Israel-Really Cool Ancient Stuff

It was like going back to the times of the Ben Hur movie! I was thrilled!

Caesarea Maritima was build from 25-13 BC by King Heron ( yes, The King Herod of the Bible) as a major port for the Roman Empire. It was the place where Pontius Pilate governed during the time of Jesus.The site is now a historical site between north of Tel Aviv.

Herod build himself a grand palace on the sea plus an amphitheatre and a hippodrome for chariot races just like in the movies.

The site changed hands many times over the course of history. It was the capital of a Byzantine providence. Then it was the last city in the Holy Land to fall to the Arabs. The Crusades march in later and changed the whole port into a fortified city.

I witnessed the layers of history represented in artifacts from different eras.

I enjoyed the exhibit showing pottery from different periods of time.

Glass came later.

What an experience back in time! I loved every minute!

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India-History Speaking through Art

As part of my tour, I was taken to the Qutub Complex in Delhi which was built by Muslims in 1192 who conquered and then occupied Hindu Delhi. During this time they constructed a mosque and a tower, The Qutub Minar.

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The tower is 220 feet tall and made out of variegated and detailed layers of sandstone and marble. The garlands and lotus are characteristic of Indo-Iranian design.

I love art and art history and was thrilled to see, close at hand, the intricate carvings in stone. I am always amazed at the skill and patience of crafts people of long ago.

The site is part of history, a reminder of one of the many times India was under the rule of a group outside its borders. It will be forever an UNESCO World Heritage Site, always protected for all of us to experience and learn from.

India-A Muslim Friend

Travel opens us to new worlds. I have lived my whole life in rural areas in New York State, quiet places that have little diversity. I have really never known a Muslim even though there is a mosque in my area. Like many Americans, I know very little about Islam. Unfortunately in my country there is a lot of suspicion about the people of this religion and almost a taboo about wanting to know knowing more about them

I found out our guide was Muslim as he took great pride in telling us about the Mughals, Muslims who came from Persia (present day Iran ) and ruled India from 1556-1707. They ran a consolidated government that used local people to collect taxes in cash from agricultural sources and trade. The arts flourished especially in the form in architecture. Forts, mosques, and mausoleums, notability the Taj Mahal, were build under their reign. Tolerance was encouraged as Hindus were integrated into the governing process. But as time went on, systems broke down and the Mughals lost their hold on India.

Our tour guide was the first person of the Muslim faith I ever had an opportunity to really talk to. He was kind and very patient with me as I tried to sort out all the sights and sounds of India and relate them to what I knew and hoped to learn. On one of our last days, I mention to him that I wanted to buy a terracotta cup that is meant to absorb the excess water from the yogurt. I really thought this was clever and I wanted to show people back home. Near the Ganges River on the way back to our bus, the guide stopped our group at a stand and asked us if we wanted a chai tea. A few of us, including myself, said we would. Our guide paid for them all and then he handed me a larger cup, a yogurt cup, that he had some how gotten from the vendor. I was thrilled by this kind gesture. This little cup is my most precious souvenir of the trip. Its meaning goes beyond its efficiency. It represents a new knowing and a change of heart and mind that will always stay with me.

In America, as part of my country’s culture, I was programed to suspect and fear anything to do with the words “Muslim” or “Islam”. It is so much easier, as a human beings, to label people with broad brush strokes and dismissing them, sometimes forgetting they exist or, even worse, hating them. We don’t take times to listen to stories and really look at reality and gather facts. I’m now spending some time learning about Islam and I will no longer feel uncomfortable doing it.

I have my first Muslim friend. It is sad that it took almost a lifetime to find one but I feel so fortunate that it was him.

India-An Event Remembered, Old and New Delhi, and a Mosque

My plan for my blog was to write about the tour one day at a time. After downloading almost 2000 pictures and realizing how much we did each day, I am presenting India in short mangable bites. I discovered by the end of my trip that India is a land of millions  and millions of little details,  each with its own significance. You will understand this when you see my pictures. India is a busy place where a lot has happened and is happening.

I mentioned in my first India blog post that I came to this country with an open mind and without doing too much research. This had some disadvantages but it may have saved me some anguish.  As we drove up to our first hotel, I saw that the whole place was a fenced-in compound with guards at the gate. In order to get into the hotel, my luggages and purse were scanned. I also was  further scanned by a female guard. The lovely hotel was part of the Taj chain. I then remembered the images from a news story in 2008 concerning an attack by Pakistani terrorists on another Taj hotel in Mumbai. The hotel was seized for three days  and 31 people were killed. I’m  glad I had forgotten about this. I would have made the trip anyway but the fact that I hadn’t recalled the incident had saved me from additional  pre trip nervousness.

I didn’t have time to think about this anymore because our tour group had a full day ahead of us. Our bright orange tour bus drove us through Delhi, the newer part  with its well laid out and landscaped streets designed by the architect, Edward Lutyens  for the British who colonized India from 1858 to 1947.

Then we went on to Jama Masjid, the largest mosque in India built between 1644 and 1658. Within in its walls its courtyard can accommodate up to 25,000 people.


The  tour I was on was called “Mystical India” and I chose it deliberately because I wished to see first hand different kinds of religious practices. I have become more  interested learning about other spiritual paths as I  realize that good and evil have no affiliation, that there is good and bad in all groups, that there is good and bad in all of us.   Gandhi started,  “A variety of incidents in my life have conspired to bring me in close contact with people of many creeds and many communities, and my experience with all of them warrants the statement that I have known no distinction between relatives and strangers, countrymen and foreigners, white and colored, Hindus and Indians of other faiths, whether Musalmans, Parsis, Christians or Jews. I may say that my heart has been incapable of making any such distinctions.”  I find great value and comfort in Gandhi’s philosophy of inclusion.

Our next adventure was a rickshaw ride and a stroll through “Old” Delhi. I think my pictures speak for themselves.

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It was only the beginning of that day.  There was plenty more to see and learn.