Holy Land 2012 – Day 5

An early start this morning as we needed to get to Masada before the sun made the heat unbearable at Herod’s winter palace and the scene of the Jewish rebel’s last stand in AD72.

It was interesting to see that, even though we had set off from Jericho at 07:30 we were passing coaches coming the other way carrying groups who had already been. Being sensible, we paid for the cable car to take us to the top but, even though the Snake Path was officially closed because of the extreme heat, we could see folk beginning the ascent – a climb of 400 metres, but a much longer distance to walk as the snake pass is aptly named.

We took in the Commandant’s quarters, the frescoes in the large bath house and the model which demonstrated how the cisterns, dug into the bedrock, were filled via aqueducts with 1,500,000,000 cubic feet of water from the winter flash floods.

Even the cheesy introductory film didn’t put us off: “Slavery or death. Which would YOU choose?” (turn and stare questioningly into the camera lens, darling)

Descending by cable car again Loay met us at the bottom of Masada and took us Ein Gedi spa for a Dead Sea experience. Sacrificing my own enjoyment for the sake of the group once again I forwent the pleasure of splathering myself in mud, washing it off with sulphurated water and floating in the Dead Sea in order to mind wallets, passports and take photos. Although Kath and I both went for a paddle…

Qumran, home of the Essene community in the 1st century, and the place where the Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in the mid-20th century was our next stop. Another, much better, audio-visual presentation introduced us to the site before we walked through to see for ourselves. A fascinating site – but really too hot to enjoy at leisure.

On the way back to the hotel, we had planned to visit Qaser al Yahud – the site near Jericho where it is possible that Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist. I say ‘planned’ because we managed to carefully time our visit to coincide with 15 minutes after the site closed. Something for tomorrow morning, then!

Loay, our driver, let us into his secret – he’s also a speciality chef and carves melons!

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