A Step Back into Middle Eastern History: Larry Grossman 7 at 70May 16, 2023 • By Ben Ball
In celebration of turning 70, Larry is hitting all seven continents with the help of THIRDHOME.
As Larry travels the globe with THIRDHOME, he’ll be blogging about his experiences as he navigates the post-pandemic world. His planning began in 2019 with THIRDHOME Director of Adventures, Liz Bates, who has assisted him in pivoting to satisfy his travel cravings when COVID-19 restrictions have not allowed him to visit a destination. Keep reading to learn more about Larry’s most recent travel experiences.
Next Stop: The Middle East
The year was 1977, and the hottest ticket in Chicago wasn’t to see the Cubs, Bears, or Bulls; it was the ticket to see “Treasures of Tutankhamun,” visiting our landmark Field Museum of Natural History just south of the Chicago Loop. King Tut was on tour, and he arrived in my city straight out of the year 1325 BC. My mom and over a million other Chicagoans had scored tickets to visit the most famous Egyptian of all time, and she shared the experience with me. It was an impactful event to see artifacts of the “Boy King of Egypt” on loan from Egyptian curators, and it piqued my lifetime curiosity about all things related to ancient Egypt. I would have to wait 56 years to visit Egypt myself and the iconic pyramids of Giza. With Steve Martin’s 1978 funky tune “King Tut” dancing in my head, our tour guide Sahar led 23 fellow adventurers and me toward the Giza Pyramids to begin our 14-day adventure.
My THIRDHOME travel guru Liz Bates encouraged me to sign on to the Cultural Crossroads of Humanity adventure to visit Egypt, Jordan, and Israel. Once my daughter Morgan heard I was headed out to see not just the Egyptian pyramids but Jordan’s Petra and the Dead Sea, she asked me (no, she told me) that she was tagging along. This would be our third adventure to ancient places, and she assured me that Instagram would appreciate the influencer content coming their way.
Let’s get biblical:
They say pictures don’t lie, and my hundreds of unforgettable images from the trip reinforced my belief that this adventure stood above all prior visits to historical, religious, and cultural sites. Christians, Jews, and Muslims claim certain parts of the sacred ground we explored during our 14-day adventure. We studied Old Testament, New Testament, and Islamic reference points each day, including:
- Mount Nebo, where Moses roamed and looked down upon the Promised Land
- The Stations of the Cross, where we followed Jesus’ path through Old Jerusalem
- Magdala, the hometown of Mary Magdalene
- Nazareth, the childhood town of Jesus
- Looking down upon The Sinai desert where Moses led the Jews out of Egypt
- Dome of the Rock in Old Jerusalem, the Muslim world’s third holiest shrine
- The Wailing Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem, the most religious site in the world for Jewish people
Let’s get historical:
- Dated in 2560 BC, making them more than 4,500 years old, the Great Pyramids of Giza defy imagination leading Elon Musk to double down on his claim that aliens must have constructed the pyramids.
- The 2000-year-old city of Petra was built as a trade center and carved out of red sandstone cliffs.
- Boating across the Sea of Galilee scene of many episodes of the life of Jesus Christ
- Looking down on the City of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives viewpoint and realizing you see historic and iconic churches, mosques, and synagogues located within a mile of each other.
Let’s get fed:
The Middle East is an excellent part of the world for lovers and fans of garlic, olive oil, hummus, and eggplant. If you enjoy a big breakfast, this is the trip for you. Every morning we were greeted with a vast buffet featuring freshly squeezed juice, salmon, all manner of bread, fresh fruit, stuffed grape leaves, and olives galore. Yummm!
While dinners featured an inevitable combination of chicken and rice, we visited several family homes in Jordan and Israel. We got to chat and chew with the locals in their home environment, including a Palestinian cooking lesson. We visited one of the largest wineries in Israel that ships wine to several countries worldwide, including the U.S. This visit ended with a wild bus ride back to our hotel featuring our own “girls gone wild” dancing and singing on the bus.
There were so many highlights on this trip that I had to tax my brain to pick my top 6, but here are some of my favorite experiences:
- I was a member of the self-proclaimed 3 Wisemen, featuring myself and my new BFFs Doug and Tim as the group’s senior members. Collectively we dispensed our own carefully curated version of wisdom based less on knowledge and more on the fact that we were older than the rest of the group.
- The emotional experience of touring the Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem, having an emotional meltdown, and running into one of my wonderful travel mates and new friend Lyn. Knowing exactly what was needed, she provided a pat on the back, a hug, and a chocolate candy to help me regroup.
- Visiting a local winery in Eilat, Israel, with Robert and Tammy Jo and having what should have been a 15-minute tasting turn into an enlightening and lively 2 ½ hour political discussion with the winery’s owner. And yes, he continued pouring while we continued talking and even drove us back to our hotel.
- We were hanging on while we explored the breathtaking Wadi Rum Desert in 4-wheel drive vehicles covering the same territory Lawrence of Arabia traversed during World War I while joining the Arabs in a guerilla war against the Turks.
- I met a young Muslim woman who explained that her passion was mentoring and encouraging her peers to become independent entrepreneurs and leaders in the Islamic community.
- I was walking through the narrow streets of Old Jerusalem and people-watching the incredible multicultural crowd.
World Traveler, Philanthropist, Friend, & THIRDHOME Member