Follow in the footsteps of Moses as he leads his people to the promised land. This is an inspiring tour that will expose you to one of the Bibles greatest stories. How can you not be touched standing at the crest of Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments, visiting the monastery built to protect the Burning Bush or to see, as Moses did, the Promised Land from the heights of Mt. Nebo.
11 Days/ 10 Nights
A sample tour:
Day 01: Arrive Cairo, be met by our staff who will assist with clearing
immigration and customs then transfer to your hotel where you will have an introduction to your guides and a overview of the tour. O/N Cairo.
Day 02: A full day tour of the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and the Egyptian Museum. O/N Cairo. (B)
Day 03: A visit to Old Cairo where you will see the famous churches and
synagogues including: The Hanging Church (El Muallaqa, Sitt Mariam, St Mary) derives its name from its location on top of the southern tower gate of the old Babylon fortress with its nave suspended above the passage. The church was first built, in Basilican style, near the end of the 4th century.
However, at that time it is unlikely that the church would have been
constructed in this location. In fact, we know that it was destroyed in the ninth century and later rebuilt, after which in 1039, it is known that the Coptic patriarchate was moved from Alexandria and seated in this church. The church consists of a courtyard surrounded by two wings with pointed arches, and a long aisle lined with marble columns. In the eastern wing, there are three altars (haykals) with beautiful ebony and ivory inlaid wooden screens. The center alter is dedicated to Christ, while the left sanctuary is dedicated to St. George and the right to St John the Baptist. On the right wall of the church as you enter are many ancient icons, including a 10th century icon of the Virgin and Child, Egyptian faces and Byzantine crowns.
The Church of Abu Serga (St. Sergius) is another 4th Century church, dedicated to two early martyrs and supposedly built on the spot where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Christ, rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. They may have lived here while Joseph worked at the fortress. However, the church is dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus, who were soldier-saints that were martyred during the 4th century in Syria by Maximilan. The original building was probably done during the 5th century. It was burned during the fire of Fustat during the reign of Marwan II around 750. It was then restored during the 8th century, and has been rebuilt and restored constantly since medieval
times, however it is still considered to be a model of the early Coptic churches. Again, the most precious and ancient of the icons are on the southern wall. A vast central hall is divided into three naves by two rows of pilasters. In much the same style as the Hanging Church, Abu Serga has 12 unique columns decorated with paintings of the Apostles. This church resembles religious structures in Constantinople and Rome.
The main attraction, situated directly under the choir, is the crypt. This crypt contains the remains of the original church where tradition says the Holy Family lived. Originally this crypt was the sanctuary, but became the crypt after the larger church was built. Abraham ben Meir Ibn Ezra, c.1089-1164, was a Spanish Jewish
scholar. His Bible commentaries combined traditional Jewish
interpretation with a critical method of exegesis and emphasis on grammar; his philosophical work followed the Neoplatonic tendency (see
NEOPLATONISM) in medieval thought. Ibn Ezra translated an astronomical work from the Arabic into Hebrew, creating a Hebrew prose style for scientific purposes. Liturgic poetry fascinated him; many of his hymns were included in the prayer book of the synagogue. Ibn Ezra traveled widely throughout his life and won many admirers. He was probably the model for Robert Browning's poem "Rabbi Ben Ezra."
One of the great Jewish scholars, theologians, and Talmudists of the past century, Solomon Schechter, b. Romania, Dec. 7, 1847, d. Nov. 19, 1915, was a spokesman for Conservative Judaism in the United
States. In 1896, while teaching at Cambridge University, England, he
discovered a Genizah (archive) in the Cairo synagogue that contained more than 100,000 manuscripts, one of which he identified as an original
fragment of the Book of Wisdom.
From 1902 until his death, Schechter
served as president of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In
1913 he founded the United Synagogue of America, which eventually
encompassed 850 Conservative congregations.
