Published: July 24th 2010July 22nd 2010
We packed our bags and we left on our journey towards Amman. The next stop was madaba, a small city that is known for their beautiful mosaics. We drove along the kings highway though the countryside of Jordan. Jordan is a very mountainous county so this road is very windy and continuously went up and down and through canyons. Aside from the few villages we passes, the landscape is mostly barren and rocky desert. On our way we stopped at two crusader castles. The first was called Shobak castle, which we only visited from the outside because the tour guide said that the next castle was exactly the same, just that it was much more intact. So we drive a bit further to reach the present day town of Kerak, and visited the kerak crusader castle high on the hill. This castle was important for the battles between the crusaders and the Islamic armies of Saladin. This castle as well as Shobak castle were used as a control point for the crusaders to watch over all entry to Jerusalem. They wanted to prevent the Arabs from reaching Jerusalem, which I think is something like 50k away. After visiting the kerak castle, we ate lunch in town at a place that just happened to be run by an Egyptian. It was obvious because unlike what we've experienced in Jordan, this restaurant was dirty (especially the bathroom and the open kitchen), and also because the owner seemed to run across the street to get the food instead of making it himself (I think it warbler of an image he made of warming up the food). His is somehing we'd see in egypt. Anyways then we continued on along the kings highway.
At some point w came across this amazing valley called Wadi Mujib (the grand canyon of Jordan). There is a dam at the bottom of this 1k deep canyon. I thought it was so amazing because the land on each side looked like it had broken off very sharply and had maybe fallen into the earth. Both sides looked like thy could fit together perfectly, but they were 4k apart. It took us 18k of steep switchbacks to make it down to the level of the Dam and back up. I would have imagined the dead sea to look something as dramatic as this, with Palestine/israel on the other side. I think I was the only one captivated by this anyways (at least the only one awake).
Out next stop when we reached madaba was to visit mt. Nebo. From biblical history, mt. Nebo is allegedly the site that god had told Moses to climb so that he could see all the land that god was giving the israelites. Also god told him he would die atop mt nebo, and his tomb is purportedly somewhere up there. It is actually quite a peaceful site. From there you could see the dead sea, israel and Jerusalem off in the very far distance. It was very neat to be so close to these historic places.
Next we briefly stopped at a mosaic workshop to see the art that the area is known for. Its actually neat actually because it's a school to teach people with physical and mental disabilities the tools to make these beautiful art pieces and they get to sell them to make money. Everything was so beautiful and we managed to bargain to get a really nice piece (with small mosaic pieces which is harder to put together ) for a good price. Some people in our group (particularly 1 woman who we called the consumer) bought mosaic top tables that they shipped home for thousands.
Next we went right into madaba and visited at georges church, which is famous for an old mosaic map. This mosaic map was created in 560AD and depicted all biblical sites in the surrounding areas including Egypt and Israel. It used to be huge but now ivy small pieces remain on the floor of this church. In the basement there is also a painting of the virgin Mary with three hands ( one is blue). Apparently when it was painted there were only 2 hands but then one day a third blue hand grew out of the bottom of the picture and this was deemed a miracle of god. People come from very far away to witness this miracle.
That night the entire group went out for dinner without the tour guide. When we were on our own in Egypt even as a group we kept getting screwed over by the egypians. It was so nice because here we went out together and the only people who said anything to us were locals who truly wanted to say hi and wanted to know where we were from and not to take our money. It was so refreshing to get to interact with the locals and eat in peace. We had a wonderful Jordanian dinner that night, mostly consisting of different types of dips and bread. After dinner w relaxed and had tea with mint and smoked a lemon/mint flavored tobacco sheesha. We knew this would be our second last night together :(