A Lively Day at the Dead Sea

This past Tuesday, September 20th, was national election day in Jordan.  We had no classes, no work, and no responsibilities, so we headed to the beach!  I have been very excited to visit the Dead Sea ever since I arrived in Jordan, and the experience did not disappoint.

We arranged for a private taxi to pick Ester, Michaela, and me up in our neighborhood, and drive us the ~1 hour to the Jordan beach of the Dead Sea.  We packed sunscreen, waterbottles, and a change of clothes, and headed out around 9:30am.  We arrived at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, at which we paid a flat entrance fee of 20 JDs and headed down to the beach.

On our way, we walked past the 5 beautiful pools with slides, mushroom fountains, bridges, etc. of the spa hotel, and rented some towels and a locker.  The whole place was very beautiful and we were excited to spend the day relaxing.  We walked down a lot of stairs to the beach, since the Dead Sea has receded considerably, even in just the last 15 years.

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Once we got there, we set our towels down and headed for the water, which was totally crystal-clear blue, and quite warm.  Walking in just to the knees, if you just lifted your foot from the ground, it would pop up immediately to the surface because of the buoyancy.  Once I walked in to about hip level, I just turned around and essentially sat back into the water, which caught me like sitting in a hammock.  Floating was totally effortless and I could relax my entire body and not sink even an inch.  It was incredible and very strange!


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The Holy Land

Last week, I took the trip of a lifetime to Jerusalem and Bethlehem.  I saw the places where the most iconic figures in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam lived out their most important and significant moments, and I was in awe of every minute of it.  I’ll try to describe as much as I can about this incredible journey, where I went, what I saw, how I felt, and what I learned.

Tuesday, September 13th

We left early on Tuesday morning to catch the bus(es) to Jerusalem.  The whole journey from our house to our hostel in Jerusalem took about 7 hours, and if you want to read about what the border crossing process, you can read what I wrote about it here.

The trek from getting off the bus at Damascus Gate through the Old City to our hostel was our first little taste of the incredible history and bustling atmosphere of the Old City, particularly in the Muslim and Jewish quarters, which are both packed with stores, candy shops, restaurants, and hidden stairways.  Once we got to our hostel, the electricity was out so we just put our stuff down and then headed with our friends Michaela and Phoebe to check in at their hostel.  After hanging out there for a little while to recharge after the journey, we had a delicious “linner” at a cafe near their hostel, which offered a lot of pastas and sandwiches, which we were all thrilled about since they are so hard to come by in Amman.

Street in New Jerusalem

Then, we all wandered around the new part of Jerusalem for a while – checking out cool shops, enjoying the pedestrian-friendly streets (and the above-ground trains), and admiring the beautiful streets that each have different items strung above them – flowers, Chinese lanterns, umbrellas, sombreros, etc.  The city feels extremely Western – resembling many cities I’ve visited in Europe, particularly Strasbourg.  Almost everyone speaks English, and many Western things we have been used to (but missing in Amman) were available, and we made the most of them.  We ate a lot of pasta and pizza, enjoyed free beers at the hostel, and enjoyed not having to completely cover our arms & legs.  It was definitely a break from the much more traditionally Muslim atmosphere in Amman, which I didn’t realize I had been missing before I arrived in Jerusalem.

We made our way

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Let’s talk about Eid Al-Adha

Check out my roommate Ester’s perspective on the Eid al-Adha celebrations in our house.

(If the sight of blood/dead animals frightened you, maybe skip this post.)

This past week, millions of Muslims celebrated Eid Al-Adha also known as the Feast of the Sacrifice. I had the opportunity to witness my host family’s customs and traditions for this religious and national holiday. As a Taiwanese-American, Christian girl, it was truly a memorable experience that I would never have encountered back home.

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Land Crossing & Re-Entry at Allenby Crossing (King Hussein Bridge) – September 2016

I just returned from a short trip from Amman, Jordan to Jerusalem & Bethlehem via the Allenby Crossing, and before I went there was almost no accurate or recent information out there so I have decided to try to write down everything that happened in my experience so that those of you out there who may be in the same boat can have something recent to base your plans around.

I will describe my experience crossing from Amman to Jerusalem, and then my re-entry into Jordan.  But first, just a little background information for reference.

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Eid Mubarak!

Yesterday and today we joined our host family in celebrating Eid al-Adha, the Muslim holiday remembrance of God’s mercy on Ishmael when the Prophet Ibrahim took him to be sacrificed.  You may remember the Christian version of this story – where Abraham is supposed to sacrifice Isaac, which is not celebrated as a holiday.  In the Muslim world, this part of religious history comes to life annually with sheep sacrifice and the hajj (religious pilgrimage) of millions of Muslims to Mecca.

Our celebration of the Sacrifice Feast began yesterday evening around 5pm, when 8 sheep were marched off of a truck, down the stairs to our apartment, and penned into our patio together.  We watched them immediately take over the space and eat literally anything in reach (including my host mom’s poor 10-dinar tree).  My host brother, who loves animals, was immediately fascinated and wanted to play with and ride the sheep.  They stayed out there pretty quietly for the rest of the night.  The 8 sheep were not all for us – 2 for our family, 2 each for both of the uncles’ families, and 2 to give to the poor and needy.

A few hours later, our host family served a huge, delicious meal of kufta to break their day-long fast.  Unfortunately, I was unable to participate in the fast since I hadn’t been feeling well and needed to stay hydrated.

The sheep slept on the patio, but our host sisters told us that they knew what was waiting for them in the morning, which was very ominous.  To me, they seemed too dumb to realize their fate, which is more comforting.  Our host brother proclaimed to Ester and I, “You’re the sheep!” which is deeply true on another level.

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