Biblical Israel Tour Experiences of the 11 Day Israel Tour, with an Egypt Option
April 10-20, 2016 (Israel), with Egypt (April 20-26)
Individual Photos of Tour Members
DAYS 1 & 2 – SUNDAY-MONDAY, APRIL 10-11
Our departure day finally arrived! God brought together 57 people from all over the country for this journey of a lifetime trip to Israel, the land of the Bible. The majority of the group met in JFK (New York) for the non-stop flight to Tel Aviv, while others flew from other departing cities. Unfortunately three people missed their connection flight and had to catch a later flight. After this 10 hour flight, we landed at the Ben Gurion Airport. The weather sunny and mild (around 80). Following passport control and gathering our luggage, we met our guide Shlomo. We also saw the Ethiopian marathon runner who will be representing Israel in the Brazil Olympics. We boarded our bus en route to our Hotel in Tel Aviv. It is located right on the coastline of the Med Sea. Israel has some of the best beaches in the world!
Upon arriving at the hotel, we checked in, enjoyed dinner, followed by an “orientation” meeting to help prepare us for the following days to come. Following the meeting, many enjoyed a walk on the Med Sea beach to Jaffa and back. We remember that it was from Jaffa (Joppa) that Jonah secured the boat (Jonah 1). Peter also saw a vision here (Acts 10).
It’s great to be in Israel!
DAY 3 – TUESDAY, APRIL 12
Today was our first full day here in Israel. The weather this morning was pleasant, with temps around 60. We would start with sun for most of the morning before the showers and rains came late morning into the afternoon.
Following a great breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and drove to the Shephelah (Lowlands) of Judah. This morning we would see three OT sites. Our fist stop was Gezerlocated in the Aijalon Valley. This site dates back to the Canaanite period and is mentioned in the El Amarna Letters found in Egypt. The location of this city was very important, protecting the primary south-north natural route (the Via Maris). We read from Joshua 10 (when the “sun stood still over Aijalon”), from 1 Kings 9 (the city was re-fortified by Solomon), and Ecclesiastes 3 (“For everything there is a season…”). We saw a replica of the famous 10thcentury BC “Gezer Calendar” that illustrated the agricultural seasons of the year. We also saw a Canaanite water system, tower and 6 chambered gate as well another 6 chambered Israelite gate built by Solomon himself. Before leaving the site, we took our first group picture in front of the “standing stones” of Gezer, used for ritual purposes.
Driving south to the Sorek Valley, Bethshemesh was our next stop. This was the “home-town” area of Samson (Judges 13-14), born in Zorah nearby. Delilah lived only about 4 miles to the west. We also heard the story (from 1 Samuel 6) about the Ark of the Covenant being returned by the Philistines to the people of Beth Shemesh. Some also explored a cistern, one of many found here in this Levitical city.
Continuing south to the Elah Valley, Kh. Qeiyafa was our next stop. This is a relatively new archaeological site believed to be a fortified Israelite city during the days of David. Here we saw two more 6 chamber Israelite gates (“Shaaryim” ?). Most importantly, we read from 1 Samuel 17 about the David vs. Goliath story. We could picture the story unfolding before us in the valley below and David’s victory that came as a result of trusting in God.
Following lunch (at Beit Guvrin), we drove about 45 minutes to Tel Beersheba. Here we saw a replica of a horned altar (the real one was found here in the 70s), the “well,” typical 4-room Israelites houses, and the impressive water cistern system. We read from Genesis 21 (Abraham) and Psalm 23 (about the shepherds’ “cup” that overflows). Although it rained hard here (yes we got pretty wet!), the unique heavy rain reminded us of Psalm 126:4 (the “water-courses” of the Negev).
Our last site of the day was Arad. This was another Canaanite and later Israelite city. We climbed to the top of the citadel where we read from Numbers 21 (about the Canaanite king who attacked Moses and the Israelites) and 2 Chronicles 34 (about Josiah’s reforms). Here was saw the Israelite temple and the Canaanite city below. The rain finally stopped as we were leaving.
