On Monday we left for Jordan. We crossed the border over into Jordan, and luckily that didn't take too long. I was surprised at how underwhelming the Jordan River was. It's just a tiny little river now. Not even really worthy to be called a river really. Anyway, after we crossed the border, we visited Mt. Nebo. That is where Moses looked out and saw the promised land for the first time. The tradition is that he died there, but no one knows where his tomb is. But modern-day revelation says that Moses was translated. I wish I could say the view from Mt. Nebo was cool, but it wasn't really because it was so hazy on the day we were there. But I'm sure after a rainstorm it would be really neat. While we there, it was neat to talk about modern-day prophets that can see "the promised land" and how we need to follow their guidance in order to get there. After Mt. Nebo, we visited Madaba, which is just a city along the Jordan River in Jordan. There we visited St. George's Greek Orthodox Church. It was a very pretty church, but the coolest part of it was that there is a map on the floor in that church of the Holy Land from the Byzantine Era. And it has all of these Greek inscriptions on it to label where different things were. It really is a cool resource to know where things were located a long time ago. After that, we drove to Machaerus, which is a palace that Herod Antipas lived in. Here, he had John the Baptist beheaded. The palace overlooks the Dead Sea. The ruins were pretty neat, and it was neat to talk about John the Baptist there and the legacy he left for Christ so that He could start His ministry.
Now this is where our trip to Jordan starts to get really funny. So after Machaerus, we just had to drive down to Petra to spend the night there so we could go to Petra the next day. We had about a three hour drive, but it ended up taking about seven. After we'd been on the road for about an hour, our bus broke down because of a problem with the clutch right next to the remains of an old Roman road. So that was pretty cool. So they sent us another bus. So we then transferred all of our suitcases, bottled water (the water in Jordan is nasty) and other stuff we'd brought with us to bus #2. We got on the bus, and we drove for about ten minutes when that bus broke down as well. And we just happened to break down next to this awesome old church that had been a place for pilgrims to stop on their way to the Holy Land. The ruins were really well preserved, and there were some awesome mosaics there that we wouldn't have gotten to see otherwise. And we got to see the sun set there. So they sent us another bus after we had been waiting around a couple of hours. So we then transferred all of our suitcases, bottled water, and other stuff we'd brought with us to bus #3. We were able to get down to Petra on that bus that night, but we didn't get there until about 11 at night. We still got dinner at the hotel really late at night, and everyone was really tired and hungry by the time we got there. But no one complained. We all had a lot of fun being stuck out in the wilderness together. And it was awesome to see those extra sites that we weren't planning on.
The next day, we walked over to Petra from our hotel, and we spent most of the day there. It was so cool! It reminded me of a lot of being in southern Utah. Petra is an ancient city that was completely carved out of sandstone by the Nabbateans in about 300 BC. It was really fun to climb and hike around there all day, but it was really HOT! The best part of the day (besides being at Petra) was that we were allowed to wear shorts there. That was so nice because I think I might have died if I'd had to wear pants. We also got to ride camels there in front of the treasury of the city, which was really fun! I also saw the monastery there that was clear up in the mountains, and it was SO beautiful! It was a breathtaking sight to see. (Not the universal adjective kind of breathtaking though Dad.) I had a lot of fun there, and it would be fun to go back someday. I think one of the things that made it fun was that they didn't guide us around at all like we normally do at almost all of the sites we visit, but they just let us do whatever we wanted and go to whatever stuff we wanted to see because there was a lot to see. We got there at about eight in the morning, and we left at three in the afternoon.
So after Petra, we got on the bus to head back up to Amman to see the rest of the sites on our trip. Well, I guess we couldn't make the three-hour trip just three hours because guess what? Our bus broke down again halfway through the drive. So we stopped at a rest stop and waited there for an hour or so, so they could send another bus to us. Haha! The tour guides that were with us let us get a bunch of free snacks and drinks at the rest stop to make up for all the broken down buses that the tour company would pay for. Finally another bus got there, so we transferred all of our suitcases, bottled water, and other stuff we'd brought with us to bus #4. And still no one complained. Everyone just had a good attitude, and we all just made as many jokes as we could about three buses breaking down on us in the desert. It was really funny. Then we drove back up to Amman that night, and we stayed the night there.
