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Most Ya’lla tours to our mystery country include dinners and lunches at paladars, like Guitarra Mia. A paladar is a privately owned restaurant, usually family operated and located in a converted home. When we first started selling tours to this country in 2002, food was definitely not a selling point, mainly because of the scarcity of ingredients. Since 1993, the largely state-run economy has allowed the operation of small, private businesses. Relying on black market suppliers, paladars began to pop up gradually in major cities. With further economic reforms in 2010, the industry of small, private restaurants really took off. Today, hundreds of paladars operate across the country, mainly supported by tourists. While it’s not quite a culinary destination, yet, there’s enough variety and innovation here to satisfy the most refined palate.

 

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The inland sea pictured above forms part of the border between Israel and Jordan. This sea lies at the lowest elevation on earth, over 1,300 feet below sea level at the surface. Due to a unique mineral content, the sea water and mud are prized for their therapeutic qualities. The extreme salinity of the water makes it very difficult to sink. Bathers bob on the surface effortlessly. Atmospheric conditions here also have health benefits. High levels of oxygen are both invigorating and relaxing. It’s really a magical place. The sea is centrally located and makes an easy stopover between visits to other top tourist attractions. It also makes a good base for visiting a number of tourist sites.

 

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The spectacular Todra Gorge is located in the eastern High Atlas Mountains. Walls rise 500 feet on either side of this narrow canyon, only 33 feet wide in spots. The nearest town is Tinghir. Residents in the area are mostly the indigenous Amazigh, sometimes known as Berbers. Kelaa M’Gouna, famous for roses, is close enough to combine with Todra Gorge in a day of touring, as is another series of gorges, the Dades Gorges.

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The so-called Burnt House is a museum on the remains of a house that was burned by the Romans in 70CE, when they sacked the entire city. The house was in a wealthy part of the city near the temple, which was also destroyed and, to this day, has not been rebuilt. The a retaining wall of the temple still stands and has been a place of pilgrimage for 2,000 years. Items found in the Burnt House indicate that it was the home of a priest.

 

 

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Kom el Shoqafa catacomb was carved from bedrock in the 2nd century CE and used for about 200 years. It was a time of convergence of three ancient Mediterranean cultures and the unique, hybrid style of architecture and art within the necropolis may be its most interesting feature. At the time, our mystery country was a province of the Roman Empire, but it had been a major power and distinct culture for 2,500 years.

The tradition was for families of the deceased to host a feast in the catacombs at the time of entombment and then periodically in the following years. The name of the catacombs, Kom el Shoqafa, translates to pile of shards, which refers to the large amounts of broken pottery found at the site. The pottery containing food for the funerary and memorial feasts was broken and left behind because it was considered tainted by the place of death.

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This bridge connects the Peloponnese peninsula to the country’s mainland from Rio to Antirrio, spanning nearly 2 miles across the Gulf of Corinth. It’s the world’s longest fully suspended cable-stayed bridge. Bridging this complicated site was an extraordinary feat of engineering. When visiting the country, you might cross this bridge to see sites such as Mycenae, Epidaurus and Corinth.

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The ancient Roman Hippodrome of Constantinople stretches between two famous landmarks, the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. A hippodrome is an arena for sporting and social events. This hippodrome was an upgrade of one built when the city was called Byzantium. A few centuries later, Roman Emperor Constantine made it the capital of the Roman Empire in the east, aka the Byzantine Empire, and the city’s name changed to Constantinople. A millennium or so later, the city’s name changed again.

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