Nowhere is mankind's fascination with the ancient past so fulfilled as in Egypt and Jordan. Not only will we explore the well-known Egyptian monuments from the Pyramids to the temples of Luxor and Karnak as well as the fascinating rock-hewned ruins of Petra in Jordan, but we will also explore, in-depth, the ancient glories of Christianity – following the footsteps of Moses through the Sinai to the sacred grounds of Jesus' baptismal site. Join us on a journey of discovery and learning and be inspired and rejuvenated as we travel the road from 'Ancient glory to modern wonders!'
Fly North America to Cairo
Welcome to Egypt. On arrival, we are met and transferred to our hotel. The remainder of the day is at leisure. D
Overnight: Safir El Dokki Hotel (4 nights)
After breakfast at our hotel, we will meet our guide for a full-day tour of Old Cairo to explore the old churches, Coptic Monasteries, and the famous bazaars of Khan El Khalili that date back to the late 14th Century as well as the Ben Ezra Synagogue. Our first stop is at the Coptic Museum to gain a deeper insight into this fascinating sect of Christianity. From here, we take time to visit the churches of El Moalaka, Abu Serga, St. George, Virgin Mary Church at Maadi, and the Coptic Cathedral for the remains of St. Mark.
The Ben Ezra Synagogue is located in the center of Cairo. The first Jewish synagogue was destroyed when the Romans occupied Egypt & was later re-built by Abraham Ben Ezra, the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem. It contains a number of art crafts, including a Torah on gazelle skin dating from the 5th century BC & the manuscript known as the "Atlas of Moses." Lunch is included today at a local restaurant. BL
Egypt Museum to Pyramids and Sphinx
Another fascinating day today as we experience the famous icons of Egypt: the Egyptian Museum, the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx of Giza. Lunch is included at a local restaurant this afternoon.
The Egyptian Museum is the most important depository of Egyptian antiquities anywhere in the world. It features artifacts from the Pharaonic and Graeco Roman periods, including the celebrated mummies of ancient Egypt's king and Tut Ankh Amun treasures.
The Pyramids of Giza were reckoned by the Greeks to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World. A single pyramid is built of 2,300,000 blocks, each weighing an average of two and a half tons. In the face of such immensity, one cannot help but feel the wonder and awe that so many writers & artists have sought to convey over the centuries.
The Cheops Pyramid is especially interesting since its interior burial chambers are open for inspection by the public. Not far from the Pyramids is the Great Sphinx of Giza, which dates from the time of Chephren (2620 BC). Hewn from natural yellowish limestone & standing 65 feet high & 187 feet long, this unforgettable statue combines the head of a Pharaoh with a lion's body. BL
Red Sea Excursion
We are off this morning for a full-day tour to the Red Sea including visits to St. Anthony's Monastery and the Monastery of St. Paul. Lunch is included en route at a local restaurant. St. Anthony the Great, when orphaned at the age of 18, became a hermit and thus lived to 105 years old. He lived as an Anchorite, as still exists in Egypt, and it is said that he was tormented his entire life by flatteries and temptations of the devil. He, along with St. Pachomius, were two of the first exponents of Christian monasticism, which originated in the Egyptian desert. He is buried beneath one of the ancient churches (St. Anthony) of the monastery. St. Anthony's Monastery (Deir Mar Antonios), and its neighbor St. Paul's, are the oldest monasteries in Egypt.
Hidden deep in the Red Sea Mountains and relying on springs for their water supply, both still observe rituals that have hardly changed in 16 centuries. St. Anthony's was founded in 356 AD, just after the saint's death. Between the 12th and 15th centuries, the monastery flourished but was plundered in 1454 by Bedouin servants. Today it is a self-contained village with gardens, a mill, a bakery and five churches with exceptional wall paintings of holy knights in bright colors and of the hermit founders of the monastery in more subdued colors. There is also a library with over 1,700 handwritten manuscripts, but, the Bedouin servants who plundered the monastery used many manuscripts for cooking fuel.
At one time, there must have been a much more extensive library. St. Anthony's Cave (magharah), where he lived as a hermit, is a 2 km hike from the monastery and 680 m. above the Red Sea. It offers stunning views of the mountains and the sea, and the chance to see a wide range of bird life.
