Biblical Israel Tour Experiences for the 11 Day Israel Study Tour (with 5 Day Egypt option to Mt. Sinai & Cairo)
April 24 – May 8, 2017
DAYS 1 & 2 – MONDAY/TUESDAY, APRIL 24-25:
The day finally arrived for our Israel trip! Most in the group met at the JFK (NY) Airport from all over the country for our international direct flight to Tel Aviv. While the connection flights were tight, everyone made it! It was a 10 hour flight to the Ben Gurion Airport in Israel.
Upon arriving, we went through the normal passport check, gathered our luggage, and walked out to the bus. We were greeted by Shlomo Ben Asher, our Israeli guide, and David, our driver. After loading the bus, we drove west to Joppa (Jaffa). It is located on the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. We enjoyed a leisurely walk through the alley-ways. We read from Jonah 1 (Jonah who sailed from here) and Acts 9 & 10 (Peter, his healing of Dorcas and his vision). Praise God that His kingdom extends to Gentiles as well!
Driving north through the Tel Aviv traffic, we arrived at our hotel in Netanya. After checking in, we enjoyed dinner together, followed by a brief orientation meeting. Afterwards, some walked down to the beach.
It is wonderful to be here in Israel, the land of the Bible!
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, APRIL 26:
Today was our first full day here in Israel. The skies would be sunny and clear, with a high in the low 80s. After a great breakfast, we checked out of the hotel and drove north about 20 minutes to Caesarea. This was a city built by Herod the Great between 22-10 BC. After a brief movie about the history of the site, we gathered in the theater. Here we read from Acts 10, 12, & 26 (about Peter, Herod Agrippa, and Paul). We celebrate the boldness of both Peter and Paul in proclaiming their faith in Christ. We also saw the palace, the hippodrome, mosaics, part of the Crusader city, the harbor, statutes, and the aqueduct that brought water in from the Carmel Range. We also saw a replica of the Pilate Inscription found here in 1961.
Mt. Carmel was our next stop. On the highest peak called Muhraqa, we read from 1 Kings 18 about the story of Elijah defeating the prophets of Baal and Asherah here. With God’s help, Elijah defeated the odds! We also read from Isaiah 35 and Song of Songs 7. From the roof of the small chapel we got our first view (of three) of the Jezreel Valley below. Although it was hazy, we could see the Nazareth Ridge (Luke 4), Mt. Tabor (Judge 4-5), the Hill of Moreh (Judges 6-7), and Mt. Gilboa (1 Samuel 31).
Following lunch (and for some our first falafel), we descended down to the Jezreel Valley to Megiddo. This is an archaeological site that has over two dozen layers of ruins. Megiddo was a Canaanite city taken by Thutmose III and later again by Joshua (Joshua 12). We saw a map of the region as well as a model before climbing to the top of the tel. Here we saw three ancient gate structures, Solomon’s stables, an Early Bronze altar, and an Israelite grain silo. We remembered what Revelation 16 says about Armageddon and we celebrated God’s ultimate victory that will come when Christ returns! We left the site by descending 180 steps down through the water system.
Sepporis was our next site. Here we saw Roman streets, shops, houses, and amazing mosaics (including the Mona Lisa of the Galilee). This city was located only 4-5 miles from Nazareth. Although not mentioned in the Bible, it is likely that Jesus visited this Hellenized-Jewish city.
We ended the day by driving to the Precipice of Nazareth. The view of the Jezreel Valley below (along with Mt. Tabor, the Hill of Moreh, Mt. Gilboa, and Mt Carmel) was one that no doubt Jesus saw when he grew up in Nazareth. We paused to read Luke 4 and John 1 and were invited to “come and see” Jesus in the context of this place. It was a special time of reflection!
Driving to the NW corner of the Sea of Galilee, we arrived at Nof Ginnosar, our “kibbutz-hotel” for the next three nights. We enjoyed dinner together followed by a nice walk down to the water’s edge.
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, APRIL 27:
Today we traveled north and east to the Golan Heights. It was another sunny day, with temps in the upper 80s to low 90s.
Departing after breakfast again at 7:30, we drove to the NE corner of the Sea of Galilee where we made our first stop overlooking the Plains of Bethsaida. We read from Mark 9 (blind man healed) and John 6 (Feeding of the 5,000). Peter, Andrew, and Philip were from Bethsaida.
