On to Petra!

PHOTO: The Petra extension of the  Jewish Federation of Greater Portland’s Israel at 75 Community Trip to Israel drew 35 people, who ready for more adventures. Read two reflections on that experience below.


Of the original 200 Portland Federation travelers, 35 of us traveled east into Jordan across the King Hussein bridge. The trip across the border required about 3 hours as we waited in our Israeli bus, passed passport control, paid our exit and entrance taxes, and carried all of our luggage across no man’s land onto the Jordanian bus. This is not a recognized international border since this area is in the occupied area of West Bank, which makes visiting there very complicated. Only tourists and Palestinians can cross here. One of our travelers carries an Israeli passport and had to fly instead.
We woke to the sound of muezzin’s call from the mosque to worship. It was 4:12 am. (It is so early because it’s Ramadan, and it also tells Muslims to eat before the sun rises). It was time to start our day at Petra. Leaving the Old Village Hotel, we drove to the sandstone canyon that is Petra, a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the new wonders of the world.
It is not known precisely when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabatean Empire from the first century BCE. It grew rich through the trade of frankincense, myrrh and spices. Petra was annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 CE destroyed much of the city. Changing trade routes and earthquakes eventually led to abandoning the city by the seventh century, and it was lost to all except the Bedouins in the area. It was rediscovered by a Swiss explorer named Joannnes Burckhardt in 1812.
This fascinating and beautiful city is the rose-red city because of the color of the rock from which many of the structures are carved. The Nabataeans buried their dead in intricate tombs cut out of the mountain sides. The city also had temples, a theater, an agora and churches.
Water was brought into the area by an ingenious array of channels and pipes. The streets were lined with limestone blocks brought into the area by the Romans.
Hiking and shopping activities added to the sightseeing opportunities. All of us posted at least 3-5 miles on our Fitbits exploring among the water-carved canyons and carved and etched walls.

Petra: A magical step back in time

Our Jordan excursion to Petra was another magical step back in time.
After sharing a goodbye dinner with our companion travelers to Israel, we headed back to the hotel to pack for another three days of adventure. We left the next morning and headed to Jordan by bus, picking up our Jordanian guide, Iyad, along the way.
Our first visit was to Mt. Nebo, where Moses looked across to the Promised Land he would never reach. Mt. Nebo is also home to a church first constructed in the fourth century to commemorate the place of Moses’ death. The church features some of the earliest Byzantine mosaics, which cover the floors and walls and were beautiful and highlight monastic life in delicate shading.
On to Madaba where we had, we all agreed, was one of the best lunches of our entire trip – a near constant stream of amazing dishes. Madaba is also home to a sixth-century mosaic map of the world. Using over 2 million pieces of colored stone, it depicts part of the Middle East and contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and Jerusalem. Our day ended at our “hotel,” which was a cluster of limestone cottages in the former Bedouin village of Wadi Moussa.
Our second day featured our trip highlight, the Nabatean capital of Petra, in existence as a hub on a major trading route dating back to the second century BCE. Iyad guided us through the 1.2-km gorge that opens to the start of the spectacular carvings believed completed in the first century CE. Some folks split off so they could explore the far-reaching parts of this Wonder of The World, and others stayed with Iyad and were told of the rich history, carvings, agriculture and water conduit systems of this time. Some folks walked more than 13 miles this day. We all arrived back at our village tired and hungry in the early evening.
Our time in Jordan coincided with Ramadan, and the evenings (and early mornings) were always punctuated with the beautiful Muslim calls to prayer that rang out and echoed across the hills of Wadi Moussa.
Our final day was an early start. We left our village and headed south to the awe-inspiring sands and rock of Wadi Rum, the desert headquarters of Lawrence of Arabia. We rode across the desert in the back of Toyota trucks fitted with benches. We climbed sand dunes, saw petroglyphs at an ancient camel resting spot and had tea in a Bedouin tent. The scale of the massive, towering rocks around us is hard to describe. You could get a sense of it by watching films like Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian, Dune and Rogue One – just of few of the films shot in this beautiful landscape.
The last leg of our trip involved travel down to Acaba on the Red Sea and a short walk over the border to Israel near Eilat, where we boarded a bus back to Jerusalem and the airport for home. It was an exceptional few days, and one that cemented our friendships and memories.
Jessica Anderson is the SCN Regional Security Advisor for Oregon and SW Washington. She was the Jewish Federation staff person for the Jordanian extension of the Portland Israel mission.

See more stories and photos from Israel at online.anyflip.com/fgcex/tpwy.


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