I could not connect at the Jerusalem Hotel where we were staying in Amman, Jordan, so I could not provide our daily report. I will have to send this when I return to Jerusalem.
Petra was an amazing experience. Built by the Nabataeans, descendants of Ismael, the city was carved into the rock of the mountains. What artwork! What beauty! The rock gives off a rose/pink color, and much of the other rock has colorful designs and variety that look like it has been painted, but it has not. I could continue to use words like beautiful, stunning, breathtaking, spectacular, but I won't do. Let me just say them once, but please realize they are implied in all that I report.
When we arrived, we were taken to the visitor center where we picked up our horses, which we rode for the first kilometer to the entrance of the cliffs. The horse guides all fight for our business, since we are to tip them upon our return. Some who had trouble walking could get a two-person carriage, which took them beyond the entrance all the way down to the treasury. More on that later.
Once we entered, the path descends and the rough, rose cliffs rise on either side in increasingly unusual formations. Our guide, Hani, would stop us along the way to explain something that would have been easy to miss -- a carving, a cave, or a decoration that time has eroded. After about a two kilometer walk, we came to the main attraction -- the treasury facade. This was made famous in the final scene from the movie Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail, where Harrison Ford rode out of that area on horseback. The facade was the elaborate tombstone of a king and is magnificent to behold. In digging for steps below that facade, they recently found two more facades, which leads one to ask how many more there are in this area.
You proceed on from there to view the environs and stop along the see the wares of local vendors who sell drinks, art, jewelry and other items. When we were another two kilometers past the treasury, some of us decided to go all the way to the top to see another facade that was used as a monastery centuries ago (the facades are fronts for mammoth cave-like tombs). We were told we could take a donkey up most of the way, which we did. So far, so good. The view was stunning, the ride was bizarre, and the walk to the top exhilarating.
After we spent some time at the top (the monastery was bigger than the treasury, but was not as ornate), we decided to ride the donkeys back down the trail. It would not have been so bad if it was a trail, but the trail was littered with steep steps for most of the way down. I thought several times I was going over the cliff. I confessed sins I never committed and made vows to God I can never keep, trying everything I knew to do to keep that donkey on the path! My guide kept saying, "Relax!" and I kept telling him, "You relax! You're walking and I'm about to die!"
I never knew donkeys were so sure-footed, and now I know why they are called a beast of burden. That poor donkey had to carry my 215 pounds up and down that mountain. I think he filed for disability when we were finished. All in all, however, it made a grueling trip much easier, although not without its harrowing moments. The donkeys brought us back to the treasury, where we walked the two kilmeters back to our waiting horse guides, who brought us back the final one kilometer and then proceeded to berate us for not tipping them enough.
After our Petra adventure, we boarded our buses, made a quick stop at Moses' spring, which is supposed to be where Moses spoke to the rock and water came out, bought some fresh figs to eat on the bus, and made the three-hour trip to Amman. We arrived and some of us went out for dinner last night to a great restaurant that served lamb in every way imaginable. Amman is a city of 2.5 million people so, given that there are four million plus in Jordan, our guide kept telling us that "Amman is Jordan and Jordan is Amman." When we drove into the city, we were greeted by Pizza Huts, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a host of other American food companies.
Yesterday was the first day that Muslims celebrated Ramadan, a holy season when they fast all day and then eat after dark. The streets were empty when we drove in, but full last night as people hit the streets to fill their tummies. All in all, Jordan was a great experience.