Finally, this is the last post from my Jordan/Israel trip. It took a while because there are many significant ones in Israel and Jordan and I had to sort them out in my head. They are not necessarily huge by North American standard. Most are simple and dignified. Best of all, I did not get “churched out” as it can happen after visiting so many. Click on link, Christianity in Holy Land for full description.
It was a perfect day for a hike in Gatineau Park. The sun was shinning, the temperature was perfect, and there was no bugs. Eleven hikers started from Eardly-Macham road (as far as we can drive – just before the Churchill bridge). Dave P lead the group using an alternate route behind the Churchill outhouse to the lower escarpment trail. We visited the lower escarpment, Wall Street, Grand View, and the Churchill waterfall; with a few detours of course.
We found some colourful slime …
… view #2 (otherwise known as lunch) …
… view after Grand View …
… and my favourite waterfall in Gatineau Park …
A good day was had by all
It is not surprising that, with so much history and conflicts in the area, there are plenty other sites of interest to tourists. Places of worship will be described in a separate blog.
Masada (Israel) is an isolated desert mesa beside the Dead Sea. It is synonymous with Jewish resistance and spirit. It was built by King Herod. It was famous as the last stand of a thousand Jews against the might of Roman army. The defenders choose suicide over enslavement when the Romans finally breached the wall. There is a wonderful view of the surrounding desert and the Dead Sea.
I was determined to get my float in the Dead Sea this time. I missed it during my last visit to the area in 1992 because I was checking out Jordanian medical facility; my travel buddy need emergency appendectomy. The private hospital was really impressive, much more deluxe than any hospital in Canada and very reasonably priced. This time, I had 2 floats in the Dead Sea, once in Israel and once in Jordan. It could be the time of the visit and the choice of location, but the Jordanian experience was much more pleasant and not as crowded. Notice that I say float; no one really swim in such highly salty water. You can’t sink and tasting any of the water was seriously unpleasant. The water felt silky and smooth. However, any cuts and not completely healed areas will seriously sting … and the photo … it is not great but I have no control when I hand over my camera.
Wadi Rum (Jordan) is an area of unusual land formation in the desert. It is not far from Petra and was made famous by Lawrence of Arabia. Yes, he actually existed and he did spend time in Wadi Rum. The area was used by the Bedouins before it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The government persuaded the Bedouins to move out by giving them the right to use the land. These land holdings became the camp sites in Wadi Rum; from the very basic to deluxe. I stayed at a basic camp site, sharing the tent with 5 other travellers. No one snored too loudly. The silence was only disturbed by the wind and the moon light was too bright for good star gazing.
Crusaders came to the Holy Land to liberate it from the infidels. They built substantial castles for defence. I believe there are two or three left in Jordan and I visited the Kerak Castle. I was here in 1992 and remembered it as a crumbling structure with many layers. We visited the top two layers and the rest was closed. The same is still true but someone did a lot of work; restored many structures. I did not remember much of a castle last time; now, it is a sturdy castle.
Jerash is the tourist draw number 2 in Jordan; Petra, of course, is number 1. It is a huge roman ruin. Again, I was here in 1992. It is bigger than I remembered and that is probably because of the restoration done by the archeologists over the last 25 years. I was told that there are more ruins under all the weeds and I believed that. I was there on a Friday the the site was crowded with Jordanian families on their weekend outing.
I deliberately choose organized group tours for this trip because tension is high and political situation is unstable in this area. I was lucky that I never encountered any problem but the Israelis and Palestinians were exchanging rockets within a week of my return. Although it is not my favourite way of travelling, I did see a lot of both countries in 2 short weeks. However, I felt very insulated and isolated against the real world because I did not get many opportunities to interact with the locals in their day-to-day life. Yes, I saw most of the notable tourist sites in both Israel and Jordan but I don’t feel that I know the two countries.
I am sure that all of you have heard of Petra and have seen photos/movies of the spectacular city of stone. It is one of the 7 wonders of the world and justifiably so. It did not disappoint, even second time around. I visited Petra in 1992 and had the honour to have the entire place pretty well to myself. Unfortunately, I injured my knee and could not do as much as I liked and I promised myself that I would return.
Petra and the Little Petra are located in an area of soft sandstone rocks, caves, and canyons. Most of the amazing facades were carved by the Nabateans between 300 BC and 100 AD. They were conquered by the Romans and became part of the empire around 100 AD. The city were also used by the Byzantines and later abandoned due to earthquake damage. Petra was a necropolis where the Nabateans buried their dead and held ceremonies. People actually lived in Little Petra (both an archeological site and an area) and farmed the land. The wealth of Petra came the taxes collected as it was the crossroad of 3 important trade routes (also known as Spice Trails).
The normal entrance to Petra is indeed impressive. The route follows 1.2 kM of twisting canyons; and when you start to wonder if it ever exists, you see the facade of Treasury through a crack in the canyon. Once exit from the canyon, visitors are greeted by a large open space (full of selfie snapping tourists and Bedouins hustling to make a buck). The Treasury was a royal tomb which is now off limit. I did enter it in 1992 and the interior is just a smallish dark room carved from solid rock. The Petra archeological area is extensive covering many more tombs, caves (modified), amphitheatre, a column-lined main street and much more. The stars of the show are the warm red sandstone in its endless variations.
Little Petra, otherwise known as the “white” Petra, is much smaller and lack the colours of its bigger cousin. It is believed to be a reception centre for the caravans. It provided places to eat, sleep, and trade.
I was with a guided tour and stayed at a Bedouin camp site in Little Petra. It is pretty basic but everything was clean and the food was delicious. The orange tarp was the sleeping tent. The brown one was the dining room. The sandstone lifts around the camp was eroded into all sorts of interesting shapes and there are caves galore. It is hard to see but it was a steep drop to the canyon floor beyond the blue-and-white port-a-potty. “Shower” was a bowel of cold water behind the tent. Day 2 of my day in Petra involved a hike through the countryside, around some cliffs, to the Monastery (actually another royal tomb). It was then 800 steps down to the main Petra. After a couple of hours in Petra, we hiked back to the camp via one of the Spice Trail. It was a wonderful day of discovery.
By the way, have you noticed that there are no handrails. They probably did not exist in Nabatean time and the Jordanians did not install them to spoil the views. Maybe they believe in natural selection.