“Dahab Safari Day Tours”
Your Adventures Starts Here
Sinai For many visitors to Egypt, their experience of Sinai may be limited to the tourist towns of Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab with their luxury hotels, clubs and beach parties much frequented by tourists from both Egypt and beyond. This part of the Red Sea Coast however, is also a vertitable paradise for divers and naturalists. On the southernmost point of Sinai about 20 kilometres from Sharm is the promontory of Ras Mohammed, an area of remarkably unspoilt beauty now designated as a National Park. The area itself is teaming with nature and wildlife, and extends out into the translucent blue waters of the Red Sea with its vast terraces of fossil coral reefs, home to a wide variety of amphibious creatures â€“ over a thousand species which are common only to the Red Sea area. Ras Mohammed is also on the migratory path of a wide variety of birds who may stop for a few weeks each year to mingle with the gazelles, foxes, goats and other animals who live on the promontory.
Pharaoh's Island, near Taba, Sinai. Geziret Faraun is believed to be the site of an ancient Phoenician port, Eziongaber, founded by King Hiram of Tyre in the 10th Century BC. The island is dominated by a large stone castle, built by Crusaders at the beginning of the twelfth century and enlarged by the Sultan Salah el-Din. The more intrepid traveller may take a trip up the coast to Taba on the border with Israel and Jordan, or into the desert to St Catherineâ€™s Monastery. Sinai is not a place which is easily explored. Some say Sinai is named after a Lunar deity called Sin, though the true origins and history of the land are buried as deep as the canyons and wadis of its inaccessible interior.
The northern region is mostly part of a military zone and travelling here requires special permits, so most visitors will wish to explore the southern half of the peninsula where the antiquity of the land can be felt all around. Those who have experienced the allure of the desert can never be free of its attraction. Vast harsh empty spaces bounded on all sides by huge formations of rock offer an everchanging vista of colour. The black, ochre and crimson-streaked walls of rock are relieved by great areas of soft golden and apricot sands, home to the Bedouin tribes who still wander the desert with their herds of camels. Anyone who has experienced the silence of the Sinai desert can never forget its unearthly beauty.
Millions of years ago the Sinai Peninsula was attached to Egypt and Saudi Arabia as part of the land mass known as the Great Rift Valley. Thermal currents, the movement of the continental plates, glacial and volcanic activity eventually threw up this triangular area of remote mountains and desert, bordered on one side by the Gulf of Suez and on the other by the Gulf of Aqaba. Its geology can be divided into three main areas. The northern part runs parallel with the Mediterranean coast and consists of dried up river beds or wadis leading to sand dunes and fossil beaches. Rocky islets of limestone punctuate the flat landscape extending south towards the mountainous limestone and sandstone region of Gebel Maghara. The central part of the peninsula is mostly comprised of the el-Tih Plateau, a high area of limestone formed during the Tertiary Period. The southern geology of Sinai was formed by volcanic action on the sea bed producing large areas of granite and basalt and bounded in the coastal region by ancient coral formations. Sinai is a geologistâ€™s paradise, but no casual visitor to the peninsula could fail to be captivated by the textures and colours seen in the vast array of mountainous landscapes.
Despite its remoteness, Sinai has always attracted travellers and explorers who wrote its history on the land itself. It is a region rich in precious minerals such as copper, malachite and turquoise found at Wadi Maghara and Serabit el-Khadim, as well as the more recently discovered oil in the Gulf of Suez. Archaeological investigations have shown that migrating peoples crossed the harsh passageways of Sinai between Africa and Asia during many of the prehistoric periods. Military expeditions during Pharaonic times left their mark in the rock-art which can be seen in many areas of the peninsula and the Biblical story of the Exodus has bequeathed a rich source of tradition in which Sinai is a holy place. From the beginning of Egyptian history mining and smelting of copper led to an increased population in Sinai as colonisers began to move south and several sites have been found which were exploited from very early times. Systematic mining and quarrying began when the Pharaohs sent expeditions to investigate the area during the Early Dynastic Period. One of the earliest indications of Pharaonic interest is an inscription on the east face of Gebel Maghara depicting Dynasty III King Sekhemkhet in the traditional smiting pose, first discovered by the English explorer E H Palmer in 1868. There are also inscriptions naming Kings Djoser, Sanakht and Pepy II of the Old Kingdom as well as Middle and New Kingdom rulers.
Perhaps one of the best known and most important archaeological sites in Sinai is Serabit el-Khadim, on a highland east of the modern town of Abu Zenima. Turquoise, much prized by the Egyptians, was mined here at least from 3500 BC but most intensively during the Middle Kingdom as attested by inscriptions dating to the reign of Amenemhet II and III. A rock-cut temple dedicated to the Goddess Hathor begun here in early Dynasty XII, is known as the ‘Cave of Hathor’, the goddess who is often named as ‘Lady of the Turquoise’. The earlier shrine was enlarged during the New Kingdom, mainly during the reigns of Hatshepsut and Tuthmose III and thousands of votive offerings and artefacts have been since recovered, including the famous head of a statuette of Queen Tiye, now in the Cairo Egyptian Museum. Other deities worshipped locally were Thoth and Sopd ‘God of the Eastern Desert’, as well as several deified kings. The site of Serabit el-Khadim was excavated by W M Flinders Petrie, who published his work in ‘Researches in Sinai’ in 1906. Another important Pharaonic site in Sinai in Wadi Kharit was also an area of turquoise mining attested by a rock inscription of Sahure of Dynasty V and a large stela of Senwosret I of Dynasty XII. Found in the Wadi Nasb nearby, was a rock-stela of Amenemhet III and Middle Kingdom and Ramessid texts.
One of the most popular tourist excursions is to Gebel Musa, commonly believed to be Mount Horeb where Biblical tradition claims that Moses received the Ten Commandments. Visitors often make the three-hour climb up the mountain (2286m) before sunrise and on reaching the summit they wait for the dawn to reveal the spectacular view across the surrounding mountains. Below Gebel Musa, fifteen centuries of history are contained within the walls of the Monastery of St Catherine.
