Saturday, February 13, 2016

A Pleasure Full Grown VI~Madaba

Another beautiful winter day in Jordan, and another opportunity to visit beloved sites, sharing them with Bride-to-Be for the first time. We've visited all these sites before, but it has been a long time, if ever, that we've enjoyed them together. 

This trip is special because now Oldest Daughter is with us, having arrived in Jordan on January 2, just four days before Active Son and Bride-To-Be have to return to the States. We are so very thankful for those four full days together! (Unfortunately, Older's Daughter's husband, Music Man, couldn't join us as he was preparing to leave on an Asian tour with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.)

Our first stop, the site that is now believed to be the ancient city of Sodom. This is Oldest Daughter's first visit to the site as well. Below, most of our group looks out towards Jerusalem, over the "Cities of the Plain" (Genesis 19:28). Dear Husband is explaining one of the many interesting points about the discovery of this ancient site.

The unexpected beauty of Jordan
Jordan Valley

We stopped briefly at the Dead Sea to take Active Son and Bride-To-Be's picture on a TC (tourist camel). That picture must have ended up on Tayta's camera. Then we drove up the steep back road to Mount Nebo, the historical site of where Moses looked into the Promised Land. It was a hazy day, so no pictures there.

On to Madaba, to visit some churches, view some Byzantine-era mosaics, and enjoy walking the streets of the old city. 

An apropos place  for Tayta to read her Roman Empire-era texts for next semester, as she walks on a Roman road (to her left) and views Byzantine era mosaics

Though we've been through this archaeological park a few times, we always seem to learn new things from our favorite guide. 


 Tree of Life

A favorite picture from the holiday season

St. George and the Dragon, inside the Orthodox church which houses the famous Madaba Map mosaic. St.George is the patron saint of the area.

Inside the church of Saint John the Baptist

Up at the top of the bell tower. I couldn't look down, even though we were well fenced in.

Unintentional city art: the remains of peeling layers of paint and paper on an outside wall. Yes, I made Artist son pose in front of it.

Our last stop for the evening: one our favorite restaurants, Haret Jdoudna. Oldest Daughter and Music Man's Christmas gift to the family was a dinner out, and this is where we chose to eat it. What a perfect gift!

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

A Pleasure Full Grown V~Little Petra

Upon awaking the next morning in Dana village, I went to the window to check the weather as we were planning to continue on to Petra and Little Petra after breakfast. Today was Bride-To-Be's one chance to see Petra. The thick drizzly fog did not portend good site-seeing weather, and the room temperature told me that it was still very cold outside.

We huddled around the breakfast table,  hands cupped around our warm tea glasses, and discussed our options. In the end, we decided not to decide until we drove out of the valley. We drove slowly on the narrow road which wound up to the highway through the dense fog; at times visibility was only four or five feet.

However when we made it to the highway, the fog quickly cleared and we were encouraged to make the hour drive to Petra to see what we would find there. We planed to drop Active Son and Bride-to-Be at Petra, with the rest of us continuing to Little Petra. Only Artist Son had ever visited Little Petra, admission is free, and as we have seen Petra many times, we wanted to avoid the $80 we'd have to pay for our entrance fees to Petra. 

The mostly-clear weather held, even as we dropped down a bit into the valley toward the entrance of Petra. We dropped off Active Son and Bride-to-Be, and the rest of us continued down the road another fifteen minutes or so until we reached Little Petra. 

Stopping to visit an ancient cistern opposite the entrance of  Little Petra

A couple of us purchased scarves from the Bedouin vendors set up outside the entrance of Little Petra, and then we headed into the siq, a narrow gorge which is the entrance to the ancient city. The siq of (big)Petra is a mile long; this one, just about 100 feet long.

We enjoyed walking around, climbing up and down, letting our imaginations absorb the ancient beauty that surrounded us on all sides.

A smaller treasury

Tayta and Artist Son looking at "the other side of the street"...

..and Artist Son decides to check it out. The landscape reminds me of something from a Tolkien book.

This is about the time that we stood together and exclaimed once again how awesome our surroundings were. Tayta thought we should sing. She would. Artist Son suggested the Doxology, and so we sang.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

Until now, we were the only people in Little Petra. The only people except a young Bedouin vendor, who invited us to his "shop" to enjoy the best view in the land, and a very old Bedouin who played for us on his one-string rebab. He was completely charming.

