CHR #07: Pilgrimage to Egypt, Jordan & The Holy Land

12 Day – 11 Nights


Upon arriving in Cairo, we are welcomed by our Pilgrimage Tour tour director.  We board our motor coach and transfer to our hotel in Cairo.  Dinner and overnight in Cairo (Dinner)

Day 02: CAIRO

Our day begins with our tour of the Pyramids of Giza.  Cheops Pyramid, the largest of the three, was built in the 3rd dynasty, around 2690 BC and is one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  In front of the Pyramids of Chephren, we find the Sphinx carved from a single piece of stone; representing a lion with a Pharaoh’s head.  Next we have the opportunity for a camel ride in the shadows of the ancient pyramids.  While in Old Cairo, where many of the first Christians lived, we visit the Hanging Church and see the Coptic Church and an ancient synagogue.  Next we visit the Egyptian Museum, home to the priceless treasures of Tutankhamen, “King Tut,” and other world-famous relics.  We return to our hotel in Cairo for dinner and overnight (Breakfast, Dinner).


This morning we depart Cairo and drive towards Sinai, crossing the Suez Canal and on through Sinai enjoying the desert landscape and retell the story of the Exodus and delivery of the Israelites from the Pharoah of Egypt.  We continue on to the towering red granite mountains of the high range where both St. Catherine’s monastery and Mount Sinai are found.  Dinner and overnight at Mount Sinai and the Sinai Peninsula (Breakfast, Dinner).


The hardy among us will wake up at 2 a.m. for an ascent of Mt. Sinai on foot in the footsteps of Moses.  We reach the summit just prior to dawn in time to enjoy its incredible sunrise and magnificent views.  While at Mt. Sinai’s summit, we see the traditional place of the story of the burning bush and where Moses encountered God and received the two stone tablets with the Ten Commandments known as the Mosaic Laws.   At sun-up we descend Mt. Sinai and join the other members of our group for breakfast.  After breakfast, we visit the monastery of St. Catherine, taking in its fascinating sites and history.  In the afternoon we head for the eastern shores of the Sinai Peninsula on the Red Sea and head towards Nuweiba where we embark on our Ferry Boat ride to Aqaba in Jordan.  Upon our arrival in Jordan, we depart for the Nabtean city of Petra.  Dinner and overnight in Petra (Breakfast, Dinner).


This morning we awake in Petra, the “Rose Red City”.  Visiting this ancient Endomite and Nabatean capital with its famed gorge, ancient streets, dwellings and tombs, as well as incredibly beautiful temples carved into its multi-colored sandstone, is an extraordinary experience.  This is the place mentioned in the Old Testament as the Seir mountains, where we view the places of ancient sacrifice, the royal tombs, including the tomb of Moses’ brother Aaron, and the royal palaces.  Late afternoon we depart for Amman.  Dinner and overnight in Amman (Breakfast, Dinner).


This morning we visit Mount Nebo where God showed Moses the Promised Land.  On a clear day, our view is quite dramatic and includes seeing the Jordan Valley and Jordan River, the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, Jericho and the Dead Sea.  Here we celebrate Mass at the Franciscan church which houses many wonderful mosaics.  Our final visit in Jordan will be to Madaba to view the mosaic map of Jordan in the Greek Orthodox church of St. George.  Next we depart Jordan via the Allenby Bridge and descend to the Jordan River to experience the place where John the Baptist immersed Jesus, renewing our baptismal promises in the cleansing waters.  A drive through the lush Jordan valley brings us to the oldest city in the world, Jericho, where you can still see pot shards and walk on actual remains of the famed wall that came “tumbling down”.  Here we will view the mountain of Jesus’ temptation.  Next we visit Bet Shean and view the setting for the death of Saul.  Here we visit its Byzantine ruins; the Tel and Roman theatre, bathhouses, market areas and colonnaded streets.  We continue north to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee.  Dinner and overnight in Tiberias (Breakfast, Dinner).


This morning we drive along the Sea of Galilee to the town where Jesus’ ministry was centered, Capernaum, where we see the remains of an early Church, the ruins of Peter’s House, and the ancient synagogue where Jesus preached.  We visit Tabgha, where Jesus’ walk on water took place and the multiplication of the loaves and fishes is commemorated in the mosaic floors of the historic Church.  Next we will have our own chance to taste “St. Peter’s Fish” during lunch on the Sea.  Ascending the Mount of the Beatitudes, we listen to Jesus’ teachings.  We retell the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ and enjoy our view while standing on the Mount of Beatitudes looking out over the Jordan Valley and the Sea of Galilee.  Nearby we arrive at St. Peter Primacy where we celebrate Mass outdoors on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.   Next we continue on to Caesaria Philippi (Banias) where St. Peter proclaimed that Jesus is the Messiah and Jesus’ “conferred the keys” upon Peter.  Next we visit the Golan Plateau, skirting Mt. Hermon for a panoramic view of upper Galilee.  We end of day with a classic boat ride across the tranquil waters of the Sea of Galilee recalls the miracle of walking on water and calling on Peter and Andrew to become ‘fishers of men’.  Dinner and overnight in Tiberias (Breakfast, Dinner).


