peace is every step

Month: September 2016 (page 1 of 2)

Wadi Attun; the Hot Spring Trail

In the middle of the desert, in a relatively unknown wadi near the Dead Sea, a small creek made the canyon into a little paradise.

The wadi is surrounded by steep, red cliffs and winds up to higher grounds. It was not always easy to find the way over the high boulders and through the dense vegetation of desert grass and high reeds.

Often, the fast flowing water was cascading down into small basins, which would usually be perfect to cool down.

However, the water was too warm to be refreshing, as hot springs were feeding the creek.

Hot water rushing down a waterfall.

The sharp edges of  palm tree leaves were scratching our arms and legs.

A group of teenagers led by two coaches were climbing up the waterfall with a rope. Lorenz looked for another path, but the terrain was too steep, so we had to turn back.

The way down the wadi was as beautiful as the way up.

Some of the water of the creek was reaching the Dead Sea, quite a rarity.

Wadi Zarqa Maeen Trail

The trek in Wadi Zarqa was planned by the Tropical Desert Company and led by three experienced climbers. Wadi Zarqa is located near the Dead Sea and only known by insiders. Overall, we were a group of 13 people walking the canyon trail.


It was a 15 minutes hike through the dry, rocky desert down to the upper canyon. Blooming oleander shrubs were growing beside the little stream, a pure paradise in the barren landscape surrounding us.



The little creek contained an abundance of wild life – like frogs, fish and crabs.



Besides the different sounds of moving water, the song of birds filled the air.  Sometimes, we had to swim through the water basins made by the waterfalls.  The water was warm and refreshing.



We had to repel down two waterfalls, one of them 45 meters high.  It always took a long time for the whole group to get to the next level.



Ale waiting for her turn to repel.



It was my first time repelling.  I was against the rock for the first 10 meters and afterwards I was hanging freely in the air .  Water was crashing down my body and I was part of this falling, of this letting go.  I loved every minute of it.



Our three leaders did an excellent job of caring for our safety.



Moss in the desert is a real miracle.



Some waterfalls we could pass on the side.

Our trek ended near a hot spring with incredible hot water.  It smelled like rotten eggs, a typical sulfur smell.  Farther down the Wadi the hot springs are used by a resort hotel.  Jordan has lots of hot springs,  a great thing in the cold winter time.


The beauty of Roman cities: Madaba and Gerasa (Jerash)

It was the devastating earthquake in 747 AD that helped preserve many sites of the Roman Cities in the Levantine area.

In Madaba, the 19th century Greek Orthodox church of St. George houses a map from 560AD. The map depicted once all the major biblical sites of the Middle East. Most of the mosaic is lost.

Map of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea with the Jordan river in the upper left hand side.

The mosaic of an early 6th century Byzantine villa shows Aphrodite and Adonis. She slaps Eros with her sandal. The 3 Graces (joy, beauty and charm) float around them.

8th-century mosaic of the Church of St. Mary built over a former  Roman temple. All lines of the multi-colored and intricate mosaic are connected  with each other forming patterns with no beginnings or ends. It was fascinating!

Floor mosaic depicting a Roman house beside a fruit tree with a Greek inscription above.

The Roman city of Gerasa (Jerash) was so well built that despite the earthquake the structures  of many public buildings still remain.

In honor of emperor Hadrian, who visited Gerasa and stayed there for one year, the Triumphal Arch was built. Originally, it was twice as high!

The center of the city is the forum, encircling an enormous space. Everything is original. The pomp and the luxury of the Roman way of life became very real by walking through the city.

The south theater seated 3000 spectators. The stage (photo) is still used for performances.

Colonnaded street leading to the North Gate and further on to the city of Pella.

A small relief on the wall of the northern theater.

Columns of the Artemis temple. The temple is the biggest and most important temple of the city. Up to the Ottoman period, the city was  surrounded by healthy forest with lots of wildlife hence the strong veneration of Artemis, the goddess of hunting.

At the end of our day, we bought figs from one of the many fruit stands beside the highway.

Wadi Mujib Siq Trail

Wadi Mujib Siq is a fantastic valley near the Dead Sea and only 45 minutes car drive south of Amman.  The contrast to the Dead Sea is stunning!


Throughout the last 60 years the water level of the Dead Sea has dropped 27 meters.  With its heavy, almost oily looking surface, the Dead Sea is 400 meters below sea level. The fresh water that once fed it is now diverted for other use.

In contrast to the Dead Sea, the Wadi is a narrow canyon where red, vertical cliffs provided shade most of the day. Warm fresh water streamed down with high speed, crashing against boulders and cascading to lower levels.



The visitor center at the entrance of the Wadi with an artistic pattern of light and shade.



The Canyon only opened up and let light in as it got closer to the Dead Sea.



Lorenz wading into the Canyon.  Most of the time the water level was shallow.



Fantastic patterns covered the rocks.



In some parts ropes were required to climb up boulders and little waterfalls.





