Embrace Foundation Archives
CURRENT - 2012
The  Embrace Founders have just returned from a nine week trip to  Lebanon,  Ethiopia, Oman & UAE
Tyre (Sour), South Lebanon
The purpose of the trip was:

1.) To meet with religious leaders, spiritual leaders  and  scholars throughout these countries.

2.)To encourage grassroots interest in organizing intercultural and interfaith events in their  respective communities

3.) To photograph as a record, places considered sacred by the people living in these countries.

4.) To photograph precious anthropological/ archeological sites that are vulnerable to war.
Lebanon was critical to this trip as in 2010  the founders were unable to  
photograph many places of interest due to inclement weather. This time  
they  were able to take photographs of ruins in Tyre (Sour) in the South  
of  Lebanon, in Byblos North of Beirut and  the Shrine of Saint Charbel  
high in  the mountains.  Saint Charbel was of particular interest, as both  
Maronite  Catholic Christians and many in  the local Muslim community  
revere him. At the time of St. Charbel’s death both Christians and  Shia  
Muslims  from  surrounding villages arrived at the monastery to grieve  
and pay their  respects.

St. Charbel was a hermit and reputedly meditated on the “Light”   of the  
Divine (“Nur”)  as one of his primary practices.  When he died, his cell  
was infused with light. (St. Charbel’s cell was without  
electricity,batteries or gas lights.)  Since his death many healings have  
been  attributed to him from around the world.
St. Charbel Monastery, Lebanon
n 2010, we were able to photograph the  zawiya (khanka) of the  
16th century  Islamic Saint Mohamed ibn Iraq al-Dimashqi in  
Beirut. Miracles are attached to  his site. This time when we went  
back we found that a bunch of yellow flowers  had sprung from  
the base of  the dome.  As yellow traditionally indicates both   
intelligence and friendship, we took this as a inspired sign of  
peace for  Lebanon.
Saint Mohamed ibn Iraq al-Dimashqi's zawiya, Lebanon
The respect that the founders of Embrace have for all the people in  
Lebanon is great. The Lebanese have had to overcome incredible hardship  
and yet  have continued integrating large numbers of refugees for years into  
their country  with as much grace as their political system  infested with  
wasta will allow.
Palestinian grandmothers give strength to broken families in the South of Lebanon after losing their homes, land and most of their belongings  -  
some times more than once. Still the the vast majority of Lebanese manage to live without resentment and create beauty where ever it is  
possible. As Ajata observed, the differences between people in Lebanon and especially Beirut is not between Christian, Druz, Sunni and Shia,  
it is between the enormously wealthy, the diminishing middle class and the increasing numbers of less  advantaged.
It is the people of Ethiopia that give the country its charm, dignity and make it special.   
Falasha, or Ethiopian Jews are fascinating and practice a unique form of Judaism  
which reflects  very ancient Jewish traditions established prior to the introduction of the  
Talmud (or Rabbinic Judaism.) The Falasha believe that the Ethiopian Queen of Sheba  
had a child by King Solomon of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and that this son brought  
the Covenant of the Ark from Israel to Ethiopia. This belief is also the basis for  
Ethiopia’s singularly devout and compelling Orthodox Christianity. Despite past history,  
the strong historical, cultural and emotional link between Ethiopian Jews and Christians  
can not be discounted. There is evidence in many places we visited, that Ethiopian  
Jews are being welcomed in their return from Israel and that some are setting up  
businesses and homes once again in Ethiopia. This can no doubt only enrich Ethiopia’s  
elegant  tapestry of humanity.  Perhaps some day we will once again see the unique,  
one of a kind, Tukal Temples rebuilt in Gondar and  Bahir  Dar.
Lent Procession Around the Mariyum of Zion Cathedral
Axum, Ethiopia
St. George's Rock Cathedral -Lallibella, Ethiopia
Ethiopia’s  world heritage religious sites are profound, as are many of   
the    centuries old Lake Tana Monasteries, the little known “rock   
churches” and  the mystery of the “Covenant of the Ark” hidden in  
Axum that a majority of Ethiopians believe in.

