Monday, June 13, 2011

Peloponnese and Egypt

Since my last update, our HUG group has now toured the Peloponnese and Egypt. The Peloponnesean tour was four days, and we saw Corinth (and many sites related to Paul's ministry), Nafplion (the first Greek capital), Mycenae, and Epidaurus. The trip concluded with a visit to Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games. The original starting line is still present (below).

After a few days back in Porto Rafti, we headed out to Egypt for an 11 day tour. It was quite intense because of the amount of time we spent each day touring, the amount of time traveling by bus and train, and the very hot and dry weather. Probably the most restful time we had was at the Cairo Movenpick hotel which was incredibly beautiful and had a wonderful pool (below).

For most of the HUGgers, the best part of the trip was seeing the pyramids. The pic below doesn't really capture the immensity of the Giza pyramids which remained the tallest of all human-built structures until the Lincoln Cathedral was built in England in the 1300s. It also doesn't capture the incredible heat... it was around 110 degrees outside!

We also saw the Sphinx, the Solar Boat Museum, Memphis, and Sakkara. After a night train to Aswan, we took a cruise ship up the Nile River to Luxor, a four day excursion. Along the way, we visited the Temple of Philae, the Unfinished Obelisk, the High Dam, and the Temple of Edfu. We also took an incredible half-hour long ride on the back of a camel to visit a Nubian village. Ethan loved the ride, but Braden never made a peep... I'll assume he enjoyed it too, despite the 110+ degree weather.

In and around Luxor, we visited the Necropolis of Thebes which included the Valley of the Kings, the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, the Colossi of Memnon, Temple of Karnak, and the Temple of Luxor. Then we took a long bus ride back to Cairo (arriving at 3 am!) where we visited the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, the Citadel of Salah El Din, the Mohammed Ali Mosque, and a few other sites.

We then took another long bus ride up to Ismailia where we stayed the evening within sight of the Red Sea. The next day we drove through the Land of Goshen and headed to St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula, following the path of the Israelites as they fled Egypt in the great Exodus.

That evening we stayed in the Hotel Catherine Plaza, and all the students woke up at 1 am in order to climb Mount Sinai and have a devotional service as the sun was rising. Becky had unfortunately become quite ill, and I stayed behind to help with the boys. (At some point during the trip, about 3/4 of our group became sick; the boys and I were thankfully able to avoid it.)

The next day we visited Saint Catherine's Monastery were we were given a personal tour by an American who has lived there for about 30 years. The chapel is built around what many think is the original burning bush that Moses encountered when God told him to go back and lead the Israelites out of slavery. The bush is quite amazing; it's totally green although it has no water source.

After the visit, we finally headed back on a very long and hot bus ride back to Cairo and flew back to Greece the next day.

Despite the sickness and the heat, we really enjoyed our time in Egypt as did most of the students. At no time did we ever feel unsafe. Everyone was very kind to us, especially to the boys who probably had their heads rubbed by at least 50 different Egyptians! We are, however, quite thankful to be back in Greece where no one haggles over the prices, no one charges you to use the toilet, and you can drink the water from the tap!