Today we had a short tour of Salalah. We drove to the Garden City, Mughsail Beach, Job’s Tomb and Al Husn Souq. Mughsail Beach was very pretty the water looked amazing it’s two miles of unspoiled white sand beaches, high cliffs which are picturesque. We were lucky enough to be there at high tide and saw the spectacular “Blow Hole.”
After being there for about a half hour, we then proceeded to Job’s Tomb where according to legend, the remains of the Muslim and Old Testament Prophet Job can be found. Job’s Tomb is a sacred place of pilgrimage for Muslims, Christians, and Jews. Due to the fact that we were entering mosques on this tour, I had to have my shoulders and my head covered to enter.
The last stop on the itinerary for the day was Al Husn Souq where we had a chance to walk around and shop which is one of my favorite things to do. The colorful stalls are filled with frankincense, incense, bottles of fragrant perfume oils, pashminas and many other things.
Growing up watching Indiana Jones movies made this next stop exciting. The ancient city of Petra, Nabataean caravan city, situated between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea, and Wadi Rum. This scenic drive is where Camel caravans passed through, loaded with spices, textiles, and incense from distant regions, and through that commerce, the city of Petra flourished, until a massive earthquake in 363AD left the structures of Petra in ruins. Upon arrival, we started our walk down the narrow gorge called the Siq (the shaft) to see The Treasury. The Siq is a natural geological passage formed from a deep split in the sandstone rocks. After a 15 minute walk, we finally see El Khazneh, The Treasury, carved directly out of the red sandstone cliff. This structure is impressive I have never seen anything like it before.
After spending an hour at The Treasury, we boarded our tour bus to drive to Wadi Rum. When boarded our 4 X 4 transfer stop, we were engulfed in the desert. Before arriving, I read so many things about Wadi Rum being acclaimed by many as one of the most stunning desert landscapes in the world.
The scenery was magnificent, towering cliffs, mauve colored stretches of sand were amazing. The rock towers reminded us of the Red Rocks in Utah. We drove passed a Bedouin camp where other tourists were going to have a buffet dinner served under the Bedouin tents. After having a nice desert drive, we drove back to our bus to drive back to Aqaba.
Today we had an adventurous tour we began with a scenic drive in a 4 X 4 jeep from the port of Safaga to the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada. We drove onto the Eastern Arabia Desert. We had great photo opportunities of the deserts that we’ve seen in movies. We drove to a Bedouin camp (settlement), where we were welcomed by the locals (nomads). We had a chance to taste their sweet tea and ate some of their flat unleavened bread. After seeing how the locals lived and what they ate, we rode camels through the desert. My luck I get the angry Camel who was spitting at the handler.
Arriving at the port was interesting, we saw piles of duffle bags from Egyptians who were traveling to the Mecca. It seemed unorganized I don’t know how they would find their luggage when they arrive at their destination. Today we were going to have the longest day of driving 3.5 hours to get to Luxor to see ancient Egyptian architecture and see fascinating mysteries of centuries old culture and hieroglyphics. Once again it was nerve-wracking to know that we had a security guard on our bus who had an Uzi.
We arrived in Luxor we had a nice lunch at the Sheraton Hotel. After lunch, we continued our drive and crossed the Nile River proceeding to the West Bank area for a visit to the Valley of the Kings. We had a chance to see the tombs of Egypt’s ancient kings, their families, and other Egyptian nobility. It was amazing to see the hieroglyphics and how old they are, the colors were so vibrant. The only thing that was upsetting was that they didn’t allow any photography but luckily I was able to take two pictures before they told me I couldn’t.
Next stop was the Hatshepsut Temple. This mortuary temple was buried under sand for centuries and was built by Hatshepsut, the only woman to rule and become a Pharaoh. Built into the mountainside, it stands as an incredible monument to the powers held by pharaohs.
Following that tour, we had a second photo stop to see Colossi of Memnon, two massive statues that originally flanked the entrance to Amenhotep III’s mortuary temple. Unfortunately, the temple itself was destroyed in an earthquake; the magnificent statues still stand guard today.
