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Published: June 26th 2017
Despite the stress of the previous day, our hotel room and especially the bed, was very comfortable. I say comfortable. Certainly to lie on. However, this morning we both agreed it wasn't the best night's sleep we'd had. The mattress of the bed was memory foam but we think it had been still remembering someone else's body!!
At breakfast we met a young couple from Dubai. We explained our predicament about not being able to find the hotel yesterday. They said that they had GPS in their car and they even had problems. GPS identified the road ok but failed to pin point the location of the hotel. It didn't also take in to account the temporary road closures.
Today, the last full day of our trip, we are heading to the Dead Sea, a journey of only 30 miles (42km) but due to the route, across the top of Mt. Nebo, the journey could take from anything between 1-1 ½ hours. Once we get on the right road, the rest should be plain sailing as en route to Madeba we passed many signs to Mt Nebo and the Dead Sea.
The reception advised us to drive to
the bottom of the street and turn left at the circle. Then follow the signs. Unfortunately we could not drive down the street as it is one way. The alternative 'around the block' diversion was explained via the map, as already explained showing only 1/10th
of the actual roads; drawn by five year olds for five year olds! ‘Simple',
said the reception. ‘Head down to the bottom of the street but turn left just before you get to the T junction. Keep turning left until you come to the Circle then straight across and follow the signs.'
Now nothing is simple as already experienced when driving in Madaba. We negotiated the first part of the instructions but it wasn't long until we realised we'd turned left too early. Having had the pleasure of aimlessly driving around yesterday, land marks had become a little more familiar and within five minutes we had found the Circle and were on the right road heading toward our first stop. As soon as we spied the brown tourist sign Roisin put her foot down and didn't look back nearly knocking over a whole family of jay walkers in the process!!
Within ten minutes
we were starting to climb. Madaba was now a few miles behind us and the terrain had become much more desert-like.Mount Nebo is an elevated ridge approximately 817 metres above sea level. It gets a mention in the Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land. According to the final chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses ascended Mount Nebo to view the Land of Israel that he would never enter.
According to Christian tradition, Moses was buried somewhere on this mountain but his place of burial is not specified, although there is a grave of Moses located at Maqam El-Nabi Musa, 11 km south of Jericho and 20 km east of Jerusalem in the Judean wilderness. Scholars continue to dispute whether the mountain currently known as Nebo is the same as the mountain referred to in Deuteronomy. As I don't want to get in to a theological dispute let's just say, for arguments sake, the Mt. Nebo we find ourselves standing on today and the Mt. Nebo mentioned in the bible are one and the same!
The view from the summit provided a panorama of the wilderness and the Holy Land
beyond as well as our first glimpse of the Dead Sea. With the fertile land around the river Jordan as it heads north running in to the Sea of Galilee. Today the temperature is 39°C (102°F). The sky is cloudless but white due to the heat haze. This gave a misty appearance to the West Bank of Palestine visible in the distance. However, the city famed for its dodgy tradesmen and shoddy building work, Jericho was still clearly visible 50 miles or so down below. Jerusalem is also usually visible on a clear day from the summit but today was not one of those days!!
On the highest point of the mountain, Syagha, the remains of a Byzantine church and monastery were discovered in 1933. The church was first constructed in the second half of the 4th century to commemorate the place of Moses' death. Since 2007, the building that houses the Byzantine mosaics has been closed for renovation with no date when the restoration is likely to be completed. In 2000, Pope John Paul II visited the site during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land. During his visit he planted an olive tree beside the Byzantine chapel as
a symbol of peace.
The church is all cordoned off so it was not possible to get close to the serpentine cross sculpture (the Brazen Serpent Monument) atop in the grounds of the byzantine Church. It is symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.
The road down to the Dead Sea resort was steep and winding. Fortunately there was little in the way of traffic and due to the topography, it was possible to see what was coming around the next corner.
The Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth (above ground) at 400m BELOW Sea level. I'm confused about the meaning of Sea Level. Surely it depends which sea the measure is taken from!! For example, the Dead Sea is a Sea ergo the Dead Sea is technically Sea level if you're using this sea as the benchmark!! Anyhow, that said, as Mt Nebo stands 817m above sea level, our decent to the Dead Sea resort was actually only the equivalent of 127m short of driving down from the highest point in the British Isles, Ben Nevis.
Our final night would be
spent in the Holiday Inn Resort Hotel. This is a 5 star establishment that begins with free valet parking. It doesn't seem quite right to turn up in a Nissan Micra and hand over the keys to the concierge who is probably more used to handling Audis, Mercedes and maybe the odd Arab owned Bentley or two. Roisin & I discussed about parking the car up the road and walking to the hotel saying we got the bus in!!
We decided to drive up to the main gate anyway where we gave our name to the gate keeper. He checked us off the list then without giving the car a second glance lowered the bollards and waved us through. We were on a list. We've never been on a list before!!
Pulling up at the main entrance the valet appeared who helped us with our luggage to the lobby desk before giving him the keys to the car in exchange for a receipt ticket.
On checking in we were both given an orange bracelet to wear which would identify that we had unlimited use of the facilities that this resort has to offer. The valet then reappeared
and now he was doubling up as the bell hop carrying our bags and leading the way to our room. The room was big and airy with a balcony that, and this is not a criticism, provided a nice vista of the car park and Kings Highway beyond! There was fee wi-fi which was to be expected in this sort of establishment as well as a well-stocked free minibar (non-alcoholic) and tea making facilities. After an hour or so of enjoying the welcome aircon we changed in to something more appropriate and ventured down stairs to explore this oasis within a sun scorched desert.
