Biblical Israel Tour Experiences for our 11 Day Israel Trip (with a 4 Day Egypt option)
February 17-27, 2020
Group Drone Video:
DAYS 1 & 2 – MONDAY/TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 17-18: DEPART U.S., ARRIVE IN ISRAEL
The trip for 47 of us started today! God brought together people from all over the country for this Israel study tour. This includes a number of pastors and their spouses. The group was booked on a few different flights, with almost everyone arriving at the Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv. The majority in the group were greeted by Shlomo, our guide, and David, our driver. With the last group arriving from NY, the luggage was loaded on the bus to begin the drive to our hotel in Netanya. Dinner was enjoyed by all!
For the 16 who flew through from London, only 5 made the Tel Aviv flight, with 11 others (including Dr. John) missing this connection. With us being re-booked on the 9 p.m. flight, this allowed us to take the train and explore the city of London on our own (including the British Museum. Some of the items seen on display include the Rosetta Stone, statues of Ramses II and Thutmoses III, the Lashish Sieg Relief from Ninevah, statues of Alexandria the Great, some of the pediment from the Parthenon in Athens, Nebuchadnesser’s lion from Babylon, and the black obelisk of Shalmaneser II, and much more). Though needing sleep, the 11 are scheduled to arrive in Tel Aviv tomorrow morning at 4 a.m.
Despite the challenges of long flights and miss connections, we know that God is watching over us. We all are looking forward to a great trip together here in the land of the Bible.
DAY 3 – WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19: CAESAREA, CARMEL, MEGIDDO, PRECIPICE OF NAZARETH, TIBERIAS
Today was our first full day here in Israel. The sun greeted us in the morning and at sunset, with some clouds and a few showers in between. Also, the 11 on the delayed flight from London arrived to the hotel at 6:05 a.m. We squeezed in a quick shower and breakfast before departing.
Leaving the hotel around 7:45, we drove north in the Sharon Plain to Caesarea Maritima. This was a city located along the Mediterranean Sea. It was built by Herod the Great in 22 BC. It took 12 years to complete. Sitting in the reconstructed theater, we read from Acts 10, 12, and 26 about the bold ministry and testimonies of Peter and Paul. Paul spent two years here before sailing to Rome from the massive harbor. Philip was also here (Acts 21). Among the other ruins we saw the palace, the hippodrome, mosaics, statues, and the Crusader city. Before leaving the site, we saw the aqueduct as well.
From here we drove the Carmel Range. We first enjoyed lunch at a Druze restaurant. Following this falafel meal, we drove to the top of this mountain range called Muhraqa. The elevation is about 1,500 feet above sea level. This is a Carmelite chapel built a few hundred years ago on the highest peak of the Carmel. We read from Song of Songs 7, Isaiah 33 and 35, and 1 Kings 18. This last passage records the bold confrontation of Elijah upon the 450 prophets of Baal. In the chapel we sang a few songs as well, celebrating the awesomeness of God! The view of the Jezreel Valley from the rooftop of the chapel was fairly good despite the cloud cover and showers.
Descending down off the upper slopes of Carmel, we came to Megiddo. This was a late Canaanite and late Israelite city guarding the primary pass (e.g. entrance) into the wider Jezreel Valley. Climbing the tel (e.g. ancient mound), we saw three series of gates, fortification walls, a stable, remnants of the palace, a sacrificial altar, a grain silo, and the water system. Unfortunately, this interesting water system was still closed form the heavy rains of January. The biblical connections we made as Joshua 12 (Megiddo was one of the 31 cities destroyed by Joshua). Solomon also re-fortified the city (1 Kings 9). King Josiah also gets critically injured here by Pharaoh Necho of Eypt (2 Chr. 34).
