Is it safe to visit the Mount of Olives?

In peaceful times, a trip up the Mount of Olives, for the stunning view over the Old City and the Temple Mount, is part of every itinerary of Jerusalem. Wonderful vistas aside, the Mount of Olives is also one of the sites where Jesus Christ is said to have been departed the Earth to be with God. Even older is the Jewish Cemetery, which has been present on the slopes of the hill for over 3000 years and to this day is a very sought-after burial place,...

A morning on Temple Mount

The Temple Mount is part of the Old City of Jerusalem and a site revered by Jews, Christinas and Muslims, and has a dramatic history, which carries on to the present day.   For people of the Jewish faith, it is the holiest site.  It is the site of the Holiest of the Holies (Tabernacle), containing the Ark of the Covenant.  The first Temple was built by the Israelites under King Solomo around 3000 years ago around it. Following its destruction by Nebukadnezar about 450 years later, ...

Arriving in the Holy Land and Jerusalem – finally!

Jerusalem – Holy City of three faiths, contested for millennia, a destination that has long been on my list of places I wish to visit in my lifetime. For a long time, the Second Intifada put a stop to that, then I couldn’t find anyone to travel with or my mother told me she would be worried sick if I went, and I was never sure I wanted to go there all by myself.   Of course I could have joined a tour. Perhaps a Christian tour?...

West Bank Banksies, Walls and Sweet Child Jesus: a Day in Bethlehem

Bethlehem: I looked everywhere in my 2011 Bradt Guide, but couldn’t find it. No wonder… it’s in the West Bank, one of the three Palestine Territories in Israel. So, it wasn’t even in the guide! (I believe many other guides do cover the Palestine Territories, though). From everywhere, I heard words of caution about travelling to the West Bank, but travelling in relatively stable times (November 2017), I wanted to see the place Jesus was born. Somewhere in a weekend supplement, I’d read about the midnight mass...

Visiting Sites on the West Bank of Luxor, and other Luxor Favourites

Luxor Airport was really small, and honestly, not much to shout about. A lot of Nile Cruise tourists would arrive in Hurghada by charter flight. So, forget about public transport from Luxor Airport to the town centre – a taxi it was, and the first shock of haggling a decent price, because as a tourist fresh off a plane, I was easy prey/ very tired and bothered and just wanted to sleep. So it was the next morning before I could really take all this in: I...

Abydos: Visit an underrated jewel in the Nile Valley

As previously reported, I was lucky to meet a German woman in one of the minor sites on the West Bank, we started talking, and before I knew it I had a neat individual itinerary of Nile Valley sights complete with private taxi. And if I had to do it again, I would travel individually again. We were bound to the convoy times (Egypt operated a convoy system for all road travel involving tourists between 1997 and 2008, with no nighttime travel allowed), but apart from that,...

Abu Simbel in a Day? Tricky but possible

Who isn’t interested in ancient Egypt? Probably very few people could deny any fascination with what remains of the Seven Wonders of the world, hieroglyphs and monumental temples. My earliest memories of them are from trips to my grandparents and the 1930’s history encylopaedia they kept in their living room, then ten years we had to kill a few hours before a friends wedding, got comfy in a  bookshop and browsed a oversized coffee table book of the Valley of the Kings, easily accessible from Luxor. That...