Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Emmy's Birthday + Jordan Week 4

Hello,

After finally publishing week 2 (and realizing that it also included week 3), I am now going to post about week 4.  As I type, I am just curled up in my bed, refusing to look at my german grammar book and upset that I can't put the food network, USA or HGTV on because the darn TV won't work.  Granted, yesterday, my internet was not working (maybe God is trying to tell me something) and I could not send my darling niece, Emaline, a birthday card! She turned 2 yesterday!! How wonderful!! Seriously, how time flies.  I wish I could have been there.  I have always been close with my family, but after my time abroad in the Middle East, I am ever so grateful for my family.  My parents and sisters helped me survive when I had no air conditioning, when I did not feel safe, and when I was incredibly home sick.  I love them so much!  I can't wait to be home, in NoVa in two and half weeks (then I have to leave for Dallas, but I will have a few days home).  
 Happy Birthday Emmy! (L I hope it is ok that I posted this photo!).  This photo was taken on Christmas Eve, I believe and all the presents under the Christmas tree were really for Emmy and Liam and it was so fun to watch them open them.  
I brought them toy camels from Dubai.  I think Liam liked them a bit more than Emmy.  
Family photo! I look massive - not the most flattering outfit on but oh well that does not matter when you are home and with family! 
How the Doherty family really is: always eating!  My favorite thing about our family is that we always eat.  Any event we have is planned around food or where we are going to eat.  Besides Liam, we all will eat pretty much whatever is put in front of us.  I did enjoy that day! Though being home was hard over the holidays, I only had a week before I had to return to New York City for basketball, so I had to unpack, pack and also literally pack up my entire room since our house is now on the market.  It took quite a while and a lot of effort because I have a lot of stuff, and I am probably a bit of a hoarder because I never want to get rid of stuff.  

SO basically, all I wanted to say was Happy 2nd Birthday Emmy.  Sorry for the long tangent.   Here comes week four of my trip in Jordan.  So yes, I had class every day from 8 am (I think...or was it 9 am?) until 2/3 pm depending on the day.  The internet did not unlock until 4 pm, and we also always got a lunch break around 11 am (I remember it being before noon and all of us originally complaining about how early that was but we quickly got into a rhythm).  Each day during the week (Sunday through Thursday) was pretty regular and consistent. Wake up, go to class, come back to the room and cook lunch - I fell in love with tomato sauce, cheese and eggs and beans in a corn tortilla - really yummy! I will make them some time and post them on the blog!  I would eat that or rice noodles, with tomato sauce and cheese.  The amount of cheese and tomato sauce we went through was incredible!  But it really added flavor to everything we ate!  And because it was coming from the US or Europe, I was not as concerned about it (to be honest).  Then we would go back to class for a few more hours before returning to our dorms and probably napping, because by then it was the hottest part of the day and as the summer wore on, it kept getting hotter.  We had no air conditioning in either or living quarters or the classrooms.  By July, SN and I were pretty sick with heat stroke, as well as some of the other people in our group.  Some got more sick than others but people did miss class from time to time. I would get painful headaches in my eyes which meant I had to be in complete darkness until the pain left. But by the time night rolled around, we had internet (slow but for the most part worked quite fine), did our homework, read or watched something (though downloading shows/movies took a lifetime!) and eventually we would go for a run/walk around the track.  I really got into my running up through July and was running about 24 laps at the end around the track.  However, the heat got worse by August, and I got pretty sick then so I just stayed inside and waited for it to be time to go home.  

But week 4 was still a pretty good time for me and we got to go the one place that I was most excited for: Petra (Betra in arabic - they don't have p's in the Arabic language and actually most native Arabic speakers have difficulty pronouncing the p).

This trip took up our entire weekend.  We left Thursday and returned late Saturday night (actually might have been Sunday morning because we had been so delayed).  Ok so we leave Thursday morning and head to King's Highway.  Honestly, there are not many ways to get to different places, there pretty much is one highway in this direction and another in the other.  King's highway hits most of the famous/tourist spots and also goes North to South.  Our first stop on the King's Highway was Mount Nebo.  Mount Nebo is mentioned in the Bible.  It is the location where Moses saw the Promise Land.    