The temple of Hathor at Serabit el-Khadim The temple of Hathor at Serabit el-Khadim stands on a massive rocky outcrop at an altitude of 850m above sea level in the highlands of Sinai, roughly 50km from the coastal town of Abu Zenima.
Although the Bedouin tribes had long known of its existence, the temple at Serabit el-Khadim was first reported by Carsten Niebuhr’s campaign in 1762, and several stelae contain 19th century graffiti left by early visitors to the site. The remains of the monument gained recognition when Sir WM Flinders Petrie published his excavations there in ‘Researches in Sinai’ in 1906. The temple of Hathor lies in a vast area of turquoise mines dating mostly from the Middle Kingdom and was built by Semite labourers during Dynasty XII on the site where it is said that a local deity, Soped, ‘Lord of the Eastern Desert’ or ‘Lord of the Foreign Lands’ was worshipped. Inscriptions in the temple date from Senwosret I of Dynasty XII, who established the first construction here, through to the reign of Rameses VI of Dynasty XX, after which time the temple was abandoned. From the beginning the temple had a dual purpose, both to honour the goddess Hathor who acted as guide to the ‘Chancellors of the God’ during their expeditions undertaken in order to exploit the turquoise mines and also to praise the rulers who instigated the expeditions.
The archaeological site is today bounded by the reconstructed original Middle Kingdom enclosure wall built by Senwosret I and recent conservation work has provided two paths for visitors, which follow the two ancient processional routes to the rock-cut shrines at the eastern end of the site. These routes lead to the sanctuaries of Hathor and Ptah and are lined with many groups of commemorative stelae in various states of preservation. The ancient miners erected a great number of memorials carrying the dates of the missions, number and job of each worker and the names of their chief. For this reason, Serabit el-Khadim is often called the Temple of the People. The two main axes of temple converge in a courtyard before the speos porticos.
Beginning at the northern part of the processional way the route consists mostly of the Middle Kingdom remains. Following this route, through the northern gate of Amenemhet II, recreating the original approach towards the speos, there are two â€˜Chapels of the Kingsâ€™, built by Amenemhet III and Amenemhet II which contain remains of columns and decoration. A large stela stands in situ in front of the colonnade, surrounded by a stone pavement in which an offering table is embedded. The route then proceeds towards the Hathor speos before doubling back to the main entrance and into the second processional way through the main gate.
At the north of the main entrance there is a massive foundation of stonework, with a similar foundation to the south, flanking the entrance which is reminiscent of the mounds of a pylon. This gate is dated to Senwosret I and Amenemhet II, and opens into large courtyard of Senwosret I at the beginning of the processional way. Remains of foundations of walls for ten small rooms can be seen following this route before reaching a pylon about half way along. The rooms contain a wide variety of stelae, statue fragments and inscriptions mostly from New Kingdom constructions in the temple, first from the Tuthmoside then the Ramesside periods.
The outer areas of the sanctuary are split into two separate approaches to the shrines of Hathor and Ptah. On the northern side of the Hathor courtyard is a ‘Temple of Millions of Years’ according to the SCA notice board, erected by Rameses IV. The decoration depicts reliefs of Rameses IV before Amun, superimposed on an earlier scene. This room leads into the portico court before the ‘Cave of Hathor’. There may have once been several stelae in this area which were moved away to build the portico as sockets in the floor of the portico suggest an ancient building stage – this was the first speos or rock-cut chamber in the temple. The Hathor speos was hewn out of the rock during the reigns of Amenemhet III and IV, whereas the portico was constructed later by Amenemhet IV. Extant scenes seem to depict offerings with texts listing the names of some of the expedition leaders. The speos or cave itself is in very poor condition and currently has metal girders to shore up the roof and walls. A very badly damaged pillar or rock-stela still stands erect and has remains of a text dated to Year 3 of Amenemhet III. An offering table stands in front of this.
Much of the complex of the sanctuary of Ptah, to the south of the Cave of Hathor, was reconstructed during a later building phase, though it originally dates to Amenemhet III and IV. The approach contains remains of a pair of sphinxes of Tuthmose III as the Tuthmoside kings replaced the Ptah sanctuary with a new chapel dedicated to Hathor, Amun of Thebes and Soped. The remote location of the temple is awe inspiring and the views over the mountain and desert landscape are fabulous.
St. Catherine and Mt . Sinai Mount Sinai (Moses Mountain) rises 2285m and is said to be where God revealed the Ten Commandments to Moses. Mt Sinai is considered sacred by the Christian Jewish and Muslim religions. St. Catherineâ€™s Monastery is the smallest dioceses and the oldest Christian monastery in the world still in use. It also houses a rich collection of icons and precious manuscripts. The Monastery can be visited daily between 09:00 and 12.00, with the exception of Fridays and Sundays. This excursion is offered either as a day or a night trip
Sunrise Trip (Night) Departing Dahab at 11:00 pm and ascending Mount Sinai, (about 1.5-3 hours) Once at the summit enjoy the breathtaking sunrise, We make our decent stopping off at the Monastery.
Sunset Trip (Day) The daytime excursion departs Dahab at 8:00 am and includes visiting the monastery, ascending the mountain, enjoying the spectacular view, watching the sunset, before descending via the serpentine path.
Saint Catherine's Monastery
Famous for having a working charnel house. Saint Catherine's was founded by Justinian in the early 6th century on the site of a prior establishment named for Helena of Constantinople founded about 313 A.D. The monastery comprises the whole Autonomous Church of Sinai, under the Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The site lies at the foot of Mount Sinai where Christians believe Moses received the Ten Commandments Since the Sinai is an inhospitable place, the brethren of St. Catherine's have struggled to eke out a subsistence-level existence. With the difficulty in establishing a large cemetery in the rocky ground, relics are also gathered for temporal and spiritual reasons; a reminder to the monks of their impending death and fate in the hereafter. The Archbishop of Saint Catherine's is commonly the Abbot as well. After death, he is afforded the dignity of a special niche within the "Skull-House".
