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Welcome Friends! I hope you enjoy tasting these teaching and travel tidbits.
Come along with me as I attempt to navigate my way through a new country, school system, and life for a year!


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Petra



 I had heard so much about Petra and had so thoroughly enjoyed “Little Petra” the previous day, that I thought that I might be disappointed after all the build-up.  Let me assure any doubters among you, Petra does not disappoint!  Although I had read about President Obama's visit to Petra the previous week, nothing I had read or heard or seen prepared me for the grandeur of The Rose City!  The Petra Guesthouse where I stayed was located right outside the entrance to the site, and was built into the sandstone mountains. 

Since I was so close, I got up early and was one of the first people inside the gates in the morning.  The admission price includes a horse ride from the site entrance to the passageway into the main part of Petra.   I knew it was going to be a long day of walking, so I saddled up.  Little did I know that horse would be only the first of 3 different animals I would ride that day.

As I plodded along, Bedouin Horsemen would zip by leaving me in the dust.

 
After dismounting, I entered the narrow passageway, called the Siq, which is only about 3 meters wide in some places with walls that soar up to 80 meters high.  Carved into the stone along the way are niches for lanterns and the remains of pictures of caravans.  You can still see the ancient pottery pipes that carried water into the city running alongside the walls.  It was incredible to think about the Nabataeans who designed and built their capital city over 2000 years ago as a trading center for silk and spices coming from China and India heading for Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. 

The Siq
Is it a whale.......

......or an elephant?


Niches for Lanterns Carved in the Walls

More of the Siq


After walking through the Siq for about a kilometer, all of a sudden, between the narrow walls comes the first glimpse of the Treasury! I was as excited to see it as Indiana Jones was in the Last Crusade!   The Treasury, or Al Khazneh, was originally built as a mausoleum in the 1st century. It’s called the Treasury because legend has it that pirates hid their loot in a stone urn high on the second level.  You can see bullet holes in the urn where Bedouins shot at it in hopes of treasure spilling out, but as the urn is solid sandstone they had no such luck.  Another theory about the name is that this building served as a treasury for the Egyptian Pharaoh at the time of Moses.  But “A Rose is a Rose” so no matter what the name, this massive rose-colored building sculpted from the sandstone is really a wonder.

After walking for about a kilometer through
the Siq you come to a very narrow passageway and...


....you get your first view....
...of the Treasury!!
Ta-da!!

  In front of the Treasury were some camels, and I couldn’t resist going for another ride in this amazing spot. 

I think I'm getting the hang of this!



Now, a lot of people turn back at this point after seeing the Treasury, but I wanted to see as much of Petra as I possibly could in a day, so I continued on.  I reached the Colonnade Street and decided to climb up into the hills above to get the view down, knowing that I could return by the low road on my way back.  Along the high path I walked by the Tombs of the Kings. The minerals in the sandstone, such as silver and copper, give the walls of the tombs dazzling colors.

The colors look almost too good to be true!

The caves even have windows to look in...
.... and look out of.

Can you believe these are the natural colors?
Looking Down on the Great Temple
Mosaics in the Petra Church from about 450 AD.

Pillars of the Blue Chapel from the Byzantine Era
Another View of the Great Temple

The Urn Tomb


Camels along the High Path
The Corinthian Tomb


At the end of the hillside pathway, I returned to the Colonnade Street and followed it to the end where I started my 800 step climb up the ancient rock-cut path to see the largest monument in Petra, the Monastery, Ad-Deir.  Although much larger, the Monastery isn’t as well known as the Treasury, most likely because it’s so much harder to get to, but it is worth the climb.  Standing in the courtyard of this massive fa├žade carved out of the dusky pink rock-face is an awe-inspiring experience.  It dwarfs absolutely everything.  The monument was carved as a tomb for one of the Nabataean kings and represents the engineering genius of these ancient people.  Christianity found its way to Petra in the 4th century AD and this building may have been used as a monastery at that time.  At least one of the tombs was also used as a church until the Islamic conquest in 620 AD.   





The Monastery


Monastery View from the Mint-Lemonade Shop



I hadn’t planned on going further than the Monastery, but like the previous day, I saw a sign that promised the “Best View” so not being one to want to miss anything, I plowed ahead.  Personally, I think the views down below were better, but it was fun to find this woman with her herd of goats along the way.  After a quick look at the view, I returned to the Monastery and down the 800 steps.

