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With our tour to Jordan over, we were once again left to organise our own days. We had a leasurely start to the day and when we were ready set off by taxi to Tiberias (negotiating a reasonable price beforehand). We enjoyed the ride up along the coastline, and headed through the Carmel mountains to the Jezreel Valley, looking forward to our first glimpse the Sea of Galilee for this year's tour. It finally came into view, but there was a fairly heavy mist everywhere so we decided it was not the best day for taking photographs. We had booked into our hotel in Tiberias for 4 nights, so we had ample time for that later. Once we settled into our hotel we decided it was a good opportunity to wash clothes and hang them to dry in the bathroom, and then headed off on foot to explore Tiberias. Again I was limited in how much walking I could do because my leg was still badly swollen - both from the fall I'd had on my 2nd day in Israel, and from the heat that first day in Jordan. Tiberias is a very attractive town, with beautiful views across the Sea of Galilee and we enjoyed strolling alongside the water and watching the boats come and go.
We started the day with a long drive from Petra to Madaba, noting the change in the countryside as we went. Thinking about Biblical times, Petra, with the surrounding vast desert was the land of the Edomites and it was harsh and dry. As we travelled towards the north it became greener. This was Biblical Moab and was the place that Naomi and Elimelech had gone to when Israel was in famine. It was there that their son married Ruth, who returned with Naomi to Bethlehem. Much of this land of Moab was dry too, but not as arid as around Petra. By the time we were nearing Madaba we were back into lush farmland. Our driver suddenly stopped the minibus at one point to show us a particular flower growing wild by the side of the road. It was the back iris - the national flower of Jordan. It only flowers for a couple of weeks each year so we were fortunate to see it. Madaba is famous for it's mosaics and we were delighted to see the exceptional 6th Century mosaic map of the Holy Land that we had read about. Yes, it's true that it really does show fish swimming towards the dead sea and then turning around and swimming away from the salty water. We were then taken to a tourist shop which was also the factory where the items were made. We were told that they place was an initiative of the King of Jordan to employ disabled people. We had a tour of the area where mosaics were being made and marvelled at the way they are all put together. The shop was incredibly expensive, but w
The next mornning we were taken on a general tour around Amman and then headed off south for a long drive down to Petra. Petra was every bit as amazing as you expect it to be. Since my walking ability was limited we decided to go by chariot through the narrow entry called the Siq and it proved to be quite an experience! The Bedouin drivers know every turn of that long, narrow entry through the mountain gorge and travel at quite an amazing rate. We set our cameras to the fastest speed we could and by a miracle managed to get some photos in focus as we travelled through. Despite seeing many pictures of The Treasury (El Kazneh) before we went, nothing could take away from the incredible first glimpse that you get of it as you emerge from the Siq. It truly is an amazing sight! We clambered down from the chariots at the Treasury and after taking photos decided to try the mint tea at the Bedouin shop. It proved to be very refreshing and quite delicious. Then we walked the remaining small section of the Siq until we came out into the Valley. The colour of the rock face in Petra was amazing, and every hour it seemed to change, as the sunlight shifted. Sometimes it seemed to glow a gold colour - but mostly it was amazing shades of rose pink. There were so many 'buildings' carved out of the rockface - even an amazing Roman-style auditorium.. Whereas the theatres we had seen in Jerash were build of stone - this one in Petra had been carved out of the rock face! We spent the
We were up early, with bags packed and we raced down to try and get breakfast before we were picked up by the tour bus leaving for our trip to Jordan, organised through Travelujah. We left Tel Aviv at 6:30 am, picked up a young lady in Jerusalem, and headed for the Jordanian border near Beit Shean. We had thought there would be a coach load of people on our tour - but to our amazement and delight found it was just the three of us! After exiting Israel, and crossing through the neutral territory by bus, we were met at the first opportunity by our Jordanian guide, who helped us go through the customs procedure of entering Jordan. We have been through many country boundaries in the past but this was the first time we had to have our eyes scanned. Everything went smoothly and we were soon settling into a little mini-bus that was to take us around Jordan.
Our first stop was Jerash - a Greko-Roman city which was one of the ten cities of the Decapolis. This was amazingly large - I hadn't realised that cities in the Middle East were so big in those days. It is also one of the best preserved cities of the Decapolis. The Arch of Hadrian dominated the entry and set the scene for an afternoon for an afternoon seeing some amazing ancient buildings including two theatres, temples to Zeus and Artemis, and a Roman Forum which is almost unique due to it's oval shape. The weather was extremely hot that day so we were thankful for drinks of cold water at every opportunity!
Our third day had a slow start. A bad trip on the pavement the night before had left me sporting massive bruises all down my leg, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to walk far today. it was also Shabbat, so most things were closed. We eventually decided to get a taxi to the Eretz Museum and we thoroughly enjoyed all we had to see there. Exhibits there ranged from ancient Philistine and Canaanite pottery, through various stages of Israel's history and there were areas for temporary modern exhibits which would change on a regular basis.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing and enjoying Tel Aviv.
We headed out with the guide that Travelujah had put us in touch with to go to the West Bank. After leaving our hotel in Tel Aviv we went first to the Sidney Ali Misque just north of Herzliya, and then to Apollonia to see the crusader castle. From there we drove into the West Bank to find the Biblical sites we wanted to see. It was amazingly easy to get into the West Bank. We simply drove in and were not stopped at the point of entry. Throughout the West Bank we found that former check points were now not in use. Our plan was to go first to Tel Shiloh, bud sadly when we reached there we found it was closed and the gate was shut. Disappointed, we went on into Nablus (the site of Biblical Shechem). I think we would have found it a little daunting to go there if we did not have a guide who spoke Arabic. We were the only tourists in the area and we needed to find somehwere for lunch. We wandered through the streets until we came to a place that sold kebabs and stopped there. We felt very conspicuous being the only non-Palestinians in the area but all the men in the little cafe were very friendly and wanted to talk to us and help us find our way around.
After having lunch and receiving explanations on the best way to get to Joseph's tomb we left and made our way through Nablus t
Our first day started slowly because our plane from Australia had arrived very late into the night and we had spent well over 24 hours travelling. We had a delightful late breakfast, seated at the same table as a beautiful senior lady from Tel Aviv who had booked into the hotel for the Passover Holiday. She gave us a lot of helpful advice on what might be open, and which places were good to visit.
Our first stop however, wasn't to go sightseeing. We walked to the Dizengoff Centre (a large shopping mall) to purchase SIM cards for our mobile phones. We had discovered on a previous trip that it was much more economical to purchase a SIM card with a data pack to access the internet while we were travelling, rather than buy internet access at the hotels we stayed at. It did not take us long to locate the booth that sold us the SIM cards, and the man who served us was very helpful in getting everything working on our phones for us (all the instructions were in Hebrew, which we don't speak, so we were very thankful for his help). After checking out prices of other things in some of the shops, and getting a late lunch we decided it was time to start our sightseeing.
We planned to go to the Museum of the Diaspora (known as Beit Hatfutsot to locals) which was located the other side of Tel Aviv. Sadly, by the time we arrived there we discovered that it had closed early for the day as we were just entering an additional day's holiday for the end
This blog is to be about the trip that my husband and I had in Israel and Jordan in April/May 2012. It is written after our return back to Australia because each day was so busy and exciting that we had no time for blogging or sorting out photos as we travelled. People wonder whether it is safe to travel to the Middle East and we have certainly found that wherever we have been almost everyone has been friendly and helpful - probably more so than in many other places we have visited over the years! It is simply wonderful to be able to personally experience the land of the Bible, and find that God's Word comes to life in a new way after seeing the environment and meeting local people.