Last weekend, I came home to reality after a fantastic two-and-a-half week vacation to Israel and Jordan. Visiting the Middle East is not something I ever expected to do, simply because it struck me as a part of the world that you would really need a guide to tackle. Lucky for me, my boyfriend is a bit of an expert in the Middle East, having lived in Jordan for several years working on his dissertation for his PhD. He even comes pre-programed, being conversationally fluent in Arabic.
So, after my boyfriend and his students completed their study abroad tour of Israel and Jordan, I flew out and met him in Tel Aviv and we basically completed the program backwards, with a bit of a different agenda. We started in Tel Aviv where we wandered through Jaffa, hung out on the beach and wandered the markets and shops. Then, we moved to Jerusalem. While there, we wandered through the Old City, visited some of the holy sites including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Western Wall and viewed the Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount (we would have visited the Dome too, but it was closed due to the end of Ramadan). We also did an excursion that included hiking to the top of the Masada Fortress to watch the sunrise, visiting the Ein Gedi waterfalls and finally, a trip to the Dead Sea where we covered ourselves in thick, black mud! After all that, we crossed the border into Jordan (an odyssey in its own right!). We spent most of our time in Amman, but took a trip to Wadi Rum where we spent the night in a Bedouin camp and took a sunset camel ride and visited one of the 9 Wonders of the World, Petra. Our last excursion involved a visit to the Ma’in Hot Springs and we visited Mount Nebo on the way.
Overall, this trip was an absolute dream. We ate tons of good food and met fascinating people from all over the world. But, along the way, I also took some time to play my sensory game which, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you will know that while visiting a new place, I try to slow down and become aware of my environment through my five senses with the purpose of enhancing my writing and how I describe things in my work. Here are the rules:
- See with more than just your eyes.
- When looking with your eyes, see things differently.
- Use rich vocabulary to describe what you are experiencing with each sense. (Sometimes it’s not about being artful, but being aware and then writing something beautiful later, though.)
And here is a sampling of my sensory game experiences while in Israel and Jordan:
- The mountains are cinched and gnarled like a scab on the skin of the earth. (The desert mountains in Israel made me think about scabbed skin. They were bare with no vegetation and were a combination of high peaks and broken rocks.)
- The sweet stench of rotting fruit and veggies on the ground.
- The push and shove of people as they wander through the markets.
- The swirl of conversation
- The stomach-tight feeling of looking around and not being able to read anything.
- The saccharine flavor of arak with lemon juice.
- The rolling lap of the sea on the sand.
- The flour-like sand and the scalding scorch of it against your feet in the hot sun.
- The crisp cool pools beneath the waterfalls.
- Sinking into the hot spring pools on an already scalding day.
- The cave-like feeling of the market streets in the Old City.
- The slap of a hand against bread dough as strong, knowing fingers knead.
- I stand in wonder on top of old red stones, climbing ancient and crumbling staircases, walking the paths that ancient people followed as they went about their lives.
- The chill of sunset as the heat of the day recedes, giving us a much-needed reprieve.
- In Amman, along with the guttural sound of Arabic, you can hear an endless echo of car horns, blaring messages of their own in a symphony of bleats. (Jordanians honk at everything! To tell someone that the light has changed, as they blast through an intersection, cabs honk at people as they drive by signalling they are available in case you want a ride)
- My sharp intake of breath as we march into traffic and cross the streets filled with whizzing cars.
- The haunting echo of the call to prayer from the nearby mosque as it wafts through the summer sky.
- The sweet scent of hookah filling the cafes and rooftops; the orange-red coals and the tap of metal tongs as the server stocks the coals.
- The slimy suction of the mud as my feet sunk slowly into the sloppy shores of the Dead Sea.
- The swish of my long skirt around my ankles.
For those of you who are a bit more visually inclined, here are a few photos from our trip!