A Travellerspoint blog

March 2022


A report from Bill

sunny 75 °F


Hope, still hampered by lingering effects of food poisoning many weeks ago, wisely stayed behind in Aqaba, while I made the two-hour journey by bus to explore once again the ruins of Petra. The Nabateans, an ancient Arab kingdom that prospered in the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC by their control of the trade routes of much of the Middle East, established Petra as their capital. The city then lay abandoned for almost 1500 years until its ruins were uncovered in 1815 by the explorer Thomas Burckhardt.

It is no wonder that Petra was for a centuries a forgotten city. It lies tucked away in a canyon in the Jordanian wilderness, its sole entrance, the siq, a narrow passage between towering sandstone cliffs around 100 feet high. The contrast between this dark passage and the first glimpse of Petra’s huge classical buildings carved out of pink and red sandstone baked in sunlight could not be more dramatic.

Our small tour group from the ship had the benefit of a local archeologist-guide who has studied Petra for many years, but even for him this city holds many mysteries. On of the mysteries is the disconnect between the outside and the inside of Petra’s architecture. The exteriors are all monumental and elaborately carved, while the interiors seem to be little more than shallow underground caves.

After wandering as far as the ruins of the vast Roman-style theater, I began to feel exhausted and decided to leave the group and begin the long walk back to civilization. After an uphill climb back through the siq, I emerged into the sunlight to find a man who asked me if I wanted a horse to ride the final half-mile back to the entrance gate. I uttered a grateful, “Yes, how much?” “No charge, sir, horse included with ticket.” So I boosted myself up into the saddle and was led off for my rid. After some minutes came the first sign of trouble. “Where’s your ticket, sir?” I showed it to him. “That is wrong ticket. You need one with picture of horse.” “That’s not what I was told by my guide.” No response, and we plodded on until we got to the gate and with great effort, I dismounted. “You pay me $400, sir.” “No way. All I will give you is a generous tip.” I then gave him $20. “That’s not enough. I have a family with two children. Give me $40.” I gave him, another $10 and walked away as quickly as my weary legs could take me.

Sometimes it’s tough being a tourist.

Posted by HopeEakins 13:25 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)


A splendid place

sunny 76 °F


The north end of the Red Sea looks like bunny ears. The one on the left is the Gulf of Suez; the one on the right is the Gulf of Aqaba. Jordan is landlocked save for a little bit of coastline at the very end of that gulf where the seaport of Aqaba (pop. 150,000) sits. Aqaba is a beautiful little town nestled in beside a wall of mountains. It is growing and filled with attractive new construction (luxury hotels and King Hussein's southern palace), but Jordan approaches new construction quite differently from Saudi Arabia. Jordan seems meticulous about preserving ancient sites while combining/interweaving/ melding them with fitting new structures. The combination and the sparkling clean parks and streets is winning. And they do have a big flagpole too (seems to be the thing in the Middle East).

The FIRST, the very first purpose built Christian church is here, dating to 293, before Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The Bishop of Ayla (as Aqaba was called) was present at the Council of Nicea! The church was excavated in the late 1990's, when coins and glass lamps were unearthed. This is indeed a holy place.

Here is another reason Hope LOVES Jordan and Aqaba. She toured in a taxi with another couple (Bill is in Petra) and saw the city and shopped for local crafts and took many photos and got back to the ship tired, had lunch, worked on a slide show on Holy Sepulchre, and three hours later couldn't find her phone. Panic. She probably left it in the taxi. She raced off the ship to the pier and found the taxi drivers (Suleyman and his brother) waiting patiently with her phone. Alleluia! And praise Allah too!

Posted by HopeEakins 13:42 Archived in Jordan Comments (2)

ECUMENICAL WORSHIP Aboard the Silver Whisper

March 27, 2022

sunny 72 °F

HYMN: Come thou almighty king

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Let us pray. Gracious God, you have assured us of your never-failing love through your Son Jesus who poured himself out for us in his life and in his death. Give us grace so to live that we may show forth your love to all the world, filled with faith and hope in him who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, for ever and ever. Amen.

Psalm 34

I will bless the LORD at all times;
his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

I will glory in the LORD;
let the humble hear and rejoice.

Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;
let us exalt his Name together.

I sought the LORD, and he answered me
and delivered me out of all my terror.

Look upon him and be radiant,
and let not your faces be ashamed.

I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me
and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,
and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;
happy are they who trust in him! (1-8)

A Reading from the Gospel of Luke

Then Jesus said, “There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.’ So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and traveled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.”’ So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ And they began to celebrate. “Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.’ Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, ‘Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!’ Then the father said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” (15:11-32)

The Word of the Lord
Thanks be to God

A Reflection The Reverend Hope H. Eakins

You know the story of the prodigal son, the boy who asks for his inheritance early and then squanders it on loose living. You know about him - this younger brother who leaves home and goes to a far country with no real intention of ever coming back. He is the sinner who wastes his life tending pigs, which was not something a good Jewish boy would do, and ends up eating pig slop until he discovers that the swine had a better deal than he did.

