Final Day in Cairo, return to Kochi & sundry thoughts on the trip

We were afforded the rare luxury of waking up at 8am, having a leisurely breakfast and then getting on the bus by 10am. By the time our luggage had been identified and loaded it was a bit after 10:30 in the morning and then got on the bus for our sightseeing experience before making the trip to Cairo International airport.

The last of our sightseeing trips conducted was a Coptic Church, St.Sergius and Bacchus which was built on what was believed to be the hideout of the holy family when they had to flee to Egypt from Israel. The bible mentions that with the impending birth of Christ, Herod the King was threatened by the prediction that a child would be born who would take over his kingdom and wear his crown. The gospel of Matthew states that Herod ordered that all male children under the age of 2 should be killed and sent his soldiers out carry out his command. Upon which Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus fled to Egypt. There was a sycamore tree which is called the Tree of the Virgin, popular among the Coptic Christians. There was the well from which the holy family drank off, and the church with its unique icons and saints, all of them Coptic saints who were not familiar to me.

There were long lines at the airport, but we had quite a bit of time to board the aircraft.  We, who had travelled from Kochi, parted company with Mehmood our guide and the US folks since they were flying straight from Cairo to the US. The rest of us who had travelled from India departed on the same plane to Dubai and back to Kochi, arriving there early morning on October 28th. We said our goodbyes to Bindu & the rest of the group, most of whom had already dispersed. Promises to keep in touch via WhatsApp is what we promised to each other, but as is the case in a lot of our associations,  in reality for many of us, it will probably be the last we see of each other… as someone mentioned to me a long time ago, life is full of “hi’s and byes”

Mehmood our guide in Egypt in action.

On the steps of the Cavern Church

A more complete view of the Cavern Church.

It’s been over four months since this journal was updated, there were a lot of photographs, hundreds of them, my selection lacks a lot but given that it already runs into several pages, to add more pictures from the trip would make this a chore to go through. However to  just to sum up with a few thoughts about the trip.

The itinerary – for those who want to go to all the “hot spots” of Christianity this particular tour is a very good one. Granted I do not have a benchmark to compare but have heard from friends of other tour itineraries and though there maybe other positives for tours that have smaller groups or different itineraries this one, the Royal Omania  stands out as one tailored to satisfy a typical holy land pilgrimage, if you will. From the birth place and the path to Christ crucifixion (Via Dolorosa), some of the key events from the New Testament, the Mount of Beatitudes, Church of Ascension, Garden of Gethsemane, Wedding of Cana, site of where the Lord’s prayer was first recited, Room of the Last Supper, the River Jordan, the Sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea, Mount Nebo, the burning bush, site of Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt. A tourist who wants feet on the ground type of feeling, experiencing local landmarks, markets, food just seeing a place or just walking through is only a superficial feel for that place.

For the faithful, this spiritual experience and trip was worth it in many ways, the feeling of spiritual oneness among them was apparent right through the pilgrimage of these holy places, the religiosity was palpable. My appetite of actually witnessing history in these places which had only been names was whetted.

This feeling was very much a feature with our group, especially with folks who needed to explore the various sites either out of their knowledge prior to the visit or just to be able to see the place at their own pace. However one of the other big attractions of our tour was the Egypt leg. There was technically only one “holy” site that we visited, a Coptic church which was built over where the holy family took shelter when they fled Bethlehem fearing Herod’s decree of killing all male infants who were less than the age of 2. But as a badge of honor we did see the Great Pyramids, even the Sphynx and on top of that was the Museum in Cairo. That indeed was special.

The accommodation & food – from the first day onwards, 3 meals were guaranteed and even though the Royal Omania claim to provide ⅘ star accommodation, by US standards realistically, it would be certainly be in the 3 star range. The convenience of being provided timely meals that were palatable cannot be overstated.

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