Dead Sea & Bethany

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March 6th 2011
Published: March 17th 2011
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For all those unfamiliar with the Muslim religion and their countries, the call for prayers can be quite a shock. Although I was semi aware, the shock at around 5am on our first morning in Jordan was similar to someone coming into the room and pressing play to AC/DC at full volume right up to your ear. We hadn’t a clue what was going on. I’m not 100% sure what is said to call people to prayer but a quick google search tells me that it says, Allah is great, there is only one Allah and come to pray. We sprung up in the bed awoken by the ghostly sounds coming from the nearby Mosque. In fact, I reckon we could hear every Mosque in the town it was that loud. This continued for few minutes and if we hadn’t already known about it, I think we might have followed the emergency exit signs and assembled at the fire point. The call for prayer happens five times a day and leaves no one uncertain whether it is time to pray or not. Over the course of our trip we became accustomed to the call but still the pre-dawn Adhaan was hard to ignore.

We eventually got back to sleep and woke again at 9am. We ventured up to breakfast on the 5th floor restaurant where a nice buffet selection awaited us. We discussed what we were going to do for the day. The Dead Sea, Bethany and Mt. Nebo. Now those who know about the Dead Sea know that the high salt levels is what creates the buoyancy and I knew Michelle knew this as well, but for tens seconds she had a little bit of a blonde moment. I had told her that it was the lowest point on earth, approximately 400m below sea level. She then replied is this what makes you float?! I have to admit as soon as she said it she had realised what she said, or maybe it was my facial of expression of “did you just ask me that?”, I’m not quite sure! Anyway, we both did silly things on this trip like me trying to put my hand through a glass cabinet for a sandwich, which is probably more stupid in fairness.

We booked a tour to see the places mentioned above, and this comprised basically of a taxi driver taking us around to all the sights. We would then have to pay entrance fees and for any guides if we required them. Nareem our driver arrived ten minutes after we booked the tour and first up was a trip to Mt. Nebo. This is the place where Moses saw the holy or also known as the promised land.

The Bible
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the Lord showed him the whole land.... Then the Lord said to him, "This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when I said, 'I will give it to your descendents.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it."

And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day on one knows where his grave is. --Deuteronomy 34:1-6

At the view point looking out over the promised land there is a map pointing out all the religious areas in the distance. Places like Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho. Most of them no further than 50km away. I did wish we had time to visit some of those places but that will have to be held back for another trip.

Back in the taxi we left for Bethany. The baptism site of Jesus Christ. Now for anyone who starts to read this and think we were on some sort or religious holiday, it wasn’t quite that way. Both of us are Christian and I think the most pagan of Christian people would find it interesting to see the baptism place of Jesus. I have to say I was never in awe of what I was visiting but I have to admit that I did see the significance of where we were. The baptism of a child is a huge thing in Christian society. We did have a guide for the trip around Bethany. He wasn’t really a guide though. He was there to make sure we didn’t try and cross over into the West Bank, as we were right on the border with the Israeli occupied territory. He was though extremely annoying. We all had little audio guides to listen to but he insisted on shouting down his phone for most of the walk. I through him a few dirty looks and tutted a bit, but it was to no avail. Also my audio guide wouldn’t work. One minute it was spitting out Russian, the next it wouldn’t tell me anything. As everyone else immersed themselves in the history of Bethany, I had a battle with an audio guide to the point of defeat. Then at the place where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist my audio guide burst into life filling me with information beyond anything I could ever imagine. Well, no, that didn’t really happen, but it did come back to life. It also died again after a few minutes but not before spitting out some random Russian information. Why me?! When we did reach the river Jordan, now reduced to a muddy stream, we could look across at the West Bank or Israeli occupied territory. The river was only about 6m wide and was guarded by Jordanian military personnel. It was here we met the assistant director of the site at Bethany. He explained the whole West Bank and only talked of peace in the area. He pointed out that without peace between Israel and Jordan we would not have been able to visit Bethany, as the place had been littered with landmines before there was peace between the two.

Next up was a trip to the Dead Sea. At 400m below sea level, it is the lowest point on earth. We were brought to Amman Beach where we had to spend €15 each to get in. This in turn provided changing rooms and showers and the use of three swimming pools, if swimming in the Dead Sea became too much for you. Before going in to the changing rooms I had to get my swim shorts out of Michelle’s bag. It was then that I realised I hadn’t packed them. I really cursed my self. You travel thousands of miles to do something and then you forgot the one thing you need to do it. To be honest I had came this far, and if I had to go in, in my underwear, I would have. Luckily there was a shop selling shorts. Clearly second hand, left behind shorts, but still who was I to argue. The €5 price he put on them though was a little steep, but hey, I had myself to blame. We made it down to the beach and didn’t wait long too get in. You could see the salt along the edge of the shore, sticking to any rock it could find. It was soon clear that the water was extremely buoyant. Even if you tried to swim you would be flipped over onto your back. We got all the usual photo’s, the most famous probably the one of someone floating along reading a magazine. When we got out we were covered in salt and as we dried of you could feel it tightening your skin. We washed off the salt quickly and then sat down to a three course €12 buffet. The food was excellent and my favourite was a flavoured spiced rice, covered in yogurt. Our driver took us to a panoramic view point where we took some more photo’s before retreating to the hotel and finishing the evening with a beer or two.

In a bit. DH

Quote of the blog: “Is it because its below sea level that you float?!”

Additional photos below
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17th March 2011

Nice to see you blogging again. Are you goign to Syria? I am hoping to go there in the near future. Well, some time after I go Sumatra this August anyway.
17th March 2011

I'm afraid we only had 8 days in Jordan. As always I wish we had more. I have another trip in two months to either Turkey or Greece. Not sure. For some reason though, I now have a weird fascination of the Middle East & North Africa.
18th March 2011

Apparently Syria is a real gem, or so a number of folks on TravelBlog have told me. Getting the visa is a real pain though. I will fly to Turkey and hope to get the visa at the Syrian border, because getting it from a consulate seems the more complicated way. I hear, you can get it at the border if you have an Irish passport. Otherwise, I will just stay in Turkey. Either way, I will get to see more of the world. Yeah, I have a fascination with the Middle East and North Africa too. They are very exotic, so more of a travel experience. I have that fascination for Asia too.
16th April 2011

I read about your struggle with your audio guide, and so sorry to hear about that, the thing is that the digital card you had , has 2sides , one is English , the other is russion , so if you want to hear narration in English u need to use the English side , unfortunatly it seems u used the Russian side.
16th April 2011

I read about your struggle with your audio guide, and so sorry to hear about that, the thing is that the digital card you had , has 2sides , one is English , the other is russion , so if you want to hear narration in English u need to use the English side , unfortunatly it seems u used the Russian side.

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