When You Go to Egypt—A Quick Primer

So you’re going to Egypt? Congratulations! You’ll be walking on the land of Pharaohs! Egypt is an excellent destination for anyone who geeks out on the history of ancient civilizations. Ancient Egypt was on the forefront of education, military strategies, medicine, science, architecture and the arts. Evan Andrews shares on History.com that it “created a culture so rich that it has spawned its own field of study.”

In the Bible, we find that Egypt became home to the Israelites for 430 years. Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons, became prime minister of Egypt and paved the way for his family to settle and multiply in Goshen.

JosephPrimeMinister

Photo illustration from Pinterest

Egypt was also the setting of the Exodus. After being mistreated for 400 years, Moses, a native Hebrew who was raised in the Egyptian palace was prepared and used by God to bring His people out of the land of slavery.

MosesExodusPrinceOfEgypt

Image from the Prince of Egypt movie

In the New Testament, Joseph had to take Mary and little Jesus to live in Egypt for a while after he was warned in a dream not to return to Israel because King Herod was looking for Jesus to have Him killed.

Edwin_Longsden_Long_-_Anno_Domini

Painting by Edwin Long, Anno Domini, 1883.

Egypt has an estimated population of almost 86 million. It is a largely Muslim country with a very small percentage of Coptic Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Coptic Orthodox.

Just how large is Egypt? Egypt is a transcontinental country, meaning it covers more than one continent. A huge part of Egypt is in Africa but the Sinai area is in Asia.

Now that you’re acquainted with Egypt, here are some FAQs:

What is the climate like?

It’s generally warm and dry during the day but gets really cold in the evening, just like any desert country.

What should I bring and what should I wear?

Since Egypt is a largely Muslim country, part of respecting their culture and beliefs is to dress modestly. As such, do not go walking around and visiting their tourist sites dressed in skimpy clothing–no shorts, no spaghetti straps, tank tops or anything that exposes too much skin. Depending on what time of the year you plan to go, it would be helpful to bring a windbreaker or a light sweater. Since there’s a lot of walking involved, jeans, cargo pants and sneakers would be most comfortable. Also bring a scarf which you can use to shield your head or cover your face in case it gets too windy and the sand flies up from the ground.

Sunglasses are a definite must-have to shade your eyes, plus an umbrella and sunblock to protect your skin. Bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill with clean water when you get back to your hotel or when you stop by restaurants. .

Is it better to go there alone or with a group? Is it safe?

I went with a tour group. I know that it would be an entirely different experience to go there alone and plan my itinerary. I might decide to do that once I’m done ticking off the other countries on my list, so that would probably take a while.

Given my limited knowledge of Arabic, I think that it’s better to go with a group and to also find a local guide. Their history is so rich, I think your trip would be more meaningful if you have a licensed and information-savvy tour guide who can answer your questions and give you your fill of Ancient Egyptian history. Having a licensed guide will also protect you from over-charging vendors and even extortionists who may prey on tourists.

Where can I find good licensed Egyptian tour guides?

Our tour guides were from Meryland Tours. I was very pleased with Dr. Ashraf Moussa (his nickname is Moses) who communicated well in English and was very much in touch with current events. He is knowledgeable in history and culture, naturally funny and kindly urged us to get going specially when we were already spending too much time in our mini photo shoots! I know he wanted us to cover as many places as we could.

Marco on the other hand, assisted us as soon as we landed at the Cairo Airport. He also took us through the midnight trek to Mt. Sinai and brought us to the border at Taba where we were to enter Israel from Egypt.

What are the must-see places?

A trip to Egypt is obviously not complete if you don’t stop by the Pyramids and the Sphinx (he is so going to visit you in your dreams haha). We were only in Egypt for three days so we were not able to go to Karnak, The Luxor Temple, Abu Simbel, Philae and Alexandria, among others.

Our first stop from the airport was the Egyptian Museum, which by the way is so huge, you can’t go through all the antiquities in just one day. Moses said that we needed three whole days to go through all the halls! They have an extensive collection of personal items and furniture found in tombs, clothing, armor, sarcophagi, mummies, ancient condoms, accessories and even bread! Mobile phones and cameras are not allowed inside the museums, so no selfies, no photographs of the artifacts. You truly must go and just experience it for yourself.

