Day 4: Southwards via Kings Highway and Karak to Dana Biosphere Reserve

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Middle East » Jordan » South » Dana Biosphere Reserve
October 15th 2013
Published: November 26th 2013
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Today, it was the last breakfast in the Mariam Hotel in Madaba. We should go southwards to the Dana Biosphere Reserve, in the small town of Dana. The best road to discover Jordan is the "Kings Highway", and in between we should make an excursion to the Karak Castle. But first, time for breakfast in our rooftop restaurant. It was nice to see Madaba for the last time during breakfast. I really enjoyed this city. Afterwards, I was happy that the first days were in Madaba, it’s not as hectic and busy as in Amman. Also, it was not as touristic as Amman; it is really a nice good start for a trip to Jordan. Also, it’s perfect for visiting Mount Nebo and the Dead See, and it's not far way (maximum 1 hour of driving) to Jerash and Amman. After breakfast, which was the same as the last two days, it was time to leave. We packed our luggage into the bus and we left Madaba. We left via the city center, we saw the hectic city roads for the last time (however, Amman is more hectic and way busier) and we entered the Kings Highway after a while.

The Kings Highway is mentioned in the Old Testament. Moses got permission to travel on this road, owned by King Edom. Later on, the road was owned of the Nabataea’s and the Romans. Emperor Trajan renovated the ancient road and connected different cities to/close by the road. After the Roman Empire the Christians took over the road. Christian pilgrims used this road during the Crusades. The Crusaders took over some positions by the road, almost all close by Karak. Here, they build the Crusaders Castle of Karak. Currently, the Kings Highway is not the most important highway of Jordan, the Desert Highway is. The Desert Highway, from Aqaba to Al Zarqa and linked to roads to the North and Saudi Arabia, is quicker and straight. While the Kings Highway lead you through valleys and the beautiful nature of Jordan. Therefore, the Kings Highway is mostly used for tourism. And I really would recommend it to visit it once. The guide Omar told us 'now close your eyes, and when I say you should open it, you have to look right'. Gladly, I sat on the right in the bus... so we close our eyes and then... a really nice valley came! It was so nice! We stopped at bus stop to watch over the valley. Our guide told us, that in the past, there was place for 5 buses, and it was crowded with tourists. There are different buss tops over the valley, so in the past, some buses couldn't stand here and should passed on to the next stop. But today, we were the only one standing at this stop. Here again, you saw that the tourism was descend after the harassment in the Middle-East. Still, local people have small souvenir shops in the open air by those bus stops. I bought a small tapestry, which you see everywhere in Jordan. In the valley, we saw a goatherd with is herd walking and the goats were grazing from the vegetation. Yes, there is a still a lot of vegetation visible from the valley, however the landscape still is dry. In Europe, all the valleys you see are green, with a lot of vegetation and different spices. Here in Jordan it looks brown, with dark green "dots". We were standing at the top of the valley, we were standing quite high. The bottom of the valley is deep; I must be more than 500 meters in depth. And behind us, high rocks were standing. Jordan is very mountainous, especially standing at this valley's, where you really do feel small. Of course, we in The Netherlands do not have any mountains, so it's always great to see those high mountains and deep valleys. It’s very difficult to describe the landscape and its pride, and also hard to take it on picture. I suggest you should see for yourself! After the small stop, we drove through the valley, and saw the Wadi Muijb Dam. Hereafter, there is a huge lake. It's quite nice to see the lake, in such a dry, desert landscape. We made a stop by a local thee house, and toilets (in the open air, however, there was standing a toilet car with Arabic hang toilets) and we got a cup of tea. We had a nice view over the lake and it was time to move to Karak.

