Jessica L. Gagne and Friends
*Name(s) : Kate and Friends
*Tour Duration : 09 Days/08 Nights
*No of Travelers : 04 Persons
*Tour Type : Private Tour
*Tour Covered : Most sites of Jordan
*Arrival & Departure Dates : During September 2013
*Nationality : United Sates
*Thier Plog :
First, we went to the town of Madaba to see the oldest known map of the Holy Land (it dates back to 6th century AD). It was in the form of a mosiac, spread out across the floor of an old Greek Orthodox church. Not exactly a convenient portable guide for your Holy Land travels, but a cool site to see!
Next, we headed to Mount Nebo. This is said to be the mountain where God showed Moses the Holy Land right before Moses died. Some say Moses may have been buried on this mountain as well. From the top, you can see a beautiful view of the Dead Sea and Israel, including the cities Jerusalem and Jericho. There are also ruins of a church on the mountain that date back to the 4th century AD. It is a spot that is considered holy by many, and while we were visiting, there were other groups praying on the mountain.
After that, we arrived at the Dead Sea. Let me just start off by saying the Dead Sea rocks. The water is warm, you can float on it effortlessly, and it is said to have healing properties. I have a scar on my leg that I got about five years ago from a Ramen Noodle fiasco, and while I was in the water, I noticed that the area where my scar is was tingling. I looked down and my scar was a little red, and it looked like tiny little new scabs were forming on it. I was pretty amazed.
And oh, the mud. It is almost like being a five year old again when you dip your hand into a giant dewar of black mud and
Covered in the 2.5 JD Dead Sea Mud!
begin covering your entire body with it. Except when you grow up, mud ain’t free. Yes, I paid for the mud. 2.5 JD to be exact. Whatever, it was worth it. My skin felt great after the mud application.****
There was also a pool by the beach area we visited, which was nice because you shouldn’t dip your face in the Dead Sea water unless you enjoy searing pain in your eyeballs (The Dead Sea is basically salt with a little water in it.) Our group relaxed by the water for a few hours, then boarded the bus back to Amman. It was a wonderful trip.
Last full day in Jordan today. Being here has been fantastic, and I feel so lucky that I got to experience this country.
For the last three days, my group and I have been travelling to different sites around Jordan.
First stop was Petra, a city that was literally carved out the mountains. It is an extremely well preserved piece of history that the Jordanian people have. Archeological evidence suggests that Petra was inhabited by tribes as far back as the 16th century BCE. The grand facades that you see in my pictures are said to have been constructed in the 1st century BCE in a style similar to the that of the Roman’s, who had their empire to the West. The major difference is between the Romans’ buildings and the Nabataeans’ is that the Nabataeans built most of their buildings right into the rocks that were already there. Imagine carving your house out of a giant mountain; time consuming I would guess, but the product of their work still stands today. Petra is like a city out of the pages of a history book, but mixed with the beauty and seclusion of a desert environment. A group of students and I hiked 2 hours and climbed up 1,000 ancient stairs to the Monastery that stands at the top of a mountain, and got an amazing view of the gorgeous expanse of land that surrounds Petra. And of course, we took touristy photos at the top too.
The next day, we travelled to Wadi Rum (or “Valley of the Moon”), a desert preserve that is protected by the country of Jordan. We arrived there at sunset, and took a jeep tour through the area to watch the sun set against the beautiful stones that have been naturally etched by water and wind for hundreds of thousands of years. Besides that, there is not much I can put into words when it comes to Wadi Rum. It was just a beautiful place, and I feel like my pictures do not do it justice. After the jeep tour we stayed in a desert campground, and spent the night smoking and dancing by the fire, and watching the sky ignite with shooting stars. We woke up and road camels for about a half our to get one last look at the gorgeous Wadi Rum before heading out.