What kind of money should I bring?

US Dollars are accepted almost anywhere in Egypt but make sure you have a lot of smaller bills. If you’re one of those travelers who like keeping foreign currency as travel souvenirs, then have a few dollars exchanged for Egyptian pounds and coins. Bottled water (believe me, you need it!) costs $1-2 per piece and these are available at small stores or from your bus operator.


Are you all set and ready to walk like an Egyptian? If you have any other questions, you can shoot me an email at ingrid[at]ingridnieto.com.

Holy Land Photoblog: Cana in Galilee

Cana is another significant place in the Bible because this was where Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water into wine.

Greek Orthodox First Miracle Church (across the street from the Franciscan church)

Greek Orthodox First Miracle Church (across the street from the Franciscan church)

The Franciscan Church at Cana

The Franciscan Church at Cana

It was drizzling when we arrived. I managed to take these photos of the surrounding areas before we were all called in to one of the chapels where the ceremony for the renewal of wedding vows would take place.

P1140679-001

IMG_6325-001

Part of the services they offer is video coverage of the wedding ceremony (hence the camera and screen). They burn it into a DVD which you can pay for before you leave.

IMG_6340-001

Our spiritual leader Pastor Larry leads the ceremony for the renewal of wedding vows

P1140689-001

Some of the brides waiting for their turn to walk down the aisle

The grooms waiting for their brides

The grooms waiting for their brides

IMG_6339-001

The couples gathered together before Pastor Larry

P1140710

Our spiritual leader, Pastor Larry Pabiona

IMG_3699

Since there were a number of us singletons, kami taga-applause and picture 😀

When the ceremony was done, Pastor Larry gathered us singles and prayed for us.

IMG_3735 IMG_3733

P1140723-001

Happy singles satisfied with the love of God 😀 Thanks for praying for us Pastor Larry!

Holy Land Photoblog: The Nazareth Village

Nazareth is the place where Jesus spent most of his childhood years and is also the place where the Angel Gabriel appeared before Mary to tell her that she would be carrying the Son of God in her womb. Herod the Great was King of the Jews at that time and in the Book of Matthew, it is mentioned that he ordered the killing of all boys aged two and below out of fear that he would lose the throne. Before the violent massacre took place, Joseph was warned by an angel in a dream to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt where they would stay for a few years until the death of Herod. IMG_6254-001

We visited the Nazareth Village in Galilee, on open-air museum which is a re-creation of what Nazareth was like during the time of Jesus.
IMG_6309-001The Nazareth Village is a non-profit organization that is able to operate through contributions, entrance fees and gift shop sales. Below are names of people and groups who have shown their support through the Builders’ Walk. If you wish to contribute a gift of $250 or more, you get a stone engraved with the words of your choice and then it is installed permanently in the Builder’s Walk.

P1140651-001Daniel Stanger, Tour Manager of the Nazareth Village talked about how they run the organization and also shared some “nerdtastic” stories about what life was like in the first century. My inner archaeologist hungered for more.
P1140557-001

Matthew 7:13-14 13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Matthew 7:13-14
13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy[a] that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”


After the indoor museum tour, we stepped into a farm lined with olive trees.P1140594-001

IMG_6305-001

Just me and an olive tree

“Baa baa baa” says the sheep

Standing on a wine press.

Standing on a wine press.

We also met some volunteers who play Nazareth villagers and illustrate what daily life was like back then.

They call this beautiful lady Rebekah.

They call this beautiful lady Rebekah.

David teaches Mommy Yason how to bear holes in wood

Joseph teaches Mommy Yason how to bear holes in wood

Inside the synagogueP1140639-001

A sample of an ancient scroll and oil lamps

A sample of an ancient scroll and oil lamps

Here’s the video of our visit:

Check out more videos from the Nazareth village:

Souvenirs from Egypt, Israel and Jordan

Souvenirs are a must for every traveler. In the all the places I’ve been to, I’ve purchased magnets, accessories and local products that are unique to the place. Whenever I feel the urge to over-spend, I tell myself two things: baggage limit and storage. When I went to Egypt, I knew that I had to get papyrus paper. Of course in my head I was thinking it’s light, it’s thin, it can easily fit into one of my flat luggage pockets. When I got to the shop, I was enticed to take home not just plain papyrus but those with Egyptian hand-painted illustrations.
Papyrus Paintings

