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June 2008 - Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Jordan

Israel | Herzliya | Herzliya Marina| Artemis

June 30, 2008

Hi All We've spent a lazy week here in Herzliya, Israel. My brother Mike flew out of Tele Aviv airport on June 23 to go home. Mike Sikorra flew to Istanbul June 28 for a few days before flying back to the states July 1. Al and I are back to cruising alone again. We've been running the air conditioning and finding very few excuses to leave the boat. The beach is lovely and we've swam a few times and gone for early morning walks. We plan to leave tomorrow morning for Cyprus about 180nm so have to plan a daylight arrival. Then we'll move on to Turkey.

We've tried SKYPE a few times but it's a bit bazaar talking to people in the middle of McDonalds. The Israeli teens got a kick out of us talking to Josie especially when I sang her "I don't want to be a chicken, I don't want to be a duck Quack Quack Quack...Love and God Bless Sally and Al

Love Sally and Al

Jordan | Jerash | Colonade

Jordan | Jerash | Temple to Artemis

Sun. June 22

Today we visited the spectacular Roman ruins of Jerash, Jordan . It is one of the best Roman ruins we have seen in our travels. The Temple to Artemis was awesome. There was a hippodrome where mock chariot races take place and a big theater. By request I chose to sing Swing Low Sweet Chariot...I looked over Jordan and what did I demonstrate the excellent acoustics in the theater. Then 3 J

Jordan | Jerash | Theater

Jordanian musicians played Scottish bagpipes. Later this month there will be a music festival in this theater featuring known singers. I wonder who else has sang where I stood to sing? The main artery of the city Cardo Maximus was flanked with over 500 columns.

We had a 3 hour drive to the Jordan border. The people are so friendly. Children and adults would smile and wave to us as passed by. We passed quickly from Jordan but had a long delay on the Israeli side. Two of our families were detained for two hours and never told why. I'm sure our passports were quite unusual with Turkey, Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt and now Jordan stamps.

I got a nice souvenir from the Israeli check point. I stepped forward to point to my knapsack that was caught on the conveyor belt and sliced a 3" line across my shin on a glass plate bordering the belt. It was cut raw glass on the bottom edge and I barely touched my leg to it but blood every where. The Customs first aid came and cleaned my leg up and put on a bandage. It seems to be okay but I'll keep an eye on it.

We went to Murphy's Pub at Herzliya Marina for burger's for dinner. We thought the hamburgers were a little pricey until our plates arrived with 3 hamburgers each on them. Lunch tomorrow... Love and God Bless Sally, Al, Mike S, and Brother Mike

Love Sally and Al

Jordan | Petra | Siq | Colorful sandstone rose, yellow, gray, and blue

Jordan | Petra | Siq| colorful sandstone walls of canyons

Jordan | Petra | Facade of the Treasury

Sat. June 21

We had an amazing day in Petra, Jordan. We walked down to the Siq (canyon) with our guide explaining the sights as we walked. It was extremely hot even at 8:30 in the morning so we were careful to walk and sit in the shade of the rocks and canyon walls. We walked over 2 km through a gorgeous canyon of sandstone-cliffs of rose, yellow, grey and blue. As we neared the end of the canyon our guide led us close to the right hand side. He stopped and guide us to find some lettering on the left hand side. We walked slowing toward the wall staring intently searching for ancient writings. When we were all on the left he said now look to your right and we all saw this spectacular sight at the same moment-The majestic facade of the Treasury framed by the narrow passageway through the canyon. The Treasury facade is deeply carved into the high rock right across from the exit of the Siq.

Jordan | Petra | Urn Tomb

We spent 5 hours in Petra. We among other things we visited the Necropolis, theater and the Urn Tomb. Most awesome is the horizontal bands of colors in the sandstone. Many shops sell bottles of sand art to try and replicate the colors and lines of the sandstone. The climb up to the Urn Tomb made for King Malichos II around 70 AD was worth the effort. The main inner hall of the tomb was made into a Byzantine Church in the 5th century. The ceiling and walls again displayed the beautiful rose, yellow, grey and blue swirls of the sandstone. Petra is so beautiful. It's like nothing I've seen before but then I've never been to the Grand Canyon :-) It took over an hour to walk back out of the canyon.

