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“Finding oneself and one’s path is like waking up on a foggy day. Be patient, and presently the fog will clear and that which has always been there can be seen. The path is already there to follow”
Rasheed Ogunlaru, Soul Trader: Putting the Heart Back into Your Business

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The next day we left Petra on the Kings Highway for our first stop at the ruins of the crusader fortress of Al Karak. It had the feel of a large open town, symmetrically laid out. It was almost possible to see crusaders marching around in full regalia. Situated at the edge of town there was a surreal feel to the place. More than ever history and modern day events lived side by side. Left to ramble over the ruins we wandered over what seemed like acres of ground. It would have been more than impressive in its day.

After the long exploration we drove to a lonely, windswept hill, Mount Nebo, which is believed to be the tomb of Moses and is where Moses looked out over the “promised land”, forbidden to enter by God. A mosaic floor still lies in the ruins of a 4th and 6th century church. This time we were the only people at the ruin and were able to spend quite a bit of time walking around and exploring the area. Looking out across the land it seemed desolate, nothing but sand and rock. It’s hard to imagine it as being “the Promised Land”, a “Land or Milk and Honey”, but seasons come and go and everything eventually changes. It really made you ask why there was so much blood shed over such a barren and desolate place. (It may not have been at the time).

Our next stop was at Madaba still driving along the 5000 year old King’s Highway. Madaba is known as the City of Mosaics. We were there to see the mosaic of the Holy Land which is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George. The church is northwest of the city centre and was built in 1896 AD, over the remains of a much earlier 6th century Byzantine church. Madaba appeared to be a congested little town where every street was twisting one way or another. Of course we had no idea which way we were going and our guide gave a simple direction. “Make sure you can see the person in front of you. Don’t stop for any reason and don’t get lost. Do not stop to look in the shops or talk to the shop keepers. I will not be responsible if you stop. We may not be able to find you”. How much was for effect and how much real?

We did start to lose some of our party, those who were having trouble keeping up. The guide was not interested in moderating his pace and a few of the less fit, who would have enjoyed the excuse to stop and check out the local wares, began to fall behind. Soon it was obvious we were about to lose part of our party and all I could see was a sea of Arab faces, all  clamouring for us to stop and look at the things they had for sale along the street or enticing us to “Step inside and see our wares”.

To say I was annoyed would be putting it mildly. The people who had been the first to tattletale that we were being ‘kidnapped’, ‘arrested’ or grabbed by the Bedouin, made sure they remained hot on the heels of the guide and didn’t look back. The rest of us formed a relay of sorts, a string of white faces amongst the sea of Arab faces, ensuring we could see the person in front and behind. Eventually we made it to the Church and reformed our group again.  Words were spoken, both to the group who ignored the people falling behind and to the guide, who suddenly developed “English amnesia”.  There’s nothing like a goatherd when you need a guide in town!

The trek was worth it to see the mosaic, but the tension spoilt the journey. Strangely enough we managed to get back to the bus using a much more direct route and took much less time. The streets were also much wider and less congested. I wasn’t the only person pondering the strange behaviour of our guide; in fact I was convinced he had taken us through the seediest part of town. We were all relieved we had managed to keep a look out for each other and arrived safely back at the bus.

Once more on the bus we had one final stop, at a souvenir place. Once again, it seemed a place in the middle of nowhere and off the beaten track. They had the most amazing oil paintings done on canvas or velvet. Far too difficult to say no to something so beautiful when we knew this was the last opportunity we had to buy anything in Jordan. One of the salesmen decided to follow Mel and me around the store. It seemed that all the salesmen were determined to sell everyone something before we left.  Of course, this was the land of bartering and it had been fun in Egypt, which I totally forgot to mention. So, smiling sweetly we did the circuit of the store, once, twice, three times before finally getting down to choosing a few things we liked. Then it came time to start the haggling process.

Both Mel and I were travelling elsewhere after our stay in Jordan and the idea of trying to carry framed pictures with us, simply didn’t appeal. I had chosen a beautiful velvet oil of a Bedouin encampment amongst Roman ruins. It was beautiful and I did buy it for a very good price and persuaded him to remove the frame for me.  Then we smiled and asked him to remove the frames from Mel’s pictures.  Our friends were not impressed as they had pictures in frames whilst we had ours safely rolled to carry with us.

