After finishing excavations at Sardis, I took a three-week circuitous route back to the States. My first stop was Lebanon, where I spent a week exploring the length of the country—going as far north as Tripoli and as far south as Tyre. The geographical proximity to the Syrian civil war created a palatable tension throughout the country. Over one million refugees have poured into Lebanon (total population 4 million) in the past two years. Despite the political situation, the archaeology was unparalleled by anything I saw all summer. Highlights include the ruins at Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre, and most notably at Baalbek.
Jordan was the next stop on my travels. I spent almost a week in Amman exploring the city and the nearby sites. I also witnessed a peaceful protest by the Muslim Brotherhood in Amman in response to the military action in Egypt. I took day-trips north to Jerash and west to the Umayyad castles in the east (The frescoes Qasr Amra were really amazing!).
I traveled south in Jordan to Petra, where I spent two days exploring the site. Petra lives up to the hype and deserves to be called one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Next time I visit this part of the world, I want to come here for a week and hike way back into the Wadis.
I continued south and crossed into Israel at the Acaba-Eilat border crossing. I spent almost a week in Israel, primarily around Tel Aviv-Jerusalem and north around Haifa. Highlights include the Old City and Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa.
After Israel, I was supposed to head to Cairo for a few days, but given the military coup, I decided to spend a few more days in Jordan before heading back to the States. All in all, I had an amazing summer working in Italy, Turkey, and traveling in the Middle East.