Israel & Jordan, Dec. 09

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December 31st 2009
Published: January 9th 2010
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Bedouin Camp, Jordan Bedouin Camp, Jordan Bedouin Camp, Jordan

All of our touring in Jordan was done with Desert Eco Tours (, which was very professional. - we LOVED staying at the Bedouin camp.


Israel & Jordan, December 2009

We spent our Christmas holiday in Israel visiting friends, Ofer & Tamar Shamir, and then traveling into Jordan for some touring.

The holiday was a mixture of seeing fantastic sights and being worried and sad over the health of our friends’ youngest son, 17 year-old Chen. Three years ago Chen was diagnosed with liver cancer which has metastasized, and while mostly conducting his life as a normal teenager (going to school, studying for his driver’s license, etc.), he had a set-back while we were visiting. He had to have an operation to remove part of a perforated intestine and was still recovering in the hospital when we left.

The original plan had been that Ofer & Tamar would travel with us through Israel and into Petra, Jordan for a day tour. When it became clear that they wouldn’t be
Israel/Jordan MapIsrael/Jordan MapIsrael/Jordan Map

See Nahariyya in the far north of Israel; then Eilat at the southern tip - we traveled the entire length of the country. Then see Al Aqaba on Jordan's southern tip and Jerash in the north - we traveled almost the whole length of Jordan as well!!
able to travel with us, we changed our plans to travel by ourselves and spend more time in Jordan (three days instead of one) and then to go to Jerusalem for a couple of days also.

While we were traveling in Jordan, Chen was taken to the hospital in Tel Aviv for the operation. After Jerusalem, instead of returning to Ofer and Tamar’s home in the far north of Israel, we stayed in Tel Aviv for the remainder of our holiday. We visited Chen in the hospital and had a lovely time with Ofer’s brother Rony, wife Dvora, and sons Nil and Guy, who live in Tel Aviv, as well as Ofer & Tamar's middle son, Shir. Rony is a chef by profession so we had the most amazing meal with them the night we left.

Before Chen got sick we did a one-day trip in the area around Abirim, which is near Nahariyya and Ma’alot. You can see the Lebanese border from that area and indeed a lot of the 2006 war with Lebanon took place there. Ofer & Tamar’s oldest son, Stav (currently in Texas), fought in this area, and Ofer was also active with the
Eilat, IsraelEilat, IsraelEilat, Israel

We only had a short time here but found it to be a very nice beach resort - more upscale than we'd anticipated
military command. When we called them once during this war, we could hear Katyusha rockets hitting in the area.

Eilat, Israel

We took a train from Nahariyya to Tel Aviv and then a bus to Eilat, which is just about the entire length of Israel - click on map above-left to enlarge it. Eilat is a beach area famous for SCUBA diving, but since we hadn’t planned to dive, we hadn’t brought our PADI certification, etc., so just over-nighted there before heading into Jordan early the next morning.

Petra, Jordan

We were with a sizable tour group for this day as the day trip from Eilat to Petra is probably one of the most popular. It was a busload of mostly English speakers and turned out to be a lot of fun. Our guide, Ali, was very knowledgeable, positive and had great people skills. He made the hour it took our group to cross the Israel-Jordanian border almost enjoyable.

It took about two hours on the bus to reach Petra, and then another hour to walk through Wadi Musa, the canyon* that leads into the necropolis. We did this slowly as Ali was
Petra, Jordan - Royal TombsPetra, Jordan - Royal TombsPetra, Jordan - Royal Tombs

You come out of narrow Wadi Musa into the courtyard of the Treasury building - every bit as impressive as we'd dreamed
explaining the history and painting a picture of what this grand entrance might have looked like in its hey-day.

*This canyon is featured in one of the Indiana Jones movies - there is a chase scene through it.

The canyon opens into the courtyard of the Treasury, a 1st century edifice most likely carved by Hellenistic architects. The use of the building remains a mystery, but it is almost certainly NOT a treasury, but perhaps a temple or royal tomb. It became know as “The Treasury” because local Bedouins believed pirates hid treasures in it.

Behind the Treasury area another canyon leads you to the rest of the necropolis - small burial caves for tradesmen and non-royals, and eventually into the Royal Tomb area. Bernard and I were staying at the site longer than the others; they had to head back to the town for lunch and then drive back to Eilat. Bernie and I got to have lunch in the ruins and then wander around until 16:30 when we needed to meet our driver who would take us to our accommodations for the night:

The Bedouin Camp, Jordan

What a hoot! December is
Jordan, Bedouin Camp courtesy of www.desertecotours.comJordan, Bedouin Camp courtesy of www.desertecotours.comJordan, Bedouin Camp courtesy of

After spending all day touring Petra, we stayed in a Bedouin camp for the night - TOTALLY enjoyed it! The main tent is on the right and the sleeping tent (sectioned off) on the left
winter even in the middle east, and deserts notoriously cold, so soon after our arrival at the Bedouin camp we had on all of our layers. However, when we got to the main tent, a nice (if smokey) fire was doing a fine job heating our Bedouin hosts and the ubiquitous kettle of tea. The tea was delicious, but since our tent had no bathroom (although there was a beautiful shower/toilet area with running water and hot showers in a separate building) I didn’t want to drink too much tea before bed time.

