NAME THAT COUNTRY

Shobak is the Arabic name for the 12th century crusader fortress of Montreal. It sprawls across a lonely hilltop in the southwest of the country, the area known as Edom in the Bible. The castle was built in 1115 by King Baldwin I, the first king of the crusader kingdom of Jerusalem. Like Kerak, its sister fortress to the north, Shobak was built to guard the King’s Highway, an ancient trade route used by crusader armies and pilgrims traveling between Damascus and Egypt. The castle fell to the army of Saladin in 1189 after a 2-year siege.

 

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

Continue reading

Redemption & Resurrection

Redemption, resurrection, renewal, promise and freedom are themes of our current season. Over the ages, countless traditions have marked the springtime miracle of life bursting forth from seemingly cold, dead earth.

I’m thinking of three traditions in particular, two of which are probably obvious to those of us in the West, Passover and Easter. This year, the week of Passover overlaps Christian Holy Week, the period between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and his resurrection on Easter Sunday. To add a hint of scandal, I’m also thinking of the ecstatic Dionysian Mysteries of ancient Greece. All three involve breaking free of physical and spiritual bondage of some sort and emerging as a more complete, connected and authentic individual, community member and earthling.

Passover celebrates the liberation of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, led by the divinely chosen but less-than-willing Moses. They are reborn as a nation and set on a path by the Lord to the Promised Land. The physical redemption of the Israelites is honored during the 7-day holiday and it is also a time of spiritual redemption. Along with house cleaning of the soul there is house cleaning of the house. The Israelites left Egypt in a hurry and, unable to wait for bread to rise, they took unleavened bread to sustain them on their journey. A big part of Passover tradition is to rid the home of all traces of leavened stuff and anything that might consider leavening if given the opportunity. Cupboards and pantries are cleansed of breads and pastries, pastas and most grains and, for good measure, the whole house is usually given a major spring cleaning.

the Sinai Peninsula, where the Israelites wandered for 40 years after leaving Egypt

the Sinai Peninsula, where the Israelites wandered for 40 years after leaving Egypt

the Sinai Peninsula, where the Israelites wandered for 40 years after leaving Egypt

the Sinai Peninsula, where the Israelites wandered for 40 years after leaving Egypt

the view of the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo Jordan, as seen by the Israelites after wandering in the desert for 40 years

the view of the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo Jordan, as seen by the Israelites after wandering in the desert for 40 years

Easter celebrates the resurrection of Jesus, a sign of redemption and liberation from death. Through Jesus we are shown that death is not an end but a new beginning, a passage to another life. Easter symbols are all about fertility and new life – eggs, chicks, bunnies, Easter Lilies…

the Upper Room in Jerusalem, where Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples before being arrested

the Upper Room in Jerusalem, where Jesus shared his Last Supper with his disciples before being arrested

the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where Jesus was arrested

the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, where Jesus was arrested

the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows or Way of the Cross), the route walked by Jesus to his crucifixion

the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows or Way of the Cross), the route walked by Jesus to his crucifixion

the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows or Way of the Cross), the route walked by Jesus to his crucifixion

the Via Dolorosa (Way of Sorrows or Way of the Cross), the route walked by Jesus to his crucifixion

the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, where many believe Jesus was buried and resurrected

the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, where many believe Jesus was buried and resurrected

the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, where many believe Jesus was buried and resurrected

the Garden Tomb in Jerusalem, where many believe Jesus was buried and resurrected

Dionysian rites were held in the spring across the Greek and Roman world. Dionysus was associated with the season of rebirth because he was a twice-born god. His mortal mother Semele died while pregnant with Dionysus when she insisted that Zeus, the father of her baby, appear before her in his full godliness. Semele was not equipped for such a sight and perished instantly. Zeus provided the fetal Dionysus a substitute womb inside his thigh, from which Dionysus was born again some time later.

There were also strong liberation themes in Dionysian rites, which were characterized by wild abandon. Dionysus was god of the vine and wine was used to break down restrictive social barriers and inhibitions. Celebrants drank and danced into tranced-out frenzy, transcending the mundane world to be spiritually unified with the god. Woohoo!

La Jeunesse de Bacchus by William Bouquereau, 1884

La Jeunesse de Bacchus by William Bouquereau, 1884

NAME THAT COUNTRY

The so-called Monastery is just one of the monuments to be seen at the most visited (and most famous) attraction in our mystery country, a fabulously wealthy Nabatean trading city, which flourished from about 200 BCE to 200 CE. It’s well worth the climb to see this rock-cut temple up close, not to mention the gorgeous views.

 

Can you name that country? 
See below for answers.

Continue reading

NAME THAT CITY & COUNTRY

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.

 

Can you name that city and country? 
See below for answers.

Continue reading

Foto Friday – Ya’lla Groups

Happy Friday one and all! Thanks for stopping by.

Here are some shots of Ya’lla group travelers enjoying some of our destinations.

at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Even if you agree on a price before hand, some camel guys will demand extra money to let you off the camel. This is one of many reasons why a guide is highly recommended.

Even if you agree on a price before hand, some camel guys will demand extra money to let you off the camel. This is one of many reasons why a guide is highly recommended.

outside the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora in Istanbul

outside the Church of the Holy Savior in Chora in Istanbul

in the Roman theater of Amman, Jordan

in the Roman theater of Amman, Jordan

at Bait Al Safah, a renovated house in the old village of Al Hamra, Oman

at Bait Al Safah, a renovated house in the old village of Al Hamra, Oman