Precipice of Nazareth
Our last visit took us to the top of the Precipice of Nazareth. The sun broke through as we walked to the top. The view of Mt. Tabor (Judges 4-5), the Hill of Moreh Judges 6-7), Mt. Gilboa 1 Samuel 31) was fairly clear. Considering the life and ministry of Jesus, we read from Luke 4. We celebrated the uniqueness of Jesus’ ministry as we heeded Philip’s own words of challenge, “Come and see” (John 1). It was a meaningful time of reflection together!
We drove through modern-day Cana to get to our hotel in Tiberias. We enjoyed a great dinner followed by a free evening. We hope everyone will rest well tonight!
DAY 4 – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20: GAMLA, QATZRIN, SYRIAN BORDER, CAESAREA PHILIPPI, DAN
Today was our second full day here in Israel. We were visibly challenged by the morning fog but the sun peaked out towards late morning, providing a delightful day with temps in the 60s.
Following a full breakfast, we departed from our hotel at 7:30. We read about Jesus calling His first four disciples from Mathew 4 as we started out. We drove around the northern end of the lake and past the site of Bethsaida (Mark 9, John 6 – Feeding of the 5,000). From here we climbed to Golan Heights to an ancient Jewish city called Gamla. This was where there first major battle in the 1st Revolt took place between the Jews and the Romans in 66 AD. The fog didn’t allow us to look down to the site (the picture in the gallery is from another trip). While Gamla is not mentioned in the Bible, some suggest Jesus would have taught from the 1st century synagogue found here in the 1980s.
From here we drove to an ancient Talmudic village called Katzrin (Qatzrin). The ruins at this site date from the 3rd-7th centuries AD. Sitting and standing crowded in a reconstructed stone house, we listened to the story of Mark 2. While this event in Jesus’ life took place in Capernaum, we could picture the story unfolding. Jesus not only healed this paralytic lowered down through the roof by his four friends, but his sins were also forgiven. Jesus displayed His s’mekah (authority) here! Before leaving the site we also saw the Talmudic synagogue as well.
Driving to the northeast, we made a brief stop overlooking the border with Syria. Shlomo shared with us some modern history, including details about the 1967 and 1973 wars. We looked across to the Syrian city of Kuneitra.
We past by Mt. Hermon (Psalm 133) on our way down the slopes of the Golan Heights to the Sa’ar Falls. With the winter rains the falls were filled with lots of water! It was beautiful to see. Some in the group also enjoyed some saclav (a hot Druze drink) and some corn-on-the-cobb.
We continued from here to Caesarea Philippi. This is where one of the three tributaries of the Jordan River begin. This spring, called the Banias, was flowing with an abundance of water. We read from Matthew 16 here. It was somewhere in the region of this city where Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say I am?” We visited the grotto area of the city, see where the Temple and/or shrines of Augustus, Zeus, Nemesis, and Pan once stood.
Close by is the nature preserve and archaeological site of Tel Dan. We first walked along the Dan Spring (another tributary of the Jordan). Shlomo played a song on his recorder. We also read from (and sang) Psalm 42. We continued our walk to the archeological site. Sitting on the steps of the high place we read from Judges 18 and 1 Kings 12 about the pattern of disobedience that took place here. We also saw a mud-brick gate from the Middle Bronze period (a gate used by Abraham? See Gen. 14:14) and the Israelite ruins.
Our last stop of the day was to Misgav Am. Here we enjoyed an incredible view of Lebanon. The border was right in front of us! Shlomo shared the past history of the two Lebanese wars with Israel and the current situation.
We returned to Tiberias after about an hour drive south. We drove through the Huleh Valley. Upon arriving at our hotel, we enjoyed dinner and fellowship together.
DAY 5 – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 21: ARBEL, YARDENIT, MAGDALA, KINNERET CEMETERY, CAPERNAUM, MT. OF BEATITUDES, ANCIENT BOAT/BOAT RID
Today was a sunny day, with highs near 70. Clouds rolled in this afternoon. It spent the entire day around the Sea of Galilee. It was a day of focusing upon the life and ministry of Jesus.
