Finding Nebo

Trip Start Dec 09, 2005
1
18
25
Trip End Jan 01, 2006


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Monday, December 26, 2005

December 25, 2005: Merry Christmas to all! It is so strange to be away from home in another country on Christmas Day, although it is nice to be so far removed from the utter commercialization of this holy day that has permeated an American Christmas. Today is a holiday in Jordan, as well. But the streets, stores and TV shows are pleasantly void of the pollution that has become associated with Christmas in the states. There are very few signs of Christmas here. But the traditional music piped softly through speakers at the hotel reminds me that it is indeed that time of year. But still, much different than the American Christmas that Michael and I are used to. Yet and still, it is a blessing to be experiencing something different on this revered day.



One night in Amman wasn't enough. But we'll be back in a few days. Today we rode out to Petra, a city in the southern part of Jordan with a population of about 15,000. After a stop to change our U.S. dollars into Jordanian Dinar (dee - nar) (only .70 JD to 1 dollar), we took off to find Nebo - Mount Nebo, that is. Some of you might know Mount Nebo as the place where God showed Moses the Promised Land, and where Moses is reportedly buried.



A three hour ride in the freezing rain took us to this place in the hills, and a steep trek up the stone paved walkway to the landmark left me wondering if this trip would have been better if made on a day when the sun was shining, rather than the rain blowing sideways into my face wrapped with a wool scarf. But despite the rain, I found it quite amazing just to be there. Yes, it was cold up there, but our discovery at the top of the mountain was well worth the walk and the rain. The view was beautiful. We could see the Dead Sea in the distance, and I imagined what Moses might have seen and thought as he stood atop that mountain surveying the place that God had led him along with the Israelites. How sad that he was never able to enter in.



   At the top of Mount Nebo is a church erected as a memorial to Moses. With beautiful stained glass windows, this limestone structure looked like an ancient ruin with some missing stone bricks and weather worn walkways. But the primary feature of this church was the colorful mosaic floor, the claim to fame of the local area called Madaba. Thousands upon thousands of tiny inlayed tiles formed the intricate designs that told the story of what was important to the people of the time - their history, their faith and their future.



From there we moved on through the town of Madaba and stopped at a mosaic institute to watch a demonstration of how the beautiful mosaics are made. This place hires disabled individuals, who are trained to cut, color and delicately place the tiny pieces of stone tile into hand drawn artistic designs to form wall tiles, table tops, vases, furniture, mats, flooring and other items. I was amazed at how intricate the process is; to cut and place each little tile perfectly in place. They used tools similar to those used to make jewelry, and they affixed the tiles with a special tile glue. The finished products are then sold in the accompanying store and shipped all over the world to be enjoyed by all.



After watching all of that beautiful mosaic tile work, we were hungry. Well, not really, but the tour guide said it was time to eat, so we did. We stopped at a quaint little restaurant in Madaba. I was surprised that it was open on Christmas day, but glad it was because the food was delicious. Traditional Jordanian food featured a buffet with dishes that included lots of tomatoes, cucumbers, lentils, a few spicy dishes, of course rice and lamb, chicken and fish. The place was decorated for Christmas, although the decorations were a far cry from the elaborate décor one would find in America.



From there we headed south to our next destination, the city of Petra. The trip to Petra took about three more hours, and of course we were ready for a nap after such a delicious meal. And after a brief nap on the bus we awoke to the sight of snow in them there hills, and our faces brightened at the thought of a white Christmas. But we were just fine admiring the snow from the warmth of our bus because we knew it was really, really cold out there.



During the ride, our tour guide, Anas (Ann iss) was pleased to share stories about his country, and that was fine, because Michael and I came here to learn, and we figured we might as well learn from a local than by reading it in a book or on the Internet. One of the most interesting facts Anas shared was that we were traveling a road known as "The King's Highway". This road dates back some 3,000 years and served as a major transportation route for traders throughout the Middle East, particularly between Egypt and Saudi Arabia from west to east, and Greece and Rome into Jordan. Anas spoke in detail about the commerce that transited this road, mentioning that caravans of diverse peoples moved spices, textiles, livestock, gold, silver and many other valuable items between countries.



Finally, we arrived at the Marriott Hotel in Petra - probably the most beautiful place we have stayed while on this trip. Set atop a hill overlooking a valley which hides the lost city of Petra, the hotel is decorated in a Southwestern style, with marble floors, woven wool rugs, huge glass windows, overstuffed furniture in the lobby, and gold trimmed counters. And our room was great. Perfect for a good nights sleep after a long day of sightseeing.
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