You know about him because you have been a prodigal too. Have you not wasted your inheritance, wasted opportunities set before you? I have. Have you not spent your talents, your integrity, your money on unworthy things? Harry has. Harry is a young man who worked hard in college, so hard that he thinks he has the right to find himself, to travel, to take some time off. He has spent all the money that he got for graduation and he is living with, living off, a woman he met on his way. This month he called home and asked for a loan.

You know the story of the prodigal son’s father, the one who never forgets his ungrateful rebellious child even for an hour, the one who gazes down the road in the impossible hope that the far country really isn’t so far away after all, until one day he sees him. One day he catches a glimpse of his skinny dirty child straggling home and before the prodigal has uttered a word, the father races out and kisses his face and embraces him with laughter and tears that don't need any words to say, “I love you son, welcome home.” Emily knows that story. Emily was married to George for fifteen years when George met another woman. When George left her for a trial separation, Emily kept hoping that he would come to his senses. And one day George did just that, and Emily embraced him and through her tears she said it, “I love you, George, welcome home.” I asked Emily if they ever talk about George’s affair. “Yes, she said, “because George needs to explain and apologize, but I don’t really want to know about it. All that matters is that he is home.”

In the Gospel story, the prodigal son was home; that was all that mattered. His father doesn’t do what any other father under heaven would have been inclined to do. He doesn’t say, “I hope you learned a lesson,” or “I told you so,” or “I hope you find some way to make this up to your mother.” He says instead, “Quickly, quickly bring the best for this boy who has returned. Bring him the best robe and some shoes and kill the fatted calf for we must celebrate.” The generous prodigality of the father is even greater than the foolish prodigality of the son. Nothing is too much. Look at the images of restoration! The father runs to the son, embraces him, kisses him; he gives him clothing and a ring as a sign of the son’s restored status, shoes to show that he was a member of the family, because slaves didn't wear shoes and guests took them off. He kills the calf and makes merry because what was lost has been found.

You know the story of the older brother, the one who hears the sounds of rejoicing and refuses to go inside to see what the commotion is all about. He must have known; he is not blind, but he calls the slaves and lets it be known that he will have no part of it. “Your brother has come home,” they tell him, and the older son is so consumed by his envy and his pride that he stays in the fields and refuses to join the feast. Have you not been the older brother? I have. I have seen “older brothers” in our church. Andy and Hal were seminary classmates together and then they were both curates waiting to have their own parishes. Andy’s turn almost came first. Andy was the first choice of the search committee, but when a committee member called Hal to check references, Hal wasn’t very enthusiastic. Oh, Hal didn’t lie, he just suggested that Andy’s obvious skills might not stand up well in the long haul. If Hal were going to get stuck out in the back field, he didn't want to go to an installation party where they might serve fatted calf.

But God bids all of us jealous older brothers and sisters to come to the party anyway, because the fatted calf is for everybody. When the older son pouts in the back field, the father takes the initiative to invite him in. The father’s words are an exact parallel of the words he speaks to the prodigal son because both sons have been in a far country. While the younger son is recklessly carousing, the older son is so lost in his rules and his envy and his insecurity that he forgets what it means to be home. He forgets that love is never diminished if it is shared. He forgets that he has had his father’s love his whole life long and never appreciated it. There is some of the older son in each of us. We get jealous when somebody else gets an undeserved break.

The title of this parable is not in the Bible. It is not God but we human beings who call it the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the son who wasted his inheritance. The parable should really be called the Parable of the Prodigal Father, the father who was also wasteful, recklessly extravagant, profuse in giving what he had, spending it on a son who didn't deserve any of it, but who was loved anyway. Jesus told us this story to tell us that this is what God is like, prodigal in love, always waiting for us, ready to embrace us and cook a feast to celebrate our arrival.

Jesus is the way the Father runs out and looks for us. Jesus is the one who comes from home to bring us back home. Jesus is the one who went into the pigsty of this world where he ended up on a cross so that we might wear the family ring and the finest robe and eat the fatted calf.

Every time we spend our love and every time we decide to live with hope and trust God’s promises, every time we share what we have because we know that there IS enough to go around, God says to us the same thing that the prodigal father says to both his sons: “let us celebrate and rejoice, let us eat and be merry; what is lost has been found, for my child has come home.”

