Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Last Crusade

Day 3: Exploring the southern seam
Sites visited: Petra, Wadi Dana, Bozrah

Today we woke up in Petra! ☺ We left bright and early for seven hours of awesome hiking. As we entered the site, turbaned men with horses trotted around us, and we marveled at the sandstone formations. As we went “further up and deeper in,” we entered a narrow passage with huge sandstone cliffs on either side. Through the narrow passageway ahead we could see glimpses of something BIG, and I started humming the Indiana Jones theme song (this is where “The Last Crusade” was filmed). When we finally came out into the clearing, we were stunned by the site of the treasury—majestically carved right into the cliff.

Ashleigh and I hiked off the beaten path and encountered two young Bedouin women making tea in a tin pot over a fire. The older one was 23 and the younger one was 15. We stayed and chatted with them for a while. The older woman spoke English quite well, and told us that they lived just over the mountain but come over here to sell jewelry to the tourists. They were quite friendly and invited us to have tea. Eventually we had to leave, but as we walked away, the younger girl ran after us. “Wait! A gift—for you!” She handed us two beaded bracelets with a smile. “Ma es-salaame!”

After that point, we broke into smaller groups to hike around more. Ashleigh, Brandon, Liz, and I started the long trek to the Deir (monastery) one of the highest points of Petra. On the way we made friends with two little boys riding donkeys. They followed us along most of the way. Along the way, we stopped at several more amazing structures carved out of sandstone. After a couple hours we came to a sign that said, “Warning! Hiking beyond this point without a guide is dangerous!” We continued past it and started our ascent to the monastery, and after many steps and much climbing, we made it! It was well worth the sweat. Words can’t even describe it—this was the biggest carving we had seen yet.

We climbed even further past the monastery and saw a hand-painted sign that said, “This way to the end of the world.” Well, who can pass that up?! We hiked to the edge of a cliff where we could see for miles over the mountains into Israel. Beautiful. We met a girl there named Maria who is from Spain but married a Bedouin man, so she lives here now. She seemed lonely. I wished we had more time to hear her story.

It took us several more hours to hike back, but we enjoyed more of the sites and explored the huge Petra temple. When we finally made it back, we were ready for lunch and a little break for our feet!
After a short rest, we boarded the bus and started down the King’s Highway. On the way we stopped and looked over the Wadi Dana, and talked about how the Nabateans relate to the Bible. After a while we stopped at Bozrah, the capital of Edom in the Bible. We stopped at a beautiful lookout over the wadi again and read many prophet passages in the Bible that describe Edom and Bozrah. When you look past the theology, it is amazing how much accurate historical information is in the Bible. We enjoyed the sunset at Bozrah and wandered back to the bus.

I got to the bus a little early, so I talked with two of the village women that were nearby. They only spoke Arabic and one of them had seven kids—five boys and two girls. The youngest boy had fluorescent green eyes the curiously peered at me from underneath wild curly brown hair. They were very friendly and invited me for dinner. Sadly, I had to decline to rejoin our group on the bus. I wish I could have spent more time with them.
Now we are back on the road, and the girls behind me are singing Disney songs. One of them says, “I want to be where the people are…” That’s how I feel! As much as I like learning about history and archaeology and exploring all these amazing places, more and more I realize that I am way more interested in the people and culture of this country than in its rocks. However, as I realized yesterday, the historical story of the Bible is very much OUR story, and relevant to people today. This is a season in my life devoted to better understanding that story so that someday I can live life with these people and share it with them. May I be faithful to learn all I can now, and patiently wait for the future.

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