You can’t just slip paintings like that into pockets right? The good thing is, Golden Eagle Papyrus has a special way of storing the painting—you roll up the papyrus paper, put it in a circular cardboard case and slip it into your bag.
P1120261

P1120295

My friends know that I am such a sucker for aromatherapy. Lavender and mint are my favorite essential oils because they give off such a clean, calming scent that puts me to sleep easily. Purchasing these oils weren’t part of my original plan. I walked into the oil shop, listened to the demonstration and like most of my companions, I walked out of the store with these bottles:
P1180002-002

SHOPPING IN ISRAEL
Since we were to spend five days in Israel, I expected to spend more on souvenirs. When we took a dip in the Dead Sea, I thought “Maybe I should gather some of the mud and take it home!” I was told by our travel coordinator Tita Mina that someone from the previous Holy Land trip did take some of the mud but they weren’t even done with the trip when it started to stink. As tempting as it is to take the free-flowing Dead Sea mud, we have to first learn how to handle and preserve it correctly. So really, Ahava products are the closest you can get. They’re manufactured in Israel and they’re much cheaper too.

Free flowing Dead Sea mud

Free flowing Dead Sea mud

Of course I had to try it on. This is one Israel experience I won't forget! I had the mask on for about 15-20 minutes (we only had an hour to spend). My skin was baby-smooth and lovely to touch when I washed it off! Imagine if I left it on for about 30 minutes!

Of course I had to try it on. This is one Israel experience I won’t forget! I had the mask on for about 15-20 minutes (we only had an hour to spend). My skin was baby-smooth and lovely to touch when I washed it off! Imagine if I left it on for 30.

Our first legit souvenir stop was at the Nissan Brothers Store in Bethlehem. They had so much to choose from—olive wood Bibles, olive wood carvings and sculptures, crosses, jewelry and gemstones, holy water, holy oil, holy soil, olive oil products, Dead Sea Salt products, the list goes on and on.
P1130033

P1130054

Eilat Stone pendants

P1130061

Israelis usually press their own olive oil right in the comfort of their own home.

P1130068

P1130076

Anointing Oil in different scents. $6.99 a box

P1130077

P1130079

Olive wood Bible

P1130082

The Olive wood Bible in Spanish

P1140872

Miniature model of the Temple

We went to a lot of tourist spots after that, of course there were small stores selling souvenirs but they pretty much carried the same items found at the Nissan Brothers Store.

P1130034
That evening, my companions discovered the shops at the lobby of the Hotel Rimonim. They were fixated on the jewelry being sold because the prices were remarkably cheaper than the other places we’ve been to. Other than jewelry, I saw more interesting shirts, camel leather products, sculptures, figurines, magnets and even bags.
Israel Necklaces
IsraelJewels
I bought camel leather wallets for my dad and brother and cross necklaces for me and my Lola.

I also got myself a Star of David pendant from a store in Nazareth, Jerusalem pouches from a small stall outside Cana (the place where Jesus turned water into wine for a wedding celebration) and an Eliat stone ring at Galilee.

The Star of David is a symbol of Judaism. The six-pointed star points to God as David's True Shield.

The Star of David is a symbol of Judaism. The six-pointed star points to God as David’s True Shield.

P1140740

P1140738

EILAT STONE (The King Solomon Stone) is the national stone of Israel.

EILAT STONE (The King Solomon Stone) is the national stone of Israel. “Both names are derived from its notable mining location close to the Red Sea–King Solomon’s copper mine near the city of Eilat. A natural composite of the minerals malachite, turquoise, azurite, and chrysocolla, its flamboyant colour ranges from turquoise to deep green and has the striking characteristic of no two being alike.”

Now let’s proceed to JORDAN.

Sand bottle art

Sand bottle art

P1150034

Also from the Dead Sea!

P1150040

Pendants, pendants, lots of pendants

P1150045

Jordan for me was much more festive and colorful. Jordan is well-known for their mosaic art. We visited the mosaic factory in Madaba where we saw how the artists carefully arranged the colorful tiles into beautiful pieces.