You will also enjoy a visit to the Citadel of Salah el Din, the Mohammed Ali Mosque and the Khan el Khalili bazaar where merchants have offered their wares since the middle ages. O/N Cairo. (B)
Day 04: Depart Cairo in the morning traveling northeast toward the Suez
Canal for Tanis. Though no longer, Tanis was an important City in the
pharaonic period. It is located just outside the town of San al-Hagar
which is about 44 miles northeast of Zagazig. Many believe that this was the Biblical city from which the Exodus began, but many will also remember it as the location where Indiana Jones discovered the 'Lost Ark' in the movie.
Tanis was called Djane by the Egyptians and Zoan by the Hebrews.
We believe it was founded around the time of the 20th Dynasty and became
the capital of the Fourteenth Nome of Lower Egypt. During the 21st and
22nd Dynasties, it became the capital of Egypt. However, to due flooding problems, it declined during the Roman occupations, and by the 14th century,
the region was deserted. The current nearby town of San al-Hagar was founded in 1821 as a result of land reclamation.
The site has been under excavation since 1722, first by a French priest, Father Claude Sicard, who discovered the site, and then Flinders Petrie, Pierre Montet, who discovered the royal necropolis of the kings of the third Intermediate period, then Jean Yoyotte, Philippe Brissaud, and the work continues on today.
Leading to the main temple, the Gate of Shoshenq III, which has no foundation, is approached from an avenue bordered by carved stone blocks and fragments of colossi of Ramses II. The gate itself is made from
carved blocks removed from other sites. The pink granite triad is of Re, Ramses and Ptah-Tatenen, and beyond that are the remains of the columns of Ramses II.
There are double mudbrick walls around the temple. The inner wall was built by Psusennes I, while the outer was built during the 30th Dynasty. Inside the remains of the walls, little is left of the temple complex of Amun.
The necropolis is inside the walls built by Psusennes, and contain 21st and 22nd Dynasty tombs. These include, from south to north, three unknown tombs built of material removed from other sites, the Tomb of Osorkon II, Psusennes I, and Shoshenq III. Osorkon II's tomb contains a large granite sarcophagus of of Osorkon II, and the sepulcher of Prince Hornakht, his son.
One chamber within the tomb is also that of Takelot II. The antechamber to the Tomb of Psusennes I is reached by a vertical shaft, and is decorated with images of protective gods, including one where Psusennes I is shown worshipping Osiris. Artifacts from several kings are found within the tomb.
In the antechamber is a sepulcher of Heqakheperre Shoshenq, apparently a king we know little or nothing about. Rooms leading off the antechamber
contain the kings Psusennes and Amenemope, but the room where
Amenemope was buried was intended for Queen Mutnedjemet. Other
chambers contain the sepulcher of Ankhefenmut and General Wundebawdjed.
The Tomb of Shoshenq III is built from 21st Dynasty carved limestone blocks, mostly removed from other locations. In fact, the King's own sarcophagi was taken from another site. The Tomb is reached though a shaft, and in the burial chamber are scenes from the Book of the Dead and the Book of Night.
There are several other Temples in the vicinity. North of the Amun Temple is what remains of the Temple of Nectanebo, dedicated to Khonsu. To the east and outside the Psusennes walls is the small Temple of the East, which has palm columns removed from of Ramses II origins. To the south and opposite the gate of Ptolemy I is a 30th Dynasty temple, while to the southwest of the area is a Temple of Anta dedicated to Mut and rebuilt during the Saite and Ptolemaic periods.
Excavations continue in this area, and more discoveries are being made. While little yet is known, there is also a Third Intermediate period necropolis in the area, perhaps several more temples, including one that appears to have been as large as the the the Great Temple of Amun. Enjoy lunch then cross the Suez canal and proceed to visit Moses Springs, the first stop in the Sinai for the Israelites.
