 18th and 19th century original antique maps, authentic aboriginal pieces, etc are good collectible items of South Australia.


Last Updated: 12/2015.

Holyland Trip Report – Egypt – Red Sea, Sinai - Day 6

Sinai is around 440 km from Jerusalem with the Taba border crossing (Eilat) in between. The desert country-side along the way is dotted with Bedouin (native semi-nomadic Arab tribes) dwellings. The major attractions on this route are:

  • Qumran Caves:  A series of natural and artificial caves discovered by the archaeological team of Qumran (around 45 minutes from Jerusalem). The famous Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered from a number of these caves.
  • Masada National Park: A UNESCO World Heritage Site (2001), this is the place of mass suicide by the Sicarii rebels following a siege of the fortress by troops of the Roman Empire, directly after the First Jewish-Roman War (66AD to 73AD timeframe). The hike up the mountain is strenuous (Snake Path) – as an alternative, a cable car is in operation as well. Masada is located around 100 km from Jerusalem, about 20 km east of Arad.
  • Cliff of Lot’s Wife: This is a cliff alongside on the way – by stretching one’s imagination, the rock from certain angles can resemble a woman of Amazonian proportions.

The border crossing to Egypt took almost two hours (baggage checks at both ends, 500 m walk between the two facilities, and visa formalities). The Egyptian tour bus, manned by four, was ready at the parking area – a main guide, two helpers, and the bus driver. The main guide was almost fluent in English while the others not so - but that didn’t prevent them from expressing relief at Mubarak’s exit. Every problem in Egypt was a cause for the ‘revolution’. In the parking area were people looking for a small tip in exchange for loading the bus with the baggage.


Egypt is 80% desert and the rest is the fertile Nile River Valley. The way to Sinai is through the barren desert landscape along the Red Sea coast. Lunch was at Helnan Taba, a seaside restaurant – beautiful setting and good buffet and opportunity for toe-dipping in the Red Sea. The restaurant is part of a three-star hotel located twenty kilometers from Eilat Airport, across from Pharaoh’s Island with views of Jordan, Israel, and Saudi Arabia across the Gulf of Aqaba. Around 3PM we arrived in Sinai and checked into the hotel, Morganland. Accommodation options are limited in the Sinai area and we found this place to be just average though it had a giant swimming pool – rooms below par, mosquitoes etc. Lack of people in its vicinity further contributed to the lonely feel.

In the hour we had before the visit to St. Catherine’s Monastery, we explored some of the stores in the hotel lobby. Shops in the lobby were selling various wares including Egyptian artworks and perfumes (papyrus and athar). The smug feeling we enjoyed on having procured beautiful pieces from the Papyrus store for small change was fleeting for we learnt soon, what we got were cheaper imitations prepared of banana leaf ($5 - medium and 2 for $1 -small). The COA in the back does not mention anything about the material used – authentic stores in Cairo carry the the real stuff.

Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Mount Sinai (officially The Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the oldest working Christian monasteries in the world. Legend has it that the remains of Catherine of Alexandria, a Christian martyr, was taken by angels to Mount Sinai after her beheading and the monks from the monastery found her remains there around 800 AD. According to the Hebrew Bible, it was in Mount Sinai that Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. The monastery encloses the Chapel (St. Helen’s Chapel) of the Burning Bush, the site where Moses is believed to have seen the burning bush (Book of Exodus 3:1-21) – while some sources cite the bush currently on the location as the original, the general consensus is that the bush belongs to the genus of the original burning bush. For over 15 centuries, the site has been a pilgrimage center. There is a huge garden in front with olive trees and such. The place is also well known for having an ancient manuscript library and irreplaceable works of ancient art – it has the second largest collection of codices and manuscripts in the world, after Vatican Library.

The monastery is at walking distance (around 300 m) from the end of a paved road through sandy desert terrain. For $1 each way, there is also the option of a ride in the 4-wheel taxis the Bedouins operate. The place where Moses received the Ten Commandments is atop the mountain and can be seen from the monastery grounds, identified by a cross over an arch. That location is accessible by foot – catch is that the journey starts around mid-night and gets back by around 6AM. As proper hiking trails are absent, Bedouin guides are required for this.

Waiting was our order for that day. We waited quite a while outside the monastery as mass was in progress. Conclusion of the mass did not signal an end to our waiting. We took on another waiting spell until special visitation permission was granted to our group, as the site was closed to visitors by the time the mass finished. The Burning Bush is inside the monastery at a far corner.