P1150623 P1150620

I was tempted to purchase some mosaic artwork but since Jordan was our last country, I was getting more worried about my baggage limit. Mind you, the mosaic pieces are heavy. Every night, when we’d get to the hotel, my roommate Lizza and I would unpack and re-arrange our luggage just to make sure everything still fits in.

P1150050

The Tree of Life Mosaic Art (I think this was being sold for $750)

P1140990 P1150054

Here are the other items I got from Jordan:

Pashmina scarves from a Bedouin at Petra
P1180032-001
Myrrh smells like Christmas ($7)
P1150061
Frankincense smells like a Cathedral ($7)
P1150064

Do you think I purchased too little or too much? If you were to visit these countries, what do you think you’d spend a lot on?
Let me know on the comment box below. Thank you for reading!

Holy Land Photoblog: The Western Wall and The Temple Mount

The Western Wall has always been kind of mysterious to me. All I knew before visiting is that it’s a very sacred site in Judaism and thousands of people visit daily to worship and pray.
IMG_5734-001

IMG_5735-001

IMG_5741-001

IMG_5751-001

The 57-meter stretch on the western side of the Temple Mount was built by King Herod in 19 BCE.IMG_5740-001

IMG_5743-001

Also called “The Wailing Wall,” Jews gather here to pray morning, afternoon and evening. There are separate areas for men and women.

IMG_5756-001

IMG_5757-001

IMG_5761-001

The Second Temple was among those destroyed during the Siege of Jerusalem in AD 70. If you look at Matthew 24, Jesus prophesied “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”
IMG_5702-001

IMG_5703-001

IMG_5768-001

IMG_5774-001

IMG_5790-001

P1130958-001

P1130967-001

P1130968-001

P1130970-001

Travel Video: ISRAEL

FINALLY! I finished this travel video! WHOOOO! When I edit videos, my tendency is to really get lost in time because I want to finish a project. It was a challenge to complete this because of my crazy schedule at work, events and ministry.

I spent weeks going through 600-800 video clips, noting which ones are good from those that are just crappy and blurry. So ladies and gents, my dear blog readers, here is ISRAEL IN MOTION (done with lots of love)!!!

Holy Land Photoblog: Megiddo

The first time I heard of Megiddo, the images in my head were of scary arms and artillery, troops and their tanks locked and loaded. Megiddo is said to be the site where the final battle between good and evil will ensue (Revelation 16:12-16), when nations will gather against Israel and the latter will call out to Jesus Christ to rescue them. 

Megiddo - the site of the final battle between good and evil

Megiddo – the site of the final battle between good and evil

IMG_6120-001

View of the Jezreel Valley from the top of Megiddo

How can such a beautiful, peaceful-looking plain be the backdrop of a bloody battle? History and the Bible both reveal that Megiddo has been the site of epic battles. The Megiddo Expedition site says:

Megiddo was the site of epic battles that decided the fate of western Asia. When the Canaanite city-states revolted against 15th century BCE Pharaonic attempts at hegemony, it was at Megiddo that they assembled to do battle. The Egyptian army, led by Pharaoh Thutmose III, surprised the rebels by choosing the most dangerous route of attack – through the narrow ‘Aruna Pass. After routing the Canaanite forces and capturing rich booty, Thutmose III laid siege to the city for seven months. His decisive victory enabled him to incorporate Canaan as a province in the Empire of the New Kingdom. The description of the battle of Megiddo is the earliest account of a major war in antiquity.

IMG_6078-001

Model of Tel-Megiddo

IMG_6084-001

IMG_6093-001

The Late Bronze Period Gate

IMG_6090-001

The Late Bronze Period Gate

IMG_6099-001

Manger

IMG_6119-001

Flags

Flags

P1140353-001

It was interesting to see these birds get into their V formation. I tried to capture the V perfectly but this was all I could muster.

The Sacred Area

The Sacred Area

The entrance to the Megiddo Spring

The entrance to the Megiddo Spring

IMG_6138-001

Yes folks, it’s that deep

IMG_6142-001

It’s very cold in here.

