Exploring the Roman Forum in Rome, Italy

Located adjacent to the Colosseum in Rome, Italy are the ruins of the Roman Forum. As with many other ancient ruins, when walking the grounds of the Roman Forum, one can’t help but imagine all of the individuals who influenced the history of the world walking those same steps. There are so many historic ruins that come from a variety of centuries that purchasing a guide book to fully understand the history of the site is highly recommended. Although they are all located next to each other, these ruins span thousands of years of history.

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View of the Roman Forum from Above
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Walking the Grounds
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Centuries of History
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So Many Ruins
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Ancient Columns

The Roman Forum grew organically over time, so it’s layout can seem a little haphazard compared to other historical sites. It is well worth looking at the grounds of the forum from both eye-level as well as from above. Seeing the ruins from above provides the opportunity to understand the complexity of the historic site. It can be overwhelming to view it as a whole, but focusing on each individual location will help you gain an appreciation of how each generation added to the entire Roman Forum.

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Impressive
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Looking Up at the Temple
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Some Buildings are still Standing
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So Much to See
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Another View from Above

We found the ruins of the Roman Forum to be some of the most interesting archeological sites that we have had the pleasure to visit. Too many people only visit the Colosseum and don’t take the time to walk through the Roman Forum. It is truly a fascinating site and is not only well worth visiting, but should be a highlight of anyone’s visit to Rome. You should expect to spend at least a couple of hours visiting the Roman Forum and there are guides available if you would like to learn even more about its history.

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In the Middle of the Forum
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Dominating the Skyline
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Such a Fascinating Sight to See
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Line of Statues
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The Roman Forum

 

Making the Most of Your Time in Cairo, Egypt

Egypt is definitely a fascinating country for many reasons and there are so many incredible sights to see. For most people, a trip to Egypt will start or end in the capital city of Cairo. While there are many wonderful places to visit throughout Egypt, there is much to see in and around Cairo itself. To make the most of your time in Cairo, it is best to spend at least 3 days in Cairo. These are the top things to see during your time in Cairo.

  1.  The Giza Pyramid Complex – No visit to Cairo in Egypt would be complete without going to see the Great Pyramids. Although the Pyramid of Khufu is officially known as The Great Pyramid, the entire complex is often referred to as the Great Pyramids of Giza. The Pyramid of Khufu is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World and also one of the most intact wonders and stands 481 feet tall (146.5 meters). There are actually six pyramids that make up the pyramid complex as well as the Great Sphynx.

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    Pyramid of Khafre
  2.  The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities – Taking time to tour the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is certainly a highlight of any trip to Cairo. As with many other sites in Egypt, having an Egyptologist as a guide is extremely helpful if you want to learn as much as possible during your time in the museum. There are so many items on display within the museum that it can be quite overwhelming. In addition to the sarcophaguses, papyrus hieroglyphs, and pieces of art, there are several dramatic statues housed within the museum.

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    Enormous Statues Inside the Museum
  3.  Dahshur – We enjoyed seeing a wonderful variety of pyramids during our time in Cairo, but visiting Dahshur was probably one of our most interesting experiences. First, we were virtually by ourselves as we walked around the pyramids as there were less than a dozen total other visitors there during the time that we spent there. Also, since it is the site of the first smooth sided pyramids, one successful and a couple of others that weren’t successful, it is an interesting look into the learning that occurred by the ancient Egyptians to create what would later become the Great Pyramids. Dahshur is located out in a remote area of the desert, which was purposeful as they wanted the pyramids to be away from any well-traveled area.

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    The Red Pyramid
  4.  Historic Old City Cairo – Wandering the narrow streets of the Old City of Cairo is an amazing experience that is worth making your way through the crowded streets to see. Just wandering the streets is quite exhilarating, but the highlight was taking a tour of an Ottoman era house that was built in 1648 and is in excellent condition as it was refurbished in 1997 as part of restoration project for the entire area. It can also be combined to see several historic mosques, synagogues, and churches.

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    Courtyard of Historic Ottoman House
  5.  Step Pyramid in Saqqara – The Pyramid of Djoser, or Step Pyramid, is an ancient pyramid in the Saqqara Necropolis. It is located about an hour outside of Cairo and we toured it as part of trip to the Giza plateau. Although most people associate the pyramids of Egypt with the smooth sided Great Pyramids, step pyramids were the predecessors to such technology. There are other temples and burial grounds to be seen around the Step Pyramid, but as with Dahshur, there are not nearly as many visitors as at the Great Pyramids.

