I have a new website! You will be redirected to my brand new blog. Cory Nickols: September 2011

Saturday, September 17, 2011

September 15th | Day 7 in Jordan

The day after Petra, we traveled to Wadi Rum, one of the most beautiful places on earth! On the way we stopped at Little Petra and saw one of oldest paintings in the area. It is 2000 years old. The detail in the painting was so intricate and it brought to light just how detailed the Nabateans actually were.

Then we headed to Wadi Rum for one of the best experiences of my life. We went out into the middle of nowhere into God's country and slept in a Bedouin style camp and ate like they ate. We drove jeeps into the wilderness and then watched a magnificent sunset off this cliff…does it really get any better than this? We slowly climbed up a sand dune and ran down it…our tour guide fell because he ran too fast and lost control…seriously one of the funniest things ever. Seeing him wipeout, I didn’t go down quite as fast as he did, but it sure was an awesome experience!!!

After the sunset, we headed to the campsite for dinner, dancing, singing and just a great time. I could just imagine how Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived in the desert, or even Moses and God’s people for that matter. It was definitely a highlight on the trip.

The next morning, several of us got up at 5:30 and rode camels back to the main campsite checkin point. What an experience that was! We stopped along the way and watched the sunrise. Words can’t describe the beauty of the sun coming up over the mountains in the Wadi Rum desert!!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14th | Day 6 in Jordan

I spent the whole day in Petra! It was an incredible experience and really words cannot accurately describe the beauty of God's creation and the architecture of this ancient civilization.

The Nabateans were nomadic Arabs who settled in the area sometime in the sixth century B.C. and thrived until about 100 A.D. The Romans tried many times to take over this important civilization, but were unsuccessful until about 100 A.D. when they finally caused the Nabateans to surrender without bloodshed.
Moses and the Israelites were said to have passed through the Petra Area in ancient Edom which was a kingdom mentioned in the Bible.

Horse carriage in the canyon at Petra

Walking in the canyon at Petra

Narrowest point in the Canyon

Walking in the Canyon

The Nabateans were sophisticated engineers for their time as it relates to architecture and water systems. They carved magnificent building facades out of rose-red sand stone and created an advanced water system that ran the length of the city in some type of pipes that were pressurized. Water would literally travel up an incline because the seal on the piping system was so good. Many of the carved structures on the sides of the buildings were memorials, burial tombs or temples because they believed in the importance of the dead and sacrificing for religious purposes.

The Treasury at Petra

Cory riding a camel at the Treasury and the camel is drinking a bottle of water!

Cory standing at the Treasury

Tomb at Petra

Amphitheater at Petra

The King's Tomb at Petra

As we journeyed further into Petra, we entered the famous narrow canyon. It was so breathtaking. At the end of the narrow canyon, we caught a glimpse of the massive Treasury which is the most famous building in Petra. It was so ornate and the scale of it was unbelievable.
After standing in awe of this structure for some time, we ventured further into this city. We came across a huge canyon area with so many cool structures, including an amphitheater, and the King’s tomb. We finally made it to the main street of Petra and at one point in time, both sides of the street where lined with huge columns, but most of them had been destroyed.

Cory pushing the columns down at the amphitheater 

One of the buildings was called The Great Petra Temple and it was over 70,000 square feet in size. It was an unreal sight to see.

The Great Petra Temple

At this point on the tour, we stopped and ate lunch at a very good restaurant called The Basin Restaurant inside Petra. It overlooked the most beautiful mountain landscape too!
Next, some of my tour companions and I hiked up 800 or 900 steps to what the locals call The Monastery. It is larger than the Treasury, but is not quite as ornate. However, it was an amazing site to see and it was at a very high elevation and from various places around the monastery you could see way off into the distance!

Walking up 800 to 900 stairs to the Monastery  

Continuing our climb

The Monastery

The Monastery from a mountain peak 

The overall hike for the day is not for the fainthearted. We hiked about 8 miles up and down mountains and over hills and through the woods. Ok, there were no woods in Petra, but you get my point. It was a vigorous day physically. However, many who were in their 50’s, 60’s and even 70’s walked along paths that suited their physical limitations. There is something for everyone. People can even ride donkeys, horses, or camels to make the experience less grueling for those that don’t have the endurance or stamina.

Overlooking Petra Valley from a mountain top

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September 13th | Day 5 in Jordan

View from the Evason Ma'in Hotel

I was sound asleep, only to be woken up by sun beams pouring into my room at the Evason Ma'in Hotel. It was such a nice peaceful stay. The staff were so accommodating and treated us like kings and queens. After waking up, I put on my swimming trunks and headed down to the natural hot spring water fall just down the way with our tour guide and a friend of his. The best hot tube experience ever…the scenery doesn’t get any better! From the hot springs, we headed to the other side of the resort complex to a hot spring swimming pool. It was much cooler than the first hot springs we submerged into, but it was very refreshing as well. After swimming, we went back to the hotel and had a gourmet buffet style breakfast and ate too much food…but absolutely delicious.

Cory posing for the camera overlooking the Dead Sea at Mukawir

The mountain that Herod Antipas' palace was on

A cave on the side of the mountain going up to the palace

The remains of Herod's Palace

 Video showing view of Herod's Palace

Our first stop of the day was at Mukawir. It had so many amazing views of mountains, the Dead Sea, and the palace ruins of Herod Antipas, the Roman appointed ruler over the region during the life of Jesus. John the Baptist was beheaded at this palace and his head was brought on a platter to Herod during a party he had.

