I have so much to say, I'm not even sure where to start! The past eight days have been the best and busiest of my life, even busier than finals week! 

We left the Center last Sunday morning and spent a whole day stopping at sites in Israel. The major stops were at Tel Bersheeba, a major site in Old Testament history. There is a large archeological site there and also a huge cistern, like the one Rebecca would have climbed in and out of to water the camels of Isaac. It gave me new respect for that story! After that we ate lunch at Ben Guiron's grave and memorial, which over looks the Wilderness of Zen. He is concidered the "George Washington" of Israel, and was a major part in creating the country. We spent the night at a Kibbutz Eliot, a kibbutz really close to the Egyptian border, which was really fun. 

They got us up really early the next morning to ensure that we were the first people crossing the borders. Apparently with 80 students crossing a very intense border has caused some problems in the past. This way they thought that being first would help those problems. We got through pretty problem free, except for the travel agent forgot to give us our Egyptian Visa's so we were stuck at the border for an extra hour or so while they were being brought in. We spent the whole day in the bus driving through the Sinai desert, which is exactly what it is, a desert. There is literally nothing for miles and miles and then suddenly there would be a military check point ever 20 miles or so. We pulled into Cairo about 6 pm, just in time to see the sun set behind the pyramids in the distance. It was such an amazing sight, ancient pyramids set against high rise buildings and a red sun set. 

Ironically, the next day was completely stormy. Literally it was cloudy, raining and really windy, just like Seattle! It was a big day though, and we had to keep going, even though none of us had packed for the cold. We went to the pyramids and spent a few hours listening to our guide talk about them and we actually go to go inside the middle pyramid. It is so crazy to think about how they built these massive structures and even more so, how they built the room inside. Our guide said that the four sides of the largest pyramid were only off by 13 centimeters, even though the people had primitive tools and a very crude measuring tool.  The Sphinx below the pyramids, and seeing it in real life is very overwhelming. They think the nose came off because when then Arabs came into Egypt, the sphinx was covered in sand up to its head, so they were using the head as target practice for their cannons. It's a lot smaller than I thought it was, but it was still so cool to actually be standing there with ancient structures surrounding you. Scholars think that when Moses came out of Egypt, the pyramids were already 1,000 years old. That really put things into prospective for me! That afternoon we went to the Saqqara, the oldest known pyramid in history. It is a step pyramid that looks very Mayan. We got caught in a sand storm at the pyramid, so we tried not to spent very much time there. That night we packed back packs and got on a flight from Cairo to Luxor, in southern Egypt. 

Luxor is so much cleaner than Cairo. The whole city is 100% based on tourism, so the people love you and your money! We went to the Karnak Temple, one of my favorite things of the trip. This temple took hundreds of years to complete as each Pharaoh kept adding on shrines to himself. Inside, there is a massive room with 134 huge pillars, all covered in hieroglyphics from bottom to top. It is truly an amazing thing. The pillars all tell stories of conquest, history, and stories about Gods which they worshiped. The pillars don't have any color on them today, but when they were built, they would have been 100% covered in very bright paint, which is even more amazing to think about. Later, we went a few blocks up the street to the Luxor Temple. It was smaller than the Karnak Temple, but more intimate and very beautiful. Today, there is a Mosque inside of it and in one corner covering the hieroglyphics there is a Roman painting of the disciples. It's crazy to think about how much history all of these sites hold! Thousands and thousands of years. That afternoon we took a boat ride onto the Nile which was really fun to relax for a few hours. Luckily we got to be on the water for sunset which was beautiful.

The next day, we were all starting to get really tired. The food in Egypt isn't the best, so all we were allowed to eat was bread, rice, and pasta. After a few days of that, your body doesn't feel very good. Also, we had literally had no down time, so this day was a struggle for most of us. Luckily southern Egypt was a lot warmer than up north, so at least the sun was out! We went to the Valley of the Kings, a huge canyon where over 64 tombs have been found from Pharaoh covering hundreds of years. We got to go into King Tut's tomb, and 6 weeks ago, they returned his body to the tomb, so we got to actually see that too. These tombs are not large, just a room about the size of my dorm room, maybe a little wider. Inside of these room, no white space was allowed on the walls, and everything was covered in stories of the king and religious stories. There was also tons of stuff since they believed that everything in the tomb would be with him in the afterlife. We got to go into about four more tombs, all of them were pretty close to the same. After a few more hours at another temple, we got to go back to the hotel for a free afternoon. That afternoon was my favorite part of the trip. We got to go on a camel ride! We took boats to the other side of the Nile, where the locals live and grow their food. We took the camels through banana, potato, and date fields as well as going though a small village. It was so amazing to be so close to the people and really see how they live. They are so poor, but all the kids were so happy to see us, they couldn't stop talking to us and running after us just so we would wave at them. It was really life changing to see how other people live and how blessed we really are in America. That night we got to go on a overnight train from the south back up to Cairo. Trains aren't as cool as when Harry Potter goes on them! This one was pretty gross and the mystery meat they gave us for dinner really scared me! We slept a few hours, but they woke us up at around 4 am and we pulled into Cairo at about 5. The next day was a pretty long one.

They didn't want us to go to sleep, so we went to the hotel, but they wouldn't let us go into our rooms. We had a sacrament meeting in a conference room, which was really relaxing and nice to have some time to just sit and think. After "church" we went to the ancient capitol Memphis, and a few other small sites. Then we got to go to the Cairo Museum! We only had 2 hours to spend there, but all of it was so amazing. They most of the things found in King Tut's tomb, all of it is covered in gold and very ornate. Then we got to go into the Mummy Room! They had about 10 kings on display, which was so interesting. They aren't very tall, about 5' 6'' or so which really surprised me. The most surprising thing was the Rameses II, the most well known king and the one scholars think talked to Moses had red hair. It's wasn't what I expected at all, but it was really cool that I got to literally sit and stare at someone who is 2,000 years old or more. We went to lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe which sits right on the Nile. American food was such a blessing! I swear I ate that hamburger in a matter of minutes. After visiting a huge and very well known open air market, we went back to the hotel and crashed after about 2 days of not sleeping.

Our last day in Cairo (I'm almost done I promise!). We were only in Cairo for a few hours as we went to the Muhammad Ali Mosque, one of the largest in the city. We got to go inside and our guide talked to us about the Muslim religion and what they believe in. That was the only site we went to that day, they wanted us to be close to the border for our hike the next day.

We pulled into a hotel close to Mt. Sinai at about 7 pm and tried to go to bed pretty soon since our wake up call the next "morning" was at 1:45 am. I'm not much of a hiker, Mt. Sinai was such an amazing experience. We climbed 2,500 feet, about 3 miles in the dark, and were climbing the last 200 meters (all stairs) as the sky was starting to get light. We made it to the top in perfect time and were able to sit and watch the sun come up and the sky change completely. It was so beautiful and we had a devotional up at the top which was really spiritual and relaxing. We spent the rest of the day crossing into Israel and on the bus back to the Jerusalem Center. 

Walking through the doors of the JC was almost as good as when we walked in from flying across the world. It really felt like coming home, especially since I hadn't showered in a few days, and a hot shower was only moments away! Over all it was such an amazing trip! All of us kids on the trip really had the chance to bond and have fun just being together. Seeing everything really changed the way I think about everything and made me 100 times for grateful for the things I have been blessed with in my life. I hope everyone is doing well, and keep me posted on all of your lives!! Much love! 

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