The next day was another long road-trip to Cairo and so the wake-up call was even earlier (4:00AM).  Throughout the trip, our kids held up fine but it is best to be aware that seniors and/or folks with very young children or health problems may find the tour schedule tough.


 Related Posts:

  1. Holyland Trip Report - Jordan - Mount Nebo, Madaba - Day 1.
  2. Holyland Trip Report – Israel - Yardenit, Tiberias, Tabgha, Cappernaum, Ginosar, Sea of Galilee (Day 2).
  3. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Nazareth, Cana, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Bethlehem (Day 3).
  4. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Jerusalem (Day 4).
  5. Holyland Trip Report – Israel – Jerusalem, Jericho, Dead Sea (Day 5).
  6. Holyland Trip Report – Egypt – Red Sea, Sinai (Day 6).
  7. Holyland Trip Report – Suez Canal, Cairo - Day 7.
  8. Holyland Trip Report - Old Cairo - Day 8.
  9. Holyland Trip - Gotchas to avoid.  
  10. Holyland Trip - Jordan - Other Sites
Last Updated: 12/2012.

Queensland - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Queensland was a British Crown Colony that was separated from New South Wales on June 6th 1859. At the time, the area was called Moreton Bay. The area became the present Australian state of Queensland in 1901 when Queensland along with five other British Colonies united to form the Commonwealth of Australia. It is located in the North-Eastern section of the mainland bordered by the Northern Territory to the West, South Australia to the South-West, New South Wales to the South, and the Coral Sea and the Pacific Ocean to the East. Currently, the state has a total land area of over 715,000 square miles and a population of over 4.5 million. The name honors Queen Victoria who signed Letters Patent separating the colony from New South Wales.

Philatelic Profile:

Queensland (Moreton Bay at the time) used the stamps and postal service of New South Wales until November 1, 1860. Queensland issued a number of stamps between 1860 and 1879 in the famous Queen Victoria Chalon Head design in different colors, denominations, perforation, and watermark varieties. Most of those stamps (Scott #1 to #50) are valued in the 100s and 1000s for Mint and somewhat less for Used. The first set was issued on November 1, 1860. The set (Scott #1 to #3) is very rare and catalogs in the $18K range for Mint and in the $4.5K range for Used. Certain used varieties of smaller denominations (Scott #24, #25, #38, #40, #44, etc) from later years are relatively inexpensive cataloging for a few dollars.

The first stamps outside the Chalon Head theme was a set of five stamps released between 1879 and 1881 showing a head portrait of Queen Victoria in a different Common Design. The set (Scott #57 to #61) is also rare cataloging in the $550 range for Mint and $65 range for Used. A number of issues in that QV design along with a few other variations dominated the stamp issues of Queensland during the period till 1898. Chalon Head varieties were also issued in the 1882 to 1885 timeframe and then again in 1886. Those two sets (Scott #74 to #78 and #79 to #83) are both very valuable cataloging in the $1K and $750 range for Mint and about one-third less for Used respectively. Other QV designs from the period are much more affordable cataloging in the 10s of dollars range. Queensland also released a stamp in 1903 showing the ‘Australia’ allegory – a common design keytype with ‘Queensland’ and denomination overprints. That stamp (Scott #125) catalogs in the $30 range for Mint and around $5 for Used. Queensland stamps continued to be issued and used till around 1909. They were replaced by stamps of Australia.


Numismatic Profile:

Several private token coins were used in Queensland from the mid-nineteenth century. Prominent ones include Copper Pennies of Brookes in Brisbane, J.W. Buxton in Brisbane, Flavelle Brothers & Company in Brisbane, T.H. Jones & Company in Ispwich, Larcombe and Company in Brisbane, Merry and Bush in Brisbane, T.F. Merry and Company in Toowoomba, D.T. Mulligan in Rockhampton, John Pettigrew and Company in Ispwich, J.Sawyer in Brisbane, etc. The tokens in VF fetch upwards of $50 depending on rarity.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Loose Gemstones, especially Opal, old maps, historical photographs, etc are good collectible items of the area.

Last Updated: 12/2015.