Our hosts spoke virtually no English, but were hospitable and friendly nevertheless - they kept our tea cups full, entertained us with music and singing and served a delicious (and waaaay too much) dinner.

We weren’t sure the camel’s hair quilts provided for us would be warm enough, but it turned out to be a most comfortable night. Getting up in the wee hours of the morning to visit the toilet has its advantages - wonderful star gazing!

It had clouded over near dawn because we awoke to rain, at first just sprinkles, but then a down-pour. We’d gone to the main tent for breakfast, so our hosts had to run over and gather our things to bring to the main tent, which they’d put a rain tarp over. The sleeping quarters weren’t water proof, so some of our things got a bit wet - nothing serious, but we were sure grateful the rain hadn't come in the middle of the night.

Wadi Rum, Jordan

We were worried the rain would ruin our trip to Wadi Rum - a vast valley with amazing rock formations, canyons, sand dunes and wandering camels, and indeed the first part of the 2-hour drive it was foggy. As we came down from the mountains into the desert, it cleared up and we had a most enjoyable day.

There were two other tourists with us: Paul and his mum, Nancy. Paul lives in Israel now, but was originally from Sydney, Australia, and Nancy still lives there. They were delightful to spend a day with, as was Hamza, our driver and guide.

The only bad part of that day was that we had to go south to the Jordanian/Israel border that afternoon for Paul & Nancy to return to Israel. Then we had to drive
Mt. Nebo, JordanMt. Nebo, JordanMt. Nebo, Jordan

Showing what Moses would have seen of the Promised Land on a clear, non-polluted day NOT like this one
north again to Petra where Bernie and I were spending the night before heading farther north through the capital of Amman to the Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash before crossing the border at Beit She-an back into Israel and catching a bus to Jerusalem. THAT was a long day.

Madaba & Mt. Nebo, Jordan

But before Jerash our guide for the day, Yusuf, met us at our hotel in Petra and we went to Madaba, 25 km south of Amman, to see the 6th Century AD mosaic map of the holy land found in the ruins of a Byzantine church (now a Greek Orthodox church), and then a short distance from Madaba to Mt. Nebo where God showed Moses the holy land:

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land.... Then the Lord said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it."


Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. --Deuteronomy 34:1-6

Click on the photo above-right to see more clearly the names of the places Moses would have seen from that view.

Jerash, Jordan

Jerash was definitely the highlight of the day. It is a modern town about 40 minutes north of Amman, but on the outskirts are the ancient ruins of a Greco-Roman city. Archeologists think the site was first inhabited in the Bronze Age (3200 - 1200 BC). In 285 BC Alexander the Great conquered it and turned it into the Hellenistic city of Philadelphia. Then the Roman Pompey conquered it in 63 BC. The Persian invasion of 614 AD was the beginning of the end for Jerash. The Muslim conquest of 635 completed the decline and a series of earthquakes destroyed many of the remaining buildings.

Border Crossing: We knew we needed to be at the Jordanian/Israeli border not later than 17:00 to catch a 19:00 bus to Jerusalem, and Joseph was very
Jersusalem, IsraelJersusalem, IsraelJersusalem, Israel

The Dome of the Rock with the Western/Wailing Wall in the right foreground
conscientious about timing. The passport control was a snap, took only minutes, and then Bernard and I walked out the exit door and down the road toward the next checkpoint. The first post was Jordanian to check that you’d paid the exit tax, gotten the proper stamps, etc. When these Jordanian soldiers saw us on foot, they quickly made it clear that we were NOT allowed to cross the border on foot and we were lucky we weren’t shot! They were, however, smiling when they said this, thankfully. We turned around, walked back to the first checkpoint and eventually ferreted out that we were supposed to take a bus over the border - all foot traffic had to take the bus. We were told several times if someone walked to the next checkpoint, they’d be shot. Guess we were lucky!

