7:20 pm
Wadi Rum, Jordan

The sun has set.  It was a beautiful sunset, though…in the beginning of the Wadi Rum.  That’s a beautiful section of Jordan – where “The Martian” was filmed.  But here’s the issue:  we still aren’t at our hotel.  It’s been a long day and we may have an hour ahead of us.  Aqaba is a very long journey south.  We may have made too many stops getting here – but hey, on Tuesday, we can fly to the Dead Sea and enjoy the amazing hotel ahead of us.

We were us early today – breakfast at 6:15 – and I guess we had to bring our own luggage downstairs.  It sort of makes sense, since they don’t have the elevator space to bring everyone’s luggage down.  It’s easier if we do it ourselves.  But after all of that, we were only one minute behind Benny’s schedule for departure.  By 7:01, we were on our way to the border.

It’s about a 45-minute drive down to the King Hussein border crossing.  There was not much traffic that early.  It’s a work day in Israel, but we were ahead of the rush.  We had to wait at the border for it to open up, it opens at 8:00.

On the way down to the border, Benny told us the story of his family during the holocaust.  It was a fascinating and difficult story, and he made it to the end before we arrived.  The “Reader’s Digest” version of his family’s story is this.  His grandfather was born and raised in Poland, as was his father.  Life changed when his father was in his late teens.  When the pogroms began, his grandfather was connected with many of the local farmers, so they could survive the ghetto life.  For a while.  Basically, his father and his father’s brother were the only ones in his family to survive.  His uncle returned to Poland following the war.  Benny’s dad went to France, worked as a tailor, married his mother – and then moved to Israel.  Benny is an only child.  Born in Israel.  His dad would not talk of the story, but before he died sat down for a 4-hour interview at Yad Vashem with a professional interviewer – so Benny learned a lot at that time.  His dad died about ten years ago at age 88.  When Benny buried him, he put all the names of his family on the tombstone.  Parents, six siblings, and so on.  Tough story.  So you can see we left Israel on a bright note. 

It is always difficult to leave Jerusalem.  What a special place.  But it was time to move on.  Not sure folks think so right now, though.

The border crossing was not too painful – or crowded.  We moved through each checkpoint rather easily.  Ruby (our guide in Jordon) was ready for us.  And passport control in Jordan was not too crowded, so that was quick too.
Soon we were on our way to Mt. Nebo, our first stop.  It was a pretty hazy day, so the view wasn’t spectacular.  But we could see the Dead Sea (barely) and Jericho.  We visited the church and saw it mosaic floors.

Next stop was Madaba – and the St. George church, home of a pilgrim map of the Near East during the Byzantine period – all done in mosaic tiles.  It is really quite interesting.  There are landmarks we still recognize and some features which inform our modern understanding of the ancient landscape.  Pilgrims would use the map to guide their journeys to visit biblical sites.

Lunch was at a Christian place that is just fine.  Buffet – though it was just us this time around.

Back on the bus for the long journey south.  We detoured to see the castle at Kerak.  We didn’t visit the castle – just stopped long enough to get some pictures.  I think that detoured us enough off the road to make this day quite long.  But…we’ve done the sights so Tuesday we can head straight to our resort.  So there is a positive side.  Just have to convince the group of the positive.  We are watching the mini-series, “The Bible” on the TV’s on the bus.
The highlight of the day is probably the Arnon River valley – the “Grand Canyon” of Jordan.  It forms the boundary between Ammon and Moab.  And…is really is something special. And huge.

We’ve had several bathroom and snack stops along the way.  But it is pitch black outside now – but we will enjoy the view of the Wadi Rum in the morning.  If we survive the ride tonight.  Ha.


9:57 pm

Aqaba, Jordan

Back in my room after dinner (delicious) and short stroll on the beach.  We got to the hotel a little after 8 pm.  Whew.  Long day.  Too long.  But the reward waiting for us is amazing.  This hotel is modern, large, and more than comfortable.  It’s deluxe and right on the Red Sea.  Not much time to enjoy any of its amenities (but the very comfortable beds and nice showers).  We opted to leave half an hour later in the morning – just for some down time.  Who knew riding on the bus was worse than walking the streets of Jerusalem?  We all do now.

I’m off for final prep for bed.  Should sleep well tonight.  Tomorrow we have at least a two-hour drive to Petra.  And then the rest of the day to explore that site.  We are in for a great day.

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