Cairo across the Nile at sunset

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This page is not really about the Middle East--it's about three countries of the Region I happened to be fortunate enough to visit: Egypt, Israel and Jordan, all of which are at peace with each other.

I certainly will NOT try to make any statement on the politics of the Middle East, except to wish for a fair and just peace throughout the Region.

The trip I enjoyed was about history and culture and people and this is what I wish to share.

I think Israel is the most "bustling" place I've ever been! All the people seem to be in a great hurry to get everything done. The cities built, the food grown, the meals prepared, the holidays celebrated, commerce conducted, whatever. And all of this activity certainly shows results from the thoroughly modern city of Tel Aviv to the old Walled City of Jerusalem to the lush green fields of the kibbutzim.

Israel is history. There is something magical about standing on the banks of the Jordan River, on the mountain of Masada, at the Sea of Galilee, at the Dead Sea, in the Red Sea, in Bethlehem and Jericho, and epecially in Jerusalem, that city sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.

The old Walled City of Jerusalem is divided into Jewish, Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters, and yet there is a sense of relative harmony throughout--most of the time.... The Arab bazaar is fabulous, the Jewish market is teaming with Orthodox Jewish men shopping in preparation for the Sabbath. The Mezzuin's call to prayer on Friday is haunting. And the Western (Wailing) Wall is awesome. In one small area, there are dozens of religious sites, most notably, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Dome of the Rock Mosque, in addition to the Western Wall. Regardless of one's religious leanings, there is no doubt this is a holy place.

Images of Israel
Israel's Foreign Ministry Page

My trip into Jordan was less extensive than to Egypt or Israel. We went only to Petra, that magnicent ancient city cut into rose-colored stone. On the way to Petra from Israel, we were truly awed by the harsh mountainous landscape. It seemed hardly possible that people could survive here. And few were seen except in scattered settlements, until we approached the town outside of Petra. Here, tourism is bringing a relative economic boom, with construction at Petra and in the town going on at a furious rate.

What is Petra? It is an ancient city, built originally by the Nabataean cililization in probably the most unique site on earth. The entire city was built in a small valley and up the mountainside of an area totally inaccessable, except through a small cravasse in mountains. Due to its unique location, it was both a naturally fortified city and a prosperous trading center. Eventually, the Romans conquered the entire region, including Petra, and added their own architecture, in harmony with the rest of structures.

But why is Petra so unique? Because the building are all carved into the mountain rock, a beautiful, rose-colored limestone. Actually the colors of the rock change with the light of the day and the mood of the weather. The cravasse into Petra is so narrow that it is only accessible by horse, camel or foot. And yet the vertical scale of the place is astonishing. There are no words or even photgraphs which adequately describe Petra--one simply must experience it. And I refuse to believe there has ever been a person who has entered Petra, who didn't repeat "WOW" (or its equivilent) about a thousand times....

Images of Petra

What can I possibly say about Egypt that hasn't been said thousands of times before and been said much more articulately than I could possibly manage? And yet I can't say enough--it IS the land of pharaohs, pyramids and the Nile, and it was more awesome than I could have believed.

Egypt is one of the world's oldest recorded civilizations, and how can we but admire all that it has created, invented, and brought to us....

The land of Egypt, while mostly desert, is incredibly diverse, stretching from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean, with the fertile Nile Crescent running through it. It is breathtaking to contrast the vast "moonscape" of the Valley of the Kings to the spectacular scuba diving in the Red Sea, as well as the verdant green Nile valley, rich with agriculture, people and waterfowl.

Egypt's people are diverse, as well, ranging from the decendants of the ancient Egyptians, to those of Turkish decent, to those of Arab decent and to the Nubians of southern Eqypt. Most are Muslims and the majority of muslims are Suni, or moderate Muslims. Technically, Egypt is a secular country and there are small numbers of religious minorities, including Copts (Egyptain Christians) and Jews. All were our most gracious hosts...

Images of Egypt

The Egyptian Gazette Online

The Gods and Godesses of Ancient Egypt

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