Saturday, October 9, 2010

Petra, the Ancient City Hewn From the Rock

Yesterday turned out to be the most tiring of our tour so far. Since many of us took the journey to Mt. Sinai, we were running on little sleep, and the physical exertion added to our fatigue.
After taking a short tour of St. Katherine's monastery at the base of Mt. Sinai, where at this location supposedly Moses met God the "I AM" at the burning bush. This vine looking plant, growing inside the confines of the building which they claim is the original, has never been able to take root in any other place or soil.
Immediately afterwards we took a one and a half hour drive to the Hyatt Red Sea resort for a buffet lunch, and then a two and a half hour trip to the first of three border crossings. For some reason, we were behind schedule, so we had only 3 hours to complete the task before the Israeli border closed for the Sabbath. Taba (Egypt) to Eilat (Israel) to Aqaba (Jordan): lugging luggage (maybe that's where it gets its name), standing in line, showing our passports, walking hundreds of yards to the next checkpoint, waiting in line, etc. In and out of three countries in one afternoon. Whew! But we made it in time, thank the Lord! Needless to say, we were all out of sorts when we arrived at our hotel. It was gorgeous, but we had no time to enjoy it.
This morning we took a two hour bus ride from Aqaba in Jordan to see Petra. The mountains along the way were red and varied in formation, and looked like they had thick burnt orange cake batter dripping down their sides. The days have been hot but dry, between 85 and 95 degrees, with the relentless sun beating down our backs. The general public is smart to wear something on their heads, and usually it is some type of scarf...I never knew there were so many ways to wear one!
The Nabateans (means search for water), Bedouins who were nomads/traders from the South, came to inhabit Edom, (means red, like the rock). After the Assyrians had invaded, they became part of the Edomite kingdom, whose capital became Sela. "...let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the tops of the mountains" (and praise the Lord). Isaiah 42:11. The interesting connection is this: the Nabateans would go to the top of the mountains (see them below), to worship and sacrifice to their gods, who weren't people or animals, but, the rocks! Jehovah God is telling them to stand on their gods and worship the true God...awesome!
When you see an opening in the rocks below, they are not entrances to homes, but to a burial room, meeting room to remember the dead, or a reservoir. The Treasury, a memorial for a King, (whom they later made a god), was carved from the rock around the first century AD. It's facade reflects Egyptian, Greek and Roman art styles. Eagles, lions, Isis, Nike and Greek columns are just a few motifs seen. As we toured, we admired the natural design of the rock, made by God our Creator. I couldn't take enough photos!
After three hours in the hot sun, no lunch, and enough photos to fill an album, I was completely "Petra-fied" or Petered out". They both mean rock! So, we are on the long road to Amman, and tomorrow, we face the famous/infamous Allenby Bridge border to gain access into Israel.
As an aside, we learned that Bedouin mothers decide when their daughter is ready to be married, and don the traditional covering for women. It could be twelve or twenty...but at the chosen time, a white flag is raised near the door to announce that the daughter is ready. Of course, there is a dowry to consider. We thought that Olivia's bride price should be set at two racing camels valued at 5 million each. That should hold off any possible suitors for quite some time!
We are still looking for seekers, but have not encountered any. We have come disappointingly close, though. Waiting in front of a shop at the end of our monastery tour, a Muslim young man noticed me and Olivia wearing conservative clothing and head coverings. He tapped Dan and asked him, "Is Mohammed your God?" Dan said, "No, we are Christians". He pointed to Olivia and said, "And your babies?" "They are Christians, too," Dan replied, and the conversation stopped. When he recounted the incident a few minutes later, I was delighted. But then Dan told me that he sensed the fellow was interested in Olivia, and not about our faith. I was deflated!
So keep praying that we will be sensitive...

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Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel