Six years ago today, in Jordan

Six years ago I spent four months living in the Holy Land, in Jerusalem. To be more precise, in East Jerusalem, the part of the city that is backed by Palestine’s West Bank. During that time I got to travel all over Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan.


Here is an excerpt from my journal entry six years ago, when I visited Jordan:

5 March 2008

“On our first day in Jordan we crossed the border and then went to Bethabara, also known as Bethany, where John the Baptist baptized the Savior. I touched the water and picked up a flower and put it in my scriptures in the Matthew account.

“(SIDE NOTE: It was interesting to see the Jordanian flag flying on this side of the Jordan River and the Israeli flag flying on the far side. The Jordan River forms the border between the two countries, just like the Jordan River formed the border of the nation of Israel in ancient times.)

“We went to the top of Mount Pisgah, the highest part of Mount Nebo. I’m so glad we got to go! Mount Nebo was something I’ve wanted to do my whole life…There was a huge rusty modern art sculpture of the brazen serpent on top. We read the scriptural account…Then we read—this is my favorite part—the account of how Moses ascended Mount Nebo before he died, and the Lord showed him all the land of the inheritance of his people—all of Canaan, all the way out to the sea—that Moses would never enter. When we were up there, I could understand why the Lord would bring him to the top of Mount Nebo. We were above everything, and we could see everything: the whole land of Canaan. Spread out at our feet, shining in colors of green farm fields and purple brown hills and gray water and blue horizon. I wonder how Moses felt as he looked down upon the land that had been promised to the children of Abraham and Israel for generations.”

So many faithful people, like Moses, never get to set foot in this Holy Land. How did I get so lucky to live there? To wake up to the call to prayer every morning and to spend my days walking that ancient sacred land…why was I thus blessed? I don’t know. But I will be thankful all the days of my life that I was.


The journey into Petra took us through narrow, winding, redrock slot canyons that looked exactly like the ones at home. Then my breath caught in my chest as the canyon opened up and I caught my first glimpse of Petra.

There are some places that you expect you’ll get to sometime in your life: California, maybe Canada, some of the eastern states, and hopefully Europe at some point. Then there are other places that you dream of but never expect to actually visit. Petra is one of those places. As a little girl I read the encyclopedia for fun, so I’ve read about Petra my whole life. But I never imagined that I’d go there!

So what is Petra, exactly? It’s a city carved out of the canyon by the Nabataeans, a desert people that lived during Roman times. Petra was along the King’s Highway, an important trade route, and so the Nabataeans were wealthy traders. The entire canyon of Petra is filled with the temples, dwellings, and hundreds of tombs carved out of the cliffs. In its heyday, Petra was home to thousands of people.

Look! Indiana Jones! Along the bottom of the canyon is an ancient Roman road, or cardo. This building is the first that you pass along the cardo; it’s called the “Treasury”

You can’t tell in this photo, but on the canyon wall behind us there are dozens of little tombs carved out of the rock.

“I’ll fetch water for your camels, too!” In Old Testament times, the well was definitely the place to meet.

We got to spend most of the day just exploring Petra on our own, so I hiked up to the “Monastery” a few miles up the canyon

There was only a little time left before I had to catch my horse ride out of the canyon, but I really wanted to go up to the High Place, an ancient Nabataean altar where they performed animal and human sacrifice. So I paid a Bedouin guy $5 to borrow his donkey, and Madison and Dave and I high-tailed it up to the High Place. In some places the trail was really steep! And there were long drop-offs on the side! Riding a donkey up to an ancient sacrificial altar in Petra is definitely in my Top Ten Life Moments.