From here we drove 45 minutes to the Dead Sea. It was very, very unique to see dark clouds hover over the Dead Sea! After checking in, most in the group enjoyed a “float” in this unique body of water (30-33% mineral/salt). The weather was beautiful and the water temp warm. We then enjoyed dinner together.
It was a great first full day!
DAY 4 – WEDNESDAY, APRIL 13
Today was a great and quite a “unique” weather-day today here on the edge of the Judean Desert. After another wonderful breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and drove to Masada(for palace-fortress built by Herod the Great) about 10 minutes north. We opened the day with Psalm 18:1-2 that talks about God being our fortress (“metzada”). The skies were overcast, with sprinkles in the air when we arrive. It was very unique to see cloudy skies in this region. We ascended the site by cable-car. Shlomo took us to one of the cisterns where he began unfolding the story of this “fortress” for 967 Jews immediately following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. Additionally we saw the southern palace, the Roman ramp, the casemate walls and dwelling places, and the bathhouse. About 25 in the group hiked down the snake path while others took the cable car back down.
Continuing north along the Dead Sea, Engediwas our next stop. Here we read from Songs of Solomon 1 (romantic language that mentions Engedi), 2 Chronicles 20 (Jehosophat, the “Ascent of Ziz”), and 1 Samuel 24 (the cave encounter between David and Saul. Because of the fear of flash floods, we were only permitted to walk back to the first falls. It was still beautiful.
Qumran was our next stop. Here, about 25 hiked to the famous “Cave 1” (where the Isaiah scroll, among others, were discovered in 1947). After visiting the cave, it heavy lightening/thunder storm hit. Such a storm is highly uncommon here. The wadis (dry river beds) quickly filled, causing rivers of water to flow everywhere. It was absolutely wild given that this region only gets a few rain events each year. Following the storm, we visited the ruins of Qumran, where we saw mikvot (ritual baths), scriptoriums, and Cave 4. We also saw a remarkable rush of water come down from the high cliffs above! We read from Psalm 19, 2 Timothy 3, and “Psalm 151” (an extra psalm found among the Qumran texts).
Our last stop was Jericho located on the northern edge of the Dead Sea. We ascended the tel and talked about all the Bible stories that took place in this area (Mt. Nebo high on the mountains of Moab in Jordan across the Jordan River, Jesus’ baptism and temptation, NT Jericho – Zacheaus, Bartimeaus), and of course the Joshua 6 story about the conquest of the city. We celebrate the historicity of the Bible here as we saw the very walls Joshua saw.
From here, we drove north through the Jordan Valley (seeing a few gazelles along the way) to our “kibbutz-hotel” on the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. We enjoyed dinner together followed by a brief gathering on the shoreline.
DAY 5 – THURSDAY, APRIL 14
Today was a perfect weather day, with sun, puffy clouds, and temps in the high 60s/low 70s. We left the hotel around 7:30. Driving north on the east side of the Sea of Galilee (past the area where the Geresene demoniac was healed – Mark 5), we began climbing the Golan Heights. Our first stop was an overview of the NW corner of the lake near where Bethsaidawas located. We read from Mark 8 and John 6.
Our first site we visited was Gamla, the “camel-humped Masada of the north.” This was a city that led the 1stRevolt against the Romans in 66 AD. Although we cold not descend down to the 1stcentury synagogue (no doubt where Jesus taught), we could see it from above. Even though not mentioned directly in Scripture, a certain “Judas the Galilean” (founder of the Zealots in 6 AD) was from here (Acts 5).
Driving northward on the Golan Heights now, Qatzrinwas our next site. This was a “Talmudic” village (3rd-7thcentury AD). Here we sat in a reconstructed stone house no doubt similar to the type of houses that existed in Jesus’ time. Crowded in the house, we read from Mark 2 (the paralytic lowered down to Jesus). We considered Jesus’ remarkable ministry of compassion and mercy to the “shamed” of the world.
