Saturday, May 1, 2010

Camels, Kings and Siqs: 2 Days in Jordan

DSC_0029Posted by Colleen

“The Israelites traveled on and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan River across from Jericho.”
Num. 22:1


Celine, Tally and Lillian at Jerash
in Jordan.

Last week, Eric was frantically trying to finish up some papers so he could take us to Jordan. He had recently returned from a 4 day stay there and couldn't wait to share it with us. He will be returning to Jordan to live with a Bedoiun tribe 6 days and participate in their daily activities, including slaughtering a goat for the evening meal, sleeping in a large communal tent and learning to appreciate the gift of commodes that we take for granted. : ) I look forward to the stories he will tell on his return.

As you’ll see, our trip was exciting in its own right but we slept in a hotel and didn't have to slaughter anything in order to eat.

We began our trip at 5:15am. We had our backpacks ready to go with only with 1 pair of underwear and 1 pair of socks per person plus a few snack foods. A cab took us to the border crossing at Beit Sha'en, near Galilee, which is where Scythopolis is located. The driver was a man that we had used the day before. We loved hearing his stories of fighting in every war since 1948. As we drove north along the Jordan River, he pointed out where he would walk daily to guard the patrol line which is now mostly guarded electronically. As we drove along the "wiggly river Jordan" we were fascinated by the abundance of produce--date palms, bananas, olives, grapes, oranges, cucumbers, etc. Across the river you can easily see the produce of the Jordanians as well.

We were left at the border crossing around 7:20am. It appeared that we were the 2nd ones to arrive so we got through the Israeli side quickly only to sit for about an hour to wait for the bus to take us across the river to the Jordanian side. We could have walked but they don't let you. Instead, you must take the 2 minute bus ride and pay 5 NIS (New Israeli Shekels, $1.35) a person.

An example of advertising gone wrong. These labels are HUGE on the side of a carton of cigs. It could be that it is in English and not Arabic. Uh?

When in Jordan, we got in one line to pay for our Jordanian visa. The fact that we couldn't use our credit card to pay should have alerted us. We eventually exchanged enough cash to pay and got into a 2nd line for a security check. The gentleman helping us enjoyed taking pictures of the girls. Like we have noticed in Israel, children are adored in Jordan as well. It may be that 2 of mine are blonde and blue eyed but even brunette and dark brown eyed Tally is adored. Lillian has been the subject of many photos. The Arab girls are the cutest and most aggressive--they will try to talk to Lillian while touching her and taking pictures of her. She doesn't know what to think. At one point she said to me, "Mom, I ran so those girls will stop taking pictures of me."

We left the border station and headed to Amman by way of cab. The mountains just to the east of Jordan River are terribly steep and very high. Fortunately, I was armed with my "happy pills" (motion sickness) and did fine but even my pills would not have helped had the cab decided to take the express way down the mountain. It was a windy road and crazy narrow. The driver wasn't dazed by it and almost seemed like he was enjoying a ride at Six Flags. I think he may have been trying to impress us with his Indy 500 skills.

The mountain was nothing compared to the city of Amman. The roads were about 4 lanes wide but there are no stripes on the road to indicate lanes. Cars were everywhere and FAST. I thought Jerusalem had some crazy driving but Amman was a death trap. We finally made it to a car rental place and were now on our own. We were all starving and decided to eat at McDonalds which was a few blocks from where we were. You may be asking, "Why in the world would you eat at McDonalds while in Jordan?" I have an easy answer... Lillian. Actually, it was for the girls but also because we were on a tight schedule and Jordanian cuisine was not on the agenda. McDonalds would not take credit cards (another sign for us that we ignored) so we had to quickly get cash. If I were to rate the McDonalds in USA, Israel and Jordan, it would go like this: USA, Jordan, Israel. I think McDonald is the only place you can get a fountain drink. Ok, lunch was over and we were on our own.

image These are coffee pots. They were everywhere in Jordan… even along the highway. That’s right, a man, his pots and a chair. They like their coffee. Its a good thing because most tourist don’t. It usually has a nice collection of grounds in the bottom.
image Everywhere you go in Jordan pictures of King Abdullah (right) and his father King Hussein are posted—very large. There are also many of King Abdullah’s family.

