Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bethlehem and the Church of the Nativity

Here are a few pictures from our recent excursion to the West Bank town of Bethlehem. We visited the Church of the Nativity, which is one of the oldest continuously operating churches in the world and, according to tradition, marks the birthplace of Jesus. The first basilica was built in 327 AD by Constantine's mother, subsequently burnt down and was rebuilt in 565 AD. Supposedly, when the Persians invaded the region in the early 600s, they spared the structure because a mosaic inside the church depicted the three wise men wearing Persian clothing.

Looks peaceful enough, right? Wait for it...

When we got to the grotto of the nativity, there amassed a crowd like we had never scene before. We were waiting our turn patiently when a tour group of at least 75 old ladies (not Americans) arrived and elbowed their way in front of everyone, moaning and not making eye contact with any of the other visitors. The photo below is actually before these women arrived (if you can believe it!!). I was so incensed (and also feeling extremely claustrophobic) that we bailed on the grotto.

Besides that weird experience, Bethlehem is a nice town and easy to get to from Jerusalem. I'm sure we will be back to visit some of the other attractions and to shop for souvenirs for our families!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Worth the Climb

Recently my two Aunts flew across the ocean for a brief but action-packet visit. While they were here, we set off on a road trip across Jordan that culminated in Wadi Musa, the home of Petra.

Some of you may know Petra as a UNESCO World Heritage Sight, archeological treasure, and home of the ancient Nabataean civilization. Still others--if you're like me--may know if from the film "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade."

I had been looking forward to this trip for months. And even with my high expectations, Petra still blew me away. I can easily say it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. If you ever get the chance to go--do it!

Jordan itself is very accessible to foreigners. Every Jordanian knows at least two phrases in English: "Where are you from?" and "Welcome!" And most people who work in the tourism industry speak English well.

The pictures are of the Treasury, the High Place of Sacrifice (well worth the hour hike), and a donkey that mistook my camera for food.