The Karak Castle is very easy to see outside of town. It's build on a huge hill, where you can see the ruins and its great wall. The great wall was build straight at the rand of the cliff.
Dana villageDana villageDana village

A donkey in the Dana Village
To entering, you have to go up to the hill, and entering the city center. The roads of Karak were small, but close to the Karak Crusade Castle, the road is very broad. We got a ticket, and we could visit the castle. I agree, you should do a guided tour at the Castle, otherwise it's very difficult to know how the castle was inhabited, and what the different ruins was in the past. Our Guide Omar gave us a tour though the Castle. First of all, the Castle is nice to view, and if you’re on the King's Highway, you should visit, but it is not as impressive as the other Historic places, such as Petra and Jerash. In the past, the castle had seven levels, where some were buried deep at the hill. It is possible to visit those levels, but we didn't do that. The Castle was build in the First Crusade, but it's linked to Reynald of Chatillon, described as a ruthless warrior which arrived in the Second Crusade in the Holy Land. He was betrayed by the Muslim commander Salah ad-Din, which launched a campaign to expel the Crusades. After the marriage with Lady Stephanie, Reynald became quite cruelty: he liked to throw the (Muslim) prisoners out of the windows at the east side, where they fall into the valley. To Horrify, he encased the prisoner's head in a wooden box, to inhibit that they lose their consciousness during the huge fall before they smack at the rocks. During the guided tour, you can see those places. Quite creepy. In the Battle of Hattin, in 1187, Reynald was defeated by Salah ad-Din, and decapitated Reynald. During the tour, you could visit the kitchen, the prisoner’s cells, barracks and the local museum.

After lunch in Karak, we entered the Kings Highway again. We drove to Dana, were we made a stop to see the Dana valley and our Guide point out Dana Village, the small town where we overnight. Dana town is very small town, the streets were very small for the bus. It's really nice to walk in the village; it feels that you are separated of the outside world, and that you’re staying by the local people. It looks like a mountain town. We walked to the visiting center where we made pictures of the sunset. The Dana valley is different than the valleys of the Kings Highway. The valleys are again very deep, and it's dry, but the rocks have a different color; like soft grey. And it’s contains out of rocks. The Rocks looks quite different: it looks like rocks which build on rocks, and it looks like they are all round. And you see a little more green. The vegetation looks different, too. In this Reserve, much wild animals are living here. For example a Nubian Ibex and even a grey wolf! Also, Dana is a paradise for bird watchers, there are a lot bird spices. Those animals are very rare and they are protected. Almost all animals are hard, almost impossible to spot. Expect some birds. During the sunset, swallows were flying very close by, even over our heads! Dana Biosphere Reserve is a member of the Jordan Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature. Dana is the largest Nature Park in Jordan and is 310 square kilometers. Sunset in the Dana Village is really beautiful. In Dana, you really feel that you’re inside the Biosphere Reserve.

We stayed in the Dana Hotel, and we go shared rooms. We got room 09. It was a very easy room,
Music in Dana HotelMusic in Dana HotelMusic in Dana Hotel

In the evenings, local man visit the hotel for a shiza, drinks and making music for the guests.
with 4 beds. Also, the sanitary was shared. The hotel is very atmospheric, do not expect any luxury, but you do not need this. The location is very beautiful and the hotel is very atmospheric so you don't miss the luxury. After diner, we stayed inside, where the locals came. They had a shiza and some of them began to sing and make music.
We went to sleep quite early. Tomorrow, a hike was on the program, covering around 4 hours in to the Dana Biosphere Reserve, of course guided. The hike is heavy, so we could use our rest. The beds were comfortable, but not everyone liked the blankets on top; they could irritate. If you do not like this, you should not forget a sleeping bag!

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


Kings HighwayKings Highway
Kings Highway

Downwards in the valley
Kings HighwayKings Highway
Kings Highway

The Wadi Muijb Dam
Karak Crusaders CastleKarak Crusaders Castle
Karak Crusaders Castle

A ruin in the courtyard
Karak Crusaders CastleKarak Crusaders Castle
Karak Crusaders Castle

The view at the Karak Castle
Karak Crusaders CastleKarak Crusaders Castle
Karak Crusaders Castle

Inside the Castle
Dana Biosphere ReserveDana Biosphere Reserve
Dana Biosphere Reserve

Sunset in Dana Biosphere Reserve

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