02 November 2008

Ash Shubak

About 30-40 minutes away from Petra we stopped at one of the desert castles, Ash Shubak. It was very similar to Karak. The castle was built on a high hill, the slope was paved into a Glacie. The one side connecting to the spine of the hill was protected by a moat. Ironically, it fell by siege just a couple months after Saladin conquered Karak. The castle was inhabited until 1950! The landscape was very reminiscent of Wyoming and Idaho. Dad hired an insistent guide to show us around. He was an informative guide with hands like an octopus. Back in the day he would have been appropriately called, "Fresh with the ladies." At one point he led me down a tunnel to where the tunnel opened under the floor of the chapel, calling Justin to come view his treasure (me). You got that right buddy. Amelia thought I was playing peek-a-boo. The castle housed a school of Arabic until 1953. Water is essential to survival here in Jordan (and anywhere I suppose). A spring clear on the valley floor was that closest water source besides rain cisterns. The boys investigated a tunnel of 376 steps leading from the castle to the spring. The girls went back to the visitor's center. Amelia scored two cool necklaces and a chocolate bar. Lucky girl.

Mom pointed out a section of desert covered with Iron Pyrite expelled from a volcano covering a large area. We stopped and Courtenay and I jumped out to admire the black rocks sitting on the sand. It gave the land an alien feel.

On the drive home Dad went through tunes on both Justin and Courtenay's iPods. His favorite song ended up being, Celebration! He asked Court to play the song again...she said no! Dad sort of balked then went back to listening to other songs that never quite made the bar. You could tell when Dad liked a song because he'd waggle his fingers and bounce his shoulders. We were all rockin' out! What an awesome trip.


Justin in front of the Treasury
Riding a camel with Amelia
The Treasury
The Street of Facades
The Urn, Silk, Corinthian, & Palace TombsThe South Temple

After church on Friday we changed into regular clothes, ate lunch, and packed up the car for an overnight trip to Petra. Mom, Jeremy, Jared sat in the very back; Amelia sandwiched between Courtenay and I; with Justin and Dad in front. We made a very lethargic group on the drive up, most trying to nap. We arrived in Petra without a place to sleep. Mom and I tried to make some arrangements but most hotels were already booked. Selah recommended two hotels but the slip of paper he used was tossed during the car pack up. Courtenay, Justin, and I took turns running into about 7 different hotels looking for a decent room for a reasonable price. The first hotel was ghastly. The next 6 were booked, the last was outrageously priced but not booked. So we took the room for 80 JD ($120 USD) per room...a total rip off. We had three twin beds in each room, with one extra bed for Jeremy. The rooms reminded me of a certain hotel Sister Stepp and I slept in about 10 years ago in Cape Verde. At least the sheets were clean and bug free. Dad was not too happy about stepping from the relative controlled chaos of his office to Lance family chaos. He had a forehead furrow about an inch deep and connecting eyebrows from scowling.

Everyone met at the car to walk down to the main street for dinner at the Red Rock Cave. We each ordered part of a mezza (dips and salads) and a meat. It was decent food. Then we walked down to the main entrance to find out when the gate opened and to peruse the shops. Most of the wares reminded me of the jewelry found in Egypt...gaudy, colorful stones set in silver! Love it. By this time it was 7:15 and we ran out of stuff to do. We all turned in with the plan of meeting downstairs by 6:30 am. I slept decently for the first time since Justin got here. My four inches of mattress space at Mom's is not very conducive to sleep.

Breakfast was a hurried affair, stuffing down sweet bread, eggs, and cereal. While waiting for Dad and Mom the rest of us stretched our legs in preparation for the hike. We paid the ticket price and began our adventure. First we hiked passed the horses and carriages ferrying people to the main attraction: the treasury. Amelia loved the horses. The first monument we hiked to were the Djinn blocks and tomb of the Triclinium. From there we entered the Siq (translated, the shaft) with the walls towering 300-600 feet above us. Every few feet is a votive niche containing a statue or carving. Each side of the wall has a water conduit cut directly into the rock, the rock is sloped in the shape of a "c" so that the water in the conduit is protected from dirt and reduces evaporation. The other side contained water pipes made out of terracotta. Amazing!! A Jordanian family walked nearby, he had three wives and 7 children under the age of 8. One little girl was super cute, asking, "what you name?" I tried to get a good picture because the ladies were dressed in complete Abaya.

We walked a little more than a mile down the Siq before the Siq opened up to reveal the amazing sight of the Treasury peeking through the walls. The sight took my breath away and filled about half my camera's memory card!! Courtenay, Jared, Justin, Amelia, and I all took a camel ride for 3 JD ($5 outrageous price for 3 minutes). Riding a camel is one of Justin's life dreams...now he needs to find a new dream. The camel was stinky but who can resist a picture of the Treasury on a camel. Amelia was not too sure about the camel. Inside the Treasury the carved walls were decorated by the rock's striations. As we walked out of the complex the canyon opened into a valley. From here numerous caves and tombs dot the canyon. My favorite was the Street of Facades. Further down is an amphitheater, temples, more tombs, and a Roman colonnaded street. The best word to describe Petra is: AMAZING.

