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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Holy Land Day 6 Part 1

This morning, as at the Sea of Galilee, we had coffee on our balcony before going downstairs to breakfast. The air is cool and fresh and we can see hawkers riding horses down to Petra. 

One can take a horse ride through the siq (canyon) but James warns us to sort out the tip first. 
Breakfast was everything anyone could want, smoked beef, beef bacon chicken wieners, eggs, potatoes, yogurts, grilled vegetables, fruit, dried and fresh, pastries of all kinds, teas of every variety, and cereal. The only thing they don't have is cream. But the milk is hot and good with the coffee. 
I emptied the mini bar, as it as complimentary, and after we'd checked out, we all walked across the street to the entrance to Petra.
The site costs about $75 US to enter, and is only for those who don't mind walking. Thankfully, we have a healthy group and a guide who is patient and knowledgeable. Of course we were bombarded by hawkers and I purchased some postcards, then three silver bracelets for $5.00. I was so proud that I was able to get him down, then Allan walked over to me to give me three more. His was the better deal. He traded his old dollar store sunglasses for them.
We stopped many times along the way through the siq, as we descended further and further inside. It was a pleasant walk and I discovered that on the top of one of the nearby mountains was Aaron's grave. The ancient Israelites knew of this place, and may have even stopped here. And the daughter of one of the kings thousands of years later married Herod the Great. The carvings and temple and grave fronts were amazing, and we learned about the dangerous flash floods that have happened.

And so were the hawkers and animal owners. Dangerous, that is. They would race through the narrow canyon at breakneck speed, the horses' hoofs echoing ahead of them in warning. A sweet little girl, a Bedouin child, tried to play the game of wanting to give the cards she had to me. They are always either asking you to hold something or want something as a gift. But once you have it, they demand payment. What can I say? They are cute and Canadians are suckers for cute kids. 

I gave her a dollar and took yet another packet of postcards.
One other lady in our group wasn't so fortunate. The young girl chasing her ended up punching her when she said 'no, thank you.'.
We continued on. The walk may be pleasant, but it is long, yet soon, we are rewarded with our first glimpse of the famed Treasury. 

It was spectacular! We had a group shot and several in our group tried a camel ride. I purchased two fake coins, although the hawker insisted they were authentic, for $2.50 each. One of our group had already purchased real antique coins with certification, and besides, I wasn't born yesterday. I ended up giving him a Canadian fiver, and he thought it was pretty. So we both ended up satisfied. I know they are knock-offs, but I plan to give them to my nephew, who collects coins. He will enjoy the irony.
We walk on, and by now, many of us ladies need the facilities. And of course, the line up is long. The woman who works there has her hair covered, and one woman in front of me says she should take off her head covering, as she is pretty. The Muslim woman said if she did that, her husband would kill her. 
You could hear a pin drop after in the washroom. The words may have been said off the cuff, but they had a chilling sound to us westerners. 
Our walk went further, as our guide spoke about other sites around, and then we began the 2.5 km hike back. 

It's uphill and not easy. Some with aches and pains and sore muscles took horse carriages, who strain to carry two people, three if you count the driver. At the top, I treat myself to an ice cream and notice for the first time, the signs warning people not to buy from the hawkers and not to ride horses or camels as their owners are cruel to them. I hadn't noticed them before, and wonder why the government doesn't crack down. Perhaps the Bedouins have different laws? Or are they like refugees with less status? I don't know. 
Our guide says the Bedouin men spend the money earned at the fancy Movenpick hotel bar, that they once lived in the caves in Petra, but now live in home built for them outside the famed site.
We all bought a photo of ourselves at Petra, as a group. When we got on the bus, the seat I chose broke and fell back against another of our group. We had to abandon that set of seats. 
The drive to the Dead Sea awaits us, and we stopped twice, once at that souq where I purchased an overpriced Fanta once before, and at a place that sold Dead Sea products.
Soon, we reached the prettiest Holiday Inn I will ever see, one full of surprises. But that is for tomorrow.

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