Once we left Aqaba, there were four sea days before reaching Naples.
On the 2nd sea day we transited the Suez Canal to reach the Mediterranean Sea. There have been several attempts at building a canal but all ended in failure until the French attempt led by Ferdinand de Lesseps. Until recently there was only one-way traffic e.g. Southbound ships had to clear the canal before the northbound ships could enter. That all ended in 2015 when a new channel opened next to the existing one so traffic can now flow in both directions.
Our ship led a convoy of 24 ships northbound starting around 5:30 am. We met the southbound convoy in the canal about 11:00am. Most of the time you could only see the top part of the ships due to the tall sand dunes between the channels. Most of the car traffic use ferries to cross from mainland Egypt to the Sinai Desert side. There is one tunnel under the canal today and another 6 tunnels are being built.
We reached the Mediterranean around 4:30 pm, and, two days later arrived in Naples, Italy. Naples is the 3rd largest city in Italy. It is a short distance from Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. However the two sites we were interested in were Pompeii and Herculaneum both destroyed by Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. The volcano still looms ominously over the city.
Since there were two sites to visit we decided to split up. Paul visited Herculaneum while Ron went off to Pompeii.
At the entrance we stopped to view a map of the Pompeii site. From the entrance (red dot lower left corner) to the Coliseum on the right was 7-1/2 miles. From the entrance to the other side is five miles. The city was buried under 13 to 20 feet of ash and pumice in the 79AD eruption. Over 75% of the city has now been excavated. Our walking tour distance was 3-1/2 miles.
One of our first stops was at a bakery. Huge stone mills ground the grain and made into bread that was baked in the ovens next door. Loaves of bread which had been buried in the ash were found at many of the bakeries. At the entrance to the bakery you could see metal rails on which sliding doors once stood.
While there were many commercial buildings throughout the city it was the residential buildings that were the most decorated and interesting.
Several of the homes had beautiful mosaic floors at the entrance to the home as well as plaster reliefs decorating the outside walls. There were even homes with beautiful fountains inside.
But most amazing were the decorated interior rooms. They would have been spectacular to see. Today we can only get a glimpse of their beauty. They have been carefully excavated and left in their condition as found. In some places they look like new. The details were amazing.
Of course the destruction of the city caused a terrible loss of life (some estimates say over 16,000). Here are two of the examples we saw: a man stuck down by ash, gases, and stones falling from the sky; and, and a child. Most researchers believe that the majority of people were killed by heat from pyroclastic flows that reached 482°F.
It was an awesome site to see. There’s a lot more to say but we’ll talk more about it in our presentation when we get back.