Thursday, July 4, 2013

Jordan Excursion

Yesterday we took our final exam for Historical Geography and had our "certificate graduation," so I now have four more hours completed toward my master's degree! I took the remainder of the afternoon to talk a walk through the Protestant Cemetery and run into the old city to get some money exchanged for some Jordanian Dinar for our trip to the trans-Jordan.

Arriving at the Boarder Crossing across from Beit Shan on Saturday
Morning. This is roughly where the Adam Crossing would have been in 
biblical days.
We departed from Jaffa gate for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan at six in the morning. We headed east toward Jericho and up toward Beit Shan to the ancient Adom Crossing. This is one of the two official border crossings from Israel into Jordan. When we will be leaving Jordan, we will be crossing at the "unofficial" crossing at Jericho into the West Bank. The reason we cannot leave from there is that we would not be able to get our Passports stamped which could cause some problems when returning into Israel. When we went through security, I am not sure if their metal detector was even on, and the lady monitoring the luggage wasn't even paying attention to the screen as the luggage went through. It is all formality. Who wants to attack Jordan right? Apparently, Jordan requires any group coming into Jordan to have a Jordanian tour guide and "tourist" police officer - just another way to create jobs for the Jordanian people. Our tour guide for the trip was Rammi. He is an Arab Christian who has been a tour guide for three years. Once on the bus, we made a quick stop for water and bread. We have been warned not to drink the water in Jordan. All water needs to be bottled – do not even use it to brush your teeth! The bread was more of a cultural experience.  Rammi explained there are four types of bread used in the country. The bread we had was very basic – just flour and oil, but had a good taste. Another tidbit that was obvious right away – King Abdullah II's picture is everywhere! He is the fifth king of the nation. Essentially, the Hashemite family helped Britain defeated the Turks, and the Brits awarded this family from Mecca by making the Sheik's sons princes over various regions. If I have my information correct, Jordan is the only "region" left where the Hashemites still have control. Additionally, polygamy is legal in Jordan, so the kings have had a few wives. King Abdullah is the fifth to reign over the kingdom beginning in the 1990's.

Our first stop was at Jaresh. The city does not have any biblical significance other than it was one of the ten Decapolis cities, and it gives the visitor a good feel for a Roman city. According to our tour guide, Jaresh is the best preserved Roman city outside Italy. Jaresh was originally built by the Greeks and substantially expanded by the Romans. The site was significantly damaged by an earthquake in 749 AD. This was the same earthquake that destroyed many of the ancient sites in Israel as well including Beit Shan and Caesarea Philippi. After making a large loop around the city, we headed back to the bus and were off to the Jabbok Canyon. It would have been near the outlet of the Jabbok that Jacob wrestled with the Lord at Penuel. Jacob had always been striving with someone. Growing up it was Esau, while in Haran it was Laben, while married we see him striving with Leah, but at Penuel we find that Jacob's ultimate struggle was really with God. The blessings were Jacob's all along, but the trickster continued to take matters into his own hands which in the end, caused him much pain. There's a good lesson to be learned here!

Before long, we were back on the bus and on our way to Dabon on the south end of Medeba Plateau. Moab moved her capitol here following the account of 2 Kings 3. Both sides (Israel and Moab) record quite different accounts, but either way Moab begins to expand onto the Plateau. If one recalls the origin of the Moabites – Lot's daughters get him drunk … They saying has been said, "Memory is eternal in the Middle East." This would have been true of Moab. Now flip forward to Ruth the Moabites. When she goes in before Boaz, his heart has been made merry with wine, and he is out of it. Ruth comes in and uncovers his feet. In the Middle East to uncover one's feet is to expose them. In the Israelite mind, what is this widowed "Moabites" woman going to do? Probably take advantage of the situation. However, Ruth does nothing. In this sense, Ruth has begun to "redeem" her people from the stigma of their ancestors. From here we passed through the Amman, the capital and down to Petra for the night. Our bus driver was a bit on the slow side, so we did not make it in for supper at the hotel until 9:00 PM.

