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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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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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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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The archaeological site of Troy is located on the western coast of Anatolia, near the convergence of the Aegean Sea and the Dardanelles (ancient Hellespont), the strait that connects the Aegean to the Bosphorus and the Black Sea.

Excavations have revealed 9 main layers of settlement going back 5 thousand years. The Troy immortalized by Homer in the Iliad, which tells the story of the final months of a 10 year siege of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, has been placed in layer VIIa, dated to around 1250 BCE. Scholars generally agree that the Iliad is a fictionalized, mythologized account of an actual conflict, but that the war was most likely over control of the Hellespont and trade access to the Black Sea, rather than the abduction of Helen, the queen of Sparta, as Homer tells it.

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At the Muttrah fish docks, fishermen unload the day’s catch to sell at the adjacent Muttrah Fish market. Many visitors to Muscat seeking an authentic experience, will rise with the sun  and spend an hour or so browsing the stalls here. It’s an opportunity to observe an important local economy at work and to mingle with friendly locals. With a great variety of fish and sea food, it’s visually interesting, if a bit smelly. 

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In the small, colonial city of Trinidad, the austere (yet pleasing, I think) Iglesia Parroquial de la Santísima, or Church of the Holy Trinity, surveys the main city square, Plaza Mayor. The church’s humble Neoclassical façade belies an exultant Neo-Gothic alter inside. Trinidad was a wealthy center of the sugar trade in the 18th and 19th centuries and its cobbled streets are lined with faded, grand villas and public buildings from that era. A few miles outside the city, over 50 sugar plantations operated in Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills), powered by the labor of tens of thousands of slaves. Trinidad and Valle de los Ingenios are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

 

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This 2nd-century Roman theater is carved into a hillside in the middle of a lively national capital. Known as Philadelphia when the theater was built, the city was a member of the Decapolis, a group of 10 culturally-similar cities in the eastern Roman Empire. The theater seats 6,000 and is still used for concerts and other performances.

 

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