The Monastery of St. Paul has always been overshadowed by St. Anthony's. Its titular founder (not to be confused with the apostle Paul) was only 16 and an orphan when he fled Alexandria to escape Emperor Decius' persecutions, making him the earliest known hermit. Shortly before his death in 348, Paul was visited by Anthony and begged him to bring the robe of Pope Athanasius to use as his burial shroud. Anthony departed to fetch it, but, on the way back, he had a vision of Paul's soul being carried up to heaven by angels and arrived to find him dead. While Anthony was wondering what to do, two lions appeared and dug a grave for the body, so Anthony shrouded it in the robe and took Paul's tunic of palm leaves as a gift for the pope, who subsequently wore it at Christmas, Epiphany and Easter.
The monastery (called Deir Amba Bula or Deir Mari Bolus) was a form of posthumous homage by Paul's followers: its turreted walls are built around the cave where he lived for decades. To a large extent, its fortunes have followed those of its more prestigious neighbour. In 1484 all its monks were slain by the Bedouin, who occupied St. Paul's for eighty years; rebuilt by Patriarch Gabriel VII, it was again destroyed near the end of the sixteenth century.
The monastery is much smaller than St. Anthony's and a little more primitive looking. It boasts four churches, but the Church of St. Paul is its spiritual centre, a cave-church housing the remains of the saint. The walls of the church are painted murals generally thought to be inferior to those of St. Anthony's, though they have been well preserved. A monk will show you round the chapels and identify their icons: notice the angel of the furnace with Shadrach, Meshach and Abendego, and the ostrich eggs hung from the ceiling - a symbol of the Resurrection.
The southern sanctuary of the larger Church of St. Michael contains a gilded icon of the head of John the Baptist on a dish. When Bedouin raided the monastery, its monks retreated into the five-storey keep, supplied with spring water by a hidden canal. Nowadays this is not enough to sustain the 75 monks and their guests, so water is brought in from outside. There is a small shop selling supplies and a reasonably priced cafeteria just outside the monastery grounds. BL
We journey south today along the Alexandria desert road to visit the monasteries of Wadi El Natroun; St. Bishoy monastery, Baramos monastery, the cave of Pope Cyrolos inside the Baramos monastery, El Soryan monastery & St. Makarius monastery. Lunch is included en-route at a local restaurant.
Dier Abu maker (St. Makarios) is located 4 km off the Alexandria Desert Road and consists of several churches currently being rebuilt. The Main church contains the cell of chrism and the fluid is said to have been used to embalm Jesus Christ. The monastery still contains religious paintings and frescos that date back to the 5th century AD. Since the monastery is not open to the public, we will only be able to view the complex from the outside.
Dier Anba Bishoi (St. Bishoi) is one of the most important monasteries in ni Wadi El-Natroun. It was named after the patron St. Bishoi who immigrated to the site and lived in solitude. The monastery has been restored several times after being destroyed at the hands of the Berbers. The complex has 5 churches; the main one is St. Bishoi Church which dates back to the 9th century AD. This church today is only used during the summertime. To the east of this church lies the church of Al- Adra (the virgin) and it is only used during the winter months.
Dier AL Syrian (The Syrian monastery) dates back to the 6th century AD and was built by some of the orthodox monks from the monastery of Bishoi who had a dispute with other monks in the monastery about the statues of the Virgin Mary. Later, the monastery was abandoned and then eventually sold to a group of Syrian monks. An interesting fact to note is that women are not permitted inside this monastery.
Dier EL Barmous is located at the far end of the valley and its name means the 'Monastery of the Romans' since the area was famous for being the spot where two Roman priests, escaping Christian persecution, made their way and eventually established the site. The monastery, like many others, was destroyed and rebuilt and fortified over the years.
Tonight we enjoy a "Farewell to Egypt" dinner at our hotel. BLD
Drive Cairo to St. Catherine's
After breakfast at our hotel, we join our coach for the journey to the Sinai Peninsula and the famous Monastery of St. Catherine's for our overnight. Our drive will take approximately 7 hours and take us from Cairo eastwards via Suez, across the Tunnel of Ahmed Hamdy and then through the famous Sinai Peninsula, which contains great stretches of extraordinary desert scenery ranging from high granite mountains and deep chasms to fertile, green oases. Here we can also stand in awe knowing that this is the land where Moses led the 12 tribes of Israel from slavery in Egypt to the Promised Land. Lunch is included en-route at a local restaurant. After checking in to our hotel, we will enjoy a delicious dinner with our group. BLD
Overnight: Wadi El Raha Hotel (1 Night)
Mt. Sinai to St. Catherine's Monastery to Hydrofoil to Aqaba, Jordan
A very early wake-up call this morning for those wanting to make the trek to ascend Mt. Sinai (a boxed breakfast will be provided). Climbing the mountain will take approximately 3 hours & 30 minutes. Once on the summit, you will have time to stand in awe as the sun rises over the Sinai embracing the place where Moses received the 10 Commandments from Jehovah. The descent will take approximately 2 hours & 30 minutes. On arrival back at the hotel, you will have time to freshen up before joining the rest of the group for a tour to visit the Monastery of St. Catherine's.
