The day began with breakfast followed by Morning Prayer. We use a little traveler’s worship booklet put together by Kathy and Diana Barber, for this trip. It has scripture readings, prayers, and songs in it. Very useful tool for worship, anywhere, anytime. Today’s prayer was held in the hotel, in a room set aside for us. We hear a text and Kathy’s comments on it, and then discuss it together. We sing, we pray, we listen to each other, and watch for the movement of the Spirit. It’s a meaningful time for all of us.
After prayer we walked out the front door of the hotel and right across the street to enter the site known as Petra – one of the seven modern wonders of the world! It sounds overdone, but when you enter the steep, sandstone gorge and come upon the massive stone carvings after a mile or so, you realize Petra deserves its reputation (gained early on in most of our lives by watching television specials and reading National Geographic).
The vistas are stunning. The area would be a sought-out destination even if there were no evidence of ancient civilizations inhabiting the space. The topography, the lighting, the colors – all are astonishingly beautiful. But when you add into the mix a civilization that once featured 30,000 residents, the site is fascinating!
Sulimon, our guide, led us through the various parts of Petra, stopping every once in a while to explain something or shared details of the ancient Nabatean people who built the city in the rock. He uses a “whisper” system that allows him to speak into a mic that transmits his voice to our ears through headphones.
But Sulimon also stopped and briefly chatted with every local person we passed. He had warned us that children, especially, would try to get us to buy their products and would do so in a way calculated to make us feel uncomfortable and shamed into buying whatever they were selling. But they were more interested in him than in us!
Sulimon knew everyone. He was like the Pied Piper of Petra. Little children would follow him when he came into view. Sulimon would reach into his bag and retrieve candy for them. The kids loved it. We later learned they refer to him as the Candy Guide – also Abu Jordan; the father, or abu, of the first child.
We wandered deeper into the site and enjoyed exploring. After lunch we broke up into small groups. Some began the long walk back to the hotel, taking their time. Others set off on a rigorous hike up the Monastery and the fabulous view of the Araba Valley that stretched out toward the Red Sea and Saudi Arabia. Some rode camels, horse, or carriages to make the walking a bit easier.
We all were back at the hotel by 5:00. Some of us feasted at the Chocolate Hour the hotel hosts every day from 4-5PM. Not a bad way to end five hours of intermittent walking over six miles of trails!
After dinner we met with Reinerio Arce, the Cuban church leader who is part of our group, to hear his personal story and learn about the Church in Cuba. Even though I knew much of what he said, I appreciated hearing it all again – especially some of the anecdotes about his life I had not heard before (I’ve know him for 20+years).
Some in our group had earlier found a local bar called The Cave that bills itself as “the oldest tavern on earth.” They sampled it and encouraged others to go after our meeting with Reinerio. Several of us did – before heading back for a somewhat shorter night of sleep; we leave early to head back north tomorrow to see biblical sites in Jordan before ending up back in Jerusalem.
All on the trip are well – with only a few aches and pains. We miss everyone back home – and believe it or not, some have said they wish they could have been there for the extreme cold!