While relaxing in Dahab before school starts my PIC (partner in crime), Autum, had the idea to take a tour to Israel, Jordan and The Dead Sea. Now I know what you are thinking, you went to Israel now with everything that is going on? The short answer is, yes we did. The places that we went to visit were far away from all of the unrest that we all witnessed over the summer. I like to compare it to coming to Egypt last summer. Yes there were “situations” going on in the city but where I live we are far enough away from it that it doesn’t effect us. Just as when there are “situations” in Chicago the people of Coal City are not scared for their lives. So on with our adventure.
Within both of these countries lies great religious historical places to visit and to see first hand. In fact being the Middle East in general such as Egypt there are great historical places to visit with a lot of them pertaining to religion. Being a very non religious person myself I’m very ignorant to all of the history that goes along with these great places to visit. Being that I’m here for two years I decided that I needed to take time to visit these places and learn more about them, to broaden my vary narrow knowledge when it comes to these religious facts. We decided to take a two day tour that would include Jerusalem, Bethlehem, the Dead Sea, and Petra. So we checked in to the tours and found that the only two day tour was an all Russian speaking tour. This was our only option and we probably won’t be back here and so close to these sights so what’s the worse that can happen right?
To start our trip out we meet up with the tour bus at 9 pm at night. The bus is filled with Russians who have already been on this bus for who knows how long and are reclined in their seats, like ridiculously all the way back. We get the very back of the bus but luckily there were five seats across so even though the people seated in front of us were reclined all the way back into our area Autum and I could lay sideways and try to get some sleep.
On the bus to start our adventure
After driving for about two hours we arrived at the Taba border to Israel. We all get off the bus and walk through Egypt border patrol and answer a few questions – were are you going, why are you in Egypt? These are the usual questions we are asked. Then we all proceed to the Israel border where our bag of fruit and water is pulled off the security scanner and set aside. As we stand their waiting our group is getting farther and farther through passport control. We ask the “nice” security officer if our bag is going to be checked and he takes our passports and asks us the same questions that we just answered. Once our bag is searched and we answer more of the same questions (yes it was this repetitive) we have to cut the line in order to meet up with our group. At this point this is where we met our only Russian friends on the trip, a deaf couple. We were kind of on the same level of not knowing what was going on. No one was speaking English just as no one was signing. We are the last ones to get to the next tour bus and of course have the seats all the way in the back.
Yes we took pictures at the border 🙂
We drove another few hours and arrived at our first stop which was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Not being very religious I read up on the backstory of the church and used my trusty guidebook as a reference for different areas within the church. Autum was also very helpful throughout this trip with all of her knowledge of the Bible and it’s events. There were 14 stations within the church that were related to Jesus and his journey to his final hours. This was all very interesting to me and I really enjoyed learning a little history as well as being at the sight were these events occurred.
Once we left the church we walked through what appeared to be old city streets. We arrived early in the morning and vendors were just starting to set up their shops. We arrived at the Western Wall around 7 or 7:30 in the morning and it was already starting to become crowded with people. The Western Wall is one of the most holy Jewish sites. The Wall has become a place of pilgrimage as well as the church we went to first. There seemed to be quit a few of the Russian’s on the tour that were on a sort of pilgrimage. The Wall was divided into two parts, one side was for men and the other side for women. People would write prayers on little pieces of paper and stuff them into the wall. It was believed that they would have a better than average chance of being answered if they were placed in the wall.
Next stop was Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity were Jesus was born. Again we relied on our guide book to highlight areas within the church. After a tour of the church we arrived at a souvenir shop where we purchased some Israel souvenirs. We ate lunch next door to the shop then we were back on the bus. Of course we had no idea where we were going so we just sat back and took a nap. We arrived at our destination a short while later and at first we thought we were at the Dead Sea. We saw people getting their towels and swimming suits but we weren’t sure. We followed the crowd and got off the bus to investigate where we were at. This stop was where Jesus was baptised, the Jordan river. Now like I said before there were quit a few people from the tour that were on a pilgrimage and this was a very important stop for most of them. There was a gift shop right before you got to the area where you could down and into the river. The gift shop was selling large shirts that said something to the affect of “I got baptised where Jesus was baptised”. We only stayed at the Jordan river for about half an hour then back to the bus. After a few hour bus ride we arrived at the Dead Sea. Of course we read up on the Dead Sea in our trusty guide book. There was quite the list in our book about the rules/recommendations of going into the Dead Sea – don’t dunk your head, don’t get the water in your eyes, don’t shave before you go in and don’t swallow the water. I think those warnings are a little over the top but I did find it to sting a little in certain areas. If you are unfamiliar with the Dead Sea it’s the lowest place on the face of the Earth and the salt concentration is about 30% more than any ocean making humans so buoyant that you can lie on your back and float with ease. The Dead Sea is also to said having healing properties to relax nerve and clear bronchial passages. The mud that is also present there is supposed to be really good for your skin. You are also able to buy the mud and other Dead Sea products in the gift shop. We arrived at the Dead Sea and had about an hour and half to go in and relax. Upon entering the actual water temperature was quite hot, it’s naturally hotter than normal but with the time of year the shallow part was almost as hot as a hot tub would be. The water is almost slimy once you get in because of the amount of salt in it. It is true though that you are able to float with no effort at all. After we floated around for a little while we got out, showered, and were back on the bus.
After another few hours on the bus we were let off at the Jordan border onto the next part of our journey.
To be continued……….Petra, Jordan
Later skaters –