"This is the land I was talking about when I solemnly promised Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that I would give land to their descendants. I have let you see it, but you will not cross the Jordan and go in."
First off, an apology on photography. I haven't been posting pictures here because the internet is slow in the middle east, and it would be about a 40 second per picture investment, which in addition to figuring out what pictures I want and transferring them off the camera (which isn't always possible on these computers), would take more time than I feel like spending. When I get to Europe, maybe I'll post some. Another apology: I forgot my camera today, when going to Madaba, Mt. Nebo, and the Dead Sea. It's okay... I'll know I was there.
Madaba is an old seat of a Byzantine bishop, which meant there was a lot of wealth, which they spent on really nice mosaics. Like, lots of churches with mosaics. Including one that's a 6th century map of the Holy Land. Very cool, and because the pieces are rock (not colored tiles) they haven't faded much.
Then, to Mt. Nebo, where Moses went up and looked on the Holy Land, then promptly died before reaching it. I feel a little like that, since I won't actually be crossing into Israel on this trip (maybe 2013-2014 right before my passport expires). All the same... what was Moses thinking?? He couldn't have just gone around the southern side of the dead sea? The Trans-jordan is actually out of the way, coming from Egypt.
After that, I went to the Dead Sea. It was really cool, just floating in there in the water. And you do float. If you float vertically, with no effort at all you float up to your mid-chest. If you try to do a breast-stroke, you can't really use your legs, since they float above the water. Back stroke is the most effective. A caution though, and a lesson I learned the hard way: keep hands away from your eyes. It is, shall we say, not pleasant, even if you're trying to wipe drops of already salty water away.
For the next couple days: tomorrow, i'm going to Jerash, an old Roman city, very well preserved (not quite to Pompeiian levels, but among the best outside of Italy), and Ajloun, a castle that Salah ad-Din built to fight against the Crusaders. On Saturday, I head to Syria. I've heard that getting a visa at the border is doable, but potentially slow. I'm just hoping that travelling on the Jewish Sabbath will convince them that I'm okay (I've also never been to Israel). We'll see!