The Coloured Canyon The Coloured Canyon presents one of the most magnificent rock formations in the world. The vegetation is very limited lonely acacias, green capparis (capparis sinaica), tamarisk trees, willow trees, sodom apples (poisonous) and desert pumpkin. The rock formations are an incomparable attraction: They vary from sandstone to limestone and granite with veins of basalt which are apparent through the entire journey.
The White Canyon The White Canyon is smaller than the Coloured Canyon and is made off sandstone and limestone, where the brilliant white colour comes from. It is advisable to wear sunglasses whilst observing this wonderful sight..
Ein Khudra Tucked away between yellowish sandstone cliffs close to the road linking St Catherine with Nuweiba and Dahab, lay one of Sinai's most scenic oases. Its Arabic name Ein Khudra (Green Oasis) perfectly describes theatre like locality, where gushing fresh water springs, nourish date palm gardens in the seemingly barren desert. You will have a wonderful fresh cooked barbecue in the shade of Palm Trees, resting for about one hour.
Its Arabic name Ein Khudra (Green Oasis) perfectly describes the theatre like locality
Mushroom Stone On the way to En Khoudra Oasis we pass by a big ancient mushroom shaped coral-stone. This has been a special resting place for travelling Bedouins.
Camel Safaris Discover the splendour of the Sinai by means of various trekking routes. You camp in the desert, sleep under a million stars and all meals are prepared Bedouin-style over an open fire. Experience the extraordinary desert landscapes: mountains, oasis and gorges. Visit places of cultural and historical importance. Trips vary from one day to a week.
Camel safari through The Sinai Mountains
The Breathtaking Sinai
Stop off at an Oasis
Ras Abu Gallum A small Bedouin settlement spread along an isolated bay north of Dahab. The site can be reach by camel or on foot after 3 kilometres of breathtaking coastal path. Encountering fossil corals and acacia trees on the way, the vast sandy beach and pristine coral reef appears beautifully on the horizon after 1.5 hours’ trek. The hospitality of the Bedouin families living in Ras Abu Galum is well known throughout the Sinai and all visitors can experience the most relaxing snorkelling day, enjoying lunchtime dishes cooked on the open fire by traditional fishermen, who are unusually still allowed by the authorities to catch fresh fish in small quantity for their family and guests. With an early departure from Dahab and travelling by 4x4.Our journey will take us to the Blue Hole which lies to the north of Dahab. At this point we transfer from vehicle to “The Ships of The Desert” (Camels). Our camel train walks for approximately 1.5 hrs along the coast line, viewing the shoreline of the Gulf of Aqaba, with mountains of Saudi Arabia in the distance, until we reach protectorate beaches of Ras Abu Galum, with its unique reef communities and excellent coral gardens. The Bedouin tents are great for relaxation. Here youl spend a few hours in this tranquil location taking in the views and canary, snorkel in the crystal clear water and enjoy our lunch prepared and cooked by the Bedouin on their open fire. Later in the afternoon we trek back to the Blue Hole before driving back to Dahab.
From Ras Abu Gallum to the Blue Hole by Camel
Even Camels get Thirsty!
Nabq National Park Nabq is situated on the coast between Dahab and Sharm el Sheikh. This 600 km2 desert area was declared a conversation area in 1992. Here you can find a 4 km long mangrove forest. Mangroves belong to the amphibic vegetation and grow in flat, sandy areas along tropical coasts. So-called stalk roots are tightly interwoven both in and above the water. The roots are able to filter the saline water and salt is excreted via the leaves of the trees. Nabq is the natural habitat for a large variety of plant species as well as various animals like Starks, herons, desert foxes, gazelles and hyenas. Underwater around Nabq you can even find populations of the extremely rare Manatee also called “Sea Cows” or "Dugongs". Spreading to over six hundred square kilometres (two hundred square miles), Nabq is a perfect location to contemplate the awe-inspiring beauty of nature, especially the lagoon, where hermits and mud crabs, among other creatures roam around freely on the shores. The Park’s authorities are very strict in their regulations and policies to maintain the area’s delicate natural balance, upheld by its occupants. For example, the mud crabs that play a crucial role in the oxygenation and fertilization of the land in the area, simply with their constant and vehement – and seemingly useless - digging. Nabq contains the largest mangroves forest in Sinai. These plants are a true wonder of nature, as they manage to purify seawater from its salt with its roots and expel the unwanted salt from the back of its leaves. This way they live without eroding the coastline by preventing residues from reaching the soil. The mangroves’ shallow water also provides shelter to all kinds of marine life, big and small, where they come to place their eggs. Above water, birds use their branches to nest, as their location is convenient due to their closeness to a rich source of food.
Among the birds that live or pass through the area during migrations are herons, ospreys and storks. Other wild animals living in the oasis include foxes, hyenas and gazelles, among others. Local population â€“ mainly consisting of Bedouin fishermen - reaches its height during the migration season of snappers, when they move from the Gulf of Aqaba to the warmer waters of Ras Mohamed to mate. One of Nabqâ€™s interesting sights is the Maria Schroeder wreck, which sank back in 1965 along the coral reefs. The Maria Schroeder is a proof of how dangerous this region can be shipping.
The Maria Schroeder Proof of how dangerous this region can be shipping.
Petra Jordan We drive north from Dahab to Nuweiba Portd and take the ferry boat to Aqaba Jordan. Your Jordanian adventure starts here travelling along the Desert Highway, through the Moab Mountains along the Kingâ€™s Highway to The Rose Red City of Petra. Visit the Treasury and Amphitheatre and wander around the ancient rock tombs and burial places, accompanied by a knowledgeable Jordanian guide. Few sites in the world capture the imagination as dramatically as the breathtaking Nabataean structures of Petra, carved into brilliantly coloured rock face which rise toward the skies in continually changing shades of red, orange and pink.
The Treasury Petra
The Dead Sea
The unique floating sensation that only the Dead Sea can provide.
