Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day 16 - Petra

We started our day early. We had a three hour bus ride to get to Petra. About half way there, we had to stop for potty breads and to do a little shopping. The place we stopped at had some very interesting but expensive stuff. I didn't buy much - just a little.

We spent most of the day here. It involved a lot of walking. To walk to the end of our guided tour and back was about 6 miles. Fortunately, we had a fantastic weather day. Not too hot. Not too cold. It was a "baby bear day" - just right!

While we didn't notice the sign until we were leaving, we got quite a kick out of it. How does one determine whether or not a horse is happy?

Some people used the ponies to get to the canyon.

This is one of the many tombs we saw. Our guide said that when they carved the tombs, they started at the top and worked down.

Many people, especially those with mobility problems, took these carriages to the canyon. We walked.
These guys are the "Nabatean Guards". The Nabateans were the first known inhabitants of Petra. They guys seemed to enjoy playing the role. They had their picture taken A LOT.

These are some of the original pavement stones in the Siq. Many were washed away in some of the flash floods over the years.

These are the tourism police. They help keep things safe for visitors.

The first part of Petra is the Siq - a slot canyon. On the left, you can see what looks like a shelf. It's a water channel.
Someone's dog, hard at work - ignoring all the people!

This is the "Treasury". It was actually a tomb but the local Bedouins believed that it was a treasury so the name stuck. There is a vase at the top that they thought contained money. So they would shoot at it with their guns trying to break loose the treasure. People can no longer go inside. I guess that some visitors used it as a latrine. Not good.

I peaked inside of one of the burial caves. It was being used as a stable for this pony.

I got a kick out of this camel. He was very interested in my camera. He came within an inch or two of the lens. I was kind of worried about getting snot on it.

This groove in the wall of the canyon was made to hold a ceramic pipe (you can see the remains) that carried drinking water.

We got a camel ride for part of the way back up the canyon. You do a lot of lurching while riding the camel and you have to lean way forward or way back in the saddle when the camel gets up or down. We were tired so the ride felt good.

This was our camel jockey.

This is the interior of one of the home. The rock was very colorful. The outside wall of the home had fallen away over the years exposing the interior. No need for wallpaper here!

Day 15 - part 2

This is the path that led to the traditional site of Christ's baptism. It was believed to have taken place somewhere in the general area. However, I had a hard time believing that anyone was taking notes and drawing a map about the exact location.

Our guide was interesting. This is the traditional site of Christ's baptism. Over the years, the river has moved away from this particular spot. Our guide kept insisting that because the man-made structures formed a cross with the water that it was proof that this is the actual spot. I thought, maybe - maybe not. But it was still neat to visit.

There were some women on the Israeli side of the Jordan River dipping themselves in the river.
I think it was some sort of cleansing rite, like when Naman dipped himself in the river at Christ's command to be healed of Leprosy.
There are several churches here. I just thought this one had a very attractive dome.

When we got to the location of the present Jordan River, I saw this cute little girl with her hand in a baptismal font. It is very popular for people to come and be baptized there. A priest was on hand. We were told that some people come here yearly for their baptism.

You can see the Jordan River in the background. This other side of the river is Israel.

At the end of our visit here, we went to Amman. That night, we went with our guide and some of our tour group members to this fantastic Jordanian restaurant. We had a fabulous meal with all local foods. We had hummus, veggies, shish Kabob (the lamb one was incredible), freshly made Bedouin bread. Dessert was fruit. I chose an orange. The waiter peeled it in a fancy way using a fork and knive, never touching it with his hands. It was amazing.

As we left, we noticed that in the lobby was this old woman sitting on the floor cooking the Bedouin bread over a flame and what looked like on oversized wok turned upside down.

Day 15 - part 1

We started our day out at the Jerusalem Center. It was a Saturday - the Jewish Sabbath. Here
we join in and celebrate the Sabbath also. This is a beautiful facility!

The chapel - what a backdrop for Sacrament Meeting!

This was our delightful Baptist couple from Georgia. They were totally delightful and very popular because of their goodness and joy. They said that they love traveling with Mormons because we don't get into trouble.

One our our fellow travelers demonstrating the use of one of the olive presses - used in the step to smash the olives.

After we finished with church, we hopped back on the buses and made a mad dash for the border. We had been told to be there by noon. We don't know why noon was so important. But they didn't want to upset the border guards. We are not allowed to take photos of the border. But it was much easier to leave Israel than it is to get in. We had to unload all of our luggage to get X-rayed. Then had to identify our luggage and get it loaded onto Jordanian buses. Everyone had to give our guide, Joseph, and our bus drivers a big hug good bye. They were great guys.

Day 14

Our first stop of the day was the Israeli museum. Here they have this incredible model of the old city of Jerusalem as it may have looked in the time of Christ. It was fascinating. We found out that the reason our itinerary for the tour had changed was because of some scheduled protests. The real Old City of Jerusalem was closed today for security. Once in the distance, we heard some protest shouts. But never came close to any action. So we spent most of the day out of the area.

The model of Herod's temple.