Climbing a bit more to the plateau of the Golan, Gamla was our next stop. Although not mentioned directly in the Gospels, no doubt Jesus was here, teaching in the 1st century synagogue here. Gamla was mentioned by Josephus as a Jewish city attacked by the Romans in 66 AD. The only indirect reference to Gamla may come in Acts 5 (which mentions a certain “Judas the Galilean” who may have been from here). From the panoramic view on top, we could look down and see the synagogue as well as the city’s fortifications. The Griffon Vulture also is protected here. We saw a few flying around.
Next, we drove to the primary city in the Golan, Katzrin (Qatzrin). Here we visited a Talmudic Village (3rd-7th century AD). Here we were introduced to the Hebraic background of Jesus’ ministry. We sat in the reconstructed stone house of Rabbi Abun where we read from Mark 2. We could see the story unfold before our very eyes! There is also a synagogue here as well.
Driving east to the border of Syria, we looked into the city of Quneitra within this war-torn country. On the top of Bental (an old military site), Shlomo shared a little modern history, particularly about the 1967 and 1973 wars with Syria. It was amazing to be so close to Syria. We paused to pray for the victims of the war here.
This afternoon we descended down from the Golan to Caesarea Philippi. This was a very pagan city in Jesus’ day. We read from Matthew 16. It was in the region of this city where Jesus asked the question, Who do you say I am?” Here we saw the grotto area where the pagan temples and niches dedicated to Pan were located. The Banias spring here is one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River.
Close by is the nature preserve and archaeological city of Dan. We enjoyed walked on the quiet pathway along the largest of the three tributaries of the Jordan here. We paused to listen to Shlomo share on his recorder. We also considered the words of Psalm 42 (“as the deer pants for water…”). It was a nice quiet time of reflection. Continuing on the path to the archaeological site of Dan, we sat on the steps of the high place of Dan. Here we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the false worship that took place here. It was Jeroboam who set up a golden calf here (as well as in Bethel just north of Jerusalem). Upon leaving the site, we also saw a Middle Bronze/Canaanite mud-brick gate (used by Abraham, see Gen. 14:14), as well as the walls and gates of the Israelite city.
On our way back to the hotel, we drove past Abel Beit Macaah where both Pastor John and Tom excavated in 2014. We read the primary story from 2 Samuel 20 about “Sheba” and the “wise woman” who lived in this city. We also ascended the hills of Naphtali to Misgav Am. Located on the border with Lebanon, we could look into southern Lebanon. We also had a wonderful panoramic view of the Huleh Valley and Mt. Hermon. Shlomo shared some more modern history about the conflicts Israel has had with this northern neighbor.
Driving back to out hotel, we enjoyed dinner together (a few went swimming in the Sea of Galilee before dinner), followed by an optional devotional gathering on the water’s edge. It was a great day here in northern Israel!
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, APRIL 28:
Today was a day of focusing on Jesus. Spending the day around the Sea of Galilee, we visited many sites and locations, all connected with Jesus and His ministry. Beginning with a wonderful sunrise, today was another sunny one, with comfortable temps in the high 80s, with a nice wind.
Leaving the hotel at about 7:40 and reading Matthew 13, we drove to the trailhead that leads to the top of Mt. Arbel. Nine in the group choose to climb this 800 foot-high mountain that overlooks the NE corner of the lake. The others in the group bussed around through Tiberias and up the western side. Meeting at the top, we had a marvelous view of this region where Jesus served.
From here we drove to the southern end of the lake for an optional baptism service in the Jordan River. At this place called Yardenit, it was a special time for the group, with 12 reaffirming their faith in Christ and with being baptized for the first time! We even had the entire place to ourselves!
Driving back north, we visited Magdala. Here we visited the 1st century ruins of this city where “Mary Magdalene” as from. This included seeing a 1st century synagogue uncovered just a few years ago. We also enjoyed a time of singing in the new devotional chapel built on the grounds.
After lunch (St. Peter’s fish!), we drove to Chorazim. Here among the basaltic-stone ruins we visited the 3rd century synagogue. We saw the replica of the Moses Seat. We read from Matthew 23.