 These first two, I took on the drive up to Mount Nebo.  I don't know about you, and I also don't think these photographs do the landscape justice, but it was just absolutely fascinating.


This was a very interesting sculpture... I can't explain it but it caused everyone to pause and look at it.  
This sculpture - sign that says, "Mount Nebo, Memorial of Moses."  
One of the great views from the Mount.
I thought the stone sculpture was interesting.








The whole group!!
This sign shows the different locations within the Promise Land (i.e. Bethlehem).

As we were returning to the bus, our group ran into an asian tourist group and since I am 6 feet tall and pasty white, they wanted a picture with me.  Just going to say it, the guy totally had his hand on my rump.  Little Awkward. 
  
OK.  So after we left Mount Nebo, we proceeded south on the King's Highway until we arrived at one of the original christian towns in Jordan (and the Middle East) - Madaba.  It is most famous for its ancient mosaics - even referred to as the City of Mosaics.  Some of the oldest mosaics in the world have been found in this city.




I thought this mosaic was beautiful - remind me of an Irish symbol - the ever knot.
So there is an amazing mosaic found in an extremely old Greek Orthodox basilica, Saint George Church.  The mosaic found is an index map of the region from the 6th century.  It contains the earliest representation of Byzantine Jerusalem (Holy City) and provides important details of certain landmarks, i.e. the cardo - central colonnaded street and the Holy Sepulchre church.  It provides scholars with a layout of Jerusalem afters its destruction in 70 AD.










Just above is a closeup of the walled in Holy City.
Of course, where did we eat for lunch while we were in Madaba, a pizzeria.  While slow, the pizza actually was pretty good and it really did remind me of home.  Myself and SN chose it originally but then everyone else came in and joined us.  To be honest, I was completely tired of Arab/Jordanian food - no more falafel or hummus please! it was nice to take a break.  
  
I also forgot that I had this picture.  In the morning, when we were on our way to Mount Nebo, not many of us had had breakfast, so we stopped at a McDonalds (while similar was actually quite different from any other experience I ever had at a McDonalds) and our professor from NYU treated SN and myself to coffee.  It tasted closer to American coffee than any other type but it still reminded me of Arabic coffee - which is one of the reasons I got off of caffeine! That and the fact that for the most part the soda brand offered everywhere is Pepsi (which I think is because a VP at Pepsi is Arab), and I can't drink Pepsi, so I went through my caffeine withdrawal during the summer and continued through the fall.  I only recently started drinking diet Coke again and it is only to help me stay on track for studying - or so I keep telling myself.

Ok so after all that, we finally get to Petra in the evening and allowed to go get dinner on our own and explore.  I practiced my arabic in some of the stores, but everyone spoke English very well - my speaking Arabic actually attracted more attention than I would have wanted but everyone was quite nice.  SN and I got dinner at a really nice restaurant in the hotel right at the entrance where she had stayed with her family the previous time she had visited Petra.
We went into the Petra park at 5 am in the morning on Friday - al-Jumah.  It was really smart because the crowds did not start arriving until after morning prayer and the bedouins that sell goods everywhere in Petra (because they live there in caves) sleep in on al-Jumah.  So we really had Petra to ourselves that morning.  









Just to let you know it takes at least an hour to walk all the way into the canyon to get to Petra.
This entrance made me so excited because I am a huge Indiana Jones fan and this was the one place I really wanted to see while living in Jordan (that and Israel) but I was just freaking out for that entire walk to Petra and once I got to this part, SN had to calm me down.  
This is the treasury - the famous entrance from the movie.  They are excavating it so we can't go in.  So we just took a bunch of photos in front of it.
The whole group.
All the girls with Professor Credi - my Arabic Professor from NYU.
So right at the entrance is only the Treasury, you then have to walk down a corridor to where there are more buildings built by the Nabateaans in 312 BC as their capital city.  They were influenced by ancient Egyptian (New Kingdom, I believe) architecture and they were able to thrive because of their ability to control water with dams and conduits.  They were really incredible.  It was only under Roman rule did they decline.  However, it was a massive earthquake that destroyed several buildings as well as the water system, and this lead to the abandonment of Petra.  It is a really cool story, and you should read about it - Queen Noor mentions it in her biography but also most tour books include an extensive section on Petra - and netflix has a documentary! 



