Nancy’s Dream Vacation – Pt.3

Nancy and Monica’s tour group having returned to Luxor from their southern journey south.  The new day found the cross country tour  crossing the eastern desert mountain range, arriving at the red sea expanse of Hurqhada, with its miles of linear coastline and numerous beach-side resorts.    The tour group pausing for an overnight stop,  relaxing with a red sea boating excursion,  enjoying the beach-side hospitality,  a welcomed overnight stop before continuing their journey north,  entering the gulf of Suez.

 

the mornings progression provided a changing view of the ancient landscape and ancient ruins.  observing the fields of contemporary circular pyramids, the petroleum oil tanks of the Egyptian oil industry.   10 miles north of  the city of Suez,  their  bus entering  the Ahmed Hamdi tunnel beneath the Suez canal.    Their journey acquainting the expanse of the eastern desert  heading south down the shores of  the gulf of Suez.  A welcomed afternoon stop for the night at Rahs  Sudr,    the tour group once again able to enjoy the comforts of a resort and the blue waters of the red sea, only this time on the eastern side of the gulf.

 

The continuing journey and a  intersecting highway from the east, their desert surrounding now in transition,   experiencing the slopes of the eastern mountains.  A hesitation at  wadi feran,  wadi,  meaning dry river bed,  and Feran is where Moses struck a rock,  creating a spring to provide drinking water, and also the location of the ruins of an ancient convent.  It’s also the home of the Bedouins, once a nomadic people who were the stewards of the desert sheltered  in goat tents,  but now reside in stone huts.

 

The tour bus reaching the biblical surroundings of St. Catherine’s,  arriving at the Daniela Villiage  their overnight accommodations at the foot of Mount Sinai.  A darken morning awakening,  their predawn excursion beginning. Viewing the concession huts along the way  to purchase  hot drinks or rent a blanket for warmth because of the cool mornings temperature.  Nancy’s and Monica’s Bedouin guided group not alone,  with many others on their trek up Mount Sinai , where Moses’s received the ten commandments. The visitors walking the last 37 hundred 50 stone steps, appropriately  named the 37 hundred 50 steps of repentance, the morning sunrise inscribing an everlasting memory of where they were,   an awareness of what had transpired,  and a inner feeling of humble witnessing.

 

 

The silence of the twilight and awe inspiring sunrise slowly fading, the tour group assembling  for a photos,  and with the dawning of the day,  a better view of their surroundings and the Chapel of the Holy Trinity, a Greek Orthodox church built in 1934 on the ruins of a fourth century church built by the Righteous Julian of the Euphrates. Also south of the chapel reached by a stair case is a cave where Moses’s fasted for forty days and forty nights. A second cave is actually a cleft in the rock where Moses’s was hidden from the Glory of God… “And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a cliff of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by”.

 

On their return,  they were able to view  St Catherine’s monastery from above, pausing  to see the rock where the golden calf was placed by the Israelite’s, its effigy was  to deliver a majestic voice like Gods.   and  viewing the Church of Elijah, commemorates the spot where Elijah fled from Ahab and Jezebel after the killing of the prophets of Baal.    coming upon the  Chapel of our Lady of the Steward,  built to honor the apparition  visit of the Virgin Mary to the steward of saint Catherine’s Monastery in the sixth century.

 

Arriving at  St. Catherine’s compound, the monastery was built by order of Emperor Justinian the first,  who reigned from 5 twenty seven to 5 sixty five, and within the enclose was a small chapel erected by Queen Helena,  mother of Emperor Constantine,  the site where Moses experienced  the burning bush..    the 12 member group,  their Egyptology  guide accompanying them,  viewing the historic riches from the past,  the second largest collection of early codices and manuscripts in the world..   The complex housing irreplaceable works of art. mosaics and a collection of early icons, dating back to the 5th century.  Also incorporated into the monastery compound,  besides the main Church, were nine other smaller dedicated chapels.

 

 

The 12 member tour group leaving St. Catherine’s,  a two car caravan on an exploration of the biblical referenced valleys,  and the homage of the Jebeliya Bedouin,   the People of the Mountains.  some two hundred families brought from the Pontos of Anatolia, the upper Euphrates, and from Alexandria,  to guard defend, and assist the monastery monks.   The local Bedouins are considered to be the descendants of those families that were converted to Islam in the seventh century, and today form the Sinai Bedouin families that make up the Jebeliya tribe.   Their northwest journey finding the group once again acquainting the desert of the Sinai and the beach lined coast of the red sea as they trekked north,  their destination a return to Cairo, and  the Pharaoh Hotel.

