Joined April 2022 Message
  • Some Final Thoughts

    May 12 in the United States ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    Great trip. Eye-opening. The three major religions are tied collectively in history and in culture and in stories, from prophets that cross religious boundaries and that are mirrored across religions, to locales that have served them each and for which battles have been fought, to the ways in which people have to live together and that people choose to live together. Not always peacefully. This isn’t new news, but seeing it up close makes a difference.

    Which is why I choose to travel, and guides make a difference.

    Murad – or “Mo” as he is known – our A&K tour director in Jordan, is a social connector, a gracious host, warm and smiling, and a fount of knowledge. He anticipated and addressed issues as they arose while teaching us about the beautiful country and history of Jordan. He shared shisha with us.

    Mordechai – or “Moody” as we called him – our A&K tour director in Israel, is a brilliant student of history, of the three major religions (and some minor ones too), of the books and stories on which they are based, of the landmarks they shared and battled over (and sometimes still battle over). He threw in references to European history and 20th century architecture. He has a wry sense of humor.

    I was lucky enough to travel with a group of folks who were friendly, experienced, interested, and interesting. We became friends.

    Favorite places? Petra. Masada. Jerusalem. Tel Aviv.

    If you can, go see the holy land and its ancient wonders and modern cities.

    #aktravel #israel #jordan #ancientwonders #holyland #abercrombieandkent
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  • Day14

    Last Day - Caesarea, Jaffa, and Tel Avi

    May 9 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    The morning’s first activity was a reminder that we’d soon be leaving, as we gathered for self-administered COVID tests.

    We then had about an hour drive along the Mediterranean coast to Caesarea (named for Augustus Caesar). Off-shore we could see a natural gas distribution platform. The town is one of the richest in all of Israel, has the largest private residence in Israel, and the country’s only golf course. Originally a small fishing village, Herod - the same Jewish king who built the fortress at Masada - built an international seaside city, home to 50,000, complete with a hippodrome, docks, and palace, the remains of which we toured.

    We then headed to Tel Aviv, relatively new and the largest city in Israel with 3m people in the metro area and the hometown of our guide Moody (who - in one of his funniest lines - told us over dinner the night before that he views “Seinfeld” as a documentary). Jaffa - which we briefly explored on foot - was the old town that Tel Aviv absorbed and that was battled over during the 1947 war. With Tel Aviv’s wide and long beaches, beautiful weather, and explosion in tech companies, it is now the most expensive city in the world. Our hotel overlooked one stretch of beach and gave us a picture perfect view of sunset on our last night.

    Dinner for a small group of us was again at one of our best restaurants of the trip, Mashya. We told the waiter our budget and handed the reins to him for serving whatever he felt we might enjoy. The food - spread over 3+ hours - was beautiful, inventive, and delicious, and accompanied by Israeli wine. Our night cap was at a nearby superb cocktail lounge - The Imperial - hidden in a non-descript hotel.

    Early on day 14, I headed home.

    #aktravel #israel #telaviv #caesarea
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  • Day13

    Day 12 - Magdala, Capernaum, Golan Heigh

    May 8 in Israel ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Our day was spent primarily around (and on!) the Sea of Galilee.

    Taking off from our hotel in Tiberias, we first arrived at Magdala, the site of one of the oldest synagogues in Israel, having been built around year 20 CE and destroyed around year 68. A menorah - the first symbol of Judaism (and before the Star of David) - is carved onto a stone found there, making it the oldest known representation of one in a Jewish context and likely carved by someone who had seen the Menorah in the Second Temple.

    Capernaum – an ancient fishing village on the north shore of the Sea – is believed to have been the home of Peter and the place where several stories of Jesus’ miracles occurred. There also are two ancient synagogues, one built (of limestone) atop the other (built of volcanic rock).

    Lunch was had at one of the best restaurants we’ve visited all trip. Glorious, glorious food.

    Like all of our days here, the weather was glorious – sun shining with temperatures in the high 70’s to low 80’s.

    But as we began to climb to a view atop the Golan Heights, the temperature dropped by 15 degrees until we reached the top, at about 3,800 feet. From atop Mount Bental – the location of an important battle during the 1973 fight for the Heights – we had views of Syria and Lebanon, as well as Mount Hermon, the tallest mountain (with skiing!) in Israel.

    From the mountain we returned to the Sea for a short cruise on a boat named “Noah” with a dance instructor who led the group in the hora.

