We just got back from Jordan! I realize that I missed writing about pretty much all of last week, but it will just take too long for me to write and too long for you to read, so I'm just skipping to Jordan. Here is a recap of our Jordanian week:
We left for Jordan early Monday (October 24) morning and started to make our way to the border. The border crossings to and from Israel to Jordan are intense. The actual drive between the countries is pretty short, but the largest chunk of the time was just spent sitting on the bus while they inspected the bottom with those bent up mirrors and had us file through the passport processing stations. Luckily we didn't have any problems, it just took some time. After the crossing, we went to Mount Nebo. This is the traditional site of where Moses was taken up into heaven. Following this we went to Madaba, which is a famous site for mosaics and the home of the Madaba Map. First we went to a mosaic school/factory where we saw how they create these amazing pieces with micro stones. They go through this whole process of making the image upside down on a canvas with a special type of glue, then they flip it right-side-up onto a piece of wood, and as they add water and mortar, the other glue dissolves. It was really interesting the see the entire process, along with the painted mosaics and pointillism ostrich eggs. The Madaba map is in an early Byzantine church of St. George. It's part of the mosaic floor, and it is the oldest map depiction of the Holy Land. That night we headed towards Petra, and stayed in a hotel in the Wadi Musa. The hotel itself was pretty cool- it was a stepped village converted into a hotel. Luckily, this village had a pool, so naturally we played water bottle water polo! It was way fun, and I think the security guards at the hotel almost had more fun watching us than we had playing.
Today was PETRA! Think "Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail"and you got it. The place of the grail. That's where I went. It's basically the coolest thing ever. Petra is this huge city carve out of a canyon/mountain. I've never been to a lot of national parks in the US or anything, so I was completely in awe of the majesty and enormity of the rocks and mountains and carvings. We hiked EVERYWHERE, and I was definitely sore the next day from trekking around the Jordanian desert. I rode on a camel in front of the famous treasury (the place they show in the Indiana movie), and I also rode a horse back up to the gate at the end of the day. It was fun to ride the horse because the guy let me do it myself! I haven't ridden a horse for a while, and it was exciting to get back on and remember my childhood horse-back riding lessons in Spain. Let's just say I still got it. My horse's name was Yazmina, and she was a very nice horse. The camel wasn't so nice- smelly and ornery. But, it didn't do anything scary while I rode it, so it's ok. To summarize the day, we walked through the entire Siq (canyon) to the Treasury, went to the basin, hiked up the million and a half steps to the monastery at the "end of the world," came back down, then hiked up to the high place of sacrifice. It was a busy day. We were there from about 7:30 am to 3 pm, so we were quite worn out and dusty and feeling adventurous by the end. Afterwards, we headed to Jordan's capital city Amman.
Lots of stuff today. Started off with going to the King Abdullah Mosque in Amman. We're always really careful about dressing modestly when we go to mosques and other religious sites (and just in general), but this mosque is especially strict about clothing. So, they just gave all the girls these huge black robes with hoods to wear over our clothes. As I'm sure you can guess, they were really attractive. But that's not what matters; what matters is that we were respectful to the religious customs. Still, it was kind of funny to see all these black hooded robes floating around the mosque with little bare feet sticking out! (Muslims remove their shoes whenever they enter a mosque as a sign of cleanliness and respect) After the mosque, we went to some ruins of a citadel, then we left Amman for a quick trip to Jerash. On the way, we had lunch and had the MOST AMAZING PITA EVER. Back to Jerash: The first order of business was the gladiator show, and let me tell you, it was great. Especially the one gladiator who would flex and unflex his pectoral muscles during the entire performance. He stole all of our hearts. The show also included chariots and swords and shields, but they paled in comparison to the gladiator. Once we tore our eyes and hearts away from the arena, we headed to the old Roman ruins of Jerash. I was so impressed! I hadn't been expecting too much, and I was overwhelmed by all of the remaining architecture and beauty of the city. On the way back to Amman, we stopped quickly at the Jabbok River which is traditionally near where Jacob wrestled with God and had his name changed to Israel. Back in Amman, the boys and some of the girls went to the Royal Jordanian Automobile Museum, and the rest of us went back to the hotel to meet the BYU Study Abroad students that are studying Arabic in Amman. BYU has an Intensive Arabic semester program in Amman, so some of them came to our hotel to show us around the city! One of my friends Lizzie already knew a boy in the program (most of them are boys), so Whitney and I tagged along with them and a few of his friends. We had so much fun! And it was really nice to go around the city with someone who actually knew what fun things there were to do, versus us just wandering around. First, we went and got shwarma (shaved meat in a pita wrap with some veggies and a dressing) at one of the most famous places in Jordan, named Reems. It was so so delicious. I don't think I can get a shwarma here in Jerusalem again because it just wouldn't be the same. Then, we went to the most famous kanafe place called Habibas. Kanafe is this dessert thing that is a really odd combination, but so so good. It's basically melted cheese on the bottom and a sweet crumb cake layer on the top. Sounds disgusting, I know, but it was surprisingly delicious! I think it helped a lot that it was really hot and fresh. Like the shwarma, I don't think I can get it in Jerusalem because it won't be as good (but I'll probably still get shwarma again). Then we walked around the city for a bit, got some juice, then just hung out in front of the mosque (which serves as the town center and plaza). While we were just chatting, some Jordanian teenage boys came up and started talking to us all. It was so interesting to observe them interacting the with Arabic students and view their mannerisms and such. I pulled out my three useful Arabic phrases early in the conversation, but then I just listened to the rest of it. However, they did give me and Whitney some Arabic names! Mine is Rania, after the queen of Jordan. She's really pretty, so I'm going to take it as a compliment. They were fun to talk to (or fun to watch them talking to the students), and the guys said that meeting us probably made those teenagers' week since they don't traditionally talk to girls very much. And we're American. Well, glad I could make them happy by just standing there and trying to understand Arabic. It really was such a fun night though, and I'm so grateful that the BYU guys took time to show us around the city! It was a blast!
Last day in Jordan! First thing was the Roman theater in Amman. The theater itself was nice, but we've seen a few so I wasn't that crazy about it. But, we did just have an impromptu talent show! I love how wherever we go, we sing and dance and do other silly things. We always ask Rivka to sing for us since she's a Performance major, so she did. And then we sang together, and then Taylor sang (she's doing music as well), and then I sang Little Mermaid. It was great. Then we had KFC for lunch (which was a little disappointing). Next was my favorite part of the entire week: the River Jordan. We had a really nice devotional with Bro, Huntsman right on the riverside. He shared a message and read scriptures about Christ's baptism, we sang a few hymns, then Michael Sean and Shalyn were asked to share their testimonies and feelings about Christ. I loved hearing them speak to us, and it was a nice time to reflect on Christ and my own baptism. I am so thankful to be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and I know Jesus Christ is the son of God and my Savior and Redeemer. Only by coming unto Him can I become a better, more pure person. I know He and God love me, and will help me with anything I stand in need of. I am so thankful for this experience in the Holy Land where I can come to know Christ even more and become a more diligent disciple.