Driving northeast, we climbed an dormant volcano called Bental where we viewed the border with Syria. Shlomo shared with us some of the modern day history (1967 and 1973 wars) with Syria. We paused to pray for those inflicted by war in Syria these last few years.
After lunch at a Druze restaurant located on the foothills of Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133), we descended off the Golan Heights to Caesarea Philippi. Here we read from Matthew 16 about Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” We saw the grotto and the shrines of this pagan city, as well as the plentiful amounts of water that flow from these springs originating from Mt. Hermon.
Our last site of the day was Dan. This is in part a beautiful nature preserve in addition to an archaeological site. Here, we walked along the largest of the Jordan tributaries, enjoying the shady trees. We stopped by the quiet waters where we enjoyed Shlomo playing his recorder. We also read from Psalm 42. Walking to the “high place of Dan, we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the “pattern of disobedience” here. It was Jeroboam who established this high place and golden calf here. The city was destroyed in 722 BC by the Assyrians.
The drive back to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee to our hotel was beautiful, with great visibilities of the region and a great sunset. We enjoyed dinner together and another gathering of worship and reflection on the water’s edge. It was another great day!
DAY 6 – FRIDAY, APRIL 15
Today was another good weather day, with sun and temps around 80. The haze dissipated in the afternoon. We began the day with a reminder that Jesus shared in parables among his followers. We read one of the kingdom parables (Mt. 13) as we left the hotel for Mt. Arbel. About a third in the group hiked to the top of this 800 foot mountain on the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee, while others bussed around to the approach from the west. While hazy, the view from the top allowed us to see this main ministry region of the Galilee.
Magdala was our next site. Located on the flat plains of Genesseret below Arbel, this city was the home of a certain “Mary” Magdalene. We saw a 1stcentury synagogue here (1 of only 7 found in Israel). It was very moving to think that Jesus no doubt taught from here. We also enjoyed a time of singing in the newly-constructed chapel.
Driving to Chorazim from here, we read from Matthew 23 about “Moses’ seat” and the Pharisees. We visited the 3rdcentury synagogue here. We talked about the importance of matching our actions with our words.
Nearby was the Mt. of Beatitudes. Sitting on rock over looking the natural amphitheater (where 5,000 people could have easily gathered to listen to Jesus), we heard Matthew 5 read in both Hebrew and English. We were encouraged to seek and live out these “upside-down” kingdom principles. It was very special to think Jesus perhaps taught here.
Our last visit before lunch was Capernaum. This was the “home-town” ministry base of Jesus. While sitting in the 5thcentury AD synagogue, we read from Mark 1, 2, & 9, Luke 7, and John 6 about all that took place here. It was here Jesus called some of His disciples (Peter, Andrew, James and John, and Levi/Matthew). We also saw the octagonal 5th-6thcentury church built by Byzantine Christians.
Following a wonderful “St. Peter’s fish” lunch near Magdala, we visited Nof Ginnosar. Here we saw a 1stcentury fishing boat. We could imagine Jesus and His disciples using a boat this size. We also enjoyed our own boat ride out on the lake for about an hour. We shared in singing and reflection (Mark 4, Matthew 14).
Our last stop of the day was back at the southern end of the lake near our hotel. We made a brief stop in the Kinneret cemetery where an early Jewish pioneer named “Rachel” was buried. Shlomo read some of her poems, played his recorder, and sang a song for us.
We returned to out hotel for a free evening. Some enjoyed swimming in the lake! Again it was a beautiful sunset to end a great day.
DAY 7 – SATURDAY, APRIL 16
This morning we checked out of our hotel and said goodbye to the Galilee. The weather today was bright sun and around 80. Our first stop, only few miles away was the baptism placed on the Jordan River called Yardenit. 26 in the group entered the waters of the Jordan, reaffirming their baptismal vows. It was a special time for all.
