Friday, November 15, 2013

The Promised Land

Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land- from Gilead to Dan, all of Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Mediterranean Sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the City of Palms, as far as Zoar. Then the LORD said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it." 
And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said.
~ Deuteronomy 34:1-5

I may not have climbed Mount Nebo like Moses did and it wasn't a particularly clear day like it probably was back in bible times. But looking out over the Promised Land, at the very place that Moses may have walked, was breathtaking. Like much of what I see in the Middle East, the scene that lay before my eyes was unlike anything I've ever seen before. I could sense the vastness of the Holy Land. It is still unbelievable to me that I am in a place with such immense biblical history. Take another look.

Like I said, I did not climb Mount Nebo, but the story how I did get there is quite comical. (Transportation in Jordan never fails to amuse me.) I was hanging out in the city of Madaba, with Mount Nebo about 10km away. I knew I had to make the trip up, but I really wasn't sure how to get there and get there relatively cheaply. I waited around for a bus at the spot that my only-somewhat-trusty guidebook suggested, but didn't have any luck. As I was about to give up a taxi driver pulls up and asks where I want to go. The same somewhat trusty guidebook said a roundtrip taxi ride would cost about 12-15 dinars. So I asked how much the taxi driver would charge, making sure he understood I wanted a ride up there AND back. As cool as it might have been to camp out on Mount Nebo for the night, I didn't really want to get stranded. Anyway, he only charged me 10 dinars! Perfect! Finally someone who didn't try to rip off the young, foreign, female traveling alone!

As we got on our way, it became clear that his English consisted of the phrase, "NEBO GOOD!!" Then when he gathered that I was from America, "AMERICA GOOD!!" Complete with a very enthusiastic thumbs-up. At one point, he pulls over and runs into a small grocery store. I am, of course, very confused, but after a minute or two he emerged with a soda for each of us. Wasn't too sure what to think of this one, but I went with it and we enjoyed them as we made our way to Nebo. When we arrived, I got out of the taxi and started to explain that I would be back. "Don't leave without me!!" But the driver got out of the taxi and followed me in! He stopped and chatted with the locals at the gate, allowing me to explore a bit on my own. Then he caught up with me later and pointed out some important sights and took a couple pictures for me. It was sweet! 

Side note: If any of you are getting a bit concerned about friendly taxi drivers I encounter in this country, just know that my danger sense is certainly on high alert. I make sure I don't get into situations I can't get out of, I'm not overly friendly in return, and I do my best to distinguish between friendly and creepy. Prayers for safety and wisdom are always appreciated as well. 

On our way back down the mountain, we blasted some arabic music with the windows down and he tried to convince me to stop at some of the souvenir shops on the side of the road. I told him to take me to the bus station in Madaba, despite his offer to take me all the way back to Amman. "Only 10 dinars!" Always willing to help... for a price. :)

What else did I do in Madaba? Well, Madaba is known for its ancient mosaics, particularly a 6th century mosaic map of the Holy Land. This map covers the floor of the Church of St. George, which was built over the remains of a 6th century Byzantine church. Here's a part of it, the whole thing wouldn't fit in the picture. 

I also stopped by the Church of St. John the Baptist. This church was also built on some Byzantine ruins which visitors can explore beneath the church. I definitely felt like I was in National Treasure, all I needed was a torch lamp and Nicolas Cage and I'd be set.

My favorite mosaic.
All in all, it was a great day of sightseeing. NEBO GOOD!!

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