Wednesday, December 16, 2009

October 26-27 Amman, Petra, Aqaba and Egypt

Our stop in Amman was a disappointment because we arrived in the city late and left immediately the following morning. Amman is the capital of Jordan for crying out loud! I can't blame the tour organizers because they wanted to show us Petra in the limited time we were in Jordan. It was worth it... but at least, a half day tour of Amman before we hit the road to Petra would have been great. We saw a bit of the city on the way to our hotel and a little more after dinner for some of us who decided to go out on our own. Anyway, when we saw was indeed the highlight of our Jordan visit.

Note the steps leading to a cave dwelling

Bab as-Siq (Gate of the Siq) or Outer Siq, a wide gravel road with a side for horses and a side for pedestrians.

The Siq, a mile-long narrow gorge that leads to the ancient rock city of Petra.

The Siq

The Siq

It is good that the gorge shaded us from the sun as we walked the Siq to the Treasury, the outline of which you can see in the background.

The Treasury!

The camels are always there for the tourists to ride and have their pictures taken for a fee LOL

A walk down to the Temple and the many caves all around

My wife got tired walking so she decided to ride a horse to the main gate LOL. I can't blame the "old lady" because the way back was a gentle uphill trudge under the sun.

Our hotel for the night at Aqaba

At Aqaba

Dinner under a tent, Arabian style.

Our entry to Egypt after crossing the Gulf of Aqaba via a slow ferry!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

October 24-25 Masada, Qumran, Dead Sea, Mount Nebo...

We were headed to the Dead Sea but our local guide suggested we go first to Masada to beat the long line that usually form later in the day for the cable car ride to the fortress. We could have hiked to the top, but the prospect of walking an uphill, shadeless trail for a couple of hours or more was not a pleasant alternative to any of us LOL. After Masada, we visited Qumran to see the caves where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered, then down (way down, it is more than 400 meters below sea level) to the Dead Sea and back to our Jerusalem hotel at the end of the day.

The following morning we left Jerusalem and crossed into Jordan. We had to change bus and local guide at the border (probably one of the many subtle indications of the persistent "love, hate, and hate more" relationships between Israel and their neighbors LOL). We drove to the Baptismal Site at Bethany, which Pope John Paul II visited in 2000; then on to Mount Nebo, where Moses viewed the Promised Land, to the Church of St. George in Madaba thereafter and to Amman, the capital of Jordan, where we stayed for the night.

Note the trail below the cable car lines that leads to Masada, a fort built atop an isolated mesa-like rock structure where a thousand Jews resisted the Roman invaders for years. When they were finally overcome, the survivors decided to commit mass suicide rather than surrender.

I think these tourists lost their bananas because of the sun's heat. They are trying to knock down what was left of the wall at Masada! I did not asked them, but I think they are descendants of the Roman invaders out to finish the job their ancestors started LOL.

Trail leading to the caves at Qumran

Young Israeli soldiers on guard duty at Qumran National Park

The Dead Sea

Check out these girls giving themselves a mud bath that's supposed to have a healing effect on whatever their skins suffer from, except the effects of old age; otherwise, I would have been rolling there in my naked glory LOL.

Note some of the bathers floating on their backs because of the dense water. I did not test my bouyancy, I was worried about the effects of the the chemicals that have accumulated through eons in this water over my body if I can't wash them off pronto.

It says it is the lowest bar in the world (416 meters below sea level)!

Our Jordanian local guide and the bus we transferred to when we crossed over to Jordan. The bus was "equiped" with an undercover tourist police that traveled with us while we were in Jordan.

If I am not mistaken, this is part of the Promised Land that Moses was shown. Where are the trees and the vital source of water? I am not buying!

I can't resist taking a pic of this young Jordanian girl working on a mosaic "print"

The road leading to the Church of St. George in Madaba which hosts the famous mosaic map of the Holy Land.

Friday, November 20, 2009

October 21-23 Mount of Temptation, Tomb of Lazarus, Old and New Jerusalem, Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepuchre, Wailing Wall, etc.etc...

Some of the places we visited from October 21-23: Jericho, the oldest inhabited city in the world; St. George's Monastery; Tomb of Lazarus in Bethany; Old and New City of Jerusalem; followed Via Dolorosa to the holiest shrine in Christendom, Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the tomb of Jesus; ; Western Wall (Wailing Wall), the most sacred place for the Jews; Mount of Olives, Garden of Gethsemane; Bethlehem; the birthplace of St. John the Baptist; Upper Room in Mt. Zion, site of the Last Supper; viewed the Dome of the Rock and the Mount of Temptation (where Jesus spent 40 days). I've never been on a tour before with so many famous places to see, so much information to digest, in so short a time!

A fruit stand in Jericho

This is a telephoto shot of the Mount of Temptation taken from the top floor of the resto where we had our lunch. We did not have time to ride the cable car to the top of the mountain.

One of the stations at Via Dolorosa. Our group took turns carrying the cross from one station to the next until we reached the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

This is inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Old Jerusalem.

The Garden of Gethsemane

A street in Old Jerusalem in the early morning

Another street in Old Jerusalem taken just a bit after noontime

I just passed through the security checkpoint to the Western Wall (Wailing Wall) when I took this pic.
The Israeli guard let my Swiss pocket knife go after examining it; the US marine guarding the checkpoint at a USN destroyer open house in Seal Beach last year required me to leave the same knife with them before I was allowed to enter. I guess it is easier to sink a destroyer than to collapse a wall with a small knife LOL.

This section of the Wailing Wall is protected from the elements

This section is in the open

A small bakery in one of the streets in Jerusalem

A bread vendor in Old Jerusalem

Friday, November 13, 2009

October 20 Mt. Tabor, Mount of Beatitudes, Sea of Galilee, Tabgha and Jordan River

We had an early start this morning to beat the other tourists/pilgrims to the site of the Transfiguration of Jesus at Mt. Tabor. The place is not accessible by big busses because of the very narrow and winding road. We either have to transfer to small vans which shuttle people to the top or walk. We did not like the idea of walking so we sacrificed an hour of sleep to get there early. Unfortunately there were already a lot of people with the same idea so we had to wait our turn for the ride up to Mt. Tabor. Bummer!

At the waiting station, I saw this guy squeezing fresh pomegranate juice. I didn't get a chance to try it because our van was already loading up and I did not want to be left behind.

At the top, prior to visiting the church, our "messianic" guide thumbed through his bible to read to us passages relevant to the site. Frankly, I was already getting an overload of it.

From this church at Mt. Tabor we motored to the Mount of the Beatitudes where Jesus preached to His flock.

We had mass at the site of the Sermon on the Mount.

We went to this center before sailing the Sea of Galilee.

The pic on the left displays what is supposed to be a recovered part of the boat Jesus used and the one on the right is a model of the ancient boat.

We were on our way for a boat ride at the Sea of Galilee.

Some members of our group wanted to get a touch of the water of Galilee.

Tabigha, the site of the Miracles of the Loaves and Fishes. I don't really know much about this.

Capernaum, the town of Jesus

An old grinding stone at Capernaum

For those who wanted to have their baptism renewed, Father Wayne obliged them.

It is hard to see from the picture but there are large catfish swimming there! Click on the pic for a better view.

Finally to our hotel at the end of the day.