We departed from our hotel this morning at 7:20. We read from Matthew 13 on our way to the cliffs of Arbel. 20 in the group hiked up the trail, while others bussed around to the western side and walked to the top of this 800 foot cliff. While Arbel isn’t specifically mentioned in the Gospels, some suggest that this mountain may be the Mount of Transfiguration (Mt. 17) while others suggest it was there high mountain where Jesus met His disciples after the resurrection (Mt. 28).
Driving to the southern end of the lake from here, 12 reaffirmed their faith as a disciple of Christ in the chilly waters of the Jordan River. The place of baptism here is called Yardenit. It was a special time for all.
Nearby is one of there oldest Jewish cemeteries in the Galilee. It is called the Kinneret Cemetery. Many early Jewish pioneers to the land of Israel are buried here. This includes an Ukrainian Jewish woman named Rachel Bluwstein. She died at the age of 41 in 1931. She is known today for her poems. She now appears on the new 20 shekel bill. Her, Shlomo also shared a little about kibbutz life.
Following a wonderful St. Peter’s fish lunch, we visited Magdala. This was the city where Mary Magdalene was from (see Luke 8:2). A relatively new discovery was a 1st century synagogue. This is only one of about seven synagogues found that date to the time of Jesus. Jesus sailed into the port of Magdala following the Feeding of the 4,000 (Mt. 15). He no doubt taught about the kingdom here was well! We also saw a few ritual baths (mikveh) here. These are unique in all of Israel in that they were fed by a water pipe from the lake.
Next, we drove to the NW corner of the lake to Capernaum (Kefar Nahum). This city served as Jesus’ home-base for His Galilean ministry. Within the 5th century synagogue (built no doubt over the 1st century one), we read from Mark 1, 2 and 9; Luke 7; and John 6. Once again, Jesus displayed His s’mekah (authority) here through His teaching and healing miracles. We also saw what is left of a 5th century Byzantine church built traditionally around the supposed house of Peter.
Mt. of Beatitudes
Located on the hillside above Capernaum is the traditional site of the Mt. of Beatitudes. However, we listened to the reading of Matthew 5 in both Hebrew and English from below the hill near the water’s edge. Some suggest that the natural theater setting would certainly make this a possible location where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount to thousands! The kingdom message of Jesus was His go-to message shared everywhere (see Luke 6). Jesus was inviting people to allow the reign & rule of God to transform them. Jesus invites us today to submit to His reign and rule so that we can be the salt of the earth and light of the world.
Ancient Boat / Boat Ride
We ended the day at Nof Ginnosar where in 1986 a 1st century small wooden fishing boat was found. We also sailed from here on the waters of the Sea of Galilee to Tiberias. We read from Mark 4 and Mathew 14, the two storm narratives. We also shared in a brief time of worship together.
Landing in Tiberias, David picked us up and drove us to our hotel for dinner. It was a great day walking in the footsteps of Jesus!
DAY 6 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22: BETH SHEAN, QUMRAN, EIN GEDI, DEAD SE
Today we left the Sea of Galilee region and drove southward. We read from portions of Matthew 5-7 as we started the day. Our final destination was the Dead Sea. It rained overnight, but there were only a few lingering showers in the morning. The afternoon was sunny, with highs around 70.
We left at 7:30 this morning and drove to Beth Shean. Located about 20 miles south of the Southern end of the Sea of Galilee, this was once an Old Testament city as well as an impressive Roman one. We saw many things here, including a Roman bathhouse, a colonnaded street, the agora/forum, mosaics, many pillars, public latrenes, and an intact theater. Some in the group climbed the OT site for a view of the Roman city below. We read from I Samuel 31 (Saul and his three sons). Seeing the pillars standing firm, we also remembered what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15.
We drove down through the Jordan Valley past Jericho to the northern end of the Dead Sea. Located on the NE corner of the sea is Qumran. The Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered here in 1947. After eating lunch here, we visited the archaeological site. We saw a number of miqvot (ritual baths), cisterns, and the area of the scriptorium. Scrolls have been found in 12 caves so far. Standing in front of Cave 4 & 10 (and where 5 used to be), we read from Psalm 151, and extra psalm of David found here. We rejoiced in the amazing preservation of God’s Word here and the joy and guidance the Scriptures offers us.