IMG_6144-001

Hold on to the railings. The steps can get slippery

IMG_6149-001

Holy Land Photoblog: Caesarea Maritima

Would you believe that this was again founded by Herod the Great? The man was obviously rich, had a penchant for building colossal structures but he was also very paranoid specially when it came to power. He is the king who ordered the killing of male infants, after the visiting Magi asked him about the “one who has been born king of the Jews.” Aside from that, it’s also been recorded that Herod had his wives (Doris and Mariamne I) and two of his sons (Alexander and Aristobolus IV) killed.

Herod started building Caesarea Maritima in 22BC. It was named in honor of Augustus Caesar and became the Roman administrative capital, the military base of Pontius Pilate, Antonius Felix and other Roman officials.

IMG_6018-001

Harbor

IMG_6008-001

The remains of the pool. It was said to be filled with fresh water and had a statue in the middle.

Continue reading

Holy Week Photoblog: The Garden Tomb

If you haven’t read my previous post, there are two sites in Israel which are believed to have been the tomb of Jesus Christ–The Holy Sepulchre and The Garden Tomb, which is featured in this post. The Holy Sepulchre is located within the walls of Jerusalem while the Garden Tomb is outside the city walls.

Most Protestants believe that this is more likely the location of the rich man’s new tomb, belonging to Joseph of Arimathea who along with Nicodemus, dressed, washed and anointed Jesus’ body for burial. If we look back at the description of the Jesus’ burial place as mentioned in the Bible, it enumerates the following characteristics:

 

 

P1130976

At the place where Jesus was crucified, there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb, in which no one had ever been laid (john 19L41). Since it was the Jewish day of Preparation and the tomb was nearby, Joseph and Nicodemus laid Jesus there (John 19:42).

 

The Garden Tomb is in Jerusalem but not within the Old City. According to our guide from the Garden Tomb, the location matches the description in the Bible: -Located along a highway -Public execution -At the skull-shaped hill -Near a gate of the city -A garden

The Garden Tomb is in Jerusalem but not within the Old City. According to our guide from the Garden Tomb, the location matches the description in the Bible:
-Located along a highway
-Public execution
-At the skull-shaped hill (Golgotha)
-Near a gate of the city
-A garden

A key characteristic of Golgotha is that it looks like a skull

 

You might be asking, why is there a winepress in the tomb? Remember that the tomb originally belonged to Joseph of Arimathea who was a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin who was a secret disciple of Jesus. When he found out that Jesus was dead, he asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, took it and prepared it for burial along with Nicodemus (Remember him from John 3?).  The presence of a winepress in the tomb indicates that it was also a

You might be asking, why is there a winepress in the tomb? Remember that the tomb originally belonged to Joseph of Arimathea who was a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin who was a secret disciple of Jesus. When he found out that Jesus was dead, he asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, took it and prepared it for burial along with Nicodemus (Remember him from John 3?).
The presence of a winepress in the tomb indicates that it was also a “working garden” fit for a rich man.

P1140041 P1140045-001

Of course, worth noting are the beautiful flowers scattered around the garden

Now let’s get to the tomb

The entrance to the tomb

The entrance to the tomb.

The fact that it was a new tomb is crucial–once corpses have already been laid to rest in a tomb, tomb toxins cultivate, therefore making it easier to decompose any new corpse that would be laid in there. Jesus’ body was laid in A NEW TOMB, meaning there was still no existence of tomb toxins/decomposing bacteria that could have easily made his physical body decay.

His tomb was cut out of solid rock, with a large weeping chamber, and a channel for a rolling stone. It is remarkable that all the features mentioned in the biblical account of Joseph’s tomb can be seen at the Garden Tomb.P1140022-001

P1140024-001

Enter a caption

Joseph of Arimathea was a rich man, a member of the Sanhedrin but a secret disciple of Jesus Christ (John 19:38, Matthew 27:57). This was his own new tomb, cut out from a rock (Matthew 27:60).

Indeed! My Savior is RISEN! Despite the debate regarding the exact location of Christ's crucifixion and resurrection, the most important truth is that Jesus conquered death and made salvation possible for all who come to Him and believe.

Indeed! My Savior is RISEN! Despite the debate regarding the exact location of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, the most important truth is that Jesus conquered death and made salvation possible for all who come to Him and believe.

I hope you enjoyed my Holy Week photoblog. 🙂 Looking forward to sharing more of my Holy Land journey and Bible insights with you.