June 5-8 Southern excursion, discovery, reflection
June 4-5: After visiting Dana Village (see below), we made camp in Rumana Camp for the night. Here are a couple pics from my 6:30 am hike around the “words-can’t-describe” canyons and valleys and mountains of Dana nature preserve.
After this, we headed to Petra. Students were escorted to the opening of Petra at 2 pm, where they were guided into the area and given the time and freedom to roam, hike, climb, and otherwise just enjoy the stunning beauty of this Nabatean wonder of the world. The Nabateans, nomads from Arabia, arose as a culture and an economic power some 2,400 years ago. They carved their way across Arabia, and what is now Jordan, Israel, Palestine, and into the Sinai. The most famous of their architectural wonders is Petra. In 106 A.D./C.E., the Roman Emperor Trajan effectively annexed the Nabatean Kingdom into the Roman Empire.
June 6: After Petra, we left the next afternoon to visit a school for the deaf community and other ‘at risk’ children, women, and men. Part of the visit included a tour of the school, its classrooms, craft shop, and playground for children. And then the director of the school/NGO treated us to a sumptuous Jordanian lunch. Here is Kristina, an American Sign Language major at NU, who found her niche, communicating somewhere between the languages of ASL and the SL used in Jordan/Arab cultures.
After this, we were on our way to Wadi Rum, the desert, dune-riding (in 4x4 trucks), and sunset on a small rock-mountain plateau near the “Valley of the Moon” (think Lawrence of Arabia – the real one, who lived and thrived here in the early 1900s, as well as the movie, which was filmed in part here at Wadi Rum). Here's our host, with Dr. Ilham and me, as we were leaving Wadi Rum:
Enroute from Wadi Rum to Aqaba (June 7), Dr. Raed made a stop along the Hejaz Railway, and the Wadi Rum train station. We learned that this railway, which used to serve passengers traveling between Medina and Damascus, is still functioning in sections within Jordan.
King Abdullah II of Jordan visited this train station just days before and was treated to a renovated “Royal Coach Car” on this train, which we got to lounge in for a few minutes:
And then it was on to Aqaba, a boat ride for all on the Gulf of Aqaba/Red Sea, and a view of Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Jordan, and a hint of Saudi Arabia, further down the Gulf. Students got to swim off the boat, snorkel, and view the corral reef along Jordan’s shoreline.
June 8: Aqaba to Amman, and “temporary home-sweet-home” for the final days of our program.