Archive for November, 2010

Mt Nebo – Jerusalem – Bethlehem

It’s 5 o’clock in Bethlehem here on the West Bank and I’ve just been woken up by the Call to Prayer sounding out from a nearby mosque. This is in so many ways the Holy Land.

Yesterday another 7 am start as we headed off from Amman firstly to nearby Madaba where we spent time at a historic Greek Orthodox church- famous for it’s mosaic-tyled map of the Holy Land. The map – laid out on the floor of this church dates back to the first millenium after Christ.

From there we drove to nearby Mt Nebo, firstly via a shop/workshop where local mosaic artisans were at work. Mt Nebo is the site from which Moses looked out on the Promised Land before him. And while misty what a sight it was – looking down on the Jordan Valley 1000s of meters below. Of course Moses never quite made it there- dying before Joshua would lead the children of Israel over the Jordan.

Our tour leader invited me to offer some reflective words with our group high up on the mountain there – I reflected about how there’s always something more in life that god has in store for us; just when we think we are “there”, new vistas appear before us. I also ruminated on Moses’ situation – after leading God’s people almost to the finish line, he needed to hand over things to Joshua. We are part of God’s bigger picture- each a part to play.

From there on to the Allenby Bridge where we crossed over into Israel. Took 90 min-2 hours before through the final checkpoint/passport control. A very clear indicator of the history and tensions that exist in this part of the world.

Meeting up with our Israeli tour guide Nasser, we drive to and through Jerusalem. It’s a long highway drive up the mountain to this holy city. Gives new understanding of ‘ascending’ to Jerusalem. Before long we see a stark indicator of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict – this high and long wall – separating West Bank Palestinians from West Jerusalem. “sad” is not the word.

Our hotel is the Nativity Bells Hotel – nothing flash but fine. A quick checkin and we hot-foot it to the nearby Church of the Nativity – understood as Jesus’ birthplace. Alas – and after much huffing and puffing from Dale and me, we arrive just as they are closing the doors. Try again 6 in the morning – we say. Back to the hotel for a relaxing evening – the first ‘unwind’ night of the tour. Besides, a chance to use the free wifi and post things like this

David

(PHOTOS TO FOLLOW)

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Petra & Wadi Rum

Great day yesterday … Though a long one.
Early wakeup (body clock still thinks it’s back in Australia), early breakfast and early departure to entrance – just down road from our hotel – to ancient Petra.

This is a place that’s quite unbelievable! Petra (meaning “rock”) was in it’s prime around the time of Christ 2000 years back and was a city with buildings, tombs, theaters etc carved into the side of mountainous cliff faces. Parts of “Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade” were filmed here – think final scenes. To get to what some would call the 8th wonder of the ancient world, you walk down this long narrow gorge (called the Siq) – sometimes on remains of an old Roman road, with carvings frequently either side of you.

Then amazingly you come upon this majestic frontage to a building known as the Treasury. At this point the Siq opens up to the outer Siq and an astonishing array of frontages, tombs and more open up before your eyes. Could have spent much longer here. Bedouin people never far away offering camel, donkey, horse or buggy rides – this ancient Nabatean city covers quite some area. Dale and caught a buggy ride back to the visitors centre at the top – rock and roll!

From there we drive through desert country like I’ve never seen it before, arriving early afternoon at Wadi Rum – real Lawrence of Arabia country. Wadi (arabic for “valley” and “rum” – high places) is a national reserve and features vistas and Bedouin camps like I’ve never seen before.

We go on a two-hour jeep ride – our party of 15 sits in the rear, open cabin of 3 vehicles – driven I’m convinced, by 14 year olds. A lot of fun – especially with the 3 young drivers choosing on our way back to the Visitors Centre, to drag each other across the desert sands. I kid you not. As we arrive back there (around 4 pm) the sun s starting to fade and the sun shining on the rocks and mountains creates beautiful contrasts of colour. To cap it all off (pun intended) Dale and several other women wear a traditional Arabic head scarf. Dale earns the title Queen of the Desert for her prowess at helping several ladies get their headgear on.

We then make the long 4 drive to Amman (Jordanian capital) getting to the comfortable Region hotel. Get to bed around 10 – woken up this morning just after4 by both phone ringing and the local Islamic call to prayer ringing out across the city

Today – off to Mt Nebo (where according to Bible Moses was shown the Promised Land he never entered) before crossing the Jordan River at the Allenby Gate into Jerusalem.

Stay tuned

David (& Dale)

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First night – Petra

Hi

We’ve made it. Leaving Brisbane airport at 8.30 pm, it was a LONG, LONG flight.  Figured I managed about 2 1/2 hours sleep through it all.  Too tired to watch movies, and my long legs and air travel have never agreed.  The Emirates flight to Dubai was smooth and cabin service excellent!

A four hour layover was helped no end by a shower not long after arrival.  This airport is HUGE.  Never seen so many Emirates planes in all my life. Mind you, it is their world hub!  If the shower wasn’t quite excellent, that was surpassed by discovering at the gate lounge that we’d been upgraded for the 3 hour light to Amman, Jordan to business class.  What a treat that was!  Even managed to lie almost horizontal for an hour.

We made it into Amman, and linked up with the rest of our Holy Land tour party led by Dr Abe Ata.   It’s all to do with Dale’s ACU Masters studies.

About an hour ago, having driven three hours through some amazing desert country, we’ve made it to historic Petra. More about that tomorrow – when the tour starts in earnest.  We’re booked into the Petra Palace Hotel (not as ritzy as it sounds).  Dinner at seven, then we’re crashing.  We’re expecting a wakeup call around 5 am, the  breakfast, and then the sights of Petra from 7.

This is going to be one special tour.  besides, just checked the cricket scores – great partnership between Hussey and Haddin.!

Cheers

David & Dale


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