Into the Desert

By , December 6, 2007 18:22

Petra I last left you as we arrived in Petra?  Awaking the next morning, we headed out for Petra around 7:30am in order to maximize our time.  Here was one of the wonders of the ancient world and we slotted it in before noon.

Wow!  I have to say that this is probably the most beautiful man-made location that I have ever seen in my entire life.  Coralie put it well, "You have both incredible and awe-inspiring architecture displayed in a place that shows the glory and beauty of the Creator."  It is little wonder in my mind that this was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.  I’ve been to a lot of places and I think this is at the top of the list.  I took about 150 pictures, but I’m afraid they don’t do Petra justice.  It was actually a blessing that we finished up by noon, as the heat was enough to kill by noon time.  We ended well by climbing up to some abandoned caves and enjoying the cool of the stone before buckling up for another cannonball ride south to Wadi Rum.

We were a bit tentative about going to Wadi Rum when we did and only spending half day at Petra, but it was no mistake.  This was a desert out of the story book.  Both blood red and white white sand depending on the direction you took.  A true Bedouin loaded our gear into his 4×4 and we headed out into the desert.  Coralie was more instrumental in ensuring we hit the right things, but for the remainder of the afternoon, we saw no one but sand, stone and camels.  We discovered that climbing sand dunes takes a herculean effort, but running down them is a wonderful feeling.  For a little while it seemed that clouds were going to block the desert sunset, but out Father gave us a few brief moments of pure wonder.  Sitting high on a dome rock in the middle of the desert, we had a 360 degree view of the wonder of creation.

After sunset, we headed to our Bedouin camp where we met up with 7 or 8 other folks (all British) who were having similar tours.  It is difficult to describe the ambiance of eating fire-cooked meals, drinking Bedouin tea and listening to Bedouin music (lute and Arabic lyrics) while sitting cross-legged in a tent in the middle of the desert.  It’s one of those things that you need to do.  While everyone else slept in the two tents, we took our blankets and mats and laid out camp beneath a slight overhang beneath the stars.  When I asked our guide how cold to expect, he laughed and said 0 degrees – before amending his answer to 10 or 12.  It wasn’t warm.  That said, with two blankets provided courtesy of our guides, it was more than enough to stay toasty warm beneath the star-studded sky.  I really didn’t think I would sleep well, but after going to bed around 8:30 or so, I slept soundly until 7:00 the next morning.  I managed to sneak out of bed and watch the sky come up over the horizen (and posted some pictures).

After a Bedouin breakfast, our mode of transport (camels) came around the bend.  Remember when I said that I don’t like the circle ride with camels?  Well, I’m thinking that the three hours that it took us out of the desert is about my limit.  It’s either that, or someone has got to design a more comfortable saddle.  Regardless, the scenery was breath-taking and visiting the springs and places where Lawrence of Arabia lived, was an experience that won’t be forgotten.  Put this into the top 2 or 3 outdoor places I’ve ever been.

Hurtling back to the border once more in a taxi, we crossed back over into Israel.  Driving to within a mile of the Egyptian border, we all decided to take a break and snorkel in the red sea.  Nemo, parrot fish, flute fish, and fish of every color swam over, through and around the coral reefs.  Even though we didn’t dive, I think it’s safe to say it was one of the best snorkels I’ve ever had.

Driving back north that afternoon, we just hit the Ramon crater in Israel in time for the sunset.  It was a perfect end to a day that continued to exceed itself in beauty.

Last night we arrived in Jerusalem, tired and worn out about 7:30 or so.  Parking the car, we managed to drag our feet to a hospice in the Christian quarter and fall into bed.

Today had us take in many of the sights on Coralie’s list: the city walls, the Western Wall, the Ophel, the Pools of Bethesda, the Garden Tomb, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  It was a day of walking.  Two of those things I had not done before – the city walls and the Ophel.  While I can’t say the city walls were a highlight, the Ophel was well worth the time and money.  There is something about standing on the very step that you know your Lord has stood upon to make one reflect.  If you are to visit Jerusalem, make sure this excavation site is on your itinerary.  It is the excavations south of the Temple mount – some of which are inside and some of which are outside the current city walls.

Tonight?  Tired and exhausted once more, it looks like bedtime will come about 8:00pm or so.  🙂

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