The Exodus, not the movie, ours! We cannot get Jordan out of our minds. The Dude and I reflected this week on our latest trip. Coming out of Egypt (yes, we kept singing the Desmond Dekker song “The Israelites”) we were stunned as we watched the stark landscape underneath us. The barren land, mountains with steep valleys, the sparse signs of water, spying only the Suez Canal and the Jordan River gave us a small perspective of what Moses and his grand parade of tribes must have seen. Coming out of the beautiful and modern airport continued to be the starkness with small oasis upon oasis of green.
It was dark when we made it into the center of Amman with bright lights on modern cranes at the tops of nearly finished high-rises, flashing billboards, a truly modern city. Not until morning would we see the tops of the modern with the leftovers of the ancient ruins and the staples of religion. We would venture to the ancient Roman city of Jerash, an all day adventure as it is huge. Walking in temples to Roman gods and churches based on Christianity, small marketplaces scattered throughout and a grandiose amphitheatre. Large olive oil presses and remaining wooden doors, stone archways opening to beautiful views of other ruins or the surrounding green-flowered hills and modern city. From there we ventured to Ajloun Castle, overlooking the three major wadis that lead to the Jordan Valley and beautiful green olive groves on the surrounding hills. One day done! By-the-way – Amman (known as Philadephia in third century BCE) is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities of our wonderful world.
A day in Amman provided a visit to the Blue Mosque or King Abdullah Mosque, the newest in the city, situated across the street from an Orthodox Church, getting along quite well, side-by-side. Then we were off to the Citadel (Jabal Al Qal’a) and Roman Theatre, with the Odeon smaller theatre next to it! The Citadel, which has been in existence since the Paleolithic Age, gives a commanding panoramic view of Amman with the stately minarets of the many mosques, and has the somewhat in tact Temple of Hercules and the Great Temple of Amman. There has also been an exhbit of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the museum. In the heart of Amman is the King Hussein Mosque.
Another day took us to Mt. Nebo where Moses was able to see the Promised Land. We were able to see the center of Amman from this high peak (2,680 ft. above sea level), the valley of the Jordan River, Jericho, and if it had been a bit clearer – Jerusalem. On the top is a nice museum, a Byzantine chapel, and a unique sculpture of a serpentine cross created by Giovanni Fantoni. It symbolizes the bronze serpent created by Moses and the cross on which Jesus was crucified. On down the mountain we were in the Jordan Valley searching for Bethan Beyond the Jordan. Here we took a tour of the area of John the Baptist and where he baptized Jesus Christ. This was also the area of the first three days of temptation. The actual site has been comfirmed by archeologists from the Billy Graham Organization. Sadly, the river is only a pittance of what grandness it once was. Both of us put our fingers into the river. The small Orthodox church build near the site is small yet stunning. This is the first place I found myself in an automatic constant state of prayer. It was interesting to see the Israeli flag flying just 15 feet away from us on the other side of the river. From there we were in the car and off to the Dead Sea. Although the saltiest and lowest point on earth, we were somewhat disappointed. Yes, we floated easily, tried the mud, but overall it is very rocky trying to enter and you have to wear special shoes that slip and slide all over the rocks. Other than saying we have been in the Dead Sea, well that is all we can say other than it is an expensive tourist trap.
Now to another day! On the schedule: Petra, Wadi Rum, and Aqaba! The city of Petra was built possibly as early as the 5th Century BC. It requires getting there early to avoid the extensive crowds and heat. The architecture hewn out of rock and the water conduit system are amazing to see. Some historians say it is build on the slope of Mount Hor. THe stone is absolutely a stunning rose color with variations beyond belief. We saw all but the very top requiring 800 steps of ancient steps in intense heat. Sorry, not going to do it. We could have taken donkeys, but the animals do not look well cared for. There are many biblical references to Petra.
Off to Wadi Rum, Lawrence of Arabia fame! This area is also called the Valley of the Moon. It is a valley cut into granite and sandstone. Many cultures lived here but a large group was the Nabateans. You can still see the petroglyphs and temples they left. T.E. Lawrence passed through several times while there during the Arab Revolt of 1917-18. Seeing the Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock formation made me want to reread “The Seven Pillars of Wisdom” by Lawrence. If you read it though, know it is not about Wadi Rum. It is just a good read! On a clear day you can see the Red Sea and the Saudi border from the highest point. This area is still the home to several hundred Bedouin inhabitants. Trivia – The following films have used the Wadi Rum: Lawrence of Arabia, Red Planet, Passion in the Desert, The Face, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, The Frankincense Trail, Promotheus, Krrish 3, and May in the Summer. The sad part was a dead camel at the foot of a hill, decomposing. The little herd of wild camels enjoying a lunch in the tomato field was enjoyable as they looked up with green lips chewing the delightful plants and tiny tomatoes to have their pictures taken. The landscape of this diverse area will stay with me forever.
Now to Aqaba before sunset! We drove through a valley filled with agriculture with the granite and sandstone mountains and hills surrounding us. As the valley came to a point we traveled through canyon-like mountains much like going through Colorado or California to Nevada. As the rock siding started to clear away was the city of Aqaba, a major port city for Jordan. This city is on the West Bank and the Red Sea. It is also called The Bride of the Red Sea. It was founded in 3989 BC. It was the junction of trading between Asia and Africa, and King Solomon build ships in Ezion-Geber, which is near Eloth in Edom on the shores of the Red Sea. (1 Kings 9) We were able to watch the sunset on the glistening Red Sea and decide to call it a day with drive back to Amman, our home for the week.
Through this trip, we felt we had traveled many of the areas the Israelites had traveled as they followed Moses. We felt we had traveled the areas of John the Baptist, Christ, and many of the Disciples, and others who have served as missionaries. It was a time of healing for my dietary needs and a time to get in touch with our spiritual and historical needs. As with our travels in Egypt, we found the people of Jordan, no matter where we were, welcoming and kind.
Living the Crazy Life,