Driving to Nazarethfrom here, we ascended to what is called the precipice.Here we enjoyed the first of three views of the Jezreel Valley below. From here we recalled the stories of Judges 4-5 (Mt. Tabor), Judges 6-7 (Hill of Moreh), 1 Samuel 31 (Mt. Gilboa), 1 Kings 18 (Mt. Carmel), 2 King 4 (Shunem), and Luke 7 (Nain). We could see all these stories coming to life from here! We also read Luke 4 about Jesus’ encounter in the synagogue as he read from Isaiah 61. We also considered Philip’s invitation to “come and see”Jesus for who He is (John 1).
Crossing the Jezreel Valley, we came to Megiddo. The city was located on a strategic natural pass that guarded the southern entrance into the valley. This was a Canaanite city that existed even 1,000 years prior to Abraham. Later, Solomon refortified it (1 Kings 9). Here we saw various gates (Canaanite, Solomonic), storehouses, stables, and an impressive water system. E read from Rev. 16 and rejoiced that God will have the final word in the last days.
Driving to the Mt. Carmel Range, we had lunch at another Druze restaurant before visiting a Carmelite chapel called Muhraqa (“burnt offering”). Here we read the story of Elijah’s encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal. Through God’s intervention, the odds were defied and God intervened in powerful ways.
Descending to the Sharon Plain, our last stop of the day was Caesarea. We first entered the theater where we read from Acts 10, 12, and 26. Both Peter and Paul were bold in sharing their faith. We also saw the palace, hippodrome, and the Crusader (11-12thcentury) part of the city.
From here we drove 1.5 hours to Jerusalem. We checked into our hotel, enjoyed dinner together, followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall. It’s great to be in Jerusalem!
DAY 8 – SUNDAY, APRIL 17
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. Leaving the hotel around 7:35 on what would be a bright sunny day with temps around 75 (perfect!), we drove around the Old City to the Mt. of Olives. Our first view of the city from here was spectacular, with the Temple Mount and the Old City in full view. We walked down to the Dominus Flavet chapel where we read from Luke 19 (the Palm Sunday story and where Jesus wept over Jerusalem). We also read the prophecy from Zechariah 14 of how the Mt. of Olives will one day split in half.
Walking down to the Garden of Gethsemane(“oil press”), we reflected upon Luke 21 and the words of passion, “Not my will, but yours be done.” It was here Jesus prayed and later was betrayed by Judas and taken by Caiaphas, the High Priest. We spent a few moments of silent reflection here among the olive trees.
Walking into the Old City through the Lion’s Gate (also called St. Stephen’s Gate/Jericho Gate), we next visited the Pools of Bethesda and St. Anne’s Church. We read from John 5 the story of the paralyzed man being healed by Jesus. We also enjoyed singing in the Crusader church, one with an 8-10 second echo. We sounded wonderful once again!
Walking along the Via Dolorosa, we ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. This is one of two possible locations for the burial of Jesus. Nearby in the Christian Quarter we enjoyed lunch.
Walking out the Jaffa Gate, David our driver picked us up. We drove to Herodium, the burial place of Herod the Great in 4 BC. Here we climbed this “artificial” mountain build by Herod as one of his palace/fortresses.
Driving towards Bethlehem, we stopped for a time of reflection and Christmas carols in the Shepherds’ Fields. We rejoiced in God’s redemptive plan, for “just at the right time, God sent His Son…” (Gal. 4:4). We also read from Luke 2. Driving into Bethlehem, we stopped at an olive wood factory and shop. We enjoyed shopping here.
On the way back to the hotel, we made a “surprise” visit to Shlomo’s community called Har Gilo. The view of the whole city of Jerusalem from here was amazing! Driving back to the hotel, we enjoyed dinner together, followed by an optional walk to Ben Yehuda for a taste of modern Israeli life. We even were able to check out the famous “signature floor” in the lobby, as well as the “rolling stone” tomb (Herod’s family tomb) in the outside alleyway of the hotel.
What a great day it was here in Jerusalem!
DAY 9 – MONDAY, APRIL 18
Today was once again a bright sunny day with temps around 80. We left this morning at 7:15 and headed directly to the Temple Mount. Access was quite quick, allowing us some time on top. This was the location of both the First and Second Temple. Since the 7thcentury AD, the Dome of the Rock stands on top, along with the El Asca Mosque. We also saw the closed Eastern Gate from the inside.
