19 October 2008

Karak Castle

Yesterday we piled in the Suburban around 1pm for a day trip to Karak. Dad worked the whole morning at the embassy. He originally said work would be done by 10 am but had enough to fill his time until after noon. I was so glad he was able to come. We drove down the King's Highway about two hours south and east of Jordan. On the drive down Dad gave me an ear full of advice about touring Jerusalem from the best sights to the best restaurants. I studiously took notes and am working on a list of "must-do" items.

We wound through the hills finally revealing an amazing sight of the Karak fortress towering above the city's suburbs. I read about Raynald of Chatillon's reign of terror; making prisoners jump off the fortress to their deaths. The entire east side of the fortress is paved in slick stones, glacis, making that side of the fort impenatrable. The northern and western sides are protected by deep valleys. The only entrance is through the southern gate, protected by a dry moat. The fortress was finally overtaken by Saladin through seige not penetration of the fortress. I found the crusader's masonry skills lacking! Their blocks were rugged and misshapen. After Saladin took over the fortress the Mamluks added on to the original structures; their masonry skills far outshined the crusaders. Most of the fort consisted of underground rooms, tunnels, and staircases, all supported by ingenious arches.

Amelia did not nap quite long enough so she was VERY whiny most of the time. Poor thing. Dad decided to drive home using the Dead Sea highway as a change of scenery. The drive was amazing. We passed several Bedouin tents camped out near the highway. Dad showed me which direction Soddom and Gommorah used to be. We drove along the Dead Sea right at Sunset. I snapped quite a few pictures from my open car window. Dad stopped twice in order to get the perfect sunset picture. It was so cool to stand side-by-side with my dad armed with our cameras and acoutrements swapping techniques and advice. The flies by the Dead Sea are totally vicious. Swatting seems to encourage them rather then send them flying. Little buggers. I happened on a picture taken of my Dad where he looks like Indiana Jones! That made me smile.

Today Mom and I made 3-4 trips to the embassy. First we went to get some business done. I talked with the travel liason about our Jerusalem trip. Crossing the border will cost about $400 or more if we want a VIP service. Usually it can take 2-6 hours to cross Allenby Bridge from Jordan to Israel. The VIP service will take you across in less than an hour. I decided to leave Amelia with Mom for our Jerusalem trip. There is way too much to see with an independant 18-month old. We went back home for a quick Amelia nap, then back again to have lunch at the Ambassador's home. The new ambassador is a member of the church! His wife organized a visiting teaching luncheon for the sisters she visits and those who visit her. The mansion is amazing. Amelia tumbled out of her chair during lunch and was oddly inconsolable for 15-20 minutes. A spin in their garden fountain eventually cheered her up. Then we jogged back to deliver some documents to dad. I had Amelia wearing her child harness, cleverly disguised as a monkey. She was quite delighted with the monkey on her back idea. She even wanted to wear it to bed!! Too cute.