The Prayers

Let us pray. Grant, Almighty God, that all who confess your Name may be united in your truth, live together in your love, and reveal your glory in the world. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Guide the people of all the nations in the ways of justice and concord; that we may honor one another and serve the common good. Sustain the people of Ukraine as their land is ravaged and bless those who would seek peace with wisdom and insight. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Give us a reverence for the earth as your own creation, that we may use its resources rightly in the service of others and to your honor and glory. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We ask your blessing upon the crew and staff of the Silver Whisper, and we commend our families and those we love into your care. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Comfort and heal all those who suffer in body, mind, or spirit; give them courage and hope in their troubles, and bring them the joy of your saving presence. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

We commend to your mercy all who have died, that your will for them may be fulfilled; and we pray that we may share with all your saints in your eternal kingdom. Lord, in your mercy, Hear our prayer.

Summing up all the prayers of our hearts, we pray in the words Jesus taught us
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name
Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses
As we forgive those who trespass against us
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For thine is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

The Blessing

Life is short and we have little time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us. So, be swift to love and make haste to be kind….and may the blessing of God Almighty, Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you now and always. Amen.

HYMN: There's a wideness in God's mercy.

Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
Thanks be to God.

Officiants: The Reverend Hope H. Eakins, The Reverend William J. Eakins
Music: Alex Manev
Usher: Andrea Ryan

Time of next service to be announced.

Posted by HopeEakins 11:28 Archived in Saudi Arabia Comments (1)


via Yanbu

sunny 75 °F


We docked at Yanbu and quickly departed for Medina. Our bus travelled along beside the Aramco refinery that is so large (miles and miles of installations) that we couldn’t see the site where the Yemenis attacked last week. Everything is immense here. And everything is under construction. We were amazed to see a sign in English on one construction supplier saying ABB, the corporation our son Will works for.

The three hour trip to Medina was almost filled with an enthusiastic non-stop recounting of Islam and the prophet (peace be upon him). In the last half hour we women were given abayas and hijabs and told that we must cover up BEFORE leaving the bus. It is very difficult to put on a full body garment and wrap one’s head while standing in a moving aisle without a mirror. We all coped.

Then off to a hotel for lunch, passing by a stunning car park and magnificent buildings. Like Jeddah, Medina appears to have been totally constructed in the blink of an eye – there is NOTHING ancient or dated. The purple tower pictured is the elevator bank in the hotel. While there, a number of men passed through the lobby wearing large bath towels. They were making an umrah, we were told, a sort of mini-pilgrimage to Medina and Mecca preceded by cleansing rituals and refraining from certain activities.

Following lunch, we walked to the Prophet’s Mosque, the second mosque built by Mohammed (pbuh) and the second holiest site in Islam (after the Kaaba). We, of course, couldn’t enter the holy ground but got a photo through the gate. While waiting, two encounters:
1) a charming young woman befriended Hope; only her eyes were visible but they twinkled and she asked for a photo for herself and wanted Hope to take a photo home with her.
2) a grumpy woman shook her finger crying, “Cover your hair” while a man grabbed Hope’s hijab and yanked it forward.

Our visit continued to a museum displaying scale models of places in Mohammed’s life (pbuh). The Dome of the Rock and al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, we were told, were built on empty land, certainly not on the site of the Temple Mount.

Then to Quba Mosque, the first that Mohammed (pbuh) built. Two things happened here:
1) We watched a group of eight Muslim women eat a meal while gathered on a curbside, while the men sat at a table behind a wall.
2) We got to use the toilets (aaaaaaargh, blech, ugggh). The bus restrooms were out of order because the water tank was malfunctioning; permeating the air was a strong aroma was of fecal material covered up from time to time with a spritz of Arab perfume.

After our three hour trip back to the ship (peace be upon her), our butlers waited outside holding a welcome banner.

Posted by HopeEakins 11:19 Archived in Saudi Arabia Comments (2)


Update: We can't get away from it all

overcast 69 °F

a96a18a0-ac70-11ec-8dcb-bb009b7b6f07.jpgWell, well, it's hard to leave Jeddah. We had to get an exit stamp in our passports, so ..... into a shuttle bus to the cruise terminal, a loooong walk through the arrival hall, out one door, a long walk around the building, into another door, a looooong walk through the exit hall, a fuss over the stamp and back on the ship. This took about 45 minutes. Then the announcement: "This is the captain speaking: some of you have not received an exit stamp. Return to the cruise terminal immediately and get your certification or the ship will be held in port." While this is happening we see a large gray cloud rising over the city. Three hours pass; the captain's voice grows gruff. It turns out that the Saudis computers had a glitch and undercounted us. Finally we sail away ....... and then see explosions on the shore where Yemeni missiles are hitting the city. The Yemeni Houthis are attacking the Saudis. They have hit another refinery in Yanbu where we are scheduled to dock tomorrow. We are expecting an itinerary change!

Posted by HopeEakins 19:21 Archived in Saudi Arabia Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 16) Page [1] 2 3 4 » Next