Close by but down on the shoreline is Capernaum. This was the “home-base” for Jesus’ ministry in the Galilee. It was where Jesus called some of His disciples. Sitting in the 5th century synagogue we read from Mark 1, 2, & 9; Luke 7; and John 6, all stories about Jesus’ ministry here. Down on the water’s edge we enjoyed a time of reflection.
Nof Ginnosar (where our hotel is) was our next stop. Here we first visited the ancient boat (“Jesus Boat”) found here in 1986 by two brothers from the kibbutz. It dates to the time of Jesus! We could picture this being the type of boat used by Jesus and His disciples. Then we enjoyed out our boat ride out on the lake. We read from Mark 4 and Matthew 14 (the two “storm narratives”… the wind was strong across the lake, adding to the “effect” of the stories) and enjoyed a time of worship and quiet reflection.
We ended the day by sitting on the Mt. of Beatitudes and listening to the words of Matthew 5 in both Hebrew and English. This was where Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount. We reflected upon His kingdom principles as we walked down to the water’s edge in solitude. The scenery of the lake and mountains across the lake was spectacular!
Driving back to our hotel, we enjoyed dinner and a free evening. What a fantastic day of focusing upon Jesus our Savior!
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, APRIL 29:
Today we checked out of our hotel and left the Sea of Galilee region. The sun was once again bright, with afternoon temps still comfortable although reaching the 90s.
After breakfast and loading the bus, we drove south to the southern end of the Sea of Galilee. We made a brief stop at the Kinneret Cemetery. Many Jewish pioneers are buried here, including the famous “Rachel” (Rachel Bluwstein). She was a Ukranian Jew who died in 1931 at the age of 40. Her poems are still read today! She will soon appear on the 20 shekel bill.
Driving south about 20 miles through the Jordan River Valley, we arrived at the huge archaeological site of Beth Shean. This was not only an Old Testament site but also a massive Roman city. It was the only Decapolis city on the west side of the Jordan. We spent about 1.5 hours here, seeing many ruins. This included the Roman bathhouse, agora, street, many pillars, a shrine, public latrines, and the theater. Some in the group climb to the top of the OT tel, providing a great view of the region as well as the Roman city below. We read from 1 Samuel 31 (death of Saul, with his body being hung on the walls of this city), and 1 Corinthians 15 (“standing firm” on the foundation of Christ).
Close by was the 6th century AD synagogue of Beit Alpha. Here the impressive mosaic floor of this synagogue is preserved. The fictional story about the making of the mosaic was entertaining.
From here we drove on a road leading us through the Samaritan Hill Country. We saw many shepherds along the way of this barren landscape. We drove nearby Shechem / Sychar (Deut. 34, Joshua 24, John 4), Shiloh (1 Samuel 3-4, Jer. 7), Bethel (Genesis 15, 28), and Ai (Joshua 7-8). Driving towards the Judean Desert we past by Michmash (1 Samuel 13-14). On the way to the specific desert of Pareth (Jeremiah 13), we saw a number of gazelles.
Meeting up with the main east-west road leading to Jerusalem, we descended east and arrived at Jericho. Following lunch we climbed the ancient tel of OT Jericho. We first looked east across the Jordan River towards Mt. Nebo (Deut. 34). Elijah & Elisha also had their ministry in this area. It was also in the Jordan River here (John 1) where Jesus was baptized by John. NT Jericho was about 1.5 miles to the south (where we remembered guys like Zacheaus, Bartimeaus. Looking west we remembered Jesus’ temptation. But besides seeing the oldest standing structure in Israel (the round tower), we walked to the south end of the tel where the two stone retaining walls can still be seen. These walls date to the time of Joshua. It was the mud-brick wall on top of these stone walls that came “tumblin’ down.” Yes, the Bible is historically accurate in every respect!
Driving south along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea, the reflection of the afternoon sun against the slopes of Moab on the Jordanian side as brilliant. Arriving at our hotel in Ein Bokek, we also enjoyed floating in the Dead Sea (33% minerals & salt) as well as dinner.
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, APRIL 30:
This morning we departed just shy of 8 a.m. Leaving the hotel, we read from Psalm 18:1-2 which mentions God as our “fortress” (metzada in Hebrew). The air here at the Dead Sea is dry. Temps would be warm the whole day, with highs around 95 (typical for this region this time of year).