This morning we visit the town of Cana, where we will see the site of the miracle where Jesus caused the water in six earthen jars to turn into wine.  Here, those who are married can participate in a ceremony of renewing their wedding vows.  Next we visit Mount Tabor– the Mount of Transfiguration, where we celebrate Mass.  Next we arrive in Nazareth where Jesus grew up as a child.  We visit the Basilica of the Annunciation where the angel Gabriel told Mary that she would “bring forth a son”.  We continue on to Mary’s Well and the site of Joseph’s carpentry shop. We depart Nazareth for Megiddo where we see the ancient city and the site where the prophetic battle of Armageddon is said will take place.  We will explore the ruins and observe ongoing excavations.  Ascending the heights of Mount Carmel for one Israel’s best views high above the Mediterranean we see the place where the prophet Elijah was instrumental in the defeat of the prophets of Ba’al.  Finally, we depart the sand dunes of the Mediterranean coast to Caesarea by the Sea, built by King Herod just a decade before the birth of Jesus.  The spectacular ruins were once the home of Pontius Pilate and the site of the trial of the Apostle Paul.  Here we visit the Crusaders’ Castle and the Roman Amphitheater.  We continue on to Jerusalem for dinner and overnight (Breakfast, Dinner).


This morning we drive through West Jerusalem to the Shrine of the Book, which houses the Dead Sea Scrolls and a visit to the model of Jerusalem, representing how the city looked on the eve of the Jewish revolt, 36 years after the Passion of Christ.  Then we drive through the Judaean desert to Qumran where we will look, literally only a stones throw away, into the cave where the original Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  At Masada we ascend either by foot or cable car on a spectacular ride to the top of the fortress palace of Herod.  Finally, its beach time at the Dead Sea – the absolute lowest point on Earth where the salty water is so buoyant that sinking is IMPOSSIBLE.  Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem (Breakfast, Dinner).


Today we travel the short route to Bethlehem, birthplace of Jesus, where we will spend some time in prayer at the site of Jesus’ birth inside the Church of the Nativity, St. Catherine’s, the Grotto of the Holy Family, and the Cave of St. Jerome.  While in Bethlehem, we have time for shopping beautiful Olive wood carvings and other Israeli crafts in Bethlehem.  We depart Manger Square and enjoy lunch at the Shepherd’s Valley Tourist Village, followed by a visit to Shepherd’s Field and some of the caves that are typical of the stables of Jesus’ time.  Here we celebrate Mass in one of the Shepherd’s Field’s caves.  Finally we see the Good Samaritan Inn, Bethany, where we will visit the home of Mary and Martha and enter the Tomb of Lazarus where Jesus “cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” and Lazarus was risen from the dead.  Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem (Breakfast, Dinner).


As we ascend the Mount of Olives, we visit the Church of Pater Noster where Jesus taught the “Our Father.”  At the Dome of the Ascension we will look upon the rock that Jesus stood on at the moment of his ascension to heaven.  We continue on to the top of the Mount of Olives for a spectacular view of Jerusalem and pose for our group photo.  The Middle East flavor is strong; sounds of morning Muslim prayers are heard and the golden Dome of the Rock shimmers in the morning sun.  We descend down the trail to Dominus Flevit Chapel, the site where Jesus wept over Jerusalem.  Next we celebrate Mass at one of the most inspiring works of Christian architecture and art in Israel, the Church of All Nations.  Adjacent to the Church, we visit the Garden of Gethsemane.  Crossing the Kidron Valley, we pass the monuments of Absalom, Zechariah and St. James, partially built and partially hewn directly into the limestone cliffs.  We drive towards Mount Zion and stop at the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu – the House of Caiaphas, we see the place of the trial of Jesus and where Peter denied Christ three times.  At Mount Zion, the Upper Room (Room of the Last Supper and Pentecost) is a place of prayer, song and praise for many who come here.  One of Jerusalem’s landmarks, the Dormition Abbey represents Mary having passed into eternal life, asleep, in grand Byzantine décor.  We have dinner and stay overnight at our hotel in Jerusalem (Breakfast, Dinner).


This morning we transfer to the Dung Gate where we enter the Old City of Jerusalem We visit the Western Wall, Judaism’s holiest site where supplicants from around the world come to pray.  We ascent to the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site of Islam, located on the traditional site of the ancient Temple Mount, site of the first and second Jewish temples.  Just to the north we find the open air Pools of Bethesda where Jesus performed a miracle cure and the infirm have sought healing for centuries.  Next we visit St. Anne’s Church, perfectly preserved from the Crusader period.  Here at St. Anne’s, we celebrate Mass.  We recall the final hours of Jesus’ life at Pilate’s Judgment Hall, the Chapel of Flagellation and the Arch of the Ecce Homo “Behold, the man”.  We walk and pray along the Via Dolorosa – the “Way of the Cross” where Jesus carried and fell beneath the weight of his cross to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.  We walk through the Christian Quarter to Jaffa Gate and say farewell to the Old City of Jerusalem.  This evening we enjoy a “Farewell Dinner” at a local restaurant.  Following dinner, we proceed to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport for departure (Breakfast, Dinner).

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