Jerusalem, the Dead Sea, and the border.

Israel Travel Blog

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During our stay in Jerusalem, Jiyoung and I had a chance to visit a number of important sites. On our first day, we joined in the Franciscan (Catholic) procession that visits the Stations of the Cross (Via Dolorosa), the traditional path that Jesus took with the cross. It began at the place where Pilate is said to have judged Jesus and then follows a path through the city, stopping at certain points along the way where Jesus stumbled, met Mary, wiped his face, and so on, until it finishes up at the place where he was crucified, buried, and resurrected.
This path is probably historically inaccurate, but nonetheless tradition maintains a strong belief in it so it's not without merit.

The next day we ventured out of the old city and headed towards the Mount of Olives. Along the way we stopped first at the tomb of Mary and then at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested. There are eight olive trees that stand in the Garden that supposedly bear witness to the event, but it's doubtful that those trees are actually 2,000 years old. Again, the idea and tradition are stronger than fact, though, and both places were filled with sightseers. After a stiff hike up the Mount of Olives we were rewarded with a wonderful view of the Temple Mount and the Old City so we spent some time making funny pics with handstands and the like.
Hard to sink!

On our third day we hopped on a bus and headed to Ein Gedi, a little hole in the wall on the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is a very long, narrow lake that divides Israel and Jordan with mountains running along both sides. The Dead Sea is the lowest spot on Earth, over 400 meters (1100 feet) below sea level. It also has the highest concentration of salt in the world, making it uninhabitable. We eagerly hopped into the Sea and were quite amazed. The water feels so thick that swimming can be difficult and it is impossible to sink! It's a crazy feeling. When I had my legs under me, my shoulders still remained above water and I was unable to sink any further than that. We spent a good amount of time just floating and "swimming" around on our backs (the most efficient way of moving around in the water). We eventually found some dark mud and covered ourselves in it as this is a popular "mineral" mud bathing thing to do.
Unfortunately, the place we were at was quite rocky so we both managed to get a few cuts on our feet and hands. Woah. Imagine submerging a cut in salt. Ouch! When we got out we were covered with a very smooth "film" that turned crusty white when we dried, so we hopped up to the showers to clean up before catching the bus back to Jerusalem. It was a really fun and distinctive experience.

We left our hostel at 6 am the next morning to proceed to Eilat, the border town between Jordan and Egypt (and where we were stuck for two days when we arrived in Israel). Upon arrival we headed straight to the Egyptian Consulate to get our visas. I had been worried about this all week because I was afraid of not getting there in time and having to spend yet another day doing nothing in Eilot, but we were in and out in thirty minutes and at the border before 12:30.
We crossed through into Egypt and walked about ten minutes to the bus station, passing some camels wandering aimlessly down the road as we went. We had a bit of a wait for the next bus but it finally arrived and we were off on our 150 km jaunt south to the beach city of Dahab on the Sinai peninsula. The bus was stopped no less than six times at checkpoints along the way and each time we had to show our passports to the seemingly random person that stepped onto the bus. We arrived in Dahab in a relatively short 2.5 hours, caught an over-priced "taxi" (a.k.a., a random guy's truck) and we were there, twelve hours after leaving Jerusalem. Woohoo! We found a great restaurant and spent the evening relaxing on pillows not one foot away from the water's edge. Absolutely wonderful.

Today shall be spent wandering through the corniche, lying on the beach, and probably snorkeling. Tomorrow Jiyoung and I are planning to climb Mt. Sinai (the Moses and Ten Commandments one) in the dark (!!) and arrive at the summit in time to watch the sunrise (if we don't fall asleep first!). We'll have to see how that works out.

Until then….
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Hard to sink!
Hard to sink!
65 km (40 miles) traveled
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