Day 1. Departure from the United States of America
Day 2. Arrival at Cairo International Airport. We meet the touring representative after passport control and board our bus for a transfer to the Hotel in Cairo for D/O.
Day 3. We visit the Pyramids of Giza. Cheops Pyramid, the largest of the three, was built in the 3rd dynasty about 2690 B.C. and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. In front of the Pyramids of Chephren, we find the Sphinx carved from a single piece of stone. It is in the form of a lion with the head of a man, thought to be a portrait of the Pharaoh Chephren. We can experience a camel ride by the Pyramids and visit the Papyrus Institute. In the afternoon, we drive to the Egyptian Museum; it has antiquities from Egypt’s Pharaonic period, dating back 50 centuries and including the fabulous treasures of King Tut-Ankh-Amon. After this we make a visit to the medieval bazaars of Khan-El-Khalili. D/O Cairo.
Day 4. Today we take an early flight to Luxor (Thebes), capital of ancient Egypt. Here we find a spectacular temple complex dedicated to the divine triad, Amun, Mut and Chons. We see the Avenue of Sphinxes that originally connected the temple of Luxor to the temple of Karnak. Indeed, we won’t leave Luxor without visiting the ruins of Karnak. Here the temple complex is enormous. (It’s the second most popular site in Egypt after the pyramids of Giza.) Its sheer size makes it unique in the ancient world. We explore the Precinct of Amon-Re, the largest of all Egypt’s temple halls.
On the opposite banks of the Nile we visit the Valley of the Kings, where many of Egypt’s Pharaohs and royalty were entombed. We explore at least one of the major tombs (these are opened at the discretion of the authorities, depending on ongoing excavations). We also visit the Valley of the Queens, where the pharaohs’ wives and close relations were entombed in decorative burial chambers. We return to the airport for our flight back to Cairo. D/O Cairo Day 5. Starting early from Cairo, we board our bus and drive towards Sinai. Crossing the Suez Canal, we drive through the desert, retelling the story of the Exodus. We approach the towering red granite mountains that include Jebel Musa, the traditional Mt. Sinai, with St. Catherine’s monastery. We enjoy our evening meal and settle for the night at Morganland Village.
Day 6. Before dawn, clad for the cold above, we who think we can do it begin our ascent of Mount Sinai, walking in the footsteps of Moses and the devoted pilgrims who have tread this route for centuries. (If you learn underway that you can’t, there is Elijah’s valley to wait in.) We reach the summit in time to witness the sunrise and take in the splendid view. At the top is the traditional place of Moses’ encounter with God and the giving of the Ten Commandments. After a careful descent, we return to the hotel and rejoin the group for breakfast. We spend the later part of morning touring the monastery, taking in its remarkable icons. Following lunch, we board our bus and head towards the eastern shores of the Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea. At Nuweiba we embark on a fast ferry to Aqaba in Jordan. There we meet our guide and acquire a free collective visa. We then drive for two hours to our hotel in the Nabataean city of Petra. Dinner and ON.
Day 7. We start the tour of Petra early. We are in the mountains of Seir, which Genesis often mentions in connection with Esau. These mountains include a peak thought to be Mount Hor, and there is shown the burial place of Aaron (Numbers 20:28). A walk through the siq, the main entrance to Petra, brings us to the first monument, the Treasury. We continue through the outer siq, with its tombs, to an ancient theater. It is carved out of the sandstone beneath the High Place of Sacrifice. We walk further to the Royal Tombs. Here we enjoy a great view of the Civic Center. We can walk from here to the Church of Petra and view its mosaics. We can also enter the so-called Palace of Pharaoh’s Daughter, which was really one of Petra’s oldest Nabataean temples. We break for lunch and walk back to the entrance. The drive to Amman is 3.5 hours for D/O.