From the beginning of time the Dead Sea, located 418 meters below sea level, has been renowned. The Dead Sea is considered the richest depository of minerals and phosphates essential to maintaining the healthy process of cell renewal and stimulating blood circulation. Even in the time of the Bible the royalty the world-over were aware of the richness and essential health value of the Dead Sea minerals. King Solomon, the Queen of Sheba, Cleopatra and King Herod all bathed in the Dead Sea and enjoyed its healing properties. The salinity of the water reaches a concentration of approximately 340 grams per liter- 10 times more concentrated than the Mediterranean Sea. This enables effortless floating on the water, producing a feeling of relaxation and tranquillity.
The air is dry, rich in oxygen and free of pollution. The temperatures are relatively high even in the winter, and the ultraviolet rays of the sun act as a natural â€œfilter,â€? enabling a pleasing tan without burning. The sun also facilitates a natural treatment of various skin diseases. Along the beachfront are several natural sources of healing waters rich in minerals such as potassium, sodium calcium, magnesium, iodine, chlorine, bitumen, and zinc. These minerals have accumulated in the Dead Sea over millions of years and have made it a rich source. Also the natural heat, together with the black mud deposits, make the Dead Sea an ideal location for health and beauty treatments.
Cover yourself with the famous therapeutic black mud of the Dead Sea
Wadi Rum Wadi Rum has been inhabited by many human cultures since prehistoric times, with many cultures–including the Nabateans–leaving their mark in the form of rock paintings, graffiti, and temples. As of 2007, several Bedouin tribes inhabit Rum and the surrounding area. Also known as ‘The Valley of the Moon’, this is the place where Prince Faisal Bin Hussein and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) based their headquarters during the Arab Revolt against the Ottomans in World War I, their exploits intrinsically woven into the history of this amazing area. In the 1980s one of the rock formations in Wadi Rum was named "The Seven Pillars of Wisdom" in memory of Lawrence's book penned in the aftermath of the war. This is a stupendous, timeless place, virtually untouched by humanity. Here, it is the weather and winds that have carved the imposing, towering skyscrapers, so elegantly described by T.E. Lawrence as “vast, echoing and God-like..."
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom A maze of monolithic rockscapes rise up from the desert floor to heights of 1,750m creating a natural challenge for serious mountaineers. Hikers can enjoy the tranquillity of the boundless empty spaces and explore the canyons and water holes to discover 4000-year-old rock drawings and the many other spectacular treasures this vast wilderness holds in store.
View from the top of Mount Rum
There are many ways to explore this fragile, unspoiled desert retreat. Serious trekkers will be drawn to Wadi Rum, with challenging climbs some 1750 m high, while casual hikers can enjoy an easy course through the colorful hills and canyons. Naturalists will be drawn to the desert in springtime, when rains bring the greening of the hills and an explosion of 2000 species of wildflowers. Red anemones, poppies and the striking black iris, Jordan's national flower, all grow at will by the roadside and in more quiet reaches. Stunning in its natural beauty, Wadi Rum epitomizes the romance of the desert. Now the home of several Bedouin tribes, Wadi Rum has been inhabited for generations. These hospitable and friendly desert people are settled in Wadi Rum in scattered nomadic camps throughout the area. Visitors who are invited to share mint tea or cardamon coffee in their black tents, perhaps sitting by the fire under a starry desert sky, will have an experience not to be forgotten.
Umm Fruth Rock Bridge. Wadi Rum. Everywhere in this moonscape place are indications of man's presence since the earliest known times. Scattered around are flint hand axes, while on the rocks at the feet of the mountains the names of ancient travellers are scratched. All around, there is emptiness and silence. In this immense space, man is dwarfed to insignificance. The valley floors are some 900-1000 meters above sea level, and the great sandstone crags rise sheer, a further 500-550 meters. Jabal Rum is the highest peak in the area and the 2nd highest in Jordan. Others are some 27 km north of the Rum village like Jabal Kharaz and Jabal Burdah with its Rock Bridge which is one of Wadi Rum's most popular attractions. Wadi Rum is an ideal location for hiking, climbing and trekking. Except in summer months, climbing the Rock Bridge here is unforgettable. 4x4 vehicle tours and hot air balloon riding at dawn and in the late afternoon are feasible with previous arrangement. Camel trips from the wadi to either Aqaba (several days) or Petra (about a week) may also be arranged.
The desert tribes, Huweitat and Mzanah, inhabiting Wadi Rum maintain the warm hospitality which characterizes genuine Arab culture. It would be difficult to resist their friendly invitation to share mint tea or cardamom-flavored coffee in their black tents. Enjoy the hospitality whilst sitting by the fire under a starry desert sky - an unforgettable experience. The Wadi Rum Desert Patrolmen wear what is perhaps the most attractive uniform in the Middle East. It consists of a long khaki dish-dash held by a bright red bandolier, a holster with a dagger around the waist and a rifle. On their heads they wear the traditional red and white kouffieh, worn by the Bedouins of Jordan. The Desert Patrol operates out of an old police fort built in the 1930s.
The Wadi Rum Desert Patrolmen
Ballooning trips are available during April to June and September to December. The balloons carry up to eight passengers and lift off early in the morning, when the winds and thermals are right. The occasional bellow of the hot flame pierces through the tranquillity as the glaring sun showers the desert with its light. In the wispy morning air, we see grey jagged peaks beneath us and the dreamy Red Sea in the distance.
Wadi Rum is a perfect place for hot-air ballooning: there's so much to see from above and plenty of surprises at each corner. At an altitude of 7,000 feet, you get a refreshing perspective of the vast desert and its peculiar rock formations, sand dunes and the occasional natural springs. It's easy to see why Wadi Rum is also known as the Valley of the Moon.