Our first site was Masada. This was built originally as a “palace-fortress” of King Herod. Taking the cable car up to the top (about a 1,000 foot ascent), we saw the palaces, the casemate walls, the Roman ramp (on the west side), the synagogue, cisterns, storage rooms, and the bathhouses. The story of Masada is remarkable (967 Jews holding out against the Romans for about three years). At the end of the tour, some took the cable car back down to the bottom while others hiked the Snake Path (1.1 miles). Nine hiked down.
Driving north along the western coastline of the Dead Sea, we came to Engedi. This served as an oasis for many over the course of 1,000s of years. We hiked back to the last water falls here. We read from 2 Chronicles 20, Song of Songs 1, and the primary story from 1 Samuel 24. It was here where David hid from Saul. It was amazing to see so much water here in such a “dry and weary land” (Psalm 63).
Continuing north we arrived at Qumran. During the lunch hour some hiked to Cave 1 (of a total of 12 now – up from 11 – with the most recent announcement of a new cave) where the first Dead Sea Scrolls were found in 1947. The discoveries of these scrolls were the most significant in all of Israel! Following lunch we visited the site itself, seeing mikveh (ritual baths), cisterns, and a scriptorium. In front of Cave 4 we rejoiced in the remarkable preservation of God’s Word and read from “Psalm 151” and Psalm 19.
Driving north towards Jericho, we turned west to ascend to the Hill Country of Judah and Jerusalem. About half way there, we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt (part of the Judean Desert). Here we heard the words of the prophet Isaiah (Is. 40) and Psalm 23. The view was spectacular of this unique and dry region of the Bible.
Arriving in Jerusalem at our hotel, we checked in. After getting freshened up, we enjoyed dinner. A little more than half of the group then bussed to Shlomo’s home community for a special Memorial Service (in Hebrew, “Yom Hazikaron“). It was indeed very moving and a unique experience as Israel remembered all of their 23,544 fallen soldiers since 1948. One of Shlomo’s sons played in the service. We also enjoyed a time of desert at Shlomo and Rachel’s home. We drove back and retired for the evening.
We are looking forward to our first full day in Jerusalem tomorrow!
DAY 8 – MONDAY, MAY 1:
Today was our first full day in Jerusalem. On this Memorial Day here in Israel, it was a beautifully sunny day, with comfortable temps around 80. Leaving at 7:20 this morning, we drove to the southern end of the Old City and entered the Kotel – Western Wall area. As we left, we read from Mark 13:1-2 that mentions the “massive stones” of the Temple, setting the theme for the morning. This is the most holy place for Jews because of it’s proximity to where the 1st and 2nd Temples once stood. This “Western Wall” (also called Wailing Wall) served as a retaining wall for the Temple platform expanded by Herod the Great.
After going down to The Wall for a time of prayer, we entered the Western Wall Tunnel. This has been an archaeological site since the 70s. We walked parallel to this western retaining wall for about 250 yards. We saw massive yet carefully-placed stones of the Temple Jesus saw, including one stone called the Master Course (weighing 250-600 tons, depending on who you talk to).
Leaving the tunnels, we returned to the Jewish Quarter for a visit to the Temple Institute. This is operated by a small sect of Orthodox Jews who are preparing for the building of the 3rd Temple. It was quite interesting to see and hear about all the Temple vessels already prepared in anticipation of the Messiah’s coming.
Walking out of the Jewish Quarter through the Zion’s Gate, the memorial siren sounded at 11 a.m. We all stood in respect of the fallen IDF soldiers.
After this moment of silence, we drove to the Israel Museum. Here, we saw three things – a 1:50-scale model of Jerusalem like it look like in 70 AD prior to its destruction (we retraced the ministry of Jesus, including the Temple Mount), the Shrine of the Book museum (where the Dead Sea Scrolls are on display), and lastly the archaeological wing of the museum (where we saw highlights of artifacts, e.g. the Dan & Pilate Inscriptions, Canaanite weaponry, cultic items, figurines, ossuaries, Herod’s sarcophagus, the Moses’ Seat, etc…).
We ended the day with a moving and emotional visit to Yad Vashem (literally a “place/memorial and a name” from Isaiah 56:5). This is Israel’s Holocaust Memorial & Museum. We first walked through the Valley of the Communities where we heard Shlomo share his personal story of losing 12 family members from Vilna, Poland. We then walked through the Children’s Memorial and the museum itself. It was a very moving experience, especially being here on Memorial Day.