Eric was quickly initiated into the Amman driving school and before I knew it, we were on the outskirts of town on the Kings' Highway--yes, the same one routinely mentioned in scripture. We were headed north for Jerash (Gerasha).

image It was  because of these signs we were able to make it anywhere. Notice, no highway numbers.


Something that the tour guides don't mention is that Jordan does not label their highways. Sure, there may be numbers on the map, but the Jordanians have either forgotten or just think it is funny not to put them on the roads. We found our way to Jerash mainly because of the lack of other roads but because they are good at labeling towns and cities. We entered Jerash and drove through the very small and crowded streets for quite a while. Had it not been so interesting we might have pulled off and tried to get directions from the Arabic speaking pedestrians. But we pressed on hoping the "City of 1000 Columns" would soon drop out of the sky. Just when we had lost hope of our deliverance, I spotted them down in a wadi that was below us--not sure I would have seen it had it not been for the "1000" columns.

You can see why I would have seen the city from the ridge we were driving on. IMG_1252

Because Eric had already been there, light bulbs were flashing all around him and we eventually landed at the entrance. It was a beautiful sight to see. Jerash is one of the Decapolis cities built by the Romans. It was complete with a hippodrome, 2 theaters, pagan temple-turned church, cardo (main thoroughfare) and markets. At the entrance of one of the churches there was an inscription inviting people to come in and worship because the stench was now gone. The stench referred to was from the pit found at the entrance that the once-pagan-temple worshipers would throw the human bodies that had been sacrificed.

Excavations show that the city was inhabited during the Bronze age but the Romans conquered it in 63BC and made it a Decapolis city. You enter the city through Hadrian's arch. It is enormous and was not part of the Roman city. When Hadrian, the Roman emperor (76-138 AD) was coming to visit, the Romans had it constructed just for Him. This gate was no trellis that you would grow your grapes on, it was huge--Goliath huge. The city reached a size of 800,000 square meters (200 acres). Part of modern day Jerash is built up around the ruins.

Jerash Hadrian’s Gate. This is what you enter when visiting Jerash. Do you see Eric and the girls in the entrance?
DSC_0028 Nymphaeum—public fountain. See the holes in the stones in the background? That is where the water would pour out then where the man is standing it would dump into the large disc he is standing by.
DSC_0008 Tally, Celine and Lillian.
DSC_0010 Entering Jerash. An indoor market is to the left as Tally passes under a bridge.
DSC_0051 Not a lot of supervision at these places. Do you see the guy on top of the column? That is a grown man, not some adolescent boy who doesn’t know better.
IMG_1264 Temple of Artemis
DSC_0034 Temple of Artemis. Celine is at the top, Lillian in the middle, Tally in foreground.
DSC_0059 The Oval Precinct
IMG_1262 Tally, Celine and Lillian at Jerash.
DSC_0022 Eric taking this from the top of one of the theaters. I am at the bottom center in the red shirt.
Below, the girls are at the top. Zoomed in…
DSC_0018 DSC_0019
DSC_0026 DSC_0027
We are standing under the columns. Zoomed in at the Colonnade

Arnon River

We left around 4:00pm to try and make it south to the city of Karak where the most important Crusader Castle still stands. We couldn't resist staying on the King's Highway but it proved to be slow yet very interesting.

On the way, we had to cross the Biblical Arnon River (modern day Wadi Mujib). That means we had to drop about a mile in elevation then ascend the other side. If you were to follow the river, it would eventually empty into the Dead Sea at 410 meters below sea level. The Mujib Reserve is the lowest nature reserve in the world. It seems to rival the Grand Canyon -- the picture is cool, it truly doesn't do it justice. This area is abundant in cliffs, gorges and wadis that cut through plateaus. Some places are so remote it provides perfect refuge for many cats (the big kind), goats and mountain animals. At the bottom we crossed over a newly constructed dam. It was a little unnerving to see cracks in it already. The river is fed by 7 tributaries and is a year round water source making it the home to a variety of plants and animals.