Jerusalem The origins of Jerusalem are lost in the remote past. Recent archaeological excavations reveal that it is at least as old as the 15th century BC, where it is called Urusalimu in the Egyptian and Babylonian literature. The first mention of it in the Bible is probably under the name of Salem, the city of Melchisedek Priest of the High God. In the third century under the reign of Constantine, Jerusalem became a Christian Shrine, the Emperor's mother Helena, ordered the construction of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher on the site; she was determined the site of Christ's crucifixion. From established traditions, advice of the Bishops and revelations in her dreams, Helena established a number of official sites connected with the life of Christ that are still recognized today by most Christians. Few Places in the world have commanded the division of so many people for so long a period as has Jerusalem. You will be awed by a sense of history and spiritual significance. Yes, Jerusalem is a city with a special design; its effect on visitors is unique and eternal.
Gethsemane and Church of All Nations, Jerusalem The garden of Gethsemane is one of the sacred places dearest to Christian tradition. The fact that it is still rich today in olive trees hundreds of years old, twisted and gnarled, has confirmed the belief that these may be the very same olive trees that witnessed Jesus' last night before his arrest.
The word "Gethsemane" originates from the Hebrew expression Gat Shemen, which means "olive press", in obvious reference to the natural abundance of these trees. Gethsemane holds an important place in the Gospel story, since Jesus spent there the night before his arrest, praying in mortal anguish: "And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray" (Matthew, XXVI 36).
In the idyllic setting of Gethsemane, one of the most evocative sights in all Jerusalem, rises the Church of All Nations, built by the Italian architect Antonio Barluzzi between 1919 and 1924. The church, known also as the Basilica of the Agony, in reference to the night that Christ spent there on the eve of his Passion, blends the architectural lines typical of the Christian basilica (the facade) with the salient features of Islamic buildings (sides, and roof with numerous small domes).
The name "Church of All Nations" commemorates the contributions made by many countries to its construction. The flags of the nations are represented inside the little domes which give the whole a distinctly oriental tone. On the site of the present church there was first a fourth century Byzantine church, later transformed by the Crusaders into a basilica.
The facade, enclosed by an elegant wrought iron fence, stands at the top of a flight of steps. A mass of pillars supports the great arches surrounding the atrium, while the tympanum is adorned with a modern mosaic representing Jesus as the Link between God and the Human Race. Inside, some remnants of the mosaic paving document the existence of the ancient Byzantine church. The presbytery is the part of the church which most attracts the attention, since a large fragment of the rock on which Jesus is supposed to have prayed the night before the Passion can be seen in front of the high altar. The rock is entirely surrounded by a crown of thorns in wrought iron. In the lunette in the apse is a mosaic representing Christ in Agony being Consoled by an Angel. In the side apses are other mosaic representations of episodes in Jesus' passion, such as the Kiss of Judas and the Arrest of Jesus.
The Dome of The Rock Dominating the skyline of Jerusalem, a landmark without doubt, is the beautiful shrine of the Dome of the Rock. Built on a platform over the rock of Mt. Moriah more than 1300 years ago by the Muslim Umayyad Caliph AbdulMalek bin Marwan, the shrine was completed in 691 AD, 6 years after building commenced. It is a shrine in Al-Aqsa Mosque commemorating the Prophet Mohammad's (pbuh) miraculous journey to the Seven Heavens. Eight stairways with arcades lead to the raked platform of the Dome of the Rock. There is a sun dial atop the centre top archway, accurate to within five minutes of the actual time. The shrine holds 1,500 people at prayer. Men and women pray in different sections in accordance with Muslim tradition. For Friday noon prayers (Al-Asr), the Dome of the Rock is for women only. The Rock over which the mathematically precise octagonal shrine is built measures 12x15 meters, and rises 2 meters above Al-Aqsa Mosque's level ground. The cave below the rock is known as the Cave of Souls. Four sides of the octagon have large arched gates facing due north, south, east and west. 28 reused Byzantine and Roman marble columns and capitals form two rows around the rock. The columns are joined by 24 arches covered with the original coloured stone and glass mosaic signifying the fruits of paradise and heaven. Of the 54 windows, 2 are clear glass and 36 are coloured glass. The 16 coloured glass windows in the drum have Qur'anic verses and are among the most beautiful windows in the world.
The Dome rises 25 meters from the floor equivalent to a building of 10 floors. The crescent on the top of the dome rises a further 4Â˝ meters.
Chapel of the Ascension This admirable building blends the architectural features of the Crusader style with traits belonging to the Muslim tradition. The chapel rises on the site of an ancient paleo-Christian sanctuary, near the top of the Mount of Olives.
The original building was surrounded by a double portico forming a circle. Destroyed by the Persians in the 614, it was rebuilt by the Crusaders in the form of a small, octagonal temple (twelfth century). Having come under the control of Muslims, to whom it has belonged since the thirteenth century, the building was converted into a mosque and completely transformed by walling in the arches and roofing over the octagon with a little dome of evident Islamic character. On a rock inside can be seen a footprint which is identified according to Christian tradition as the print that Jesus left as he ascended to Heaven.
Masada and the Dead Sea
This exotic and striking monument combines history, geology, archaeology and a unique story of human courage. And it all unfolded during that heady period when BC turned into AD and a new religion was born. The scenery is stupendous and unspoilt, which is in itself awesome.
The Fortress of Masada, with the Dead Sea in the near distance. After all, where else in the world can you find one of the great wonders of civilisation with not a trinket shop, souvenir stall or ice-cream kiosk in sight? The name Masada means 'fortress' in Hebrew, and even during the Roman period it was obvious to the world-conquering warriors that he who controlled Masada would be master of all he surveyed. Thus Herod, who ruled the Jews by the grace of Augustus Caesar, discovered the place when he needed a safe refuge in 40BC. Realising its strategic potential, he gradually transformed it into a three-tiered winter palace â€” a good move, as one thing that must be said about the Dead Sea (the lowest point on the Earth's surface) is that it is never cold. Towering Grecian columns grace the front, while on top there are the remains of a complete village: living spaces, washrooms and storerooms, and even columbariums â€” mini-villages for breeding doves. Some of the original mosaics remain to testify to the uses of 2,000 years ago.