We returned back to our hotel for dinner. We then bussed to Ben Yehuda for a fun time of celebrating Israel’s Independence Day. It was packed with people. After enjoying some shopping, we walked back to the hotel.
DAY 9 – TUESDAY, MAY 2:
Today we left around 7:30 a.m. once again after another great breakfast. The day would be gorgeous, with lots of sun, a few clouds, and temps around 80 again.
Leaving the hotel, we read from Psalm 125 (“As the mountains surround Jerusalem”), we drove around part of the Old City to the top of the Mt. of Olives. Here we enjoyed a breath-taking view of the Temple Mount and Old City below. This included being able to see the City of David (OT Jerusalem), Mt. Zion, and Mt. Moriah (both Solomon built the 1st Temple, 2 Chronicles 3). Today the Dome of the Rock (691-2 AD) stands on the Temple Mount. We read from Luke 19 (about Jesus’ Palm Sunday entrance and His weeping over Jerusalem), and Zechariah 14 (about His 2nd coming).
Walking further down the Mt. of Olives, we had special entrance into a private area of the Garden of Gethsemane. Here we read from Luke 22 and spent time in quiet reflection as we considered the passion of Jesus. Father Diego greeted us and shared some thoughtful words with us.
Walking into the Old City through the St. Stephen’s Gate (also called the Lions and Jericho Gate), we visited the Pool of Bethesda. We read from John 5. On the same grounds is St. Anne’s Church. We enjoyed singing in this Crusader Church. The acoustics in the church were fantastic!
Walking along the Via Dolorosa, we arrived at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It was built in 325 AD. We took a quick peak inside before lunch in the Christian Quarter.
Walking out of the Jaffa Gate we met our bus and drove to Herodium. Located only a few miles east of Bethlehem, this was one of Herod’s palace-fortresses.” We climbed this “artificial” mountain and saw a great view of Jerusalem to the north, Bethlehem to the west, Tekoa to the south, and the Judean Desert to the east.
From here we drove to the Shepherds’ Fields. Entering a cave, we celebrated the role of the shepherds and the humble birth of Jesus. We considered the words of Paul, “For just at the right time, God sent His Son…” (Galatians 4:4). We also enjoyed singing a few carols, both in the cave and in the Shepherds’ Chapel. A Polish and Argentina group joined us in the singing of Silent Night.
We ended the day in Bethlehem. We visited an olive wood shop and store owned by Palestinian Christians living here. Here we also celebrated David’s (our bus driver) birthday with a cake and candle.
We drove back to the hotel for dinner, followed by an optional walk to the Western Wall.
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, MAY 3:
Today was our last day here in Jerusalem. We started the day by reading from Psalm 137 as we drove to the City of David excavations. The day would be another perfect day, with sun and temps around 80.
Arriving at the City of David about 8 a.m., we first ascended the observation tower, viewing the city from various directions. To the north we saw the Temple Mount and the excavations of the Ophel. To the east is the Mt. of Olives. To the west is what is called Mt. Zion today. And to the south are the excavations of the City of David. We could see part of David’s palace and Israelite ruins.
After watching a 3-D movie about the history of OT Jerusalem, we walked down through the excavations. We read from 2 Samuel 5 (David conquering the city from the Jebusites). We also recalled the story of King Hezekiah, the Assyrian siege on the city in 701 BC, and the carving of the water tunnel (2 Kings 19-20, 2 Chr. 32, and Isaiah 36-37).
Continuing through Warren’s Shaft (what was once believed to be the “water shaft” Joab climbed in order to take the Jebusite city), we arrived at the Gihon Spring. This still flows today from ancient times. Part of the group walked through the 1,720 foot Hezekiah’s Tunnel, while others took the Canaanite tunnel. Both groups converged at the Siloam Pool where we read John 9 in dramatic fashion!
We ended the morning at the southern wall excavations of the 2nd Temple. Some in the group walked up to this SW corner of the Temple through the Herodian drainage channel. Up at this SW corner, we saw the massive stones toppled down by the Romans in 70 AD. They are still resting on the Herodian street that Jesus must have walked on! At the southern end of the temple are the temple steps. Sitting on these steps we recalled how many people used these steps to enter the Temple in the Gospels, including Jesus Himself (Luke 2 & 18, Mark 13, John 6, Acts 2 & 4, etc…).
