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Norman A. Rubin
If you are visiting Haifa while in Israel you don’t want to miss the Baha’i Gardens. The design and landscape of the gardens is breathtaking, making it a
one of a kind experience. There are 19 terraces to explore that are completely serene. With every tree trimmed to perfection and every blade of grass seemingly cut to the exact same height, the 19 terraces of the Baha’i Gardens are truly a sight to behold. But the garden’s crowning glory is its breathtaking panoramic view of Haifa Bay and the azure Mediterranean Sea stretching serenely to the horizon.
The terraced gardens on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, testify to Israel’s important place among world’s religions. The gardens enhance the burial site of a major figure of the Baha’i faith. Eighteen terraces honoring Baha’is eighteen disciples, cascade down the hill, nine above the shrine, nine below it, all filled with native plants. Nineteen is a significant number within both the Baha’i and Babi religions. (An Iranian Canadian Baha’i architect, Faribroz Sahba designed the gardens.)
The immaculate Baha’i Gardens, completed in 2001, are a tranquil memorial to the founders of the Baha’i Faith. Pilgrims come to Haifa from all parts of the world to pay homage to the first leaders of their religion, which emphasizes unity across cultures and religions.
The gardens have elements of the Persian gardens of Shiraz,Iran, the Nishat Bagh gardens of Kashmir, India and English gardens, isolating the site from the noise of the surroundings and connecting the different Bahב’ם buildings on Mount Carmel together.
You don’t need to know much about the Baha’i Faith to appreciate the beauty of their collective, multi-generational creation. Made up of a giant staircase of 19 terraces, more than 1,500 steps as the Baha’i Garden in Haifa sweeps down the northern slop of the beautiful mount Carmel. The garden’s cultivated plants are numerous and lush, casting the illusion of an eternal Spring.
The centerpiece of the hillside garden, midway down on terrace number ten, is the gold-domed Shrine of the Bab. Completed in 1953, the building contains the tomb of
Siyyad Ali Muhammed – the Bab – a Muslim in Persia who proclaimed the coming of a “Promised One” in 1844. The Baha’i Gardens in Haifa are open from 9:00 to 17:00,
seven days a week, but the inner gardens near the shrine close at 12:00 noon. The gardens are closed on Baha’is holy days and Yom Kippur. In rainy weather, they may
be closed temporarily as a safety measure because the pavements are slippery when wet.
The tours are free and no reservation is required, unless you are a group of 25 or more. Check their website to find out when the tours take place; if you are visitor to Israel your tour guide or the concierge in your hotel can advise you of the tours..
NOTE: The Baha’i Gardens are religious sites that are open to the general public without charge. As in most other such sites, visitors are asked to dress modestly, to help keep the place clean and beautiful, and to behave in a manner that is considerate of the sensitivities of others.
Dress: Please wear clothing that covers your shoulders and reaches your knees. Because of the pebbled paths and occasionally slippery pavements, we recommend wearing comfortable shoes with good traction. During the summer months, consider bringing a hat and sun screen.
Food and drink: Visitors are welcome to bring their own bottle of water, but drinking other beverages, eating, chewing gum and smoking are not allowed inside the gardens. Other prohibitions: Kindly do not bring animals or weapons. http://www.ganbahai.org.il/en/haifa/
SIDEBAR – The principles of the Baha’i faith: (Baha’i is an Arabic and Persian word meaning “Glory” -”Ya Baba Al-Ahaba –
1 ) In July 2008, the Baha’i Gardens in Haifa and ‘Akko were inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, in recognition of their “outstanding universal value” as holy places and places of pilgrimage for the followers of the Baha’i Faith.
2) The Baha’i World Centre, the spiritual and administrative heart of the Baha’i community, is located in the twin cities of ‘Akko and Haifa in northern Israel. It comprises the Shrines of Baha’u’llah, the Bab, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahb, other holy sites of the Baha’i Faith in the area, and the buildings on the slope of Mt. Carmel. These structures include the Seat of the Universal House of Justice, the International Teaching Centre’s building, the Centre for the Study of the Texts, and the International Baha’i Archives, all of which are set in extensive gardens.
by Barbara Kingstone
When I was told by my daughter who spends time in Dubai, that for two nights we would be in the desert, I mused, thinking I’d be in a tent. Okay, I thought rationally, I could do 48 hours in the sand and whatever ants and animals were around. However, after passing great sculptured-like sand dunes of golden and red sands with tuffs of wild grass here and there, off the well paved four lane highway, and a 2 1/2 hour drive from Dubai, my adventurous spirit, often well hidden, come out.
From a distance, Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, it look liked a beachside playground for kiddies who had skilfully built sand castles.
But there was no sea to wash this fickle edifices away when the tide came in. However, the nearer we got, the more majestic and magical this property appeared.
The 206 room five star resort with luxury suites and villas was beyond anything I could have imagined. Here, on the Liwa Desert (also known as as the Empty Quarter), we passed over a bridge filled instead of water beneath, was sand. The entrance wirh Moorish styled lanterns filled archways was where we were greeted by a staff member who served us a refreshing yogurt drink and wonderful, thick, fresh dates.
The following days, that longed for pampered and stress-free feeling was omnipresent after days in bustling Dubai. This hotel also had a beautifully designed spa although that said, the facial, about $200, just wasn’t up to snuff as I needed to ask for the deep cleansing. This was the only misstep in this entire experience…not bad.
Our spacious suite overlooked a garden and pool, and since there are no guest rooms in the main building, there are 25 buggies that, with only a click of the zero on the phone, these wondrous machines were outside awaiting to take us anywhere on this vast property. But within hours, I discovered an arch filled tunnel which lead us, in just a few minutes, to the main building. Everything was well thought out and easy, just what a guest wants at a unique destination
Archery, one of the main sports in the Emirates (there are 7 in the UAE) is one of the popular activities as is falconry. That said, it is the early morning desert walk that was the perfect way to feel, touch, and sense the sand. There was a degree of difficulty navigating the fine sand which looks so deceptively easy.
And surprisingly was the great the variety of flowers and the sounds of the birds, a cookoo clock of sorts, had us on our feet by 6.30AM. I’m no Lawrence of Arabia, but I could see the attachment one could develope as I watched the color of the sand with its shadows go to various golden hues and aware of the constant movement of the dunes during the night and day.
The difficulty was leaving the room and our terrace. I was smitten with our suite, The Garden Suite, which had all the earmarks of an Arabian room but modernity came in the form of an espresso machine and good coffee wi fi, a great oval tub, a wide counter with double sinks and enough room for toiletries and cosmetics a separate shower and gratefully a lime stone, not slippery marble flooring. (I’ve experienced wet marble bathroom floors when I slipped and fell, banging my head into unconsciousness in a sleek, chic, newly renovated Italian hotel’s bathroom). The supply of towels, were rolled for displaying the touch of visual interest and here just seemed like a natural instinct.
Beamed and tatami decorated ceiling, a Moorish-styled alcove for the head board, the wonderful Moroccan styled chandelier which threw great designs when turned on in the evening and created wild designs.
As for the food, from the enormous choice at the breakfast buffet which we always had el-fresco to our choice of Arabic meals at lunch and evening, we were delighted that we could go ‘native’ . In fact, one evening the chef, knowing our preferences created a surprise and delicious Middle East meal. Nothing seemed too much at Qasr El Sarab.
And suddenly it was late, and as if by some movie magic, every evening there was a marvelous picture perfect sun set. In this oasis, I felt content and yearned to return to my villa in the desert..some tent !!!!!
Maybe if I pray to Allah, I could come back again