Yes, we live in Aqaba, Jordan now!! It all happened rather suddenly and unexpectedly!!
At the request of a number of our friends and readers, here are some photos and a little information about our new city and homeland. 🙂
The nation of Jordan is just to the east of Israel, and the portion of Jordan in which we live is actually part of the land that Abba promised to Abraham and his descendants, so it is a joy and a privilege to be living in what we affectionately call “Greater Israel.” We have easy access to Jerusalem for the feasts – a huge blessing!
Aqaba is shown on the map below as Al ‘Aqabah. It‘s located at the far south of Jordan and at the northern tip of the Red Sea. It’s a small city (fewer than 200,000) whose residents are mostly descendants of a few major families that have lived here for many centuries, and Bedouins who have recently adopted city life.
However, Aqaba is also an international, duty-free port city, and a tourist center! This area of the Red Sea is known as the third best spot in the world for snorkeling. Add to that the city’s close proximity to Wadi Rum and Petra, and Aqaba has a lot to offer both tourists and businesses. As a result, Aqaba is an interesting combination of tradition and sophistication.
Jordan is a kingdom, ruled by the Hashemite family. King Abdullah is a good king and has done much to improve his nation. They call him the Warrior King, because he is a pilot and participates in his nation’s defense. He has made it a fairly simple matter for foreigners to live in his country, which we appreciate. I’m told that his mother was a Christian, but I know from personal experience that he welcomes Christians to his land. He is also the man in charge of security for the Temple Mount, a very touchy job indeed, so he needs our prayers!
Everyone wants to know if we shipped our household goods to Jordan. No, we didn’t. We didn’t own a house, and Abba had told us several years earlier not to own much in the way of furnishings. The result was that we had too little ‘stuff’ (and it was too valueless) to merit the thousands of dollars it would have cost to ship it, so we gave most of it away and sold some of the ‘big ticket’ items. Abba blessed: our car sold immediately for the price we asked, and a friend at John’s work took what we couldn’t sell before we left and sold it for us after we left. What a tremendous blessing that was!
We ended up taking six 50-pound suitcases, three 23-pound carry-on bags, our laptop cases, an extra duffel bag and a guitar. We also packed up four dish-pack boxes with basic household items and took them on the plane with us. In them was packed some kitchen ware and my recipe collection, some towels and linens, a couple small appliances, some photos, our Bibles (I never realized how heavy those things are until we had to count every pound!), some family mementos, and a few decorative items. We even brought the shofar that we had purchased in Israel a couple months before – it just BARELY fit in the box! 🙂
I haven’t found the photo of the suitcases yet, but here’s a shot of the boxes. I was amazed that only two things got broken – a plastic Thanksgiving platter that cost me a dollar at Wal-Mart, and a crockery coffee mug from Italy that had belonged to my mother. Thankfully the mug broke in such a way that it will be easy to mend. Yah is so faithful!
It would have cost several thousand dollars to ship the boxes, plus we would have had to go to Amman to pick them up. (An expensive process involving truck rental, hotel, meals and fuel, not to mention port fees.) By bringing them on the plane, they arrived WITH us at a cost of only $800. (That’s including an extra $160 because two of the boxes were overweight.) We thought that was a pretty good deal.
After a bitter-sweet final day with family members in Raleigh, we rented a pickup truck and drove to Washington, DC, where we had a couple of days before flying out. We spent the first day recuperating from the previous grueling weeks of moving and cleaning! The second day, we ran last minute errands, got haircuts, and mailed family photos and heirlooms to relatives. We had hoped to visit my dad’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery, but simply ran out of time…
The entire trip from the Washington DC to Aqaba took about 24 hours, including both actual travel, lay-overs and getting visas.
We flew from Washington DC to Istanbul on the first leg – an 11-hour flight. It was a tough trip: our plane was packed to the limit, and the seating was designed more for munchkins than for full-sized humans, let alone big guys like John and Matt!! We cramped up pretty badly a couple of times. But all went well, and we were very happy to land in Istanbul!