Walking up to the Jewish Quarter, we enjoyed a talk with Moshe, owner of Shorashim and an Orthodox Jew who talked about his faith. We also enjoyed a time for lunch, shopping, exploring, and people-watching. At 3:15 we walked out of the Zion’s Gate and bussed to the Garden Tomb. Here we had a tour of the place, including the suggested tomb used by Jesus. Following the tour, we shared worship and Communion together.
Returning to our hotel to freshen up, we drove to the Olives & Fish restaurant for our farewell “last supper” dinner. Following dinner, those flying home later tonight were driven to the airport, while those going to Sinai & Egypt tomorrow walked back to the hotel.
It was a wonderful Israel trip!
DAY 11 – THURSDAY, MAY 4:
This morning those who flew home last night arrived back in the U.S. Those who choose to do the optional extension checked out after breakfast. We loaded the bus and left by 7:40 for the Taba Border into Egypt. David would drive us to the border. The day would once again be sunny, with temps down south around 90.
We drove east to the Jericho area before turning south along the western edge of the Dead Sea. We passed by sites we visited last Sunday (Qumran, Engedi, and Masada). Passing also by Israel’s potash and magnesium plants (at southern end of the Dead Sea), we arrived at the Hai-Bar Yotvata Nature Reserve Safari. It is an Israel national park. It was fun to see man ostriches, the white oryx, the addax, and the Solami wild donkey. The ostriches came right up to the bus window.
Continuing to Elat and the Red Sea, we stopped briefly for lunch at a grocery store before continuing to the Taba Border. Leaving Israel and entering Egypt was quite simple. On the Egyptian side, we met Amir, our Travel Plus agent, and Heba, our Egyptian guide. Loading our small bus, we drove along the beautiful Red Sea. Across the Gulf of Aqaba (the eastern finger of the Red Sea) is both Jordan and Saudi Arabia (about 15 miles south from Aqaba).
After stopping along the way for pictures and/or break, we arrived at our “hotel” located at the heart of the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula. The dark reddish granite mountains are quite rugged yet impressive. We checked in and enjoyed some rest time before dinner. Following dinner, we retired early for the evening since most in the group are getting up at 12:30 a.m. for the hike up Mt. Sinai (Jebel Musa) and visit St. Catherine’s Monastery during the early morning hours tomorrow.
DAY 12 – FRIDAY, MAY 5:
This morning most in the group got up at 12:30 a.m. for our hike up Mt. Sinai, a mountain of about 7,300 feet. It would be a remarkable night/morning here in the heart of the Sinai Desert!
At about 1 a.m. we were driven close to the St. Catherine’s Monastery. It is at this 4th century Greek Orthodox monastery where the trail to the top begins. Some in the group hiked while others rode a camel about two-thirds of the way up. After the trail ends, the steps begins. These are steps that were cut into the rock by monks over the last 15 centuries or so.
Arriving at the top in time for sunrise over Saudi Arabia was simply spectacular, breath-taking actually! So was the hike back down. The views were equally stunning! “Moses” read from Exodus 20! We arrived down about 7:45 a.m. At St. Catherine’s Monastery, we read Exodus 3 and were remembered Moses and the burning bush story and his encounter with God on this mountain!
After going back to the hotel to shower and eat breakfast, we drove to Sharm el Sheik, Egypt’s Red Sea resort town. We enjoyed relaxing on the beach for a brief time. The water’s clarity and beauty is really remarkable!
Driving to the airport, we boarded our plane for our flight to Cairo. Flying over the Sinai and then the Nile River region was amazing too. Landing in Cairo, we loaded our bus and drove to our hotel located right on the Nile River. We checked in and enjoyed dinner together.
We are looking to spending the next two days in Cairo!
DAY 13 – SATURDAY, MAY 6:
Today was our first day in Cairo, a city of 21 million people. We had pretty typical Cairo weather today for this time of year… hazy sun with temps around 90. A breeze kept it comfortable.