Once back in Amman I had the unequaled pleasure of trying to find a pharmacy which stocked the medication I needed. I had miscalculated somehow and I was fortunate to find a pharmacy with a pharmacist who understood English and had the right tablets. As luck would have it she was right around the corner about three hundred metres up the street. However I was pleased to get back inside.

The next day we had a guided tour of Amman. We ended up at the Citadel, the old Roman ruins in the centre of Amman. The Citadel is actually on a hill with the ruins of the Temple of Hercules. Below the Citadel’s southern rim is a stream known as Seil Amman. It is on the south bank that most of the Roman City of Philadelphia was situated. The ruins have a main Forum, Theatre, Odeon, and various shops. The Amphitheatre is the largest in Jordan, and could seat 6,000 spectators. The Theatre area is filled with stalls selling shish kebabs or ice creams as well as souvenir shops. There is also an exquisite example of a Byzantine mosaic from Madaba.

It was a great way to end our tour of Jordan and to end our time together. We had the afternoon to relax, compare notes of our tour together, exchange addresses with everyone and get our cases organised and repacked. Last minute laundry was essential for Mel and me.

The next day Mel was leaving for Mount Sinai, people were travelling home, to Brazil, Canada, the US and the UK whilst I was staying an extra day before going back to Israel. Everyone was leaving at different times so the whole day was spent saying ‘goodbyes’. It had been a wonderful trip and I was looking forward to going back to Israel.

#In Search of

The Siq, Petra

It had been a whirlwind trip, filled with so much history and scenery which at times took your breath away and at others left you wondering why there was so much fighting there. With so much history and so many different cultures all melting into a country and culture it was not surprising that there was the unique diversity amongst the people in the Middle East. From the Byzantine era, Crusaders, Moses and Romans, it was a land steeped in religious doctrines and wars. I felt awed and humbled but with a sense that I was gaining a clearer perspective of who I was, what I believed and where I was heading. It was going to be interesting going back to Israel again. I wondered if it would be as difficult to return as it had been to get in originally.

Next week…..Back to Tel Aviv.

Blessings,  Susan ♥

© Susan Jamieson 2014

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“The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.” ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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Another early start saw us on our way to the Cairo airport. Once again Mel and I seemed to attract the security guards and we went through the mandatory luggage check and then the pat down by some fierce looking female guards. No arguments here but my cheeks were sore trying not to smile, I didn’t think they would appreciate it. So, with a great deal of eye rolling from the rest of the group we finally made our way to the check in counter. I was beginning to think that they thought we were doing something to attract this unwanted attention. With bulging suitcases we definitely didn’t want our bags rummaged through every time we went to the airports.

A short flight later we were landing at the Amman airport, Jordan. Our arrival was met by a tour official and we were shepherded to the Amman Marriott Hotel. It was a nice easy day after the hustle and bustle at the end of our Egyptian leg and we made the most of catching up in the Business centre and grabbing a little rest.

Breakfast was bright and early the next day and we met our guide for this part of the trip. He was as different as he possibly could be from our guides in Israel and Egypt. His English was, to say the least, a trial as we strained to understand what he was saying. From his attitude I wondered if he had just wandered into town from the hills. He appeared more at home with the bus driver than his passengers, in fact we appeared to be unwelcome cargo.

Our first stop was at the Roman ruins in Jerash. It was an amazing sight. The Colosseum was almost intact and mock gladiator fights and chariot races were held throughout the day. You simply had to pay extra to see them – after you had paid to get into the site of course. Yet the scope of the ruins was enormous. You could easily visualise an entire city, and walking through the almost immaculate streets you could feel the size of the place. Thus was no small village but a thriving metropolis. Our guide waxed lyrical about the aqueducts in the streets and the sewage system tunnels, still able to operate. The heat was oppressive and there was no shade. People began huddling in the slight shade from the tall columns along the colonnade.

Amazingly there was lush green grass on the hillsides all around. It was a luxuriant emerald green with wildflowers sprinkled throughout. At the top of the nearby hill was a fenced enclosure with towers built along its length. Soldiers carrying weapons could be seen slowly patrolling the perimeter. It was another reminder that we were close to the border and as carefree as the ruins made you feel, real life was a heartbeat away with the torpid heat.