This is what the steps to the Temple Mount by the Huldah gates would
have looked like in the time of Christ.
Our next stop was a tel called Beth Shemesh. It covers the ruins of the town where Sampson was born. One of the treats here was being able to watch this Bedouin shepherd with his herd. In the picture above, you can see one of our bus drivers visiting with the shepherd. This bus driver was a Bedouin himself.

Watching this shepherd was very instructive. He did not have a passive job. He was constantly on the move watching over his flock. He carried a switch that he used gently to keep the sheep from eating things that weren't good for them. The sheep tended to follow him rather than he driving them. However, they were still sheep and sometimes didn't pay attention and he'd have to go fetch them back to the flock. He also had goats in with his sheep and he took as much care of them as he did of his sheep. It was a very impressive sight and full of symbolism.

This is the Valley of Elah where David fought Goliath. The hill in the background is where the Israelite army was. In the Bible, it tells how David came down the hill and stopped at the stream that runs at the foot of the hill, just in front of the light section of rock. There he gathered 5 stones, about the size of his fist. Then he went into the valley where he fought Goliath.

The valley was filled with beautiful fields of wheat. It is a far different variety than we grow here. It is much taller (about chest high) and has larger leaves. It was here that I gathered stones to share with the grandsons.

This stop was a place called "Bet Lehi" (pronounced bet lay-hee). It is an active archeological dig. However, it is on a military reservation so they can only dig when the military isn't active - two months a year during holidays. Archeologists don't like getting shot at. The city is mostly underground and dates to about 600 AD to about 1400 AD.

We were surprised at how many cars we passed getting to the dig. It's literally in the middle of nowhere. We found out that locals really like coming out there.

Above is the mosaic floor of an old Byzantine Church. It is very attractive. We also saw an underground stable. The lighting was poor so the pictures didn't turn out well. It was also very crowded. We kept wondering how they convinced the animals to go in there. At one time, a house was built above ground over it.

In one of the dugout caves, was the colombaria (spelling probably isn't right). It is what we would call a dovecote. It held a couple thousand birds. The triangular hole were where the birds would nest. This town was on the route to Jerusalem. It is believed that people would buy birds for sacrificing at the temple here. They were also used for food and the droppings for fertilizer. To get birds, all they did was drop in some food and the birds would arrive. Instant business.

These are some of the wildflowers of the area. The red poppies, if you remember, are what Christ was referring when he spoke of the Lilies of the Field. We were there at the height of the wildflowers bloom season.

This is our guide standing at the bottom of the oil press room. You can see some of the weights used in the olive press by his feet. He was a doctorate student and very passionate about the work there. He was a lot of fun and his enthusiasm was infectious.

The big openings at the top are were there were oil presses. The slot is where a large wooden beam went. Where it stuck out of the wall, the workers hung heavy stones. The other end was connected so that the beam pressed on a cover over mashed up olives. The oil would be squeezed out and run out of the slot into a collection area. Next to this room was a ceremonial bath. It was expected that workers would be physically and spiritually clean before they pressed oil.

This was the entrance to an room that had oil presses.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day 13

The next three pictures are views from a lookout on the top of the Mount of Olives. Its a beautiful view of the Old City of Jerusalem. The walls that you can see are in about the same place as they were in the time of Christ. Behind us, just over the crest of this hill is the city of Bethany where Mary and Martha lived with their brother Lazarus.

This is one of those things that I saw that made me think about how universal some aspects of human life are. You can see the father of the family with his little boy. He had been trying to convince this little boy to get on the camel. First the father got on himself to show it was OK. That didn't work. Some Mom and little brother got on and went for a short ride. That didn't work either. It made me think about some members of our family. I got quite a chuckle out of watching them.

This was our bus driver in Israel, Ron. He was a great guy.

This is Qumram where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found. There are a lot of caves in the area. It was believed that the "Sons of Light" who founded the community hid the scrolls, intending to return to their community and retrieve them. It is speculated that they were carried off by the Romans about the same time that the Romans conquered Masada and may have been used as slave labor in Masada's attack.

This place is called Ein Gedi. It is one of the few places where there is fresh water near the Dead Sea. It is believed to be one of the places that David hid when Saul was trying to kill him. We saw a few Ibex (a desert sheep) in the distance. They are quite common here and we were told that visitors usually get to see them up close.

This is the view from the cable cars which took us up to the top of Masada. You can see the ruins of the Roman fort (the big square). There were several of these forts around Masada. In addition, they built a big wall to keep the Zealots from escaping.

Herod's bath (partially restored). The floor was raised and hot air was circulated below t0 create a sauna effect. There was another room with a bath or pool (above this picture).

This is witness that the Dead Sea tastes at least 10 worst than the Great Salt Lake. I got one tiny drop on my lips. If you should fall and get water in your face and swallow any, the life guard has to do emergency treatment. I wasn't willing to test that rule.

They claim that this mud bath is supposed to be great for the skin. I just thought it looked like fun. There aren't many times when adults can play in the mud and get away with it.

Here I am washing off the mud. The hardest part was getting my feet back under me because I was so buoyant.

There was this old lady who stripped down to her underwear to swim and take her mud bath. I don't know if she just didn't care or thought it looked like a swim suit.