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Published: March 1st 2020
Following hot in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia a chance go to Jordan was too good to turn down. We were enticed, as Lawrence was, by cheap flights with Ryanair from Paphos in Cyprus; £20 return for four nights, a hop of less than an hour. So, after six splendid days chilling on the beach in all-inclusive luxury we headed off on a little adventure. We landed in Amman and were whisked down south to Wadi Rum and Petra for the first few nights. If you click on the links there, you can read my accounts of those superb experiences. Jordan was so ‘full on’ I decided to keep the blogs separate or else this would have gone on too long. I’m picking up the journey here after our visits to the two mentioned above.
We were picked up in Petra for the drive to the Dead Sea at 7.00 am. We weren’t best pleased with our transport as it was scruffy on the inside and looked like a farmer’s pick-up truck on the outside. There was a good reason for this; it was a farmer’s pick-up and our driver was a farmer. The reason we were
given is that the vehicle hire company wanted to treat us to the ‘scenic route’ and this was the only vehicle that would cope with the terrain. So, we moved the chickens to one side and settled down on the sacking covering the back seat. To be fair, it was a picturesque journey through a rugged landscape.
We drove past the guy’s farm and he wanted to show us his crop of fruits etc. I wasn’t in the best of moods and, having seen much of the same produce in Sainsburys, I firmly declined his offer. In retrospect that was a mistake as I would have learned something. He was a nice guy and didn’t deserve my churlishness. I was tired and aching from my exertions over the last few days. Though I did not know it I had food poisoning from some grubby café in Petra, and the symptoms were starting to build up. The journey was grand as we drove through narrow gorges on slender, dirt tracks, and eventually down onto the desert plain south of the Dead Sea.
Despite its unappealing name the sea is a dramatic sight, the orange/brown of
the sand, contrasting sharply against the bright blue of the water, with the mountains of Israel beyond. Whilst the expanse of water is great, its shrinkage is self-evident. The southern shores were given over to large potash ‘farms’ taking greedy chunks out of the sea. This exploitative industry, coupled with removal of water further up the River Jordan, is responsible for the destruction of this unique natural phenomenon. I don’t believe we have the right to rob future generations of such a beautiful place. Human stupidity galls me.
Our journey took us past one of the supposed sites of the baptism of Jesus. Part of me wanted to go and see it, and part of me wanted to get to the hotel and put my feet up. It would have been nice to have a paddle there, and get the bragging rights, but I doubt there’s any real evidence for the authenticity of the spot. I settled for a shower at the hotel and, inevitably, I regret it a bit now.
After our desert privations we were ready for a bit of luxury and pulled up at the Holiday Inn around 11.00 am. At
Temple of Aphrodite
That's me at the top to give a sense of perspective.
check-in a splendid member of staff named Tariq gave us a free upgrade to a superior room with a view of the pool and the sea. All round it’s a classy hotel with excellent food. We weren’t full board, but we were offered a discount every time we sat down to eat, I don’t know why. It was excellent food, loads of choice, and four-star rating was about right.
Some countries seem to have zero mobile phone etiquette. Or is it just me who is out of touch? A group of four girls sat near me simply ignored each other for the entire meal. They ate their food in silence, on autopilot, whilst staring at their phone screens. Conversation was zero or seemed to be. Perhaps they were face timing snippets like ‘can you pass the salt?’ to each other. Or maybe they hated each other. One of them toured the buffet with her plate of food in one hand whilst texting manically with the other. I longed to trip her up for a laugh.
The Dead Sea offers tourist clichés that are unmissable rituals. The first is to get a photo of yourself reading whilst floating, the second is to slap mud over yourself and then wash it off. Regarding the first, the water keeps you amazingly buoyant, in fact, it’s tricky to put your feet down once you’ve laid back in the (very) briny. The water’s extremely salty and, if you’re really into self-mortification, try getting some in your eyes. The mud bath is supposed to be ‘good’ for your skin. Of course, it’s homeopathic garbage, but then, some people drink their own urine to improve their skin tone. I didn’t let the futility of the exercise put me off, and in the accompanying video there is a picture of my hideous, porcine bulk caked in black sludge. To mitigate the impact of this there is a very nice photo of a sunset over the same beach.
After being unashamedly touristy at the Dead Sea on our last day in Jordan we pottered off to do more of the same in ruins of Jerash. Known as Gerasa in Roman times (it gets a mention in the New Testament) it was part of the ancient region of Decapolis. I didn’t have high expectations but, ye gods, I was blown away by this place. It doesn’t have the intimate detail of Pompeii or Herculaneum, but it has grander buildings. The colonnade in the forum is stunning in both the size and quality of what still remains. From there roads stretch across the centre of the old city with ruined temples, two theatres, a hippodrome etc. scattered around the area.
I wonder why I’m such a sucker for the classical period. Give me a fluted column with a Corinthian or Ionic top and I’m giddy with excitement. Gerasa ticks every box on the Roman ruins front, there’s a few photos in the accompanying video but they can’t do it justice. If you’re ever in Amman do not miss this site, it’s truly awesome. After Gerasa our driver took us to the airport via the King Hussein Transport Museum. If you’re really into King Hussein or Cars this place is a must see. I am into neither, but it was mildly diverting. The King certainly liked his cars.
The journey home was hideous as my food poisoning kicked in. That is inevitable but Paphos airport added to my problems. It’s poky, ugly and the departure boards don’t work. People are dashing around desperately trying to catch garbled announcements about which gate to go to. Prior to boarding you are sat virtually on the tarmac breathing in kerosene and diesel fumes with a dash of burnt rubber.
Should you go?
Jordan was a fantastic experience for five nights and there’s LOADS more to see than we managed to fit in, check this link to the Jordanian Tourist Board. It’s highly likely that getting a Jordan Travel Pass will save you money. It includes entrance fees to most sites and a travel visa for your stay. Being able to get a cheap flight from Cyprus also brought the cost of the trip right down. Importantly, it’s trip with a difference, you are in the real Middle East and, I must add, the Jordanian people were lovely.
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