Thursday, April 15, 2010

Israel & Egypt Update

Yalla Yalla Habibi!!!

We are doing great and absolutely loving it – so you really don’t need to read further if you don’t want to. Here is a quick little summary. We will add pictures soon - but you can checkout facebook with them.


Day 1 – Istanbul – Flew in, and we saw the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Underground Cistern, Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, Istanbul University. Istanbul is a really amazing place. We loved it. Really a cool area.

Day 2 – Istanbul – New District & Istikal Street, Topkapi Palace, Whirling Dervish Show, Islamic Museum.

Day 3 – Cairo- We wandered around the city and got acquainted with everything, me jumping into the all-women’s car on the metro, Cairo Tower overlooking the city, Coptic Christian museum/synagogue/hanging gardens church. Also ate at a restaurant named “Gad,” more on that later…

Day 4—Cairo-- I was completely sick from food poisoning and couldn’t eat all day – but we hit the Cairo Museum/Pyramids. We went inside the Great Pyramid – it was hot/stuffy – but amazing. We did a Camel ride – so cool “Watch out, they spit.” We then took an overnight train to Aswan.

Day 5 – Aswan – Saw the Dam, Lake Nasser, unfinished obelisk, checked into our Nile River Cruise-liner (we got the top deck corner suite – it pays to be married), and then went on a felucca ride on the Nile. The water is so clear and beautiful, and it was nice just relaxing on the boat. We checked out the botanical gardens and climbed a desert mountain/sand dune.

Day 6 – Aswan – we woke up at 2:30 am – flew to Abu Simbel (border to Sudan) and saw the most amazing monument at Sunrise. Absolutely stunning. Flew back, took a nap and started our Nile river cruise. The boat was really amazing.

Day 7 – Nile Cruise – We visited the Crocodile Monument and Edfu Temple – both really cool. We had an Egyptian party that night with Belly dancing, normal dancing, and a just a huge party/booze cruise. I taught the group how to dance the Banghara (from India) and that was pretty hilarious.

Day 8 – Luxor – we arrived in Luxor, saw Valley of the Kings (our favorite tomb was of Ramses 6), Luxor Temple at night, Karnack Temple, and Papyrus painting shop. Luxor was absolutely unreal and incredible. We LOVED it here!!! Overnight train to Cairo (the driver was terrible and we didn’t sleep very well, but we were able to fit 28 people into one of the small sleeper cars – a new record).
Here is the new stuff since we emailed last:

Day 9 – Citadel/Muslim Mosque, Cairo overlook, shopping at a bazaar, and Step Pyramid/Saqqara (5,00 years old—the step pyramid predates the “normal” pyramids by 1,000 years!). This night we did a sound/light show at the pyramids at sunset – maybe my favorite part of Egypt. Seeing the pyramids/sphinx at sunset was unreal.

Day 10 – We randomly decided to take a train to Alexandria by ourselves (everything else had been with a tour). We saw the catacombs (super Indiana Jones style), Library, walked along the Mediterranean, and saw some Roman excavations/ruins. Overall – nice/chill city off the Sea, but not a ton to do. The library was really nice.

Day 11 – Fly to Tel Aviv. Today was relaxing with us swimming in the Mediterranean, walking along the beach, shopping for some things, and just checking out the city. Much different than we were expecting – very commercialized and metropolitan.

Day 12 – Drive south (skipping Ashdod/Ashkelon – since the rockets from Giza have been hitting the city and our guide did not want to endanger us). We saw Bar Sheeva (boring place), then drove over and saw Masada – the fortress built by Herod and the place where the zealot Jews committed suicide after losing to the Romans. We then swam in the dead sea!! Probably our highlight – you really just float. It is absolutely amazing. The dead sea was sooooo cool and we loved it. We want to go back – it was just so fun!

Day 13 – Jerusalem – We saw the new city, Ein Garen where John the Baptist was born, Holocaust Museum (Yad Vashem), Israel Museum with the huge model of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus. We then left Israel and entered the West Bank – we went to Bethlehem and saw where Jesus was born and the church there. It was really cool seeing the cave (where the Inn was and the manger). Lots of Palestinians with big machine guns – but we were fine. Our hotel is a 7 min walk to the old city – right by the Damascus Gate. It is a great location, and after touring each day we just wander the streets of Jerusalem. Pretty fun/cool. Our hotel overlooks the Mt of Olives/Mt Scopus – and we have an awesome view of BYU Jerusalem. It is fun, because Em will wear her BYU sweatshirt, and people always come over and talk to us. They love BYU students.

Day 14 – Jerusalem – today we spent in the old city. We started at the Mt of Olives overlooking the city. Then we went down to the Garden of Gethsemane. We then walked through the city – the Via Delorosa – the walk that Jesus did on the way to the cross. We stopped off at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher – built over Golgotha and the tomb. We then walked over to the temple mount, visited the Dome of the Rock and the Al Asqa Mosque there (3rd holiest place for Muslims). We saw the wailing wall, visited the Garden Tomb, Jewish Quarter, then over to King David’s tomb, and lastly the house where Jesus/his disciples had the last supper. Today was my FAVORITE DAY! It was really amazing. There were so many cool and incredible things to see. Tonight we did a night tour of Jerusalem – incredible!! The city is completely different at night and it was cool to see everything lit up. My absolute favorite was seeing the Western Wailing Wall at night. It was a Jewish holiday, so it was full of the ultra-conservative Jews praying and worshipping – really an impressive sight.

Day 15 – Jordan Valley/Nazareth – We left Jerusalem and drove through the West Bank – up through the Jordan Valley. We saw Jericho, the place where John the Baptist preached, Jordan River, etc. We saw Bet She’an, very similar feel to Pompeii, with old Roman ruins. This is the Canaanite city that defeated King Saul and his sons and hung them on the city walls. We drove to Nazareth and saw where Jesus grew up. The Jordan River Valley is so green and beautiful, compared to Jerusalem and down south. We saw the Sea of Galilee, and stopped at Safed – the Jewish city known for the Zohar/study of the Cabala. Beautiful views. I think Em and I were really surprised about how peaceful/green/beautiful it is up here.

Tomorrow we are going to swim in the Sea of Galilee, visit Golan Heights, and then drive Saturday drive back to Tel Aviv/Joffa, Haifa/Akko, then Sunday we fly home. It has been a great trip.

So as you can tell, we are having the times of our lives. We are both healthy and happy, and feeling great. We are having so much fun, and really enjoying ourselves. Can’t wait to see you guys, and can’t believe time is going by so fast.

Highlights: Garden Tomb, Garden of Gethsemane, Mt. of Olives, Pyramids at Sunset, Camel Ride, Luxor and Valley of Kings/Karnack Temple, Nile River Cruise, Felucca Ride, Turkey Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia, Sea of Galilee/Jordan River Valley, Wailing Wall at night.