Petra Long awaited, much anticipated.

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October 28th 2017
Published: October 28th 2017
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PETRA . Long awaited much anticipated.

Tuesday October 17th. Today we travel toward one of the main highlights of my entire journey, the ancient Rose red city carved out of rocks by the the Nabataean people. Petra. My mother had enthused me with her rapture over its beauty. Now, post mortem, I carried her portrait so that she could visit the city which she never saw but loved so much.

While en route I'd arranged with a driver for us to visit three important tourist spots in Jordan: MADABA with its renowned Byzantine mosaics, Mt NEBO of Moses' Promised Land fame and the DEAD SEA a global phenomenon with water so salt your body floats effortlessly.

The driver was part of a transport package I'd negotiated with Solayman of the Wadi Rum Sky Bedouin camp. One flat price for three journeys, from Amman to Petra including the sightseeing stops, the second leg from Petra to Wadi Rum and finally the return journey Wadi Rum to Amman. Total cost JOD 235 (approx US 335) My camel ride in the desert would be thrown in. Now that we were three the price remained the same so it was a huge help for my budget to pay one third of that price. Bless you Nefertiti and Cleopatra!

There was a tinge of angst.. would our desert driver show up.... but he was there, and early too. First stop heading south of Amman, on the 5,000 year old route called the Kings Highway, was at Madaba.

Here is a 6th century Greek Orthodox church and extensive, beautifully preserved Byzantine mosaics including its most famous one lying on the floor in the centre of the Church of St George . It was discovered during the building of the modern Church in 1896. Called the Madaba Map, the mosaic still has 750,000 original pieces which depict areas surrounding the Holy Land including Jericho, Hebron, Bethlehem, Jerusalem and as far as the Nile delta. Labels on the map are in Cisjordan and are concerned with biblical names, events and locations. The oldest known map of the Holy Land, it was restored in 1965. Our Jordan Pass was not accepted for entry to the church but was good for the other sites.

Beyond the church itself more, extensive, Byzantine mosaics have been found and are displayed at the Archeological Park and Museum. They are masterpieces depicting flowers and plants, birds and fish, animals and exotic beasts, scenes from mythology and everyday activities like hunting, fishing and farming.

This is a rich site with much to see.

Continuing our journey we visited Mt Nebo not far away from Madaba. This is one of the most revered holy sites of Jordan. Here Moses saw the promised land. Looking down toward the River Jordan, the sprawling view overlooks Jordan with the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Bethlehem lying at your feet. Here is where Moses was buried not being allowed to cross the river. A small Byzantine church built there by early Christians, is now expanded into a vast complex. In 2000, Pope John Paul II held a sermon here attended by some 20,000 faithful. There is a monument.

All these sites are bustling with earnest pilgrims. Of interest to me was a service in progress at the now restored church, which seemed to be a special service for a group of devout Filipinos. I wandered in to the church, sat and observed quietly, looked at the mosaics on display, then wandered out. Part of the experience.

Moving along to our third stop. The Dead Sea. Our driver negotiated a deal whereby we could get entry at Amman Beach for less than the normal fee. JOD 15 each vs JOD 25 plus 3 for the use of a towel. So we agreed. What a surly, bad tempered, hostile lot of cleaning staff attended the female change rooms! A stark contrast to all the people we had encountered on our stay. We tried to figure it out and came up with theories. But we pressed on and took the plunge.

At 1400ft below sea level, this body of water is extremely salt. Which is why you float instead of sink, a really peculiar experience! I tried standing up in the water but kept keeling over, popping up like a cork. So funny. Interesting to float without effort. The salt water against my skin was sensuously soft and indeed my skin stayed soft even til the end of the day. But don't let the salt water get in your eye as it will sting, or taste very unpleasant in your mouth. The shoreline has crusted layers of the rock salt, rough grains. So I gathered some fistsful to bring home! After lingering a while soaking in the Dead Sea along with a motley bunch of people it was time to head for the day's final destination. Petra.

We took the new highway, a shorter route said our driver. It was well paved but had very few cars. Our driver manoeuvred umpteen hairpin bends and some wheeeeeeeeeee roller coaster up and down hill slopes. He was happy to hit the gas so it was a bit hairy. Margaret B couldn't take the jamming. Ally slept through it. I wavered between the two. But we made it.

As for the hotel. Burj Al Anbat check in was a bit of a mess. Ally's room was not clean. Our 3 rooms were in 2 separate buildings, next door. We were issued one fresh towel each. And our rooms were up five flights of stairs.... With no lift. Then Ammar the hotel manager or head of reception announced we couldn't pay with credit cards despite a clear statement on that we could. He hedged his explanation .... The machine was down, didn't know when it would be back up, so use the bank around the corner to get the money. We decided to leave that right there for the 2 nights of our stay.

Quick check of the neighborhood, found the nearby ATM machine and an eating place serving Jordanian food, then back to our rooms. Their two rooms had great internet signal. I had none. At allllll. So you know what! Time to sleep yes!

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29th October 2017

what strip. I was trying to imagine you in the salt water being keeled over when trying to stand. Fabulous for people who feel they can't float.

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