Biblical Arnon River (modern day Wadi Mujib). In the background you can see the dam and the road we are driving on. DSC_0075
Biblical Arnon River (modern day Wadi Mujib). This is taken on the other side. We crossed the dam below. DSC_0084

“A lion coming up from the thick undergrowth along the Jordan  scatters the sheep in the pastureland around it.” Jer. 49:19

Karak Castle

Leaving the Arnon behind we arrived in Karak around 8pm. The castle had closed so had the restaurant that Eric wanted to take us to. But we did get to eat at a place that was right next to the castle. It was amazing as we drove up to it, proving to be in a wonderfully strategic place. Karak is still in the mountainous part of Jordan so the change in elevation was awe inspiring.

This what you see as you drive up to the castle. The city is built up around it.


Our meal consisted of lamb kabob, "BBQ" chicken and Lillian had a special sandwich that was on the house. The lamb kabob tasted like lamb burger on a stick. The chicken was pretty good. Lillian wasn't thrilled about the sandwich but it was pretty good. In Israel and Jordan alike, cucumbers, tomatoes and lettuce come on almost everything. The funny thing is in Israel, they put french fries on the falafel and schwarma. Anyway, back to Jordan and what we were eating. The owner of the restaurant spent the night talking to us about his travels all over the middle east. We found the people of Jordan very friendly and laid back and he was no different. At the end of the meal when we needed to get going, he treated us with a plate full of Jordanian sweets and fruit. For those who have had middle eastern deserts like Baklava, you know there is no shortage in the sugar they use. We finally were back on the road weaving through the busy streets of Karak.
We made our way over to the Desert Highway, another road talked about in scripture, to try and make up some time and get to Petra as soon as possible. With no street or highway numbers and it being pitch black in the middle of the desert, we finally made it to Petra at midnight with a gas tank on E. The hotel had our room ready which had 3 single beds. Tally and I slept on one, Celine and Lillian in another and Eric in the 3rd. We were exhausted and were fast asleep.
We were up at 6:15am. We went downstairs to breakfast which consisted of boiled eggs, scrambled eggs with onions and potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, toast, and various salads. The water is potable but it tends to make foreigners sick, so we purchased a couple of bottle drinks.

The Desert Highway



Petra was right across the street so we headed over as soon as we finished our breakfast. We arrived at the gate to find out they didn't take credit cards. So once again, we had to locate an ATM and get some cash. You would think by now we would have learned our lesson and figured out that Jordanians do NOT take credit cards.

You enter the park and walk about a quarter mile to siq (gorge). The siq is flanked by towering cliffs that reach 300 to 600 ft. You travel through the siq another 1/4 mile to the first major site, the Treasury. It is beautiful but the siq itself was fascinating. There are aqueducts running the entire length with dams plugging the tributaries that flow in from the sides. There is only about 2-4" of rainfall each year so every bit of water is very important. 

IMG_1286 Tally and Celine walking through the siq at Petra.
IMG_1288 Dam and aquaduct in siq.
DSC_0095 Siq, you can see the raised aquaduct on the left and the lower on to the right.
IMG_1290 The approach to the Treasury.
IMG_1292 Treasury at Petra
IMG_1293 Column of the Treasury with Lillian and Celine showing the massive size. These were carved out of the rock!


The Treasury building is just the beginning. We spent the next 6 hours walking through much of the city and still didn’t exhaust the entire thing – it would take 2 days to sufficiently do so. Beyond the Treasury you continue a ways down a path past many additional rock-hewn structures, reaching a split in the “road”, at which point we chose to take a large clock-wise loop starting to the left that would take us past the “High Place” and eventually lead back around to this juncture point.  It was an amazing climb with a surprise at every turn. The colors of the rocks continued to impress me as we climbed and explored. But the dangerous cliffs kept us alert and Lillian by our side... most the time.

We were accompanied on our climb by Bedouins who live in a near by village and have little shops set up all over the sites. For the most part they are very helpful and a joy to talk with but they really like it when you purchase things from them. Most Bedouins are nomadic but this particular tribe makes a good living providing goods, directions around Petra and some interesting information for the tourist that come to Petra year round.

