Israel & jordan 2018 (Part 3)
We finally made it back to the Western Wall. As I was grabbing my kippah, I noticed there were these Jewish guys who had some shiny black thing wrapped around their arm. At first I thought it was some sort of fetish wear, but no, it’s actually a religious accessory that not only wraps around the arm, but also one’s head that had two small boxes that hold small written prayers. I must have missed that the day before. Moody took us to this large room to the left of the Wall which is actually a continuation of the Wall, but in the shade (!), where you can look down through some plexi-glass to see the original foundations of the wall a good 20-30 feet below. I did ask Moody why some of the more orthodox men would rock back and forth while they pray. It’s a little weird looking coming from an Episcopalian perspective, but I guess some of the prayers are really long and rocking like that helps them concentrate as well as helps their back. I went back outside to grab another piece of paper for a prayer and I see an orthodox man start to wail loudly as he approaches the wall and falls to his knees as he touches the wall. It was really a powerful statement of faith that moved me, but also made me feel a bit uncomfortable. I got my piece of paper, wrote my prayer, found a crack to put it in, and said a small prayer as I touched the wall. After our visit to the Wall, we headed back to the hotel. One of the things I liked about our group is that we really hung together. We could have all gone our separate ways, but we ended up grabbing dinner together. Well except for “the Lovers” which is the nickname we gave to the Montreal couple. They went off to celebrate their anniversary and then what happens? We pick the same restaurant that they went too. Just too funny. But we did give them their space. It was an early night as we were off to Jordan the next day at the crack of dawn.
So we meet at 0615 in the lobby to board our bus to the airport to fly to Eilat which is the Israeli beach town on the Red Sea which is also the best place to cross into Jordan to see Petra. If I thought Tel Aviv and Jerusalem were hot, walking off the plane was like stepping into an oven. Lovely. We were met by another tour guide who would facilitate our crossing into Jordan. So first we had to leave Israel. So security check #2 (the first was at the airport in Tel Aviv). The Israeli tour guide is like, “Don’t forget to buy vodka at the duty free store because it’s Ramadan and there’s no liquor for sale in Jordan.” So no one ever needs to tell me to buy vodka, I’m down. But the problem is the lack of ice everywhere. And warm vodka is horrible. But that’s a different problem for a different day. After picking up the vodka and some peach tea as a mixer (hey desperate times call for desperate measures), we walk across the border. It’s like the DMZ. Barbed wire, big gates, about 200 yards of pot-holed asphalt that we drag our suitcases down in the hot sun. Till we get to Jordan. And then we go through the security again. Again, no problems for me and we meet up with our Jordanian tour guide and the bus. A small change of plans, we are heading to Petra first. So we pack into the bus and start the drive to Petra. It’s about a two hour drive and we stop for a bathroom break as a tourist shop that had an amazing view of the dessert and the mountains around Petra.
We arrive in Petra and right away have a late lunch at a hotel. It was a pretty decent spread. So it’s around 3PM when we pull into the parking lot for Petra and there are probably 10 tour buses there and the guide is like, “Good, not too crowded.” Really? But the good news is that it actually was kind of late in the day so most of those folks were heading out of Petra when we were heading in. Still it was a bit crowded but the main issue was the flies. They were everywhere and insufferable. There are donkey rides and horse drawn carriage rides available so there is dung everywhere, hence the flies. Ugh. But we start the walk down into the Siq which is the Arabic word for the narrow passage you walk down into the city of Petra. It’s a gentle sloping road and as you walk you can see statues carved into the rock walls and cave homes with steps carved into the walls. It really was quite fascinating. As we walk deeper into the Siq, the walls of the canyon start to provide some much needed shade and it seems like there are fewer and fewer people which is nice. We get some amazing photos in the narrow sections of the Siq and then we follow the twisting road and get our first view of the Treasury though the Siq. It really is awesome. We enter the main area of Petra and snap some photos. There are small Arab boys trying to sell pictures, souvenirs, etc. Well some are also offering to be guides to take us up to an overlook for a great photo op of the Treasury. Robert, Victor, and I decided to go it. Big mistake huge.
Victor is a dancer and in amazing shape. Robert is a pilot and very fit. And then there’s me. The little Arab boy goes racing off with Robert and Victor right behind me. There’s a young man with me and we start to climb. The first sign this is a mistake is the sign that says “Entry beyond this point is forbidden.” Yeah, we blow by that. Then we keep climbing. And I don’t mean stairs. I mean hopping from rock to rock. Climbing up the walls. I’m quickly out of breath but keep going. The young man starts to help me up and in my mind I’m thinking: 1) Mom is going to be pissed if I fall and kill myself. Actually SB will be madder since she’ll have to deal with my body. 2). If I don’t die and just break a leg, how will I get down? Do they have medical helicopters? But somehow I keep going up, and up, edging along narrow rock ledges and up crevices to finally get to the top. And needless to say I want to just die. But the view is amazing and a great photo op. And then it’s back down. And personally I find going down to be harder than going up. But we made it and yes I said a prayer for not dying. We only had a little bit more time in Petra so we went to look at the amphitheater and then it was time for the long walk back up the parking lot. Still suffering from the climb, I’m not the last person back to the bus, but it’s close. And the cold gatorade I bought at the small store in the parking lot tasted like heaven.