As our eyes gazed across the Dead Sea, we were able to look at the mountains of Israel and catch a glimpse of how beautiful the Promise Land and this area were.  Many caves had been dug out on the mountainsides leading up to the top of the mountain where the palace ruins were located. I loved the challenge of this place because we had to hike up the mountain and had a chance to explore many caves on the way up to the summit. We never knew what we would find in them or what was up around the corner. Just when I thought the country side couldn’t get any more beautiful, we would see a view that left us speechless!

Our next stop was over an hour away, but eventually we made it to Umm Ar-Rasas. This ancient ruin was fortified by the Romans and local Christians were still embellishing it with Byzantine-style mosaics. We could tell this was a whole community of homes, many of which were still standing. Just outside the city walls was a recently unearthed Church of Saint Stephen with its well-preserved outstanding mosaic floor, the largest of its kind to be discovered in Jordan and second only to the world-famous mosaic map at Madaba. Umm Ar-Rasas is a UNESCO World Heritage site too and is protected from being tampered by international guidelines.

A small Roman house ruin at Umm Ar-Rasas

More Roman ruins at Umm Ar-Rasas

Mosaic at Church of Staint Stephens at Umm Ar-Rasas

Mosaic at Church of Staint Stephens at Umm Ar-Rasas

We, then made a 2.5 hour drive south to Petra so that we could begin exploring this 7 Ancient Wonders of the World!

Sunset at the City of Petra...amazing!!

Monday, September 12, 2011

September 12 | Day 4 in Jordan

Today was an amazing day. First we drove about an hour away from Amman to the Jordan River to the place called Bethany beyond the Jordan. This river separates Jordan from the West Bank, a territory occupied by Israel. We went to the location where John the Baptist baptized Jesus and saw many different churches either built or under construction by various denominations surrounding this significant place, including the largest Catholic Church in the Middle East...it was currently under construction. This was such a cool experience to see where Jesus was baptized and where John the Baptist lived and had his ministry. John is reference in the Bible in Matthew 11:7-14:

“As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you. ’Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.

I actually saw the dry barren desert and the lush vegetation on the edge of Jordan River in sharp contrast to each other…including reeds swaying in the wind referenced by Jesus. John was referenced in this passage by Jesus as the Elijah to come and it was interesting that both John the Baptist and Elijah had ministries in the same area. Not far from the Baptism site, meaning less than a mile, scholars and archeologists think Elijah was caught up to Heaven on a Chariot of Fire. They called this place Elijah’s Hill. Both prophets had similarities in what God commissioned them to do on earth and the location in which they ministered! The scriptures come to life so much more now because I can visualize so many of the places referenced in the Bible. The tour guide said that lions even ran wild in Jordan up until about 300 years ago. I didn’t know that! But the Bible said that King David killed a bear and a lion with his bare hands. So much history, facts and Biblical significance in this beautiful country!

Cory touching the water at the Jordan River

Rich vegetation at Elijah's Hill near the Jordan River

Largest Catholic Church in the Middle East under construction at Bethany beyond the Jordan

Elijah's Hill where Elijah was caught up to Heaven

From the Bethany beyond the Jordan, we went to the city of Madaba and had lunch at Haret Jdoudna. This city was known for having a large Christian population and still does to this day. After lunch, we toured St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church and saw a mosaic showing a map of the Holy Lands from the 6th Century A.D. It was magnificent. It took over 2 million tiles to create it.

Lunch at Haret Jdoudna...very good Jordanian food!

St. George's Greek Orthodox Church

6th Century Mosaic of Holy Lands

Inside the Church

The next stop on our tour was Mount Nebo. This mountain top was the place where most scholar’s believe Moses overlooked the Promise Land of Israel, but could not enter. The Bible says Moses climbed to the top of this mountain and died and his body was buried in an undisclosed location. At the top of this mountain I could see the Dead Sea, the Jordan River Valley and over into Israel. The views were so majestic…one could literally see for miles and miles. At the top of Mount Nebo there is a monument, a museum and a monastery for monks who oversee the site.

On the way up to Mount Nebo, we encountered camels crossing the road

From Mount Nebo overlooking the Promise Land

Mount Nebo

Memorial Stone at Mount Nebo

Evangelical Pastor from India visiting Mount Nebo (Cory knows no stranger, just a friend he hasn't met yet!!!)

After a long day of seeing many significant Biblical sites, our group went to an amazing hotel near the Dead Sea called Ma’in Hotel. This hotel is at the base of natural hot springs in a canyon. The water temperature is about 100 degrees Fahrenheit and gets incorporated into the pool at the hotel. Words cannot describe, no pictures do justice for the beauty of this place. We ate dinner outside on the patio overlooking the water fall and once the sunset, I could see the lights of Jerusalem off in the distance.

Ma'in Hotel overlooking landscape from balcony

Hot Springs falling into the pool

View from hotel toward Jerusalem

I truly feel so blessed and honored to be on this trip and wish each of you could be here with me. Maybe I need to lead a tour of the Holy Lands with all of you! Now that would be very cool!