Middle East and Africa

Luxor

Luxor, Egypt and Valley of the Kings and Queens

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Luxor is the site of the Ancient Egyptian city of Waset, known to the Greeks as Thebes. Luxor has frequently been characterized as the “world’s greatest open-air museum”, with ruins of the temple complexes at Karnak and Luxor standing within the modern city. Across the River Nile lie the monuments, temples, and tombs of the West Bank Necropolis, which includes the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.

Thebes thrived in the 11th Dynasty when Montuhotep II who united Egypt after the troubles of the first intermediate period brought stability.  Because Thebes was the city of the god Amun-Ra, it remained the religious capital of Egypt until the Greek period.

Giza, Egypt

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The Giza Plateau is the site of some of the most impressive ancient monuments in the world, including a complex of ancient Egyptian royal mortuary and sacred structures, including the Great Sphinx, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and a number of other large pyramids and temples. Giza has always been a focal point in Egypt’s history due to its location close to Memphis, the ancient Pharaonic capital of the Old Kingdom.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza pyramid complex.  It is also the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one to remain largely intact.

The pyramid was built as a tomb over a 10- to 20-year period concluding around 2560 BC. At 481 feet, the Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world for more than 3,800 years.

 

Karnak, Egypt

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The Karnak Temple Complex is a collection of temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings near Luxor, in Egypt. Construction at the complex began during the reign of Senusret I (1971 BC to 1926 BCE) in the Middle Kingdom and continued into the Ptolemaic period (332 to 30 BCE), although most of the buildings date from the New Kingdom (1550-1077 BCE). Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity not seen anywhere else in the world. The area around Karnak was the ancient Egyptian Ipet-isut (“The Most Selected of Places”) and the main place of worship of the eighteenth dynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head.

Bethlehem

We went to Bethlehem to celebrate Christmas Eve.  Tucked away in the middle of Israel, in the Palestinian Authority is the place where Jesus Christ was born.  Machine guns, war zone, conflict…all quite different from what one might expect in a place that is where these religions were born.  This was one of my most memorable holidays I’ve ever had.

Masada, Israel

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Masada is an ancient fortification in the Southern District of Israel situated on top of a mesa. Located on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert, it overlooks the Dead Sea.  Herod the Great fortified Masada between 37 and 31 BCE. According to Josephus, the siege of Masada by troops of the Roman Empire at the end of the First Jewish–Roman War ended in the mass suicide of 960 people, the Sicarii rebels and their families hiding there.

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