Alright. I didn’t think it would be that hard to post every week. But it is. So here are a couple highlights of the past three weeks.
The Western Wall. We went here on a Friday evening for the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath or Shabbat. As we entered the square, I could hear both the Muslim call to prayer and the Jewish songs to welcome the Sabbath. This is such a city of paradoxes. The men and women have different areas to worship by the western wall: women to the right, men to the left. I love going to Western Wall (used to be known as the Wailing Wall) and people watching. There were hundreds of women packed into the worshipping space, most of the younger generation (girls my age) were singing and dancing in a large circle, while some older women were rocking back and forth and crying while praying next the wall. A huge group of us girls joined in on the Shabbat festivities and danced and sang some of the songs I am learning in my Hebrew class. I was amazed how the younger women were so welcoming and willing to teach us their traditions even though we butchered some of the songs. I hope I never forget that night.
Petra. WOW. Coolest thing I have ever done. I literally have never been so amazed at anything in my whole life. If you are like me and had never heard of Petra before coming the Middle East, you probably don’t get why this ranks on the top of my list. Petra is an ancient city that was literally carved out of sandstone cliffs by the Nabateans and was abandoned and forgotten for centuries until it was discovered in the 1800’s by a very curious explorer who convinced the local Bedouins to show him this lost city. What I couldn’t even fathom was how enormous these buildings are. Hundred foot tall columns were carved out of the rock that composed these buildings foundation and interior. Imagine Zion National Park except with a huge Greco-Roman city carved out of its cliffs and canyons. That is Petra. Except with lots of camels and donkeys milling around. I never thought I was very good at saying ‘no’ to people but I have become a master at it here. There are so many kids and shop owners that are begging you to buy from them here, especially when I was in Petra. Other than getting a fair amount of haggling, I did more hiking and climbing in four hours than I think I have ever done in my life. We hiked up to the Monastery, which were literally thousands of giant stone steps up this steep mountainside. I hate to say it, but a stray dog passed me and actually beat me to the monastery on my way up that treacherous mountain. I think that is why it was a monastery; I would never want to make that walk back to civilization every day if I were a monk. But I made it. The view was amazing. We hiked to a lookout point called “The End of the World” where you could see most of Jordan. I thought the view was spectacular until I looked down and realized I was standing on the tallest, steepest cliff I ever seen. I think it would be the end of anyone’s world if they got too close to the edge of that cliff. My group decided to go exploring in the nearby caves and canyons, I think my inner mountain goat must have come out because I managed to not die while climbing around in slot canyons and such. What an amazing day. I would go back to Petra in a heartbeat.
So there’s the highlights for right now! I will try to get some photos of Petra and other adventures up soon!