The final stop was the most impressive Luxor Temple complex. The complex was a collection of breathtaking ruins, obelisks, and temples that date back to the 14th century BC.
Today we sailed through the Suez Canal which is also known as The Highway to India. The canal is an artificial sea level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea. It took ten years to construct, and it opened in November 1869.
Today we were getting a tour of Bethlehem.We were excited to see the ancient streets and the Church of the Nativity which is the oldest church in the Holy Land which is still being used today.Driving through the Judean Hills and seeing the Valley of Elah, which gets its name from the Elah tree, a type of oak tree that produces turpentine.I’ve read that biblically the valley is known as the area where David fatally wounded the fearsome Philistine warrior Goliath with a stone plucked from the nearby Elah Brook.
We finally arrived in Bethlehem, the birthplace of David and Jesus.We took a tour of the Church of Nativity.We looked through the trap doors on the wooden floor and saw the original mosaic tiled floor below.We also saw the low Door of Humility that prevented anyone from entering the room without bowing, and the grotto, which is supposedly the birth place of Jesus.
We drove from Haifa into the Judean Hills to get to our first stop which is Mt. Zion. We arrived at Mt. Zion and visited the Room of the Last Supper, where according to tradition Jesus’ last meal with his disciples and the descent of the Holy Spirit took place. On the ground floor is the Tomb of King David, which is one of the places most visited by the people of Jewish faith. Next up we saw the Dormition Abbey, a beautiful structure with a high domed bell tower.
After getting a bite to eat, we began our walking tour of the old city. Entering Jaffa Gate, we walked past some of the most sacred sites in religious history. We passed by a cool bazaar which was very colorful. We saw the Christian Quarter which is right next to a part of the famous Via Dolorosa, believed to be the route Jesus took as he carried his cross to Calvary. We also saw this golden topped Dome of the Rock. This breathtaking shrine is considered the third holiest site in Islam. One of the wildest things that we saw while walking were these big round metal bins that are used for suspicious packages found.
The next stop on the walking tour was the Western (Wailing) Wall, the holiest site in the Jewish world. We wrote a prayer on the piece of paper and John stuck it in the wall. The wall is believed to have been the closest to where the Holy Ark once stood. We also had the chance to visit the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. High on top of the hill known as Golgotha, the church marks the site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and resurrection.
One of the things that I love that Oceania Cruises does in certain ports that we are in they decide to entertain us while boarding the ship, they had a lot of the crew members lined up and were clapping along with music being played by the band that is onboard.
Our second stop on the itinerary was an exciting one and a nerve wracking one.Israel is always on guard because of the threat of terrorism in the Middle East. We were told that we can’t get our passports stamped in Israel because when we get to the other ports on our itinerary they wouldn’t grant us entry. We were given landing cards and a photocopy of our passport.John and I are both religious I am Greek Orthodox and he is Catholic so visiting Jerusalem today is something we both have always wanted to do.
It is believed that Jesus lived, preached and performed his miracles in this beautiful place.It might not be exactly where we were but it sure is close. The first stop on tour was the top of Mount Carmel.We had a great panoramic view of Haifa.After taking great pictures of the city, we headed towards Nazareth the place where Jesus spent his early years.We saw the amazing Basilica of the Annunciation, one of Christendom’s most revered shrines and the largest church in the Middle East. The Basilica is built on the same sight where the Archangel Gabriel revealed to Mary that she would be the mother of the Messiah.We were mesmerized by the grotto where Mary had lived. A 170’ high cupola that rises high above the upper church adds to the Basilica’s grandeur that allows the interior to be lit up by natural light.
Next stop was the Church of Joseph, which is built over the chambers that once housed Joseph’s carpentry shop where Jesus worked with him.From here we went on a small walking tour through the colorful bazaar past Mary’s well, a white stone fountain that serves as a shrine commemorating the Virgin Mary.
After boarding our tour bus, we headed through a town called Cana, the place where Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.Then we moved on to Tabgha, where Jesus later multiplied the loaves and fishes.
