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Published: October 1st 2017
Geo: 31.9394, 35.9349
We had arranged a 10:30am departure, so we had a relaxing morning. Paul and I do a bit of Christmas shopping at the Rural Woman's Cooperative (which is run by men) before breakfast. The sun is out and it is very cold, much colder than it was yesterday.
Mojdi comes as arranged, and we begin the trip to Amman. We are stopped twice at police checkpoints within the first 20 minutes. The first stop takes about two minutes; the second one much longer. While we wait, Mojdi chats with the police officer and it told that, half-hour before, they stopped a minibus, taking an American couple to Petra. It turned out that their driver was wanted by the police, so he was arrested on the spot. A police officer then drove the American couple of on to Petra. Now that's service!
Since we take the Desert Highway, the drive is fast, but the scenery is dull. Much of the terrain is flat, sparsely dotted with vegetations, low hills in the distance. Although it is very dry, there is more life in a few square meters here than we saw in all of Sinai. One can see why, after 40 years in
Sinai, Moses thought he had found the land of Milk and Honey.
We say good-bye to Mojdi at our hotel near the Amman airport. While we wait for lunch, I go to the local tour agency to arrange a visit to the Dead Sea. We also decide to visit Madaban, to see the church with the mosaic map, and the view from Mt. Nebo.
After lunch, we set off with a driver. First stop: church with Mosaic map. It is the oldest known still-extant map in the Middle East - dating to probably the 4th Century AD. It shows the Kingdom of Moab and originally covered the entire floor of the church. All that remains, however, is the central area, which shows Jerusalem and the Dead Sea. It was a nice map, and I'm sure it is of great interest to historians, but I think it is over-hyped.
We then are dragged to the inevitable mosaic craft shop - sponsored by the government, using differently-abled workers. (I don't know who originated this scheme, but one finds it all over the world.) Sigh. We make a quick pass and clearly irritate our driver when we buy nothing. (I am in the market for
a mosaic garden table - but not at these prices, even after bargaining is taken into consideration.)
Our next stop is the view from Mt. Nebo, where Moses glimpsed the promised land. Between dust and other particulates, we can barely see the Dead Sea, much less Canaan. We do not linger but begin the rather hairy descent down, down, down to the Dead Sea.
It is nearly sunset when we reach Amman Beach. The air is about 20 degrees and the water barely warmer. The bottom of the shallow cove where we swim in covered in masses of salt crystals the shape and texture of brain coral. And, given the quantity of salt in the water, one does not want to receive a cut!
Floating in the Dead Sea is a bizarre experience. You totally bob on the surface, and it is difficult to propel yourself using your legs because they won't go underwater! (No displacement...) For me, the strangest part is switching from floating on my stomach to floating on my back. I slowly start to roll, then hit the tipping point and quickly flip onto the other side.
We watch the sunset, bobbing up and down, then got out. Even though we had been in the sea for about 15 minutes, our skin is already beginning to itch. Oddly, when one touches one's skin, it feels oily or greasy, not crusty as it does in the ocean.
Cold showers, then a merely adequate meal. One has to exit through the sh9op selling Dead Sea products. Although I had approved the Amman Beach complex on the recommendation of our travel book, I think I would opt for one of the hotels next time. (Currently, there is a Marriott and a Movenpick, but many new hotels are under construction).
Drove back the main highways in the dark. Pass many very colorful trucks. At the hotel, went to the bar with the kids for coffee/drinks to use up much of our remaining Jordanian currency. It was smoky, without atmosphere, and Wolf Blitzer was blaring on the television. Plus we have an early morning, so we didn't stay long.
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