The Middle East Road to Ancient Civilizations

The Middle East Roads
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October 25- November 8, 2010

The Middle East is quite simply extraordinary, one of the world's most fascinating and rewarding travel destinations. It was here that some of the most significant civilizations of antiquity rose and fell and where the three great monotheistic religions - Judaism, Christianity and Islam - were born. Left behind is an astonishing open-air museum of ancient cities and historic buildings, the stones of which still resonate with the sounds of the faithful. The landscapes of the region are equally spellbinding but above all else, the most enduring memory of the Middle East is likely to be its people. Their gracious welcome, many kindnesses and boundless hospitality speak of an altogether more civilized age.

Mon/Oct. 25 Depart JFK for our flight to Amman.

Tue/Oct. 26 Arrive in Amman, Jordan where our professional English-speaking guide will meet us and transfer us to our hotel. Our arrival time in Amman will depend on the airline schedule.

Wed/Oct 27 Amman/Desert Castles/Dead Sea Enjoy a city tour offering the highlights of Jordan's capital city, Amman which include a visit to the Citadel and Roman Theatre. We continue to the Jordanian Eastern Desert where the Desert Castles stand as a testament to the flourishing beginnings of Islamic-Arab civilization. These seemingly isolated pavilions, caravan stations, secluded baths, and hunting lodges, were at one time integrated agricultural or trading complexes, built mostly under the Umayyads (661-750 AD), when Muslim Arabs transformed the fringes of the desert into well-watered settlements. Continue to the Dead Sea, the lowest spot on earth, 1312 feet below sea level where visitors visit for its historical and spiritual legacy, the unique healing qualities of its water, and its climate. This Sea of Salt sits amidst the sensational mountains of the Biblical Kingdoms of Moab, Ammon and Edom to the east, and the rolling hills of Jerusalem to the west. Enjoy time here to experience a Dead Sea mud and mineral spa treatment or swim where it is impossible to sink! Overnight at the Dead Sea Marriott.

 Thu/Oct 28 Dead Sea/ Madaba/Mount Nebo/Petra Today we explore the historic King's Highway, starting in the mosaic city of Madaba, the "City of Mosaics" In many respects Madaba is a typical East Bank town differing in one major aspect: underneath almost every house lies a fine Byzantine mosaic. Many of these mosaics have been excavated and are on display in the town's museum, but it is estimated that many more lie hidden waiting to be discovered. We continue to Mount Nebo, 1,000m (3,300ft), opposite the northern end of the Dead Sea. According to ancient tradition, this is the mountain from which Moses saw the Promised Land before he died and it has long been an important place of Christian pilgrimage. Excavations led by the Franciscans, who own the site, have uncovered significant remains of the early church and its magnificent Byzantine mosaics. A simple modern shelter dedicated to Moses has been built over them. Overnight at the Petra Marriott.

Fri/Oct 29 Petra Chief among the national treasures of Jordan is the soul stirring, rose-red, city of Petra, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Petra is the legacy of the Nabateans, an industrious Arab people who settled in southern Jordan more than 2000 years ago. Much of Petra's appeal comes from its spectacular setting deep inside a narrow desert gorge. From the main entrance, the visitor travels on foot through the awesome Siq, an immense crack in the sandstone that winds for one kilometer between overhanging cliffs. Petra's most famous monument, the Khazneh, or Treasury, appears dramatically at the end of the Siq and various walks and climbs reveal literally hundreds of buildings, facades, tombs, baths, funerary halls, temples, and even a 3000 seat Amphitheater from the 1st Century AD. Overnight at the Petra Marriott.

Sat/Oct 30 Petra/Wadi Rum/Amman "Vast, echoing and God-like" are the words T. E. Lawrence used in describing Wadi Rum, the largest and most magnificent of Jordan's desert landscapes. Nature has modeled and carved out a panorama of ancient valleys, strips of scorched earth, sides of carved mountains, and stretches of sand which shift colors into shades of yellow, red, and orange. The most significant sites here are Lawrence of Arabia's springs, Jebel Khazali, and the mountain of the seven pillars of wisdom. Enjoy a 2 hour jeep tour within this desert. Return to the Amman Kempinski for overnight.