From here on to Wadi Feiran "...a journey through Feiran is to pass through an entire chapter of the Old Testament itself... Few places are as steeped in Biblical mystery as the great Wadi Feiran-the Sinai's largest wadi and one of it's most archeologically
important stretches of terrain. It was here, according to locals, scholars, and legend, that Moses struck a rock with his staff, bringing forth a spring so his people could drink.
Feiran is also the site of Rafadim, the fabled oasis where the Hebrews camped and battled the Amelecites.
For the pilgrims and believers who have been coming to this wadi for centuries, a journey through Feiran is to pass through an entire chapter of the Old Testament itself, Exodus 17.
Given such prominence in the Old Testament, it is no surprise that Feiran is littered with the ruins of dozens of ancient churches; some dating back to the 4th century AD, when Feiran began to develop into a major religious center for monks and pilgrims, many on their way to Mt. Sinai and St. Catherine Monastery further east.
The Wadi's chief religious sites are the rock from which Moses drew water, which convention places at the western entrance to the oasis, and Mount Tahoun, which Moses supposedly used as an observation point to view the battle with the Amelecites. Atop the mountain is an ancient cross, and the ruins of a small church dating back to the 4th century.
As captivating as the Wadi's biblical lore, are its natural spectacles. Chief among these is the Oasis of Feiran, the largest oasis in all of Sinai. The heart of the oasis is a spectacular and luxuriant sprawl of palms that stretches over four kilometers in length, the reason why Feiran is called the "Pearl of Sinai." Along the edges of the oasis and the wadi are the dramatic, often sheer cliffs of the wadi
wall, which contribute to the valley's secretive and paradisiacal atmosphere. Continue to the foot of Mt. Sinai to overnight at a nice small hotel. (B,L,D)
Day 05: For those who have the energy, depart the hotel about 3AM to
climb to the crest of Mt. Sinai and watch the sunrise. Those who do not
will sleep in, have breakfast then meet with the climbers to visit St. Catherine monastery.
Located at the foot of Mount Moses, St. Catherine's Monastery, was
constructed by order of the Emperor Justinian between 527 and 565. It is
built around what is thought to be Moses' Burning Bush, which has a
chapel built atop it. It is a spectacular natural setting for priceless works of art, including Arab mosaics, Greek and Russian icons, Western oil paintings, paintings on wax, fine sacerdotal ornaments, marbles, enamels, chalices, reliquaries, including one donated by Czar Alexander II in the 19th century, and another by Empress Catherine of Russia in the 17th century.
But of perhaps even greater significance is that it is the second largest collection of illuminated manuscripts (The Vatican has the largest). The collection consists of some 3,500 volumes in Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Slavic, Syriac, Georgian and other languages. Around the year 1850, the fourth century Codex Sinaiticus, which is now in the British Museum in London, was discovered here. The Monastery even has a small 10th or 11th century mosque which was probably built to appease the Islamic authorities of the time.
There is also a small chapel (the Chapel of St. Triphone, also known as the Skull House) which houses the skulls of deceased monks. St. Catherine's has a rich history indeed. So rich that it is a sparkling example of an undiscovered Jewel of travel. It has been called the oldest working Christian monastery, though St. Anthony's predates it, and the smallest diocese in the world.
The Monastery was originally ordered built by Empress Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great, but was actually built by Emperor Justinian to house the bones of St. Catherine of Alexandria. St. Catherine, whose body was reportedly carried away by angels, was discovered five hundred years later at the top of the peak that now bears her name. Her relics are stored in a marble reliquary in the Basilica. We have additional pictures of this
church, and of its interior.
St. Catherine's is also a formidable fortification, with granite walls 40 to 200 feet tall, surrounded by gardens and cypresses. Prior to probably the twentieth century, the only entrance to St. Catherine's was a small door 30 feet above ground, where provisions and people where lifted with a system of pulleys, and where food was often lowered to nomads. It has withstood numerous attacks over its 14 hundred year existence thus protecting a rich store of art, and today, while it is one of the oldest monasteries in the world, its original, preserved state is unmatched. Though established and patronized most of its history by the
Russian Orthodox Church, it is now under the auspices of the Greek
Orthodox Church. Most of its monks are also of Greek origin. From St.