The  founders were exceptionally fortunate to visit Ethiopia for 6 weeks  
during    the Christian Orthodox 56 day lent preceding Easter, which  
enabled them to    observe and participate in many once a year  
religious events and share in  the   “fasting buffets”   (no meat or  
animal products during lent but exceptionally  flavorful meals.)
Ethiopia is the headquarters for the Organization of African Union.  
It also hosts the United Nations African Headquarters. This is a  
singular honor.  Ethiopia was for centuries isolated from the rest of  
African as it was the only nation fortunate enough not to be  
colonized. The population thus does not share any secondary  
European languages to link them linguistically to the rest of Africa.   
However, their reputation for diplomacy has been well  
demonstrated in recent years.
Lake Tana Monastery - Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Our visit to  Oman was one of tremendous appreciation both for the kindness and hospitality of  the Omani people - and for the far reaching  
wisdom of the Sultanate
International Festival of Handicrafts - Muscat, Oman
The second adjoining “Festival of Omani Heritage” was an  
impressive celebration the traditional arts, crafts, music and food  
of the people of Oman in  a constructed village and desert  
setting, much like a “theme park,” within the enormous Muscat  
park grounds. Both festivals were so much in keeping with  
Embrace values, that we only wish we had a week to explore  
every performance,  demonstration and vendor.
Young Exhibitor at the Omani Heritage Festival - Muscat, Oman
Bader Alaour Altamimi of the Palestinian Traditional Handicrafts Center - Hebron, Palestine with Virginia
In Oman Ajata and Virginia also took photos of the pilgrimage places of the  Dargha (tomb) of Nabi  Ayyub (Job of the Bible), the Dargha (tomb)  
of  Nabi Umran (Imran-according to the Qur’an Father of Mary -Mother of Jesus) and the  imprints frozen in rock  of  Nabi Salih’s “she camel”
mentioned numerous times in the Qur’an.
Traditional Iranian Artisan, Abollah Goleh Senejani -from Arak, Iran with Ajata
While in Salalah, Ajata and Virgina were having a difficult time  
finding any of the shrines connected iwth Nabi Salah.  Shah  
Almadar, from the front desk of our hotel told our problem to two  
of his other guests, Salim & Hamed - Omanis on their way to a  
double wedding in Yeman. When they heard our problem, they  
greeted us in the lobby and offered to take us to the pilgrimage  
place connected with Nabi Salah's camel. They also took us in  
search of a sufi sheikh, an ancient cemetary and bought us our  
first goat milk tea and a local delicacy - a crepe filled with egg,  
honey and cheese.
Hamed and Salim - Our Gracious & Hospitable Omani Friends
Oman has a very large population of both Hindus and Muslims from the Indian subcontinent. Many families from the South of India began trading  
and living in Oman centuries ago. For a  considerable number of the Muslims from the subcontinent, the tomb of Nabi Umran (according to the  
Qur'an is the Father of Mary, Mother of Jesus) is very special. They watch over it and  spend a great deal of time there. It was touching  
therefore, that despite the  fact that women are not usually allowed inside, Virginia was graciously  received.
Virginia at Nabi Umran's Shrine - Salalah, Oman
The United  Arab Emirates came as a total surprise.  We were not prepared for the large population of ex-patriots from around the world,  
including many British and large numbers of both workers and businessmen from the Indian subcontinent.  In comparison, Gulf Arabs are rarely  
to be seen on the streets. The buildings in Dubai  are particularly enormous. The average high rise is about 3 times the width of  a New York  
skyscraper and just as tall.  Perhaps the expense of real estate makes large mosques in the downtown area unrealistic but mosques of grand  
stature are few and far between.  The charming  aspect of the modern Dubai is its’ international sophistication and acceptance of many  
The Jumairah Mosque, Dubai, U.A.E
There are reputedly over 60 Christian churches, 2 - 4 Hindu temples and one shared  
Hindu Temple / Sikh Gurdwara collaboration which the founders particularly enjoyed   
Shared Hindu Temple & Sikh Gurdwara - Dubai, UAE
Dubai is without a doubt developing into a flamboyant and unequivocally international city. However in contradistinction, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar  
City is being designed and funded (22 billion dollars) by the  courageous and visionary Emirates to operate entirely on renewable energy.   

By 2016 Masdar City is to be a new urban prototype for the future of  humankind.

There is precious little updated information available in travel guides with regard to any of the countries of the Middle East or Ethiopia. For those  
interested in traveling to the above countries, we are adding some pertinent notes and many more photos in our CELEBRATING HUMANITY  

Photos from all the above mentioned countries will be added to our EMBRACE SACRED PLACES.ORG website for free download.