I really don't know anything about the Old Testament or religion in general. I suppose that comes from not being a religious person in the first place. An expected consequence I suppose. But what I do find enormously interesting about this part of the world is that all of these things that people believe in, all of these people that were alive at some point in time, all of the stories that were written down on scrolls and tablets thousands of years ago; all of these have some sort of physical connection in this area. We can be talking about a temple, a set of scrolls, a pile of rocks, a set of footprints, whatever. Here, in this dry and unforgiving land, there is always a story about every single place, and some sort of connection to prove it.
This I call history. What is lacking of course, and as usual, is the connection to divinity; that unmistakeable piece of evidence that could wrap all of these things together to give them some sort of meaning; some sort of "raison d'etre" that we might all be able to understand and appreciate. They say that only a drowning man would be able to see him. That only once your lungs are full of water that you can truly be admitted to understand the knowledge of eternity. This is a kind of place that just adds to the mystery, adds to the confusion, and just plain old adds.
The collision of religions in this area is striking. It's like a full plate of turkey at Christmas that just keeps on getting filled. It never ends. The belt is always tight. Tight as a snare drum. Christians, Muslims, Jews, and various other sects and offshoots are all represented here, all vying for their own piece of what was termed the Promised Land. And as we move north from Aqaba now and into the heart of Jordan, we begin to understand the history of the region, and a little bit more about the conflict that has plagued these people for centuries. I won't even try to take a position - you need a degree to do that - but it suffices to say that it is an experience in learning to immerse yourself so close to things so significant. Our trip through the desert seems insignificant by comparison.
We left Aqaba for Wadi Rum, a stunningly beautiful desert area at higher elevation but only an hour or so from the Gulf of Aqaba. It is here that T.E. Lawrence (AKA Lawrence of Arabia) spent many years living amongst the Bedouins, eventually teaching them how to fight against the oppressive Ottomans that were ruling at that time. The land is bleak, yet beautiful. Tall sandstone mountains with rounded hat like tops thrust skyward out of an endless red/tan sandbox. The temperatures are very cold, and as we make our way through the stands soft rock, we have to put on our gloves and hats in the back of the open topped jeep. We climbed several dunes and raced down at top speed, some of us barefoot, later to retire in a Bedouin tent for local tea and hospitality. It seems that there is no water anywhere, but the Bedouins know how to find it - in cracks and crevasses, and even in the sand itself, just beneath the surface.
We drove around for at least three hours before getting back to the visitor's centre for some lunch, and then we were off again, following the footsteps of Moses towards Petra, the hidden city. Arriving in the evening, we checked into our hotel only to find that we were in for quite a battle to get some hot water out of the stingy folks down at reception. After all of their pleading that everything was fine, I finally said "Can you please go downstairs and raise the set point on the boiler"! I think I scared them because I knew what I was talking about; a few minutes later we had the hot water. Maybe I can't blame them though; it's not that busy and they're just trying to save some money... Anyway, I was still under the weather after Sinai and wanted a semi decent shower before a rest so I could tackle all the walking at Petra tomorrow. That was something I was looking forward to.