 

A Cairo morning dawning,  Nancy and Monica venturing a brief trip Giza and the edge of the great western desert to view the World Iconic Pyramids.  Egypt’s pharaohs believed they would  become gods in the afterlife,  and to prepare for the next world, they erected temples to the gods of Egypt and within the massive pyramids,  tombs for themselves, filling them with all the necessities a ruler would require, to guide and sustain himself in the next world.  The Great Pyramid of

 

 

Giza the oldest and largest of the three pyramids was a project of Pharaoh Khufu,  beginning in 2550 B.C.,  towering 481 feet above the plateau.   Khufu’s son, Pharaoh Khafre, starting the second pyramid in 2520.    The third of the Giza pyramids is considerably smaller, its construction beginning in 2490 by Pharaoh Menkaure, but featured a more complex mortuary temple.

 

The Great Sphinx, the show piece of Giza, a colossal monument with the body of a lion, bearing a pharaoh’s head with a royal headdress,   said to be that of King Khafre, who reigned between 2575 and 2465 BC.   The Great Sphinx carved from a single piece of limestone.   measuring 240 feet in length and 66 feet in height, and for thousands of years was buried up to its shoulders in sand.   In 1817,  a Italian adventurer, captain Giovanni Battista Caviglia, with 160 men attempted to excavate it, but the sand poured into their excavation pits as fast as they could remove it.  The Egyptian archaeologist Selim Hassan finally freeing the statue from the sand in the late 1930’s.

 

 

 

Returning to the pharaoh hotel,  A cross country tour representative arriving to transport the adventurers to the bus station, a four hour journey  to Alexandria.   Nancy and Monica having reservations at the Alexandria Hotel.  Rising in the morning. The programmed  historic tour of  the city founded in 331 B.C,  by Alexander the Great beginning.   first on their itinerary was the Roman Amphitheater,  dated from the 2nd century AD.   The theatre once having a large auditorium seating 800, and at one time having been adorned with columns several story’s high.  Continuing on to the Serapeum,  an ancient Greek temple constructed for  Ptolemy the third Euergetes.  The two viewing the magnificence’s of  Pompey’s Pillar,  a 88 foot Roman triumphal column, one of the largest monolithic columns ever erected.  Entering the the artifact garden, viewing a statue of a headless Ramses the second sitting on his throne,  holding a haka scepter in one hand.  Monica standing behind the headless Pharaoh’s statue, providing him with a smiling face for the photo,  and the two having their picture taken, with one of the two red granite sphinx’s adorning the base of the Serapeum.

 

Their tour continuing, visiting the necropolis, literally meaning the city of the dead, an area of Alexandria including the catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa.  the underground burial chambers, that were in use from the second to the fourth century AD.    The necropolis more than a burial site,  at the different levels the underground burial tunnels displayed centuries of Egyptian, Greek, Roman legacy, culture and their dedications to the dead.    Entering the catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, and it’s circular staircase leading down two levels, the third is underwater.  The staircase was  believed used to transport deceased bodies down to the numerous tombs tunneled below into the bedrock.  Nancy and Monica at one level viewing a room where mourners of the deceased would sit and bring offerings.  another room full of mosaic inscription,  sculptures, and a sarcophagus with bas relief,  showing Egyptian gods and priests offering sacrifices.  It was said that  Kom el Shoqafa is one of the best-preserved ruins of Egypt because of its hidden time lined centuries of mixed ancient cultures.

 

The two spending the afternoon addressing the majestic Mediterranean sea, viewing the Citadel of Qaitbay, better known as The Qaitbay Fortress, established in 1477, and erected on the eastern point of the Pharos Island, the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, built during the reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus in  two hundred 80 B.C.   One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.     The Pharos island and the citadel connected to Alexandria by an ancient stone causeway.  The fortress was considered one of the most important defensive strongholds, not only in Egypt, but also along the Mediterranean Sea coast in the 15th century,  it was considered a very significant port for Mediterranean trade at that time.  Their day long tour completed, Nancy and Monica spending a quiet evening at the hotel in preparation for their return to Cairo by bus.

 

 

The four hour bus ride to Cairo seemed prosaic, the two returning to the Indiana Hotel, the only  event remaining on their itinerary,  a 9 am morning flight departure for  London. .   Seated in a British airlines 320, their 5 hour 20 minute flight having begun, a final view from the air of the implausible pyramids and a farewell to the museum of mankind’s surreal history, Egypt.    A rushed arrival at Heathrow, the two having  only 30 minutes between conveyances.   aboard their British Airlines eleven hour nonstop excursion to San Francisco, the wayfarers in one respect, happy to be returning  home,  but it was still an anticlimactic journey.  their three week excursion, inheriting the majesty of the Austrian alps, adorning the sound of music historic town of Salzburg, and the haunting past centuries of mankind’s presence,  indelibly preserved and displayed in Egypt.     Nancy and Monica’s Dream Vacation,  their once in a lifetime journey,  would forever abide as an everlasting treasure.

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