Next stop on tour was a trip to Capernaum located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee; this is considered the center of Jesus’ ministry while he was living in the area. We had a chance to see the synagogue with a lovely mosaic floor which was recently discovered.
Our last stop was Yardenit baptismal site where the River Jordan separates from the Sea of Galilee. We were lucky enough to see a few baptisms happening while we were there.
Flying to Greece to visit my godmother, Roula, and godbrother, Basili. It is exciting; I haven’t seen them since September 2000 I was looking forward to a great reunion.
John has heard so many stories about them but has never met them. Unfortunately, my lovely Godfather Evangelos passed away a few years ago he was an unbelievable person. He was Greek but was born in Egypt, and he spoke nine different languages. He had so many great stories enough to last a lifetime.
We flew into Athens two days before we were supposed to board the cruise ship for our 18-day voyage. Our itinerary was from Athens, Greece to Dubai, UAE. This was the first time I was going to be on a cruise which made me nervous and excited. I wasn’t sure how I would do with the rocking of the boat at night so wish me luck. The next day we had a private tour of the city. I had seen all the monuments already, but I thought it would have been a good idea to hire a guide to explain things better especially dates and facts.
The first place we visited was the Acropolis sitting high above the city. You can’t miss this archeological site. It is truly spectacular to see it in person. I just can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to erect these structures. We primarily spent most of the time at the Acropolis and at the museum there is so much to see. I have posted some pictures of the main monuments that we saw at the Acropolis such as The Parthenon, Temple of Hephaestus, the Erechtheion, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus & the Theatre of Dionysus.
When I was younger, you were able to walk up to the Parthenon and touch it, but over the years people were destroying the structures with graffiti, so they have all of the monuments roped off.
We also had a chance to visit Syntagma Square it was right by our hotel when we first arrived in Athens it was at night, so John didn’t get a chance to see the soldiers guarding the building, so we made sure he saw that. After the tour, we decided to meet my godmother and godbrother for dinner at one of the local restaurants that Roula loved.
The one disappointing thing was that we were staying at Hotel Bretagne and that is right next to the Parliament building, and at night there was a lot of protesting going on. The people were breaking off marble from the surrounding buildings and throwing them at the presidents home.
Growing up I had family that lived in South Africa I always dreamed of one day visiting them and figured that would never happen because Africa is so far away. When I started dating my husband in 2008, I had told him that one of my good friends Tina had just moved back to her hometown of Nelspruit which is a town in South Africa. The last thing she told me was that I had an open invitation to visit her whenever I wanted to, as soon as I told John that she extended an invitation he jumped at the opportunity and started planning the trip the next day.
The flight to Johannesburg is 20 hours we flew from JFK to Atlanta, GA to catch our connecting flight from there we flew to Dakar where we had to get out of our seats while security checked the plane. The last thing we wanted to do after flying about 15 hours was to be hassled to check the plane. Either way, after they checked our plane and we refueled, we were off to Johannesburg. Finally, we arrived at our first destination after 20 hours.
Unfortunately, our luggage didn’t make it in time, so we were without our belongings for one day. We checked into an amazing hotel called the Four Seasons Westcliff. This hotel embodies luxury and style. With its beautifully landscaped gardens and sitting high above you have a fantastic view of Johannesburg’s suburbs. It is breathtaking. A must see if you are traveling to South Africa.
After checking into the hotel, we had to take a drive to the local mall which was the last thing we wanted to do to get a change of clothes. The concierge advised us to take security with us, and we told them that we would be okay without the security, but they insisted which kind of made me nervous even though I grew up in Jamaica, Queens and John grew up in the Bronx. If you are unfamiliar with New York, Jamaica is not the best part of Queens. I had to go through metal detectors every day to get into my high school, so I was used to being in a bad neighborhood. I survived so I guess it can’t be that bad. We didn’t spend too much time at the mall because it was nighttime and we still needed to have dinner and get settled in and rest since the next day we were flying to Mpumalanga. Follow us along our journey next stop four day on Safari.