Royal tombs! Again, very similar to New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt royal tombs.  Honestly, as I explored different parts of Jordan and Israel as well as elsewhere, similarities between different cultures, specifically ancient Egyptian, were obvious throughout my explorations.  While we believe we are in a new age of globalization, there was already so much interconnectedness between these civilizations through trade and what not.  It really is a bit incredible - mind blowing or mind bottling.  

There is a hotel within Petra.  Its a bit weird to be honest. 
So we decided to not visit the Byzantine Church that is on a hill, we decided to rather climb and find the monastery that is quite separate and high up in the mountains.  While there are "stairs," most tourists opt to ride on donkeys up and down the "stairs" because they are quite difficult.  




The monastery!


So what we are looking at here is Jabal Haroun (aka Aaron's Mountain).  There is a white tomb on top of the mountain - its there! Just the picture does not show it very well but it is the tomb of Moses' brother Aaron, and is a pilgramige site for Christians.  


Again, my photos just can not do the landscape justice.  It is just so beautiful and amazing that it exists.  
SN is standing next to a stone collection - people believe that it is bad luck to leave this view without putting a stone in place for a statue - we stated our own because this one was so big.  
So I had to have my first ride on a camel.  Now I have been on them more than enough.  But, at this time, I was nervous that I would not get on one so I climbed on top of it and goodness the way they get up and down is alarming.  To get up the front two legs stand up first and then the back two so its just very alarming for your first time.  Going down is worse and you can tell by my face I found it funny - well uncomfortable, I always laugh when I am uncomfortable.   Good times.   





I had to take a picture of this... just found it so funny. 

We then left in the afternoon, to continue our trip to Aqaba (Red Sea resort town in Jordan).  Sadly, we were not there for even 24 hours but we did spend the night there.  It was another few hours trip to Aqaba and we actually stayed outside of Aqaba at this really beautiful resort on the Red Sea right at the border of Saudi Arabia.  
They gave us a fresh juice drinks when we arrived - none of us could really afford to eat there so we went into town and had chinese food - that's right, chinese food - for dinner.  It was actually pretty good though I was a little nervous that I would get sick.  I did not, thank goodness!
view from my room.  Oh and the hotel had air conditioning! Our hotel in Petra was not so nice, and it was because we had a new coordinator and he had been late in getting a reservation, so the nice place we usually stay at was taken.  But we were not far and they gave us breakfast, well manageable, and we were not there for much time.  This was also the reason why we were not located in Aqaba but actually closer to the border of Saudi Arabia and in a too nice of a hotel.  However, it was fine and I had a very enjoyable time.  


The Red Sea does not have as much salt concentration as the Dead Sea but it still allows you to float quite easily.  It was actually quite warm so was really relaxing to be in.  I actually really enjoyed that trip there.  Some of the girls got massages while we were there, I would have loved to do that but I opted for the buffet breakfast at the hotel - as I said, food is always more important to me.

So Saturday afternoon, we had to get on the bus and return but in fact, one of the people in the group became really sick and had to be taken to the hospital in Aqaba, and we got stuck there for several hours.  It was fine and we got to talk with some locals and had amazing dates and lunch.  Eventually, we got on the road but had to make several stops on the way back because two other people got sick as well.  The program coordinator thought it might have been because they ate street Arab ice cream - don't do that!  It is hot, ice cream is dairy, if it is out on the street its probably going bad.  In the evening, I am not sure what prompted it, but I got one of my ocular headaches and had to take my contacts out - of course could not find my glasses (forgot them in my place in Irbid).  It was totally dramatic but I had to shut out the lights so I wrapped my scarf around my head and slept after taking some pain killers (which I never take, because I used to take them way to much they caused ulcers).  It was rough.  But we made it back and were now halfway through our stay in Jordan - sadly the last half would not go fast enough, and with the heat increasing, we were just getting more sick. 

Before I go, I forgot to mention that the day before our trip, was 4th of July.  While we did not have fireworks or traditional American food, the program and university staff provided us with a delicious dinner with a middle eastern twist.  I only took pictures before we got started so none of the food but the roasted tomatoes and onions were extremely delicious.

Thanks for reading!  
With joy,

A

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