We learned from Dr. Raed al-Tabini from SIT that the Bedouin people have inhabited the Wadi Rum area for centuries,
and the tribes still live their today in traditional tents with their families. In the past, the Bedouins were a nomadic people that tended to livestock and travelled all throughout the Middle East from present day Saudi Arabia up to lower Iraq in an area that was know as Greater Syria. After WWI, Greater Syria was take over by the French and the British, and they divided in into separate states with secure borders, which stopped the Bedouin people to roam with ease. Because of this, they were forced to settle down and abandon their traditional nomadic way of life. To this day their are tensions between the Bedouins and and the Jordanian government, and the Bedouin culture has been forced to abandon their livestock operations in exchange for stationary agricultural activities. I mention the Bedouins because I found their story to be an interesting intersection between politics and tradition in modern day. Secure borders are important for a secure nation, but I feel like it is important for us to remember that political red tape can destroy cultural traditions of a people who are not aware of or involved in politics at all. Should the Bedouins just get with the times at the expense of thousands of years of culture and heritage, or should we bend the border rules for a special group of people? I know the answer is almost always the former, but I guess I just think we should keep traditions in mind when making political plans so as to not wipe out all the world’s cultural roots. Much easier said than done I am sure. Okay, no more political ranting.
The last day we spent in Aqaba, the biggest (and basically the only) port city in Jordan. It sits on the tip top of the Red Sea, and it was really nice to see a huge expanse of water again. We spent the day on a boat, snorkeling over coral reefs and enjoying the sunshine. Just a half mile out on the water, we could see 4 different countries from the deck of the boat: Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel. It was like we were at the crossroads of the Middle East. I wondered how difficult it would be for me to just “enter” another country undetected by swimming for it. Then people on the boats told us not to swim to any other countries or we would be kidnapped. Not sure if they were kidding, but either way I decided to stay in international waters. The boat trip It was a really fun way to end our excursion out of Amman. Back to work tomorrow!
DCN: Jordan has a king, King Abdullah II, and his pictures hang everywhere around the city of Amman. The people here respect and love him, and since being here, I have found that the people have relatively little objection to being ruled by a monarchy. The King is not just a figure head either, he has the ultimate say in the political decisions of the country. There is also a Prime Minister, who is appointed by the king and deals mainly with economic policy. Interestingly, the recent protests in Amman calling for reform have been targeted at him, and not at the royal family.
After dinner at my home stay, Ally and I sit down and talk to our host family for about three hours. We eat (and eat, and eat), drink aguila (not sure if I am spelling this right, might be spelled argeela) and talk about whatever comes to mind. It is nice to be away from TV and internet for a little bit, and to get to know more about Arab culture first hand. I am very lucky to have such an open minded and social home stay family. I can ask them about a lot. We talk about politics, how each of our cultures views the other, and the influence of the media on perceptions of people in different parts of the world.
One night, Reham, her nephew Hamous, Ally and I were chatting at a cafe downtown. As we were talking, the new Madonna music video came on the giant TV screen near us. Madonna was literally thrusting crotch to the camera with her underwear clearly visible beneath her extremely short dress. Now I am proud to live in a country where Madonna can gyrate incessantly on TV and not be censored, but I have to admit, I felt embarrassed while it was playing. This type of video is popular in the US, and we chose to include sexually explicit material in our daily lives. I endorse it too; I like Lady Gaga and she is basically naked and doing crazy things all the time. I am very anti-censorship, but I can understand why a lot of people in the Middle East think American girls are “easy.” We wear our sexuality on our sleeve (or lack of sleeve, more like on our midriff-bearing tube top.) It is uncomfortable to watch a music video like Madonna’s within a culture that is extremely conservative when it comes to showing skin. I asked Reham if she thought all American girls were like Madonna, and she said she didn’t, but a lot of men do, and videos like the one playing the the cafe don’t help.
