Farewell, Jerusalem. Jaffa Gate.Another night of exhaustion. And we just sat in a bus for most of the day. How can that be? Probably because all afternoon most of us just nodded off until our head snapped and then we were awake again. Don’t you love that?
Well, this morning we bid farewell to Jerusalem. That is always a sad moment. That last glimpse of the Temple Mount as we wind our way over Mt. Scopus and descend into the tunnel under the Mt. of Olives. Farewell, dear friend farewell. Until next time. Who knows when that will be, however.
It was a fabulous time in Israel and we have loved every minute. But – on to Jordan!
We actually were on the bus and headed to the border early. This group is amazing. Really, it is. But by 7:45 we were headed to the Jordan River on another bright day just chalk full of sunshine. Warm. We did have another “new” bus driver – and no guide. But it was just fine, we made the transition from Israel to Jordan in just a couple of hours. It would have been less, had the VAT agent been open – and if his computer actually worked. But I get ahead of myself.
We got to the border and directed into the proper line for passport control. We get another little sheet of paper to keep to show as we exit the holding room. We all made it through fine and no long line at all. We were early, remember!
Then to the VAT line (I wasn’t that far ahead of myself). It was closed. It took a couple of nudges to get someone to come (I think they open at 9, just a guess though). It took probably 45 minutes to get three of us through the VAT line. Really? Just refund the tax and let us get going. But, alas, it doesn’t quite work that way.
I did get out of identifying and loading luggage because of helping folks through the VAT line. So there was a perk to waiting in line. But eventually we were all through with the refunds and on our bus – it is huge….but not quite as new as the one in Israel. No internet on the bus. We are so spoiled! But…we do have FREE internet at our hotel tonight which is the fastest I’ve had on the entire trip. It has been free everywhere, actually, but tonight is it blistering fast. But I digress.
Crossing the Jordan RiverWe finally crossed the Jordan River (it took about 3 seconds). The river is so narrow, just barely a trickle these days as both Jordan and Israel divert the water for other uses. Once it hits the Dead Sea, it is fairly worthless for human consumption. But that is another ecological consideration.
We made it to the Jordanian side of passport control in a few minutes. I had collected all the passports (as has been the custom) but now they have a new procedure. Everyone holds their own – they make sure your face matches the passport (not a bad idea, actually) and then I get to collect them. And, I get to got outside with two specially selected pieces of luggage and escort them into the building to be x-rayed. Then escort them back and tip the carrier of the luggage $7 for the process. That’s better than unloading everything. So $7 well spent I suppose. Oh well.
Then we waited another 20 minutes at least for Ruby (our very nice Christian tour guide) to come back to the bus with all of our passports. She said it was REALLY crowded in there today – everyone in Jordan was here, she said.
But finally, we were on our way. Oops, there was a hitch. The Tourist Policeman that is supposed to be on our bus wasn’t yet available. We are going to skip Bethany Beyond Jordan, because we had been there on the Israeli side for baptisms. So I think he was to meet us there – or in Madaba, but it just wasn’t working out. It took them many, many phone calls (all in Arabic…so I have no ideas what’s going on) but we eventually drove slow, took a detour, and finally picked him up. Somewhere. I can’t remember exactly.
We were on our way to Madaba. There at the Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba, St. George’s. It was modest, but lots of icons. Ruby explained what we were about to see and then set us free to explore. It is an interesting map on the floor of the church. The mosaic is part of the floor of a Byzantine church – an amazing discovery – the oldest map of Palestine in history. It was made in 560 and has barely survived, having been discovered in 1884. The highlight (at least for us) is Jerusalem.
Jerusalem in the mosaic map at Madaba
We had a look and took some pictures, then loaded back on the bus (after a nice walk thru Madaba) for lunch. The only options today were in Madaba, but it was just after noon so it worked out well. We ate at Dana’s – a Christian restaurant in Madaba. They offered soup, salads (and buffet if you were more hungry). And, of course, dessert. The highlight was dessert – they were like small, honey-soaked donut holes. All you could eat. Yum.
Back on the bus at 1. We arrived in Petra at 5 (or there abouts…I think a little later, actually). But today we took the old King’s Highway (the scenic route) down to Petra. We’ll take the express route on Monday (so we can get to our resort hotel earlier in the day and enjoy the pools and Dead Sea). Anyway, we learned about Jordan (and the Bible on the journey south). Jordan’s mountains are all mentioned in the Bible. In order from north to south– GAME (Gilead – Ammon, Moab, Edom). And they are divided geographically by three rivers – JAZ (Jabbok, Arnon, Zered). Maybe we’ll all remember our Jordan factoids now. But then again, maybe not.
Wadi el-Majib (Wadi Arnon)It was an interesting drive, and Ruby did a good job keeping our interest and pointing things outs, even though we may have nodded off now and then….and now again. The most interesting thing we saw was the “Grand Canyon of Jordan” – the valley created by the Arnon River. It was the Wadi el-Mujib. It is so wide and so deep. It is impressive – and you can understand how it easily formed the border between Ammon and Moab. It was not easily crossed – or very secretively either. Enjoyed that lookout.
There was another lookout stop. It was one long and deep valley that flowed out in front of us. Who knows what that was called. I do know it was open for camping 4 months a year. And when we got out for pix, it was almost cool. Very lovely, actually. But we were high enough in “the mountains” to cool things off. I guess they get decent snowfall there.
Long day for sure.Back to the bus for the final decent (over an hour) into Petra. A quick stop at the Spring of Moses (where he called water from the rock…supposedly). There are three such places in Jordan, so who knows, really. But there was water. There was a rock. There was water coming up from under the rock.
Another five minutes and we were at our hotel. Yay. And, it is a lovely hotel. Everyone is quite happy with me tonight. Whew. And the dinner spread? Oh. My. Word. It was amazing and delicious and we all can’t wait for dinner tomorrow night. Well, for breakfast too.
We are up at 5:45. We meet Ruby at 7:10 to head into Petra. I guess there will be cruise ship buses arriving later in the morning and we most certainly want to beat them into the Petra and enjoy some time there without the press of the crowds. Should be an interesting and exhausting day. I can’t wait.