Our trip to Jordan and Israel was not in our original travelling plans but what a great decision it was to come to these countries. The education has been immense on so many levels. I must say, a country is typically prettier and nicer with someone showing you around. You get right to the “It” spot, see the wonder and move along – that, I’m sure, has something to do with our impression of these countries. Anyhoo! We visited Madaba, which is a Christian town known as the city of mosaics. There is a Greek Orthodox Church that holds a huge mosaic map of the Holy Land. Queen Nor was the queen of Jordan – she was born American and the people loved her. While she was Queen she made a number of advances for women and children in Jordan. We visited a mosaic handicraft shop that employs handicapped people to make the mosaics and the profit goes to them to help their community. We learned how the mosaics are made and what makes the pricing different — the smaller the tiles the higher the price. The same day we climbed Mount Nebo where you can see all of the Holy Land, the Jordan River Valley, the Dead Sea, Jericho and Jerusalem. The Jordan River Valley has profound meaning for religious travelers. Although they never found his remains they mark Mount Nebo as the site of Moses’ death. The church there was under construction so we stayed outside; it was a very windy day. Our last stop of the day was at a crusader castle 900 meters above sea level in the city of Kerak. We’ve learned that the crusader castles are huge and this castle was just that. It was a very dark castle with stone-walls and seemingly endless passages.
Another amazing day was visiting the Baptism site of Jesus by John the Baptist. It is a very spiritual site for religious travelers as well. It’s a great visit with an actual guide and an audio guide. Jordan opened the site in 1996 after they cleared it of landmines. As you reach the river Jordan where the Baptism took place you see Israel on the other side with their tourists visiting the Baptism site from that country. Both sides have armed guards protecting the site and the border – that was amazing for us to see. Many churches from many countries and of various denominations have been built and are being built in this area. It’s very pretty and it was warm in January, I can only imagine how hot it would be to visit in the summer.
Our tour of Jordan ended with a visit to the Dead Sea. It truly is mind blowing to think of all the things that have happened in Jordan over the centuries. We feel so fortunate to have had a glimpse of this part of the world and trace many of the steps that have been so powerful in the history of the world. We arrived late in the day at the Dead Sea and you could reach it from our hotel so we walked down and took a look at it and decided the next day we would venture in and take our mud bath and do our float. The sea was calm and we were looking forward to our big adventure. Oh what a difference a day makes. After breakfast the following day we dressed in our swimsuits and walked down to the Dead Sea. Yes, it was overcast and a bit windy but we were ready to “do this thing!” WRONG! Red flags were all over the beaches and a guard from the hotel said, “it’s not safe you can’t go in”. We made the best of it by rubbing the mud with all the special minerals on us and wiping it off with the water from the Dead Sea. The water is almost like a mixture of water and baby oil. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on the earth at about 1300 feet below sea level (or 400 meters) and has an amazing 30%+ salinity percentage, it easily stings your eyes and any open wounds. The Dead Sea is called the Dead Sea because of its extreme mineral content; there are no plants, seaweed, moss, or any fish or creatures of any kind that can live in that water . . . simply amazing. All along the shore you see the rocks covered in salt. We were sad our Dead Sea adventure turned out that way but we enjoyed the rest of our day just the same at the hotel and even got some schoolwork done!