I'm glad we were leaving at 1:30 not arriving in the extreme heat. Hot, tired and hungry we were glad for a nice lunch stop. We drove another 3 hours through the desert to the capital city of Jordan, Amman. We had a bus tour of the city before arriving at our hotel the Regency Palace (5 Star). Amman is a very modern city of 2 1/2 million people. There is lots of new building going on with foreign money from the Gulf States. Twin Towers of 50 stories, expensive condo's, many US fast food franchises, and the largest Starbucks in the world. We even passed a large Safeway grocery store. US has a very large embassy in a prime location and there is another building that is a replica of the White House.

Our hotel was much nicer and we had excellent meals. The owner's daughter wedding reception was taking place so the winding banister was covered in beautiful flowers. The food in Jordan is a nice change from the food we've been eating. It's spicier and they use more interesting seasonings. We even had an ice bucket delivered to our room.

Jordan | Mount Nebo | Moses view of The Promised Land

June 20, 2008

Hi All We left Herzliya at 8 AM for a 3 day trip to Jordan. After a 2 hour drive to the Jordan River Border crossing we finally cleared customs before noon. Our guide James is fantastic. He's very knowledgeable and organized. We knew from the start this was going to be an excellent tour. We drove through the Jordan Valley along the Dead Sea and Jordan River to Mount Nebo over 2500 ft above sea level and the Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level. The view on Mount Nebo sweep the entire valley and is where Moses was told to climb so that he could see the Promised Land before dying. There are ruins to a monastery that the Holy Land Franciscans are restoring. Beautiful mosaics found here will be placed back into the Church complex once it is restored. Many mosaic factories continue this art form today.

Jordan | Madaba | Church of St. George | Mosaic map of Palestine

Next we visited Madaba (Medba in the Bible). Here we visited the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George. We viewed a mosaic- sort of a geographic map of Palestine covering much of the floor. It was meant to help pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land. We drove 3 hours through the desert to our hotel in Petra. The Golden Tulip Hotel (4 Star) was a disappointment. Our air conditioner was poor and the food was not great.

Israel | Jerusalem| Mount of Olives and Golden Gate of Old City

Thurs. June 19 Our day trip to Jerusalem was spoiled by a horrible guide but we hope to visit again before we leave Israel on our own. We did a bus tour outside the city walls with several stops. The Mount of Olives had spectacular views of the Old City looking toward the Golden Gate (one of seven gates to the city). Jewish tradition says this is how the Messiah will enter the city at the End of Days. So the Muslims sealed this gate to protect against a possible Messiah coming to take their city.

Israiel | Jerusalem | Coenaculum room of Last Supper

Israel | Jerusalem | King David's Tomb

Israel | Jerusalem| Church of Garden of Gethsemane

Next we visited the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was betrayed and Judas hung himself. The church was built over the stone upon which Jesus prayed the night before he was arrested and the apostles lay sleeping. Mount Zion we visited King David's Tomb and the Coenaculum believed to be the Room of the Last Supper. We entered the city through the Armenian Quarter having walked through David Street Bazaar. We entered the Jewish Quarter next inhabited by Jews as far back as the First Temple Period 3,000 years ago. Sign posts along the way pinpoint the remains of various civilizations. We entered the Christian Quarter for lunch.

Israel | Jerusalem | Holy Sepulchre

Then we began the Stations of the Cross which are placed within the maze of the Old City. Some are rather difficult to find and our guide made it more confusing by guiding us backwards starting with the Fourteenth and never taking us to Stations One and Two. She had no sense of our need to spend some time at each Station and would move on quickly. Fear of being left behind kept us in pace with her.

Next we entered the Muslim Quarter and visited Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock built by the Marmelukes (accomplished architects and artisan slaves) They rebuilt much of Jerusalem. Temple Mount is where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaacs and were the First and Second Temples once stood. Jewish people are forbidden to visit this site because somewhere on the hill is the site of the Ancient Temples Holy of Holies (inner sanctuary of which only the High Priest is allowed to enter one day a year on Yom Kipper) Israeli Border Patrol and Arab Police secure this area.

