Jordan – they kept the best for the last
The last few days of a trip are hard. We were all feeling tired, missing sleeping in our own bed and had picked up local bugs. After visiting Petra we didn’t care about the rest of the itinerary as we didn’t know any of the places mentioned there.
That was where the tour operators had a few surprises in store for us. First was the Dead Sea.
From cold Petra, we drove to the warm Dead Sea. Where Petra is 810 mt above the sea level, the Dead Sea is 400 mt below the sea level. It is the lowest point on Earth. Despite the dry and harsh surroundings, the land around the Dead Sea is surprisingly fertile. The villages in the area are the supplier of fresh produce such as tomatoes, cucumber, eggplants, melons, bananas, and citrus to the whole of Jordan.
Our hotel was conveniently located on the beach (which has retreated 1.5 km). Catering for wellness tourists it had its own piece of beach where the black mud (supposed to have therapeutic and cosmetic properties) in puddles was absolutely free. I was not a well – sore throat, cold and feeling feverish. Knowing if I didn’t float in the Dead Sea, I will regret it all my life, so I popped in two panadols and jumped in. In fact, you can’t jump in, in order to avoid extremely salty water to get in your mouth or eyes you carefully lie down on your back and let the water support you.
Although it is recommended you don’t stay in the water longer than half an hour, we floated to our heart’s fill and then jumped in the heated pool in the hotel. The Ramada Resort where we stayed had the best food on the whole trip. The whole experience gets my full marks
The next day we drove to Madaba. Madaba is an easy-going small town known for fine Byzantine mosaics preserved in its Churches and museums. We walked the narrow but beautiful lanes of the inner city to see an impressive sixth-century mosaic map of the Holy Land in the Greek Orthodox church of St George.
The plain exterior of the Church doesn’t prepare you for the beautiful interior. The tiny church gets more than a thousand visitors a day.
About nine kilometers from Madaba is Mount Nebo, the peak from where Moses finally the Promised Land. The beautiful vantage point has been turned into a memorial park with an old center which is a sacred place not only for Jews but for Muslims and Christians as well. The 394 AD church has gone through very clever renovations to protect the priceless mosaic work on its walls and floor.
It is still a practicing church and we get to witness a beautiful service there during our visit. A group of pilgrimage and their accompanying priest was being blessed by the local priest. All very moving and soul touching.
From Mount Nebo, we drove to the capital of Jordan.
The first known settlement in Amman was a Neolithic farming town, dating back to nine thousand years.
After Alexander, the Great conquered the region in 332 BC his successor Ptolemy II Philadelphus rebuilt the city and named it Philadelphia (which meant the city of brotherly love).
Amman is populated on seven hills. When you are at a higher point, like the Citadel hill in the center of the city, you see houses and houses all around you.
Citadel Hill has been a focus for human settlement since the Paleolithic age. It is an archeological site as well as the place we city people congregate for the big celebrations. Of the archeological remains, the most impressive are – the Umayyad Palace that dates from the first half of the eighth century and Temple of Hercules from the second century.
Close to Citadel Hill is the Roman theatre. With a capacity of six thousand, it was the centerpiece of Roman Philadelphia and is still used for occasional concerts. One of the wonderful experiences of any Roman theatre is to hear your normal speaking voice echoing when you stand at a specific point on the stage. Move away from that point and there is no echo.
On our last day in Jordan, most of us were tired and battling either tummy bugs or flu viruses. Half of the group decided to stay behind. Those brave souls, including me, who decided to go to a day full of the outings were duly awarded.
Ajloun Castle, a military outpost built on the command of Salahuddin as a part of a major military tactic to stop the expansion of Crusaders territory in the region and protection of communication routes between Damascus and the south of Jordan was an engineering feast. With walls one meter thick, secret passages and round cannon boulders, it was a true castle. It was built to last. It is no wonder that it is still standing after so many major earthquakes in the region.
But like a true showman, our tour company kept the best attraction for the last. The well-preserved Roman city of Jerash lay buried in the sand for 1100 years and was accidentally discovered just seventy years ago.
It is said that only half of the city is unearthed so far, the other half is underneath the densely populated area across the road that the Jordanian government will need billions of dollars to buy the land from its current owners. But whatever has been unearthed is majestic. One could spend the whole day and still can’t see all of the public buildings that include two massive temples – The Temple of Zeus and The Temple of Artemis.
This is the last of the travel posts. Thank you for reading and providing your comments, they kept me motivated to keep writing.
From Monday I will be starting a new series, this time on writing.