Tuesday, March 1, 2011


TUESDAY, December 6th, 2005 Mount Nebo and then Petra

Easily packed and ready to go by 9:00 am we were headed south to visit the area of Petra. Before leaving we went to the wealthier section of Amman to see how the other half lives. Very large estates, but we saw only a few lawns due to the shortage of water and the resulting fact that watering lawns and foliage is severely restricted. The Embassies are also located in the same area. We drove past the largest one which is our own American Embassy. It is a very large city block, heavily fortified with manned tanks stationed at all four corners. Before we approached the area we were warned to put our cameras away by Samur as the “no photography” rule is firmly enforced in this area by our government. But, I must say, we do have “lots of bucks” invested in the city block! It’s big and beautiful!

We spent the day traveling the King’s Highway south to Petra. This ancient route was the road for traders, armies, and pilgrims throughout history. Again, we saw the Bedouin tents and also the gypsy encampments along the highway. The views make one realize how many shades of brown there are. Contrasted to the blue of the sky it made for some very unusual scenery.

Our first stop was in the city of Madaba. As we walked down the streets it was difficult not to stop and shop as the stores had beautiful mosaics for sale. Thinking that we’d return the same way we all keep walking like good little tourists for our guide. Our destination was Saint George’s Church. On the floor of the church is the oldest known map of the Holy Land: a mosaic map. It is truly a piece of art that was originally created in the sixth century AD.

We discovered that the bus had come around to pick us up right outside of the church so that ended the thoughts of shopping in Madaba! Not too far down the road we arrived at Mt. Nebo, known as the legendary burial site of Moses with spectacular views overlooking the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea. A church was built here by the early Christians and in the sixth century it was expanded into one of the largest complexes of monasteries in the Middle East. Our visit today was of the church to see the old, and well preserved, mosaic tile floors discovered under the present church during excavations begun in 1933. Mt. Nebo was a site that was visited by John Paul II on his visit to the Holy Lands in 2000. Samur said that John Paul II’s visit resulted in many improvements to the roads and to the site here and others throughout the Middle East. We are now enjoying those improvements on our trip! Here is a photo of Jim and I standing on the special platform built for the Pope to view the valley below and he possibly also spoke to the crowds from here. The Serpentine Cross represents both the staff that Moses changed into a serpent to prove to the Pharaoh that he had supernatural powers from God and the cross carried by Jesus. On a clear day one can see Jerusalem and Bethlehem as well as the Dead Sea from this platform. However, we did not have a clear day and missed those views!

After Mt. Nebo we stopped at a mosaic factory that employs handicapped people and watched them work with tiny pieces of rock as they created beautiful tabletops and vases as well as wall hangings and jewelry boxes. The prices were rather steep and I just couldn’t convince Jim to part with $1,250. for a wall hanging of Moses and the ten commandments! And that was after I had negotiated him down from the asking price of $1,900. It would have looked great in our atrium. Had he actually agreed, I would have changed my mind? That’s a lot of cash for “no recourse” due to distance even if they would guarantee their shipping. I settled on a small wooden box with a mosaic duck on the lid for about $35.00, it fit nicely in my suitcase for the trip home.

After lunch at a local restaurant back in Madaba, we continued to drive south around the rounded hills of the limestone plateau until we reached the Wadi Mujib. Wadi means “valley” and this was a deep gorge mentioned in the Bible as Amon Valley. We descended 3,000 feet down the walls on twisted roads until we reached the bottom of the valley and then continued on to our hotel near Petra arriving about six in the evening.

Our hotel is the Petra Marriott Hotel located in Wadi Mousa, a village outside of the ancient city of Petra where many hotels are located to facilitate the tourist industry. It is definitely one of the nicest hotels on our trip. Samur is staying with us at the hotel and arranged for us to have dinner at 7:00 pm. We were the first ones into the dining room and the whole staff devoted their entire attention to serving our group! It was a buffet and they would carry our plates between the serving tables and our table for us. There was always at least two standing by our table to assist us with anything that our hearts desired! It was a lot of fun and quite different from the following night when the room was filled with other guests and we had to fend for ourselves.

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