Around 1,000 people â€” Jewish zealots who continued to resist the Roman Empire after the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 â€” overcame a small Roman garrison and took over Masada. With what they found there, they could have stayed virtually for ever, which set one stubborn lot against another. The Roman governor of Judea, Lucius Flavius Silva, was determined to end the uprising once and for all, and laid siege to the fortress. At the same time he built a ramp, which, three months later, enabled his soldiers to breach the wall with a battering ram. But when they finally entered, they found nothing but devastation. The buildings were on fire and virtually all the inhabitants dead. By order of the Jewish commander, Elazar ben Yair, each man had killed his wife and children. The men then drew lots and killed one another, leaving just one to commit suicide. The magic of Masada is that, like Pompeii, it is impossible to visit without the story of what happened jumping out at you. The setting is there for imaginations to run riot. There are even replicas of the shards of pottery used by the 11 of Ben Yair's group to draw lots to decide who would kill the others before killing himself. Another kind of magic, 20 centuries on, is that there is now a cable car which will whisk you to the top in a few minutes. The cable car station is also the place to stock up on refreshments from soft drinks to sun hats â€” an absolute essential when you get to the top. The high salt content of the Dead Sea might not be good for all life-forms but the mud makes for a good spa treatment Between April and October, a twice-weekly, 40-minute Sound And Light show recounts the dramatic history of Masada with special pyrotechnic effects; but they are merely the icing on the cake. At the end of the Eighties television series Masada, Peter O'Toole, who plays Flavius Silva, cries out: 'A victory? What have we won? We've won a rock in the middle of a wasteland, on the shores of a poisoned sea.' Two thousand years later, the rock still stands unconquered and the sea is saltier than ever. However, while poisonous to flora and fauna the Dead Sea offers enticing health and treatment options.
The mineral content of the water, the near-absence of pollens and other allergens in the atmosphere, and the higher atmospheric pressure at this depth below sea level are known to relieve conditions such as cystic fibrosis, while psoriasis sufferers can sunbathe for long periods because of a lower level of harmful UV rays. The unafflicted will enjoy the ability to float effortlessly on their backs in the 33 per cent salt water, often having first covered themselves in black mud.
Cairo The capital of Egypt and the largest city in Africa, the name means "the victorious city". It is located on both banks of the River Nile near the head of the river's delta in northern Egypt and has been settled for more than 6000 years, serving as the capital of numerous Egyptian civilizations. Cairo is known locally as "Misr", the Arabic name for Egypt, because of its centrality in Egyptian life.
The city of Cairo covers an area of more than 453 sq km (more than 175 sq m), though it is difficult to separate the city from some of its immediate suburbs. Bracketed by the desert to the east, south, and west and bounded by the fertile Nile delta to the north, Cairo sits astride the river, though it spreads farther on the east bank than the west. Cairo also includes several river islands, which play an important role in the life of the city. As the region's principal commercial, administrative, and tourist centre, The area around present-day Cairo, especially Memphis, had long been a focal point of Ancient Egypt due to its strategic location just upstream from the Nile Delta. However, the origins of the modern city is generally traced back to a series of settlements in the first millennium. Around the turn of the 4th century, as Memphis was continuing to decline in importance, the Romans established a fortress town along the east bank of the Nile. This fortress, known as Babylon, remains the oldest structure in the city. It is also situated at the nucleus of Egypt's Coptic Christian community, which separated from the Roman and Byzantine church in the late 4th century. Many of Cairo's oldest Coptic churches, including The Hanging Church, are located along the fortress walls in a section of the city known as Coptic Cairo.
The Great Pyramids of Giza It's 756 feet long on each side, 450 high and is composed of 2,300,000 blocks of stone, each averaging 2 1/2 tons in weight. Despite the makers' limited surveying tools no side is more than 8 inches different in length than another, and the whole structure is perfectly oriented to the points of the compass. Until the 19th century it was the tallest building in the world and, at the age of 4,500 years, it is the only one of the famous "Seven Wonders of the Ancient World" that still stands. It is the Great Pyramid of Khufu, at Giza, Egypt. Some of the earliest history of the Pyramid comes from a Greek traveller named Herodotus of Halicanassus. He visited Egypt around 450 BC and included a description of the Great Pyramid in a history book he wrote. Herodotus was told by his Egyptian guides that it took twenty-years for a force of 100,000 oppressed slaves to build the pyramid. Stones were lifted into position by the use of immense machines. In 1638 a English mathematician, John Greaves, visited the pyramid. He discovered a narrow shaft, hidden in the wall, that connected the Grand Gallery with the descending passage. Both ends were tightly sealed and the bottom was blocked with debris. Some archaeologists suggested this route was used by the last of the Pharaoh's men to exit the tomb, after the granite plugs had been put in place, and by the thieves to get inside. Given the small size of the passageway and the amount of debris it seems unlikely that the massive amount of treasure, including the huge missing sarcophagus lid, could have been removed this way. Some have suggested that the pyramid was never meant as a tomb, but as an astronomical observatory. Richard Proctor, an astronomer, did observe that the descending passage could have been used to observe the transits of certain stars. He also suggested that the grand gallery, when open at the top, during construction, could have been used for mapping the sky. Most archaeologists, though, accept the theory that the great pyramid was just the largest of a tradition of tombs used for the Pharaohs of Egypt. So what happened to Khufu's mummy and treasure? Nobody knows. Extensive explorations have found no other chambers or passageways. Still one must wonder if, perhaps in this one case, the King and his architects out smarted both the ancient thieves and modern archaeologists and that somewhere in, or below, the last wonder of the ancient world, rests Khufu and his sacred gold.