Our last visit of the day was through high security into the Jewish Quarter to the western wall. Above the wall is Temple Mount. This wall was the retaining wall for the western side of the Temples and is the only remnant of the Temple complex to survive the Romans' sack of Jerusalem. Jewish people for over 2000 years have gathered here to bemoan the loss of the Temple-thus the "Wailing Wall". Many people write prayers and wishes on pieces of paper they tuck into the wall then slowly back away from the wall continuing their prayers. Tomorrow we leave for a 3 day trip to Jordan. Love and God Bless Sally, Al, Mike S and Brother Mike

Love Sally and Al

Israel | Herzliya | MikeS, Sally, Mike F, Gulchin , Al

Israel | Herzliya | Group 4/Green EMYR members

Israel | Herzliya | End EMYR Rally Party |Group 4 leader Miro, Zdenka s/y Snow White, Sally and Al

June 18, 2008

Hi All It was joyous, but sad parting with our EMYR friends. First we had cocktails with our Group 4 (11 yachts). Miro (Al's "Bohemian Brother") our group leader gave each boat their velvet cased, bronze plaque of EMYR 2008 participation. Then each crew member received a special certificate.

Israel | Herzliya | Final EMYR Party| Flag ceremony and Rally Song led by Sally

We had our final Rally Dinner on the waterfront complete with flag ceremony and Rally Song (led by Sally) We danced, exchanged boat cards, and said our farewells. Many boats are staying on in Israel for a while but some we may never see again.

June 17, 2008

Hi All

We had a late start from Port Said Egypt heading to Herzliya Israel due to customs check out but the sail made up for it. We had one of the nicest sails we've had on the Mediterranean. We left Port Said around 11:00 AM and turned our engine off for the next 12 hours. Great North winds off the beam. We averaged 7 knots most of that time. About midnight we started to motor sail. The only draw back was a starboard tack which made making dinner more difficult as the galley stove is on the port side. It is much easier to cook leaning downhill into the stove than holding on uphill. But I managed a nice "Caribbean Jerk" fresh tuna, potatoes, and corn dinner. The two Mikes took the first watch so I made them a pot of coffee, found some questionable cookies to go with and went to bed. Warm shirt sleeve sailing, full moon and lots of stars.

We arrived at Marina about 11:00 this morning. Hertzliya, Israel is a beautiful, ritzy marina with a hotel, shopping mall, restaurants, large grocery store (expensive) all on site. We're planning a trip to Jerusalem on Thursday and then either a 3 or 4 day trip into Jordan after that. We're hoping to get internet but could be pricey. Love Sally and Al

June 16, 2008

Today Mike S., Al, and I slept in while brother Mike F. and others went on the Papyrus Institute trip. Sleep was a luxury the three of us just couldn't give up after two months of rigorous travel. We then spent 3 hours at the Pyramids. That truly was exciting. The highlight of the day was a 30 minute camel ride by the pyramids. Al, brother Mike, and I gave in and spent $13 each and it was well spent. The camels had halters and a lead rope that our driver attached to our friend Gus' camel. To my dismay the lead fell off of the back horn on the saddle and my camel decided he was going back home. Thankfully my driver caught his lead and my bumpy trot was short lived. It was an awesome feeling riding in the desert next to the pyramids.

I spent an extra $5 to crawl down inside the 2nd pyramid The tunnel went downhill about 50 meters. The tunnel was 1.5 X 1.2 meters and very musty smelling. After that 50m we had about 20m of upright passage and then another 50 meters up into the main burial chamber. That room was about 6 X 10 meter room. Our last stop for the day was pictures by the sphinx.

Egypt | Suez Canal | Ship appears to be passing in desert

We were "pinching ourselves" all weekend. It's so hard to believe where we are. The most bazaar sight during the trip home was looking out into the sand dunes and seeing huge ships and tankers passing on the Suez Canal. Another was women walking down the road with huge baskets or jars balanced on their heads without using their hands.

Tonight were back in Port Said and we had another Rally Dinner. We had kids dancing for us ranging in age from 8-14 years. Such fun, so full of energy, and lots of rhythm. Another great meal and entertainment. Tomorrow we leave early for Hertzliya, Israel the last port of the EMYR. (134 nm)

Love Sally and Al

Egypt | Cairo | Ali Mosque

Egypt | Cairo | Ali Mosque

June 15, 2008

Hi All

Happy Father's Day to all of our father friends. But special wishes to Grandpa Fraher, Grandpa Pribyl, and our son Patrick. We had a fantastic visit to Cairo with our guide Khaled. Most hilarious was our police escort from Port Said to Cario and back. We would travel in the left lane and they traveled along side in covered pick-up trucks. Each truck had at least 8 armed men. Sirens blared as they alerted traffic to our passage. The local police of the city would stop in coming traffic to the highway as we passed. When we reached the border of Port Said that patrol honked and waved good-bye as the next escort picked us up. People on the streets waved as we passed as if we were dignitaries.

