Wednesday, 11 September 2013

DISCOVERING JORDAN - Sep 2013


One of the things I enjoy most about holidays is hopping off the plane, dropping my bags at the hotel and then setting off to ramble around the unknown. Reading local maps, using a phrase book to ask directions and ultimately getting lost are some of the sheer delights of being in a foreign country.   Jordan was an organized tour, which took these simple pleasures away. That said, it’s probably the best way to explore this country if you only have a week.

Had an amazing time exploring this wonderful country as you’ll read, but it was dampened by the reality of what was happening only a few miles away in Syria.

The sites
Spectacular, breath-taking, astounding, awe-inspiring….just some of the adjectives in my limited vocab to describe this magnificent country.
Sheltering the sun in Pella

 

Pella – The first and least impressive of all the excavations we visited. The city, which became part of the Roman Empire, now hosts the remains of a small 1st century theatre and several churches including a basilica.


Looking across the Dead Sea at Israel in the distance


Dead Sea – never have I been so enthralled with and anxious to visit a sea. The stories of healing properties, extreme saltiness and the guarantee you’ll float. In fact the floating wasn’t a big thing for me as I float easily in any body of water, but no warnings could prepare me for just how terrible a tiny drop of this water in your mouth is. The water glides off your skin and has an oily silky feel while you’re immersed but a short while after you emerge, you can feel the graininess of the salt covering your skin. And for those around me unfortunate enough to get it in their eyes, well I could only look on in pity at their painful, frantic scurry towards fresh water. 
My souvenir rocks!

As the sea contains four times the amount of sodium chloride found in normal seawater, neither plants nor animals can thrive.
I could hear my ears popping as we approached the lowest point on earth, 400m below sea level.
 
Petra by night – The walk up to the treasury in the dark, lined by single candles in a brown paper bag is romantic indeed. Then once we reached the treasury… well, I’ll let the photos do the talking.






Petra – The 50 JD (£47) entry fee is steep in comparison to the 12 JD (£10.50) fee for Petra by night. Still, there’s no denying this treasure of the ancient world (which celebrated its 200th year of discovery last year) deserves a place in New7Wonders of the world and is Jordan’s greatest tourist attraction.






Camels need coffee too!







Our visit started with a horse ride to the main entrance of the Siq. The walk through the Siq itself was amazing but then you come to the Treasury monument!
Definitely use a guide who can explain how the Nabateans built this unique place more than 2000 years ago and talk you through Petra’s importance as a junction for silk, spice and other trade routes linking the eastern and western worlds.
Ill treated donkeys :( 
Praise God for umbrella's 
And then there was the walk to the Monastery. Eroded steps carved into the sides of the rocks; brochure says 800 steps but that doesn’t take into account the slopes where no steps are carved. The climb is not for the faint hearted, nor those with severe joint injuries. But it more than burns off any shawarma, kebabs and other Jordanian delights you’ve indulged in. The one-hour hike in 35 degree heat of the sun probably wasn’t my best call and hubby didn’t look amused. What goes up must come down – and then there’s the mammoth walk back to the entry. 
Petra was the only place I say dogs in Jordan.
Flies enjoying some fresh camel poo 



LittlePetra – A few miles to the north of Petra, 
lies Little Petra. Apparently it was an important suburb, used as the entry and exit points for trade routes.










Jerash – One of the best-preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. Over the past 70 years, this previously hidden town has been excavated and restored. It comprises of paves streets, temples perched high on hills, theatres, plazas, baths, fountains and impressive remains of Byzantine churches tiled floors.




Madaba The main attraction here is the Greek Orthodox Church of St George which houses the famed 6th Century Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land.





Kerak – Once the ancient capital of the Moabite Kingdom, Kerak is situated on a hilltop at an altitude of 100m and surrounded by a valley on three sides. Here I had the chance to explore the Crusader Castle. Our tour guide pointed out the area where Lot would have escaped as Sodom and Gomorrah


were being destroyed. When I asked where the pillar of Lot’s wife was, I was told it would now be underwater (contradicting stories of it being in Israel).



Wadi Rum – nothing to do with alcohol! This vast dessert was perfect for a jeep ride, although I did doubt from the look of the jeep whether it would survive the journey. I declined the camel ride for part of the journey as the sun really was too hot and I wasn’t confident I could balance steadily on the camel while holding my life saving umbrella. Besides, I’ve ridden camels in Dubai, Egypt etc.
It was lovely chilling in a Bedouin camp and drinking Jordanian whisky; alcohol- free mix of tea, cinnamon and other spices.








Mount Nebo – This mountain rises to 840m high at its peak, offering a magnificent view of Israel. It is here that the prophet Moses is believed to be buried.

Looking out at Jericho 



Nightmares
There were 2 things I found a bother here. The public toilet situation is distressing. In fairness, no more so than in places like China, other parts of Asia and North Africa but I always forget just how traumatic un-flushed public toilets with overflowing waste paper baskets are. It wasn’t like this all over Jordan but some places were so bad (Kerak especially) I found myself purposely dehydrating during the day so I wouldn’t have the loo break crisis.
The other, much less mortifying, is the smoking situation. In the UK I’m so accustomed to the non-smoking laws that I have to bite my tongue from confronting the person puffing away in the elevator and other enclosed spaces.

Kids begging and touts trying to sell over priced fakes can’t really be avoided. Don’t be fooled by this sweet little face. Wasn't interested in her products but gave her a 1JD note - she grabbed it from me so fiercely I thought it would rip. Then she gave me an evil glare! 



Food
A new found love of falafel.

Shawarma
Traditional dish, Mansaf. Consists of lamb in a yogurt sauce.

 




There's one everywhere you go!



So, you’re driving down a dual carriage way at 60 km an hour…and all of a sudden you go over a speed hump! And the logic is…? Anyway, if you’re as bountifully blessed as I am – you may want to ensure you’re wearing a good support bra for these kind of drives!





Looking out over the Sea of Galilee




Khaled (tour guide) pointing out Syrian boarder

Picking pomegranates 




All in all a wonderful experience for my first guided tour holiday. Will choose this option again for Israel and possibly certain parts of South America due to safety issues. But I’m still a fan of free roaming and independent discovery when abroad!http://uk.visitjordan.com

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