The Chambers and Passages
Great Pyramid of Khufu
The Great Sphinx The Great Sphinx, or as the ancients knew it, “Shesib Ankh” or “the living image”, has to be one of the most recognizable constructions in history. Think of the Sphinx and you automatically think of Egypt and the Giza Plateau. Sculpted from soft sandstone, many believe that it would have disappeared long ago had it not been buried in the sand for so many long periods in its lifetime. The body is 60m (200ft) long and 20m (65ft) tall. Its face is 4m (13ft) wide with eyes measuring 2m (6 ft) high. It faces the rising sun, and was revered so much by the ancients, that they built a temple in front of it. The 18th Dynasty King, Thutmose IV installed a stele between its front paws, describing how, when Thutmose was a young Prince, he had gone hunting and fell asleep in the shade of the Sphinx ‘s head. Thutmose had a dream where Ra HorAkhty the sun God, talking through the Sphinx, spoke to him, telling the young Prince to clear away the sand because the Sphinx was choking on it. The Sphinx said to him that if he did this, he would become King of Egypt . Thutmose cleared away all the sand and s after 2 years, the god fulfilled his promise to the price and he was made king of Egypt.
Mohamed Ali Mosque Mohamed Ali Mosque is amongst the most interesting Mosques in Egypt. It stands proudly on the highest point inside the courtyard of the Citadel of Saladin, and is also called the Alabaster Mosque. The architect was Yousf Boushnaq, a Turkish man who had come over from Istanbul to build this great Mosque for Mohamed Ali, the ruler of Egypt from1805 until 1849.
He based his plans on the Sultan Ahmed Mosque in Istanbul, and the construction began in 1830 A.D. The work continued ceaselessly until the death of Mohamed Ali in 1849, and had to be finished during the reign of his successors. Mohamed Ali was buried in the tomb situated on the south-eastern side of Beit Al Salah, on the right side of the entrance that leads to the main section. In 1899 the Mosque showed signs of cracking and repairs were undertaken, but some of these repairs were not adequate. Therefore, in 1931, during the reign of King Fuad I, a committee was set up, comprising of several great architects, which eventually presented a report recommending the demolition of the big main dome, the semi domes and the small domes, and then reconstructing them according to the original design. Between 1931 and 1939, the project, including demolition, building and rebuilding, painting and gilding, was undertaken; the total cost being 100,000 LE. The main material used for the construction was limestone, but the lower parts of the Mosque, and the forecourt, are faced to a height of 11.5m with alabaster.
The interior of Mohamed Ali Mosque The mosque has 2 Minbars or pulpits; the original one is the larger, it is made of wood decorated with gilded ornaments, while the smaller one is of marble, it was gifted to the mosque by king Farouk in 1939 A.D. Above the entrance is a grand gallery supported on marble pillars with bronze balustrade. To the right of the entrance is the tomb of Mohamed Ali. It is made white marble covered with floral motifs, and pointed and gilded inscriptions. originally Mohamed Ali was not buried in his mosque but later during the time king Abbas I (1849-1854), His body was transferred from Housh El Basha to the inside of the mosque where it rests inside The bronze grill.
Luxor Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes, the great capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom, and the glorious city of the god Amon-Ra. The importance of the city started as early as the 11th Dynasty, when the town grew into a thriving city, renowned for its high social status and luxury, but also as a centre for wisdom, art, religious and political supremacy. The Pharaohs of the New Kingdom in their expeditions to Kush, in today's northern Sudan, and to the lands of Canaan, Phoenicia and Syria saw the city accumulate great wealth and rose to prominence, even on a world scale. Thebes played a major role in expelling the invading forces of the Hyksos from Upper Egypt, and from the time of the 18th Dynasty through to the 20th Dynasty, the city had risen as the major political, religious and military capital of Ancient Egypt. Luxor has been described as the worldâ€™s biggest open air museum. It has been estimated that Luxor contains about a third of the most valuable monuments and antiquities in the whole world, which makes it one of this planetâ€™s most important tourism sites. Monuments such as The Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Deir El-Bahri (the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut), the workers village at Deir El-Medina, the list goes on and on and on. Though most visitors will stay for just a few days, it would take a substantial amount of time to visit everything in this amazing town. Today Luxor is split into two, by the River Nile, and these two areas are known as the East Bank (where the town lies) and the West Bank. Though this was also true in ancient times, the two parts were called the city of the living (East Bank) and the city of the dead (West Bank). Like most of the River Nile, the western side tends to be more desert, with the eastern side having far more arable land, and so settlement sites tended to favour this latter side. The Temple of Karnak is the largest Temple in the World! The complex contains a group of Temples such as the Great Temple of Amon Ra, The Temple of Khonso, The Ipt Temple, The Temple of Ptah, the Temple of Montho and the Temple of the God Osiris. A 20m high, mud brick enclosure wall, surrounded all of these buildings. The complex is a vast open-air museum and the largest ancient religious site in the world. It is believed to be the second most visited historical site in Egypt, second only to the Giza Pyramids near Cairo. It consists of four main parts of which only the largest is currently open to the general public. The term Karnak often is understood as being the Precinct of Amun-Re only, because this is the only part most visitors normally see. The three other parts, the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Montu, and the dismantled Temple of Amenhotep IV, are closed to the public. There also are a few smaller temples and sanctuaries located outside the enclosing walls of the four main parts, as well as several avenues of goddesses and ram-headed sphinxes connecting the Precinct of Mut, the Precinct of Amun-Re, and the Luxor Temple.
The Temple of Karnak
Aswan Egypt’s 3rd largest city, and the largest in Upper Egypt, is situated at the foot of the Nile Valley to the North end of Lake Nasser. It is a major mining area for aluminium and iron as well as also being one of the favourite places for tourists to visit due to it being a major stop for cruise boats; for the River Nile as well as Lake Nasser. It has a local market that is an excellent place to do your holiday shopping; this is especially true if you want spices as you will find the best types of fresh spices here.
The city became very important after the construction of the High Dam as it became a refuge for those Nubians who chose to flee to Egypt after the waters flooded their homelands, as well as becoming the worldwide rescue campaign of the Nubian monuments during and after its construction. Aswan’s name is derived from the ancient Egyptian word “Swan”, which means “the market”! This is because it was located on the main trade route between Egypt and the southern lands; with gold, slaves and ivory passing into Egypt. The governors of the 6th Dynasty sent many expeditions to explore the many African countries located to the south, and most of these started from Aswan. It was also the major source of granite, sandstone and quartzite used in the construction of the various monuments throughout Egypt. The Temples of Abu Simbel are amongst the most interesting Pharaonic Temples. Located close to the southern border with the Sudan, it is 280 km south of Aswan and consists of two, rock-cut Temples, which both date back to the reign of King Ramses II (1290-1223 BC). Unfortunately these unique Temples suffered from the raising water of Lake Nasser while the High Dam was being built. Other countries, with the help of UNESCO, assisted Egypt to help save them.