Sun/Oct 31 Amman/Jerash/Bosra/Damascus A short hour's drive north of Amman is the Greco-Roman city of Jerash (Gerasa), remarkable for its unbroken chain of human occupation. At a lush oasis in the hills of Gilead, we will discover remains of the Neolithic period, as well as Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Omayyad and other civilizations. Its golden age, however, arrived with Roman rule, and today it is considered one of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. As we walk beneath four imposing ancient gates, or down the Street of Columns, we'll be stepping over the tracks of chariot wheels still visible in the paving stones. Cross the border into Syria, a major crossroads on great historical trade routes: the Silk Route, connecting the great empires of China with the ancient Mediterranean world, and the pilgrimage routes that still connect the Muslim world with Mecca. An area of intense Christian activity, Syria is home to major sites mentioned in the Bible and the inhabitants of Maalula still speak a dialect of Aramaic, the language spoken by Jesus Christ. Bosra is famed for its exceptionally intact Roman Theater the most preserved in the world, with a capacity of 15000 persons, carved basalt stone seats and astonishing natural acoustics—as it was one of the leading Nabateancities before becoming the capital of the Roman province of Arabia in 106 A.D. Continue for overnight in Damascus at the Beit Zaman Hotel.

Mon/Nov 1 Damascus Settled since before the fourth millennium B.C., Damascus is the oldest continually inhabited city in the world, bearing the indelible marks of a long succession of ancient civilizations: Amorite, Aramean, Assyrian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad, Ayyubid, Mameluk, Crusader, Ottoman and French. Marking the divide between the fertile Anti-Lebanon range from which the waters flow and the harsh Syrian desert, Damascus is a rich oasis that once served as a natural hub for trade on the silk route. Today it is the natural starting and ending point for any visitor to Syria. We'll discover its rich historical sites—Umayyad Mosque, Azem Palace, Suq al-Hamediyeh, Straight Street, Chapel of Ananias, and the National Museum, and drive up to Mount Qassiyoun for a panoramic view of Damascus. Overnight at the Beit Zaman Hotel.

Tue/Nov 2 Damascus/Palmyra/Damascus Through the Syrian desert to the oasis of Tadmor is the town of legendary Queen Zenobia, a caravan trade-station for centuries. The Roman-style Temple of Bel dates to the first century A.D. the Temple of Baal Shaman, (130 A.D.) was dedicated to the God of Growth & Fertility and is still in excellent condition resting on its six pillars. The Triumphal Arch and the 150 pillars still standing in the main street beyond the arch and the Agora are astounding sights as well as the tetrapylon, nymphaeum, Diocletian's Camp, Colonnade Street, the theatre, and the Valley of the Tombs. Palmyra was the leading capital of the desert and her citizens led very prosperous lives mainly focused on trade during the first three centuries A.D. Overnight at the Beit Zaman Hotel.
Tue/Nov 2 Damascus/Krak des Chevaliers/Damascus Krak des Chevaliers is the most spectac ular but least known medieval castle in the world. Standing at (1985 ft) above sea level, it occupies a strategic location overlooking the Christian Valley (Wadi al-Nasarah). This Crusader's Castle of the knights - or Qalaat al Hosn in Arabic - is an unforgettable sight of grandeur. The gate, the narrow passages, the drawbridge, towers and tunnels will take us back to the days of the Crusaders of the 11th and 12th centuries. Return to Damascus for overnight at the Beit Zaman Hotel.

Wed/Nov 3 Damascus/Krak des Chevaliers/Damascus Krak des Chevaliers is the most spectacular but least known medieval castle in the world. Standing at (1985 ft) above sea level, it occupies a strategic location overlooking the Christian Valley (Wadi al-Nasarah). This Crusader’s Castle of the knights - or Qalaat al Hosn in Arabic - is an unforgettable sight of grandeur. The gate, the narrow passages, the drawbridge, towers and tunnels will take us back to the days of the Crusaders of the 11th and 12th centuries. Return to Damascus for overnight at the Beit Zaman Hotel.