On the flip side, many Americans think that Middle Eastern woman are repressed because they can’t be as sexually open as we are. There are laws that prohibit that kind of overt sexuality, and you would be hard pressed to find a woman on the street wearing a skirt or pants above her shins. Even without the law, culture here deems scandalous clothing unacceptable. Someone wearing a tank top here would be like someone in the US walking down the street wearing a metal bra and underwear set with neon lights beaming out of it: people would stare and whisper comments.
Being in the Middle East as a woman has being an eye opening experience. So far, it has taught me that I am lucky to have all the freedoms that I do, but that doesn’t mean I have to flaunt them to the max all the time, especially around people who don’t have said freedoms/who don’t necessarily want to see mine. I think that mutual respect, and not making judgements based on what we see in the media, will help to make different views on dress, or anything other topic for that matter, nothing more than simply different views.
Headed out of Amman for a few days to Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba. Not planning on bringing the laptop, so probably won’t post for about three days!
Visited two cool and very different places in the last few days: The Market in downtown Amman, and King Hussein Mosque. (Side note, I have no internet at my home stay, and the internet at our school is pretty slow, so pictures and videos will be uploaded and added to posts as soon as I get to use a faster connection.)
The market is an entire street lined with shops full of clothes, food, spices, scarves, aguilas (hookahs), and all kinds of
other nick-nacks. It is busy and loud, with lots to look at and plenty of places to explore. The traffic in that area is really bad, so the smell of exhaust surrounds you as you are shopping, but if you can get past that, then there are some really cool items you can find for really good prices. Bargaining with the shop owners is part of the culture here. I bought a scarf, and I talked the shop owner down from 8 JD to 5.5 JD. I was all excited about my bargaining skills, and then Ally went up to him with her 8 JD scarf and got it for 4 JD. She’s good.
The girls here were warned that the market is one of the places you should be sure to “cover your features,” because there are a lot of men there and they tend to harass woman wearing revealing clothing (revealing in a relative sense), but I didn’t experience any of that really. A few people whistled or yell out of their cars at my group, but guys do that to girls in the US too, so nothing new. All in all I enjoyed shopping around, but didn’t stay too long for fear of spending too much and having nothing left for the remaining three and a half weeks of my trip.
This morning we visited the King Hussein Mosque. This was my first trip to a mosque, and my host mother made sure that Ally and I were properly attired before we left (I got to wear my new scarf, and Ally got to wear her new, less expensive scarf.) The mosque was built in 2005 and named after King Hussein bin Talal, who is the father of the current King Abdullah, and who reigned for 46 years before his death in 1999. He is well loved in Jordan, and international known for his peace efforts in the Middle East, especially with Israel. The mosque can hold over 2,500 people inside for prayer, and when it is full, there is an area outside that can hold hundreds more. It sits on 60,000 square meters of land, and there is also a park, a basketball court and a soccer field there, available for public use. It is a beautiful complex perched up on a big hill over looking Amman; it does not look like an intimidating structure, but more like a beacon, standing proud atop the city.
We got to the mosque an hour before afternoon prayer, and were given a tour of the inside. Since we have photography students on our trip, the tour guides let us take pictures inside the prayer room, and they said we were the first group that they ever allowed to do that, which I thought was pretty cool. When you walk in, there is an enormous space with vaulted ceilings and archways that provide support to the white marble building. The quibla, or recession in the wall that tells which way Mecca is so those who are praying know which way to face, was carved out of a dark wood and stood out nicely against the white. The whole place had a simple, modest and elegant design, which filled me with feelings of reverence and peace. It was a nice experience to be in a space considered holy by so many people, and to be allowed to study it in detail even though you are not a part of that religion.
DCN: Petroleum trucks playing music like an Ice Cream Truck in the US does. They turn on the music when they pull into a driveway, so whoever in that building order petroleum knows to come down and get it. People use gas tanks often in their house holds to run their stoves and other appliances, so we here the song booming through the streets all the time. It makes me crave a Bomb Pop. Someone have some ready we I get back to the US please.
* Pictures :