Holy Land 2020: Day 10, 11, 12, 13

Before I start this last blog of our Holy Land trip, I wanted to give you some websites to look at especially if you wish to give to any of the organizations we have mentioned along the way.  First, a primary website is the American Friends of the Episcopal Dicoese of Jerusalem.  You can find that website here  The next is the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt.  You can find out most information on the American Friends Website but also at their own website which you can find here  And finally, the parishes and ministries of the Diocese of Jerusalem you can find on their website.  You can find that here

Our 10th Day was Sunday and so we began with worship and Church of the Redeemer in Amman.  Redeemer is one of, if not  the largest, church by membership in the Diocese of Jerusalem.  The Rector is the Rev. Canon Fa’eq Haddad, and he very warmly welcomed our group, as did the congregation.  Canon Haddad asked me to be part of the service as well as the other leaders Paul and Dominic.  Several of our pilgrims also participated by reading the Prayers of the People and some of the readings.  The congregation hosted us after the service, and it was just so special to see the mingling across miles and culture.

 

Redeemer Amman Group photo

We left there and then toured several sites in Amman, including the Citadel, also a very ancient site, where a coliseum is a centerpiece, along with a wonderful view.

There was an official celebration of some kind and we got to see, and talk to some of the military musicians there.   We then traveled to city of Madaba, which is the home of St. George Orthodox Church were an amazing ancient mosaic was found which is a map of the Holy Land all across the floor.   It is estimated that it took 2 million little stones hand laid to make this map, which has been used to factually locate Mt. Nebo, the baptism site, and many other important geographical sites.

With that, we headed back to Amman and another nights stay.

The 11th day Monday, we checked out of our hotel in Amman and headed first to the City of Salt, and especially to the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf, one of the many incredible ministries the Diocese of Jerusalem administers and which the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, a board I chair, supports.  HLID is an amazing place.  We had a fabulous tour by Fr. Wadie Far, Chaplain to the school and then we were treated to refreshments and a trip to their gift shop where nearly everything is made by the students.

HLID

We left them a lot of money there I can tell you!  We then headed south to the   baptismal site on the Jordan side.  After this we went to lunch.  Food here is excellent and a lot of it is about presentation!  This day were were treated to Makdouba, and this is how it is presented!

Along our travels we also witnessed the Turkish dish Testi Kabap, while in Petra.  We didn’t actually get to eat this, but a few of us did get to see it.

And then we were treated to Zarb, Lamb and vegetables slow cooked in the ground at Wadi Rum.

But, back to day 11.  This baptismal site was very interesting since we had, just the week before stood just the few yards it is on the West Bank side.   We worshiped there, and then headed to Mt. Nebo a few miles away for lunch and then a trip to the Mt.believed to be where Moses saw the promised land, but then did not ever get to enter it.   The view is amazing, one of the tallest mountains in the country.

Mt. Nebo Pano

After our worship there, we headed south for the long drive to the ancient city, and one of the seven wonders of the world, Petra.  We arrived quite late, around 8:30 p.m., had dinner, and then retired.  We were so blessed to have a hotel right at the main entrance to the site.

Day 12, Tuesday, we began early and entered the Petra site.  We were led by our wonderful guide, Zaid, on a very slow and guided stroll down the 2 1/2 miles into the Petra city center.

There is absolutely no way to describe this site.  No matter what guide book you have seen, video, pictures, being there is the only way to absorb the massive nature of this site.  You see pristine excavated buildings, tombs, from thousands of years ago. But first you go the Siq, a slot canyon that is one of the most picturesque things you will ever see.

There is nothing like walking through this slot canyon and suddenly rounding the corner to see the Treasury, perhaps the most famous of the buildings in Petra.  And the way our guide did this was to “teach” us, with our eyes closed how to count to ten in Arabic.  Here is how it all went down!

Once in the city center we traveled a bit farther in and had lunch, and then some of the group continued on the much more arduous 900 feet climb and nearly that many stairs to what is called the Monestary, on the top of the ridge.  I went with this group and I can tell you it was very worth it.

I am so thankful I made it to a place I had always wanted to see.  I spent the whole day in the site, getting back just about sunset.  It is one way in, and one way out.  So, whatever distance you travel into it, you have to travel that distance out.  Of course, you can take a horse, a horse drawn carriage, a donkey, or a camel out, if you wish, and of course for a fee.   When it was finally decided, by the Jordanian government to make this a national park, they had to relocate the Bedouin community which called it home, about 2000 of them.  In exchange, the government allows them to run it, and to sell in it, etc.  This community had a very modern settlement built for them just above the ancient city to live in these days.   While we walked our guide was so excited to see Maguerite Van Geldermalsen,  who wrote the book Married to a Bedouin.  From New Zealand, she cameto Petra to visit on a backpacking trip, was invited into a man’s cave to stay, and as they say, the rest is history.  She has lived among them ever since and now she sells her books, and sells products handmade by Bedouins giving the profits back to the community.  We were fortunate to see her, to buy her book, and to spend a bit of time with her.

Margareite bedouin

We had a nice dinner on the last night of our stay in Petra.

The 13th day, and the last one for most, was a trip further south to a desert region known as Wadi Rum.  “Wadi” means valley and “Rum” means moon.   Here Bedouins have built tent resorts of all kinds for people to come and stay.  The recent Matt Damon Movie, “The Martian”, was filmed here, as was some of the Star Wars scenes, and finally, of course, because it did actually happen here, Lawrence of Arabia as well.   Here we took a ride on what our guide called “Japanese Camels” also known as Toyotas.   Our large group piled into 8 of these and explored the valley.

Our guide Zaid, taught us various ways to tie the traditional keffiyeh

This canyon in the picture below is marked as the meeting place of Lawrence and Faisal in the 1917 battle of this place

Wadi Rum3

This was actually an add on trip, because when planning the trip, the airlines changed some of their schedules and so some of the ending of the trip got messed up.  I heard over and over on this day, “I am sure glad our flights got messed up! I would not have wanted to miss this place.   A Great place for stargazing as well.  I want to go back.

Wadi Rum2

After our Zarb feast, we piled back in the bus for the long 4 hour ride back to Amman, and to yet another feast in a great restaurant, our farewell dinner, before the 40 pilgrims headed to the Amman airport for their 1:40 a.m. flight!  Yes, 1:40 a.m., but they were troopers and no one complained.  This had been a once in a lifetime experience and a wonderful pilgrimage.  All 50 plus that went on various phases of this trip were superb traveling companions.   I will miss them all.

I hope you have enjoyed following along.   I leave you now with the final reflection I offered to our pilgrims reminding them, that if we got these last days right, then this was not an ending, but a beginning, the pilgrimage never ends.

The Indian Poet Kabir once wrote, “If you have not experienced something for yourself, then for you it is not real.”  So it is with pilgrimage, which is the art of movement, the poetry of motion, the music of personal experience of the sacred in those places where it has been known to shine forth.  If we are not astounded by these possibilities, we can never plumb the depths of our own souls or the soul of the world.  Hearing this, let the voyage begin, recalling the words of the Spanish Poet Antonio Machado, “Traveler, there is no path, paths are made by walking.”(Rousseau, The Art of Pilgrimage)

So Thanks to all of you,  travel well,  May the stars light your way, and may you find the road that runs straight through your heart!   

Blessings to all! and traveling mercies,

+Greg