Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Oh the places we go: Turkey, Syria, and Jordan

The rest of Turkey was fantastic! It rained basically the whole time we were there. Unfortunately, my dad was proved right once again – always pack a rain coat even if you’re traveling some place like Cairo. Also, I only had sandals, which made for some froze toes. But that’s ok, I loved every second of being cold! J

We went the Aya Sofia and the Blue Mosque, as well as the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. The Aya Sofia was amazing, but somewhat diminished by the scaffolding holding up the central dome. I unfortunately couldn’t get too many great outside pictures because it was pouring rain. The Bazaar was great too – there was way more tourist junk than I could ever possibly want to know existed. We also had lectures with amazing journalists, and lawyers. One day we went to Koc University and met with students there. Just based on how it looks, I would totally do graduate work there! It’s a gorgeous campus! On Sunday in Istanbul we went to a protestant church near downtown – it was kind of strange (but really nice) to be singing worship songs again. Afterwards we went to a coffee shop, and then wandered through book stores. Later we went to another church which is a lot smaller than the Aya Sofia, but has much better preserved Mosaics/frescos. They were fantastic! The food in Istanbul was great. “Tost” really meant an amazing grilled cheese sandwich, and there were a ton of little street vendors and such that sold roasted chestnuts, corn, etc. We also got a lot of Turkish delight and Turkish coffee…. J

Ankara didn’t have as much character as Istanbul – our Turkish tour guide informed us that the best part of going to Ankara was coming back to Istanbul. We still had a pretty good time there, though. We went to the foreign ministry and discovered that being unable to provide any real information in the answer to a question is apparently an international trait among bureaucratic officials….We also went to Anit Kabir, which is Mustafa Kemel’s (Ataturk’s) tomb/monument. Ataturk is basically George Washington + Lincoln + Jesus for the Turks – kind of a big deal. We made many Ataturk jokes, and spent a lot of time looking for ridiculous Ataturk paraphernalia – I thought about buying the tie that had his face on it, but couldn’t think what I would actually do with such a thing. Anyway, Anit Kabir was really impressive. Since had stopped raining by the time we finished a few of us decided to take the “short walk” back to our hotel instead of the bus. That was fine until we realized that none of us had actually asked for directions…and that we didn’t have a map. Or a phone. Or the name of the area where our hotel was located. And only a very few Turkish words. So we just kept walking. After going in a big circle we got in a taxi and told them to take us to the Hotel Royal Anka. He took us to the Hotel Ankara Royal. Oops. Thankfully on the way to the Ankara Royal Eric saw a restraint that he recognized from walking around the night before, and I saw the minarets of the mosque on the same street as our hotel. So after arriving at the wrong hotel, we were able to wander with at least some idea of where to go. We eventually made it back…where the rest of mesp proceeded to make fun of us, and reminded us that we’d been given emergency cards with the address of all of our hotels. Again, oops. But we got to see a lot of Ankara…!

We flew from Ankara to Hatay and then drove from there to the Syrian border. We went through what used to be Antioch on our way! The first border crossing went down with no problems, just a long wait. I’m so happy that I’m travelling with Dr. Diaa who takes care of all the details and gets us all visas, etc. We’re going to miss him in Israel! After the border we drove to Hama and stayed the night (or what was left of it) at a really sketchy hotel. Pretty sure that pillow could have been used as the cornerstone of a mosque… The next morning we checked out the Hama waterwheels, and roman-era aqueducts before getting back on the bus to go to the Krak des Chevaliers. This is the classic crusader fortress – we had a blast pretty much running around it. We found a “secret” tunnel, and stumbled down it in the dark. We considered climbing out of it via the wall instead of the stairs – but we ran out of time. After they dragged us away from the ridiculous awesomeness of the castle, we had a fantastic Syrian lunch. I’m not really sure what I was eating, but it was really good. J ohhh and I saw MOUNTAINS! Real mountains with lots of snow on them. They were apparently in Lebanon, and I really wanted to go visit them, but they wouldn’t let me.

After the Krak we drove to Damascus! They gave us a lot of free time there which was nice. We spent a lot of time in the Old City, and got to know the “street that is called straight” very well. We visited Ananias’ house, and read the chp in Acts which talks about him – it was pretty sweet. During our tour of Damascus we went to the “star wars” mosque – named for the ridiculous jedi-style coverings given to all the girls to ensure proper covered. Actually, it’s the Ommayad mosque, which is one of the most important to Muslims. One of it’s minarets is called “the Jesus minaret” because they think Jesus will come back – on that minaret. Anyway, I got some cool pictures with my jedi cloak. I think the guys were all a little jealous that they didn’t get jedi cloaks too. We also met with some missionaries in Damascus, and got to hang out in a real house for awhile. We also visited the American Embassy, which fed us cookies and water. Turkish hospitality at the AKP was way better. J

We managed the Syria-Jordan border without a problem also – Thanks Diaa! We got here last night, and spent today at the Dead Sea. Um, we floated. It was cool. They actually took us to a nice resort, so we got to play in the pool too after we couldn’t deal with the salt any more. Tomorrow we’re headed to Israel! And we have to manage this border without Diaa…he and Jim are headed back to Cairo tomorrow morning. Kandyce (Jon’s fiancé) gets here on Sunday though. I’m really looking forward to these next two weeks even though they’re going to be pretty intense – both emotionally and homework-wise. Not to mention we’re just going to be really busy. But it’s totally ok, because we’re going to be in Israel!!

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