|Imagine standing in the footsteps of Moses, peace be upon him!|
Okay, so, on Friday, July 15th 2011, I had a very “spiritual” day. I accomplished a lot, and I saw some places I’d been dying to see ever since I got to the Middle East, among them the River Jordan and the Dead Sea. There’s something really special about this place (not just this country but about every country where a Prophet lived or spent some time or traveled through or visited), and I love it for this reason among many others. The feeling you get that you’re *probably* stepping in the footsteps of someone as important as Moses or Jesus (peace be upon them), for example, is worth dying for. To stand on a mountain, looking over a place that is certainly somewhere a Prophet must have stood, given a speech or two, or at least laid his eyes on is beyond wonderful. It is believed that John the Baptist baptized Jesus (peace be upon him) at the River Jordan. Now, this river is long, but the part where it is believed he was baptized at – I saw it. It’s called the Baptism Site. I’ll tell you about how we got there and all in a minute.
Could someone please do some research on Petra and tell me which prophets or other important figures were there? I went to Petra a couple of weeks ago, and I do know that Moses and Aaron were there, but I would like to know more. I remember reading something about King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba meeting in Petra, but I can’t find that info anywhere now. I also know that there's a mountain there called the Mountain of Aaron, and I was told that Moses and Aaron stayed there for a while. But I need more details. (I’d do the research myself, but 1) no time, and 2) the internet is either too slow at my hotel or doesn’t work at all). Shukran!
k, so let’s talk about the day and how we end up visiting so many important sites. The night before that, we’d decided to go explore a village and make some more friends from this country. My friend Amanda browsed through the travel guide book and read the Baptism Site and went, “Whoa! Qrratugai loves religious stuff; she’d love this!” (She told me she thought that when she read it, hah.) So she showed it to me, and I said HELLZ YEAH LET’S GO!!! And so we plotted our route—which went like this: from our location, go to Madaba (with over 90% Christians) then Mount Nebo (where Moses, pbuh, gave his last speech and died) then the Baptism Site (where Jesus, pbuh, was baptized). (Note that the Dead Sea wasn’t part of our plan, since CLS Group A is prolly going there this coming weekend officially.) We were to take a bus (or min-bus) from here to Madaba, which was to cost us no more than 70 cents. We had planned to rent a taxi in Madaba for the rest of the day and pay him at least 40 dinars, since he’d have to wait for us in all these places and be with us all day long. (The reason we had to get one taxi for the whole day was that you’re in the middle of nowhere at these sites, so you can’t get one while you’re there.)
We left around 10:30am. I won’t tell you what hell it was trying to figure out which bus was going where and being taken from one bus station to another only to be brought back to our initial destination! Ugh! That was frustrating. But when we finally made it the bus stop with a bus going to Madaba, we saw some taxis there. On Fridays, you’ll see a lot of taxis at bus stops, and they’ll tell you, “Oh, it’s Friday. Buses aren’t usually available on Fridays.” It’s often a lie, and we knew that. But we decided that if he would give us a good deal, like 50 dinars, we’d take him. We ended up accepting his 60-dinars deal. His English was weak, which was good for us because we got to practice our Arabic with him. And I didn’t grow to like his character – ‘cause we’d be somewhere, and he’d just start pretending to be our chaperone! That was REALLY annoying! He meant well, though, of course, and in the taxi, too, he tried to make conversations, and he’d make sure we were comfortable and all. But sometimes when trying a bit too hard to please others or make sure they are fine, we tend to make them feel uncomfortable. Don’t do that to anyone, people!
While in Madaba, we saw this old Church (1 dinar entry fee) that contains the oldest-surviving map of the Middle East!
|Carved into the ground|
|The same map but on a bulletin board|
Here are other photos of the church.
