Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Red Sea, the Dead Sea and the desert in between

It's Friday and the Jewish Shabbat starts at sundown. We will be staying tonight at a hotel on the shores of the Dead Sea. It feels warmer this morning, and I take my phone to the dining room so I can capture the vista that is the sun lighting up the wall of homes at the other side of Wadi Musa

View from the Dining Room

Our resort is of good quality and the meals are excellent. Last night we had spicy salads and today for breakfast, I eat more vegetables, pickled fish, falafels, with meats and cheeses. There is good coffee and juice, and even a chef to whip up an omelet if one so chooses.

Not a typical Canadian breakfast!

I discovered this morning that I have a blister on my foot. I wear these shoes day in and day out, but walking in a desert wadi gives me a blister. Where's the logic in that? But I know our friend’s knee hurts, and it's far worse, so I won't say a thing. After we leave Petra, our bus takes us up the eastern side of the wadi to a tourist trap which has a spectacular view from their rooftop. I purchase a few mud face masks, quickly discounted for me when I put them down after learning their price. I see some beautiful purses, but didn’t feel like bartering amidst the crush of tourists.

We head south and it’s not until we reach our destination that I realize we’re at the Red Sea! Although our driver doesn’t take us along the shore, we can see sparkling blue in the distance. I read once that the name 'Red Sea' was a take on 'Reed Sea', so I forgive them the spectacular colour. 

Above that white building is the Red Sea!

The border towns of Eliat and Aqabah aren't as big as I expected, and security much lighter than when we crossed into Jordan from Israel three years ago.

The air is warm, windy and the sun brilliant. It's a lovely day, with a sky so clear and blue, I almost resent the locals for it. Here in the Middle East, spring comes quickly, not like our blustery province which hangs on to its wet spring for weeks before relenting to a mild summer.

We meet our new guide, a wiry Israeli man named Yossi. His first words are, "Welcome home." Welcome back to your spiritual roots. It's a pleasant greeting. I like it.
He seems quite knowledgeable, which will impress us further as time goes on, and he asks if we can bypass lunch to head straight to the Wilderness Tabernacle. He has a lot to tell us, he claims, a lot to show us. Little do we know what precedence he's setting here!
On one side of us is the stark Negev desert, rocky and dusty, reds and tans contrasting against an azure sky. On our right are the rich date palms, all lined up like regal soldiers. We learn that the term ‘land of milk and honey’ is talking about date honey. Not bee honey? No. Date juice, so thick and sweet, it can only be called honey.
Soon, we are turning left into Timna Park. The reason we bypassed lunch was to see the majestic Solomon’s Pillars, a curious formation cut by water and wind into the side of a tall cliff. But we will more than to see them. We will experience them.

Solomon's Pillars

They're hauntingly beautiful, but more beauty is to come when Yossi leads us into one of the crevices between the pillars. He scrambles up a large boulder and pulls out a flute. With the help of wireless speakers and Bluetooth, he treats us to Bach, showing off the natural acoustics of the crevice. We sit in awe, relaxing in the cool shade as the classical music fills the fissure around us.

Too soon, the music ends. A full sized replica of the Wilderness Tabernacle awaits us.  
And a chance to enter a place so exclusive, it is reserved for one man once a year.

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I shouldn't have left her alone!

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