Berkshire Hathaway US stock portfolio ten-year performance - Best Guess

We got a request to come up with a guesstimate for the actual returns of Berkshire Hathaway’s US stock portfolio returns for the last ten years. So, here is our attempt: as some background, Berkshire Hathaway does not provide this information in any of the regulatory filings and chooses not to do so in his annual letter to shareholders. Instead, Warren Buffett keeps a tally of the book value of the company as a whole. The book value has grown at an outstanding rate, but doesn’t really answer the question as to how well he has done in the US stock portfolio which he manages. We approached the problem by making a few assumptions that simplifies the problem and then extrapolating the results:
  1. Select the set of stocks that are common in the portfolio from ten years ago and the current portfolio (06/2011 13F). Almost 70% of the valuation of the portfolio from 2001 was left untouched throughout the ten years and so the assumption is a good approximation.
  2. Normalize the share counts and adjust the market values accordingly.
  3. Come up with a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) based on these normalized values.
Below is a spreadsheet that shows the normalized share counts and market values of the stocks that were common to both the portfolios:



Below is a comparative look at the CAGR over the last ten years of the portfolio vs the S&P 500:




The estimate shows the portfolio outperformed the S&P 500 by 2.17% over the last ten years – these are good numbers but not comparable to the top hedge funds returns over the period – they have returned well into the high-teens and low-twenties over the same period. The actual performance including dividends should be around 2% higher annualized.

Tracking Mohnish Pabrai's Portfolio - Q3 2011 Update

This series of articles will be ongoing updates that analyze changes to Mohnish Pabrai’s US stock portfolio from quarter to quarter. Read more at Seeking Alpha...


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  1. Tracking Stocks in Mohnish Pabrai's Investment Funds.

Tracking The Berkshire Hathaway Portfolio - Q3 2011 Update

This series of articles will be ongoing updates that analyzes changes to Berkshire Hathaway’s US stock portfolio from quarter to quarter. Read more at Seeking Alpha...

Related Posts:
  1. Tracking Berkshire Hathaway's portfolio over the last ten years.


New South Wales - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

New South Wales was a British Crown Colony founded in 1788 that comprised of Australian mainland, Van Diemen’s Land, Lord Howe Island, and Norfolk Island. In 1840, New Zealand also became part of New South Wales after the British annexed the area. The British colonies of Tasmania, South Australia, Victoria, and Queensland were established in the 19th century as they separated. Currently, New South Wales is an area located in the south-east of Australia bordered by the states of Victoria to the North, Queensland to the South, and South Australia to the East. The state has a total land area of over 300,000 square miles and a population of over 7.2M, making it the most populous state in Australia.

Philatelic Profile:

The first stamp of New South Wales was a Seal of the Colony 1p red issued on January 1, 1850. The stamp (Scott #1) is very rare and sought after cataloging in the $7.5K range for Mint and around $575 for Used. The original issue was on yellowish wove paper and that has several color varieties including brownish red, carmine, and crimson lake. They catalog in a similar range to the original issue. Varieties on bluish wove paper also exist and they catalog in a similar range as well. This issue was followed by another issue in a very similar design in August 1850. Those stamps are also very rare and valuable. A large number of color and plate varieties exist for the first seven issues. The Seal of the Colony theme was replaced by the Queen Victoria (QV) theme in 1851. The first issues were a set of two stamps in yellowish wove paper. The set (Scott #10, #11) catalogs for around $4000 Mint and around $500 Used. Different designs on the same QV theme continued through the period till 1888. Many of those issues (Scott #12 to #77) catalog well into the 100s with lower denominations generally commanding a progressively lower catalog value.

New South Wales released a couple of stamps in 1903 – the first one (Scott #107) features Lyrebird and that catalogs for around $60 Mint and around half that for Used. Specimen overprint variety exists and that fetches a 40% premium over Mint. The other issue shows ‘Australia’ allegory. That stamp (Scott #108) is more common and catalogs for around $20 Mint and around one-fourth that for Used. Specimen variety exists for this one as well and that commands double the premium. A rare Peforation variety (Perf 11) exists as well and that catalogs for around $2K Mint and around $1K Used.

New South Wales united with the rest of Australia to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. Stamps of Australia replaced New South Wales stamps from that point on, although New South Wales stamp issues continued till 1907.