Our last stop of the day was Engedi. This is an oasis here on the edge of the Judean Desert, with water that flows all year around. Walking up through the Wadi David, we stopped to read 1 Samuel 24. David hid from King Saul here. We then hiked back to the last (and tallest) waterfalls. It was incredibly beautiful!
Ein Bokek/Dead Sea
Continuing south to the southern end of the Dead Sea, we checked into our very nice hotel (David’s) in Ein Bokek. Most in the group changed up into swimming suits for the unique experience of floating in this unique water (33% salt & mineral). We then enjoyed dinner at the hotel.
DAY 7 – SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23: MASADA , JERICHO, WADI QELT, SHILOH, JERUSALE
Today was a sunny and warmer day, with highs in the low 70s. We drove from the south end of the Dead Sea to Jerusalem, with great sites along the way!
We left our hotel at 7:30 once again. Driving about 15 minutes and reading Psalm 18:1-2 along the way, we arrived at Masada (Metzada – “fortress”). We took the cable care up to the top of this palace-fortress built by King Herod in the 30s BC. We saw the western palace, the Roman ramp, the casemate wall, the synagogue, the northern palace, and the bathhouse. Shlomo shared the story of the 967 Jews who used this location as a refuge against the Romans following the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD. They were here nearly three years before they took their own lives. Most took the cable car back down, while about a dozen walked down the Snake Path.
We drove northward along the western shoreline of the Dead Sea. We learned about the recent tectonic research that took place last month in some of the gullies that reveal earthquake activity as well as the sea level during various periods of Biblical history. After arriving at Jericho, we enjoyed a quick a quick lunch prior to climbing the site of Jericho (Tel es-Sultan).
Looking eastward from the top of the site, we could see Mt. Nebo (Dt. 34), and the area of Bethany Beyond the Jordan (where Jesus was baptized, John 1). Looking west, we could see the edge of the desert where Jesus was tempted. Archaeologically, we saw a large stone tower (perhaps a tomb or memorial?). The date of this structure predates even Abraham by a few thousand years.
At the southern end of the site we could see what still stands of the retaining walls of ancient Jericho. These date to the time of Joshua. A mud brick wall once stood on top of this stone wall. It’s the mud brick wall that came tumbling down (Joshua 6). Praise God for the accuracy and historicity of His Word!
Judean Desert – Wadi Qelt & Desert of Parath
Driving westward and beginning our ascent toward Jerusalem, we made a brief stop overlooking the Wadi Qelt. Here we heard the words of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 23. The desert was green with life due to the winter rains. John the Baptist would proclaim the same words of Isaiah here. Continuing from here we turn north to go down to the Parath Desert. We read from Jeremiah 13 as we enjoyed the windy road.
The road eventually took us further north past Mishmash (1 Samuel 13-14), Bethel (Genesis 12, 28), Ai (Joshua 7-8). The city of Shiloh was our final stop today. We climbed the site and looked at the ancient ruins. The almond buds were in full bloom and were so beautiful! The Tabernacle once stood here (from about 1400 to about 1060 BC). We read from 1 Samuel 3 (about the call of Samuel), and Jeremiah 7 that references Shiloh). As Samuel did, we were encouraged to pray, “Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.” We also saw a movie before leaving the site.
Jerusalem would be our final destination and home for the next three days. The drive took about 50 minutes. We checked into our hotel and enjoyed dinner together. Following eating together, many in the group enjoyed a walk to the Western Wall. We are looking forward to being here in Israel’s capital city!
DAY 8 – MONDAY, FEBRUARY 24: MT. OF OLIVES, GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, POOL OF BETHESDA, ISRAEL MUSEUM, BETHLEHEM
Today was the first of three days here and around Jerusalem. We enjoyed sunny skies in the morning, with cloud cover in the afternoon. Temps were around 60.
