Thursday, 9 November 2017


Our last day started with a shock as our alarms did not work properly due to a change to daylight savings time in Canada.  Our smartphones automatically changed the time by one hour, and so we woke up late and were rushed to meet our guide.  After a hasty breakfast we were off, by foot to Petra, the ancient city of the Nabataeans carved from the mountains in the desert.

We started with a walk through a steep gorge.  This is 1.2 km long and follows the winding trail of an ancient river bed.  The rock face was incredible with lovely red, yellow and brown colours throughout.

Along the way we saw evidence of the ancient inhabitants.  They had carved niches for idols which they carried during their travels, and a piping system for water delivery for their animals and a separate system for their drinking water.  It was "other worldly" as the gorge was so deep the sunlight, which was strong up above, barely penetrated into the gorge.

At the bottom of this part of the walk in, the gorge opened up into an area known as the treasury.  We could just see a sliver of the facade as we approached the end of the gorge.  This was exciting as it was the location for a famous scene in Indiana Jones.  It was also exciting for Katie as she had long had the dream of visiting this locale.

Once we left the gorge we saw the most beautiful carved facade known as the treasury.  It was spectacular!  Behind the facade are rooms which now stand empty and which are also carved into the mountain.  This was a temple for the Nabataean people and has suffered some damage over the years as Christians defaced it as pagan idolatry and also by those who believed the ornamentation contained hidden treasure.

Now that we had entered the city we could see the city of Petra. The people lived in caved and excavations in the rock itself and their descendants, the Bedouins still have their traditional carriages and donkeys, horses and camels as transportation.

We wandered through the city to its end and learned that 8 families still live in the valley in the traditional way.

In the distance we could see more facades carved into the cliffs.  These were so beautiful, made more so by the colours in the rock faces.

Then Katie and Janice and I decided to make the trek into see the Monastery, another facade from the ancient  city.  This involved a climb up 800 steps...oh my.  Once there we were faced with another beautiful facade to a building  which had been used at different times as a temple, a tomb, a church and as a monastery.

At our destination we sat in the shade at a cafe to enjoy a cool drink and enjoyed the view.  The cafe was in one of the many caves and was decorated in the Bedouin style.

We walked back down the 800 steps and then were faced with the long walk out of the city, back through the gorge and then uphill to the entrance and our hotel.  I confess that I found it hard and so, I agreed to ride a donkey part way up the hill.  It was a marathon of walking!  By the end my pedometer indicated that we had walked 18 km!

We then joined our driver who took us back to Amman to our hotel where we had a short night as we had to leave at 0230 the next morning for our journey home.  It was another epic day but we were tired.

We had a planned departure from Jordan en route to Istanbul where we had a long stop over followed by a grueling 12 hour flight from Istanbul to Toronto.  We arrived home tired and said a fond farewell as we all went our separate ways at the end of an epic trip!

Monday, 6 November 2017

The Dead Sea

We left Mt Nebo full of excitement as we headed to the Dead Sea for an impromptu side trip. Janice was particularly excited as she had long wanted to visit this area.  We enjoyed a lovely 40 minute drive past the banks of the areas Sea, and the inevitable spas, and stopped at a swimming area.  This included a fresh water pool as well as access to a beach.

 We threw on bathing suits (there was not a towel between us!) and hurried down the beach into the water.

What a weird experience.  One literally steps onto the water and keeps walking until the water deepens but nothing happens.  One floats in a standing position!  When I rolled onto my back I was so far out of the water it felt as if I were merely resting on it!  It was great fun!  We all tried to sink and to see how high we could get out of the water!

After a time Paul, Katie and Janice found some mud on the sea bed and gave themselves a mud bath.
(I was forced out of the water as I was burning badly in the hot noon sun.)

After 30 minutes or so everyone had to get out as the salt was strong and so was the sun.  We showered and had our lunch.

Because we had detoured from the agenda, Ali took us to Petra by a back road.  It was a more interesting route and it took us into the mountains on winding roads.  At one point the road became one lane only and was quite rough.  We passed many Bedouin camps and at one point we stopped because there was a herd of camel on the roadside.
We really appreciated this route as we were able to see the rock formations into which Petra had been carved, and our view was from the outside.  The next day, we knew, we would be seeing Petra itself and appreciating the view from a different aspect.

Next Stop, Jordan

We flew to Jordan after a peaceful night in Cairo.  We left bright and early at 0500 to catch our international flight to Jordan.  When we arrived after a short flight we found ourselves in a very different place.  The area was much drier than the Nile valley and the temperature much cooler.  It was a relief also to be in a place where we could use a public washroom without being asked to tip the attendant!

We were met by our driver, Ali who could not speak much English and he whisked us off to our first stop.  St. George's Greek Orthodox church.  In this small, unassuming church are the remains of a mosaic map which is the oldest map of biblical Palestine in existence, dating back to 560 AD.  

In addition and in the basement is a painting of the Madonna and Child in which one hand of the Madonna is blue.  This purportedly happened during its painting when three flashes of light appeared and suddenly the hand turned blue.  This is believed to have been a miracle.

After this quick stop we were off again, this time to Mount Nebo where Moses is believed to have sighted the promised land before his death.  This was also an interesting stop as there had been ruins which have been incorporated into the modern church.  The mosaics are incredible.  One in particular showed the development of man from Hunter gatherer to trader as shown in four lines of images.  It covered a huge area ion the floor of the church.

Perhaps the most spectacular thing was the view!  We could see the Jordan Valley stretching out before us. Jerico was visible at the foot of the mountains and Bethlehem was just bisitlble through the haze.  We were also very excited to see the Dead Sea.

This was when we learned that our program was over for the day, except for a long drive to Petra.  We asked Ali if we might take a side trip to the Dead Sea and he agreed for an additional charge to take us there!  

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Farewell To Egypt

Our last day started early again as we were to have a half day in Aswan before the heat of the day.

We started with a trip to the Aswan dam, an engineering feat of the time which created the then largest dam in the world.  This is the dam which created Lake Nasser which stretched off into the distance and was large beyond expectations.

This we followed with a quick boat ride to see the temple Philae.  This was another temple which was moved due to rising waters created by the Aswan High Dam.  This was an interesting temple as it was constructed in part during Roman times under the Emperor Trajan.  In addition it was used as a Christian church for a time by the Coptic church.  The Christians defaced many if the carvings, believing them to be paganistic but many still remain and are devoted to Isis.


It was also interesting to see graffiti on the walls from times past.  One particular spot was carved by Napoleon's forces during one of their campaigns in the area.

There was also a temple devoted to the pygmy god.  This was created at a time when pygmy's were enslaved and used to entertain the Pharoh and his court.  One in particular rose to prominence and was so beloved that he was defied after his death.  This is one of the rare representations of this deity found.

After this trip we went to an ancient quarry from which many monuments were carved.  One remains in place because it cracked during its creation  and was abandoned as a result.

These massive stone structures were carved in an angle to allow them to be slid into the anime when they were ready to be moved.  It is still a mystery as to how they were then transported due to their weight and how they were erected as they had to be lifted straight up above the bottom to allow a tenon to be inserted into a corresponding motive.  It was fascinating to see the dolomite stones which were used to carve the huge granite structures from the living rock!

We saw evidence of many excavations including one with hieroglyphics which explained where the resulting monument had eventually been placed.

Then we bid Egypt goodbye with a boat ride down the Nile in a traditional sail boat (fulucca?) And then we got dropped at the airport for our flight to Jordan.