#5 Egypt/Jordan, March 13, 1999

Dear Everybody,

I got a bus to Port Said on the Suez Canal.

The taxi driver in Port Said drove me all over town to get a bigger fare—I paid him five pounds and got an argument. I went walking and then took the Port Faud ferry over and back; saw the Canal House and had a beer at the Cecil Bar; had my shoes shined, then had dinner.

 

 

The next morning I took a bus to Suez, which is kind of at the end of the earth. I had the best dinner that night—lamb shish kebabs and kofta, salad, tahina and very good bread. I topped that off with a couple of oranges that I bought from a vendor.

 

 

 

On Sunday I got a taxi to take me to the Monasteries of St. Paul and St. Anthony. Along the way we were going on the road right next to the Suez Canal. It looked so strange to see the big ships right ‘in the next lane,’ looking like they were on land.

St. Paul’s was nice, but there was nobody to show me around, apparently because this is Lent. When I went on to St. Anthony’s, it was much more organized for tourists and I had a nice monk who toured me. He also told me that St. Anthony started Christian Monasticism around 294 AD. He lived from 251 to 356 AD—until he was 105 years old! And all this in a cave above the present monastery.

 

There was rain on the way back and when I got back to my hotel room, it was flooded so I changed rooms.

My next bus took me to St. Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai. It was founded in the 4th century at the site of Moses and the burning bush. Actually there really is a desert bush that emits a flammable gas that can burst into flames—probably what Moses saw. The church was spectacular—for some reason 100 years ago the Queen of Spain had embellished it with gold and silver galore.

I slept in the hostel at the Monastery in a room with 7 cots (I was alone) with the bathrooms outside in another building and COLD weather—no heat. Of course, I had to get up twice each night; however, I was treated to a full moon completely illuminating the rugged mountain and I could see a man riding a camel across the way—at 2:00 A.M.! I also wound up with nine mosquito bites on my face.

The next day I moseyed up the ‘Moses Mountain’—Mt. Sinai. Actually now scholars think this is the wrong mountain—how to tell those poor monks?! I took a camel two-thirds of the way up (as far as they could go) which I think was more difficult than walking since the saddle was constructed funny, and at each step bumped against my rear. Then I climbed the rest of the way—pretty strenuous. The summit was tiny and crowded with refreshment stands and also had a chapel. I bought a Snickers Bar and a cup of tea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It took about 2 ½ hours going up and about 2 coming down. I walked down—a beautiful day and gorgeous rugged scenery. I also found two tablets of inscribed stone, but they were too heavy to carry down. Now I have an enormous black and blue spot on my butt from the camel saddle.

Coming to Nuweiba on the Gulf of Aqaba, I had first to go to Dahab (minivan driver looking for more passengers). As we trolled through the town several times, I could see it was a young peoples hot spot (ala Daytona Beach). There were many Israeli and Europeans hanging out on the Sea, smoking pot, living in ‘camps’ (cheap hotels with communal baths), diving, but also lounging in the inviting-looking cafes on the beach with colorful awnings and cushions, and looking at the beautiful blue sea. I R & R-ed in the Helnan Nuweiba Hotel on the Gulf of Aqaba for a few days before going on to Jordan on the fastboat.

The boat arrived in Aqaba, Jordan after a little over an hour; immigration was slow and inefficient but finally accomplished. I had met Lisa on the boat—she had already been here so I stayed at her hotel. We had dinner together and she gave me the name (Mohammed) and number of a good taxi driver that can take me to Wadi Rum and Petra.

I contacted Mohammed and off we went the next day to Wadi Rum. He arranged with a Bedowin to drive me into the desert with his four-wheel drive vehicle. Wadi Rum was beautiful with reddish rock formations and sand, Lawrence’s Spring (of Arabia) and the Siq, kind of a passage through the rocks.

Mohammed and I went on to Petra. After checking into a hotel (managed by Mohammed’s brother) I hurried to see some of Petra, which was spectacular! It is very dramatic and beautiful with hundreds of buildings cut into the pinkish rock. It was settled as far back as 7000 BC in the Neolithic age, but Petra was built by the Nabataeans in about 600 BC. That night I ate at a restaurant with the young man who was the proprietor who invited me to a cook-out for the following night.

 

 

 

 

The next day I climbed all over Petra including the Monastery, also saw the 4-5th century Bzyantine church with beautiful mosaics. It is a most wonderful place to visit.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The young man came to pick me up in a pickup

 

 

 

truck and off we went to the cookout. Ali cooked chicken over an open fire; we had bread, onions and tomatoes, fruit and tea. Ali was born in a cave in Petra (he is 38) but when he was 10 years old the government set up alternate housing and moved all the Bedowin out of the Petra caves because Petra had become a tourist attraction. Now his family lives in Wadi Mousa, the village just 2 km from Petra.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mohammed and I went on to Shobak Castle, Karak Castle, (both Crusader Castles) through Wadi Mujib

 

 

 

 

 

 

and to Madaba where we visited several churches with beautiful mosaics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From there we went on to Amman, the capital of Jordan. Mohammed took me around the area to Jerash, a Roman city ruin, then to Um Qas from where we could see the Sea of Galilee, the Golan Heights and Syria. The views were beautiful in all directions.

We drove to Irbid where Mohammed spotted his nephew on the street and so we went to Mohammed’s sister’s house for dinner. Hooda (his sister) lived with her three teenage children. They were so cordial and I had a lovely time.

 

 

After dinner we returned to Amman.

 

 

 

 

The next day we saw the Roman amphitheatre and two museums.

 

 

 

 

We bought shwarmas and baba ghanoug (which Jordanians call m’tebel) and had a picnic near Jerash. The next day we drove to Azraq where Lawrence (of Arabia) had his office in 1914;

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

then we visited Qusayr Amra that surprisingly had frescos of nude women which were very beautiful. Typically Islamic art doesn’t even allow pictures of people, let alone nude women!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another castle, Qasr Al-Kharaneh rounded out the sightseeing before we returned to Irbid, bought a picnic lunch which we ate about 3:00 in a spot with tiny bright red flowers growing all around. We also saw the Castle Ajlun on a high peak that was visible for miles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll get this sent off—there’s much more to see around here. I’m really liking Jordan.

Carol

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