The layover at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul (Turkey) was long (eight hours!) but really interesting. We arrived at 4 pm local time and we were hungry, so we headed for the food court and got some good food. An Arab family at the next table had a little boy who was being really cute, so we were smiling at him, and that was all it took – the father of the family immediately began a conversation in halting English, and was anxious to help us in any way he could. We have found this to be the typical response of everyone we’ve met here. The people are wonderfully kind and hospitable.
After our meal, we sat in the terminal waiting for our flight. The wait was actually pretty entertaining. Apparently Istanbul is a major hub, because I think we saw representatives of every nation on the planet! We even saw a Scotsman in full kilt regalia!
We also got our first introduction to the Middle Eastern concept of ‘taking turns’ – they DON’T!! Despite their amazing courtesy and kindness in every other respect, Arabs are “me first” when it comes to waiting in lines. They will butt right in front of you without a moment’s hesitation or apology, and that includes butting in even when you’re trying to pay a cashier or trying to enter a bathroom stall! Pretty funny. (Some of the more cosmopolitan Middle Easterners were just as amused as the Westerners were.)
At midnight, we boarded for the final 3-hour leg to Aqaba. We were exhausted, but SO excited! We prayed and praised most of the way, just thanking Abba for the safe journey and the opportunity to live in the Land.
We landed at the Aqaba airport at 3 am on Friday morning, 4 September 2015. King Hussein International Airport is a little place compared to most airports. The area we were led to was just a big room with a couple of booths (visas and customs) and beyond that a single baggage carousel. Very plain and basic, but comfortable, despite the hot summer weather (over 100 degrees) and no air conditioning – unless you count the doors and windows being open to the night air. 🙂
Our plane hadn’t been full, but it still took a full hour to get through the visa lines. Yes, TWO lines. We waited in one line for quite a while before someone told us that we needed to go through another line FIRST to get our visas. DUH! By the time we got into that line, we were at the very back end of it. Then we had to come back to the first line to get the visa approved! (And of course we were at the end of that line, too.)
But Abba knows what He’s doing! In the long run, the delay worked to our advantage. Friends had warned us that Aqaba Customs often goes through every bag and box. Several friends have had to wait as long as two hours for them to finish, and then had to repack everything. Not in our case!!! By the time we finished getting our visas, it was 4 am local time and the customs people were tired and ready to go home. They took a brief look into one carry-on, and waved the rest through without even looking!! We were out of baggage claim in minutes! Praise Abba!!
At the baggage claim exit, our friends Bob Parham and his wife Valerie were waiting. We had met Bob earlier in the year in Israel and had had many wonderful phone conversations with him and Val in the intervening months. It was such a joy to see Bob again and to meet Val in person!
Thankfully they had brought a van and an SUV, because with all our luggage, we needed two vehicles!! We probably looked like a mini-parade when we went through the check point prior to entering the city, but the guards know Bob and Val, so they just waved us on through.
We got to their house by around 4:30 or 5 am, and of course it took a little visiting and so on before we could get to bed. By that time we had been sleepless for well over 24 hours, so bed felt great! We didn’t sleep long, though.
We had arrived in the wee hours of Friday morning, so we were excited about getting to celebrate Shabbat that evening with some of the community in Aqaba – a very exciting prospect!
Sure enough, Shabbat was an amazing time of celebration. Something like 35-40 members of the community arrived to meet us and another family that had arrived a few days earlier. As I recall, there were also a couple of short-term visitors at that Shabbat! It was a wonderful time of feasting, testimony, prayer and worship!! And everyone made us feel SO welcome!!
A special blessing popped up unexpectedly the following afternoon when we all met for Bible study. The parasha (Torah portion) for Saturday, Sept 5, was Deuteronomy 26:1-29:8, which is called Ki Tavo. The first verse is “When you enter the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a heritage, and you possess it and settle in it... ” When we heard the opening line of the portion that first Shabbat in the Land, it brought tears of joy to my eyes! THIS was why Abba had wanted us to arrive no later than Friday, Sept 5!! He wanted to welcome us into His Land with a blessing!
YHVH has blessed us continuously since we’ve been here. The folks here have welcomed us with open arms and have made us feel like family from the first day. Bob and Val put up with us in their home for a whole month until we could find our own apartment, and they made us feel welcome and comfortable the whole time. (That makes them superheroes in our book!) Then Abba blessed us with an amazing apartment with a great landlord. (Photos below) And now we are getting accustomed to life in this enchanting place. I will write more about that in another post!
