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The last of Egypt and moving into Jordan!

Continuing the documentation of our travels…

When we got back to Cairo we only did a couple more things.  We visited Saladin’s (sic) keep and Mohammed’s alabaster Cathedral.  The architecture was beautiful, monstrous domes on top of each other with intricate inlays and stone work; great big buttresses and big thick columns –but only in four corners of the enormous room.  It was really beautiful.  Next we went to the Cairo Museum.  At first we were excited to go because we figured the museum would be air-conditioned.  Nope.  It was nice and stuffy, hot and muggy.  While there we saw all sorts of original statues, hieroglyphics, columns, obelisks, chariots, and mummies.  Lots of neat stuff, but we weren’t allowed to have cameras.  There was a big exhibit with original things from King Tut’s tomb, so that was cool to see all the stuff that would have been in his tomb when it was found.  Crazy how much stuff they crammed into such a small space.

Then we bused about six hours to get to the Suez Canal and Sinai.  We went to one of the traditional sites where it is believed Moses climbed Mt. Sinai to get the Ten Commandments.  This particular site had stone steps built by monks all the way up the top -three thousand seven hundred of them.  The girls and I climbed those to the top.  It was invigorating and exhausting because we started the hike at 2:30 in the morning and the stairs were very steep and large.  But we made it to the top and fell into the trap of renting a blanket because it was freezing before the sun had fully risen, as the Egyptians well know.  Everywhere you go there are dozens of little tent-shops where they have set up to sell you anything that has one whit to do with where you are.  At the top of this mountain there were people selling hot chocolate and renting warm thick blankets.  I gave in and paid 20 Egyptian Pounds for a blanket so six of us girls could be a little warmer while we waited for the sun to rise; it sounds like a splurge, but it was freezing and it was only $4.00.  LOL.  What a racket!

The place we stayed in was super nasty though.  Andrew couldn’t sleep that night (the air conditioning did not work in any of the rooms the group stayed in there) and said he saw bugs crawl out of the blanket and onto him. SICK!  We avoided the showers there, sustained many bug bites, and avoided much of the food.  Yuck.  Luckily we only stayed there the one night and left quite early for our next destination: Petra!

Because Sinai is so out of the way of everything else, it basically took up almost 2 days of travel.  The morning after climbing the mountain we packed back onto the bus for another long bus ride to Israel.  When we got to the border, we got an exit stamp in our passport and had all our bags checked then we walked all our bags (dragged I should say) to the Israel border to have them checked again and get our visas and a stamp and all that in our passports.  Where Egypt was very lax in their security (except for when they made me throw away my fluorescent pink round-tipped scissors because they were scissors…) Israel is overly cautious.  They opened every piece of luggage to inspect the contents, singled out “suspicious” looking people and asked them probing questions, and checked our passports what seemed like dozens of times.  I believe it took an hour and a half for us to get through.  Then we got on a bus to get some lunch (Mmmm shwarma [Andrew loved the shwarma we had so much that he sang songs about it to Judy for like an hour]) and drive to the border of Jordan where we did the whole luggage/passport/probing question thing all over again for Israel and then again for Jordan.  It was very tiring.  My shoulders and neck were sooooooo achy from having to carry all the carry-ons and push big full suitcases; we were very glad to get to a nice and neat hotel with a real shower.  Our Jordanian tour guide told us on our drive there that it used to be a village, but it was renovated and is now “a five-star hotel.” I don’t know about that, but it was really neat.  It was all walled in with a stone pathway throughout and all the rooms were different because each room used to be one of the homes in the village.

In the early morning we started out for Petra, thankfully it was only 15ish minutes away.  The tour guide, Rafaat, told us a little about the country including traditions about how they wear the head gear.  He was pretty funny.  This tour it was hard to hear what he was saying.  We usually have headsets that are receiver radios so the tour guide or Blair can talk in a normal voice about our surroundings into a microphone, but at the Jordanian border the receivers all got taken away because the security guard got suspicious of Amy when she reached out to open her fanny pack which was inside her suitcase.  We got them all back when we came back through the border though, so that was good because Blair keeps telling us that they are very expensive.  Anyways, Petra was pretty cool.  In the Indiana Jones movie they definitely added a lot of details to the façade of the tomb they used.  The whole city of Petra was a bunch of tombs carved into the sandstone, but because it’s sandstone, a lot of the details have been worn down by the rain that comes every winter.

After Petra we drove back through the border into Israel and spent two hours having our bags inspected by security then we hurried to get to the Red Sea where we could snorkel!  It was a really interesting experience to have to breathe completely through your mouth in and out, in and out.  I had to breathe pretty deeply to feel comfortable with it.  And the flippers were obnoxious and got heavy and my mouth was all dry and salty from the times I accidently breathed through my nose and let water in my mask or accidently dipped in too far and got water through the top of my snorkel.  I saw lots of neat fishes: blue and yellow angel fish; kissing yellow fish, big brown eels and fat fish, rainbow colored ones, and little blue and yellow guppies.  It was wild.  I was also starving after snorkeling for such a short time, it was only about 45 minutes or so.

The hotel we stayed at last night –after the Red Sea snorkeling- was pretty amazing too.  The food was excellent, especially after that place in Sinai we were at where the food and everything else was way sub-par.  Our room overlooked the beautiful bright blue Red Sea (what an oxymoron!) and down into the courtyard where there are banana or date trees and the fancy swimming pools.  We were sad to be leaving such a fancy hotel, but happy to finally get to a place where we’ll be able to stay for a few days rather than just one night.

This morning we started driving North towards the lowest point in the whole world, Jericho.  First, however, we stopped at Mesada, the great cliff mountain in the middle of nowhere that King Herod the Evil (in history known as the Great, but he’s a very bad man ordering the killing of all the babies and all that) built.  It was a sad and ridiculously hot place to visit because it was where Roman armies had come to put down a group of rebellious Zealot Jews and after a 3 year siege, when the Roman armies finally gained access to the mountain fortress, the Jews all killed themselves rather than subject themselves and their families to servitude under the Romans.  Sadsad.  And hot on top of the mountain.  They kept showing us all these crazy ways that water was caught and stored during the winter seasons so it made the heat even worse.  It made me wonder why after only a month or so into the summer here, there wasn’t any water in the cisterns.  Hmmm.  Andrew says it’s because they weren’t covered and it’s all evaporated.  That’s goofy.  They should catch the water and keep it, because apparently it lasts for seven years, and then it would be cooler there.  Duh.

Then we drove to a place where we could have some lunch and then float in the Dead Sea!  That was weird.  The water was heavy and slimy.  It also made my legs sting where I apparently had some small cuts, though I couldn’t find them.  After we got all rinsed off we piled back on the bus and drove to Qumran where the cave that had many of the Dead Sea Scrolls was; after that we drove to Jericho, but there wasn’t too much to see there, just some dirt that looked like piled up dirt that we were told were walls that are 10,000 years old.  Wowza.  And now, hooray, we are in a hotel with internet that’s not ridiculously expensive where we’ll be staying for three nights on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Getting tired out every day, but enjoying all the things we get to see, much love, Kiersten!

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