After a 6 hr flight we reached the Queen Alia Airport of Jordan and immediately headed to Israel. After completing the immigration formalities we started our pilgrimage with Jericho, the smallest city in the world. We met our guide, Fredy, who is an expert on the Holy Land. The tour bus driver is Iyad, who just got sparkling Mercedes Benz bus for the occasion. Both are Christians. Arab Christians are only two per cent of the population in the Holy Land.Jericho is a small city surrounded by olive and date palm trees. Our first site was the Sycamore tree where Zacchaeus described as a short man, climbed up the sycamore fig tree so that he might be able to see Jesus. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up into the branches, addressed Zacchaeus by name, and told him to come down, for he intended to visit his house.Jericho holds an important place in the life of Jesus since tradition holds that it was on this mountain that Jesus fasted for forty days and nights before beginning his public ministry. There are still many caves which dot the face of the mountain and a Greek Monastery was built here over the cave that Jesus was said to have used. At the very top of the mountain there are remains of an attempt to build a church on top of the mountain in the 19th century. No devil was there, but we drove down the mountain to the "Temptation Restaurant" where we were all tempted to leave our diets for the best lunch of the whole pilgrimage followed by a brief visit to Elijah’s spring. We headed to Nazareth for the night stay at Hotel Rimonia.
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69 Kms from Jericho
I had a great opportunity to make my holiday vacation with my close friend (Rahul) in Israel's capital Tel Aviv, located on Mediterranean coast. Here’s a quick summary of our journey which kicked off from Hyderabad (Rajiv Gandhi International Airport) via Dubai to Tel Aviv (Ben Gurion International Airport). It was chilling climate on Saturday morning, when we step out of the Tel Aviv Airport.
92 Kms from Jericho
Aside from a dip in the Dead Sea, the main attraction in this area is Masada, site of a mass suicide by the Zealots in AD73 to avoid capture by the Romans and, today, a symbol of national pride. Diligent research revealed that the best time to see Masada was an early morning climb to the summit to watch the sunrise. The next morning I prepared for my climb up the "Snake Path" trail. We made it to the top in about 45 minutes and were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise. The Judean Desert spread out below and the Dead Sea sparkling turquoise in the distance. Truly, utterly amazing. Biblical, some might say. After exploring the ruins at the top for about an hour, I started the climb back down which was much easier going now that the sun was up.
268 Kms from Jericho
If you ever happen to visit Spiti, You have got to spend a night here! The night sky is the most amazing i have ever seen! its a small verical village like on both side of the road and thats it. There is an old Tabo manastery which you have to visit! Have a yummy english breakfast at any of the small cafes in the Tabo market.
95 Kms from Jericho
So finally our trip was coming to a near end when we made our last stop over at Nazareth. Reaching after a two-hour long journey from Jerusalem, our adventures in Israel and Jordan would have been incomplete without the visit to Nazareth. Starting at the Basilica of the Annunciation, where we offered our prayers at the holy place of Jesus' birth, we then toured around the largest church in the Middle East. While we marveled at the architectural excellence of the dome of the Basilica from the Roman Catholic reigns, even the relics from the Byzantine and Crusader era left us awe-struck. This was followed by a short walk of pilgrimage, where we took a few steps towards exploring the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, along with St. Joseph's Church, Mary's Well and the Ancient Bath House amongst other religious structures.However, as we moved beyond the realms of Christianity in the city, we we amazed at the diversity of cultural activities that we saw at Diwan El Lajun, which was a multi-cultural center for the Stage Arts.And finally our trip came to an end with a sumptuous Jewish feast amongst the kind locals of Nazareth Village.
170 Kms from Jericho
From Aqaba, we again set off on an amazing jeep tour into the Wadi Rum desert. And as we reached Petra, we knew it was the perfect place for a history-lover like me. As a young boy, I often imitated the adventures of Indiana Jones and now I was breathing amongst the walls that had once stood for the Last Crusade! So without further adieu, we delved our curious and excited foot steps into the carved pink sandstone and soon made our grand entrance, through the winding canyon of Siq, finally to the legendary Al Khazneh (The Treasury). Walking past the stone-resurrected tombs and narrow gorges amidst the rocks that have withheld a metamorphosis with the passage of time. And finally we got lucky for our first glimpse!Marked in every corner by its history of Bedouin culture, yet it reeks of the once effluent Pharaoh's lavish interests. So as we headed out, content with ourselves of the historical essence our trip had brought on, we realised it was just impossible to stay in Petra for just a day. To get the feel of the ruins that shaped history, we decided we'll stay on and explore more. So in the coming days came the Roman Theater and the Royal Tombs and the magnificent show that we are glad we didn't miss- Petra by Night. And with the visit to the Mountain of Aaron, our trip came to an end.