Monday, May 23, 2011

JORDAN – ROME 5/14 – 5/24/11

Ron at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem
Ruins below old city & mural of the way Jerusalem was

The Red Sea has become a popular vacation area and we got to enjoy 2 beautiful days of sun and sand at a beautiful beach resort in Safaga, Egypt while some of our ship mates went off to visit Luxor and Cairo.  Fortunately, we did an extensive tour 3 week of Egypt several years ago so did not feel the need to make the long trip from the port.  Tourism is down 70 – 90% in Egypt.  Sharm El Sheik, our next stop in Egypt was like a ghost town.  Miles of beautiful beaches lined with hotels and outdoor restaurants were virtually empty. 
Then it was on to Israel and 3 days of 11 hour tours.  Tiring but well worth it.  We saw many of the highlights.  In Jerusalem, we visited the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane.  Entering the Old City through narrow walkways, we went first to the Holy Sepulcher perched on Golgotha and believed to be the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection.  Afterwards, we visited the Wailing Wall.  In the afternoon, we drove to Bethlehem to see the Church of the Nativity built over a grotto where it is believed Jesus was born. 

Believed to be spot Jesus was born in Bethlehem
The Dead Sea
The next day we drove to Masada where we saw the ruins of an amazing fortress and palace built atop a mountain under the direction of King Herod.  We were able to take a cable car to the top but slaves had to carry large cisterns of water up the winding mountain path.  Here Herod enjoyed a palace built on 3 levels where he could look out over the Dead Sea.  The surrounding city had baths and homes for thousands of citizens as well as store houses with stocks that could last for years.    

After lunch at a hotel, we were able to go swimming in the Dead Sea.  What an incredible feeling to be so buoyant.  On our drive back to the ship, we passed Qumran where a Bedouin shepherd boy found the Dead Sea scrolls in 1947, the oldest known Biblical manuscripts in the world. 

On the third day in Israel our ship moved from Ashdod to Haifa and from there we were able to visit many of the sites where Jesus lived and traveled: Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee, Cana, the River Jordan and Nazareth.  The final port on this segment was Sorrento, Italy.  Italy never fails to enchant. 

Qumran: where Dead Sea scrolls were found (the little holes)