Mt. of Olives
We left the hotel at 7:30 again, reading Psalm 125:1-2 on the way. We drove around part of the Old City en route to the top of the Mt. of Olives. From here we had the greatest view of the Temple Mount and the Old City below! Walking down though the Jewish cemetery, we stopped at a chapel called Dominus Flavet. We read from Luke 19 and Zachariah 14. One day Jesus will return here and be proclaimed as the King of kings and Lord of lords! Further down the slope, we quietly sat in a private garden and read from Luke 22. Someone in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus was betrayed by Judas. “Not my will but yours be done” is how Jesus responded in His passion to fulfill His redemptive purpose.
From here we walked to the Eastern Gate. This gate has been closed since 810 AD. When He returns, Jesus the Messiah will walk through this gate (or as some suggest, a gate of a future Temple, see Ez. 44).
We walked into the Old City through the Lion’s Gate (also called St. Stephen’s and Jericho Gate).
St. Anne’s Church – Pools of Bethesda
Our first stop within the Old City was to the St. Anne’s Church. Stepping inside of this Crusader Church we enjoyed the 8 second echo as we sang a few songs. Nearby are the Pools of Bethesda. The lower ruins here date to the 1st century. We read from John 5 about the healing that took place here.
Holy Sepulcher Church
Walking through the Old City was a bit a challenging given the crowds of people. But we made out way to the Holy Sepulcher Church. Built in 325 AD, this is a possible location for Christ’s crucifixion and burial. It was also quite crowded inside. We ate lunch in the Christian Quarter.
We left the Old City through the Jaffa Gate. David met us with the bus here. We drove to the Israel Museum where we saw three things. First, a 1:50 scale model of Jerusalem as it looked like in 70 AD was quite impressive. We retraced Jesus’ ministry here in Jerusalem and in the Temple. Second, we walked through the Shrine of the Book where we saw some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Lastly, we saw the highlights within the archaeological wing of the museum. This included artifacts such as the Dan and Pilate Inscriptions, Herod’s sarcophagus, and many others.
Our last stop of the day was to the Bethlehem area. In the Shepherds’ Fields in Beit Sahour we descended down into a cave where we considered Christ’s birth. The shepherds used caves like this to care for their flocks. We read from Luke 2 and Galatians 4:4. It was “just at the right time” that God sent His Son (Gal. 4:4). We also sang a few Christmas carols here as well as in the Shepherds’ Chapel. We ended the day by visiting an olive wood factory and store in Bethlehem.
We returned to the hotel for dinner and a free evening.
DAY 9 – TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 25: YAD VASHEM, THE “SHEPHELAH” – LOWLANDS OF JUDAH – GEZER, BETH SHEMESH, SOCOH, LACHISH
Today was a day with rain in the morning in Jerusalem, yet dry in the Shephelah to the west. Temps were in the high 50s – low 60s. It was another day of connecting with more biblical stories as well as modern Jewish history.
Our first visit was to Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum and Memorial. The name for this museum comes from Isaiah 56:5. First, we visited the Valley of the Communities. Here with umbrellas in hand we walked through a maze of stones erected in memory of the many Jewish communities in Europe. Shlomo also shared his story of losing 12 family members in Vilna, Poland. Next, we walked through the Children’s Memorial in honor of the 1.5 million children who were killed. Finally, on our own we then walked through the museum. It is a solemn place.
About noon we drove to the Shephelah (lowlands) of Judah. Located along the Aijalon Valley, Gezer was first a Canaanite city before taken by Joshua (Josh. 12). Later, Solomon refortified the city (1 Kings 9). Among the ruins we saw the Canaanite fortification tower, wall, and gate (from Middle Bronze period). We also stood in the 6-chamber gate from Solomon’s time. We left the site by walking past the standing stones that were probably used by Canaanites for cultic purposes.