The famous Monastery of Saint Catherine has been in existence in the depths of the Sinai desert since the sixth century. The Byzantine church has been preserved here since its construction in 542 AD. We will take time to discover this magical place with our local guide including a visit to the Chapel of the Burning Bush. After our visit, we drive from St. Catherine's to Nuweibaa and board the hydrofoil to Aqaba, Jordan, arriving in the early afternoon.
Welcome to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan! On arrival, we will be met by our local guide and taken on an orientation tour of Aqaba. Aqaba contains sites dating back to 4,000 BC, including the recent discovery of what is believed to be the world's oldest church dating from the 3rd century AD as well as the remains of the medieval walled city of Ayla and a Mamluke fort. Aqaba's strategic position as the main port on the trading route to the Far East from Africa in ancient times made it a thriving town that continues to this day. After our short tour, we continue on to historic Petra via Wadi Rum a land of mesmerizing beauty and contrast with its haunting wilderness and remote desert canyons, immense and still. BD
Overnight: Taybet Zaman Hotel (2 Nights)
A wondrous day today as we join our guide to explore the ruins of Petra. Carved into the rock and protected by rugged mountains on all sides is Jordan's most famous attraction, the ancient rose-red city of Petra, one of the world's most spectacular ruins set within a deep canyon near the town of Wadi Musa. Wadi Musa, or the Valley of Moses, was once the name of the whole valley and not just the small tourist town sprawled along the sides of the valley leading down to Petra. The town's existence is primarily to service the tourist industry as the gateway to Petra.
More than 2,000 years ago, a nomadic tribe from Arabia settled in the area and these Nabateans established Petra as their capital. It became a powerful fortress city that controlled the passage of traders and grew prosperous from the caravans crossing their land carrying spices and riches from India and Arabia. From this wealth was created an astonishing city of monumental tombs, temples and decorative buildings carved from the solid rock, which still stands as a testament to the remarkable creativity and engineering prowess of the Nabateans.
Today's Petra is a staggering landscape of rock-hewn monuments, amphitheaters, palaces, arched gateways, water channels and detailed carvings spread over a vast area. Dramatic tombs and temples unfold with each step taken further into the winding canyon, and intricate facades cut into the soaring cliff faces dwarf the ubiquitous camel drivers, traders and tourists to insignificance. Where the uppermost layers of the rock have eroded away, fantastic surreal streaks of blue, red, yellow, purple and white cover the monuments in undulating patterns. To enter the city, visitors must first pass through a long, narrow chasm in the rock, the Siq, that winds its way for almost a mile (1.5 km) with steep inclining sides that come close to meeting 656ft (200m) above. Lunch is included today at the Basin Restaurant and dinner is included at our hotel. BLD
Drive Petra To The Dead Sea
After breakfast this morning we head to one of the world's most amazing places the Jordan Rift Valley, a dramatic, beautiful landscape, which at the Dead Sea, is over 400 metres (1,312 ft.) below sea level. The lowest point on the face of the earth, this vast, stretch of water receives a number of incoming rivers, including the River Jordan. Once the waters reach the Dead Sea they are land locked and have nowhere to go, so they evaporate, leaving behind a dense, rich, cocktail of salts and minerals that supply industry, agriculture and medicine with some of its finest products. Our first stop is in Karak to visit the Crusader Castle.
As we approach Karak, the striking silhouette of this fortified town and castle will instantly make us understand why the fates of kings and nations were decided here for millennia. An ancient Crusader stronghold, Karak sits 900m above sea level and lies inside the walls of the old city. The city today is home to around 170,000 people and continues to boast a number of restored 19th century Ottoman buildings.
