Monthly Archives: January 2012

Petra! Part One!

Happy end-of-January, loyal readers! I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to blog to Petra. Kuwait has been really, really busy here. Sean and I just got back from a three-day weekend in Oman, where we attended a conference. I can’t wait to show you all the pictures from our hiking and exploring the (in my opinion) most beautiful country in the Middle East! I hope to get the pictures of Oman up this weekend, after I finish our Jordan trip.

Kuwait has been really cold here. Really cold. Sometimes getting into the low 40’s at night, and high 50’s during the day. When my dad and sister were visiting, it rained at least three times. That is as winter-y as it gets here in Kuwait, and I can’t WAIT to be rid of it! This Thursday school has been called off, for the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday. Looks like we’ll have another three-day weekend to catch up on things… 🙂 I hope to do some baking, blogging, and book browsing!

Moving on, Petra was the highlight of our trip, hands down. There is something magical about Petra, a city thousands of years old preserved in rock. It almost feels as if it is contrived, that it is TOO real to be real. You can almost picture the smoke coming out of chimneys, hundreds of people applauding in the amphitheater, and blood flowing at the high temple of sacrifice. (That last part is true.) We spent three days in Petra, and that wasn’t enough.

It is a mile and a half way to the actual ancient city of Petra from the parking lot. Along the way there are these “Djinn” blocks. They were first created by the Naboteans, and then an ancient group of Arabs believed that these rocks, when they found them after the Neboteans were long gone, were housing the “Djinn” spirits, so they worshipped them. (Did you know that djinn = our word “genie”?)

As the path wound it’s way lower in elevation (we are following a dry riverbed after all), all of a sudden the walls of the “Siq” shoot up. The Siq is the slot canyon that guards the ancient city of Petra. Apparently, these guys guard the ancient city now, too.

I am standing next to the ancient rain gutter. This is where the water flowed during heavy rains so that the street didn’t get flooded. This water way wound it’s path through the Siq for almost a mile, carved into the rock. What finesse they had to craft such a useful invention from their resources!  Notice on my right the horse carriage; I felt so bad for these overworked horses. They would ride back and forth up to fifty times a day, carrying tired tourists the two miles back to the parking lot.

Sean is standing on a Djinn block in the Siq.

Emily could not take her eyes off all the pretty baubles to be had! This guy really irritated me; he followed Emily for a while when it appeared that she wasn’t interested. Don’t worry, she did end up getting a few pretty pieces of jewelry before our time in Petra was over 🙂

Dad and Emily at the famous entrance to Petra. Imagine trying to lay siege to this place—it’d be near impossible!

This is the Treasury, the most famous landmark in Petra. It was built by an ancient ruler of the Nabotean people, and was most likely a tomb. I have also read that the Siq was used as a processional route for the ritual entrance to Petra, which was considered a holy city, and that the king has the Treasury built as the finale to the processional route through the Siq.

Eating lunch next to the Treasury.

Once arriving in Petra and taking out time marveling at the Treasury, we decided to tackle a big hike towards the end of the day. We headed up to the High Place of Sacrifice. This is the view looking down onto the main road through the center of Petra, as we began the hike. You can see the amphitheater slightly left of center.

Ahh, the most vexing side of Petra: The Bedoul. The Bedoul are a group of people who had inhabited the Petra area over the last 150 years. Some would say they have indigenous rights to the area. When Petra was deemed a national park, it was “recommended that they relocate elsewhere.” But, this was, as I said, only a recommendation, so many Bedoul still eek out lives in Petra, selling trinkets and inviting guests in for tea. This was a Bedoul “shop” on the way up to the High Place of Sacrifice.

Here we are at the High Place of Sacrifice. You can see homes off in the background, and if you look in the lower left-hand corner, you can see columns in valley of Petra! Yes, that is how much elevation we gained in this gut-busting hike; we climbed over 400 steps! I was so proud of my parents (and Sean). The view was wonderful, and this area was where the Naboteans would hold sacrifices. There was still ruins from the sacrificial table, benches, and sitting area.

We took a different route back from the High Place of Sacrifice. Can you see the Roman influence? The carved soldiers in the tomb’s face?

My parents posing for a picture at the temple near the hanging gardens. Apparently there was a lot more flowing water here in ancient times, and this temple was near a lush gardens and small pool. I wonder if they ever posed for a drawing or two in the same place?

As the sun set, we found out why Petra is called the “Rose City”. Sean nabbed this picture as my family and I were walking down through the canyon. You can see us at the very bottom!