The next day we visited the Amman Citadel on a new bus that they gave us, so by that point we were on bus #5, even though that one wasn't really a transition because we were just getting on from the hotel. Amman Citadel is the site of Rabbah where Uriah the Hittite was killed in battle under the leadership of David's captain Joab. Meanwhile, David was at home with Bathsheba. There was a temple of Hercules there and a really pretty mosque. It was a really cool place even though most of the ruins weren't from biblical times. After that, we visited the Jabbok River. It divides Ammon from Moab in biblical times. There we talked about Jacob's vision of the ladder and about the Abrahamic covenant blessing all the people of the Earth. It was really an awesome spiritual experience to sit there and know that Jacob saw an angel on the banks of that river somewhere on his way to visit Esau. After that, we visited my favorite site of the whole trip, Jerash. Jerash was a really awesome old Greek/Roman city that is sometimes thought to be Jershon in the Bible, but no one really knows. There were the coolest ruins there of old columns and temples. It had two theaters, a couple of roads, and temples to Zeus and Artemis there. It was just so cool to go and explore the city. I'd never been in a place like that before, and it was just beautiful. I wish I could have seen it in its heyday. After Jerash, we did something pretty different. We visited the Royal Automobile Museum of the Hashemite Kings of Jordan. There were a lot of cool cars there, but it just really wasn't my thing, and I don't think I knew enough to really appreciate what I was seeing. But it was nice to do something inside in the air conditioning instead of just sweating outside while we look at ruins like we normally do. Then we went back to the hotel and had a little while before dinner to just relax. After that, we could go out into Amman, and my friend Amy saw a Subway, so we went in and got cookies because we realized we hadn't eaten an honest to goodness cookie in over two months. It was so delicious! We also found this guitar band that on the street. They were really good, so we stayed there and listened to them for a while before we had to go back to our hotel.
On our last day in Jordan, (the 4th of July and the day after the military coup d'etat in Egypt), we visited an ancient Roman theater in downtown Amman. In the theater, we sang patriotic songs to America, and it was great. :-) We then drove over to the Jordan River at the place called "Bethany beyond Jordan" (or Betharbara as it is called in the New Testament) and talked about Christ's baptism. It was a really great spiritual experience. We sang "Come Follow Me" there and the primary song called "Baptism" that talks about Christ being baptized by John the Baptist. Even though it was stifling hot there, I could feel the Spirit testify that Christ really was baptized and that it's important to keep my own baptismal covenants. I thought a lot about the picture I got at my baptism of the LDS version of Christ's baptism and how some nice person put a paper in there with my name and my baptism date and the sentence "I am following his example." I have looked at that picture everyday since then (besides while I've lived here in Jerusalem) and how much that has helped me to remember not only when I got baptized but how it felt that day to get baptized and as I've gotten older to understand the promises I've made and renew each week when I take the sacrament. I'm really glad we got to go there even though it was so hot and humid right down by the river.
After that, we headed to the border crossing, which we got through in about an hour and drove back to Jerusalem. When we got there, we had a big 4th of July dinner that the cafeteria threw for us. We had hamburgers and hot dogs and apple pie. It was all really good, but it just wasn't quite American food still. And we all dressed up as people from American History. It was really funny some of the costumes that people came up with. After dinner was over, we all dispersed to do our homework for class the next day. So there weren't any fireworks, but that's okay because fireworks go off at the hotel across the street from us pretty often because they have a lot of weddings there. It was one of the best 4th of Julys of my life though. It was really fun and very spiritually fulfilling.
I forgot to say anything about the food in Jordan. A typical meal was rice with some kind of vegetable soup sauce on top with some meat on the side. All of the food was so good in Jordan. It was way better than the food we ate in Turkey I think. They had normal cake for dessert a lot of times, and we ate tons of pita bread and hummus. So the food was great, and luckily I didn't get sick this time around like I did in Turkey. We didn't eat any fresh fruit besides watermelon and cantelope because we couldn't eat things that had been washed in their water.
Overall it was a great week, and I really enjoyed all of it. I think this trip was more fun than Turkey because I know everyone better now and was able to have more fun because I'm better friends with everyone now. And this time, I felt like I was sharing experiences with people that I love rather than just a lot of acquaintances. We get to go to Bethlehem on Monday, and I am really excited!
The outside of St. George's Greek Orthodox Church in Madaba. Notice the "Chi" and "Ro" letters combined on the gate to let you know it is a Greek church. (It's like their version of the cross.)