Our local guide will take us on tour of the castle before we stop to enjoy lunch at the King's Castle Restaurant. After lunch, we are off to Mukawir (biblical Machaerus), the hilltop stronghold of Herod the Great. Upon Herod's death, his son Herod Antipas inherited the fortress and it is from here that he ordered John the Baptist to be beheaded after Salome's fateful dance. After our visit, we head to our hotel on the Dead Sea. BLD
Overnight: Dead Sea Spa Hotel (1 Night)
Drive Dead Sea To Amman
After a relaxing breakfast at our hotel, we will have an informative lecture with Dr. Mohammed Wahib who was in charge of the excavations at Bethany Beyond Jordan Baptism site. After our meeting, we take time to visit this sacred, holy site where John the Baptist preached and baptized during the early days of his ministry and where Jesus was baptized.
From the baptism site, we continue to Mount Nebo, one of the most revered sites of Jordan and the place where Moses was buried. A small Byzantine church was built there by early Christians, which has been expanded into a vast complex. While here we will experience one of the great joys of our trip as we celebrate mass in this historical setting. During his visit to Jordan in 2001, the Late Pope John Paul II held a sermon here that was attended by some 20,000 faithful. Take time to stand on the platform in front of the church and admire the view. It overlooks the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, across to the roof tops of Jerusalem and Bethlehem and is absolutely breathtaking.
Later we continue to Madaba, located along the 5,000-year-old Kings' Highway and one of the most memorable places in the Holy Land. Known as the "City of Mosaics," Madaba is home to a spectacular array of Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics. Here we will visit St. George's Church which houses the famous 6th century Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. With two million pieces of vividly colored local stone, the map depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta. While in Madaba we will also visit the Archaeological Museum and have lunch. We will arrive in Amman and our hotel in the late afternoon. BLD
Overnight: Al Qasr Metropole (3 Nights)
Originally spread over seven hills, or jabals, the capital of the Hashemite kingdom now sprawls over 19 hills and is home to well over a million people, almost half of Jordan's population. Known as the White City, the hills are covered in a jumble of light-coloured stone houses, consistently box-like in shape with flat roofs characteristic of a typical desert city. Faded minarets, pavement markets, Arabian sweet shops and the crumbling remains of ancient civilizations contrast wonderfully with the contemporary edifices, fashionable boutiques and international restaurants. This blend of the old and the new combines in the noisy and chaotic downtown area where the city's extraordinarily friendly residents go about their business.
At the heart of downtown is the Ottoman-style King Hussein Mosque, around which the buzz and bustle is at its most interesting. Even busier at prayer times, the surrounding streets are filled with the essence of Arabia, exotic smells and rows of glittering treasures in the souq (market) amid the noise of frenetic haggling. Just as overwhelming is Amman's sense of history, dating back 5,500 years to its position as the ancient capital of the Ammonites, Rabbath-Ammon of the Old Testament, and later as Philadelphia, the Roman city that became part of the Decapolis.
Overlooking the city from atop Jabal al-Qala'a is the Citadel, the site of the ancient Rabbath-Ammon, and at its foot lies the impressive Roman amphitheater that is the most remarkable remnant of ancient Philadelphia. Amman is one of the oldest, continuously inhabited cities in the world, and today functions as a thriving commercial and administrative center with modern facilities, historical attractions and a long-standing tradition of hospitality. BLD
Excursion to Jerash & Ajloun
We travel to the ancient city of Jerash to see the remarkable remains from Neolithic times, as well as Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Omayyad and others - an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years. Jerash's golden age, however, arrived with Roman rule. Jerash lies on a plain surrounded by hilly wooded areas and fertile basins.
Conquered by General Pompey in 63 BC, it came under Roman rule and was one of the ten great Roman cities, the Decapolis League. The site is now generally acknowledged to be one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. After lunch at a local Lebanese restaurant, we take a short hop northwest to Ajloun traveling through pine forests and olive groves while passing scores of ancient sites, including water mills, forts and villages.
Ajloun Castle (Qal'at Ar-Rabad) was built in 1184 AD to control the iron mines of Ajloun, and to deter the Franks from invading Ajloun. The castle dominated the three main routes leading to the Jordan valley and protected the trade and commercial routes between Jordan and Syria, becoming an important link in the defensive chain against the crusaders, who, unsuccessfully, spent decades trying to capture the castle. Our final stop today is in Anjara to visit the historic Sayadet Anjara Church before heading back to Amman and our hotel. BLD
Fly Jordan to North America
We transfer to the airport today to connect with our flights home. B
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