Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I wish I had the words

Since I last put anything on this blog, I've: finished another semester of grad school, traveled to Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, and Greece, been through a break-up, and started work on my thesis. Consider that the quick update.

Visiting the Middle East was incredible and, sadly, indescribable. I've tried to explain the feelings and smells and sights, but I can't capture them in words. My attempts always come up short. For example: The Suq in Damascus smells like the color orange, sharp and bright and spicy. It's a mix of tamarind juice and the spices that are sold in open bins in the market stalls. You walk through the Suq and your eyes get drunk from the colors everywhere, illuminated by sunlight streaming through the pinprick holes in the metal roof. There are colorful scarves and pashminas everywhere, their light fabric and vibrant colors waving gently as people hurry past. Between the stalls of spices and fabrics are stalls gleaming with jewelry and wonderfully decorated tea sets. Then you walk out through ancient stone arches and into a courtyard full of pigeons with old men talking politics and women tending children waiting to get into the Umayyad Mosque just a few yards away.

That was just one of the things we did on our first day in Damascus. Now, imagine ten times what I can describe, and multiply that by 21 days of similar experiences: visiting ruins, driving through deserts, climbing mountains, watching sunrises and sunsets, seeing mosques, churches, and synagogues, worshiping on mountains and next to beautiful blue seas, snorkeling in the Red Sea, riding a camel in the middle of the night, and praying in places where Jesus walked and taught. I regret to say that I can't possibly articulate it. You'd need to go there. Which, for the record, I highly recommend.

I'll try to explain more as I go through more of my pictures and journal stuff. In the meantime, here are some of the pictures that best capture my experience.

This is the sunrise from the top of Mt. Sinai in Egypt.

The "monastery" in Petra, Jordan is actually a huge facade for a tomb.

I had the opportunity to pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.