Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Desert Wanderings (Part 2)

Following are some highlights from the rest of our weekend-past excursions:
Look at the people packed in there!
We started the day off fresh with Jack throwing up all over the car...I'm not sure if we ever seriously considered going home after that happened (the poor boy!), but pressed on, assuming he was simply carsick.

As mentioned in the last post, our first stop was an impromptu side-trip down to a beautiful beach on the Dead Sea.  It was interesting, because while we were there, 2 soldiers came hurriedly over the hill from a nearby outpost and were staring at the sea with their binoculars.  There was something out there, which we also saw & thought was a swimmer, that they were fairly concerned about.  After a bit, they noticed our camera's nice telephoto zoom lens, and warmly greeted us and asked if we might zoom in to take a picture for them to see.  Always nice to be of service to the local military.  As we scaled back up the rocky incline, we noticed they had a truck sitting up at the top armed with a fairly substantial machine gun, and another soldier manning the gun, ready to fire at notice.  I wish we could have taken a picture, but it didn't seem worth the trouble we may have faced for trying.  The "thing," on closer inspection, seemed just to be some sort of floating buoy.
"Salt drifts"
salt rock
Next, we traveled down to the very southern end of the Dead Sea to a "quaint ghetto" (similar to "shabby chic"?) village called Ghor es-Safi (just "Safi" to the locals), just to do a drive-thru photo shoot.

Then it was on to the main event: Early Bronze Age (3000 BC) site Bâb edh-Dhrâ‘.  The main attraction to this site is its expansive cemetery which has been heavily looted...thus lots of leftover treasures to potentially be found.
pock-marks of looted cemetery
We didn't find much of anything, sadly.  We spent a long time looking, though.  Jack had a great time finding his own little treasures of rocks and pottery and playing in the numerous looting-holes--endless acres of robbed graveyard fun!  Safita slept in the pack until the wind became too much for her--she HATES wind with a passion.  A dark storm passed by, which made the sky a rich, dark, beautiful! 

Owen is pointing to the buried gravestone and looting hole underneath
stormy sky

We traveled back north from there to Machaerus, and what a gorgeous drive!  We followed a narrow, winding road up through the hills, past some natural hot springs, through various geological layers to the impressive fortress where John the Baptist is said to have been imprisoned and beheaded by Herod Antipas.  There was an amazing view of the Dead Sea as we ascended, with the sun gleaming magically through the clouds.

We passed a lonely donkey on the road, traveling by itself to somewhere...
 And just as we were arriving at the site, Safita evened the score and concluded our day by throwing up prolifically, all over me.  It was an impressive spout for such a small girl, and her ready smiles post-deed indicated she was reasonably proud of herself.  I fortunately had the foresight to bring extra clothes for the kids, but not for myself!  Sometimes we learn the hard way.  Needless to say, we decided to skip the long hike to the top--a cold, steep, hungry, tired, covered-in-throw-up hike was simply NOT the ticket for that moment in time.  Instead, we snapped some pictures of the majestic mound, tucked ourselves snugly back into the car, and whisked away to Madaba for a late dinner-on-the-run.  Poor Jack, who had waited so patiently & hungrily for his shawarma, fell asleep just minutes before we arrived.  He ate it as a late-night snack hours later. 
Machaerus, with Dead Sea beyond
 Our final adventure did not take place in the desert, but in the hills...Sunday, after the beautiful sunrise service on Mt. Nebo, we went in search for the elusive Tulul adh-Dhahab, which means "hills of gold" in Arabic.  For a more in-depth discussion on this site, click here to see my archaeologist husband's blog on the subject!  In brief, the site is actually 2 sites, twin tells on either side of the Wadi Zerqa, tucked very much out of the way on a winding back road.  This was our third attempt, I think, to find it.  And success!  Its beauty was striking, with the wadi (i.e., river), small waterfalls, and an abundance of blooming oleander...We strapped on the kids and hiked the steep slope, to find at the top some hard-working looters--complete with pick-axes, shovels, and metal detector!  It was sad to see them butcher the history in the dirt for a handful of Roman coins.  And there were sheep.  Jack had never been able to get so close to the sheep before, so he was thrilled. 

And that concludes our whirlwind weekend whoopee!

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