Published: October 24th 2009October 24th 2009
If I said to you “We are going to Jordan” what would your thoughts be? Think for a second, because we had a fairly good idea of what to expect with all the other countries on our Middle East trip, but not so much with Jordan.
Turkey = The country where east meets west, EU wannabe, kebabs, the Ottoman Empire
Syria = Devout Muslim, conservative, spices, Damascus
Lebanon = Civil war, Irish troops with the UN, Lebanese food, modern
Egypt = Pyramids, Egyptian history, hectic Cairo, the Nile valley
But what about Jordan? Jordan is a bit like the forgotten country of the Middle East for us as we hadn’t really read too much about it, and just saw it as a place to travel through en route from Syria to Egypt.
We weren’t alone in this regard as during the spice trade, merchants similarly saw Jordan as a country to travel through en route from Damascus to Cairo (like us), but the Jordanians or Nabateans at the time) didn’t mind, they just taxed the caravans for safe passage and built fantastic cities on the profit (more on these below).
Similarly, when the League
of Nations were randomly drawing borders through the middle east they just called it Transjordan - everything the other side of the Jordan river, which was later shortened to just Jordan - and got on with worrying about Israel. This seemed a bit rude to me - imagine Columbus called America Trans- Atlantic instead, a bit like a BA flight?
But our impressions of Jordan as a route to other places were soon to change, as Jordan hosts some of the best panoramic views we have seen and definitely our favorite ancient city.
So the 12 hour trip from Beirut to Amman took us over 2 borders, and in and out of Syria briefly. Much less eventful than the crossing into Lebanon (or maybe we were just getting used to dishing out various currencies when you cross a border) and also with the Jordanian Dinar being on a 1 to 1 with the Euro (and pretty much the pound too, but that is too painful to go into here….) we were in a country that we could understand easily again (at 2,200 Lebanese Lira to the Pound, everything seemed to cost hundreds of thousands there).
first stop was Amman where we spent three great days. The city is spread across 19 hills, so not ideal for walking around, but we gave it a go. It also hosts the tallest freestanding flag pole in the world.
Here we went to the Citadel, which overlooks the city, and the Jordanian Archaeological Museum. While there it became apparent that news of Dee’s celebrity status had spread across the border from Syria. A nice man from the Yemen asked if he could take a photo of Dee with his sister. Now, we had been told that it is extremely impolite to take a photo of a Muslim lady, so had refrained up until this point. But if he was so brash to ask us then I didn’t hold back either. And so I got a photo of Dee with a young traditionally dressed Muslim lady from the Yemen, while he got a photo of his sister with a young, crusty, blonde haired western lady.
Next day we took off site seeing, and went to Mount Nebo (for those of you not fully up to speed on your biblical references, this is where God showed Moses the Promised
Land before he died),and the site on the Jordan river where John the Baptist earned his name. There are two unfortunate things about this site: 1) the Jordan river doesn’t actually flow this way anymore, but is diverted 500m away so there is little to actually see there, and 2) the Jordan river is just a trickle and filthy. Neither of these issues stopped two Spanish tourists who were with our tour party from climbing in and fully submerging themselves. Both are now recovering well from Dissentry in Amman General, or so we assume.
Then on to the Dead Sea and wow. How cool is it? When you get in first you just can’t help getting a fit of the giggles. So everyone knows you float, but what they don’t know is that it is impossible to sink. No matter how hard you try (and believe me I did) you just can’t get your head and shoulders under. There is a lifeguard on the beach, and I couldn’t help thinking what a cushy job that is. They say you can drown in a bath of water, and I am sure with a little effort you could, but with an
awful lot of effort I don’t think you could in the Dead Sea.
Due to all the salt, it is also very warm, about 25C. So we quite happily floated around for 2 hours, ignoring the stinging from every little cut and insect bite. We only had to get out when we both got the salty water in our eyes, as then the pain is unbearable. And you have to do everything in your power not to rub your eyes when it happens for fear of further pain. But invariably you can’t and, Damn, more salt!
So all this got me thinking about a little experiment. How cool would it be to find a little Jordanian kid, who had grown up on the Dead Sea all his life, and bring him to the beach in Ireland, Garryvoe would be a nice setting, for a swim?
What a shock poor Abdullah would get when he discovers that, not only do you sink like a stone, but it’s feckin freezin too!
So from Amman we travelled south, via some breathtaking views, to Petra. Petra is unique, and the best ruins that we have seen (and we have seen
plenty). For anyone that remembers the temple at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, then this is the Treasury in Petra (if you don’t, then don’t worry, the hostel we stayed in in Wadi Musa shows the film every night, just to recap). The whole city is vast, takes 2 to 3 days to see, dates originally from the first century BC and is carved into the rock - that is, carved into the side of the mountain.
It is accessed through a deep ravine, created when 2 plates separated, which is about 50m deep, 5m wide and 1km long. Then the valley opens up and you can explore it for hours. It is breathtaking. It is not the kind of incredible where you are like “ Wow, they did all this 2,000 years ago without scaffolding or JCBs?” it is the kind of incredible where you are like “Wow, I can’t believe someone was able to do this!” Full stop. Definitely the best find of the trip so far.
And from here we leave for the border from Jordan to Israel and then Israel to Egypt.
Thanks for all the comments so far
and keep them coming,
Niall & Dee
There are more photos below