Egypt | Cairo | Cairo Egyptian Museum

We visited Ali Mosque and the citadel first. Then the Cairo Museum. We spent most of our time in the King Tut exhibit and the mummies. It was most impressive and so helpful to see the artifacts and statues before visiting the pyramids. We had a better sense of how the temples might have looked. Next we had a 3 hour lunch/shopping trip at Khan Khalili Bazaar. It's fun to look but living on a boat stops the temptation to buy anything.

Egypt | Cairo | River Nile | Felucca ride Ivo sailing

We drove to the River Nile where we boarded five Feluccas (traditional Nile sailing boats) for a cocktail sail. Ivo from "Movimento" (EMYR boat) sailed our boat while the owner removed the sun canvas. We were quite proud when we caught up to and passed other boats. Our hotel was very nice Huge swimming pool...unfortunately we didn't bring our suits. We had a nice dinner and an excellent nights sleep.

Egypt |Suez Canal| Port Said | Arsenal Marina | EMYR yachts

Egypt | Suez Canal | Port Said| Arsenal Marina| Artemis last in Parade to Moorings

June 12, 2008

We arrived safely outside Port Said about 5 AM and had to wait until 6:30 before we could "parade" into Port Said canal to the Arsenal Marina. Tomorrow morning we leave for an overnight to Cairo. Highlights include Mohammed Ali Mosque, Cairo Museum, visit bazaar Khan Khalili, sail river Nile with Feluccas. Our hotel is by the Pyramids. Sunday 15 visit Pyramids then back to Port Said via Ismailia. We'll have a Rally Dinner. We'll return to Herzliya, Israel on Monday June 16 arriving on Tues. June 17.

Love Sally and Al

June 11, 2008

Hi all,

We left Ashkelon, Israel early this morning for Port Said, Egypt. The wind switched last night to the NW but very light. So we still have the 1-2 meter seas to contend with. We should arrive outside the Suez Canal tomorrow morning about 5 AM. When the whole fleet is there we'll form a line and head in together. Sadly about 20 boats chose not to make the trip to Egypt (weather conditions or just worn out from all the overnights with only two people on board). We'll meet up with them again next week in Herzliya Israel for the final Rally Dnner.

Eastern Mediterranean | Israel to Egypt | Mike Sikorra's Tuna

Eastern Mediterranean Sea| Sailing from Israel to Egypt | Fileting Charlie

It's been a rocky ride so far and no sailing as we head from Israel to Egypt. The boys asked "What's for lunch?" and I answered "Tuna". Sikorra said "You mean the one I was suppose to catch?" I told them I had canned tuna just in case. We had a nice lunch and then the excitement started. Suddenly the line on the starboard fishing pole started to run out. We were slow to react after all the teasing we'd been dishing out to Sikorra for the past half hour. After about 20 minutes we got a good look at his gorgeous yellow fin tuna. The next course of conversation was how are we going to get this "sucker" up into the boat. It kept diving and Sikorra kept reeling him in, playing and trying to tire him out. It was a question of who was wearing who out. But Sikorra was the victor. He reeled him in close to the boat and Al was able to scoop him with our fishnet. Whrew it was on board. Mike F poured gin into his gills and eventually we got him into the cockpit. Amazing! He was so beautiful. One gorgeous fish! It was hard to hold him up on the scale to weigh him with the boat rolling and Sikorra could barely lift him. He was about 3' and we're guessing between 20-30 pounds. Now the work began. Sikorra with Al's help had to filet him and then we put away five big meals of tuna for four people. Finally used my Seal-a-Meal. The mess in the cockpit wasn't too bad and we're looking forward to grilled fresh tuna tonight. Whrew what a lot of work.