Thu/Nov 4 Damascus/Baalbeck/Anjar/Beirut We depart Syria for Lebanon which has both an incredible physical and spiritual beauty. However, it is the history of the nation, and the strategic role it has played dating as far back 4,000 years ago that is the most spectacular. The Lebanese are direct descendants of the sea-faring Phoenicians considered to be one of the great races of the ancient world. We travel through the fertile Beqaa Valley to Baalbeck with colossal monuments from the Roman period. The grouping of Roman temples called The Acropolis includes the Temple of Jupiter. Six of its 54 original stone columns remain: they are the largest Roman columns found in the world today. We continue to the fortified city of Anjar, built in the early 8th century by the Umayyad Caliph of Damascus. Surrounded by a wall seven meters high, Anjar extends over more than 100,000 square meters. Known as the Palace of the Desert, this square-shaped Royal City was built based on a Greek-Roman design. Overnight in Beirut at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Fri/Nov 4 Beirut/Harissa/Byblos/Beirut We'll enjoy a morning tour of Beirut concentrating on the reconstruction project, Pigeon Rock and the National Museum. We drive to the village of Harissa to visit the Cathedral, and the famous statue of the Virgin Mary, the Lady of Lebanon, erected in 1908. Enjoy a superb view of the Mediterranean Sea and Beirut and Jounieh Bays. Just north of Beirut, Byblos (Jbeil) is thought by many to be the oldest city in the world- continuously inhabited for more than 7000 years. We'll visit the Crusader's Castle, the Phonecian Temples, the Roman Theatre, and the Royal Necropolis. Return to Beirut to the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Sat/Nov 6 - Beirut/Deir El Qamar/Beit Eddin/Beirut Deir El Qamar meaning "Monastery of the Moon" is a village in south-central Lebanon famous for its stone houses with red-tiled roofs. During the 16th to 18th centuries it was the residence of the governors of Lebanon. The Beit Eddin Palace complex, an example of early 19th century Lebanese architecture, was built over a thirty year period by Emir Bechir El-Chehab II, who ruled Mount Lebanon for more than half a century. With its arcades, galleries and rooms decorated by artists from Lebanon, Damascus and Italy, this building is considered a model of eastern architecture. It has a decorated ceiling, colorful mosaic floors, luxurious Ottoman baths, numerous glass-studded cupolas, harem suites overlooking the wonderful valley, a guest house in which the French poet Lamartine once dwelt, water jets and wonderful colonnades. Today it houses a museum of feudal weapons, costumes and jewelry and an archaeological museum and a museum of Byzantine Mosaics. Overnight at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.

Sun/Nov 7 Beirut - Today we will enjoy a private function hosted by the American International College in Beirut.

Mon/Nov 8 Beirut/USA - Transfer to the airport for the return flight home. (Most flights depart in the very early morning)

Tour Price:
$3795 per person, double occupancy
Single: $4795

A deposit of $750 per person by June 30, 2010 is required to secure your place.
Final payment is due August 20, 2010. Travel insurance is required by all participants. Information will be mailed with your deposit confirmation. A passport valid for 6 months beyond the tour dates is required. Visas are required for travel to these countries. Information will be sent to all participants once our minimum number (15) to operate this tour is reached. A $200 administrative fee is assessed for all cancelations made in writing prior to the final payment date. After this date the tour is non-refundable.

October 25- November 8, 2010

Tour Includes:
13 nights deluxe hotel accommodations in hotels specified (or similar) including taxes
Daily breakfast
11 dinners including gratuities (private function on Nov 6 is to be determined)
Transportation throughout in deluxe motor coaches including airport transfers
Sightseeing as indicated in the itinerary
Professional English-speaking guide(s)
Jeep tour in Wadi Rum (2 hours)
Porterage of one suitcase per person at hotels
Entry and exit visa handling when crossing borders
Syrian land border exit taxes (Lebanon and Jordan)

Tour Does Not Include:
International flights (a group airfare can be obtained once we have the minimum number confirmed)
Transportation to/from JFK
Lunches
Gratuities to driver and guides (we will assess a total per person prior to the final billing and add to the invoice)
Passport and visa fees
Additional beverages with meals
Incidental charges at hotels
Travel insurance

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