WHY are we in Jordan??? Several reasons.
- In August of 2014, John began having a series of dreams in which he knew Abba was telling him that we were to leave the States, but it wasn’t clear why we should leave, and he wasn’t told where we should go. We were both raised in military families and have been moving around the country and around the world every few years since we were kids, so we get itchy feet after a few years in one place. At first we thought John was just having his customary tri-annual ‘moving pains’, but the dreams kept coming. He prayed a lot about it and checked out various places, but Abba never confirmed any of those places. Then we met Bob Parham and Larry Ferguson in Israel, who told us about Aqaba, and Abba immediately confirmed (to John) that Aqaba was where He wanted us to go. It took a little longer for me, as I explain in the “Personal Testimony” portion of my last post, Fear…Anxiety…Worry. DUH!!
- Aqaba is the right place for us for four reasons (in no particular order): (1) We can afford to live here on a fixed income, which we could not do in the States or almost anywhere else you can think of, so this move has allowed John to retire after many years of holding down two or more jobs at one time; (2) John was a top-rated Arabic linguist in the US Navy for nine years and has always been convinced that his training was meant more for Abba’s purposes than for the military’s; (3) Aqaba is in Greater Israel, i.e., The Land promised to Abraham and his descendants in both flesh and faith, plus it allows us easy access to Jerusalem for the Feasts, which is very important to us; and (4) perhaps most importantly, this area is spoken of in scripture as a gathering place for Messiah and His people! Our ‘assignment’ is Kingdom building, and we believe this will be a focal point for the gathering of Kingdom citizens.
Because we didn’t bring much in the way of household goods, we were initially planning on buying what we needed after we got here. However, rentals here come absolutely empty – no appliances, no closets, and often no kitchen cabinets, not to mention no fans or air conditioners! The renter provides everything! (And the renter is responsible for all repairs, even in a furnished place!) After toting up the costs, we decided to go with a furnished place, and Abba went ‘over the top’ in providing a beautiful apartment in a great neighborhood with wonderful neighbors at a great price!! Praise Him!
Our apartment building is located in the Nakhil District. Nakhil means “palms” and it was given that name because there used to be a palm grove across the street and camels were kept there. The palm grove is gone now, and the government plans to put a park in its place. We are blessed to have lots of trees in our neighborhood, which is rare in Aqaba. Our balcony is the big white square on the right side of the photo. We are on the second floor, which in Jordanese is called the FIRST floor (above the GROUND floor). Our building even has an ELEVATOR (very rare) and it even works (most of the time; I’ve only had to pry the doors open four times so far.)
Above is the living room, looking toward the dining area and the balcony. On the right, out of the line of vision, is a big bookcase where the TV is set up. The TV service comes with the apartment at no extra charge (very unusual). We get three English channels on it and about 100 Arabic channels. Once we get our Arabic-speaking up and running, the TV will be a great way to practice! (No, the floors are not wood – all the floors in the house are marble or tile.)
The dining room is pictured above. John’s image is reflected in the window on the far end. All the windows have steel shutters that are operated electronically. (Very posh – in most places, they are operated by a canvas strap.) The shutters keep the hot summer sun and (some) of the dust out. When this photo was taken, we had just gone through a 5-day sandstorm, and there was a fine coating of dust on EVERYTHING!!
And finally, our amazing “American” kitchen. Most apartments are not this nicely equipped. We even have a full size fridge rather than the usual teeny tiny one. In Jordan, washing machines go in the kitchen, so we have a washing machine where a dishwasher would normally be. Thankfully I have a dishwasher – named Matt. 😉 We don’t have clothes dryer though, and when we asked where to get one, the landlord said, “Oh you have a dryer!” We said, “We DO??” And he said, “Yes, after the machine finishes washing, it spins really fast and dries the clothes!” We said, “Oh, thank you.” LOL So we have two big drying racks that get set under a fast-moving fan in a sunny room. Generally everything is dry in a couple of hours. Then I get to iron everything…. If we ever get a dryer, it will go in one of the bathrooms, where a bidet used to be…. Things are different here!