That night, we relaxed in the town of Wadi Musa for a delicious Arabic meal. How was it different than the food it Kuwait? Well, it was pretty similar. (And equally delicious!) We wanted to find a place where Emily could get a hamburger, and this place had one on their menu. To her chagrin, as we had already ordered drinks, she asks for the burger, and the man replies, “I’m sorry madam, we are out of the burger.” She settled on a chicken kebab. What a trooper!

At the start of our second day in Petra, my dad captured this picture which I like to think is how this place looked one hundred years ago. You couldn’t walk fifty feet anywhere in Petra without hearing the bray of a donkey and the clopping of hoofs, or without seeing these little guys trotting around toting men on their backs.

Here, where my mom sits, was an interesting place. It used to be a church AND a theater, which is very unique to have them both in the same place. She is sitting in the theater area in this photo.

Sean couldn’t get enough of the columns!

Sean took this picture, and I’m pretty sure it is from the Roman era. You can see the cliche Roman hair, toga, and staff. How amazing that this was so well-preserved!

Ahhh, my second favorite place in Petra, the Monastery. I can’t remember why it was called the Monastery, because it certainly wasn’t housing monks, but I know it was holy and sacred to the Naboteans. If I remember correctly, it was also a tomb at one point. This was yet another day hike that involved climbing massive amounts of stairs; when we reached the top we were happy to relax with a cup of tea and soak in the view!

Kim & Sean: Always  A Badger!

The Monastery was like the Treasury, but it was farther away from the canyon-style of the main area in Petra. It was nestled on the side of a mountain that made it harder to reach and all the more beautiful. We stayed here for an hour or two, just basking in the glory of a city that once was, and forever will be.

I hope to post the second half of our Petra photos within the next few days. I look forward to sharing them with you!

What awaits you in ‘Part 2’, you ask? Well, the Kriege women ride camels, we ring in the new year, and find ourselves sipping margaritas in an ancient tomb… Stay tuned!

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Shobak Castle, Jordan

Sean’s favorite castle, I think, was Shobak castle in Jordan. The coolest part about all these old ruins is that you can climb around wherever you want within them! It is very loosely controlled, and you are free to explore to your heart’s content. Believe me, explore we did! Shobak was located between Dana and Petra, so it was the perfect stop for adventure. The weather here was cold, like 55 degrees during the day, always with a little wind and a lot of sun; the perfect weather to turn your face into a hardened, chapped, strip of cowhide. It is amazing how much water you have to drink here, it is so easy to get dehydrated.

Here is the view of Shobak castle as we approached it. What a good location, being built on a hill, able to see for miles. The whole time we were there we only saw around ten other people; it was really eerie! Once we got to the castle, I had read in the guide book that there was a “dungeon-like cave” underneath the castle, which Sean jumped at the opportunity to explore. We borrowed a flashlight from the guards at the front of the castle, and began to traipse the rafters, climb the rocky outcroppings, and eventually descended into the depths…

 

I really wish I could caption these pictures with an intelligent recollection of each part of the castle, but unfortunately I cannot. I could INVENT a story for you, if that would prove to be just as entertaining! Hmmm… let’s see… where Sean is standing in this photo is the Mamluks used to perform sacrifices to the god of the Green Bay Packers…

And this tower is holy shrine to the Green Bay Packers.

Okay, enough about the Packers. I DO think that this was the passageway where they stored their weapons. There were many small rooms with the slit-styled windows for archers to shoot at opposing forces.

My father, basking in the glory of the moment.

This I can accurately reference; the script was praising Allah, and was erected during the Muslim control of the castle. It was initially a crusader castle, and then was conquered by Saladin. It was under Saladin that this script was placed here.

I also recall that this room was at one time a church.

Ladies and gentlemen, I welcome you to the CRYPT! This completely black tunnel led down 365 steps underneath the castle. At the end there was a cistern for storing water, and a ladder that brought you outside next to the castle.

Unfortunately, due to the horrifying nature of feeling like you were stumbling down someone’s esophagus, we didn’t make it to the cistern. I am responsible for us turning back early. It was the scariest moment of our entire trip in Jordan. (Let’s make one thing clear: This tunnel was entirely pitch black. The light from these pictures is from the camera flash. You’d be scared, too.)

This was the man we borrowed the flashlight from. He is the guard of the temple. He is a Bedouin, and this is a Bedouin instrument he created. My mother didn’t enter the crypt/pit/tunnel with us, and when we returned to find her, she was sitting with this man drinking tea and listening to his music! It was pretty awesome.

 

Overall, Shobak was a great experience. There is so much Muslim/Christian overlap in places that is interesting historically, culturally, artistically, and architecturally. ( I suppose all that stuff falls under the ‘culture’ banner, wouldn’t it?)

