Wednesday, November 12, 2008
And if you were on the trip with us, please leave me a comment telling me which part was most enjoyable for you too.
I'd really appreciate the feedback.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This blog doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the 16 others who made the pilgrimage with us to Israel.
I’ve tried to reflect as closely as possible, in words and photos, the very special experience we’ve all had so it will be a permanent reminder of this special time we’ve shared together.
For each one of us it will have been different, and reading this blog will give you just a taste of what it is like to go to the country where our Christian faith all began. We’ve touched our very deepest roots in Old Testament history and felt deep bonds with both the Israeli and Palestinian people.
And we’ve walked where Jesus walked – quite literally – and visited the hillsides, mountains, lakes, streets and synagogues where he taught.
If you know one of the group who Boak and I been delighted to have travelled with over the last two and a half weeks, please ask them to tell you more about their pilgrimage and what it has meant to them.
I pray it has brought each of them closer to the real Jesus, and I pray that you too have been found this an inspirational journey.
We are now enjoying a brief interlude of R & R on our way home. If you would like to follow my normal blog you’ll find it at http://www.snippetsnscraps.blogspot.com/ .
When at home I mostly blog about quilting and stitchery, books, food, cooking, entertaining, church activities, gardening and ‘stuff’. Life at home is not nearly as exciting as my travels!
We were delivered to the El Al check-in counter at Ben Gurion Airport with nearly 4 hours to spare, but the interrogations, bag searching, x-raying and being told to wait for no apparent reason meant there was little time to take advantage of the duty-free shops air-side. It was trying, but we did as we had been instructed.
I was at the head of our queue, and when asked if I had been given anything by anyone here in Israel I felt I had to answer truthfully that our local tour company operator, Naftali Steg, had given me (and all of us) a shoulder bag on our arrival.
“What was in it?” I was asked.
My reply, that it contained a welcome letter, a map and a cap, didn’t placate my interrogator who insisted I open my suitcase then and there and show her the bag in question. So there I was, on the floor, in the middle of the El Al terminal, with my suitcase wide open, underwear on display to all and sundry, fishing out a harmless souvenir bag I had buried right at the bottom (Murphy’s Law). Not happy, Jan – but I just did what I was told…. At least it meant that none of our other group members needed to show theirs.
You can probably detect a slight (!) note of irritation here, and this is principally because, although I was happy to go through the extraordinarily rigorous security procedures if it meant a safer flight, when we came to the final screening we found that there was no limit at all on liquids, gases and aerosols carried on!
Ooops, I forgot to tell you.
No, none of our faithful remnant was arrested by border security.
‘A’ had to catch an earlier flight than the rest of us, so her driver met us at the border and whisked her off to Tel Aviv leaving twelve of us to spend the final few hours at Mini-Israel with Gadi, who was joined by Naftali when we had our farewell dinner.
The crossing back into Israel was lengthy and the many times we – or our bags, or our passports - were checked was just as mystifying as it was 3 days ago when we crossed over into the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
Our bags were x-rayed by this little mobile unit, and we were given the quizzing we’ve come to expect. This time, though, we were allowed to keep our passports instead of losing sight of them for around 20 minutes, as we did when the Jordanian officials took them on Monday. On the other side of the Allenby Bridge there were real tanks and real soldiers with machine guns trained on our bus and, although I like to think I have a healthy sense of adventure, I make it a rule never to argue with a machine gun. Hence no photos.
When we were finally allowed to walk through Immigration into the Promised Land we were greeted with warm smiles and bottles of ice-cold water (appropriately branded!) by a team of friendly young Israeli women doing national service. They were a delight!
Before we reached the Allenby Bridge border crossing we stopped briefly at a roadhouse. It had the usual souvenir emporium attached, but amongst the ‘same old, same old’, I spotted this lovely piece of embroidery (on a cushion-cover, I think). I have no idea whether it’s hand or machine made, but the beading, embroidery and goldwork did it for me.
We’re an unusually quiet mob this morning, having risen around 6 to be packed for our long flight and to have our suitcases outside our rooms by 7.