Nearby we entered the Western Wall Tunnel. Some took the opportunity to walk down to the Wall itself during this time of morning prayers. We walked about 1,200 feet parallel to this western retaining all of the Temple. It as quite impressive to see such large stones (Mark 13:1).
Walking back up to the heart of the Jewish Quarter, we entered Shoreshim, a store owned by two Orthodox Jews (Moshe and Dov). Here, Moshe shared about his Jewish faith in the context of our Christian faith. It as quite interesting and enlightening.
Following grabbing lunch in the Jewish Quarter, we then walked out of Zion’s Gate and boarded the bus en route to the Israel Museum. Here, we saw three things: the 1:50-scaled model of 2ndTemple Jerusalem, the Shrine of the Book, and highlights within the archaeological wing of the museum. We saw a number of artifacts here related to the Bible.
A visit to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum, concluded our day. We listened to Shlomo’s personal story about losing 12 family members in Poland. We walked through the Children’s Memorial and the museum itself. It was a real but sobering experience!
We drove back to the hotel to freshen up. Because the up-coming Passover observation requires the “leaven-cleaning” of the dining room, we ate dinner in the Old City. Following dinner, a few walked to the Western Wall.
DAY 10 – TUESDAY, APRIL 19
Today was our last day here in Jerusalem! We had full sun once again, with temps around 85. Leaving about 8:30 today, we drove to the north side of the Old City to the Garden Tomb. This is a second possible site for both the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. We had a wonderful guide from the Garden Tomb show us the “place of the skull” as well as the suggested tomb of Christ. While we worship the “Person” and not the “place,” the setting provided a great image of what the tomb area may have looked like. We enjoyed a time of worship and Communion as well together. It was a special time!
From here we spent the next two hours at the City of David. We saw many things here, including the excavations of David’s palace and the eastern slope of this city conquered by David (2 Samuel 5), “Warren’s Shaft,” and the Gihon Spring. Many also walked through Hezekiah’s tunnel (2 Kings 20, 2 Chronicles 32, Isaiah 36-37), a water tunnel that still flows with water from the Gihon Spring, while others walked through the “dry” Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Pool of Siloam where we enjoyed a “narrative” reading of John 9.
Our last site we visited was the “southern wall excavations.” About half the group arrived here by walking through the Roman “drainage channel” that runs under the Roman street that came from the Temple Mount area at the SW corner of the Temple. Here we saw the remains of “Robinson’s Arch” as well as the huge stones of the Temple brought down to the ground in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. Walking east to the very Temple steps that would have been used in Jesus’ day to enter the Temple itself, we slowly ascended these steps. We recalled all the stories that took place here (i.e. Luke 2, 18, John 10, Mark 12, Acts 2). We paused to reflect how the spirit of God inspires us to be the “temple” of God (2 Cor. 3:16).
For the next two hours we enjoyed some free time. Many shopped, while others grabbed a bite and relaxed. It was a nice leisurely way to end a great day.
Returning to the hotel, we freshened up a bit before boarding the bus for the final time. Driving to our “farewell dinner,” we enjoyed a time of great food and fellowship. Those flying home tonight boarded the bus en route to the airport, while those going to Egypt (with some going to Jordan), walked back to the hotel.
This is the end of a life-changing tour together with a wonderful group!
DAY 11 – WEDNESDAY, APRIL 20
This morning the majority of the group arrived back in the U.S. following the night flight home. There were, however, 6 who are on their way to Jordan on their own. For 10 others in the group we drove to the Ben Gurion Airport for our flight to Cairo, Egypt. The airport procedures went smoothly.
Flying into Cairo, we could see the pyramids below. As we proceeded through passport control and baggage, we were met by our Travel Plusagent (Amr) and guide (Heba). Boarding the bus, we enjoyed a half-day of sightseeing.
