WOW Places – Israel’s Ramon Crater

photo by Dafna Tal, courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism

photo by Dafna Tal, courtesy of Israel Ministry of Tourism

The Ramon Crater comprises Israel’s largest national park, the Ramon Nature Reserve. The crater is not technically a crater but a makhtesh. Rather than being formed by the impact of a meteorite or volcanic explosion, like true craters, a makhtesh is formed by erosion. This type of crater is found only in the Negev Desert in southern Israel and the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. The Ramon Makhtesh is the largest one, at 25 miles long and 5 miles across at its widest point and over 1600 feet deep. Continue reading

NAME THAT CITY

 

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.

 

 

Can you name that city? 
See below for answers.

 

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Take that Day Trip to Memphis

the colossal recumbent Ramesses II statue at Memphis, Egypt

the colossal recumbent Ramesses II statue at Memphis, Egypt

One of the most important cities of Ancient Egypt, Memphis was the capital of the unified country during the Early Dynastic and Old Kingdom periods, which lasted about 1,000 years in the 3rd millennium BCE. (As a point of reference – the famous pyramids at Giza were built during the Old Kingdom.) The city was founded by Menes (or Narmer? it’s unclear, they may be one in the same), who united the country and became its first pharaoh.

Located at the head of the Nile delta in the north of the country, Memphis was a major port city and commercial and religious center and remained so, for thousands of years after the capital moved south to Thebes (Luxor today).

Alexander the Great took Egypt in 332BCE and made himself king in the great Temple of Ptah in Memphis. When he died 9 years later in Babylon, his body was brought to Memphis and later moved to Alexandria, the city he established on the Mediterranean coast of Egypt. The location of his tomb is unknown today.

When Egypt became a Roman province in 30BCE, the commercial power of Memphis was eclipsed by Alexandria, which was more accessible to the rest of the empire.
When Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century CE, the city’s status as religious center was finished and it descended into ruin.

the sphinx at Memphis, Egypt

the sphinx at Memphis, Egypt

Today, Memphis is an open-air museum with scattered remains, including numerous temples, palaces, statues and a sphinx. Memphis is about 12 miles south of Cairo and is usually visited in conjunction with Sakkara, the necropolis of Memphis and site of the Step Pyramid, less than 2 miles away. Most of our Egypt tours include a visit to Memphis.

NAME THAT COUNTRY

 

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.

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

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Jezreel – Valley of Battles, Basket of Bread

The Jezreel Valley in Israel, also known as the Plain of Megiddo or Valley of Megiddo, is a flat, fertile valley just south of the lower Galilee between the Carmel Mountains to the west and the Jordan Valley to the east.

In ancient times, many groups fought here for control of the valley, which was a major regional thoroughfare and a coveted piece of land. The Roman Via Maris, an important trade route connecting Mesopotamia (Iraq), Egypt and Asia Minor (Turkey), passed through the valley and crossed the Carmel Mountains to the Mediterranean sea at the Aruna Pass, also known as the Megiddo Pass, controlled by the city of Megiddo. Excavations have uncovered over 20 successive layers of settlement at and around Megiddo dating from the 8th millennium BCE to the 6th century BCE, with significant settlement beginning in the middle of the 5th millennium BCE.

The area is rich with biblical sites. In the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament Saul battled the Philistines and died here with his sons (1 Samuel 28:1-31:10), Jezebel had Naboath killed and confiscated his Jezreel Valley vineyard for her husband King Ahab (1 Kings 21-28), at the Harod Spring in the valley, Gideon assembled an army to fight and defeat the Midianites (Judges 7:1-8).

excavations at Tel Megiddo, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

excavations at Tel Megiddo, photo by Itamar Grinberg, courtesy of the Israel Ministry of Tourism

In the Christian Bible/New Testament, Megiddo in the Jezreel Valley is the site of the final battle between good and evil. Armageddon = Har Megeddon = the mountain of Megiddo (Revelation 16).

Today, the Jezreel Valley is a major agricultural area.