I am helpless to resist the tempation!
Bedouin Woman with Cute Kid
Apparently the Best View


I was pretty beat by then, so I opted to ride a donkey along the Colonnade Road back to the Treasury.  By the time I got there I was revived enough to walk through the Siq, although sometimes regretted my decision not to take one of the donkey carts back to the entrance.  I did snap photos of some of them, though. 
Donkey Riding Past the Roman-Style Amphitheater which
Seats 3000 People
Donkey Cart in the Sig


After a short rest and a Turkish Bath to get rid of the horse/camel/donkey smells, it was time to go to a Jordanian cooking class at Petra Kitchen.  My taxi driver had told me about this place, and I thought it sounded too good to pass up.  There were about 20 of us in the class, and as we went around the room introducing ourselves it kind of became a joke that no one actually lived in the place they were “from”.   In my group was an American living in Germany, an Austrian living in Jordan, a Scottish man married to an English woman living in Oman, and me, and American living in the UK.  There were 5 groups, each making different dishes that we shared for our supper.  It was the perfect way to end an incredible day.

Here's the menu.  I have recipes for all these dishes now
so you may want to come over for a Jordanian dinner.


 
Chopping garlic for the Mag Loubah, which means "Upside-down Chicken".
The unveiling of our efforts!

This was truly an amazing day! Although John Burgon never actually visited Petra, I think he summed it up well in this poem written in 1845.

Petra

It seems no work of Man's creative hand,
By labor wrought as wavering fancy planned;
But from the rock as if by magic grown,
Eternal, silent, beautiful, alone!
Not virgin-white like that old Doric shrine,
Where erst Athena held her rites divine;
Not saintly-grey, like many a minster fane,
That crowns the hill and consecrates the plain;
But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,
That first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;
The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,
Which Man deemed old two thousand years ago.
Match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,
A rose-red city half as old as time.


Monday, April 29, 2013

Madaba, Mt. Nebo and Little Petra

My time in Jordan was off to a great start!  My next destination was Madaba, the  “City of Mosaics."  Madaba has been inhabited for at least 4,500 years and is mentioned in the Bible as the Moabite town of Medeba.  It is best known as the home of the famous 6th century Mosaic Map of the Holy Land. With two million pieces of vividly colored local stone, the map depicts hills and valleys, villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta.  The Madaba Mosaic Map is found on the  floor of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, which also houses many beautiful mosaics on the walls.  The tradition of mosaic making continues in Madaba and  I was able to see some mosaic makers at work in one of the local studios.  It was really intersting to see them snip the stone into tiny pieces and arrange them into intricate patterns.  I decided to give it a go myself and added about a dozen little pieces to what is on it's way to becoming the world's largest mosaic.  It's probably my chance to be part of something that will be in the Guiness Record Book.  Unless I start practicing my hoola hooping.  Unlikely. 
Part of the Madaba Mosaic Map



One of the Mosaics hanging in the Church of St. George



Trying my Hand at Mosaic Making
 From Madaba I went just a few miles to the west to Mount Nebo.  This is the place where God showed Moses the Promised Land before he died here. 


View of the Promised Land from Mount Nebo;
Hopefully the Day was not so Hazy when Moses took a Look from Here.




Distances from the Viewpoint

Me on Mount Nebo

Serpentine Cross Representing the Bronze Serpent
Moses took into the Desert and the Cross of Christ

Mosaic in Basilica on Mount Nebo

Madaba and Mount Nebo were great, but there was still more to see this day!  I decided to go to Little Petra next.  Here the caravans from the Negev, Gaza, Jerusalem, Egypt and the Mediterranean arrived, had a rest and engaged in trade.  The buildings carved from sandstone were used as residences, tombs and storages.  Just past the sandstone buildings is a Neolithic village, dating back to 7000 BC where about sixty dwellings have been excavated.  I even begin to get my mind around how old that is!


Evidently they knew I was coming and rolled out the red carpet.
Sandstone Building








Bedouin Woman Spinning

I have the whole place to myself!



Tiles on a Church Ceiling in one of the Caves



What are you going to do if you see a sign like this?
Climb up, of course!

View from the top, where some of the ancient caves are.



And this woman was up at the top selling things.




Here are a few shots taken after I left Little Petra:
This is Lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt. 

See the crack in the rock?  That's where
Moses smacked it with his staff.  There is a
spring that comes out here, but it's all enclosed
in a this building and not too picturesque.