This is the second post from our Secrets of Egypt and the Nile trip. Actually this is the second day of our pre-cruise excursion to Jordan. You can catch up on our first day here.
The view from Mt. Nebo. The Dead Sea is on the left just over the trees. The Jordan river valley is the dark line extending from the Dead Sea from right to left.
Ok, I have to admit I had low expectations of Mt. Nebo. I was expecting a little knoll with a sign that said "This is where Moses saw the Promised Land....and died". Or something to that effect. Instead we were greeted with a magnificent, sweeping view of the Dead Sea, Jericho, the Jordan River valley and the mountains of Jerusalem. The site is very well preserved by the Franciscan order of the Catholic Church and treated with respect and veneration. There's a couple modern statues and a church / museum. The museum is built on top of an old byzantine era church and houses terrific and well preserved mosaic floors from the original church. There's also an olive tree planted by Pope John from his visit in the year 2000.
But the view is striking. You really get the full meaning of the Bible story of the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years and finally seeing the land of milk and honey. From the mountain top, you can get a sense of being masters of all you see and what a wondrous sight all that water must have been. Moses is supposedly buried here, though his tomb has never been found. The site of baptisms of both John the Baptist and Jesus could be seen from the view point. The sense of historical significance is impossible to escape.
This is the demonstration of the mosaic making process. First a canvas is stretched across a wooden frame. Next the artist draws the pattern on the canvas. A variety of colored rocks, all local are cut into strips for the artist to use. The strips are then snipped into a variety of triangular like shapes and sizes. These are glued (water and wheat gluten) to the canvas. The canvas is then grouted to a wood backing board and frame. When dried, the canvas is removed with hot water. This means the artist pattern has to be mirror image and the front is a nice smooth finish.
A short ride from Mt. Nebo, we stopped at a Mosaic shop. Well, not just any shop, this one was commissioned by the Queen to address an unemployment problem. Unemployment in Jordan is upwards of 25%, higher for the youth. So the shop provides 2 weeks of training for citizens. After that, the individual is free to come to the shop or work at home and keeps most of the sales of their mosaics. We were treated to an engaging demonstration of the mosaic making process. We were then sent off to the shop, which included all manner and size of both wall hangings and table tops as well as a variety of locally made gifts. There were some really great artistic pieces there.
Floating in the dead sea. It was helpful to have water shoes on because the rocks are sharp and uneven.
Our float trip
We then headed down a very steep, very winding road toward the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is surrounded by resorts and we ended up at the Crown Plaza resort. After getting our day passes, we headed to the changing rooms where we changed into our bathing suits. We headed down to the beach. The descent is very steep and most of us needed a hand (from the resort employees) into the water. But once the water was up to your knees, you could easily float on your back. No need to tread water, hands and legs were free to relax. I was expecting the water to be more oily, but really it just felt like very salted ocean water. The wind made for a bit of a choppy experience, but it was really fun and unique to simply float on water.
Next we went ashore and got a "famous" (at least in these parts) Dead See mud bath. Exposed parts (below the neck) are slopped and slathered on with dark black mud. After a short while it dries on the skin. It's supposed to infuse your skin with all sorts of healing minerals. Maybe. A high pressure hose is used to wash off the mud and then we headed back uphill to the changing areas. Next came a nice buffet lunch at the resort. Finally we headed to our hotel, the Movenpick at Petra where we enjoyed a nice dinner. We even made it to the Cave, a bar somewhat built into the rocks at the entrance to Petra.
The view from Mt. Nebo is one that sticks with you for a while. It's both striking for it's views and significant for it's place in Biblical history
Our view into the way country is training people seemed to be a very modest effort.
The Dead Sea experience is so unique - sure it's a little gimmicky but I guess that's the point. It's literally impossible to have the experience anywhere else in the world.