We moved on to see Christian mosaics, something that Madaba is known for.
|Some tools. Imagine how much time and hurt it must take to make these precious things!|
We were in Madaba for about 40 minutes or so (possibly less), and then we headed on to Mount Nebo. It is one dinar to get in here as well. (Of course, all of these places are free, or much cheaper, to citizens or natives of the country.) See photos below.
|View from the Mountain|
|'Uyoon Musa (Spring of Moses), that green area|
|'Uyoon Musa (Spring of Moses)|
|How this mountain came to be an archaeological site|
|How we know Moses (peace be upon him) died here.|
|You see that blueness right over there? Yeah, that's the Dead Sea. To the right, in this photo, you can see Israel. I'm standing at another corner of Mt. Nebo.|
|The trail to the Baptism Site and the River|
So, you take this shuttle from the entrance to the Baptism Site, and the ride is about 10 minutes or so. Then you walk for about 40 minutes through this trail to the actual site and the river. You chill there for about 20 minutes, and then you head back to where the shuttle dropped you off and go back to the entrance to return the pen-like thing I told you about above.
The Jordan River, of course, is a part of the Baptism Site. The river serves as a boundary among a few countries, so, while we were at the river, we *almost* touched the West Bank :p Israeli map was right across from it, on this building we saw. There’s a fence, which is considered a boundary, and you’re not allowed to go even close to that fence. People told us the fence might be electrified, which we found hilarious since … we were in the water, and we’d be dead by then if the fence was indeed electrified.
Oh, and I forgot to show you what the “swim suit” looks like: It’s like a long white t-shirt made of cotton, so it’s completely see-through when wet. So long, modesty! (I didn’t wear it, though, of course. I have absolutely no problem swimming or just playing in water in regular clothing.) And it reaches a little below your knees. When I first saw it, I thought it was one of those robes you get at the hospital to wear when you’re getting a physical done. That’s what it looks like.
|I have set foot in the Jordan River! (That water was SO no pretty, though. But it was holy!)|
|heeee heee! The swimming suits I was talking about!|
|Baaaaa haaa! Certainly not something you see often!|
|The Baptism Site|
|And the River Jordan one more time|
|The Israeli flag -- that's the West Bank right over there! This is right above the river, too.|
|Ahhh! The Dead Sea! Imagine its sunsets!!|
When we were done here, the taxi driver asked us if we’d like to go to the Dead Sea. We’d seen it from a distance on our way to the Baptism Site, but since it wasn’t a part of our plan, we didn’t wanna bug the driver about it. But he himself said it was no problem, so we went for it. Only, since our group is going there some time soon, any coming weekend, we didn’t wanna get a separate ticket and spend a lot of time there this time. We just wanted to see what it looked and felt like. And if you don’t get a ticket (which is 30 dinars and covers foods, drinks, and access to the swimming pools, free Dead Sea mud, and some other stuff), then you get to see only the disgusting area of the Dead Sea which is REALLY disgusting! Camel and human poop all over, for instance, along with other garbage. Totally not cool. Still, we found a cleaner area, we went there, and we got in the water, which was hot! Not just warm but actually hot. Okay, not too hot, either, though. The mud was really oily and sticky. For the next two hours or so, I felt like I had *just* put lotion on my hands and feet! The mud is said to be good for the skin. And since it’s soooo salty, your body starts to ache miserably. You find scratches on your body that you didn’t know existed. And if you get in your eyes, good luck to you! Oh, and advice to those who plan to visit it some day: Do not shave or wax or remove any hair from any part of your body five or six days before your visit. I know of some people who’d shaved a week before their visit, and they still felt like they were being stung, so I’d suggest be even more careful.
|The sea and its saltiness|
Some interesting facts (and beliefs) about the Dead Sea
It’s over 35% salt, making it impossible for any form of life to occur inside it (hence the “dead” sea). It’s also impossible to drown in it, since you can only float in it. It’s not really a sea, since the water is still. It is believed that the People of Lot, the prophet whose people are believed have been destroyed by God for practicing homosexuality, are buried inside the Dead Sea. But we can’t figure out whether this is correct or not since we can’t go inside the water. I’ve also read and heard that Prophet Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt (she was told not to look back and to go straight ahead to be rescued from the destruction, but she looked back and was instantly turned into a pillar of salt), stands right by the Dead Sea. I didn’t get to see that, but if I go again, which I plan to, I will ask about it in case it is on this side of the sea. AND I'll show you better photos of the sea then, too, k?
So, yeah. That’s how fabulously and spiritually my last Friday was spent here, beloveds!
Oh, and I still owe y’all a post on the Petra visit, so be on the look-out for that, k? Ma’ assalaaaaaaaaaaaaamah!!