We had a snack at the end of the main canyon then hiked back. Amelia fell asleep in the backpack totally scrunched up. Dad treated us to lunch before we started the trip home. I had fun reading more about the Nabataeans. It was easy to imagine 30,000 people living there. Most likely, the canyon area was for business and worship, most people lived above the metropolisis.

Halloween Monkey

Amman Citadel

Thursday we jumped in the car for an adventure in navigating the streets of Amman. Driving was a disaster due to lack of communication. I handed Justin a "map" of Amman and told him I mostly knew where we were going and indicated our current location and our desired destination. Jeremy and Jared had the day off school so we made them tag along. I got us about half way there then told Justin I needed to know what exit to take off the traffic circle. He couldn't find our street so we just drove around the upper old city near Rainbow street. I knew where to go with the map but it was impossible to navigate and drive. Justin lost his chance to drive so I dealt with it and eventually he apologized...it was I who needed to apologize. We ended up back at the same circle we got lost at and noticed a sign pointing to city center. After that I recognized our location. Phew. I kept trying to emulate Elder Haight's conference talk to laugh when you get lost on a vacation. I found a parking spot, illegal or legal it was where the Suburban stopped.

Our first stop was the Roman Amphitheater and Forum. Jared enjoyed racing to the theater top and playing "locate Jared." A gaggle of Jordanian women snatched Amelia from the ground mid-stride and whisked her to their break room, clucking over her cute outfit and hair. She was not too keen about the attention. Courtenay and Jeremy used the lack of supervision to take illegal pictures behind the museum ropes. Justin never tired of Amelia calling, "hi Daddy." We walked a bit to the North browsing two shops and a cool mosque during prayer time.

Justin drove, and I navigated to our next destination...much better arrangement. We took a rapid 30 minutes to check out the citadel and Temple of Hercules. Both places are located on the highest hill of the 7 hills surrounding Amman. The view from the top was incredible. Amelia loved playing on the rocks. Jeremy asked for his picture taken by this and that like any normal teenager wanting to update his Face Book account. Amelia started to complain due to stinky diaper and no nap, I resorted to playing "bum gun" with her (shooting her puncles with her bum). We were all starving by this time. Justin wanted a hamburger so we went off in search of a McDonald's. The combination of Jeremy and Jared's directions to McDonald's was enough to make several stops and u-turns only to end up at a Popeye's. Not! We went home for lunch and a nap.

Mom, Courtenay, and I stopped at the Embassy to decorate our corner for the Halloween party that evening. We did a marvelous job with a brown sheet, toilet paper, orange egg crates, and crepe paper. We RACED back home to get the rest of the clan only to go back to the Embassy for the party.

Amelia was totally cute in her "monkey with a banana" costume. I donned my pumpkin earrings like only a teacher (former) can ever wear with pride for the occasion. We waited in the annex for pictures then trick or treating. Each office decorated a corner or section of hallway. Some were really elaborate! My favorite was a Candy Land decorated hallway where each kid took a balloon and candy. Amelia's eyes were bigger than dinner plates once she realized people were giving her candy and mommy was letting her eat it. Justin and Courtenay helped push the stoller, thus sharing a portion of the candy booty.

We ended the evening seeing Dad whiz by going to his office for an evening of work (since he was not going in Friday afternoon or Saturday). The rest of us happily ate a greasy dinner of burgers and fries at Burger King. Even Amelia daintily dipped her fries and nibbled on a burger. She loves to dip anything she can. Little baby even likes hummus!

Madaba & Mt Nebo Take 2

Wednesday we checked out the embassy and went to Cozmo in the morning. We actually met up with Dad at the embassy cafeteria! He stormed in smelled our lunches and stormed out. Mom quickly tried to show him how to text message on his phone using the T9 function. He said that spelling a word was not difficult and the T9 spelled words for him in a way he couldn't control. We about died laughing over that concept.

Wednesday afternoon we piled into the car for a trip to Madaba. Selah was our tour guide again. This time I drove the 'burban to Madaba, trying to speak Arabic with my horn...I am pretty fluent in horn Arabic. One guy looked up to cuss out whoever was driving our big car; when he saw it was a WOMAN he balked and let me pass, incredulity filling his eyes. Our tour was a little more leisurely because Amelia stayed with Grandma. Selah told us his conversion story and a ton of other facts about living in Jordan. For example, our tax dollars are paying to repave the roads in downtown Madaba as part of an antiquities agreement. The locals thought their road was fine so are not too keen on all the construction that will eventually brighten their city and bring more tourists. It rained while on our way to Mt Nebo. The rain brought a completely different view than the one I had a couple weeks ago. The sun on the Dead Sea was spectacular.

We dined in Madaba at a restaurant Selah's brother works at. The restaurant had a delightful ambiance. Our table was next to a blazing fireplace. Old trinkets and Turkish era antiques decorated the rooms. We ordered Fanta...in the bottle...the best ever. Our dinner consisted of Mezza--dips and salads (hummos, Jdouna salad, tabulloeh, fries, olives, and hot bread) and a potato and lamb dish. It was about the best food I've had. Justin was feeling under the weather so he did not enjoy it very much. You know, the curse of Lawerance of Arabia! Poor guy.