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Cruising the Mediterranean Sea
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Cruising the Mediterranean Sea
  Cairo Travel Tale

by Lorry Patton ...

The departure whistle blew and everyone hit the decks to watch the ship pull away from Naples streamer-laden dock. At last, we were out to sea! The Mediterranean Sea. (Those first few moments are precious and exciting no matter how many cruises you've been on.)

Three days later -- three glorious days of getting pampered and acquainted with ship, crew and friends -- we made our grand entrance into Alexandria. Loaded with cameras and anticipation we met our Egyptian guides.

Egypt: The name alone conjures visions of indestructible pyramids, comical camels and history. The tour bus carried us to Cairo and the Grand Museum of Antiquities where King Tuts' priceless treasures are on display.

Room after room and floor upon floor overflowed with cases of shields, shoes, belts and combs of gold, silver and alabaster, along with huge stone statues, chiseled granite blocks and decorative coffins. I had no idea there was so much of everything; it was overwhelming.

West of the bustling city, the famous pyramids stood like giant mountains on the horizon. A short while later, I was leaning against the Great Pyramid of Giza and thinking about the hundred thousand men it took to build it. The much photographed Sphinx was visible in the distance. I was astounded by its size. It is so small. Not the colossus I imagined.

We purchased Arabian head scarves from the white-robed peddlers and posed for pictures. The brightly costumed camels the peddlers rode didn't seem to mind being poked, touched, photographed and sat upon by us curious tourists. And while I wasn't poked or sat upon, I didn't mind being touched by the curious native children. They didn't want us to leave and I didn't want to go.

As in every port, immigration officials were on board to inspect our passports and allow us entry into their country. As soon as we were cleared we hurried to the buses that would take us to Jerusalem, Israel's Holy Land.

Israel: The land of religion, strife and a proud and emotional people. Our guide to the Holy Land explained Israelis' political and religious plight moments after we scrambled on board. He wanted us to understand their dilemma, and somehow, at the time, we did. Imagine twenty-eight North Americans singing " Heyveynu Shalom Alechem " (we bring you peace) on an air-conditioned German coach headed for Jerusalem.

A grey rock wall surrounds the Old City. It felt strange to walk the narrow crooked streets Jesus once walked upon. Stranger still, to press my forehead against the wailing wall. Bits of paper filled the cracks -- prayers left by thousands of worshipers. And when we sang " Oh little town of Bethlehem " at the Church of Nativity where Jesus was thought to be born, several of us had to swallow hard. For me, it was a page from the bible come to life. For the Israelis, it was life.

Before returning to our ship that evening, we climbed high atop Mt. Carmel. Haifa, the 'city of the future' shimmered by the sea. Our ship twinkled at the dock.

Next came Turkeys' ports of Kusadasi and Istanbul.

Kusadasi looked like any ordinary resort town with hotels, campgrounds and sandy beaches. However, close by lay the ruins of another page from the bible: Ephesus -- a deserted Greek city where Apostles John and Paul once preached. The remains of elegant rock archways and handsome stone ladies perched on carved pedestals looked like something out of 'Quo Vadis`, but this was no movie set; this was the real thing. The acoustics in the ancient Odeum bowl where public performances once took place were remarkable. A whisper could be heard.

The fairy tale skyline of Istanbul grew larger than life as the ship glided into our last port. The city's architect caught my eye. It was either round, fat and squat, or tall, spindly and fragile. And then there was the Grand Bazaar. Hundreds of shops line a maze of corridors that would confuse the most experienced shopper. Shops selling leather clothing, exquisite gold and silver jewelry, fancy embroidered satin bedding, silk and wool carpets, and brass, and copper and on and on.

We bought a six by nine foot wool rug. The proprietor packed it in a suitcase and we carried it home. It's on my living room floor. Its purchase just one of many incidents I'll remember.

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