    Our day ended with an Israeli wine tasting (we learned what made some wines “kosher”) at our hotel, followed by a delicious dinner in the town of Magdala.

    We leave Tiberias in the morning and will spend our last night in Tel Aviv.

    #aktravel #Israel #magdala #capernaum #GolanHeights #MountBental #MountHermon #Tiberias Magdalena Restaurant - מסעדת מגדלנה Tibi's טיביס
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    Traveler

    Was that some kind of dried meat in the photo ?

    5/9/22Reply
    Traveler

    Yup. Our lunch-time restaurant, Tibi’s, butchers and ages their own beef.

    5/9/22Reply
     
  • Day12

    Day 11 - Acre and Nazareth

    May 7 in Israel ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    We drove out of Jerusalem for the final time on Day 11, headed for the northern coast city of Acre, one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on Earth. It sits on the coast of the Mediterranean, across the bay from Haifa, and our reason for being there was to visit the citadel and the old city. The city saw a ton of action during the Crusades, and the citadel, remarkably restored, gives you a feel for that 13th century action.

    We strolled through both the old and new markets, buzzing with shops and people and activity.

    Turning a corner and walking through a stone gate, the Mediterranean spread out in front of our restaurant for lunch, breezy and blue and busy with boats, a vast difference from the Dead Sea.

    After lunch, to paraphrase Robbie Robertson, we pulled into Nazareth - seeing a Merry Xmas sign. A beautiful 1960’s era church sits over the apparent site of Mary’s annunciation. The town itself – busy with 80,000 people - is considered the Arab capital of Israel; our guide commented that when Nathaniel, in the bible ask, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”, he clearly was talking about parking. But the baklava that we ate there was darn good too.

    Our spot for the next two nights is an old stone Scottish hospital in the town of Tiberias, now a hotel owned by the Church of Scotland. It overlooks the freshwater Sea of Galilee (which is really a lake) and, across the lake, we have a view of the Golan Heights, which we’ll visit tomorrow.

    #aktravel #israel #nazareth #akkoisrael #tiberius #seaofgalilee
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  • Day11

    Day 10 - Dead Sea and Masada

    May 6 in Israel ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Our day started with a long drive along the Dead Sea, which gave us a feel for its breadth, though that has shrunken considerably over the years. Not only is it the lowest point on Earth, but its water level is dropping at a rate of about three feet per year. We could see abandoned resorts that had once been seaside but that now were empty shells on an apocalyptic landscape. The 34% salinity also ends-up creating large sinkholes along the edges. But we also saw fields of date palms and a kibbutz here-and-there.

    The destination was Masada, an isolated mountain-top fortification built by Herod the Great that dates to the 1st century BC. In 73 to 74 CE, it was the site of a siege by the Romans against Jewish zealots that were hiding there, and it allegedly ended with the mass suicide of close to 1,000 people.

    It’s wicked cool. I remember my dad being fascinated by it by virtue of his long-time subscription to National Geographic. Today it is one of Israel’s most popular tourist attractions, and you can clearly see why.

    After a few hours there, we set off to Jericho, which today is a Palestinian city of about 25,000 people in the West Bank (we drove through several checkpoints on both days 9 and 10). Dating back about 11,000 years, Jericho is the oldest city in the world, with the world’s oldest known protective wall (our tour guide frequently uses the term “back in the day,” and he usually means, well, waaaaaay back in the day). As we drove to Jericho, we passed the cave where the Dead Sea Scrolls had been found.

    We had a wonderful final evening in Jerusalem, walking first to a superb restaurant, The Culinary Workshop and walking after dinner to a speakeasy, The Gatsby.

    #aktravel #israel #jerusalem #masada
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  • Day10

    Day 9 - Jerusalem, Bethlehem

    May 5 in Israel ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    Thursday, May 5th, took us, first, to a few locations in-and-around Jerusalem:  the Garden of Gethsemane (where Jesus is said to have prayed with his disciples), the apparent location of the Last Supper, a large-scale outdoor map of Jerusalem in 66 CE (fantastic!), and the Dead Sea Scrolls (which date to somewhere between the 3rd century BCE and the 1st century CE) and the Aleppo Codex (10th century CE) – both amazing to see and the stories of how they were found and how they made it to the museum is equally amazing. The two containers that the first scrolls were found in by Bedouin herdsmen are nicknamed Laurel and Hardy.
     
    From there, we headed into the West Bank for lunch at the home of a Christian family followed by a visit, in Bethlehem, to the Church of the Nativity, a basilica from the 6th century that sits over a cave believed to be the place where Jesus was born.
     