Love Sally and Al

Israel | Ashkelon | Harbor entrance 3 meter seas

June 10, 2008

Hi All The Rally made the decision earlier in the evening to delay our trip to Egypt. We had 3 meter seas to beat into and many boats were canceling this leg of the trip. So we walked out to the lighthouse and watched the surfers riding the waves. Then we decided to walk into Ashkelon shopping area about 3 miles from the harbor. It's strange seeing so many guards and military personal wearing guns and carrying machine guns. People throughout Israel have bomb shelters in their homes and have to use them. What a way to live...We had a great pita lunch and then found a nicer way back to the marina through parks and along a beautiful white sand beach. Surfers were having a great time the waves had increased since morning. We had a Group 4 Pot Luck dinner on the quay.

Israel | Negev Desert | Masada | funicular to Masada fortress

Israel | Negev Desert | Masada | view from the fortress of Dead Sea

Israel | Negev Desert | Masada Fortress | The Palace

Monday, June 9, 2008

We had a bus tour from Ashkelon, Israel of Masada and the Dead Sea. We traveled through the Negev Desert to Masada. Masad is a mountain top fortress on the western shore of the Dead Sea. It's the remains of elaborate buildings built by Herod the Great during his reign in 1st BC. Masada is a symbol of freedom and courage to Jews because of it's history. there's an old Richard Harris movie called Masada. Jewish revolt against Rome in 1st BC when the Zealots held out against Rome for three years at Masada before choosing suicide over surrender. We rode a cable car to the top and the views of the Dead Sea were spectacular.

Israel | Dead Sea | Mike F floating happily in sea

After lunch we went to the Dead Sea where many people swam (floated) Mike Fraher was the only one aboard Artemis to go in. I had open sores Mike S. didn't want to change into his suit behind a towel, and Al didn't like the looks of the water. The life guards main job was to calm people down as they would panic when unable to put their feet down. The water is so salty it makes it difficult to maneuver. You are so buoyant you need to roll over before standing up. "Lady in the pink glasses, lady in the pink glasses, relax, relax and start swimming toward shore." We had 4 birthday cakes and an impromptu cocktail party.

Tonight we have a formal Rally Cocktail party and entertainment. Tom Walton and Bev on "Half Moon" from Port Superior Marina WI USA drove to Ashkelon, Israel to spend the afternoon with us from Marmaris, Turkey. They stayed for part of the Rally Cocktail party. Unfortunately they had to leave before the food was served and the entertainment began. Ashkelon had great food for us and plenty of it. The Russian dancing girls in skimpy beaded outfits and feather headdress's came next. We had great music so lots of dancing occurred. Remember to ask Mike Sikorra about his French dancing partner Laurant when you see him next.

Israel | Ashkelon |

June 8, 2008

Hi All We arrived in Ashkelon, Israel about noon on Sunday. The first leg of the trip took us four hours to sail. 9 nm. Then we made our turn keeping us a minimum 6nm off Israel's coastline. It was pretty rolly and ended up motoring the next 12 hours. The marina was serving beer and signing us up for tours. We grilled some nice Lebanese steaks for dinner.

Israel | Acre | Templar escape tunnel to seaport

Israel | Acco | Greeting and entertainer for EMYR

Israel | Acre (Acco ) |

Israel | Acre (Acco)|Synagogue

Fri. June 7, 2007 Today we went up the coast to Acre (Acco) a Phoenician walled Port city. The tour began at the Festival Garden. We were greeted in the Enchanted Garden by an official of Acre. Performers representing their two cultures Muslim and Jew. A young Jewish man sang two ballads of peace and then two young Muslim men played traditional instruments. We had a tour of the Grand Munie, fortress courtyard, Crusader Knights halls, escape tunnels Crypt, Hospitalliers Hospital and Turkish Bazaar, Ottoman Palace (Acre Fortress/prison). We had and audiovisual of Turkish Hamam and then a walk through Templar Tunnel to the seaport and Lighthouse. We drove to the Lebanon Border for a great view of Israel and returned to Haifa about 2:00. We plan to sail to Ashkelon, Israel overnight (87 nm)Then wind has been blowing hard all day but seems to be dying down. It may be a bouncy night with seas on the nose. Love and God Bless

Sally and Al

Israel | Nazareth

Israel | Nazareth | St. Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church | Mary's Well

