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Israel: The Holy Land & Timeless Cultures 2014

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Trip Extensions

Pre-trip: Jordan

Experience another facet of the Middle East's centuries-old culture in Jordan. You’ll explore Roman ruins in Amman and stroll ancient city streets in Jerash. And discover the Nabataen “Lost City” of Petra, described in poetry as a “rose-red city half as old as time.”

It's Included:
Accommodations for 3 nights in Amman and 2 nights in Petra
15 meals—5 breakfasts, 5 lunches, and 5 dinners (including 1 Home-Hosted Dinner)
8 small group activities
Services of our own resident Jordanian Trip Leader, who speaks English and the native language
All transfers
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    You fly overnight from the U.S. to Jordan.

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    Arrive in Amman in the late evening. Upon arrival, enjoy a Welcome Drink before dinner at the hotel.

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    After breakfast, we explore this ancient city. Amman was once besieged and captured by King David and the Egyptian King Ptolemy, and occupied by the Byzantine Empire and Christian Crusaders. Today, it is a thriving modern metropolis that has taken great care to preserve its historical heritage. We visit Amman’s citadel, with its blend of ancient Greek, Roman, Byzantine, and Islamic ruins. We'll also have free time to explore the small archaeological museum, with its treasure trove of ancient coins, glassware, and statuary.

    After enjoying the views of the Old City, with its 5,000-seat Roman amphitheater and lovely Abu Darwish Mosque, we continue to the older section of downtown Amman. We also walk through the “gold souk,” named for its concentration of gold jewelry shops selling unique local items. After lunch in a local restaurant, we continue our discoveries with a walk in the Jabel Amman area. Dinner is included at our hotel this evening.

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    Today, we'll explore ancient Jerash, the world’s best-preserved and most complete Greco-Roman city. First established as a town in the year AD 70, it’s a sprawling open-air museum of monumental temples, baths, theaters, and lovely Byzantine churches. We’ll be greeted by the triple-arched gateway built to honor the arrival of the Emperor Hadrian in AD 129. Next to Hadrian’s Arch stands the massive hippodrome, partially reconstructed. Wander through this amazing site and marvel at the Zeus Temple, Oval Plaza, and splendid avenues and plazas lined with graceful colonnades.

    We’ll have lunch in Jerash, and then drive through fertile green hills lined with olive groves to Ajlun—famous for its imposing Saracen castle. Built in the late twelfth century by the nephew of Saladin, it is known as Qalat ar-Rabad and dominates the skyline for miles.

    Back in Amman this evening, we are the guests of local residents for dinner in their home and a personal glimpse of Jordanian life.

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    After breakfast, we set off on our drive to Petra along the King’s Highway, which has been an international trade route for the last 5,000 years. The route is scenic, and dotted with picturesque villages and historic sites mentioned in the Bible. En route, we’ll visit Mount Nebo, the place where Moses is purported to have gazed upon the Holy Land that he was not meant to reach—it is said that his tomb lies here. From here, we’ll enjoy spectacular views across the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea.

    We then continue to Madaba, known for its striking Byzantine mosaics, including the earliest surviving map of the Holy Land. Set in a mosaic floor, the map dates to about the sixth century. Mosaic-making is a tradition that endures with local artists throughout this region, as we'll discover during a visit to a local workshop.

    After a visit to St. George's Church, we enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. Then, we'll witness scenic views of the Mujib Valley on our way to Petra. We'll also stop for a panoramic view over Wadi Mujib before arriving in Petra in time to relax before an included dinner at our hotel.

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    We set off for a full-day walking excursion through one of the most beautiful of all ancient ruins—the fabled red city of Petra. Reached through a towering narrow canyon, the city is carved into the solid red sandstone cliffs, and features soaring temples, a 3,000-seat amphitheater, houses, banquet halls, churches, and tombs. It is said that Petra’s massive Treasury, with its portico and pillars, was the storeroom for the Queen of Sheba’s gifts to Solomon.

    For more than 2,000 years, the name Petra was just a mysterious sound, a name in dusty documents. Only the local Bedouin people knew of its existence, because they lived in its caves. Converted to Islam and disguised as an Arab, Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt found the lost city in 1812. You’ll recognize several views of Petra from the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

    We’ll enjoy lunch in Petra during our tour. Later this evening, we'll have dinner together at our hotel.

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    After an early breakfast, transfer to Tel Aviv where we begin our discovery of Israel: The Holy Lands & Timeless Cultures. Please note: Due to security regulations, OAT travelers will pass through Customs unassisted when entering Israel.