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As the cradle and world center of the mystical Kabbalah tradition, Safed (also spelled Tsfat, Tzfat, and a number of other ways) is one of four holy cities in our mystery country. Located at and elevation of 3,000 feet in the far north of the country, the town’s sweet air, crystalline light and mountain views attract many artists as well as spiritual scholars and pilgrims.

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Old Cairo

Everyone knows about ancient Egyptian attractions in the Cairo area – the pyramids at Giza being the most famous, by far. While there were important settlements nearby for thousands of years, the city of Cairo proper originated with the Roman Fortress of Babylon in the 3rd century. The fort was built on the banks of the Nile around a harbor and the Nile-end of a canal that connected the river with the Red Sea. This had long been a strategic area, the border of Upper and Lower Egypt, where the river begins to spread out into the delta, only a few miles north of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, which dates back to 3,000 BCE, at least.

Roman walls of the Babylon Fortress in Old Cairo

Roman walls of the Babylon Fortress in Old Cairo

The Roman fort still stands, surrounding the area known as Old Cairo or Coptic Cairo. Coptic Christians settled within the fort very early in the Christian era and it remains a Coptic enclave still. The fort encloses numerous churches, monasteries and convents, as well as the Ben Ezra Synagogue and Amr Ibn al-As, Cairo’s oldest mosque.

The main attractions:

St. Virgin Mary’s Coptic Church/The Hanging Church (El Muallaqa) is the most famous church in Old Cairo. It’s built atop the bastions of one of the fortress gates, with the nave hanging over the passageway.

the Hanging Church, Old Cairo

the Hanging Church, Old Cairo

Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church (Abu Serga) stands on ground where, according to tradition, the Holy Family stayed on their flight away from the murderous Herod the Great.

Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, Old Cairo

Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus, Old Cairo

The Greek Orthodox Church of St. George is built around a tower of one of the fortress gates. A peaceful cemetery stands within the grounds of the church.

St. George's Greek Orthodox Church, Old Cairo

St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church, Old Cairo

Originally a church, the Ben Ezra Synagogue was established in the 9th century, when Abraham Ben Ezra purchased the building from Coptic Christians who needed to raise money for taxes.

Amr Ibn al-As Mosque is Cairo’s oldest mosque. It was built in the 7th century for the commander of the first Arab army to conquer Egypt.

This quiet, atmospheric area feels worlds away from the surrounding chaos that is Cairo. It’s well worth a few hours of exploring.

Click to see Egypt tours that include visits to Old Cairo.

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Known as the Colossi of Memnon, these two statues of Amenhotep III have stood on this spot for well over 3,000 years. They were dubbed Memnon by ancient Greek tourists after their mythological hero. Memnon was the son of Eos, the goddess of dawn and it was said that sounds came from one of the statues (the one on the right in this picture) at or near dawn.The statues are 60ft tall and weigh over 700 tons, each.

 

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Ch Ch Ch Ch Changes, Turn and Face the Strain – the World View of Pre-Socratic Philosopher Heraclitus

In the ancient Greek world, pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus was among the very first “natural philosophers,” those who sought understanding of the physical world through observation. Before these thinkers, the mechanics of nature were attributed to the actions of the gods.

Heraclitus was a citizen of Ephesus, a Greek city on the Ionian coast, today western Anatolia in Turkey. He was part of a wave of revolutionary thought that rose up out of western Anatolia in the 5th and 6th centuries BCE. Other important thinkers from that time and place include Thales, Anaximander, Anaxagoras and Anaximenes.

All that we know of Heraclitus comes down through later philosophers, including Plato and Aristotle, who referenced and quoted him extensively in their writings. Collections of his ideas are published as “Fragments,” presumably of a more complete body of work, now lost.

Heraclitus believed that the universe and everything in it is in an eternal state of becoming and that change is the only constant. His most famous and emblematic aphorism is that a person can never step into the same river twice, meaning that the person and the river will be different each time they meet.

You cannot step twice into the same rivers; for fresh waters are flowing in upon you. (12)
We step and do not step into the same rivers; we are and are not. (49a)

He understood the universe to be composed of the union of opposites striving for harmony, each reliant on the other for its existence. The interaction of united opposites  provides the primary universal order, which Heraclitus called logos and symbolized with fire. In this world, conflict is a natural and essential process to all being and exists on a continuum with reconciliation.

The way up and the way down is one and the same. (60)

In the circumference of a circle the beginning and the end are common. (103)

Men do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tension, like that of the bow and the lyre. (51)

Couples are things whole and not whole, what is drawn together and what is drawn asunder, the harmonious and discordant. The one is made up of all things, and all things issue from the one. (10)

God is day and night, winter and summer, war and peace, surfeit and hunger; but he takes various shapes, just as fire, when it is mingled with spices, is named according to the savour of each. (67)

We must know that war is common to all and strife is justice, and that all things come into being and pass away through strife. (80)

It is sickness that makes health pleasant and good; hunger, satiety; weariness, rest. (111)

Heraclitus expressed little confidence in either the perceptive powers or the intelligence of his fellow humans. While acknowledging that the truth of things was hidden, he despaired that most people were unable to comprehend the truth even when pointed out to them. He is sometimes referred to as the Weeping Philosopher, partly due to his intellectual isolation. As an arrogant misanthrope, he probably didn’t have many friends, which also may have led to some tears.

Nature loves to hide. (123)

Eyes and ears are bad witnesses to men, if they have souls that understand not their language. (107)

The many do not take heed of such things as those they meet with, nor do they mark them when they are taught, though they think they do. (17)

Fools when they do hear are like the deaf; of them, does the saying bear witness that they are absent when present. (34)

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The fragments used in this post are all from the John Burnet translation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ancient Corinth was an important city in our mystery country. Located on a sliver of land connecting the mainland with the Peloponnesian peninsula, it was a thriving center of trade and maintained a large navy. The Apostle Paul spent time in Corinth and two of his letters, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, are addressed to the church there.

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