We arrived in Jordan last Wednesday surprised at how tired we felt. It seemed as though our bodies were releasing some of the tension we have been carrying along with the rest of Lebanon these days. However, we were thankful to learn that today’s elections (presidential elections will follow next month, but this one will help determine the balance of power among the potential presidential candidates) were peaceful despite the speculation of violence. In the days before we left Lebanon there had already been clashes between supporters of opposing candidates so our minds have been very much on this election and the coming months in terms of what they may mean for the country.
We needed some time to rest, relax, and talk about our experiences this summer and Jordan has turned out to be a perfect setting for this. For the past three days we rented a car (a surprisingly easy experience here!) and drove all around the country even venturing 3 hours south to spend a day hiking around Petra. Driving through the desert is a humbling experience, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely.
The "Treasury" at Petra. They never really stored money in here, but that is what it is called. Anyone seen Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Last Ark?
Petra is called the "Rose City" because of the red tint to the rock. Some of the rock displays amazing color contrasts and swirls as seen here.
Alethia in front of the "Monastery." It also was not used as such, but as a Byzantine church in the 4th cent.
All of these structures were carved into the rock by the Nabataeans around the 2nd cent BC, it is absolutely impressive to think of such a feat of engineering.
Bedouin transportation. Actually, now the camels are mostly used for tourists, most Bedouins have traded in the camels for a Toyota pick-up.
Bedouin life in the desert. Notice in the background the vehicles parked on either side of their home. Most Bedouins are shepherds or work agricultural fields.
Besides Petra we visited Jarash (once part of the ancient Decopolis), Madaba (a busy market city with plenty of mosaics to ponder), and Mt. Nebo (or Nibu, Nebu, and Mt. N. depending on the road sign) where Moses supposedly looked out over the “promised land.” As we looked out into the hot desert haze, we noted that what was once the “promised land” is now more conflicted than ever. The Jordanian army has quite a few more checkpoints in the area around the Dead Sea as we discovered on our drive and we wondered if it was because of the proximity to Israel. Our last stop of the day yesterday was the Dead Sea to float around as the heat of the day subsided.
Alethia at the front gate of the city of Jarash. This is the largest city ruins we saw on our trip. The city has two theaters, still used during an annual festival, and many temple ruins throughout.
A mosaic on the floor of a church in Madaba. This famous mosaic depicts the "Holy Land" with major sites. It covers from Southern Lebanon and Egypt, down south of the Dead Sea. The picture shown displays Jerusalem with the city walls.
Ryan and Alethia atop Mt. Nebo. Notice the rod with the snake wrapped around it, which is used to signify when Moses commanded a gold snake to be crafted and set atop a staff to cure the Israelites of snake bites. From this vantage point one can look across the Jordan valley and on a clear day see the Dead Sea and all the way to Jerusalem.
This is the only time Ryan will be darker than Alethia :)
In between driving around the country and cheering ourselves on when we finally made it back into Amman the last day without taking a wrong turn in the city (although after Beirut, it seems amazingly easy to drive, walk, and navigate around Amman—which is still a crazy place, don’t think it’s not), we’ve been enjoying the church guesthouse where we are staying and exploring Jabal Amman, the surrounding neighborhood. We were hoping for a peaceful atmosphere for reflection and this place has been perfect. The call to prayer from the 10 mosques we are surrounded by lends to the atmosphere as well. It’s been good to be in a majority Muslim country that is relatively peaceful and stable after feeling so sensitive to the divisions and tensions among the Christian population and among the Muslim population in Lebanon, not to mention the tensions between each other too. We’ve stopped wondering if the fireworks we also hear every night here are really fireworks, so this is a good sign that we are relaxing!
Although we felt the tension in Beirut, we really enjoyed our time and experiences there and most of all the community we connected with. Being here in Amman has given us space to reflect a bit on that part of our journey although we will still be returning home with many unanswered questions in the back of our minds for further pondering. Amman has given us the space to say goodbye to Lebanon for the time being…we are now looking forward to returning State-side in a few days. We plan to spend Monday exploring more of Amman and packing before we fly out early Tuesday morning. Thank you for your prayers as we travel this week and as we attempt to incorporate our experiences this summer into our lives in the States.