    The family whose home we visited was deeply warm and hospitable, and they served us homemade mezze, couscous, a kind of beef stew, and local wine.  The mother, Faten (she is named after Omar Sharif’s wife), was raised in Germany before her parents returned to the West Bank, talked to us about her family – we met her husband (who was working in their kitchen most of the time), four of her grandchildren, and one of her sons, who was our tour guide in Bethlehem.  Overall, in the West Bank, Christians only make up about 2% of the population.
     
    Bethlehem is no longer “oh little town,” as its population sits at around 25,000, and it is jammed with stores and traffic.  Of course, the souvenir shops, which probably have been there for 2,000 years, are vibrant.
     
    #aktravel #Israel #Jerusalem
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  • Day9

    Days 7 & 8 - First Days in Jerusalem

    May 4 in Israel ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Our last night in Jordan, we had a delicious Lebanese meal, outdoors, overlooking the Dead Sea.
     
    On the morning of Day 7, we crossed the border into Israel, where we’ll be for the rest of the trip.  We crossed at the Allenby Bridge, named for British General Edmund Allenby who is portrayed in “Lawrence of Arabia,” as he was, at one point, TE Lawrence’s commanding officer.  Met by our guide and driver, we have now had, among the A&K team supporting us, Muslims, Christians, and Jews.
     
    We’re in Jerusalem for four nights; it’s been around since roughly 3,000 BC, has about 1m people and is roughly divided as 64% Jewish, 34% Muslim, and 2% Christian.
     
    Our first two days happen to be on Israeli holidays - Remembrance Day - day one, a national day in which respects are paid to the people killed in supporting the State - and Israeli Independence Day; on the Gregorian calendar, that day is May 14, but Israel uses the Hebrew calendar and, so, the date changes slightly each year.
     
    Upon arrival we drove to an overlook of the city from where we saw the walled old city and its contrast with the new, the lushness, and the hills.  The Western Wall, Temple Mount, Dome of the Rock, and Church of the Holy Sepulcher all stand-out.
     
    Then it was several hours at Yad Vashem - The World Holocaust Remembrance Center - Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust as well as the Jews and non-Jews who aided Jews during the period.  Educational, enlightening, saddening, maddening, and deeply moving.
     
    Dinner on Day 7 (Tuesday) was at a restaurant on the roof of a building owned by the Vatican, with glorious views of Old Jerusalem.  Several of us walked through the old city back to our hotel - the famous, old, and beautiful King David Hotel.
     
    Day 8 was primarily spent on a walking tour of Old Jerusalem, split into four quarters - Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Armenian – partially along the Via Dolorosa, and ending with a visit to the Western Wall.
     
    @aktravel_usa #Israel #Jerusalem
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  • Day7

    Wadi Rum and Dead Sea - Days 5 & 6

    May 2 in Jordan ⋅ ☁️ 27 °C

    After leaving Petra the morning after, we headed south to Wadi Rum, a 300 sq mile red-desert valley lined with towering limestone and granite towers and inhabited by Bedouin tribes. It was the location of many parts of the story of Lawrence of Arabia, and, despite being the “Valley of the Moon,” the film “The Martian” was largely filmed there.

    It’s a vast and scenic place with views for miles when there isn’t a sandstorm (“warm and dusty” was the forecast).

    From the visitor center, we loaded into the open backs of Toyota 4x4 pick-ups for a 30-minute drive across the desert to our camp for the night. There are a number of isolated camps, and ours was made up of domes, connected by a boardwalk, that were each a guest room with running water, flushing toilets (but you couldn’t flush toilet paper), showers, and electricity; a portion of each dome had a curtain that could be opened for a view of the sky. A central lounge area was where meals were had, and a separate lounge building had a bar (but no liquor was served), a pool, and outdoor seating. We were nestled among towers of stone.

    We arrived just before sunset. The sound of the desert was glorious.

    Dinner included goat that had been cooked underground; after dinner, a number of us sat under the stars, drinking wine our tour director brought with him, smoking a hookah, talking.

    The next day started with desert activities – 4x4 driving, climbing a large rock towers to get a view of the desert, hiking in a mountain canyon where there are petroglyphs, walking up a sand dune, and camel-riding (which we started from the area where TE Lawrence located a water spring).

