Crossroads of Empires

For thousands of years the Mediterranean was the heart of the Western world. The nations and city-states that rose to prominence, then fell prey to decadence from within or to conquerors from without, left indelible marks on our art, architecture, politics, languages -- indeed, on our very imaginations. And, if civilization was not invented there, it achieved some of its most notable forms in Pharaonic Egypt, ancient Greece and Rome, the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, and during the Renaissance. That one region could be home to such a number of significant cultures is unparalleled, and to travel in the Mediterranean is to come face-to-face with the full sweep and process of human history.

Now, we have created an expedition exploring sites in Egypt, Turkey, Cyprus, and Greece. We call this voyage, which departs 01 April 2004, Crossroads of Empires: Cairo to Crete. I am excited about this departure from both a professional and personal standpoint, as I've watched it take shape during the planning stages, and I'll be aboard to see the end result of our labors.

We'll begin in Cairo, one of the world's great capital cities. Herodotus once wrote of Egypt, "It has more wonders in it than any other country in the world...more works that defy description..." We'll see some of these firsthand, including the Great Pyramid of Giza, the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that still stands today. The work of millennia unfolds as we explore the Giza plateau and its mortuary complexes and Cairo, a treasure-trove of medieval Islamic architecture. On the Sinai Peninsula, we'll journey overland to the famed Monastery of St. Catherine to see its fabulous library and chapel, which date from the sixth century.

The other destinations on our itinerary hold equally exquisite examples of art, architecture, and archeology. On Cyprus we'll admire the Roman mosaics of Paphos, with their scenes of Apollo and other mythological figures; in Turkey we'll marvel at the astounding tombs at Caunos, Fethiye, and Bodrum, and stroll the boulevards at Ephesus, one of the greatest, and today best-preserved, cities of the ancient world. During our travels, we'll see Venetian-era monuments; Crusader castles; sunken cities; Hellen-istic theaters; Roman amphitheaters; remnants of the Minoan civilization, including the Palace of Knossos, on the island of Crete; and, during a 100-mile transit, the Suez Canal, one of the world's great feats of engineering.

Intriguing destinations are but one of four components needed for a successful expedition. The second element is leaders who do more than merely escort travelers, but who are capable of illuminating the varied aspects of a region. For our program we've brought together two outstanding lecturers who will share the history and culture of the Mediterranean with you. Emily Teeter is an Egyptologist and the curator of Nubian antiquities at the University of Chicago's Oriental Institute. Emily has a vast knowledge of Near Eastern civilizations and has been enlightening Zegrahm travelers for many years now. She will also be leading the Luxor and the Valley of the Kings pre-extension, and is eager to share the latest information on its temples and tombs, especially the temple of Ramses III at Medinet Habu, the subject of her current research and publications.

Joining Emily is Jim Delgado, archeologist, historian, and executive director of the Maritime Museum in Vancouver, British Columbia. Jim cohosts a National Geographic International television series and is the author of 30 books. His most recent book, Lost Warships: An Archaeological Tour of War at Sea, touches on the ancient trade routes of the Mediterranean as well as some of its legendary sea battles. Jim is also a compelling speaker who communicates his material with a great deal of wit and insight.

An adventure of this magnitude and leaders of such ability require a vessel of equal merit, the third component of a great expedition. We've exclusively chartered the sailing ship Le Ponant as our conveyance, and we'll travel in the manner of the triremes and galleons of the past, with the sun sparkling on turquoise waters and the wind filling our ship's 16,000 square feet of sail as we head to our next marvelous port of call, Zodiacs at the ready for our explorations. The ship carries only 56 passengers -- the perfect number for our voyage -- with all cabins facing the sea, an open-air restaurant, excellent cuisine, and an experienced and accommodating crew.

We have matched some of the world's great cultural and historic sites with top-notch lecturers and one of the finest expeditionary ships, and now only need a group of curious and adventurous travelers -- the fourth and final requirement for an outstanding voyage. Please join Emily, Jim, and me for an exploration of lands that have been at the crossroads of world events for centuries.

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