Numismatic Profile:

The first coins of New South Wales were cut and counter-marked Silver Pence (KM# 1.1) released in 1813. The issue is very rare and valuable fetching in the $30K range for VF. A few other issues showing similar design and denominations up to 15 Pence were also released and they are very valuable as well with catalog values comparable to the first issue.

A good specialization area for New South Wales is private token issues from the 19th century. There are a large number of these items for New South Wales as well as the other states. Many of them are valued well into the 100s.


Collectible Memorabilia:

Original 19th century or prior maps, historically relevant 19th century photographs, souvenir spoons, etc are good collectible memorabilia of New South Wales.


Last Updated: 12/2015.

David Einhorn's Holdings - PART III

This article is the final piece of a 3-part series. (Click here for Part 1 and here for Part 2).

Some very public short-selling made David Einhorn a familiar name starting in the early 2000s. But Greenlight Capital’s shorting acumen was evident from the late 1990s. Read more at Seeking Alpha...

David Einhorn’s Holdings - PART II

At any given time Greenlight Capital holds both long and short positions, with a marked inclination to long. Independent of the market swing, its bottom-up value analysis of companies is expected to yield positive returns for Greenlight’s investments. This proprietary analysis aims to identify investments based on misconceptions in the market, either on the long or short side. Read more at Seeking Alpha...


Tracking David Einhorn’s Greenlight Capital Holdings - PART 1

Greenlight Capital was founded in May 1996 by David Einhorn and Jeff Keswin who were colleagues at SC Fundamental Value Fund (a hedge fund). The initial plan was to raise $10 million but raising capital proved formidable as the public was unwilling to warm up to a couple of money managers with barely two years of real-world experience. Read more at Seeking Alpha...

R2I Housing – Cabinet Work Experience

Cabinets were not part of our house when we moved in. The kitchen was deemed finished with a black granite counter-top with open spaces to incorporate cabinets. As converting the yawning spaces in the kitchen, work area (scullery), store room (pantry), space under stairs, and the bedroom closets obviously involves a significant outlay of time and money; we weighed our options before deciding on a contractor.

Deciding on the cabinet material was the first step. The wood available can be hierarchically classified as:
  • Teak, mahogany, and rosewood are the ultimate choices in wood,
  • Rubwood (processed rubber wood), Karuvelakam and the likes are the second tier picks,
  • HDF (High Density Fiberboard) in various colors, and
  • MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) bring up the rear.
Teak is 30% more expensive than rubwood which in turn is 15% pricier than HDF. There is a huge difference in quality between HDF and MDF – from the cutouts, it was obvious that any premium for HDF is well worth it. Our preference was to have the exterior in a second tier wood type and the skeleton in HDF.

The market is teeming with contractors offering different service levels and they can be categorized according to the work performed within the perimeter of one’s home: 
  1. Roughly 90% of the work is done at their ‘factory’ with the remainder 10% at your home site: The cabinets come ready for assembling and installed. This is the most expensive option. But, if executed well, it is the best option for getting cabinetry work done while living in the house.
  2. Around 50% of the work is done on-site: Usually such contractors have a workshop but still a bulk of the assembling/polishing is done onsite. Similar to the first option, a couple of carpenters at the minimum will be around for quite some time. Pricing wise, they tend to be expensive but often well worth the premium. This is the preferred alternative for those who are not in a hurry to move into the house.
  3. The entire carpentry work involved is done on-site: These contractors invariably provide the biggest bang for the buck since they don’t have to maintain a carpentry workshop. As small-time dealers, their organizational skills leave a lot to be desired. The real damper is the carpenters being regulars at one’s abode until the work is over.
We solicited quotes from all three types of contractors. We decided against the entirely on-site carpentry work option (Option 3 above) as those contractors were not keen on furnishing us with a full-fledged written quote. The quote for the first option was about 16% higher than the second option for a similar product with comparable wood types. Option 2 was for karuvelakom with MDF insides (Mendez Cabinets) and Option 1 was for rubwood with HDF insides (Dream Kitchens). The comparative quote details follow:



We decided to go with rubwood. The estimated 6-7 days of work inside the house with that option (Option 1 in spreadsheet above) compared to 6-7 weeks bowled us over despite its higher pricing. In reality we were pulled in hook, line, and sinker by the perfect sales pitch of the contractor - two of his workers were regulars at our house for 6-7 weeks. The shell upon which to install the cabinet doors were framed inside our house, although the pieces came measured to spec. Once the shell was in place, it was quick work to install the cabinet doors which came fully done.