Sometimes, the force of the water was incredibly strong. Without Lorenz’ helping  hand I could not have crossed some parts of the river.



Another beautiful rock pattern.


A strong waterfall was preventing us to walk up further into the canyon.



The waterfall was the end of our hike into the Wadi.  It was fun feeling the crushing water on my shoulders and head.


My son Lorenz and I


Abraham Trail; from Pella to Umm Qais

Before breakfast, I visited the excavation sites again. Broken columns, corinthian capitals decorated with leaves and cut out rocks were covering the dusty ground.  There were broken pieces of Roman pottery scattered all over the place. Tiny holes in the floor were evidence of metal detectors whose job is to search for Roman coins.

View from one of three Byzantine churches (former Roman temples) to Pella and the Jordan Valley.

Already at 8am the heat was unbearable. We decided to take a taxi to our next destination and had to stop at many checkpoints due to how close we were to Israel. Our Palestinian driver (now a Jordanian citizen) told us about his yearning to return to his homeland. He still has the key to his grandmother’s house were he grew up!

View from Umm Qais, the former Roman Decapolis city of Gardara, to lake of Tiberias (was called sea of Galilee) and the Golan Heights (Syria) to the right.

The ruins of Gardara still show the life of the city’s past.

West theater built from black basalt and seating 3000 people.

Decumanus Maximus, the main road in Gardara. The paved road once led to the Mediterranean coast.

We also visited some underground sites in Gardara, like the crypt underneath a Byzantine church (see photo) and the aqueduct, which was part of a sophisticated water system of a 170 km long tunnel connecting many Roman cities. A powerful earthquake in the 8th century destroyed many cities and part of this tunnel.

In the Romero restaurant, a former Ottoman school on the site, we had a great lunch with a fantastic view.

From the restaurant the view was spectacular!

Abraham Path; From Beit Idis to Pella

It was still dark when the Muezin announced the start of EID, the festival of breaking the second fasting after Ramadan.

In the early morning our host showed us his herd of sheep. It was cloudy, a rare weather condition for the summer time.

We started our hike with the visit of the ruins of a Byzantine Church. Most of the mosaic floor was covered by  sand. The site, a  cultural treasure, was unprotected.

Our hike took us through two Wadis- Wadi Sirr and Wadi Malawi – with only a few very old oak trees providing shade along the way. We walked down from 600 meters to around sea level.

Despite the unhospitable seeming land we came  across some wildlife – a giant lizard and two communicating Levantine turtles. Das With their hard shells they bumped into each other which made a loud noise.

Walking down into the Jordan Valley in a temperature of over 40 degree celsius was a challenge. Good thing that we carried plenty of water!

From under the shade of a few pine trees we enjoyed the view down into the Jordan  Valley and the West Bank.

We stayed overnight in Pella, a city founded by the Romans. Pella was one of the 10 fabled cities that made up the Decapolis.

Our first sight of Pella. The city has a history of 7000 years of continous settlement. The reason for this is the existence of a well that, according to a Pella resident, produces 700 liters of water in a second.

In the evening we visited the site with our local host. He showed us the pre-Roman Canaanite  temple of Baal costructed in 1270 BC (in the foreground). In the distance down below is the well-preserved Roman Civic complex which was transformed into a church during the Byzantine times.

In the past the site was not protected and stealing artifacts was done without punishment. Nowadays a small area of the site is sourrounded by a wired fence with holes in it for easy access. This site is a treasure for humanity. It needs to be researched, guarded and protected.

Local children watching us with curiosity.

Abraham Path; from Orjan to Beit Idis via Rasoun

In the morning we hiked up the red cliff mountain in the burning heat of the morning sun. We were thankful that the Kermes Oak trees provided a lot of shade.

On the 16 km long hike we walked with 2 new guides- Mahmoud, a retired air force pilot and Moat, a nurse. They explained the vegetation and told stories from the area.

Ale and Lorenz are picking tiny fruits from the Jujube tree.

The fruits had a sweet lemon taste and were delicious.

Often we saw signs of the Roman civilization. The village of Qabla was destroyed by an earthquake and has never been excavated. We walked over  buried temples and houses and saw empty tombs and mysterious caves.

The Roman quarry of Qabla.

Every four hours, the voices of the Muezins from the villages around us were filling the air. We even heard their prayers in the Wadi  Zubia, a valley filled with big and healthy oak trees.

Wadi Zubia

At the end of our hike we visited Jesus’  Cave. In Roman times, the area above the cave was already used to press grapes for wine and olives for olive oil.

The millstone of the olive press. The wooden staff was turned by donkeys walking in a circle.

Ancient wine press. Those who made the wine stomped the grapes with their feet in this area.

Inside of the cave, where legends tell that Jesus was fasting for 40 days, the process of making olive oil was continued.

We stayed overnight in a private home with a family with four beautiful children. The whole family was extremely welcoming. The Grandmother of the children showed me how she makes bread.

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