I was reminded recently that I have not written about the second part of our trip to the Holy Land–our extension to Jordan.
After some departed from our group to go back to the United States, the rest of us stayed the night in a nice hotel in Tel Aviv very close to the Mediterranean. We got up the next morning, and had a very nice breakfast with a great view.
We boarded our bus that morning and crossed from Israel into Jordan. This was a very smooth process and went very quickly. We met our guide, John, on the Jordan side. We had to get a new bus and driver as well, and we found that we would have a police officer on our bus! I think he was supposed to be protecting us, but he didn’t really have much to do, as there was never any inkling of danger. Good job if you can get it. (Someone said that sometimes they put police on the buses to make sure the guides don’t say anything against the king, but I don’t know if that’s true.)
After an awesome lunch (no more shawarma, even though it is good–but the best lamb I’ve ever had was in Jordan), the first thing we did was drive awhile to the Roman ruins of Jaresh, the ancient city of Gerasa, one of the cities of the Decapolis, about 30 miles north of Amman, the capitol of Jordan. The ruins are beautiful and quite spread out. It was great to stretch our legs looking at everything, and we spent a couple hours there with John, our guide, who was very knowledgable and also a bit of a comedian. 🙂 We enjoyed him. We met a family at the ruins who wanted to get their picture taken with Rachel because of her long blond hair. They didn’t speak much English, just enough to tell us what they wanted.
We went into one of the theaters and watched a musical group perform with bagpipes. They recognized us as Christian tourists, obviously, and performed a wonderful rendition of “Amazing Grace,” among a couple other songs, for us. This was very moving for me: what a blessing that we could hear a beautiful Christian hymn in this place, and just after the call to prayer from nearby mosques. God shines through even in the most unlikely of places.
After our trip to Jaresh, most of us were tired from our traveling that day. Walking on the uneven stone pathways of the ruins was a challenge for many of the older people in our group, but everyone did well. Our hotel that we would be staying at for two nights was back in Amman. We traveled there and settled in for the night.
Jordan is a beautiful country. It’s not a huge country, but there’s a lot of beauty in the deserts and mountains. I really enjoyed being there, seeing how they live, and I never felt unsafe. It was good for the kids to see another side of life. Jordan is somewhat Western in the cities, but in the country, it does look more foreign to me. They have a lot of Bedoin nomads. Sometimes there’s a lot of garbage strewn about. It’s not all pretty. Water is a very precious resource for them, and the water that is there is not clean enough to drink. (All of Jordan’s citizens drink bottled water.) Our hotel didn’t even have hot water in the mornings (which meant I had a ponytail the rest of the pilgrimage, and therefore not looking so cute!!). The next day of our visit to Jordan was spent seeing Petra and then on the last day, we went to Maraba and Mount Nebo. More to come! More Jaresh pictures here.