First, we visited the Citadel. This is one of the modern “cultural landmarks” of Cairo. Built by Saladin and completed in 1,183 AD the Citadel served as a fortress against the Christian Crusaders. Inside is the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. Built in the 19thcentury AD, it is decorated with alabaster. From here we also enjoyed our first full panoramic view of Cairo itself. It is a huge city of about 22 million people.
Nearby is the area of Cairo called Old Cairo. We visited the Synagogue of Ben Ezra. Traditionally, this marks the place where Moses was saved in the Nile River. Built in 882 AD, it is the oldest Jewish synagogue in Egypt. Walking just a short distance, we next visited the Church of St. Serguis. It is a 5thcentury AD Late Roman church built to traditionally preserve the area to which Joseph, Mary, and Jesus traveled from Bethlehem. Lastly, the Hanging Church, also dating to 4-5thcentury AD, was equally impressive. It was built over two towers of a Roman fortress called the Babylon Fortress built originally by Emperor Trajan in 98 AD.
Cutting through the typically busy Cairo traffic, we crossed the Nile River to our beautiful 5+ deluxe hotel called the Four Seasons.It is located right off the historic Nile River. At 7 we enjoyed a fabulous dinner together, followed by an optional walk along the Nile.
It was a great first day here in Cairo, and we all are looking forward to seeing ancient sites tomorrow.
DAY 12 – THURSDAY, APRIL 21
Today was our first full day in Cairo. After a wonderful (and fancy) breakfast, we left the hotel around 7:30. Our first stop was Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt. Although most of the city is underground still and not excavated, we saw some an impressive colossus of Ramses II (he reigned around 1,280 – 1220 BC).
Nearby was Sakkara. Here we saw a few things from the past. First, visited the tomb of Ka-Gmni. He was a nobleman who lived in the 6thDynasty (2,340 BC). The details of the hieroglyphs and reliefs inside his tomb were amazing. Next, we descended into a smaller pyramid. The room at the end was where the sarcophagus as located. Lastly, we got a close-up look at the stepped pyramid itself. King Dozier was buried here, although the tomb and the temple leading to the tomb was designed by the famous Imhotep, the priest.
Following a quick visit to a carpet school and after a quick bite to eat at the “7-11” type of place (“On the Run”), we visited the famous Pyramids of Giza. There are three primary ones – Khufu (Cheops), Khafra, and Menkaura. The largest pyramid comprises of 2.3 million stones, the average weighing 2.5 tons. It rises almost 500 feet high. It is so big that standing close to it doesn’t allow to capture it on a camera. We climbed several levels of the pyramid before going further away for a more panoramic view of all three of them. Here we also enjoyed a camel ride.
Finally, we visited the Great Sphinx. It sits next to the pyramids. Leading up to the Sphinx is a temple where the body of the kings were embalmed. We read from Genesis 50 about Jacob being embalmed Egyptian style. The Sphinx itself is massive up close, about 100 yards long. It serves as the ultimate symbol of ancient Egypt with its lion’s body and human head.
One the way back to the hotel, we made a brief stop to an Egyptian jewelry store. A few had a cartouche made (names spelled in hieroglyphics). We returned to the hotel for some relaxing time before dinner.
We wake early tomorrow to fly to Aswan, about 750 miles south. This is where we will board our cruise ship for the next three days.
DAY 13 – FRIDAY, APRIL 22
Today began early here in Cairo. Leaving the hotel around 6 a.m., we drove to the airport for our 1.5 hour flight south to Aswan. We followed the Nile River below us the whole way. It was sunny with temps about 85 when we landed, rising to a warm 102 later this afternoon (it is supposed to be 104-106 the next to days). Upon arriving, we were met by our Travel Plus agent who helped us with luggage.
Boarding our van, we drove to the Aswan Dam(built in 1902) and Lake Nasser. The lake (formed by the damming of the Nile River) serves as the border with Sudan to the south, and comprises of about 500 square km. The dam was truly a major engineering accomplishment!