We have a very, very long day ahead: a 4 hour drive from Petra to the Allenby Bridge Crossing into Israel, then an afternoon to fill before being delivered to Ben Gurion around 7pm for the first leg of our flight home.
When I say “rooms” you should not understand these as conventional hotel rooms. Our hotel, Taybet Zaman, is part of the Sofitel chain and has been created out of an old stone Bedouin village, and our rooms like little houses in a community. While on the outside there was just a hint of many of the church campsites we’ve experienced over the years, you only had to open a door to see a different story. And a hotel that hangs quilts on its walls just has to be classy! We farewelled the five who are waiting to be driven to Amman later for their ongoing flights (to Cairo) - and we are now only thirteen sleepy souls, listening to iPods, dozing or exchanging the odd word while the bare,brown countryside flashes past, on our way to the Allenby Bridge crossing.
I just dozed off for just a moment – and Boak snapped me!
David Roberts was a Scottish artist who travelled extensively in the Middle East in the mid-nineteenth century, painting and sketching the exotic locations he visited.
As you can imagine, they caused quite a lot of excitement and interest in artistic circles back home.
I thought it might be fun to manipulate several of my own photographs of Petra today and place each of them with its corresponding David Roberts lithograph.
Some wondered whether to do it…. But we had wandered quite a long way by the time we stopped for refreshments. In the end most took the plunge and rode back to the Treasury (the entrance to the Siq path) either on donkeys…. … or by camel. M2 even saved her legs and took one of these buggies right to the top. (This isn’t her in the photo). The horses were waiting to take us to the gate. (I apologise for showing so many photos of myself in this post, but they were all I had. I think our fellow-travellers are waiting to view their own ‘animal antics’ back home before sharing their photos with me!)
30 years ago Marguerite van Geldermalsen was just a young New Zealand tourist visiting Petra when she met and fell in love with Mohammad Abdullah.
A friend enthusiastically recommended I read her book, “Married to a Bedouin”, before going there, but I had no idea I would actually get to meet Marguerite, who is arguably Petra’s most well-known resident today. With her son Raami she sells to-die-for silver jewellery on her stall in the centre of the Petra ruins. The imaginative pieces are designed by young Jordanian artists and made by 17 local women in Wadi Mousa (the town at the entrance to the Petra site) at the Al Amarat Jewellery Centre (established by the Noor Al-Hussein Foundation to help improve the living standards of local women).
She also shows amazing patience and graciousness when total strangers like me ask her to pose for photographs!
All night long a stiff east wind had been blowing, the sign opposite our front door creaking as it swung on its hinges. Conditions for exploring Petra would be comfortably mild, but those of us who hadn’t worn a scarf to shield our face were to be troubled by the dust whipped up from time to time by the strong gusts.
The entry into Petra, after passing through the Visitors’ Centre, is in two stages. There is a 600m downward sloping path where walkers take the right hand road and horse-riders take the left. A horse-ride for this section was included in our pre-paid entry fee, but Khalid very wisely advised us that we would better appreciate our horse ride on the way back. How right he was! It was worth the US$3.00 tip we had to pay our horseman to lead us that last 600m.
At the end of this stretch we entered the siq, or canyon, through which visitors to Petra have travelled for thousands of years. The sides soared above us, the rock becoming ever pinker (with iron oxide) as we grew closer to the magical entrance to the “rose-red city” itself.
Khalid stopped us frequently (a little too frequently – we were impatient to get on and be there) to explain carved inscriptions, gods and water channels, but finally he called us all together to point out something high up on the rock wall to the side. No matter how hard we squinted we still couldn’t see what he was pointing at.
“Perhaps you’re looking in the wrong place”, he announced with a twinkle in his eye – and turned us in the direction of the path. Suddenly we gasped. We had our first glimpse of the view that has graced a thousand travelogues - the magnificent Treasury facade! (As I loitered there, snapping more photos, I heard the same scenario repeated by every guide wanting to build the dramatic moment for his flock.)
I thought our group photo on Mount Scopus with Jerusalem gloriously spread out below was pretty impressive, but you have to agree this one is wonderful too – even if Khalid, quite understandably, felt the backdrop was more important than the people!
What do you think? Please leave me a comment.
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