Leaving Jerash before we were all desiccated we retraced our ‘steps’ and headed for Petra, at the other end of Jordan. Why this strange route? We never found out, but a frantic rush ensued to reach Petra by nightfall. Once again we wondered why, until we were closer to our destination and the roads degenerated in quality. We definitely didn’t want to be broken down in the middle of ‘nowhere’. There was a collective sigh of relief as we finally pulled into the Hotel in Wadi Musa. It was time for a quick meal and an early night before the famous Petra Treasury tomorrow.

The next day dawned bright and hot. Sunscreen was applied by the truckload, although we were told it would be different once we reached the entrance to the treasury. Sand puffed up around our feet as we slowly walked across to the walk down to the mountain. Rejecting the pull of an easy donkey ride down we decided to leave that luxury for our exhausted return.  The heat was, for me, oppressive. We walked down the hill towards the Siq, the entrance through the mountain. It did nothing to prepare us for the sights once we entered Siq, the narrow cleft in the mountain.

The mountains seemed to flow like waves, with each rippled wave a different colour. The best times to see the mountains and Treasury are early morning and dusk as the sandstone picks up the sun’s rays and reflects these wonderful colours back at you. The Siq is 1.2km in length, formed by the mountain splitting and there really are only poet’s words to do justice to the magnificent sight, or photos!

Almost at the end of the Siq we could see the impressive Treasury, seen in Indiana Jones. It is a breathtaking sight. It towers over the surroundings and dwarfs mere humans with its presence. Apart from an almost unidentifiable muttering we had no introduction from our guide so we joined the crush of people entering the Treasury. Inside the Treasury, we could see the room built as the tomb of Nabataean King Aretas III.

We learned more from other guides as we wandered around than from our erstwhile goatherd. Yes, he told us he had come down from the country to guide tourists because there was no living to be made in the desert any longer. At least we understood why he was obsessed with the aqueducts! He did point out the lights and aqueducts along each side of the entry passage to the Treasury. The Romans were nothing if not thorough. It was blissfully cool inside the building, almost chilly in some places. The sandstone is so soft that apart from the external parts of the Treasury all the dwellings were carved from the rock.  The Arabic name for the Treasury is Al-Khazneh.

Another hot walk took us around to a lower part of the valley to the more traditional Roman ruins.  To the right of the valley was another smaller mountain, at the top, several caves. A purposeful climb later we stood at the top of the mountain overlooking the whole valley. It was only when we reached halfway to the top that Mel decided to let me know she didn’t like heights. Oops! It was a magnificent sight and balanced precariously on the edge I took some wonderful photos. On the way down we were stopped by several Bedouin girls. After chatting for a few minutes we were invited to have tea with them.

We were told explicitly NOT to go with any Bedouins, but…. Why spoil a good thing? The tea was very hot, very strong and VERY sweet. Of course, as we were sitting there our erstwhile spies walked past and seeing us under the overhang with our Bedouins, rushed off to tell everyone else we were probably being murdered or kidnapped. By this time we could laugh at the absurdity. It was with regret we said our goodbyes, but time was passing and we had to get back to the hotel. Succumbing to the lure of the donkeys, we had a slower trip back than if we had walked.

It had been many years since I had a donkey ride and it felt as though the years had fallen away. At one point I looked over my shoulder to see if Mum and Dad were still watching. It was a strange feeling as I knew, in my heart, that they were indeed watching. They had been watching over me the entire time I was wandering through Petra and I know Dad enjoyed the tea break with the Bedouins, that was his style.

Petra showed me that the present and the past have reflections of each other, if we are aware enough to see them. I had so much wanted my parents to enjoy parts of my trip and at the last moment in Petra they reminded me that they were there with me. After the sadness of losing Mum and Dad I was closer to them than I had been for quite some time. The heavy burden of grief lifted somewhat and I knew that in my heart they would always be with me. My spirit was soaring like the falcon I saw, happy that life follows its circle and allows us to make it complete again, when we are ready.

#In Seaarch of

Author unknown

Blessings, Susan ♥

Next week……. Madaba and Mount Nebo

© Susan Jamieson 2014

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