Published: November 22nd 2009November 6th 2009
We had about 5 minutes to reflect on our desert adventure before our ride appeared: Drora, her brother Nachom and his wife Sara whisked us away to their home in Eilat at the southern tip of Israel. After a few hours (or half that if Nachom's at the wheel) of desert driving and remote scenery, we arrived at Eilat.
The city is surrounded by the Red Mountains on either side, and it marks the beginning of the Red Sea. To our east was Jordan, where you could clearly see the growing city of Aqaba across the bay; and to our west was Egypt and the beginning of the Sinai peninsula.
We enjoyed a rest day checking out a spice market and dining at Kibbutz Eilat. We couldn't leave Israel without one meal at a chadar ochel, or communal dining room. Then it was time to meet more of Itay's cousins. Michal and Avi both live in Eilat, and we had a great time hanging out with them and their kids. Shai, the eldest daughter of Avi and his wife Rahav, even gave us a painting she made for the occasion. How sweet!
On our last day in israel
we made a historic trip across the border to Petra, Jordan. We would cross into Jordan for the first time in our lives, Drora and Nachom included. It was the first visit by anyone in the Shalev family to Petra since Itay's grandfather Efra visited 16 years ago.
A short prelude is in order at this point. Efra, Matti's father, was a lifelong student of archaeology. A traveller of many countries, he had longed to visit Petra most of his life. Only thing in his way was Middle Eastern politics. At that time in 1993 the Jordanian border was off limits to Israelis. As a native of Vienna, Efra successfully applied for an Austrian passport and was able to cross into Petra. Once he arrived, he walked everywhere. Remember, this is an Israeli in his mid-80's walking through Jordanian territory.
Somewhere along the arduous path up to the Monastery, he collapsed straight on his face. His nose was bleeding, but this fall didn't stop him - a donkey took him up to the Monastery and then back down. Upon his return, Efra told his family if he had died that day he would've died a happy man knowing
At the High Altar of Sacrifice
Enjoying the view after a long walk up. In the background is Petra new and old
his dream of seeing Petra had been realized. As luck would have it, Israel made peace with Jordan about 3 months later but Efra was didn't bet on waiting for that day to come.
Our journey was a piece of cake compared to Efra's lifelong dream. We crossed into Jordan on foot and after an hour of border beauracracy, we were on our way in a pre-arranged taxi. Two hours later, we were standing at the entrance and excited to see the sights of Petra for the day.
How to sum up Petra? Almost impossible but we'll try. As one of the major stops along the ancient spice trade, it became a powerhouse of international culture and economic influence under the Nabatean civilization more than 2,000 years ago. I'm still baffled thinking that I saw a civilization built 2,000 years ago with my own eyes! Instead of bringing rocks to their city, they brought the city to the rocks. Everything from a treasury to temples to amphitheaters were sculpted straight out of towering rock walls. You can read all about their history here
. Petra is one of those places you must visit before you die. It
At Dr. Dag's
Amit, Ran and Itay
has something for everyone...a historian, archeaologist, geologist and a curious traveller. Maybe Efra was onto something after all!
It was worth it to visit Jordan if only to see Petra, but we are all very happy to cross back into Israel by nightfall. That night Nachom and Sara's youngest son Ran drove from Beersheba to see us. We strolled the boardwalk and met up with Ran's childhood friend Amit, who entertained us at his new spa called Doctor Dag
. As the name suggests (dag = fish in hebrew), it was quite a unique pedicure experience to have little fishies nibbble at your dead skin cells. Apparently these pedicures are all the rage and you have to try it yourself!
Our last day in Israel was short and sweet thanks to Yossi, the husband of Itay's cousin Michal. As an Eilat airport employee, Yossi managed to get us through security in record time. In the middle of answering lots of personal questions by a guard, I hear "family...family" and next thing I know we skip security and are sipping on Cafe Afugh with plenty of time for our flight. If only all our airport stories were
Before heading down the ancient spice route to Petra, we stopped in this store in Eilat. Who knew there were so many varieties of paprika?
that easy! Just like that we were back in Tel Aviv and on our way to the Canary Islands, bound for one week in Tenerife on our own. As we firmly believe, it's always best to take a vacation from your vacation before coming home:)
Thanks again to all the family and friends we met along the way. As they say, shana ba'ah be Chicago (next year come to Chicago)!
There are more photos below