Located along the Sorek Valley, Beth Shemesh was our next site. Samson grew up in Zorah on the north side of the valley (Judges 13-16). He was married to a Philistine woman who lived only a few miles away in Timnah. We also read from 1 Samuel 6 about the Ark of the Covenant returning to this biblical city from the Philistines who captured it in Aphek (1 Sam. 4). Among the ruins we saw a few houses from the Israelite period and some Roman ruins. Across the road are the new excavations that have produced impressive artifacts.
Located along the Elah Valley, we walked half way up the site of Socoh. This is still an unexcavated site. Here we read from 1 Samuel 17. It was in the narrow part (gai is the Hebrew word that suggests this) of the valley where David killed Goliath. Armed with only a five stones yet with the confidence in God, God brought victory to David and the Israelites. What a great blessing to see where the battle possibly took place.
Our last stop of the day was Lachish. This was a Canaanite city taken by Joshua in 2 days (Joshua 10). Later, Rehoboam refortified the city for the purpose of defense (2 Chr. 11:9) At the end of the 8th century BC, the Assyrians took the city in 701 BC (Isaiah 36-37). The battle was so important to Sennacherib that he made a relief in Ninevah. It is now displayed in the British Museum. The siege ramp he built for his battering rams can still be seen today. Finally, the Babylonians would destroy the city for good. The famous Lachish Letters were found here in 1935. Lachish Letter #4 says the two last-standing cities in Judah were Azekah and Lachish (see Jeremiah 34:7). We walked up to the top of the site to see the 2 city gates, the palace, the the walls of Rehoboam.
We returned back to Jerusalem by driving up the Elah Valley. We enjoyed dinner together followed by an optional walk to the Promenade that gave us a great view of the Old City from the south.
DAY 10 – WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 26: CITY OF DAVID, HEZEKIAH’S TUNNEL, SOUTHERN WALL EXCAVATIONS, WESTERN WALL, A FEW FREE HOURS, GARDEN TOMB
Today was our last day in Jerusalem. We enjoyed a full day of both Old and New Testament connections, with some free time this afternoon. The weather was sun and clouds, with highs in the mid 50s.
City of David
Following breakfast, we drove a short distance to the City of David. We first saw the area from a observation deck and then saw a 3D movie about the history of OT Jerusalem. Descending down to the Area G excavations where Dr. John dug in 1982, we recalled the stories of David capturing the city from the Jebusites (2 Sam. 5), and Hezekiah (2 Kings 20, 2 Chr. 32). We then continued through Warren’s Shaft. The “old theory” was that this was the shaft that was used by David’s men to infiltrate the city of David. The theory now has changed based on new discoveries at the Gihon Spring.
Hezekiah’s Tunnel / Canaanite Tunnel
The Gihon Spring was the ancient city’s water source since the days of Abraham when it was called Salem (Gen. 14). Today, the spring still flows with water through a tunnel chiseled out by King Hezekiah. It probably took him several years to carve. It was completed in 701 BC as Sennacherib and the Assyrians surrounded the city. Many in the group walked through this tunnel, while others took the dry Canaanite tunnel.
Both groups converged at the Pool of Siloam. It was a large pool located at the southern end of the city. It was discovered about 10 years ago. We read John 9 in dramatic fashion. The man born blind was healed by Jesus here! He also believed in Him!
Southern Wall Excavations
Our last archaeological area to visit was the Southern Wall excavations. On the way here, some in the group saw the drainage channel that ran underneath the Herodian street. We also saw the impressive excavations at what used to be the Givati parking lot. At the SW corner of Herod’s Temple, we recalled Jesus being tempted here (Mt. 4:5). We saw massive stones that were toppled by the Romans. We also walked on the very Herodian pavement used by Jesus! At the southern steps of the Temple, we recalled many of the people who used these steps to enter the Temple. The disciples were impressed by the massive stones (Mk. 13:1-2). Peter most likely preached on the Day of Pentecost here too (Acts 2), with 3,000 receiving life in Christ.