Words fail to capture the frustrating work ethic of the carpenters – on a good day, they would show up around 10AM, take a half-an-hour tea break almost immediately, work for almost two hours, take an extended lunch break that lasted till around 2PM, followed with another two hours of work – some days, they came just for two hours. The project dragged on for more than three months although the two carpenters gave attendance for only 6-7 weeks – many days were ‘no show’ days for reasons best known only to them.

Dealing with the contractor was another nightmare. He rattled us proper by attempting to pass HDF doors in place of rubwood doors citing aesthetic appeal. We were promised verbally that all exposed pieces will be done in hardwood (rubwood) as opposed to HDF and that only the inside shell will be done in HDF. We did relent a bit on this and agreed for some exposed sides also to be made of HDF but not the doors. The contractor offered different upgrades verbally at various times but unfortunately his expertise lay only in managing cabinetry work: e.g., we took him up on his offer to put up a chimney hob and gas burner but he did a lousy job at a high rate. Also, he passed on several MDF panels as HDF panels - it was too late by the time we detected it.

Overall, the finished product that we have at home looks respectable. But, working with the contractor and the carpenters was indeed testing. Should we have to do this again, we would seriously consider taking a hands-off approach and have the builder do it for us, even if it involves a premium.


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Annam & Tonkin - Travel/Philately/Numismatics/Memorabilia Profile

Annam & Tomkin were two French Protectorates that is located respectively in the central and northern areas of present day Vietnam. The region of Annam came under the French in 1874, although it was nominally ruled by a puppet emperor of the Nguyen Dynasty until it was merged into the newly established State of Vietnam in 1949. In 1954, the region was divided into communist North Vietnam and anti-communist South Vietnam under the terms of the Geneva Accord. Tonkin became a French Protectorate following the Sino-French War in 1885 and all of Vietnam came under the French who divided it administratively into three territories: the Tonkin protectorate to the North, the Annam protectorate in the Center, and Cochinchina to the South. The whole area of present day Vietnam along with the areas of Cambodia and Laos was known as French Indo-china from 1887 onwards.

Philatelic Profile:

Annam & Tonkin issued only one set of stamps. The Jan 21, 1888 issue was a set of six stamps that were overprints on stamps of French Colonies from the 1881 to 1886 timeframe. The host set was the French Colonies set of fourteen stamps (Scott #46 to #59) showing the Commerce Allegory in different colors and denominations. The first three stamps of Annam & Tonkin were ‘A & T’ and surcharge overprints on the 2c, 4c, and 10c denominations (Scott #47, #48, and #50). Those three stamps catalog in the $80 range for Mint and around the $60 range for Used. The last three stamps of Annam & Tonkin used the same host stamps and denominations as the first three stamps but used ‘A – T’ instead of ‘A & T’ for the overprint. The stamps (Scott #7 to #9) are rare and sought after and catalog in the $775 range for Mint $820 range for Used.

Varieties such as the inverted surcharge, sideways surcharge, and double surcharges do exist and they fetch a huge premium into the 100s. Rarer varieties include surcharge placement differences, double surcharges with one inverted, double with both inverted, etc. A 5c surcharge on the 2c was prepared but not issued. Some of these stamps have reached collector’s hands and those fetch a premium into the $5K range. The stamps of Annam & Tomkin were replaced with those of Indo-China from 1892 onwards.

Numismatic Profile:

The French Protectorate of Annam & Tonkin issued coins individually at different times during the colonial era. The first coins of Annam were French Protectorate of Annam Cast Copper Alloy Phans issued between 1885 and 1888. There were two varieties (KM# 606 and #606a) – the former (25 to 26mm) catalogs for around $30 in VF while the latter (23 to 24mm) catalogs for around $12 in VF. A few other Cast Copper Alloy coins were also in circulation and those catalogs in a similar range. Silver Tiens were also issued and those are rare cataloging upwards of $150 in VF. Bullon Silver Bars (0.7000) with weight inscriptions and Gold Milled Coinage also exist and they fetch a premium well into the 100s in VF. Cast Copper Alloy Phans were also issued during the period from 1916 to 1925 and those are somewhat more common. Milled Coinage Brass Phans and Bullion Silver Bars are other coins of Annam from the same time period. 