The two Temples were cut in to many pieces, and then they were reconstructed again on a site 65m higher than the original location, and 200m back inland, to escape the rising water level. This great rescue operation began in June 1964 and finished in September 1968. The first Temple was built by King Ramses II and is dedicated to the God Re-Hor-Akhty, Amon, Ptah, and King Ramses II as a deified King. Its faรงade is 35m long and 30m high. The faรงade has four seated colossi of the King; each one is 20m tall and represents the King seated on his throne wearing the double crown, accompanied by 3 small figures of his wives, daughters and sons flanking his legs. Above the entrance stands the figure of Re-Hor-Akhty, while near to the summit of the faรงade there are number of baboons. Inside the Temple there is a hall, supported by Osirid shaped pillars which were cut into the rock, with walls that are decorated by battle and offering scenes. There are some side rooms leading from the hall, which are also decorated with various scenes. At the far end of the Temple is the sanctuary, which contains four statues; Re-HorAkhty, Amon-Re, Ptah and the deified Ramses II.
Alexandria Few cities of the world have a history as rich as that of Alexandria; few cities have witnessed so many historic events and legends. Founded by Alexander the Great (Iskander al-Akbar) in 331 BC, Alexandria became the capital of Greco-Roman Egypt; its status as a beacon of culture is symbolized by Pharos, the legendry lighthouse that was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos) was built in the third century BC by Ptolemy I on the island of Pharos. The height of the lighthouse was between 115 and 150 meters, so it was among the highest structures in the world, second only to the Great Pyramids. The lighthouse was built on 3 floors: a square bottom with a central heart, a section octagonal average and above an upper section. And on the top there was a mirror that reflected sunlight during the day and used fire for the night. But it was damaged by 2 earthquakes in 1303 and 1323. The Library of Alexandria was the largest library of the ancient world and the place where great philosophers and scientists of that age came to seek knowledge. Alexandria also hosted, at the time, the largest Jewish community in the world, and the Septuagint, the first Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, was written in the city. The city's reign came to an end when the Arabs conquered Egypt in 641 and decided to found a new capital to the south in Cairo. (Scholars still debate if this was when the Library was finally destroyed; it is known that the Library was, at the very least, sacked and badly damaged by the Romans themselves in 48 BC, c. 270, and once more in 391.) Alexandria survived as a trading port; Marco Polo described it around 1300 as one of the world's two busiest ports, along with Quanzhou. However, its strategic location meant that every army on its way to Egypt passed through: Napoleon's troops stormed the city in 1798, but the British conquered it in the Siege of Alexandria in 1801. The Egyptians under Mohammed Ali took control of the city and rebuilt it, but the Orabi Rebellion in 1881 and massacres of Europeans in the city led the British to strike back and hammer the rebels with the three-day Bombardment of Alexandria, reducing much of the city centre to rubble.
Again Alexandria rose from the ashes. Its cosmopolitan and decadent lifestyle before and during World War II gave birth to its greatest poet, Constantine P. Cavafy, and was chronicled in Laurence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and a series of works by E. M. Forster including Alexandria: A History and Guide (1922), described by some as the best travel guide ever written. Today's Alexandria is a seaside Egyptian town with a population of 5 million, yet its status as Egypt's leading port keeps business humming, and tourists still flock to the beaches in the summertime. History both ancient and modern is everywhere if you peer closely enough: the French-style parks and the occasional French street sign survive as a legacy of Napoleon, one of Alexandria's many conquerors, and the few remaining Greek restaurants and cafĂŠs still dominate the cultural scene.
One of the icons of the city at a beautiful location, the fortress overlooks the Mediterranean Sea and the city itself. Built by Mameluke Sultan Abdul-Nasser Qa'it Bay in 1477 AD but razed and reconstructed twice since. This citadel was built in 1480 by Sultan Qaitbay on the site of the Pharos Lighthouse, to protect the city from the crusaders who used to attack the city by sea.
The Citadel is situated at the entrance of the eastern harbor on the eastern point of the Pharos Island. It was erected on the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria. The lighthouse continued to function until the time of the Arab conquest, then several disasters occurred and the shape of lighthouse was changed to some extent, but it still continued to function. During the 11thcentury an earthquake destroyed the top of the lighthouse and the bottom was used as a watchtower. A small Mosque was built on the top.
The Lighthouse of Alexandria
The Roman Theatre Over 30 years of excavation have uncovered many Roman remains including this well-preserved theatre with galleries, sections of mosaic-flooring, and marble seats for up to 800 spectators. In Ptolemaic times, this area was the Park of Pan and a pleasure garden. The theater at one point may had been roofed over to serve as an Odeon for musical performances. Inscriptions suggest that it was sometimes also used for wrestling contests. The theatre stood with thirteen semi-circular tiers of white marble that was imported from Europe. Its columns are of green marble imported from Asia Minor, and red granite imported from Aswan. The wings on either side of the stage are decorated with geometric mosaic paving. The dusty walls of the trenches, from digging in the northeast side of the Odeon, are layered with extraordinary amounts of potsherds. Going down out of the Kom, you can see the substantial arches and walls in stone, the brick of the Roman baths, and the remains of Roman houses.
Today Alexandria is a vibrant city with golden beaches and a cosmopolitan inhabitance and well worth a visit. The city lies on a most wonderful sweep of bay. The Corniche is 25 km long . The picture shows: Qait Bey in the background to the right, built on the site of the old Pharos lighthouse. There is much to see and do from museums and catacombs, from swimming to sight seeing. It is home to the new Alexandria library- a modern piece of architecture and The Montazah palace of the late King Farouk, with Roman and Egyptian archaeological sites, both on land and under water.
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