We woke up bright and early (6 AM Israel time, 11 PM NYC time on my travel-weary body) on Sunday morning to meet our driver that would take us over the border to Jordan. It was a 2 hour drive from Jerusalem, past Jericho and the Dead Sea (only seen from afar). It was interesting to see the country that must have been where Nephi and his family traveled after leaving Jerusalem- it was a desolate place and made me realize why Laman and Lemuel may not have been the best sports. ;)
The border crossing was quiiiite the event- our driver dropped us at border control (with zero explanation at any point along the way), where we met our tour guide, who walked us through passport checks and payments, then left us to board a charter bus (for 5 sheqels), which then took us approximately 300 feet around the corner and dropped us off at the actual border, where we got in a taxi that drove us about half a mile over the border and back to our tour guide and his driver in a sedan on the side of the road in the country of Jordan. Wow. It was the weirdest experience, but I was glad we didn't have to manage it all on our own. We drove first to the ancient Roman ruins in the city of Jerash. Excavations have found remains dating all the way back to 7500 BC here! All things considered (especially that this area was conquered and destroyed on many occasions), these ruins are in incredible shape. They're not closely monitored either, so you could pretty much go wherever you wanted inside.
An oval forum, colosseum/theater, government buildings, and a colonnaded street make it a pretty impressive collection in what feels like a modern city, about 45 minutes from the capital, Amman.
Just as we started our walk down the Colonnades, the cutest group of school students came out of nowhere- they must have been on a field trip. The kids and teachers were so nice and friendly- as was our experience with everyone we met in Jordan. Very warm and welcoming.
We stopped for a quick lunch in Amman, then drove on to Madaba. Madaba is especially known for their Byzantine mosaics- our tour guide told us they were the oldest in the world! The main mosaic was a map of Jerusalem, dating back to the 6th century, on the floor of the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George.
I was soooo tired from jet lag and while we were between stops, I was totally passed out in the backseat of our car. Literally, mid-sentence, our tour guide would ask Brian if I was awake because I was sitting up, with my sunglasses on, but completely asleep. Ha! I couldn't, for the life of me, keep my tired eyes open.
Next stop...Mount Nebo. This is where Moses, after wandering in the wilderness, was granted a vision of the Promised Land, but was told he wouldn't ever make it there. He died on this mountain and is buried somewhere closeby, although no one knows exactly where. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Jerusalem, but when we were there, only the Jordan Valley and Jericho were visible.
Can you notice the total desolation all around?!?! I can't imagine walking around here for a full day, much less 40 years!
More mosaics in this updated church on the top of the Mount.
We drove from Nebo to Petra, but arrived late at night to our hotel. We tried to go to "Petra by Night", but it only happens on limited days in the winter, and unfortunately, it wasn't happening on the one night we were there. Jordan has been a fascinating, old, and very friendly country so far. Everywhere we went, the locals questioned if we agreed with Trump or not. :) Also, our driver was quick to point out that the Jordanian dinar is worth more than the US dollar, so things in Jordan were pricier than what you'd expect. On to day 2 and Petra...