The Monastery at Petra
The next morning, we were up bright and early for our half day at Petra! After an excellent breakfast at the hotel, we packed up our water, cameras, and notepads and walked down the street to the archeological site. Apparently, Petra is the largest archeological site in the world covering a couple miles! After winding through the main corridor road, called a siq, the "Treasury" was in site. Wow! What a masterpiece! After a short lecture and photo shoot, the majority of us headed out to the Monastery. I was extremely glad we were some of the first in the park. Not only was their more shade and cooler, but many of the Bedouins were not yet out to harass us for rides and trinkets. We climbed nearly 900 steps and arrived in an open area with a restaurant … but where in the world is the monastery. All the signs disappeared for it. Upon walking just a few more step out into the clearing, we saw the monastery behind the rocks behind and to our right. Absolutely amazing how they were able to carve this fronts right of the rock. A Ukrainian lady from our group and I hiked up to the "Best View" and the "More than the Best View" of the monastery and surrounding canyon. No wonder Petra was so secure! No one will be sneaking up from behind. Our tour guide, Rammi told us that Nabataeans (the builder's of Petra) were never militarily defeated by Rome. They were a very strong and mighty people. However, Rome out maneuvered them politically. They forbade anyone to do trade with the Nabataeans. After 146 years, the Nabataeans were forced to surrender, as their main livelihood (trade) had been broken. By the time we got back to the hotel, we walked over nine miles.
After leaving Petra, we made a couple quick stops. The first was at the Dana Wadi Lookout. From here, we could see our next stop – Bozrah, the ancient capital of Edom. There really is not much to see at Bozrah, except for its location and to reflect upon its significance. Bozrah was the main stop on the spice route coming from China, India, and Arabia to the western world. On hill of Bozrah, we discussed Esau and his descendants as well as many of the prophetic messages that were spoken against Edom. Our final destination for the day was our hotel in Amman. Again, dinner and breakfast were excellent – very Mediterranean. I am not sure if the Mediterranean dishes are just better in Jordan or if they are beginning to grow on me a bit, but I have been enjoying the many salads and unique dishes.

The next morning we headed over to the Citadel, the heart of the ancient city. The city was originally Rabbah, then changed to Philadelphia in the New Testament era, and now its presently Amman. It was here that David sent Uriah the Hittite to be killed in battle. We walked around the citadel looking at the various temples and periods of construction. From the Citadel, we headed to Medeba. Before stopping at the famous Medeba Mosaic map, we stopped at a mosaic shop. Here we could watch the artists at work. Depending on how small the pieces are, some of their mosaics take them up to four months to complete! In addition to stone mosaics, the gift shop had shell mosaics, crafted olive wood, decorated ostrich eggs, silver, etc. All with a price tag extremely expensive – even for American dollars let alone the higher Jordanian Dinar. From here, we went to Medeba church where the whole floor was once a mosaic map for Christian pilgrims. The Dead Sea, Jerusalem, and Mount Sinai were all quite prominent. 

Our final destination before heading back into Israel was Mount Nebo. Here Moses came up to look over into the Promised Land. According to Deuteronomy 34, Moses could see the whole land from this location – even unto the Western Sea. While we were on Mount Nebo, the haze was rather heavy. We could only see just past Jericho, but on an average clear day, one may see as far as Hebron and Shechem. Vern made a parallel between Abraham, Moses, and us today. Abraham was promised the land but did not see the day his descendants would posses it. Moses was close enough to see the land but unable to physically posses it. Likewise, we have been promised the kingdom of heaven, but we have not yet possessed it. Once in awhile we can a glimpse, but in the mean time, we have been called to established outposts of the kingdom of our God. 

Coming back through the unofficial boarder crossing at Jericho was quite the experience! The lines were enormous!! We were told that many had to spend the night. Be it unfair, American's can get a few perks - the security team took us through a back door bypassing the security and baggage check point, directly to passport control. Even this took a long time with all the people flooding into the West Bank. ... And Palestinians don't know how to stand in line - especially the women! They were very good at cutting through forty or fifty people at a time. Our group ended up making a "wall" to allow us to filter through as one group. All said and done, it was quite an experience - this was Vern's longest time with a group at the boarder crossing. 
Presenting Vern a special thank you at our certificate and departure meeting
 for his terrific work!

After the certificate meeting, a group of us looked though the Protestant
Cemetery adjacent to campus. Here is Horatio Spafford's grave - author of the hymn,
"It is Well with My Soul." He was originally buried where the Dormition
Abbey is located, but when they wanted to build the church, they exhumed the
bodies and left them at the front door of what is now JUC for burial in
the protestant cemetery. 

Founder of the original boy's school where JUC is now

Getting Ready for Jordan ... exchanged some money for Jordanian Dinar
1.5 US dollars for 1 Jordanian Dinar.

Made it safely into Jordan without too much hassle. Our's is the little bus/

Welcome to Jordan

Open food sellers are everywhere!