The French Protectorate of Tonkin issued a Milled Coinage Zinc 1/600 Piastre Coin (KM# 1) with legend around square center hole in Obverse in 1905. The issue has a mintage of 60M and catalogs for around $8 in VF. Zinc Essais & Pieforts exist and those are rare fetching well into the 100s.

Collectible Memorabilia:

Artwork from the 19th century and original photographs of the period are good collectible items from the area.

Last Updated: 12/2015.

Anjouan

Anjouan is one of the Comoro Islands in the Indian Ocean (Mozambique Channel) located between Madagascar and Mozambique. The Island has a total land area of 163 square miles and a population of close to 300,000. The history of Anjouan dates back to around 1500 when the Sultanate of Ndzuwani was founded. Colonial presence in the Island began in 1816 when the Sultan requested French assistance to ward off threat from the Sultanate of Zanzibar. The Island became a French protectorate in 1886 and was annexed by France in 1912. Anjouan joined the State of Comoros when it became independent in 1975. It seceded from the Comoros in 1997 only to be reunified with the Comoros in 2002.  Anjouan is currently part of the Union of Comoros as an autonomous Island. The last fifteen years saw it go through a tumultuous environment with coups and an invasion by Comoros armed forces in 2008. A presidential election was conducted on June 29, 2008 and Moussa Toybou, an engineer supported by the Comoran leadership was elected.

Philatelic Profile:

The first stamps of Anjouan were a long set of nineteen stamps issued between 1892 and 1907. The set (Scott #1 to #19) catalogs for around $400 Mint and around $325 Used. They were the French Navigation and Commerce allegory design key types with the “Sultanat d’Anjouan” inscription in Red. Surcharged varieties of stamps from this set were also released in 1912. That set (Scott #20 to #30) catalogs for around $18 Mint or Used. The surcharged ’05’ or ‘10’ overprints are in Black or Carmine. One variety of the set features two spacings between the surcharge numerals. Another very rare variety is pairs with one without surcharge. Those are known to exist for Scott #21, #22, #23, and #30 and each such pair catalog in the $675 range.

Stamps of Madagascar superseded Anjouan issues from 1914 onwards. Stamps of Comoro Islands superseded those issues from 1950 onwards.

Collectible Memorabilia:

Anjouan Flag themed memorabilia such as License Plates, dogtag pendants, etc are popular items from the area. Rare items such as Order of the Star of Anjouan medals sometimes come to market.

Last Updated: 12/2015.

Holyland Trip Report – Israel – Jerusalem, Jericho, Dead Sea - Day 5

Our first stop on our final day in Jerusalem was at Pater Noster in the Mount of Olives right by the hotel. According to Luke 11:1-4, it was here Jesus taught the Lord’s Prayer. That prayer is inscribed in various languages on the walls including Malayalam. After this we were given the option to visit the alternate location of Jesus’ tomb (Garden Tomb) – the rock-cut tomb is located outside the city walls close to the Damascus Gate.  Following this, we visited the Abbey of the Dormition of the Virgin Mary (known as the Hagia Maria Sion Abbey since 1998) on Mt. Zion past the Zion Gate of the Old City. This church was built between 1900 and 1910 atop the remains of the Byzantine church “Hagia Sion”. The church has several niches with altars and two spiral staircases leading to the crypt ascribed to be the dormition of the Virgin Mary.

Connected to the Abbey of Dormition is the “Upper Room” (Cenacle), an alternate site of the Last Supper, where numerous events in the New Testament happened, as it is where the Apostles stayed in Jerusalem. The lower level has a large centotaph said to be the tomb of King David – its authenticity is in debate. The structure is unique for each level is a holy place to different religions – the ground level with its Jewish synagogues and the tomb of King David is important for Jews, the location of the “last supper” makes the 2nd level special for Christians, and the third level has a Muslim muezzin tower. A giant “Harp of David” sculpture (King David playing the harp) can be found outside. In the south-east slopes of the Mount of Olives is an Arab village named Bethany where the Sanctuary of Bethany is located. Again, numerous events in the New Testament occurred here including the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:38-44). Bethany, home of Lazarus, Mary, and Matha, is where Jesus was anointed at the home of Simon the Leper (Mark 14:3). The Tomb of Lazarus is also here. A souvenir store and short camel rides (small circle - $3) were on offer in front of the store.