Western Wall / Free Time
The afternoon was on our own. While Shlomo took some to the Western Wall, we all enjoyed some free time on our own. We we ate, shopped, and explored, taking in the Old City!
We ended our day by walking through the Old City and through Damascus Gate. Our destination was the Garden Tomb. Here we visited the site, suggested to be the place of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus. We also enjoyed a brief time of worship and Communion! It was special!
We returned to the hotel for our Farewell Dinner. It was a nice time of reflecting and sharing. Following dinner, 18 were bussed to the airport for their night flight home. Others fly home tomorrow morning, while 16 in the group fly to Cairo and Luxor, Egypt tomorrow for the optional extension.
DAY 11 – THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27: FLIGHT & ARRIVAL HOME or FLIGHT TO CAIRO & LUXOR, EGYPT
Today about 2/3rds of the group flew home on either a late night last night or an early flight the morning. The end of a great Israel trip! For 16 of us, we would end the day in southern Egypt.
After our last breakfast in Jerusalem, we left the hotel at 7:30 and drove to the Ben Gurion Airport. After going through the usual check-in procedures, we boarded our plane to Cairo, Egypt. With sunny skies and clear visibilities, we not only had a nice view of Tel Aviv coastline, but also a spectacular view of Mt. Hermon on the northern border!
We landed in Cairo after about an hour and a half flight. We flew over the green Nile Delta to the north and the desert as we approached Cairo. Temps were about 70. We were greeted by our agent who assisted us through the visa and baggage process. We boarded our bus where we met Lillian, our Egyptian guide. We drove about an hour through the crazy Cairo traffic to the Egyptian Museum. We saw many of the highlights of the artifacts on display here. These included polished carvings from the Old and Middle Kingdom, statues of Thutmose III and Amenhotep II, Hatshepsut, and Ramses II. We also saw the Stele of Merneptah and many of the King Tut treasuries. We also saw a mummy. While the visit was quick, we got a good impression of how extensive the museum is.
Once again fighting traffic, we left the museum and drove back to the Cairo Airport for our flight to Luxor. Located about 500 south of Cairo, Luxor served as the capital of the Middle Kingdom (from about 1,500 – 1,000 BC). Once we arrived, we met our bus and drove to the hotel for a late dinner. We are looking forward to spending all day here tomorrow.
DAY 12 – FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 28: LUXOR: VALLEY OF KINGS, TEMPLES OF HATSHEPSUT, MEDINET HABU, KARNAK, & LUXOR, EVENING FLIGHT BACK TO CAIRO
Today was an incredible day of seeing ancient Egypt in all its glory! We spent the entire day in Luxor. The day would be fully sunny, with highs around 80.
Colossi of Memnon (Ahmenhotep III)
We ate an early breakfast this morning in order to leave our airport at 7 am. We read from Exodus 12 as we drove across the Nile River. We briefly stopped at the Colossi of Memnon. These once stood at the entrance of a large temple.
Valley of the Kings
We continued to the Valley of the Kings. A total of 63 tombs of ancient pharaohs (and a few prime ministers). This includes the famous King Tut, Nefartari, Nefartiti, Ramses II, and Thutmose III. We went into three tombs: Ramses III, IV, and IX. The brilliant colors are still well preserved.
Temple of Hatshepsut
Close by was the Temple of Hatshepsut. She may have been the Pharaoh’s daughter who rescued Moses (Ex. 2). This was a funerary temple (like all of them were on the west side of the Nile). She lived in the 15th century BC.
Temple of Medinet Habu
The Temple of Medinet Habu is also on the west side. Here we saw the large pylons separating the parts of the Temple. This temple was in honor of Ramses III who preserved his campaign over the Sea Peoples (e.g. the Philistines of the Bible). This took place in 1175 BC. He pictured them with helmets. We saw many hieroglyphic cartouches displaying the ankh (e.g. the sign of life).