Climbing up from Lower Gilead to Upper Gilead

Walking to Jerash - one of the ten decapolis cities. This is supposedly
one of the best preserved examples of a Roman city outside Italy. 

Looking back toward the Gate of Jerash - this was build for Emperor Hadrian
when he came for a visit. 

Standing in the Hippodrome

Getting ready to enter though the second gate. 

Just a shot local visitors

They have done and are doing much reconstruction to the site. 

The open forum at Jerash. Here in the forum are Greek Columns - giving
evidence to the fact that the Greeks were first one's to bring the city into

Looking up the columns of the Zeus temple

Looking back toward the forum

Standing in the Temple of Zeus

It's almost like Zane ... since seeing this initial sign, I've
seen several more - still not sure exactly what they are

Entering into the first Amphitheater 

Okay, this it really random! Three Arabs playing Scottish Bagpipes to a Yankee Doodle / Amazing Grace Medley in a Roman Amphitheater!!

Sitting in the Roman Amphitheater - as you can tell modern meets ancient

Looking down one of the Roman Roads

Mosaic Floor in a Byzantine Church

Byzantine Church at Jerash.

Temple to Artemis 

Massive Pillars! If you push them, they wobble just a bit!

Looking toward another of the city gates. 

Second Amphitheater - bummer, no Arabs playing bagpipes here ;) 

Walking down the Main Cardo

Stacked remains that have fallen from overhead

Wow! Look at all those spices!

And they even grind them fresh!

Standing in the Meat Market

Stopping for lunch - aparently at a very nice restraunt. Even though some
things are cheaper in Jordan, drinks are not! A can of pop or large bottle
of water is $3 

Mmmm! The bread is very fresh!

Looking down the Jabbok Canyon

Lecture Time!

Down at the end of the canyon toward the rift valley is Penial - where
Jacob wrestled with God. 

Standing above the Jabbok Canyon

Back to the Bus! Too much to see in too little time!

I've been surprised by how many Islamic women drive in Jordan. Jordan
is much more "western" than I expected. 

Note the pictures of King Abdullah II - I think it's law that his picture be up
in every building ... or they just REALLY love their king. (Whose family not from
Jordan but Mecca)

Yep, McDonalds has been in every country I've visited so

Hiking around Doban - a city just on the Medeba Plateau side next to
Moab. Moab moved her capital here in attempts to claim the land from Gad.

Walked by a Bedouin camp on our way.

So where are we, Vern?

Looking out beyond Dabon

Crossing by the Arnon Canyon - this devides the Medaba Plateau from the
nation of Moab. This is why it was significant that Moab attempts moves her
capitol to Dabon on the other side - no easy retreat plan. 

Arnon Canyon

Stopped at a "rest area" to give our bus driver a break - by Jordanian law.
Wow! Those are some impressive MOSAICS! 

Sunset across the Jordanian landscape 

View out my hotel window in Petra

Only a five minute walk to Petra from the hotel

And what makes Petra famous? Yep, Indiana Jones

Tombs along the road to the Nabatean City of Petra - Petra is supposed to be
the largest archaeology site in the world. 

At one of the main entry shops, we stopped to smell the myrrh and frankincense.
Petra was on the spice route. This was their forte. 

Entering the Canyon Entrance

Water is gold down this far south. With only six inches a year, you've got
to collect every drop you can. Channels along the road guide the water to
holding places. 

The Nabateans would have damned up many of the side canyons to try to
hold in the water. 

Winding through the passage way ... 

How far back is this place?

Shrines to many gods are all along the route - whether
you would have come from Egypt, Arabia, etc ... there
is a place to honor your god. 

Remains of a man ... and next to him his camel

Tour Guide Rammi telling us about the Nabateans ... learned this later, but
did you know Herod the Great's mother and first wife were Nabateans?

Ah Ha! There it is!!

The reason it's called the treasure it because
of the stone vase that is on top.  Bedouins
thought there was hidden treasure in it, so
for centuries they have shot at it - damaging
the whole front greatly. 

One of the caves at Petra

You could ride a donkey, but their kind of abused - and I don't mind the
walk - no matter how many times they ask/insist!

Walking through Petra

Walking down the main road - this is a "melting pot" of sorts of cultures.
There is Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Persian influences in its construction

Ready to tackle those 870+ stairs to the monestary? 

Looking back from whence we came

Coming down there will be a LOT more Bedouins ready
to sell you whatever they have. Bought a little something
from the lady at the table here coming back down.

