Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's All About Water

Fertile Fields of the Nile Valley

Standing in the Gulf of Suez

The Siq on the way to Petra

First Glimpse of the Treassury at Petra. Me and Indiana Jones

Chapel Mosaic at The Baptismal Site in Jordan

"The Jesus Boat" A first century boat found in the mud of the Sea of Gallilee.

Purifying Mud preparing for the Dead Sea
Where ever we went in Egypt, Jordan or Israel it was about the water. The Nile is the life of Egypt. It is amazing how the green of the Nile valley abruptly changes to the desert surrounding the pyramids. In maybe less than 100 yards we go from green productive land and to barren rocky desert. The Aswan dam project of the 60’s and ‘70’s put an end to the annual flooding of the Nile and allowed for a better development of the valley. However there were numerous unforeseen consequences aided by several other geopolitical developments. The lack of annual flooding to renew the soil meant new farming techniques had to be learned. The larger consequence was that with the threat of flooding removed the lush green valley became a great place to build. So the rich luscious productive acreage of the valley began to grow suburbs instead of the crops needed to feed the people and for export.

 Our first stop in the Sinai is a group of springs Associated with the Exodu story of Marah or bitter water. Various parts of the Sinai are being irrigated and put in to use for olive, peach and citrus trees.

 The most amazing place we visited was the hidden city of Petra. We enter the city by walking down the Siq. A canyon created by the flow of water. In places the sides climb three hundred feet above us. While usually comfortably wide it sometimes narrows to only ten feet. When the rains do come they gush through here with torrential force. In a flash flood in the 90’s several dams gave way and several guides and tourists drowned. Usually though there is a lack of water so the Nabataeans who built Petra built an elaborate water channel along the siq to bring water from outside the city into the city. Our guide told a story of the Romans who when they were unable to take the city by force finally they resort to poisoning the water. With over a thousand dead the Nabataeans surrender.  I can find this story on Wikipedia or in the guide book about Petra that we bought. Most of the buildings we see in Petra are tombs.

The Jordanian site for the baptism of Jesus was discovered after the Camp David peace accord. Equipment being used to remove some of the defenses between Jordan and Israel ran into some foundation stones. Soon the foundations of Eight Churches were uncovered revealing that in the 3rd and 4th century this was viewed as the site of the Baptism. There is a beautiful stone font by the river. Our guide Remy had been here for the Baptism of his niece two weeks prior to our visit. While the water has the power to renew the spirit I discovered that if you drop your camera into the river Jordan it does not do so well. As a matter of fact after wards it does nothing. We are at this point between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. At this point the Jordan River is only about 15 feet wide. Only 20% of Jordan receives at least 7 inches annually of rain which is considered a minimum for rain fed agriculture.  The Jordan river is the other main source of water but the amount used is governed by treaty with Israel.

Water Falls at Ein Gedi above the Dead Sea
By comparison central and northern Israel is flush with water. We visited the springs of Banias Where Jesus said to Peter on this rock I will build my church. We sailed across the Sea of Galilee and ate lunch at a place famous for serving St. Peter’s Fish (I don’t recommend it.) Israel controls the entire shore. Parts of the northern Israel get as much as 28 inches of rain a year. We visited springs at Ein Gedi just above the Dead Sea. Here David is said to have hidden in a cave while fleeing Saul only to have Saul step into the cave to relieve himself. And after covering ourselves in purifying mud we floated in the Dead Sea. While in Israel our guide talks about the preciousness of water it is obviously used in abundance with apparently little restraint. Both Israel and Jordan have desalination projects and sewer systems that use gray water for irrigation.  

1 comment:

  1. Water! Stuart...I cannot recall the sermon exactly but you asked us to think of a word and somehow make it work for us for a period of time. I don't remember mine, but I remember that yours was "water". :)

    Glad you are having such a great time