10 pm, Wednesday October 27, Amman, Jordan
Well, it has been a busy few days.
We had a lovely Sabbatical time on Sunday in Taba. The air was lovely and fresh, the ocean was delightful and many of our group took the opportunity to rest up after jet lag and a very packed schedule in Egypt. "Coming Down" after our mountain top experience on Mt. Sinai, Moses' mountain, required some reflection, and some time to sleep after a day that began Saturday at 2am.
Dave and I got out our swimming gear and went looking for a spot to snorkle. Three hotels down there was a dock, and from the steps at the end we plunged our masks underwater to a world of color and delight. We saw lionfish, with their fanned fins and tails, and delighted in schools of fish, some tiny and multicolored, others long, nearly opaque with long snout like mouths 'hanging out' in the underwater current. The coral was spectacular, and the water fairly warm.
We gathered most of the group together for a time of worship in the early afternoon. Singing, prayer, silence, and reflection about holy moments experienced so far brought us to realize how much we had been feeling, seeing, experiencing and learning. Wonder, awe, mystery were all part of our first days, and there were tears and laughter shared around our smaller circles of conversation. We have seen God and known God with us on the journey.
Monday morning we awoke early, for our farewell to our wonderful Egyptian tour guide and passage through the borders from Egypt, through Israel and into Jordan. We left the hotel around 7:30 am and were through all the customs and on our way in Jordan at noon. Zaid, our Jordanian guide met us and, with box lunches in our laps on the bus, he began to introduce us to this new country as we left Aqaba on the Red Sea and headed to Wadi Rum.
Wadi Rum is a place made famous in recent history by Laurence of Arabia. It is desert, with mountains and canyons. But the history of this land and importance to the world as a route for the transfer of goods from India and China through to Europe goes back for centuries.
The ancient Nabateans included Wadi Rum as part of their kingdom. In jeep trucks we travelled out into the Wadi (which means dry valley) to visit a place that was a way station for camel trains, a place where there was water, essential for survival. Our first stop took us to see the source of the water, high in the hills, and a rock which had Nabatean 'graffiti' on a rock. Most of the writing names sweethearts left behind by the camel train drivers, which just goes to show that times haven't changed as much as we may think!
Our next stop, across the Wadi, went into a canyon . There we again saw petroglyphs, this time of people, and footprints, animals and words. An amazing sight in a very unique place. Underfoot, the red sand was soft. The canyon sides and hills surrounding are a wonderful and astonishing display of rock weathered by wind, sand and some rain over millenia. We marvelled at the few trees, with roots that reach deed into rock clefts to find a source of moisture for their survival. We also hope our roots reach deep, so we can survive drought, and rocky times in our lives.
As we began to travel again, we stopped at a huge sand dune, shaped by wind pushing sand against a rock wall. Many of us climbed upwards for the view, and the fun of running barefoot downhill, in the silky softness underfoot. The dune is made only of material that the wind can carry, and there is no hard or sharp bits underfoot.
Wadi Rum is truly a unique and harsh environment for survival. It has been the home to Bedouin people, and to sojourners throughout the ages. Those ancestors who survived this place truly deserve our admiration and respect.
From Wadi Rum, we continued our journey, and shortly turned onto the Kings HIghway, the ancient travel route through the mountains of Jordan, which runs from North from Amman and south to Aqaba. This is the place where the spice traders, camel trains, and Magi from the East would have travelled. It is the route which would have been one of the ways the people of the Exodus would have followed. The mountains provide some safety, as travellers have some protection, hidden in the hills. On either side are plains, and travellers would be exposed. Some of the views from this high way are exceptional. We passed Bedouin tents, small farms, and some herds of goats, many in spots we couldn't imagine survival in. We saw little sign of vegetation for goats to feed on, or water for any form of life. Zaid told us that last year this area had snow on it! Hard to imagine. As we travelled, we saw the sun set in a ball of red and orange. In the darkness, we saw ahead the lights of our hotel, and arrived to find a warm welcome, a safe and comfortable place to stay, and a beautiful meal prepared. 'Welcome to Jordan! We are so glad you are here!' is the refrain.
We, too, are glad to be here.