Smile :)

Yeah! Made it to the Monastery!

Now that we've climbed all those stairs, how about a few more for "the Best

Looking down on the Monastery - just incredible. All the buildings here are
carved directly from the rock.

How about another "best view"?

Nice view of the canyon

But I can't say it was "More than the Best View" - I think the other one
was Better than the "More than the Best View" ;)

No wonder Petra is a pretty safe place - whose going to
come through that!

Helen with the Camels

haha! Scott can't take it anymore. This boy has been following him for the
last fifteen minutes trying to get him to buy some bracelets. Run Away!!!

Walking back through the canyon - a lot more sun now ...
and a lot hotter! 

Guarding the Entrance - Helen made this young boy laugh and laugh about
something ;)

Or you can ride in on the horse drawn carriage ... 

Lunch time ... Look at all those Mediterranean Salad option. 

Careful - I didn't see the sheep crossing sign ... 

I think this is the Dana Canyon / Wadi

At the Dana Wadi looking toward Bozrah - the ancient capitol of Edom

Looking at Bozrah - not much to see - except the views!

Looking down ... hmm I think it's the Fareah - not sure how to spell that one.

Example of Boundary Stones

Lecture on the Edomites

Standing in Ancient Bozrah

Arriving in the modern capitol of Amman

Hungry for Texas Chicken?

Arriving at Hotel

Okay, I totally missed my shot, but this is a reminder of the story. So apparently
there is a national Jordanian figure who has been honored by the king himself.
He was so good at what he did that they called him out of retirement to
teach what he does ... who is he? He is a traffic director! We're all thinking,
right ... a traffic director is a national hero ... totally wish I had it on camera!
He was amazing. He jumped and danced and marched about! I have no idea
where he gets his energy to that all morning long!

Amman is growing rather quickly. Recently the population
of Jordan has grown by almost 15% with refugees.

Don't see to many churches around - only 5% of the
population is "Christian"

Arriving at the Amman Citadel

Amman has gone through several name changes. In the Old Testament it
was Rabbath-Ammon and in the New Testament, Philadelphia.

Looking down toward the Amphitheater - it was here at the ancient core
of Amman that David sent Uriah the Hittite to be killed in battle. 

Lecture time once again ... 

Overlooking ancient Rabbath-Ammon

The Temple to Hercules 

A Byzantine Church

The gateway to the mosque

The Mosque in ancient Philedalphia

Inside the entry gate to the mosque

jogging through the palace on the other side

That flag pole is 416 feet tall with the flag measuring 200 x 100 feet. 

Entering the Museum 

How would you like your skull plastered with your face after you die?

Coffins ... the face would have been painted on the outside - if I understood
correctly - and in each of these up to five or six bodies where found. 

Roman Glass

Tear Bottles

Oil Lamps

Walking past Hercules' temple again

Arab fashion - but there's also plenty of Western fashion in Amman as well

Church of the Mosaic Map in Medeba

Drawing and labeling of the map we are about to see. 

Entering the Church ... 

This map is the oldest map marking Christian Pilgrim sites, and the only
mosaic map as far as I know. Pictured here is the Jordan river

And the Dead Sea

Mount Sinai toward the top

Jerusalem - notice no temple mount. The temple has been destroyed and is
not important to the Christian community at this time - rather the Church of
the Holy Sepulchre and the Church on Modern Mount Zion (probable site
of the Upper Room) are emphasized.

Lunch time - this isn't even all the salads they brought out - and this to our
surprise this is only the first course. ... Serving you more than you can eat
is Arab hospitality. If your plate is clean, it means they didn't give you enough. 

Mint-Lemonade - actually quite good!

Mosaic Shop close to Mount Nebo - depending on the size of stones and
complexity, it may take up to four months to complete!

Stunning mosaics ... with a stunning price tag! Just don't
knock anything over!!!

Wood Carvings

The Tree of Life - this is probably their most common mosaic and image piece. 

Engraved and painted horns

Walking up to Mount Nebo

On a good day, you may see these sites.

Lecture on Moses

We can see well beyond Jericho and the Dead Sea, but not to Jerusalem
and beyond. 

Although somewhere around here is Moses' burying place,
let's not make it mine ... 

Mosaics from churches on the Mount Nebo Range

Didnt take too many pictures of mosques - but they are everywhere. 

Back in Israel passing the region of Jericho - we could see this fire from
Mount Nebo ... 

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