Jerash Feb 2011

The ancient city of Jerash in Jordan is one of the few cities in the world which can boast an unbroken record of human occupation since 6,500 years ago.  The new town here is now built to the east of ancient city with the old and new cities sharing a city wall.  Jerash was one of the ten great Roman cities of the Decapolis League and was called Gerasa.  It is also one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world.

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Petra Feb 2011

Petra, a prehistoric caravan city in Jordan, was lost to the Western world for hundreds of years.  It is located in the desert between the Red Sea and the Dead Sea on an important crossroad between Arabia, Egypt and Syria.  Petra was once a trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 BC and 106 AD.  Petra is half built and half carved into the rock.  The Nabataeans picked this location for the surrounding mountains with its windy entrances resembling a fortress.  They were an advanced society with ingenious networks of water capture, storage and irrigation systems, hence creating an artificial oasis in the desert. Their architectural style is also a unique combination of Hellenistic and Nabataean, which we were told was their way of making traders visiting the city feel “at home” with architecture familiar to them.

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Masada Feb 2011

Masada is an ancient fortification situated on top of an isolated rock plateau on the eastern edge of the Judaean Desert overlooking the Dead Sea.  Herod the Great built Masada between 37 and 31 BC as his winter retreat and also as a refuge for himself in case his Jewish subjects rebelled or the Romans attacked.  The fortress has palaces, storehouses, an armoury, barracks, and a large network of cisterns to collect rainwater.

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Jerusalem Feb 2011

Jerusalem is one of the oldest cities in the world and it is considered the holy city to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  For Jews, King David established Jerusalem as the capital and his son, King Solomon, commissioned the building of the First Temple.  For Christians, the New Testament accounted of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion here.  And for Muslims, Jerusalem is the third-holiest city, after Mecca and Medina.  According to the Quran, it is here in Jerusalem where Muhammad ascended to heaven and spoke to God.  As a result, this small area of less than 1 sq km became of religious importance to the different religions.

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St. Petersburg June 2010

St. Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia and is located at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea.  It was the imperial capital of Russia between 1713–1728 and 1732–1918.  St. Petersburg is probably the most westernized city of Russia, as well as being its cultural capital.  We stayed at Hotel Astoria in a convenient location next to St. Isaac’s Cathedral and the State Hermitage Museum.

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Moscow June 2010

Moscow is the capital and largest city in Russia.  The city has served as the capital from the medieval Grand Duchy of Moscow and the subsequent Tsardom to the more recent Soviet Union.  Moscow is considered the center of Russian culture with its large number of museums, academic institutions, and theatres.  It is also the seat of power of the Russian Government located in the Moscow Kremlin where the Russian president resides.  Moscow’s architecture is world-renowned, especially the onion domes of its cathedrals.

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