NAME THAT COUNTRY

 

These caves are named for the ancient settlement just below. They’re located in the Judean Desert, about a mile from the Dead Sea and about an hour’s drive from Jerusalem. In 1947, a local Bedouin boy found a cache of ancient scrolls in one of the caves while searching for a wayward goat. Subsequent excavations yielded nearly 900 scrolls in 11 caves. Scholars are still studying the manuscripts, many in fragments, today. Some of the scrolls can be seen at the Israel Museum’s Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem.

 

Can you name that site? 
See below for answers.

 

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The Lost City of Ubar

In the Rub’ al Kahli desert (the Empty Quarter, the largest contiguous sand desert in the world) at the tiny village of Shisr, Oman, ancient remains discovered in 1992 may be the legendary city of Ubar.

Ubar (aka Wabar, Imran or Iram of the Pillars) is called out in the Quran as a wicked, many-towered city that God caused to be swallowed up in a massive sand storm. In the tales of 1001 Arabian Nights and Bedouin folk tales Ubar is described as a gilded, bejeweled city with soaring towers.

The buried remains at Shisr were discovered in 1992 based on satellite imagery, ancient maps and a process of deduction. At the time, archaeologists concluded that the ancient city had disappeared into a sinkhole. Excavations have revealed a fort on the site with eight 10-12 foot tall walls, joined by multiple watch towers that were about 30 feet tall.

Whether or not the site is the legendary city, evidence is clear that it was a trading post, and caravanserai for desert caravans traveling the incense route between Arabia and the Mediterranean Sea. Artefacts from far-away lands have been found and satellite imagery shows tracks crossing the desert and converging on the site.

T.E. Lawrence (of Arabia) dubbed Ubar “Atlantis of the Sands” and talked of taking up the search himself, but he never did. British explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes was part of the team that discovered the ruins at Shisr after searching for decades. Read more in his book Atlantis of the Sands – The Search for the Lost City of Ubar.

Shisr is located in the Dhofar province of Oman, about 3 hours from the provincial capital Salalah.

NAME THAT CITY

 

Karnak Temple is one of the main attractions in our mystery city. Also nearby are the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens and the Temple of Hatshepsut. These are all must-see sites for visitors to Egypt. The city, about 300 miles south of Cairo in the Nile Valley, was the capital of ancient Egypt during its most prosperous and powerful time and the cult center of the god Amun. Even after its prime, the city was legendary throughout the Mediterranean region and beyond for its wealth and beauty. The ancient Greeks and Romans called it Thebes. To the ancient Egyptians, it was Waset. Today it is known by a different name.

 

Can you name that city? 
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Santorini

 

So many Greek islands, so little time… Cyclades, Dodecanese, Sporades, Ionian…literally hundreds of islands, thousands if you count the uninhabited ones, and why not count them? They’re there, they’re islands, they deserve to be recognized. However, in order to stay relevant, we’ll stick to the inhabited ones, and then narrow it way down to a few that possess just the right combination of scenery, personality, infrastructure and accessibility.

We’ll take one in this post – Santorini

While I’m sure most islands have some drama in their past; on that front, I venture none can compete with Santorini. The island as we know it is the caldera of a volcano which erupted in one of the largest explosions ever known on this planet around 1600 BCE. Ash and debris shot 25 miles into the stratosphere and the massive tsunami that followed brought immediate destruction, as well as prolonged environmental devastation that lead to the extinction of the powerful Minoan civilization.

Akrotiri fresco

Akrotiri fresco

The Minoans were centered in Crete but their influence was widespread and they had colonies on a number of Aegean islands. Akrotiri on Santorini was a Minoan settlement that was preserved in volcanic ash, much like Pompeii. No human remains have been found, so it would seem the inhabitants got out in time. What remains is evidence of a very wealthy, sophisticated city. A powerful city that sank into the ocean in a single day, hmmm, does that sound familiar? Could it be Atlantis? Some think so, scholars even. Visit Akrotiri and decide for yourself.

Despite an explosive history, Santorini is a very peaceful place, and thanks to its explosive history, Santorini is extraordinary to look at. Santorini is all about the views. You sit on your hotel terrace and look at the view, you eat your meals looking at the view. When walking around, you really must try to stop looking at the view and watch where you’re going because there are some pretty steep drops.

Most habitation is perched on the caldera rim, a sheer 1,000 feet over the sea. Fira is the main town, with the most happening. Oia is a little out of the way, quieter and more romantic. Imerovigli is closer to Fira but quiet and sits higher than either Fira or Oia, so claims superior views. Really, the views are good everywhere, as long as there’s nothing in the way.

Most (if not all) Greek island cruises stop in Santorini for a few hours at least. In season (April/May-October) there are frequent flights and ferries from Athens.