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Part 1: The journey to Jerusalem, a quick stop in Amman.

 “Are you sure you want to visit Palestine? Is it even safe to go there?”

These are probably some of the common questions whenever someone voices out the idea of going to Palestine for a holiday. It was how some of my family and friends reacted when we told them about our 7 days adventure covering Amman, Jerusalem and Petra.

I do not blame them for being a bit worried as news coverage in Malaysia about Palestine are often associated with disturbing images of instability – whether in a form of police brutality, teenagers throwing stones and the suffering of the locals due to the never ending conflicts.

This is unfortunate as in reality Palestine in particular the Old City of Jerusalem is a beautiful place rich with history and culture. A place that I witnessed religious tolerance, a place that I met friendly locals and a place that I felt a sense of peacefulness.

This is my story of our short tour to discover Jerusalem with a side trip of Amman and Petra.

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For those who have been following my blog, you would know that my trips have always been self-arranged as it gives me the sense of flexibility and control with the type of flights, hotels and most importantly day to day schedule of exploring new places. However for visiting Jerusalem, while it not entirely impossible to do a DIY trip, it is highly recommended to join one of the many tour packages available due to the complexity of crossing the border manages by Israel.

Joining a tour group has its own advantages too. My wife and I were the youngest in a group of 15 and we enjoyed having the company of others throughout the trip.

Royal Jordanian flies its Dreamliner to KL. A good comfortable ride except for the “via Bangkok” part which adds up a couple of hours to the total flight time.

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We had 24 hours in Amman before crossing the border to Israel/Palestine. An opportunity for me who never been to Jordan to discover a slice of what Amman has to offer.

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And what better way to start that with a hearty local breakfast.

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Skills that amuse the excited tourists.

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The opportunity to visit some historical sites around Amman was a good “warm-up” session before we step into Palestine the next day.

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Cave of Seven Sleepers for example is a famous site with a significant history as described in Surah al-Kahf in the Al-Quran.

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I’ll start by mentioning that this Cave of the Severn Sleepers in Amman is just one of the few places that claim to be the cave of the seven sleepers. Similar caves were claimed to exist in Turkey and Tunisia. Wallahualam.

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More important is that by visiting this site, it helps to recall the story of this group of young dedicated men who resisted the pressure from their people and/or king to worship others beside God. They took refuge in a cave and fell asleep for a long time. Details of this story can be read here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Sleepers#Qur.27an_and_Islamic_scholarly_interpretation

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One for the album, our “family” for 7 days.

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A great reminder on how lucky we are today, able to practice our religions freely. But have we taken it for granted? Which of the Blessings of the Lord have we deny? Questions worth reflecting.

And reflection seems to be the tone for the rest of the day and to some extend the trip. Thanks to Jordan’s strategic location in between Makkah and Jerusalem, a number of prophets and the companions have at one point or another lived or passed through the land of Jordan. Some even passed away and claimed to be buried in this land.

As our tour guide continues to share the various stories of this land rich with religious history, our little coaster made its way to Al-Salt, a city 30km out of Amman.

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This is where the Makam of Nabi of Allah, Nabi Yushak A.S. is located  A Prophet also known as Joshua in the Bible and recognised to be close to Nabi Musa A.S. Nabi Yushak took Nabi Musa’s place as the leader of the Bani Israil after his death.  Of course our guide reminded the group that verifying the authenticity of a resting place belonging to a particular Prophet or Sahabah remains a task. Wallahualam. More importantly is the opportunity to visit these places not for the “barakah” of the graves but for the lessons and stories from these great individuals in Islamic history.

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The next stop was Makam of Nabi  Shu’ayb alayhi assalam

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When was the last time you read or hear the stories of Nabi Yushak and Nabi Shu’ayb? If you are like me, that would be probably many years ago. This trip sort of a timely reminder on how important it is for me as a Muslim to continuously learn from the many stories involving the Prophets and companions.

As jetlag starts to kick-in, I was glad that the rest of the days was all about some quiet and relaxing time. Not quite at the hotel just yet but at another tourist attraction of Jordan and Palestine – the Dead Sea.

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Judging from the number of high-end resorts located along the Dead Sea – the likes of Movenpick, Holiday Inn and Marriot, the sea is everything but “dead”.  In fact the Dead Sea is a unique recreational and healing destination for visitors from all over the world who travelled here to enjoy the health benefits of its waters known to have healing effects.

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At 1,412 feet below sea level, Dead Sea’s shores rank as the lowest land point on earth. With a salt concentration seven times more concentrated than that of the normal ocean, it is too salty to support most forms of animal and plant life.

Too salty that you would actually automatically float!

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Apparently due to these unique characteristics, it gives the health benefits for the skin hence you see people enjoying the mud and lots of skincare products from this particular sea.

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Of course, it is worth to remember that the Dead Sea also has a significant chapter in Islamic history. A story that serves as a reminder for Muslims till today. How a society of the city of Sodom where Dead Seas is located rejected God’s call to righteousness. A city filled with evils and men that practices homosexuality. A city that despite Allah S.W.T revealed Nabi Lut A.S. to guide them ignored the call to morality. In the end, the city of Sodom was destroyed from planet earth. Full story can be viewed here: http://sunnahonline.com/library/stories-of-the-prophets/297-story-of-prophet-lut

A long first day it was for the group but to me personally it sets the scene right for the coming days when we cross the border of Israel venturing into more history lessons and deeper reflections.

The adventure continues as we make our way across the border of Israel…

(to be continued in Part 2)

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