 

STAY TUNED: PETRA IS COMING IN A FEW DAYS!

 

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Dana Nature Reserve, Jordan

Hello loved ones! The internet tonight here in Kuwait is extremely slow; we’re talking three minutes to load a single page slow. I had uploaded these photos last night, but gave up due to poor internet. Looks like this post won’t have all the pictures I wanted it to, but I figure it’s better than not sharing anything!

There is so much I want to share about Jordan. It was just fantastic. I now know what people mean when they say that Kuwait is “Middle East Lite”. Jordan is full of so much hustle and bustle, a wider range of poverty, thousands upon thousands of years of history (I mean this is where MOSES is said to have died…), that it is difficult to compare to Kuwait. Kuwait is beautiful with it’s palm trees, sunshine every day, bright blue Arabian gulf, and it’s certainly a different kind of beauty.

We took a ‘nature & adventure’ approach in Jordan. We went on day hikes almost daily, and stayed in Bedouin run hotels as well as hostels on the outskirts of Petra. While it definitely stretched our comfort zones *cough*Emily*cough*, everyone had a BLAST!

Here is my mom and I as we are driving UP in elevation from the Dead Sea. Note the next picture, below, where I am sitting next to the “Sea Level” sign. These two photos were taken next to each other on the side of the road! Where my mom and I are standing is actually at sea level! The Dead Sea is much, much, lower than sea level, which is why it is so salty. (The water has nowhere to flow downwards from here, so it evaporates.)

Pretty interesting concept, huh? I am used to having my picture taken by “Continental Divide” signs, and here I am at sea level after driving UPHILL for forty-five minutes!

After we left the Dead Sea, we went to Karak. As Sean said, it was “watching archeology happen”. They have been building this city on the ruins of a castle for hundreds of years. The roads wind around in a labyrinth on a hill, just like the movie “Labyrinth” with David Bowie… kind of…

I showed my mom and Emily the wonders of “oud”, or Arabic perfume. I haggled this guy into quite a deal, and they purchased some souvenirs 🙂

My mom and I are Karak castle, which we returned to later in our trip. This was on our way to Dana Nature Reserve, so we didn’t have a lot of time to stop.

Emily loved the shopping opportunities in Jordan….

Mom looking out over the beautiful rolling hills of Karak…

So much different than Kuwait!

I think Sean’s second favorite thing (after Petra) was the castles. He loved getting to climb around wherever we wanted to. This castle (Karak), was around during the time of Salahadin and the Mamluks. That’s a loooong time ago!

A statue of the famous historical figure, Salahadin.

On our way to Dana Nature Reserve. Jordan was much more full of hills and valleys than we thought.

The next morning, we went on a hike in Dana Nature Reserve. This is “Wadi Dana” below us. We hiked down to the bottom and then back up out. Don’t ask me to reevaluate that decision…

It was really inspiring to see Jordan having a natural program in place to preserve their special places. We had to pay a fee to access it, just like the national parks back home.

Our winding trail at the bottom of Wadi Dana. Emily working on her face tan….

This is Dana Village. It is perched on the hillside of Wadi Dana. We stayed in this little village, run mostly by Bedouins, for three nights. It was a very interesting and relaxing experience. It was like stepping back in time sixty years.

They have renovated the old village of Dana so that people still live in the “ruins” or old buildings. Our hotel was actually in an old-fashioned building, complete with a thatched roof and mortar walls.

You can see Dana Village off to the right. One of the days during our stay at Dana, we hiked up to the rim of the canyon for some beautiful views. What you see in front of you, the columns, were ancient ruins for a spring that still runs there. This spring is the reason the village was built here. You could still see the spring running.

Can you spot terraced farming? Can you spot the beautiful slot canyon directly below? Paradise…

Our hotel in Dana Village. A little too rustic for Mom and Em, but we all had a great time! We cranked the space heater, sipped a little Dewar’s, and huddled close for heat 🙂

Here we are in the ‘majlis’, a traditional Arabic room of the house or village. The majlis is the welcoming area, where you sit, socialize, listen to music, and most importantly, drink the most delicious tea of your life. This is where we had breakfast and dinner. We also played cards here and saw live music played by a man from the village!

Here are my parents in the majlis, playing a game of cribbage and sipping tea. Life is good.

 

This is where my blogging stops for today, due to the internet. I am glad I got to share these pictures with you on our stay in Dana, next on the line-up in Shobak castle, and then on to Petra!

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Jordan – Finally!