Day 8. From Amman , the Biblical Rabbath Ammon and Roman-period Philadelphia, we drive 40 minutes to Mount Nebo, 2400 feet above sea level. From here Moses viewed the Holy Land that he was not allowed to enter. On a clear day we can see the Mount Olives in Jerusalem. We then drive to nearby Madaba to see a 6th-century mosaic map of the Holy Land, spread across the floor of a church. We then descend to the Jordan Valley and the Allenby Bridge, where we go through the border procedures and enter the Holy Land. At Jericho we visit the remains of the world’s oldest city and view the traditional mountain of Jesus’ temptation. Heading north into Israel through the Jordan Valley, we reach Beth Shean (aka Scythopolis). Here we view the setting for the death of Saul (I Samuel 28 – II Samuel 1). We walk through magnificent Roman and Byzantine ruins: theater, bathhouses, ancient toilets, market areas, and colonnaded streets. We continue north for D/O at a hotel on the Sea of Galilee
Day 9. We drive along the Sea of Galilee to Capernaum, where we visit the synagogue and the place where early Christians remembered Peter’s house. We continue to Tabgha (short for Heptapagon, “seven springs”) to view the mosaics in the Church of the Loaves and Fishes. Ascending the Mt. of Beatitudes, we listen to Jesus’ teachings. On an ancient trade route, we pass Hazor and then go on to Tell Dan. Here we do a nature walk and visit the high place where Jeroboam son of Nebat set up a golden calf. We continue to Caesarea Philippi (Banias), where Peter answered Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?” Our route then takes us over the Golan Heights, skirting Mt. Hermon, with a view toward Damascus. We end the day with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.
Day 10. We drive to Nazareth to get acquainted with Jesus’ home town. Starting at its spring, where Mary would have done her family’s laundry, we walk through the bazaar to the Church of the Annunciation, which stands over the site of the ancient village. After surveying the Plain of Jezreel, we then drive to the mound of Megiddo, har megiddo in Hebrew, which gave its name to Armageddon. We ascend Mt. Carmel, site of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. From here we drive along the coastal highway to Caesarea Maritima. We explore this Roman bridgehead to the land, which became the Christian springboard to the West. Then we board our bus and head up the historic Beth Horon road (Joshua 10:10) to the Benjamin Plateau, passing ancient Gibeon. Atop Mt. Scopus, we behold majestic Jerusalem. D/O
Day 11. We start the day with an orientation to Jerusalem from the Mt. of Olives. We follow the traditional Palm Sunday route to the church known as Dominus Flevit (“the Lord weeps”). After viewing the Golden Gate, we walk downhill to Gethsemane, where we take time to meditate on the Gospel text. Then we drive to Mt. Zion and a church called Peter in Gallicantu, which affords the best view of early Jerusalem from the west. (Here, the Assumptionist Fathers propose, was the house where the High Priest Caiaphas interrogated Jesus.) Heading south, we visit Solomon’s Pools, Jerusalem’s main source of water for almost 2000 years. Passing the monastery of Hortus Conclusus (“the sealed garden”) in Artas, we go to Shepherds’ Fields. We conclude the day with a visit to Bethlehem, walking through its alleys and markets to the Church of the Nativity.
Day 12. In the morning, we drive through West Jerusalem to the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls, and a visit to the model of Jerusalem, representing how the city looked on the eve of the Jewish revolt, 36 years after the Passion of Jesus. Then we drive through the Judaean desert to Qumran. Here we view Cave # 4, which contained the greatest quantity of Dead Sea scrolls. We continue south to Masada. We take the cable car to the top, visiting Herod’s mountain bunker and the last stronghold of the Jewish revolt against Rome (66-73 AD). We conclude the day with a float in the Dead Sea, then return to Jerusalem.
Day 13. We transfer to the Dung Gate. Just inside, we examine the Ophel excavations near the southern end of the Temple complex, including steps on which Jesus and the disciples walked as they went up to the Temple. We then visit the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site. We ascend to the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, located on the traditional site of the Temple Mount. Just to the north we find the Pools of Bethesda (John 5) and St. Anne’s Church, perfectly preserved from the Crusader period – with remarkable acoustics. We then walk the Via Dolorosa (Way of the Cross) to the Holy Sepulcher. We conclude our day at the Garden Tomb for a special visit and Communion.
Day 14. Departure.