At the top of the loop we stopped to take a small break and eat some snacks using the picnic tables outside the restaurant.  From our seat you could see an amazing free-standing building known as the Qasr al-Bent, a castle of the Pharaoh's daughter.

Petra is believed to have begun with the 18th Dynasty of Egypt (1550-1290BC). However, it was the Nabateans that created most of what you see when you visit. There structures date from 25BC-50AD. The Romans came in the 2nd Century and made some modifications. What I didn't realize before  visiting is that there are over 750 monuments at Petra. Needless to say it is an enormous place
At the end of our 6 hours, we were ready to leave.

On the following pictures, let your mouse hover over it for the caption.

Tally just loves those camels. Before the Nabateans made even a dent, the Lord had already given them a beautiful canvas on which to work.
Large room as you leave the Treasury. Steps to the top.
Eric falling. Look to the right of his foot and you can get an idea of how hig we were. Celine and Tally showing the colors in the rocks.
Celine snapping a shot and Lillian finding a place to sit. She often does this on our long walks. Tally, Celine and Eric standing on the edge of the cliff.
Celine and Tally standing under a Lion. The head is erroded away but you can see where the water once flowed out through his mouth. There are many creative aquaducts in Petra. Tally showing us how far up we are. Lillian and Eric are down below.
Eric, Tally, Celine and Lillian all standing by their alter. We see these alot as we drive around. This is how the Bedouin mark their territory. Lillian showing us the alter that she built.
Eric, Tally and Lillian at Petra Celine and Lillian sitting on heart column.
Tally on the edge of the world. Lillian does not like stuff in her shoes.
Celine way too close to the edge. Lillian showing us the rocks that the Bedouin lady gave her.
Tally being sacrificed by a Bedouin lady Colleen, Celine, Tally and Lillian at the High Places in Petra.
Oliander blooming in the desert with Lillian and Daddy. Urn Tomb

What better way to exit this awesome place than by CAMELS! It was amazing. Lillian rode with Eric, Tally and Celine road together and I went solo! YeeHaw! When a camel stands you are thrown forward than backward. All the horse riding in the world does not prepare you for that. At first the ride was slow and easy going. Then our guide got on his own camel and thought it would be fun to have it "run." It was more of a trot but so much fun. Tally, Celine and Lillian loved it. The sad thing is people were so busy taking pictures that they didn't notice us coming so the camels kept bumping people. The guide would yell out, "camels, move people." That was great if you spoke English but not everyone did. They took us all the way back to the Treasury. We were the subject of many photographs and home videos by people we don’t know – who knows, we’re probably on someone else’s blog somewhere.  At the end of the ride, we walked back through the siq then Eric put Lillian up on a horse to carry her the rest of the way out of the park. Lillian was in heaven--life was good. The horse used up 5 of our last 12 dollars.


Our Camel Ride & Lillian’s Horse Ride

On the following pictures, let your mouse hover over it for the caption.

Guide, Tally and Celine Celine and Tally
Robishaws on Camels in Petra Headed to the Treasury on our Camels.
Eric, Celine and Tally on camels. You can see that some people would ride donkeys. Dismounting the camels.
Our guide talking on his cell, Celine, Tally, Lillian and Eric. Celine and Lillian saying
 Lillian's horse ride on a horse named Susannah. The young man in front of the horse is leading them. He let Celine get on with Lillian after a while.
 Then it was Tally's turn to ride with Lillian. These carriages would run through the siq. The poor horses shoes slipping on the rock road.


As we left Petra, remember we arrived with an empty tank. So our first priority was to find gas. We stopped at a gas station but they didn't take credit cards. Uh, we saw that coming. Fortunately, we had the $7 and used it to get a few liters of gas. We got back out on the Desert Highway. As you would suspect, the Desert Highway is not like driving on IH35 or IH95. It is a fascinating drive but not if your definition of fascinating is a fast food restaurant and gas station every 5 miles. We drove till we saw the first gas station but no luck--no credit cards, no ATM. We got back on the road and at the point when fears turn to prayers, there it was and no it wasn't a mirage. We pulled in and still no credit cards or ATMS but they did have a Petra Tourist Center. Eric went in and fortunately the gentleman spoke English and allowed Eric to get cash with his credit card at the register. God is good and He showed us that in a real way that afternoon.


