Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Heading to Nazareth, Israel

We docked in Haifa, which is located on the coast of northern Israel overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. It's about 20 miles from the border of Lebanon. It is an ancient port city dating from the 6th century BC and has been occupied by the Romans, the Crusaders, the Ottomans and the British.

It was transformed into a thriving port by the British as the terminus of the oil pipeline from Iraq. It is currently Israel’s third largest city with a population of 250,000, with the metropolitan area having one million people. It is predominantly Jewish, although Christians believe that the Hebrew prophet Elijah preached from Mount Carmel.

Avi was meeting us for the last day of our tour. By now we were used to his personality and he was used to us. We were all tired though, and looking forward to a sea day the next day. Welcome to Haifa!

We were heading to Nazareth this morning, and then hopefully to the Sea of Galilee in the afternoon.The highway system in Israel is first rate.

It is very lush here with lots of vegetation. 


We passed by these horses. At first we thought they were wild, as they appeared to be in the middle of nowhere, but Avi assured us they were not.

All of a sudden we were detouring to Zippori. We weren’t really sure why.

This little guy greeted us. We noticed afterward that he appears on all the tourism literature.

We still weren’t sure what we were doing here. But we all trooped into the washroom. Never pass up a washroom while on a tour! This lady greeted us and Jeff had a little fun with her. No photograph…it will just have to remain in our minds. The funny thing is that when we returned from the washroom, she was gone!

This interesting mosaic was outside the washroom. This is certainly the land of the mosaics. Amazing work!

Oh! Now we got it…more ruins. Avi’s background in archaeology was coming into play. Remains of an ancient city have been discovered here, including a system of streets, public buildings, dwellings, a theatre, market, a synagogue and churches. The system of aqueducts east of the city included channels and a gigantic water reservoir. Zippori is mentioned for the first time in 103 BC.

There was an impressive network of streets arranged in a grid, dating from the Roman period. One of the main streets…

With the deep grooves from the chariot wheels…

Excavation of the ruins began in 1931 and continues to this day.

Porticoes along both sides of the street were paved with mosaics…

The intricate work on them is just mind boggling!

Rather than walking throughout the ruins, Avi drove us through most of it…even through sections that indicated we shouldn’t be driving. Go Avi!

Instead of removing mosaics when they wanted a new design, they just built another layer on top of the old one. Rather like old houses we find with layers of linoleum!

Look at the workmanship!

The Nile House covered a large area and consisted of three main wings connected by corridors.

The floors were covered with colourful mosaics, including a spectacular one depicting celebrations in Egypt on the Nile River and various hunting scenes.The majority of the mosaic artisans were Egyptian.


Centaurs originated in Greek mythology and were half man and half horse.

This mosaic is simply incredible with all its details and stories. It represents a celebration of the Nile with different scenes depicting different events. This mosaic artist used an average of 180 stones per square decimeter (10 cm x 10 cm) with 18 different colours and shades!

This pillar in the centre of the picture was a Nilometer. It measured the height of the water and determined the tax rate for that year. The man standing on the woman’s shoulders is engraving the number IZ (17) which indicated the height of the water and the reason for the festivities. A high number indicated greater flooding and a corresponding bigger harvest.

The next building was spectacular. It would have been constructed at the beginning of 300 AD. Its prominent position at the summit of the hill, and its proximity to the theatre, indicated the high status of its owner. An artist’s rendering…

This mosaic would have served as the carpet in the living-dining area.

The person was most likely the lady of the house...

The “L” shapes inside the lines on the mosaic also indicated the wealth of the owner. He would have had an architect design the room and the lines indicated where the furniture would be placed. Just like interior design marks used now!

One of the many scenes in the mosaic, this one shows a drunken Herakles being supported by a youth and a maiden.

The “Procession of Merrymakers”…an important part of the scene is missing as it was covered over later with a mosaic depicting a hunting scene.

This watch tower was built during a Crusader period on foundations from an earlier building. During the Ottoman period, it was used as a schoolhouse.

The view from above…no wonder it made a great lookout!

The remains of the theatre, which would have been built by the Romans at the beginning of 200 AD, contained about 4500 stone seats.

Avi took our picture. As usual, Jeff was nowhere to be found until he appeared at the last minute and jumped into the photo.

The synagogue...


This mosaic showed the zodiac with rich detail. As it would have appeared…

And what remains…

More stories…this one depicting two servants waiting for Abraham at the foot of Mt. Moriah.

Wow! So many ruins, so little time! And with that, we were back on our way to Nazareth.

The Church of the Annunciation is built on the site where the archangel Gabriel appeared before Mary with the news that she would be pregnant.

Entering the courtyard…

There are many mosaics donated by different countries, featuring Mary and baby Jesus. 



It was very interesting to see each country’s interpretation of what Mary and Jesus looked like.








This beautiful door into the church showed scenes from the life of Jesus. On the left, his birth, fleeing to Egypt, the son of a carpenter; on the right, the crucifixion, the teacher and the healer.

Inside the church, the area where the angel appeared before Mary…


Stained glass in the stairway...

On the second level is the parish church for the Catholic community of Nazareth.

This huge mosaic is reported to be one of the largest in the world and represents "one, holy, catholic and apostolic church."

Located next to the Church of the Annunciation is the Church of St. Joseph built in 1914 on the site of  Joseph's carpenter workshop.

The Holy Family...Joseph, Mary and Jesus…

The caves where they lived…

The streets of Nazareth today…

Mary and Joseph would have been baffled by this traffic circle. It was a free-for-all!

We decided to stop here for lunch. Yummy pitas…

With Norovirus still prevalent on the ship, we had been warned about eating in restaurants,  but we decided to live dangerously!

They were huge pitas! Megan is going for it...she also amazed Avi with the amount of hot peppers she could eat.

Waiting for Avi…we did that a lot. He quite often disappeared to talk to people.

We were walking back to the van and noticed this sign. Not sure if it had anything to do with the show Friends, but I liked it.

I guess it’s sometimes a long wait for your car!

Waiting for Avi…again!

Goodbye Nazareth…

An impressive government building...

At this point, we could tell Avi did not want to go to the Sea of Galilee. He told us we wouldn’t be back to the ship until 7:00 pm if we went there. Although some of us did want to go, we didn’t want to make an issue of it and everyone was tired. Instead, he took us to the Baha’i Shrine and Gardens in Haifa.

The 19 garden terraces were created entirely though contributions from Baha’i people around the world. In 1850, Bab, one of the central figures of the Baha’i faith was martyred in Iran. In 1909 he was interred in the shrine that is the central focus of the gardens. Beautiful bougainvillea outside the gates.

The gates…

Fantastic gardens taking up many acres in the city. You have to book a tour in advance, so we just wandered around the top section.


Amazing view of the city. We could see our ship in the distance.

An eagle…

Jim from above…

Immaculate…

20 gardeners keep the area in this pristine condition.

Avi with us…I am sure he was tired as well. He lives in Tel-Aviv so he was travelling between there, Jerusalem and Haifa to meet us.

We passed this on the way back to the ship. Not sure what it was…looked like some sort of stock quotations!

Home, sweet home! We were really tired and so looking forward to a sea day!

The next day we slept in and enjoyed a leisurely day. It was our last formal night on this leg of the cruise. Ready to go again!

Iwan, our favourite bartender, holding the ever present bottle of Pinot Grigio!

Dinner with Jeff and Kathy, Mary and Brad to our left, and David and Michelle in the background. They are all leaving the ship in Barcelona, as the four of us continue on to Fort Lauderdale…

And now we have two sea days...it's been a whirlwind!

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