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    Step Pyramid
  6. Mosque and Madrassa of the Sultan Hasan – We took a tour of Islamic Cairo that included the Mosque and Madrassa of the Sultan Hasan, which was truly fascinating not so much for what we saw, but more about what we learned from our guide. We wouldn’t recommend visiting without a guide unless you are familiar Sunni Islam, the history of Cairo , and the influences of the surrounding countries. Also, it is not currently a working mosque, so without someone to provide clarity on the features, it might not be as easily understood.

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    Inside of the Mosque
  7.  Sailing a Felucca on the Nile River – One of the best ways to escape the hustle and bustle of Cairo is to enjoy a ride on a felucca on the Nile River. These sailboats have been used for transportation for hundreds of years in the region and are still quite popular today, although mainly for tourists. There are plenty of other tour boats that you can take, but if you want a truly relaxing experience, then a felucca is the best choice. It takes skill to navigate the river using these unique sails, especially since they are at the mercy of the wind.

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    Sailing in a Faluka
  8. Abu Serga Church  – Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, also known as the Abu Serga Church as well as the Cavern Church, is an important historical and religious landmark in Cairo, Egypt. The church is supposed to be built on the spot where Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. The church is dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus who were soldiers in the 4th century that were killed by the Roman Emperor Maximian and achieved martyrdom and sainthood.

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    View of the Church

 

Island of the Sun and Island of the Moon in Bolivia

Taking a boat out to visit Isla del Sol (Island of the Sun) and Isla de la Luna (Island of the Moon) on Lake Titicaca in Bolivia is truly fascinating. The islands have many interesting ruins that pre-date the Inca empire and have been dated back to as far as 300 BC. The ruins are mostly of temples, but people lived on the islands as well. Island of the Sun is the larger of the two islands and there are even hotels where you can spend the night if you would like. If you just want to tour the islands and return to the town of Copacabana on the same day, it will take you about four to six hours.

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View of Copacabana and Lake Titicaca
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Entrance to a Ruin on Isla de la Luna
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Impressive Ruins on the Island of the Moon
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Looking Down at Our Boat on Isla del Sol
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More of the Ruins on Island of the Moon

We did a three day tour from La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, where we first visited the ruins of Tiwanaku before continuing on to Copacabana where we stayed at a hotel that overlooked the Lake Titicaca. The following morning we rose early to take a rented boat out to visit the islands. We visited Isla de la Luna first where we were greeted by some local women selling souvenirs as well as a very friendly llama. The views of the ruins with the lake in the background were simply amazing. We were able to walk through the ruins and see them first hand, which made the experience even more interesting.

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One of the Women Setting Up a Table to Sell Items
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Happy Llama
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Iconic View from Isla del Sol with Isla de la Luna in the Background and a Ruin in the Foreground
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Climbing Through the Ruins on Island of the Moon
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Our Boat Ride Out to the Islands

From Isla de la Luna, we continued on to Isla del Sol where we continued to tour ruins that are in excellent shape considering their age. Inside of one of the temples, there were coca leaves left on an altar by people hoping to receive blessings from the gods. Looking back towards the Island of the Moon from the shores of the Island of the Sun, its smaller size becomes quite apparent. We did not stay the night on the island, but instead returned to Copacabana, but we understand that they do reenactments of the Incan ceremonies on the island at night if you do decide to stay.

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Ruins on Isla del Sol
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Coca Leaves Left Inside of a Temple
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Grass Growing on Top of the Ruin on Island of the Sun
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Sunset from Our Hotel in Copacabana
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Another Ruin Wall on Island of the Moon

We saw many different ruins during our time in Bolivia, but certainly the ones on Isla del Sol and Isla de la Luna were among the most interesting. It was also a refreshing break from the busy city to stay a couple of nights with beautiful sunsets and wonderful views. It took us about eight hours to reach Copacabana from La Paz, but that included a couple of hours touring Tiwanaku and a stop for lunch. It also included a ferry ride across part of Lake Titicaca in order for our van to make its way to the lake. It was definitely one of our favorite tours while we were in Bolivia.