Jewels of the Near East
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Part One - Istanbul to Egypt
Part Two - Nile Cruise
Part Three - Cairo Again
Part Four - Jordan

Istanbul Cairo Abu Simbel Aswan Luxor Area El Fayyoum Oasis Amman Petra

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Jewels of the Near East 2008 Index

(Please note that the writing style displayed here is not our best. Many of these were written when we were so sleep deprived we had started hallucinating. After a time even 15-20 mins sleep became so precious that the last days were not written up until long after we had come home.) 1/2014 - It appears during a server move several files were damaged. While we try to recover the files you can find pictures for the missing days at our Flicker Pages or on Len's website -

Day 1 - SFO to IST
Getting from Concord, CA. to SFO Airport, from SFO to IST, and from IST/Ataturk Airport to our first night in Turkey. A Transbalkan Rep meets our flight and escorts us to a taxi stand. Where our driver eventually is able to locate our hotel and drop us off.

Day 2 - Istanbul
We dive right into this fascinating city with visits to its top sights: Topkapi, the palace of the Sultans for centuries; Hagia Sophia, the greatest church in Christendom for a thousand years; the Blue Mosque, with its exquisite blue tiles; the Byzantine Hippodrome, scene of chariot races and gladiator combat; and the eerie Sunken Palace cistern beneath it.

Day 3 - Istanbul to Cairo
Cruising around Istanbul until it's time to go to Cairo. Our local rep will assist with the transfer to Istanbul Airport. We leave Istanbul @ 23:10 in the evening. On an airplane.

Day 4 - Cairo
Arrive very early AM at Cairo Airport, we transfer to the Grand Hyatt (which has a fun history of yes/no on the alcohol policy). Then try to catch a little sleep before 8:30 AM when we leave the hotel with our private guide. Today is Cairo's major sights: Starting with the Egyptian Museum, including the Mummies Room. We continue on to Old Cairo to tour the Coptic Museum, and the Church of Abu Sergha, and the Beni Ezra Synagogue. We see where, according to the legend, Moses was found along the banks of the Nile by the Queen of the Nile e, a walking tour of the ancient Khan El Khalili Bazaar district, then a brief stop at El Rifai Mosque where the late Shah of Iran is buried, as well as King Farouk Egypt's last king.

Day 5 - Cairo to Abu Simbel to Aswan
We have a VERY early morning run out to the airport. Our flight makes a brief stop in Aswan then continues on to Abu Simbel . In Abu Simbel our own private air-conditioned vehicle, private chauffeur and private guide will be waiting for us : We tour the mighty Temples of Ramses the Great & his Queen: In the larger temple, colossal figures of Ramses are seated with the gods and attended by his queen and daughters. The smaller temple is dedicated to Queen Nefertari, who appears as Hathor, the goddess of love, joy and fertility, symbolized by the benevolent cow. We explore these fine temple, admiring their ancient aura and artistry, before we head back to Aswan by air...on you guessed it.. another airplane.

Day 6 - Aswan/Nile Cruise
We start with a morning tour of the Nubian Museum, before we head for our Nile cruise on the M/S Monaco . We visit the Aswan High Dam, the red granite quarries of the ancient pharaohs, and the Island temple of Philae, dedicated to the Ancient Goddess ISIS. Returning to our cruise we set sail for Kom Ombo, where we explore the twin Temples of Haroeris and Sobek. We continue our cruise to Edfu, where we dock for the night.

Day 7 - Edfu & Luxor
We board horse-drawn carriages (or motor vans) for the ride to Edfu's Temple of Horus, one of the best-preserved Ancient Egyptian temples on the Nile. After lunch, we continue our cruise down the Nile to Luxor. Afternoon tea is served on the sun-deck and we have dinner & "entertainment" on board.

Day 8 - Luxor & Thebes
Today we tour the Valley of the Kings including King Tut's Tomb, Queen Hatshepsut's Temple of El Deir El Bahari, and the Colossi of Memnon. The afternoon is free for shopping. Afternoon tea is served on deck. Dinner & "folk dance" show on board.

Day 9 - Luxor, Karnak & Off We Go Back to Cairo
We tour the Great Temple of Amon at Karnak, the "mother" of all temples, and the smaller yet charming Temple of Luxor, checking out of our cruise. Then it's back to the airport for our flight (on yet another airplane) to Cairo.

Day 10 - Giza & the Pyramids
Our exploration of ancient Egypt continues today! We'll motor to Giza to visit the mysterious Sphinx, Cheops Royal Barge Museum and the Pyramids on the edge of Cairo. We may even penetrate into the heart of the Great Pyramid, to the King's Chamber (or the interior of Kephren Pyramid). Then onto the camel ride! Lunch is at the historic Mena House. The afternoon is dedicated to Memphis and Sakkara including the Nobles Mastabas and the Zoser Step Pyramid .

Day 11 - Desert Safari El Fayoum Oasis
We leave Cairo by sunrise - Hawara Pyramid, El Lahoun Pyramid, Ruins of Karanis, and drive by Lake Qarun We leave bustling Cairo behind as we undertake the drive toward the Oasis of El Fayoum, 150 kilometers to the southwest. Hard as it is to believe, a great inland sea once covered these sands. It was a holy reserve of sacred crocodiles, symbolized by the god Sobek. We visit the temple of Kom Oshim, drive over ancient lake beds, and alongside the waters of today's Fayoum Lake and the village of Chak Chouk. Then to the Valley of the Whales (Wadi El-Hitan) . A team from the University of Michigan discovered in the late 80's that these Zeuglodon whales did have rudimentary feet, this was a startling discovery, suggesting that whales of Wadi El-Hitan had recently started living in water as well. Several skeletons of whales are exposed in the sand. George Schweinfurth named this extinct specie the Zeuglodon Isis Whales .

Day 12 - Cairo to Amman
Its off to the airport for our Amman bound flight (even more planes) and dinner at our hotel

Day 13 - Amman, Jerash & Off to Petra
We head with a guide and a chauffeur to Jerash, the best preserved Roman City of the East. On to Mt. Nebo (Mt. Pisgah)! Then we'll continue to Madaba and visit the site of the oldest map of the Holy Land, St. George's Cathedral, ending our day at Petra

Day 14 - Petra
A full day tour of Jordan's most famous site, the rose-red city of Petra. Venture through the Siq (the gorge between two towering mountains) until we reach the treasury which, like the most of the structures at Petra, is carved into the rose-red Nubian sandstone.

Day 15 - AMM to SFO
Home Again, Home Again. Oh Goody, _another_ airplane!

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