Sunday, February 24

Transjordan, Day Ten: Heading North

Today was a bit of a waste really. It was mainly spent in the north, the main attraction being Nazareth, a two and a half hour drive away.

The action actually started on the drive up. On leaving the West Bank (the quickest way to Nazareth was via the Palestinian territory) where we were usually waved across after a brief passport check, we now had them taken away, were asked to leave the vehicle, empty our pockets and be scanned after which we were sat in isolation for a few minutes. And all of this under the supervision of armed guards.

It was a horrible, demeaning experience and in some ways worse than the Allenby crossing back in, if only because we couldn't figure out what we had done to trigger this behaviour. Needless to say, it had totally spoiled the mood for the day and possibly even for the rest of the holiday - we all wanted to just go home after that point. If the intention of those hassling us was to make us feel unwelcome then they had totally and utterly succeeded.

Nazareth didn't appear to be that special. We visited the location where Mary was told she would become pregnant with Isa/Jesus (now a pretty impressive church) and prayed in a nearby mosque, one that we were told was shrinking year on year due to some obnoxious policies created by the local authorities.

After Nazareth, we headed toward the Sea of Galilee proper. There were a few sites to see, including the prophet's old town, now only ruins, where he had performed one of many miracles. We also stopped for lunch, some extremely expensive fish which was nice but a total rip off. Amusingly our driver didn't have to pay for his meal - obviously some form of commission for bringing us there in the first place.

We passed by Tiberius, where we saw what was left of Salah ad-Din's citadel, and then stopped off at the Jordan River baptism site where a whole party were getting baptised. I'm slightly ashamed to say that I was mesmerised by the whole thing. It was a pretty amazing thing to witness.

We were back in Jerusalem by 5pm. In terms of value, today wasn't great. Since transport was so expensive and the North was so far away, we ended up with not much to show for the driving hours spent. I'd take it back if I could and would recommend that others don't bother at all.

In the evening we had finally met the head imam of Al-Aqsa. I had heard loads about the guy and was afraid I wouldn't get the chance to see him at all after learning he had been out of the country since Hajj, a few months back. Luckily he had returned the weekend we were leaving and I made sure I gained an audience with him. He's a very nice guy, English speaking and charismatic - clearly popular with the congregation if the hassle I had getting to him was anything to go by. I must admit that he may have been possibly and ever so slightly eccentric though.

Otherwise we were taking it easy this evening. Tonight was to be our last in Jerusalem.

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