After an amazing breakfast, we left at 7:30 for Giza. Located on the other side of the Nile River, we drove through the “farmland” of the area to Memphis, the first capital of ancient Egypt. Although only a small part of the city has been excavated, we saw a massive statue/colossus of Ramses II (around 1280-1220 BC) as well as a smaller sphinx and other stone items from the New Kingdom.
Close by is the site of the oldest pyramid, Sakkara. It is one of about 120 pyramids found in Egypt so far. Built close to 5,000 years ago, this pyramid is a stepped pyramid. It was designed by Imhotep. The body of the Pharaoh/King Zoser buried here was not placed in the pyramid but rather under it (about 90 feet). Also here was a smaller pyramid. Most in the group went inside this one. The entrance in was low but it opened up to a larger room where the sarcophagus was placed. We also went in the tomb of Idut (5th Dynasty, 2,360 BC). The hieroglyphs and painting on the walls were still very colorful. Close by we stopped at a carpet school. We also had quick lunch at a convenience store.
This afternoon we the classic site in Cairo – the Giza Pyramids. The Great Pyramid of Cheops is the largest (around 500 feet high) and is comprised of 2.3 million stone blocks, each weighing an average of 2.5 tons. This pyramid is so large that it is hard to capture it on camera! We enter this pyramid and visit the King’s Chamber. It was remarkable to climb up to nearly the middle of this massive tomb!
From here we drove to a panoramic view of the three larger pyramids here (there are a few smaller ones as well). Here we also enjoyed a camel ride as well a visit to see the Solar Boat Museum. Housed here is a sacred ancient Egyptian cedar wood boat dating back 4,500 years.
Also in this area we visited the Great Sphinx. The body of the sphinx is that of a lion (strength) while the face is that of the Pharaoh (wisdom). Like the Great Pyramid, getting close to it really made us realize how big it is (66 feet high, 240 feet long, 63 feet wide). An embalming temple was nearby. It made us remember Genesis 50 and the embalming of Jacob.
On our way back to the hotel we stopped briefly at a papyrus and cartouche store. Arriving at our hotel we enjoyed another marvelous dinner here at this 5 star+ hotel (the Intercontinental).
DAY 14 – SUNDAY, MAY 7:
Today was our last day in Cairo and the last full day of our trip! The weather was the same as yesterday as we traveled to various sites around this huge city!
Following breakfast, we departed the hotel around 8 a.m. and headed for the Citadel. This is the highest point of Cairo, providing a great view of the city below. Also on the Citadel is the Alabaster Mosque (also called the Mohammed Ali Mosque). It was built in the 1800s. While it is a beautiful building, it represents a religion void of truth and hope.
From here we drove to Old Cairo. A wonderful experience awaited us as we visited one of three Coptic Churches. The first church (St. Sergius) was in the middle of their Sunday worship service. It was special to listen to the prayers and see the people engaged in the service. We also visited the Ben Ezra Synagogue. It was built in 882 AD. While it is primary functioning as a museum today, there was once a large Jewish population here (there still is one active synagogue nearby used by a tiny population of Jews today).
Over the lunch hour, we strolled through the Khan El Khalili Bazaar for some shopping and a snack & coffee. A few of us enjoyed bargaining here!
This afternoon we drove to the Egyptian Museum. It houses 200,000 artifacts from ancient Egypt. It is quite massive. Heba took us around to see the highlights of the museum. This included the Rosetta Stone (the only replica in the museum), statues of Thutmose III (great conqueror who captured Megiddo in Israel), Hatshepsut (queen who took in Moses?), Amenhotep II (Pharoah of Exodus?), Akhenaton (monotheistic Pharaoh), and Ramses II; many papyri and sarcophagi; the Merneptah Stele, the Amarna Letters, and much more. We made a few connections with the Bible (e.g. Abraham, Joseph, Moses, etc…). The highlight on the second floor is the King Tutankhamen (“Tut”) burial artifacts. This included seeing the famous gold masks and sarcophagus.About mid-afternoon we returned to the hotel for a time of relaxing and late check-out at 6 p.m. We enjoyed dinner at 7 p.m.
The end of an wonderful and exciting optional extension!
DAY 15– LATE SUNDAY NIGHT/EARLY MONDAY, MAY 8: DEPART CAIRO FOR U.S.A.
After our night flight to Paris and then to NY, we safely all arrived home. Praise be to God for a blessed trip together!