Catherines we will cross Wadi Safra, visit Duna and Ein Khudra. Tonight we camp under the stars Bedouin style. O/N camp (B,L,D)
Day 06: This morning we visit Jabal Baraka (the Mount of Blessings). This is thought to be one of the sites where Moses blessed his people. From here, there is an outstanding view of the whole of the Southern Sinai, and with the aid of a map, we can examine several alternate routes they took.
We continue on to the Oasis of Ein Um Achmad. This is possibly the site where God sent manna for the Israelites and is considered by scientists to be one of the places where they remained for an extended period. O/N Nuweiba (B,L,D)
Day 07: Today a climb brings us to top of Jabal Baraka North, almost 4000 feet high, and another possible site for the receiving of the Ten Commandments. Once at the summit of the mountain, we will have a
panoramic view including the Gulf of Aquaba on one side and the traditional Mount Sinai on the other side. This is a good place to discuss the location of the real Mount Sinai, according to the Bible and archaeological data.
We descend from the mountain top and arrive to the Oasis of Bir Biryea (the Small Well). This may be the site of the
Waters of Marah (the Bitter Waters, Exodus 15:22), where God and Moses
punished the Children of Israel by providing bitter water. Certainly, today, the water from the well is very bitter and we are lucky to have our own with us! O/N Nuweiba (B,L,D)
Day 08: Today we transfer by ferry to Aqaba, Jordan. O/N Jordan (B)
Day 09: Leaving Aqaba we journey to the Kings highway which winds through the Zered Valley (torrent of Zered), where the Israelites
concluded their desert wanderings and camped on their journey north (Numbers 21:12, Deuteronomy 2:13-14). Then on to Petra, the Rose City where just outside the town we find Moses Spring where he struck the
rock and water flowed (Numbers 20:10-12). Mount Hor, on the edge of the Biblical land of Edom is Jabal Harun (Mount Aaron) at Petra. Time to enjoy Petra is included. O/N Petra.
Day 10: We continue along the Kings Highway seeing many places that have their roots in various Biblical stories from both the Old Testament and New Testament. Many places in south and central Jordan are associated with Moses Exodus from Egypt.
Though many remain unidentified, Kadesh-barnea and the Wilderness of Zin were somewhere along present day south Jordans borders. We do know the Kings highway, the worlds oldest continuously used communication route, was first mentioned in Genesis 14 and Numbers 20. Moses request to the King of Edom to travel along the Kings highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory was turned down. As we drive through this scenic area we arrive at Mt. Nebo.
From Mt. Nebos wind swept promontory overlooking the Dead Sea,
the Jordan Valley and the hills of Jerusalem, Moses viewed the Promised
Land that he would never enter. A small church was built in the 4th century AD to commemorate this sacred spot and it has expanded into the current church which features a stunning collection of Byzantine mosaics.
Immediately north-east of Mt. Nebo, at what is now known as the Springs of Moses, is ancient Beth Peor. Moses and his people camped in the valley near Beth-Peor and soon after he died. We proceed to Amman stopping at Madaba to enjoy seeing the beautiful mosaics. O/N Amman (B)
Day 11: Our staff transfers you to the airport, assist with departure formalities and checking in for your international departure.
OR extend your stay to see more of Jordans Biblical, Greco-Roman and
OR transfer to Israel and continue with a tour there.
This tour includes all transfers pertaining to the tour in an air-conditioned vehicle, hotels based on double occupancy, tours as outlined with the services of an English speaking guide, meals as indicated by B: breakfast, L: lunch, D: dinner, ferry to Jordan, service charges and taxes. Travel insurance for those departing from the USA or Canada.
NOT included: Items of a personal nature such as tips, telephone, laundry, bar bills, drinks other than coffee or tea with meals, entry visas or departure taxes, anything not specifically mentioned as included.
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