Great way to leave Jordan. Where else are you going to see this?

We still hadn't eaten lunch but we had to be at the car rental place to make it to the border crossing before it closed. We had allowed an extra hour but used it up as we drove around Amman trying to find our street, Queen Alia. When we arrived the manager offered to take us to the border crossing to insure we made it--a perfect example of the kindness we encountered in Jordan. We had stopped at McDonalds (same as before) before leaving for the border. We were all so hungry.
We had a very nice talk about middle east and US politics on the way. This seems to be a popular topic when we are in cabs as well. People often want to know if we like Obama and Bush.

At the border crossing, the guard and our driver carried on in Arabic for awhile when he turned and told us the border crossing was closed. My day had been spent in silent prayer each of which had been answered. Knowing that the border may be closed, I immediately thought, "Where will we stay." The peace I had was not my own but what the Lord was providing by His Grace.

The driver turned back and it seemed like he was getting information for us as to what to do now when he turned back to us and said, "He was joking." Yeah! We got through the Jordan station after waiting an hour for the shuttle. We had been told there was no cost to leave Jordan – not exactly true.  Once seated on the shuttle, the driver  came around to collect the 3 Jordanian Dinar per person. Fortunately we had 16 JDs, only 1 extra!  The shuttle trip was a little longer drive than before because we were crossing the King Hussein Bridge to Jericho this time instead of the northern border crossing that we came in through.

When we got to the Israeli border station, we were asked many questions, answering some of them in Hebrew. That impressed them. We were on our way "home."

Our journey ended that night about 10pm. We showered and went straight to bed.
Jordan was amazing and God was faithful!



Anonymous said... jealous

Kathleen said...

Coool... ;)

The guy on top of the in the heck did he get up there?!?

If you tried to say something to Eric or the girls when they were at the top of the theatre and you were at the bottom - could they hear you? I have heard those were made with incredible acoustics.

The sig looks like it is beautiful but would have made me claustrophobic. Is that the only way to the Treasury?

Those buildings carved out of stone were amazing!!

The pic of the Bedouin woman "sacrificing" Tally...after reading about the stench that was gone from the previous pagan temple...little disconcerting... lol

You were right - the girls loved the pics of the camels. Copeland wants to ride on one. That looked very cool! How funny that all the other people were taking pictures of you riding them. :)

midspoint said...

Totally fascinating!! The comments didn't show up when I hovered my mouse over the pictures... :( But I enjoyed them just the same! All your pictures and stories need to be in a book!!
Praying for the rest of your stay to be blessed in every way!


Colleen Robishaw said...


The comments show up when the pictures are little, on the page. They won't show up after you click on them to be enlarged. Hope that halps and glad you enjoyed it. We LOVE hearing from you.

The guy on top of the column got there by climbing the stairs (that you see Celine at the top of in another shot of the same place) then he walked along the side till he was out on the ledge. Crazy!

You can enter Petra either through the siq or from the other side. The siq is a cool entrance though.

Yes, every theater we have visited has amazing acoustics. You can stand center stage, speak normally and the top row can hear you.

Thanks for the questions!

Nanny said...

OK, this one might be the best!!! At least it held my attention wih the suspense of running out of money or falling off a cliff or driving unmarked highways in the dark of night, sleeping on single beds, is the Border closed?.....what other source of suspense did you have on this side trip to Jordan??? WOW!!! Enough for a Hollywood Movie, for sure!!I am just glad you made it back to Jeruselem safely!!!!!

I bet you all are going to marvel at the greenness of the USA. I don't see much green in these pictures..right?

What an Adventure!!!

Love, Mom

midspoint said...

Thanks, Colleen, they worked today! :) It might have been my computer...but so much more enjoyable to read your notes on each picture. I'm going to cry when you guys have to come home... but please leave your blog up!! It is worth reading and reading and re-reading and it's helping me with my sequel to "Barriers", which is about the Negev, Bedouin, and Jerusalem. I'm anxiously awaiting Erik's report on his Bedouin experience...:)

midspoint said...

ooops... I spelled Eric's name wrong... you can change it and delete this ... *blushes*