The tour bus rolled down to Jericho which is the oldest Palestinian town in the area and archaeologically verified to have had settlements as far back as 9000 BCE. Located well below sea level, it is the lowest permanently inhabited site on earth. En-route, we stopped by the site where Zacchaeus, the corrupt tax collector hid from Jesus (Luke 19:1-1) in a sycamore tree. We also stopped at a vantage spot around 10km from Jericho to observe the Mount of Temptation (Mount Quarantania), believed to be where Jesus was tempted for 40 days by Satan (Mathew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13). The mountain is over 350 meters high – atop, on a cliff is a wall of the ruins of the Hasmonean fortress. Below it is the Greek Orthodox Monastery of the temptation (Mon-Fri 9AM -1PM, and 3-4PM, Sat 9AM - 2PM, Sun closed) and further down is a restaurant. A new cable car ride takes one up there from Tel Jericho. Hiking to the summit involves a 30-minute walk up a steep path. There are numerous caves on the mountain slopes that were inhabited by monks and hermits from early times. Lunch, a filling affair with falafel, chicken, pita bread, and regular continental food, was at a large buffet restaurant with a curio store inside called Temptation Restaurant ($15 buffet lunch, soup/salad only - $11, soup/bread only - $5). Few vendors touting dried fruits and such were in the vicinity of this restaurant. Dried fruits from Jericho are famed, especially the dates. Pricing is OK at around $10 or so for a pound of dried fruit. They also sell Sycamore Nuts (two small packs for $5) – they look and taste good although they are the humble peanuts fried with some kind of batter.

Our afternoon itinerary included a visit to the Dead Sea (Kalia Beach) back in Israel – 45/35 shekels for adults/kids. For that, you get a nicely maintained, well organized place with a number of public showers, changing areas, restrooms, etc. Contrary to the widely popular yarn, Dead Sea mud does not stain. Dead Sea provides the ultimate in floating experience – the high saline content propels you upwards and cushions you oh so gently! As the sea is muddy and uneven near the banks it is better to wade out a bit. Saying the water is saline is putting it mildly – even the tiniest drop stings the eyes like nobody’s business though a rinse will put that misery to rest. Mud, though messy, washes out fast. The minerals in the mud and the saline water combined are believed to have a therapeutic value that can heal wounds and other minor skin issues. Cosmetics made from the minerals in the Dead Sea are a good industry – the store has many such items, although price-wise, they seemed rather steep.

Our last visit in Israel was to the Wailing Wall, one of the most sacred sites in Judaism, after the Temple Mount. Almost half of the wall was constructed in 19BCE by Herod the Great and the rest from the 7th century onwards. For centuries (with the earliest source dating back to the 4th century), this has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage. Although this site is open year-round, 24 hours a day, it is best to ask around and plan in advance as this is a venue for many ceremonies. Placing slips of paper containing written prayers into the crevices of the Wall is a practice followed by the faithful. More than a million notes are placed here each year. There are Western Wall Tunnel tours (about 75 min) available through the Western Wall Heritage Foundation that must be ordered in advance. Also, there is an exhibit called “The Generations Center” that offers a unique experience relating the fascinating story of the Jewish people throughout the generations (3,500 years). Our Israeli guide Gazan took his leave after this visit – we enjoyed the three days he spent with us and his communication skills were excellent. Our group reached the hotel a little earlier than usual (5:30 PM) that day. An early departure (5 AM) and a long road-trip to Sinai (Egypt) was in the plans the next day.


 Related Posts:

  1. Holyland Trip Report - Jordan - Mount Nebo, Madaba - Day 1.
  2. Holyland Trip Report – Israel - Yardenit, Tiberias, Tabgha, Cappernaum, Ginosar, Sea of Galilee (Day 2).
  3. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Nazareth, Cana, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, and Bethlehem (Day 3).
  4. Holyland Trip Report - Israel - Jerusalem (Day 4).
  5. Holyland Trip Report – Israel – Jerusalem, Jericho, Dead Sea (Day 5).
  6. Holyland Trip Report – Egypt – Red Sea, Sinai (Day 6).
  7. Holyland Trip Report – Suez Canal, Cairo - Day 7.
  8. Holyland Trip Report - Old Cairo - Day 8.
  9. Holyland Trip - Gotchas to avoid.  
  10. Holyland Trip - Jordan - Other Sites
Last Updated: 12/2012.

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