Windstar Cruises offers nearly two dozen cruises to the Middle East, visiting a number of bucket list holy sites in Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar. From grand mosques to ornate churches and temples, there are a multitude of religious sites sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims.
These are some of the most notable Christian holy sites Windstar visits in the Middle East:
St. Catherine’s Monastery (Mount Sinai, Egypt)
Located on Mount Sinai, St. Catherine’s Monastery is a beacon of history and spirituality, sacred to both Christians and Muslims. With origins tracing back to the 6th century, the monastery remains a pilgrimage site to this day. The monastery houses an impressive collection of manuscripts and icons, making it one of the world’s oldest continually operating libraries. Beyond a guided tour of the monastery, you will visit the site where Moses was thought to have seen the Burning Bush, which adds a layer of spirituality to the experience. The “Sharm El Sheikh, St. Catherine’s Monastery” tour is offered on Wonders of Arabia, Arabian Days & Egyptian Nights, and Star Collector: Pyramids and Jerusalem Sanctuaries via the Suez Canal.
Coptic Orthodox Church (Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt)
The Coptic Orthodox Church in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt dates to the early centuries of Christianity, offering a glimpse into the faith and traditions that have shaped the lives of local worshippers. The church’s architecture is a blend of traditional Coptic design and modern elements, creating a serene oasis for both prayer and reflection. Visitors can experience the harmonious coexistence of ancient rites and contemporary life, all while enjoying the picturesque backdrop of the Red Sea. The “Sharm El Sheikh, Coptic Orthodox Church” tour is offered on Wonders of Arabia, Arabian Days & Egyptian Nights, and Star Collector: Pyramids and Jerusalem Sanctuaries via the Suez Canal.
Mount Nebo and St. George's Orthodox Church (Amman, Jordan)
Mount Nebo boasts ruins of an ancient church and monastery, where exquisite mosaics tell stories of biblical lore, including the famous 6th century Map of Palestine mosaic. This mountain is where Moses is said to have beheld the Promised Land before his passing, and it holds a unique place in religious narratives. Beyond its holy significance, the views from Mount Nebo stretch from the Dead Sea to the distant hills of Jerusalem. Located in the heart of Jordan’s capital city Amman, St. George’s Orthodox Church dates back to the 19th century, showcasing an intricate blend of Byzantine and Ottoman architectural influences. Originally constructed to honor the revered St. George, the church’s significance extends far beyond religious devotion. Its stunning design and ornate interiors, adorned with intricate frescoes and marble detailing, offer a glimpse into the artistic and cultural heritage of the region. The tour of Mount Nebo and St. George’s Church is available on the third day of the four-day Petra, Pharaohs and the Red Sea Cruise Tour.
Mount Zion (Jerusalem, Israel)
With a history dating back thousands of years, Mount Zion is believed to be the site of King David’s tomb, a place of devotion for Jews, Christians, and Muslims alike. Starting at Zion Gate, stroll to the Jewish Quarter, renovated after the 1967 war. Visit the 2nd century Roman Cardo and walk down the hill to the Wailing Wall, where you can touch the Herodian Stones that were once part of the Second Temple. In addition to the Last Supper Room, which is located above King David’s Tomb, visitors will also marvel at the Dormition Abbey, which commemorates the Assumption of the Virgin Mary. Prior to visiting Mount Zion, this all-day shore excursion also offers access to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, the Israel Museum, the Second Temple Model of Jerusalem, the Shrine of the Book and Temple Mount. “Ashdod, Jerusalem & Yad Vashem Museum” is available on Star Collector: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Beyond: Israel, Greece and Turkey and Star Collector: Pyramids and Jerusalem Sanctuaries Via the Suez Canal.
Mount of Olives (Jerusalem, Israel)
Named for its olive groves, the Mount of Olives is renowned for its mentions in the Old and New Testaments. For Christians, the Mount of Olives is closely tied to Jesus Christ’s teachings and crucifixion, and it also offers a panoramic view of historic Jerusalem. Jewish tradition reveres it as a burial site for prophets, and in Islamic belief, it’s associated with the Day of Judgment. Dotted with ancient chapels, tombs, and gardens, the mount is a living repository of centuries-old architecture and hallowed ground. The Jewish Cemetery on its slopes is one of the oldest and most sacred Jewish burial sites in the world, attracting visitors and pilgrims year-round. “Ashdod, Panoramic Jerusalem” is available on Star Collector: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Beyond: Israel, Greece and Turkey and Star Collector: Pyramids and Jerusalem Sanctuaries Via the Suez Canal.
The Church of the Nativity (Bethlehem, Palestine)
Dating back to the 4th century, the Church of the Nativity is notable for being one of the oldest continuously operating Christian churches in the world. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is believed to be the exact spot where Jesus Christ was born, making it an epicenter of faith for Christians worldwide. The church’s remarkable architecture showcases a stunning blend of Byzantine, Romanesque and Gothic styles, with intricate mosaics and elegant columns. Guests on this shore excursion will also visit the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, built on what is believed to be the site of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Finally, walk through the Christian Quarter and the bazaar, and proceed through the Roman Cardo to the Jewish Quarter and the Western (or Wailing) Wall. “Ashdod, Jerusalem & Bethlehem” is available on Star Collector: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Beyond: Israel, Greece and Turkey and Star Collector: Pyramids and Jerusalem Sanctuaries Via the Suez Canal.
Mount Carmel, Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee (Haifa, Israel)
Sitting on the Mediterranean coast of Israel, Mount Carmel is a place of both natural beauty and historical importance. Often referred to as the “Mountain of God,” it holds significance in the Abrahamic traditions, particularly in the Old Testament. Mount Carmel’s prominence is immortalized in the story of the Prophet Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal, a moment that resonates with both Jewish and Christian narratives. The mountain, which is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, boasts a lush natural environment that contrasts with its arid surroundings. Your motor coach will then make its way toward the Sea of Galilee and Tiberias, and after lunch you’ll stop at Yardenit, where the Jordan River separates from the Sea of Galilee. Finally, you’ll ascend the Golan Heights to Hamat Gader, where the borders of Syria, Jordan, and Israel meet, offering breathtaking vistas of the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan Valley and Northern Galilee. The “Haifa, Galilee & Golan Heights” tour is available on Star Collector: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Beyond: Israel, Greece and Turkey.
Masada National Park and Via Dolorosa (via Jerusalem, Israel)
Perched atop a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea, Israel’s Masada National Park is an archaeological marvel that echoes tales of a heroic past. The history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is etched with both triumph and tragedy, bearing witness to the epic struggle of Jewish rebels against Roman forces in the 1st century CE. Herod the Great’s extravagant palaces and fortifications crown the summit, showcasing ancient engineering and opulent architecture. Your flight-seeing adventure begins in Masada, and you will fly above the site for about 10 minutes, followed by a flyover of the Syrian-African rift, the Dead Sea, Mount Scopus and Mount of Olives. After landing in Jerusalem, you will embark on a two-hour guided tour of the Old City, including exploration of the Christian Quarter along part of the famous Via Dolorosa, believed to be the route of Jesus as he carried his cross to Calvary. “Ashdod, Beyond Ordinary: Masada Flightseeing & Jerusalem Exploration” is available on Star Collector: Pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Beyond: Israel, Greece and Turkey and Star Collector: Pyramids and Jerusalem Sanctuaries Via the Suez Canal.