Temple of Karnak
We returned for lunch to our hotel on located the eastern side of the river. We loaded our luggage from here en route to the Temple of Karnak. This temple was huge, with nine pylons. The temple covered about 100 acres. We saw wall reliefs depicting Pharaohs Shishak and Thutmose III. The large hypostyle hall consists of 134 massive pillars. It was built by Seti I and completed by his son, Ramses II. A few obelisks are standing here too.
Temple of Luxor
Our last site was the Temple of Luxor. This temple was connected to the Temple of Karnak by a 1.5 mile-long road lined with hundreds of sphinx figures. The temple is lined with statues of Ramses II. The carvings in the granite are quite impressive.
Flight to Cairo
In the late afternoon we drove back to the Luxor airport. After a double security check, we boarded our plane back to Cairo. Arriving here, we again boarded our bus and drove to the hotel for a late dinner. What an incredible view from our hotel window of the Nile River! We are looking forward to spending the day in and around Cairo tomorrow!
(Photos from Luxor and west side of the Nile River)
(Photos from Luxor and east side of the Nile River)
DAY 13 – SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 29: CAIRO: MEMPHIS, SAKKARA, PYRAMIDS & SPHINX
Today was our full day here in Egypt and of the tour. The weather was remarkably clear here in Cairo, with great air quality and perfect temps in the 60s.
We all enjoyed a later breakfast and departure. Leaving the hotel at 8:30, we drove to Memphis. On the way we read from Jeremiah 46 who mentions this ancient city. The drive to the site was a cultural experience, seeing the poverty of most Egyptians in this area. Memphis was the capital of the Old Kingdom. At the site we saw an alabaster sphinx and a large statue of Ramses II.
Nearby is the site of the oldest pyramid of the 113 so far discovered here in Egypt. Sakkara served as the burial ground for ancient Memphis. Here we first went into the tomb of Teti, the last king of the 6th Dynasty. It is unique in that it has inscribing on the walls of the inner chamber consisting of 228 prayers. It dates to 2230 BC. Next, we went into a mastaba tomb of a nobleman named Ka-Gmni. The reliefs inside the tomb depicted his daily life. It was done with great detail. We also saw a mud brick wall that had straw in it. It predates the Israelites by about 500 years. Lastly, we saw the famous Stepped Pyramid of Djoser. This dates to around around 2,700 BC. It was designed by Imhotep. It stands 200 feet tall and is made of smaller stones.
We drove to Giza where we stopped briefly in a papyri store. We were shown how parchment from papyri is made. We also grabbed a quick lunch at an On the Run “7-11” type gas station.
The Pyramids & Great Sphinx
The highlight of the day was to visit the Pyramids. The three seen here (plus a few smaller ones and others seen on the horizon) served as burial chambers during the Old Kingdom. The pyramids were built by Pharaohs Khufu (or Cheops, the tallest one at 450 feet), Khafre (447 feet high), and Menkaure (218 feet high). Khufu’s pyramid dates to around 2,550 BC. This one consists of about 2.1 million stones and was built over about a 20 year period. We got several great perspectives of them, including a panoramic view. Here many in the group rode camels back to the 3rd pyramid. It was lots of fun. Down on the lower slope below the pyramids we saw the Great Sphinx. It measures 240 feet long and 66 feet high.
We drove back to Cairo and our hotel along the Nile River for dinner. We retired early in anticipation of our early wake-up call at 3:15 am. We plan to leave for the airport at 3:45 for our morning flights home.
DAY 14 – SUNDAY, MARCH 1: DEPART CAIRO / ARRIVE BACK IN THE U.S.A.
We woke up early this morning and bussed to the Cairo Airport for our flights back home. The end of a great trip with a great group God brought together! Praise God!
Located in the southern region of Israel is the Zin Desert. Numbers 13 tells us that the 12 spies came up through this area. Numbers 20 also reminds us that somewhere in the Zin is where Moses struck the rock. Despite this being an very dry region, water still flows here because of the unique springs located here.
On this trip we will hike in the Zin and enjoy the beauty of this canyon!