A friend from the States was visiting and I knew this would be my chance to visit. The temperatures were predicted to be cool and the weather did not disappoint. The temperatures and the clouds were absolutely perfect for the day.
We began the trip by heading towards Mount Nebo and Madaba. I casually mentioned the places and my guest did not seem terribly interested so we headed straight down for the Dead Sea. I wanted to go the length of the Sea and then take the scenic route to Karak and then down to Petra.
As we neared the Sea, I pointed out the fruitful Jordan Valley, the river, the Sea, Jericho, Qumran, and pointed in the direction of holy Jerusalem. My guest was content and mostly silent, as introverts are. After minutes of delay, he piped up, "What are all these signs about the Baptismal Site? Just who was baptized in the River Jordan?" Taken aback, I realized I needed to give more fundamental biblical history.
After pointing out Qumran and Masada on the opposite side of the Sea several times, the car fell silent again. My guest asked, "Are we now in Qumran?" I asked, "Did we cross a bridge to the other side of the Sea?" He answered, "no" and I realized I still had to give more information about the area to him.
As we traveled south, I kept my eyes open for Lot's Cave because signs indicated it was present though I did not see any close reference to the spot. I was absolutely fascinated with the extent of the Sea and how much it is shrinking. One meter evaporates each year. That is a lot of evaporation. The southern extent of the sea seemed very dry and desolate. I felt so bad for the people who live there.
An ambitious project to fill in the Dead Sea with waters from the Red Sea is in planning phases. It will raise the water levels dramatically and will lessen the saline content. The big concern is the government has to choose between the water pipeline feed or protecting the many ancient remains that dot the land between the two bodies of water. I have to imagine this does not have to be "either or" but a "both and" solution. One does not have to preclude the other.
I had a sickening feeling that the land and towns would be very desolate because of the very harsh climate. It is clear that Bedouins continue to live on the land in small communities. The villages reminded me of the Native American reservation lands that I was in the Great Plains and the Southwest.
I soon discovered that the people were living in a fascinating terrain. I was mesmerized by the rapidly changing landscape I saw and the heavily traveled roads. It went from sand dunes to valley to beehives to switchbacks in a matter of a few minutes of driving. The roads were all switchbacks and hairpin turns, which raises one of my irrational fear of voids, but the roads were well engineered so I had no fear at all. I just wanted to glance out at the terrain as I drove. My curiosity exceeded my fear.
We kept ascending up the sloping foothills and mountains towards Karak. I told my guest about the importance of Karak to Christians because it was the furthest fortress in the east of the Holy Lands. Over 1,000 people lived in the castle at its height. Its magnificence remains. A French commander decided, against the will of every adviser, to attack Mecca, the holiest place within Islam. You can imagine the castle was decimated because of the folly of the commander and the Christian outpost stood no longer. If only people would listen.....
Then, after beginning our descent from Karak to Petra, my guest asks, "Is there any Chrsitian significance to Karak? Did Christians ever make it out this far?" I was puzzled. I took consolation in the fact that my friend was enjoying the scenery, which probably took his attention away from the history lesson I was providing.
More to come. On towards Petra.
To see photos of our trip, click on the link below:
1. Pics of our Journey to Petra through Karak