    After that we had a four-hour drive north to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth. Here for two nights, this morning we visited “Bethany Beyond the Jordan,” the location believed to be where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, and then I did what is the traditional Dead Sea activity: float in the water and cake yourself with soothing black mud. After that, it was relax by the pool until dinnertime.

    Tomorrow we cross the border into Israel.

    #aktravel #Jordan #WadiRum #DeadSea
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  • Day5

    Jordan and Israel - Day 4 (Petra)

    April 30 in Jordan ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Jordan and Israel – Day 4 (Petra)
     
    It’s been two days since my last post, but today I’m only going to touch on yesterday; I’ll catch-up on today, well, tomorrow.
     
    We arrived at the town of Petra on Friday night.  A number of us went out to a local bar/restaurant which had been built into a cave in the rock – that’s where that pic of me smoking a hookah is from.
     
    The majority of the next day – Saturday - was spent in Petra, the archaeological site.
     
    We gathered that morning for a short walk to enter the site.
     
    Thumbnail:  Petra dates back to the fourth century BC.  Built by the Nabataeans, who were masters of rainwater collection and management, stone carving, and agriculture, with Petra itself being a big trading site that made them pretty darn wealthy.  Rumor has it that the Three Wise Men purchased their gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and gold at Petra.  The place had buildings, temples, a monastery, burial chambers, and more.
     
    You enter it through this 1 ½ mile pathway through a stone canyon named The Siq – the video I posted yesterday showed the last few steps before entering the first plaza where “The Treasury” is revealed.  From there on, there’s a (huge) series of walking and hiking paths in a variety of directions.  Overall, we spent about 5-6 hours there, and I chose to take “the long walk” to the Monastery, which – I was told - had 1,000 steps to climb to it.  For the full visit, I had more than 18,000 steps and 79 “flights” of steps per my iPhone.
     
    Every turn revealed more eye candy, whether it be natural rock formations or what has been built into it.  The varying color of the rock is amazing, and the fact that it’s all lasted this long is amazing too.
     
    It was crowded with tourists, and industry has grown up around and inside it – donkey, camel, carriage, even golf cart rides; vendors selling all sorts of trinkets, and cafes where you can get soda, food, juice, ice cream.  But if you ignore all that (or make it part of the experience), it is just darn incredible.
     
    Like a lot of places in the world, photos and videos don’t do it justice.  One of the most moving places I’ve ever been.
     
    Go.  Just go.
     
    #aktravel_usa #petra #petrajordan #jordan
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    Traveler

    That looks amazing. I would love to do the tour you are on. 👍

    5/3/22Reply
    Traveler

    Go for it!

    5/4/22Reply
     
  • Day5

    Jordan and Israel - Day 3

    April 30 in Jordan ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    After starting today out with an Islamic site, we moved on to places associated with both Judaism and Christianity.

    We started with a visit to the King Abdullah Mosque, built in the 1980’s by King Hussein to honor his grandfather; it’s located in Amman, directly across the street from a church. Today is the last Friday of Ramadan; as the mosque was preparing for busy noon-time prayers, we were able to go inside (this mosque welcomes non-Muslim visitors). Our A&K guide gave us an awesome history lesson, taught us about the five daily prayers, and walked us through the prayer ritual as we were inside the mosque.

    We had time for a visit to another in-town mosque located on a busy street with lots of storefronts, some still not yet open. But I did see another local wearing a Yankee cap.

    Madaba was our next stop, located about 20 miles outside of Amman. Ruins there date back to the Byzantine (think “Christian”) era. It is most well-known for its mosaics, especially a 6th century map of the biblical lands that make up part of the floor of the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George.

    Next was Mount Nebo where, according to both Exodus and Deuteronomy, Moses could see The Promised Land before his death. On a clear day you can see Jerusalem from there. Also located there is a Byzantine church with a beautifully preserved mosaic also from 6th century.

    Our last stop before our 3 1/2 hour drive to our hotel just outside of Petra was at a mosaic art shop where we could learn how mosaics are made, watch them being made, and - of course - purchase art if we were interested.

    More than anything, today, what I was struck by was the confluence of three ancient religions in these lands. From the mosque located across the street from a church, to a Greek Orthodox church, to Moses’ viewpoint from Mount Nebo and its church. This isn’t a surprise, of course, but once you are here, it just feels different.

    We will spend 5-6 hours at Petra tomorrow before heading toward Wadi Rum, where there will be no internet. But there will be, apparently, 5 million stars.

    #aktravel_usa #jordan #amman #Amman #jordan #Madaba #MountNebo
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