2 Ephesus Stories

One of the reasons we travel is to have first-hand experiences of places we have known only in our imaginations. This can apply to any destination but is especially true of places associated with narratives that have been woven into our cultural identities for centuries. If you have visited places with strong historical and/or cultural significance, you know what I mean. There’s an essence of place, made up of layers of history and legend that hang around and bring an intangible or an extra-tangible substance to the physical remains.

Here are 2 stories that contribute to the multifaceted experience of Ephesus.

The Seven Sleepers
Around 250 BCE in Ephesus, despite persecution under the Roman emperor Decius, seven young Christian men stayed true to their faith. They retreated together to a nearby cave to strengthen their resolve through prayer and, after some time, they all fell asleep. Meanwhile, the local Roman officials, under pressure from their hardline leader to cleanse the city of Christians, seeing no possibility of reasoning with the committed youths, sealed them up in the cave.

Nearly two hundred years had passed when the cave was opened by the land owner. Thinking they had just had a regular nap, the young men went out into the city and found it very changed. While they slept, Christianity had become the official religion of the empire and there were signs of it everywhere. These clearly bewildered, oddly foreign men attempting to spend obsolete coins attracted attention and the Bishop was called to assess the situation. It didn’t take long for the Bishop and the seven to realize that a miracle had occurred and, once they knew it, the young men died.

This was a popular story in the early Christian Churches and on through the Middle Ages. The story is also told in the Koran.

The Riot at Ephesus
The Christian evangelist Paul, lived in Ephesus for 2-3 years around 50CE. He preached to Jews and pagans, helped strengthen the church there, wrote letters to other churches and traveled the surrounding countryside spreading the gospel. While Ephesus was a very cosmopolitan, culturally diverse and tolerant city, it was overwhelmingly devoted to Artemis of Ephesus, both spiritually and economically.
The Greek goddess Artemis was merged with the Anatolian great mother goddess Cybele to become the major deity of the whole region, but especially at Ephesus. The Artemis Temple at Ephesus was one of the Seven Wonders of the World and attracted a steady stream of pilgrims.

After nearly 3 years in Ephesus, Paul showed no signs of slowing in his efforts to build the Church there. The artisans and vendors of Artemis statues, who, most likely, had been monitoring Paul from the beginning, were suddenly whipped into a defensive frenzy by one silversmith named Demetrius. They took their outrage through the streets shouting GREAT IS ARTEMIS OF THE EPHESIANS! It seemed the whole city was swept up in the protest. They filled the theater and continued to chant GREAT IS ARTEMIS OF THE EPHESIANS! Paul tried to enter the theater to address the mob but his friends held him back, fearing for his life. Order was finally restored by a city official who recommended that grievances be handled through the proper authority. Paul and his friends were unharmed but Paul left Ephesus not long after.

Visit www.yallatours.com/turkey to see tours to Ephesus.

NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 126

The so-called Green Mausoleum is located in the city of Bursa, in the northwest of our mystery country, across the Sea of Marmara from the country’s largest and most famous city. Bursa was the first capital of the Ottoman Empire and the Green Mausoleum is the tomb of the fifth Ottoman sultan Mehmed I. The city is known for its Ottoman architecture, including a number of beautiful mosques.

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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Valle de los Ingenios, Cuba

The UNESCO World Heritage Site Valle de los Ingenios, or Valley of the Sugar Mills, is a series of three valleys near the city of Trinidad de Cuba. The valleys were the center of sugar cane production from the late 18th century until the late 19th century. At the peak of the sugar cane industry in Cuba, there were more than fifty mills operating in the valleys, with over 30,000 slaves working in the mills and the surrounding plantations. Sugar production was an important industry for Cuba from the earliest settlement by the Spanish, who introduced the crop to the island in 1512. The island became the world’s foremost producer of sugar during the late 18th and 19th centuries.

Manaca Iznaga plantation - The 147-foot bell tower once called slaves in and out of the fields. Former slave quarters, barracones, are still used for housing.

Manaca Iznaga plantation – The 147-foot bell tower once called slaves in and out of the fields. Former slave quarters, barracones, are still used for housing.

from atop the Iznaga Tower

from atop the Iznaga Tower

from Iznaga Tower

from Iznaga Tower

NAME THAT COUNTRY Episode 125

In Dhofar, the southern region of our mystery country, near the city of Salalah, we find the remains of ancient Sumhuram, aka Khor Rori, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two thousand years ago, Sumhuram was a major port and the world center for the trade of frankincense. It’s also rumored that the Queen of Sheba had a palace here.

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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Bahia Palace, Marrakech

In the Marrakech medina, near the Mellah (Jewish quarter), the Bahia Palace sprawls across 8 hectares in an incoherent series of reception halls, living quarters, courtyards and gardens. It was built in two phases by father and son Grand Viziers, first 1859-1873 and then 1894-1900. Today, the palace is home to the Moroccan Ministry of Cultural Affairs and is still used by the king to host the occasional visiting dignitary.

The sedate façade reveals nothing of the splendid interiors, with elaborately carved, painted and inlaid cedar ceilings, vivid tile and marble floors and walls, stained glass windows and serene courtyards that seem a world away from the chaotic medina just outside. Some of the palace is closed to the general public, but those areas that are open do a good job representing the various moods of the palace as a whole.