Israel | Nazareth | Basilica of Annunciation

Thurs. June 6, 2007

We went on a full day tour to Nazareth, Sea of Galilee, and Golan Heights. So much to do and see in too short of time. In Nazareth we visited Mary's Well (St. Gabriel Greek Orthodox Church)and Basilica of Annunciation. The Basilica was built in 1969 for the Pope's visit and it's maintained by the Franciscan Order. It has two levels the lower being the grotto which was home of Mary and the site of the Annunciation. The upper level is the local Roman Catholic Church. It magnificently decorated with large mosaics, works of art, ceramics contributed by Roman Catholic Communities from around the world. Each country presented a Madonna that was representative of their culture.

Israel | Sea of Galileee | Chapel of St. Peter

Israel | Sea of Galilee | St. Peter's Chapel | The Rock

We had lunch on a Kibbutz (no longer socialists settlements) then we drove to the Sea of Galilee. The sea was whipping up quite a chop. There's a small chapel St. Peters with the rock on which Jesus stood and told Peter he would be the lead the church.

Israel | Golan Heights | Mike F and Sally from Golan Heights view of Sea of Galilee

We visited the village ruins of Capernaum on northern tip of the lake Peter's second home. (mother in-laws house) We traveled over the Jordan River and circled the Sea of Galilee. After standing on Golan Heights it was easy to understand why Israel wants to hold on to it. From that height and distance Israel would be open to Syrian attacks. The drive down from Golan Heights was both beautiful and frightening. Our bus could barely maneuver the hairpin turns and several times the front bumper scraped the road.

Israel | Sea of Galilee | Road down Golan Heights

Israel | Haifa | Israeli Navy Gun boats | EMYR arriving in Israeli waters

Israel | Haifa | Kishon Fishing Harbor | EMYR yachts rafted

June 5, 2008 We entered Israel's waters at 8 AM this morning. We were greeted by the Israeli Navy gun boats. Suddenly a Navy boat with machine guns aimed at us raced along side (actually showing off for pictures). They patrolled the fleet for the next ten miles as we approached Haifa, Israel. We got a lot of pictures but not the one that will always remain in Michael's mind as the gun boat flew by spouting a big "rooster tail". Each EMYR boat had to call on VHF and identify their boat, rally number and persons on board as we entered Israeli waters.

Our Group 4/ Green Group was allowed to enter the harbor around 11:00 this morning. Each of the 6 EMYR groups is assigned an approximate arrival time for each port we sail to. It took a long time to get situated in Kishon Fishing Harbor, Haifa (engines off 11:20). We are rafted off each other. Artemis is the fifth boat out and there are another 8 boats outside of us. It's like a crazy maze to walk over the boats to shore. Al, Mike and Ton organized the re- tying off of the boats in the raft because our fenders were flattening out with so much pressure on the inside boats. (Finished at 2:30) The Carmel Yacht Club and Ekko Municipality hosted a BBQ on site. Lots of beer and wine but no food by the time we got to the tables. Sally's brother Mike arrived safely about 8:30. It was a good thing the party was going full blast because he would have had a tough time finding Artemis amidst all the boats, especially in the dark.

Love Sally and Al

Lebanon | Bekaa Valley | Baalbek |Temple of Jupiter

Lebanon | Bekaa Valley | Baalbek |Temple of Bacchus

Lebanon | Bekaa Valley | Baalbek |

Lebanon | Bekaa Valley | Baalbek | The Great Court

June 3, 2008

Hi All We had another fantastic day in Lebanon. We had a scenic two hour drive up into the mountains, through fertile agricultural areas of Bekaa Valley to the arcch Baalbek. We keep thinking "How many more Roman ruins can we possibly enjoy" Today was by far the best we've seen in all of our travels. The Romans wanted something special and it took over 400 years to complete. The Great Temple is the Temple of Baal (Jupiter) god of the sun. The "smaller" temple is the Temple of Bacchus (Dionysus or Adon) god of wine and ecstasy. We had another fantastic lunch and then visited Chateau Ksara for a tour of the wine cellars and wine tasting. Didn't buy any... We have a formal Rally Dinner at the Jounieh Yacht Club Restaurant by the pool. We"ll have a short visit to Beirut tomorrow, grocery shopping and an evening departure for Haifa, Israel (85 nm).