Driving to one of the ports of the lake, we boarded a felucca boat for a short ride to the Temple of Philae(or Isis). This was our first introduction to Egyptian temples. While this one dates relatively late (Greco-Roman), it is massive and quite impressive The Temple itself was reconstructed on higher ground after the dam was built. We saw many reliefs on the sides of the temple. This temple even had a “holy of holies” room similar to the layout of the Jewish Tabernacle (and later Solomon’s temple).
We boarded back on the boat, taking us back to the van. From here we drove to the “unfinished obelisk.” It is located among the granite quarry used in ancient times. Obelisks were chiseled out of the granite here and then “sailed” north (down-stream) to Luxor, Karnak, and Memphis, among other places. It must have been quite a feat given the enormous size.
About 1 p.m. we boarded our cruise ship, the Sonesta. It is a gorgeous 5+ deluxe ship with about 60 cabins. We enjoyed a marvelous buffet lunch before relaxing for a few hours. At 4 p.m., we enjoyed a small motorboat ride on the Nile for about 1.5 hours. We sailed towards on of the cataracts of the Nile. We passed by Elephant Island too. It gave us a taste of what is to come as we sail north to Luxor over the next few days.
Returning to the cruise ship, we enjoyed a brief gathering on the deck. Since tonight brings in Pesach (Passover), we read from Exodus 12-15 about the first Pesach and the Exodus itself. It was amazing for us to read this story from right here in Egypt! We also enjoyed a wonderful sunset on the Nile!
At 8 p.m., we enjoyed dinner together, followed by enjoying the full moon tonight. Spectacular!!
DAY 14 – SATURDAY, APRIL 23
Today was a relaxing day as we sailed north up the Nile River. Once again, it would be a hot day, with highs around in the low 100s. After a wonderful breakfast, our first “port” stop along the river was the Kom Ombo Temple. It stands tall on the eastern bank of the river and is dedicated to two Egyptian gods – Horus (displayed as a “falcon”) and Sobek (displayed as a “crocodile”). The temple dates to 119 BC when Ptolemy VI reigned. Here we saw plenty of columns, a Nilometer (we think of Joseph in Genesis 41 when he “channeled” the water from the Nile to provide irrigation for crops) and reliefs on the temple walls. Specifically, one relief depicted the earliest forms of medical instruments. Here we also saw the museum filled with mummified crocodiles.
We boarded back on the boat and continued sailing north. We all enjoyed this free time of relaxing by the pool, getting a massage, or taking a nap. The scenery on both sides of the river was so interesting. The simple life of Egyptians living in this area is quite noticeable. See the many mud-brick houses along the shoreline reminded us of how it looked in biblical days.
After a tour of the front of the boat by the captain, we enjoyed lunch together. We arrived at Edfu, our next port stop. Here we visited the Temple of Horus. To get there, we enjoyed a horse-drawn buggy for about a mile. This was an interesting “and bumpy) experience! 🙂 According to Egyptian mythology, the site of Edfu is the place where Horus battled his traditional enemy (and uncle) Seth. The temple is the most well-preserved and the only one to have been completed. Here we saw more interesting and very detailed reliefs. Virtually every wall of this temple tells a story.
We returned back to the boat and sailed to Esna and then on to Luxor. We all enjoyed some relaxing time once again by the pool. The sunset was once again very beautiful. Prior to dinner, we passed through one of the “locks” on the Nile.
Dinner and the “galabia” party afterwards was fun. We all dressed in Egyptian galabias(robes) or shirts. The moon was also fabulous as well, rising over the desert horizon.
DAY 15 – SUNDAY, APRIL 24
In order to beat the heat we left at 7 a.m. from our cruise ship. Meeting our agent here in Luxor, we drove in our van to the western bank of the Nile River. We had bright sun all day long, with temps in the 80’s and 90s this morning, rising to about 105 this afternoon.
