United Church of God

Egypt's Ancient History Comes Alive for Education Travel Group

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Egypt's Ancient History Comes Alive for Education Travel Group

Forty-nine people participated in the first-ever travel education program that took the group to Egypt during the spring Holy Day season, April 4 through 13.

The education program goals were to bring the biblical account alive and build faith in God and His Word; provide fellowship to strengthen individuals spiritually; help participants gain knowledge, understanding and respect for Egyptian culture and people; enhance personal Bible study and prayer; and better equip people to explain God's Word to others with clarity and enthusiasm.

The tour was enhanced by the timing—the historical Passover and Unleavened Bread festivals and Israel's exodus all took place in Egypt. Ralph Levy, ABC instructor, and David Register, Education Programs director, accompanied the group.

The travelers made up a diverse group. The youngest traveler was 12 and the oldest was 77. There were students, working professionals, retirees and seven ministers and wives.

Two members of the group had never traveled in airplanes before! Both missed flights and were caught in all kinds of delays due to weather. Several travelers were able to meet up in Cincinnati and New York to comfort and give encouragement to the rookie travelers.

Luxor and the Valley of the Kings

Luxor in Upper Egypt was the first stop, and sites visited included the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, the Temple of Hatshepsut and the temples at Karnak and Luxor. These ancient tombs and temples of the 18th dynasty represent one of the possible time frames during which Moses lived and the Exodus occurred. The group observed the Sabbath at the Sonesta St. George Hotel in Luxor.

Cairo and the Pyramids

Next, the group traveled to the Cairo area to see the Egyptian Museum, shop in the famous Khan el-Khalili market, visit early monuments in Saqqara and Memphis and marvel at the pyramids of Giza and the famous Great Sphinx.

Additional activity options included a tour of Coptic Cairo and a dinner cruise on the Nile. The Last Day of Unleavened Bread was held in the Zoser Hotel in Giza.

Much to everyone's delight, the only known Church member in Egypt was able to attend the service with us! Lizabeth Heath-Mounsey, who works for the Philippine embassy in Cairo, came with a friend who has been keeping the Sabbath and Holy Days.

Extension to Sinai

After the main itinerary was completed, 35 members of the tour group opted to stay on for the extension trip to the Sinai Peninsula. We drove by bus to see many interesting possible sites where events in the Bible took place. These included the Red Sea where the Israelites crossed, the Springs of Moses, the mountainous region where the war with Amalek took place, the site of the burning bush and Mt. Sinai where Moses received the Ten Commandments.

The next morning, many brave individuals awoke at 1 a.m. and climbed Mt. Sinai to witness the breathtaking sunrise. The hike up took about four hours, and it was dark and cold. Everyone came back tired but enthusiastic.

After scaling Mt. Sinai, the group visited St. Catherine's Monastery where the Codex Sinaiticus, one of the oldest manuscripts of the Bible, was discovered.

Learning About Egypt

Trying to make sense of the contrasts in modern Egypt will give you a headache. The streets are full of cars, buses, carts with donkeys and pedestrians—all at the same time in a noisy, terrible mess. The backdrops to these street scenes are ancient pyramids and temples, medieval forts and mosques, crumbling houses and apartment buildings and modern high rises.

Some other interesting things we learned:

• There are only about 150 to 200 Jewish people currently living in Egypt. Most Jews were expelled by President Nasser after the war with Israel in 1967.

• Our tour guides told us that there is a small Christian sect that they call the "Saturday People." Apparently, they keep the Saturday Sabbath and biblical Holy Days.

• About 10 percent of the population is Christian and 90 percent is Muslim. The main Christian group is the Coptic Christians, who split from the mainstream Eastern Christian church in the 400s.

• The sound of the ancient Egyptian spoken language can be heard in Coptic Christian churches.

• Hosni Mubarak is only the third president in the Egyptian democratic republic, and he has been in power for 25 years. The government held elections in 2005, and although President Mubarak was reelected, in the parliamentary elections a group called the Muslim Brotherhood won enough seats to make them a major player in the system. This marks a change for Egypt, with what some fear will be a trend away from secular leadership to Islamist rule.

• Tourism is Egypt's number one industry, and it is very concerned that tourists feel safe. There was a visible presence of police, guards and a special group called the antiquities and tourism police, especially in the tourist areas. Many commented on how friendly and hospitable the Egyptian people were toward us.

Plans for Future Tours

After the success of this first trip, Ministerial Services will offer more travel education trips to places such as Greece, Israel, Jordan, Turkey and other sites that are interesting from a biblical perspective. UN