In the next cave  we viewed the 2000 year old Hellenistic-style painting that was revealed in 2010 after being rejuvenated by British conservationists. These cave paintings are all the more remarkable because they are so rare, with only fragments of any Hellenistic painting remaining today.

About this time we saw one other tourist couple, from Portugal, and so enjoyed pointing out these exquisite paintings to them.

Then onward and upward in search of our Bedouin-vendor-friend's camp. We were invited for tea after all, and it sounded perfect on this cold blustery day.

Our Bedouin friend spoke the truth. I believe the view from his camp was the most beautiful for miles around. Dear Husband scrambles off to get a better look...

Here's a panoramic shot I took. It's a little distorted, but a little of the Bedouin shop/camp shows on the left, and Dear Husband and Artist Son are on the right. They're not really across the canyon, but more like 90 degrees southwest of the camp.

The geography of the land seemed a melding of the sandstone formations of Wadi Dana and Wadi Rum.

We sat in the sun and warmed our hands on the glasses of the steaming tea that our Bedouin friend served us, still soaking up "his" beautiful view, Tayta bought a trinket from him (made in India) for more than we should have paid, but we didn't feel taken in the least.

The shades blue-grey lichens of the area always catch my eye. The colors are perfect.

As we headed back to Petra to pick up Active Son and Bride-to-Be, we had to pull over to the side of the road to enjoy yet another exclamatory view. 

We couldn't just look from the side of the road. We had to go be there in that place. For just a little while. Together.

I tried to capture some of the grandeur with my camera, Artist Son, with his pen and sketchbook.

Despite the inclement weather, there was no shortage of tourists treking out of Petra late that afternoon. Active Son had shown Bride-to-Be the wonders of the city, hiking to the Monastery and ducking into a cave to wait out a brief hailstorm. We were all very thankful to return to our (relatively) warm apartment in Mafraq, complete with a hot showers heated mattress pads. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

A Pleasure Full Grown IV~Wadi Dana

If you've read along for awhile, you may remember that Wadi Dana, and particularly the Dana Nature Reserve, is our family's favorite spot it Jordan. We share many memories of fellowship, adventure, and beauty in this place, and our annual springtime camping trip with friends is one of the things my children miss most about Jordan. Even though it was cold, and even though the reserve where we camp is closed for the winter, we decided to visit Wadi Dana for the day, soak in the beauty of the scenery, and check out one of those local hotels in the partially revitalized old Dana village. But first, a look into the reserve and a gaze at the campground. I'm so glad that Active Son was able to share some of the Wadi Dana experience and the family lore surrounding our adventures there with Bride-To-Be.

After a very short hike around the perimeter of the camp--it was cold and drizzly--we headed over Dana village to settle into our rooms at the Dana Tower Hotel. It's business card boasts, "Our Hotel Not 5 Star, But 1 Million Star 1 Moon Hotel". No, it certainly wasn't a five star hotel, but it did receive the best rating of any Dana hotel on Trip Advisor and we were encouraged to see a number of well-heeled European tourists hanging around.

The outer door of our suite:
"Gate To Paradise of Love"

Here is the sitting room for our suite. Fancy. We never actually sat in there as the temperature was about 45 degrees F/8 degrees C. We had one gas heater to share so we all hung out in the large bedroom when we weren't actually sleeping. 

Thankfully the skies cleared and the WARM sun came out for awhile before dinner, so we sauntered in and around the village, soaking up the winter beauty.

Artist Son with his sketchbook

Dear Husband and I discovered the most beautiful lone olive tree, perched on the edge of the valley. 

As we headed back to the hotel we were treated to a sunset which filled the sky and valley with layers of color.

So vibrant was the color of the sun that it cast this red reflection onto his west-facing mountainside opposite the sunset. And when something is this beautiful, you run around the village calling out to your loved ones, making sure they see it too. It was a two theatre production.

The cold and drizzle returned as we headed back to the hotel for dinner, which was a delicious buffet. After dinner we huddled around the heater for awhile and then headed to bed early. I didn't get cold dressing for bed because I didn't. I went to bed fully clothed and used my down coat as an extra blanket. Wadi Dana in winter: Cold and beautiful. Always beautiful.