Shrine of the Bab

The Mediterranean Coast of Israel

Continuing our tour with G Adventures, the budget minded National Geographic company, we left the Sea of Galilee for the Mediterranean Coast where we visited two different places:  The Baha’i Gardens and Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel and Caesarea, Roman ruins which date back to 29 BC.  Both were wonderful places.

Baha’i Gardens and Shrine of the Báb

Baha’i Gardens and Shrine of the Báb are located on Mount Carmel in Haifa.  Haifa is the third-largest city in Israel and is a rare model for Jewish-Arab coexistence in Israel.  In addition, it is the holiest site for the followers of the Baha’i Faith.

I had never heard to the Baha’i Faith until my recent trip to Samoa where one of only eight worshiping temples is built.  I had no idea I’d see another Baha’i complex in Israel, both of which have immaculately groomed gardens. 

The gardens in Israel provide magnificent views of Haifa and its bay.  In addition, they feature the Shrine of the Báb, where the remains of the religious leader are interred.

Baha'i Gardens and the Shrine of the Bab

The Shrine of the Báb may be visited, but visitors must wear conservative clothing which covers the shoulders and the knees.  In addition, shoes must be removed, and no photos are allowed inside the gorgeous shrine.

Shrine of the Bab

While we just meandered through the gardens near the shrine, it is also possible to arrange a 45-minute tour of a larger section.  The complex is very beautiful and a nice retreat from the hustle and bustle of the port city.

Caesarea

Just a 40-minute drive south from the Baha’i Gardens along the Mediterranean Coast is Caesarea.  Caesarea was founded by Herod the Great and named for Augustus Caesar.  This grand port city thrived for over 600 years before it became unstable. 

History

It regained its importance 500 years later during the Crusader period before the Mamelukes destroyed it at the end of the 13th century.  Caesarea, located in northern Sharon, is now a National Park full of ruins from different time periods.

It has three entrances, in the North, South, and East and its West side borders the Mediterranean Sea.  During our visit, we entered through the Eastern Gate which was the busiest and includes bathrooms and a café.

Visiting Caesarea

We passed by the harbor and synagogue, where we reached the Herodian Amphitheater, a U-shaped entertainment structure.  The long entertainment complex, measuring 750 feet by 150 feet could seat 10,000 spectators.  It is believed horse racing and sporting events were held here during the Roman times.

Caesarea on the Mediterranean Coast

Behind the Herodian Amphitheater are the remains of a luxurious bathhouse.  Mosaics and marble can be found on the floors of different rooms.

The baths at Caesarea on the Mediterranean Coast

At the end of the Herodian Amphitheater are a few ruins of the Promontory Palace and a restored theater. The palace with just a few columns remaining features a swimming pool.  While in the Roman and Byzantine periods it was surrounded by grand walls and columns, now it looks more like an ancient infinity pool.

the pool at Caesarea on the Mediterranean Coast

To the east of the palace is the restored theater, which is the oldest theater in Israel.  Built during the Herodian time it could accommodate 4,000 people.  The theater is still used for concerts today!

the theatre at Caesarea on the Mediterranean Coast

From these main sites, we drove to one of the aqueducts which supplied water to the city.  It paralleled a public beach.  What a cool place that would be to sunbathe!

the Aquaduct at Caesarea on the Mediterranean Coast

Thanks to the cold windy weather with intermittent spits of rain, our tour around Caesarea was a bit quicker than I would have liked.  The grand site is easily worth a few hours exploring.

From Caesarea, we continued south along the Mediterranean Coast to Tel Aviv.  To be continued…ETB

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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned travel photographer and blogger.

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