The complex is big. So much so there is a detailed plan in the enormous lobby highlighting the location of all of the three outdoor pools, four restaurants serving everything from snack to contemporary cuisine, steak to traditional Jordanian dining and the plan also showed the path down through lush, landscaped gardens descending several levels to the shores and what we had come for, to soak up the ancient magic of Jordan's Dead Sea.
We collected a towel from one of the several ‘towel stations' and on entering the Hotels private section of beach,
were handed a cool bucket stocked with ice and complimentary water. Along the private stretch of sand are neat rows of sun loungers, in pairs. Each pair shaded by a small gazebo. We selected a suitable spot not too far from the waters edge.
Now was the time to get down and get dirty!! Dead Sea mud is world famous for its benefits to the skin and body. The mud is in fact silt washed down from the surrounding mountains and deposited on the shores of this inland salt sea. Layer upon layer of fine silt deposits have evolved over thousands of years to form a rich Dead Sea mud containing particularly high levels of magnesium, calcium, potassium, strontium (??), boron and iron. The resulting mineral-rich Dead Sea mud is a natural raw material that can be used by the body as a source of essential minerals for all its basic needs.
Every few metres along the shore line, are large wok-shaped steel containers on a stand. The containers are full of this mud and guests are invited to slap it on thick. I said to Roisin that it didn't look very appetising. She replied: ‘No one's asking
you to eat it, now get slapping! And tell me what it feels like'. The mud actually had the consistency of very wet clay. Remember those lessons in pottery when you added too much water to your lump of clay on the potter's wheel and the resulting vase looked like something Salvador Dali would likely to paint? And the only person who paid you any compliment was your mother. Your father would just sit in his chair in front of the TV and grin!! Well that's what they mud felt like. Using ones hand as an applicator, the mud spread on surprisingly smooth and, helped along by laughter and the hands of Mohammed, a nearby life guard we were both covered head to foot in mud glorious mud!!
Cooking instructions: Bake on a high heat 39°C for 10 minutes then wash off in a high solution of salt water. We took our first steps in to the Dead Sea in which no life exists, plant or animal (hence the sea's name.) The sea bed on the Jordan side is quite pebbly so every step has to be carefully placed lest you lose your balance. Roisin was happy to wade
up to her knees but I decided to give this floating phenomenon a try. This is probably as close as you can get to walking on water!! Due to the high concentration of salt, it is impossible to sink. It feels as if one has a buoyancy aid supporting ones whole body. Roisin by this time had ventured back up to the sunbed once she had rinsed the remainder of the mud off from a nearby fountain. ‘A little help here'
I spluttered as I thrashed the water trying to regain my balance. They say it is also impossible to drown in the Dead Sea as the water will always push you on to your back. I gave it a good try though!! I turned my body trying to get a foot hold on the sea bed and in the ensuing struggle as the dense water tried to push me back to the surface my face went under momentarily. The water went in my mouth, up my nose and in my eyes. Although I was only floating in about two foot six inches of water, this battle was an uphill struggle. Now before the photos become common knowledge and
to keep the gossip mongers at bay, Mohammed and I are just good friends. OK, he has promised to write but nothing else happened, I promise!! Mohammed came running in the water and taking me by the hand helped me regain my balance. He then kept tight hold of my hand as we walked up the beach. That's when the Paparazzi got a little snap happy. The say if you can't lead Mohammed to the mountain, Mohammed will have to lead Chris to the fountain!! As my eyes were still stinging, that is what my knight in shining armour was doing to ensure I managed to wash the salt out of my system. I swallowed so much water, I won't need to put salt on my chips for a month!!!
I was still drying my eyes as I was heading back to my sunbed when ‘Crack'. The pain that shot up my left leg was excruciating. I had stubbed my toe on a rock that was protruding from the sand. Luckily I had pool shoes on which probably cushioned the blow so I'd end up with nothing more than a nasty bruise.
This had been a fun and
relaxing day. On reflection both Roisin and I would have been happy to have stayed at the Holiday Inn Resort for an extra day at the expense of, say, mmmm let me think…Madaba perhaps!!? All the staff were so happy, they all smiled and acknowledged you when you walked passed.
Later that evening we requested extra Coffee Mate. We gave our room number and headed back to our room. No sooner had we returned and had time to walk across from the door to the window there came a soft rap on our door. On opening it there stood an assistant with a whole plethora of tea bags (Earl Grey and English Breakfast), coffee (reg and decaf), sugar and of course coffee mate. Literally two minutes after the assistant had left our presence the in-house phone rang: ‘Hello, Mr Hodgson? ‘This is reception. I just want check someone deliver coffee tray'. How's that for concern for the customer. They just couldn't do enough for us!
Breakfast was not included and cost 12JD per person. The breakfast was buffet style and the selection of breads, meats, cheeses, hot dishes is too great to mention. As Roisin and I are
not huge breakfast eaters we felt the 12JD would not represent value for money. We did read that items can be prices individually. However, when we explained this to the on duty restaurant manager she advised us that this is only available when ordering room service. Not having time to head back to the room and order, the manager showed us to a seat and asked if we wanted tea or coffee. We both also ordered omelette and helped ourselves a couple of slices of toast and marmalade. On departing from the restaurant I reached for my wallet and before I could say ‘How much'
the manager said, ‘Goodbye sir, madam. Have a safe journey'. Like I said, they couldn't do enough…
…and now the long journey home. However, we had yet to realise that ‘long' was an understatement!!
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