Welcome to my very belated first post of 2012! This year has been full of a lot of ups and downs, and it’s only been eighteen days! I rang in the new year smiling and laughing in Petra and climbing around ancient ruins, three days later I bawled my eyes out saying good bye to my mother as she flew home. The Badgers lost the Rose Bowl, the Packers lost the playoffs. My Dad and sister joined me here in Kuwait for ten days of complete bliss, but then they too returned home to my utter sadness. Within this week alone, Sean dislocated his knee for the sixth time. THAT is a blog for another day. We experienced first-hand the ins and outs of the emergency rooms of Kuwait. We also walked into a maternity hospital asking if they did knees. They laughed in our faces, offered us a mint, and showed us the door.

I suppose it’s time we cue up some photos from our trip to Jordan! This post will be short, because it’s not quite the weekend yet and I’ve got a curfew. I’d been dying to post SOMETHING the last few days, so here are a few tidbits to whet your appetite 🙂

What a surreal experience to meet my family in the Middle East! Here we are in Madaba, my three favorite ladies in the world. This photo makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, with it’s blurry glow and smiling faces.

A Christmas tree in the Middle East? That’s right, Jordan has quite a few Christian towns.

Don’t even get me started on the Petra beer…  it was delicious. We found a small cafe that had delicious sandwiches, shisha, Petra beer, and comfy couches. We stayed for hours, just catching up with each other!

On Christmas day we visited St. George’s cathedral in Madaba. It houses the world’s oldest  map of the “transjordanian area”. (Sean made sure I was correct on that.)

Sean in St. George’s cathedral.

This is the world’s oldest map of the “transjordanian area”. You can see the Dead Sea, Egypt, Israel, all of it, if you look close enough. It was really interesting to see that we were so close to the location of the birth of Jesus on Christmas day.

My family in St. George’s cathedral.

We went on an interesting walking tour of Madaba, where Sean began to climb about all of the rooftops of the buildings, pretending he was in the videogame, Assassin’s Creed. Or, if you don’t get that reference, Aladdin.

My parents looking over Western Jordan. This was on our drive past Mt. Nebo, where Moses saw the promised land and then promptly died. We then made our way down a winding road to the Dead Sea. We must have dropped over three thousand feet! (Remember, the Dead Sea is 1,000 feet below sea level!)

Here we are at the Dead Sea. Don’t remind me they lost the playoffs.

We had lots of fun near the Dead Sea, the view was amazing! I couldn’t wait to swim in it when we got closer!

Our Christmas Day chalets on the Dead Sea. We rented two private chalets in Wadi Mujib. Wadi means a dried river bed that formed a valley.

One of our chalets. What a beautiful location!

The day after Christmas, Sean and I awoke with this view out of our chalet. Note the two hammocks… how relaxing! I had to pry Sean out of it when we had to leave.

As we made our way down to the Dead Sea for a morning dip, I was amazed at all of the salt encrusted on the rocks! There was literally inches upon inches of salt. We’re talking like 6 inches of crust in places. You could pick up massive chunks of salt.

I licked it, and wished I hadn’t. It’s even saltier than table salt. I accidentally splashed water in my eyes once and had to head for shore.

Mom and Sean walking to the sea. (Did you notice my MOM is going to jump in the water?!) The weather ended up turning out beautifully for our swim! Did you know Jordan was this mountainous?

Emily as she is about to plunge into the salty waters.

Sean and Dad, floating! They were in over their heads at this point, and they look like they’re reclining on lawn chairs!

Here we are, bobbing like corks. It made me feel like a balloon. Let me explain, this particular body of water is TWELVE TIMES SALTIER THAN THE OCEAN. You bob like a cork because there is so much salt in the water, you float to the top. It is the lowest place on earth; we are hundreds of feet below sea level. Imagine taking a glass of water, opening a container of salt, and pouring salt into the glass of water until it reaches a third of the way up the glass. Give it a stir, and you’ve got the salinity of the Dead Sea.

 

Pops and I post-swim. What a refreshing morning!

Emily’s favorite part of the day, breakfast. Actually, I am kidding. She got pretty sick of the traditional Middle Eastern breakfast; she swore she would never come near hummus and flat bread again!

A sampling of our daily breakfasts. While Jordan has its sprinkling of American eateries, when you are in the beautiful nature reserves, or basically outside of Amman (the capital city), you really eat authentic Jordanian food for most meals. I look forward to sharing more about the foods of Jordan in upcoming blogs!

So, there you have it, folks. Our first two days in Jordan. I could have stayed on the Dead Sea for three more days if I could. It was just so quite, relaxing, and beautiful.

 

Check back again for the rest of the adventure! We visit the ancient city of Petra, the castles of Karak and Shobak, the ruins of Jerash. We climbed hills, descended valleys, danced with Bedouins, and laughed more than I have laughed in months.  See you soon!

 

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