Because we had to wait for the bus to fill up, it took about an hour to cross into Israel where we hopped a taxi to the bus station and our bus to Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, Israel

Jerusalem was as wonderful as we’d remembered from our last visit 23 years ago - not much had changed in
Jerusalem, IsraelJerusalem, IsraelJerusalem, Israel

Church of the Holy Sepulchre built where Jesus was crucified. The church is shared by many Christian groups: Armenians, Copts, Greeks and Latins
the old city and its rabbit wren of streets, shops, churches, mosques - actually everything found in a modern city, but built on narrow stone streets, some of which might be thousands of years old:

3500 BC Bronze Age habitation
19th Century BC Jerusalem listed in Egyptian text - the first recorded mention of the city
1750 - 1500 BC Hyksos Period
537 - 332 BC Persian Period
332 - 63 Hellenistic Period
167-63 BC Hasmonean Period
63 BC - 324 AD Roman Period
324 - 638 AD Byzantine Period
638 - 1099 Early Muslim Period
1099 - 1244 Crusader Kingdom
1260 - 1547 Mameluk Period
1517 - 1917 Ottom/Turkish Period
1919 - 1948 British Mandate
1948 - Israel

Tel Aviv

We spent Christmas Eve wandering the picturesque streets of old Jerusalem, but since Christmas Day was a Friday, we had to make our way to Tel Aviv before sundown - the beginning of Jewish sabot (sabbath) when buses and trains stop running and most of Jerusalem shuts down. So on Christmas morning we made our way via bus to the beach area of Tel Aviv. It was a beautiful, warm day so we walked along
Tel AvivTel AvivTel Aviv

Left to right: Ofer & Tamar's middle son, Shir; Ofer, Rony, Dvora, Nil & Guy
the ocean and had a wonderful lunch at a seaside cafe - actually a very nice Christmas day. Tel Aviv is less observant than Jerusalem, so we also found another seaside restaurant opened in the evening for another delicious meal.*

*The Israeli diet is very healthy - lots and lots of vegetables and salads, for all meals, including breakfast. The breakfast buffets at the hotels had cereal, eggs, toast, etc., but the larger assortment by far was of salads and vegetables, and yogurt and cheeses.

Since Ofer and Tamar were in Tel Aviv staying with Ofer’s brother while Chen was in the hospital, we saw them before our departure. Rony, Ofer’s brother, is a chef by profession so we had the most amazing meal with their family. After dinner we went to the hospital to say good-bye to Chen and Ofer took us to the airport from there.

As I said earlier, it was an amazing yet sad holiday. Ofer gave us a phone to use on our travels, so we were in contact keeping up on what was happening with Chen. At times we felt guilty enjoying all the amazing new sights while Ofer & Tamar
Tamar & Kathy at Cave, Peki'in, IsraelTamar & Kathy at Cave, Peki'in, IsraelTamar & Kathy at Cave, Peki'in, Israel

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son hid from the Romans in a cave for 13 yrs after the collapse of the rebellion against Roman rule. Legend says Rabbi Shimon and his son lived off spring water and the fruit of a miraculous carob tree, and passed the time by writing the Zohar, the most important book in the Kabbalah.
were dealing with a life-threatening medical situation. Even though he has cancer, Chen’s immune system is very strong and he is extremely healthy otherwise. We have high hopes that he’ll be out of the hospital soon and getting his driver’s license too so next time we visit, he can be our chauffeur!

Don't forget to see all the photos below on this page and then click on "2" or "next" to see the rest

Additional photos below
Photos: 36, Displayed: 31


Countryside Near Abirim, IsraelCountryside Near Abirim, Israel
Countryside Near Abirim, Israel

Ofer & Tamar's home, Abirim, is in the extreme north, near the border with Lebanon in the Galilee
Peki'in, Druze Village, IsraelPeki'in, Druze Village, Israel
Peki'in, Druze Village, Israel

This tree appears on one of the Israeli's monetary notes. Druze are Muslim but are loyal Israel citizens and serve in the Israel military. We had a frothy, delicious drink made from orchid bulbs in this village where the people couldn't have been more welcoming and friendly
Petra, Jordan - Treasury Bldg.Petra, Jordan - Treasury Bldg.
Petra, Jordan - Treasury Bldg.

Then you walk out of the wadi and the Treasury building stands imposingly in front of you
Petra, Jordan -TombsPetra, Jordan -Tombs
Petra, Jordan -Tombs

Behind the Treasury building leading to the Royal Tombs are the tombs of craftsmen, etc.
Petra, Jordan - Royal TombsPetra, Jordan - Royal Tombs
Petra, Jordan - Royal Tombs

Past the tombs of the craftsmen, etc., the canyon widens and high on the right are the Royal Tombs
Looking Back at Royal TombsLooking Back at Royal Tombs
Looking Back at Royal Tombs

Past the Royal tombs the necropolis ends and the city of the living begins, of which ruins of the avenue of columns and temples remain.
Bedouin MusicianBedouin Musician
Bedouin Musician

We were entertained with Bedouin music and singing - an acquired taste I think, but fun for an evening.
Jordanian Bedouin ManJordanian Bedouin Man
Jordanian Bedouin Man

Gotta love that face!
Bedouin Camp & BBedouin Camp & B
Bedouin Camp & B

This food was just for the two of us! MORE PHOTOS ON NEXT PAGE: CLICK ON "2" OR "NEXT" BELOW

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