Our first stop would be the grand Valley of the Kings. From the 16th to 11th century B.C., this valley was used for the tombs of over 60 Egyptian kings and powerful nobles of the 18th-20th Dynasties of Ancient Egypt. To date, a total of 64 royal tombs of kings/pharaohs were found here, including the famous King Tut’s tomb (we’ll see his golden mask and tomb belongings tomorrow at the Egyptian Museum). We went into three tombs: Ramses IV, Thutmose III and Menephat (one of the sons and successors of Ramses II). We connected Thutmose III with the Bible, with him being someone who no doubt Moses and was one of the Pharaohs who oppressed/enslaved the Israelites. Additionally, depending on the Egyptian dating, he may also have been the Pharaoh of the Exodus in 1446 BC (although others suggest Amenhotep II). Regardless, all these tombs were magnificent and still full of the original color.
Next we visited the Temple of Hatshepsut. When she was 15 years of age, she was “Pharaoh’s daughter” who found Moses in the bulrushes. She would end up reigning on the throne herself, along with Thutmose III when he was young. At the temple we saw other colorful reliefs on the wall, including many reliefs of Hathor, the goddess of fertility displayed as a bull.
Still on the western side is the Valley of the Queens. This was the place where queens and other family members were buried. We went into one very well preserved tomb. It actually belonged to a prince named Amen-Khopshef. The prince’s mummified body as never found, but his unborn brother’s fetus was found, intact and mummified in the same tomb.
On our way back to the cruise ship for lunch, we saw the Colossal of Memnon. This was actually a huge mortuary temple built by Amenhotep III, but re-named by the Greeks.
Leaving the boat at 3:30, we boarded the van once again and drove to the famous Karnak Temple. It is the largest one in the world. It compromises actually of a group of temples built by various Pharaohs and dedicated to various Egyptian gods. Pharaohs taking part in the building of this temple include Thutmose III, Seti I and Ramses II. Displayed on the high walls of the temple are reliefs depicting military campaigns. We saw the relief of Pharoah Shishak (Sheshonkin Egyptian records). He is mentioned in 1 Kings 11. Two tall obelisks stand in the middle of this temple right beyond the impressive hypostyle hall. They honor Hatshepsut. Following this visit, we stopped in briefly at a papyrus store. We learned how these ancient parchments were made.
Around dark, our last stop of the day was to the Temple of Luxor. Seeing this grand temple at night was impressive! A 3 mile corridor/road lined with sphinx connected this temple with the one in Karnak. Many colossal statues of Ramses II stand tall here.
This is our last night on the cruise ship. We fly early tomorrow morning back to Cairo for our last day in Egypt.
DAY 16 – MONDAY, APRIL 25
Today was an early start. Leaving the cruise ship at around 5:45, we drove to the Luxor Airport for our flight back to Cairo. Today was our last day here in Egypt. Temps were a bit cooler, with highs in the 90s. It actually felt pleasant.
Upon arriving at the Cairo airport, we were once again met by our excellent agents, Travel Plus. They escorted us to the bus. Driving to the heart of the Tahrir Square (where Egypt had its crisis in 2011), we visited the famous Egyptian Museum for the next 2 hours. Heba showed us the highlights of the 1000s of museum displays. Starting from the Old Kingdom to walking to the famous King Tut’s treasures, we saw a lot of archaeological finds. The museum is simply filled with so many items, a number of them with biblical connections (e.g. the Pharaohs who reigned during the days of Joseph and Moses, Hathor the “holy cow” – golden calf, etc…). Some even bought the extra ticket to see mummies of the famous names in ancient Egypt (e.g. Ramses II, Thutmoses III, Hatshepsut, etc..).
About noon we drove to the famous Khan el-Khalilibazaar. It is a massive market area. We grab a bite to eat here and did our final shopping (from shirts & pyramids to spices). It was really a cultural experience!
We drove back to our 4 Seasons Hotel for the rest of the afternoon. It was a wonderful time of relaxing by the pool and/or taking a nap. The hotel here serves their guests like royalty! J)
We ate our final dinner together at 6:30. Since our flights back to the States leave at four different times, we said our goodbyes and turned in. We all agree that Egypt is a safe place to travel, and is filled with many archaeological wonders that connect us to the world of the Bible.
DAY 17 – TUESDAY, APRIL 26
We all arrived back in the States following our night and/or morning flights. An end of a great trip!