The Jounieh Yacht Club went all out and wined and dined us. It was fun having real food for a change croissants, salmon, salad, filet beef, carrots, potatoes (not french fries) broccoli and tiramisu. Our group leader Miro, from Czech Republic had a birthday so we had ice cream cake too. The music and dancing was fun. Plus we had three exotic dancers who performed for us. Later we went back to Snow White to drink Miro's special plum slivovitz equivalent to moonshine in US. Miro is Al's "Czech brother". Al's Great Grandfather came from a small town near Miro's home town.

June 2, 2008

Hi All We are in quite a "posh" marina in Jounieh Lebanon. We hear it's the nicest marina on the Eastern Mediterranean. It has 3 large swimming pools, restaurants, locker rooms, tennis courts, ping-pong tables, basketball... family yacht club. All the expensive Italian, German, English and Japanese cars fill the parking lots. Also lots of US 4 wheel drive vehicles. There was a special concert downtown Beirut last night to celebrate the successful election of their new president and the reopening of the downtown area. Two weeks ago no one went downtown because of the shooting and bombing. We saw very little evidence of it. The streets are heavily patrolled or at least last night because the new president was suppose to make an appearance but not sure if he did. When our bus stopped to let us out we saw a riot squad with shields racing across the street and a truck with a machine gun on it. We weren't too sure we wanted to stay. But we were assured it was safe. It took us a while to find the city center down deserted dark streets but found a bustling square with families enjoying ice cream and shopping. Very modern architecture as much of Beirut was rebuilt after the war in early 1990's. There is a strong French influence because 1923 League of Nations sent France to settle Lebanon lawlessness. People drive worse than the Italians. There are no lines for lanes of traffic and you may have 3-5 lanes going at a time. Red lights are not always acknowledged.

Lebanon has about 3 million people. One million live in Beirut. One million Christians left during the 25 year war in 1970's so now it has 50% Muslim and 32% Christians. Many American franchises TJ Friday, KFC, Applebees, Hagen Das, MCDonalds, Burger King... Most signs are written in English. Three languages are spoken Lebanese, French and English. The 2006 conflict began as a "sit in" for a decent living wage and it got out of hand. Today there is a sense of hope for peace between the people of Lebanon and with Israel.

Today we drove up into the mountains and toured the magnificent Jeita Caverns. The upper galleries wind through 650 meters of stone formations and canyons. The lower galleries we toured about 600 meters on a subterranean lake in a small boat. Close to 7000 meters have been explored.

We drove to UNESCO city of Byblos next. We enjoyed the remains of the ancient Phoenician city (7000 BC) Crusader castle, church and market area. We had a nice lunch (no need for supper).

Lebanon | Harissa | Views of Beirut and harbors

Lebanon | Harissa |Our Lady of Lebanon |Chapel and statue of Blessed Virgin Mary

Lebanon | Harissa | Cathedral

Last we stopped in Harissa to visit a very modern cathedral built 1970-1990. (war interfered) Also on the site is statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary erected in 1908. There's a chapel in the base and steps winding around to the top. Spectacular views of Beirut and the harbors. Once again we are reminded that much of what we see on TV only shows a small snapshot (often violent) of a country and it's people and we're unprepared and quite surprised at the beauty of the land and friendliness of the people.

Love Sally and Al

June 1, 2008

Hi All We had a quiet, beautiful starlit passage to Jounieh, Lebanon last night. Jounieh is an exclusive marina a short distance from Beirut. It's quite secure and we have a beautiful swimming pool. The larger yachts in groups 5 and 6 will be in St. George's Marina downtown Beirut. We expect to arrive at the harbor two hours. I wanted to send an email in case reception is not good inside the harbor. We have a full day tour to Byblos, Jeita Grotto and Harissa for tomorrow. Then we have another full day tour to Baalbeck and Anjar followed by a Rally Dinner the next day. We are cutting our stay in Lebanon by one day because of the day we lost due to weather from Iskenderun to Lattakia Syria. We will leave for Haifa, Israel Mon. June 4 in the late afternoon. Sally's brother Mike Fraher will be joining us there for the rest of the EMYR. Hopefully we'll have WiFi in the marina so we can try to SKYPE today.

Love Sally and Al