A Travellerspoint blog

Jordan

Amman, the Dead Sea, and Jerash


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Amman is the capital of Jordan and while it’s is not particularly known for its tourist sites, it does have a few and the city makes a great base for exploring the Northeastern part of the country. While walking around the city, we visited a Roman fountain and amphitheatre. Amazingly, the Roman amphitheater is still in use today, most recently as the staging for the Amman marathon (any takers for next year?). The city is spread out over 19 hills (still interested?). We also took a policeman’s recommendation for lunch and stopped by a local fast food restaurant for some great shwarma and hummus. We were pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the locals and the lack of hassling. Most people we walked by would say “Welcome!” and keep going. When we stopped in a shop to buy a souvenir, the price was fixed and fair, and the shop keeper extremely nice. He even asked us to join him for tea. After lunch and shopping, we also explored the Citadel, a hill top fort that was occupied by the Romans, Crusaders, and many others over hundreds of years. Each occupier added its own temples and personal marks to the site, so it has some interesting history. The Citadel also contains a museum with artifacts from 6,500 BC. Really amazing!
IMG_9306.jpgA view of the Amphitheatre and city from the Citadel
IMG_9285.jpgSome young girls on a school trip to the Amphitheatre
IMG_9325.jpgA 6,500 year old statue- thought to be one of the oldest sculptures ever found
IMG_9328.jpgIn front of the Temple at the Citadel
6IMG_9332.jpgA view of the city of Amman- and coincidentally the world's tallest free-standing flagpole- apparently the North Koreans claim the tallest but it is supported by cables which is, of course, not really free-standing (just in case it comes up on Jeopardy)
On our second day we headed out via public transportation to the Dead Sea. We spent the day at Amman Beach which was a nice mix of locals and tourists. What’s amazing about the Dead Sea is that it’s the lowest point on Earth, something like 1,300 feet below sea level. Because of constant evaporation, it is also extremely salty- 10x the salinity of the ocean. Even the densest person becomes instantly buoyant and the moment your feet leave the bottom, you float right to the surface like a fishing bobber. The water also has an oily feel (like ocean water mixed with baby oil). Jeff, who can absolutely not float, laid on the surface of the water forever marveling at his newfound ability. Plus, like I said in the last posting, the brush burn he got from falling in the tunnel hurt him like the dickens (salt on a wound). It was a fun experience and we also enjoyed some great people watching. Muslim women swam fully clothed while the Western women wore bikinis - it was quite the coming together of cultures, but everyone was cool with the other. We took refuge afterwards in the pool for a few hours before heading back to Amman. Luckily, we got a ride back to Amman with a local. He gave us the lift for free and refused any payment even after dropping us off at our hostel. While driving back, Jeff commented on the radio station he was listening to because it was more Western and our new buddy said “Well, this music is ok, but really, this is my kind of music” and he turned on Kenny Roger’s “The Gambler”. He and Jeff were fast friends :)
IMG_9358.jpg The classic Dead Sea photo- feet up, reading a book
IMG_9372.jpgTotally amazed with his newfound buoyancy
5IMG_9382.jpgYou can even float on your stomach- just don't put your face in- the water BURNS your eyes
IMG_9389.jpgA Muslim woman in her swimming attire
The next day we traveled via public transport to Jerash, located about 30-miles north of Amman. It was at one time an important Roman city that today has the ruins to prove it. It was cute too, when you ride on public transportation, the locals really look out for you. When we asked the bus driver if this was our stop, he said “wait, I drop you closer”, and then the locals on the front of the bus had a healthy debate regarding where the best and most convenient place to drop us would be. I am really digging the Jordanians! Jerash is enormous and well preserved in parts. It consists of several amphitheatres, roads, temples, and other stone structures. There were even several excavations going on while we were there sponsored by France. We also watched a “Roman re-enactment” which included a Roman Legion, chariot race, and Gladiator battle. In the end, it was the kids in the audience who were the most impressed. There was, however, one “gladiator” who liked to flex his pec muscles and then point at the old ladies in the audience- it was pretty hilarious to watch them giggle like little girls.
IMG_9457.jpgA view of Jerash's ruins
IMG_9432.jpgThe Roman Legion re-enactment- they even used Latin commands
6IMG_9441.jpgThe Chariot Races
IMG_9477.jpgSome of the ruins
IMG_9479.jpgWhat was the entrance and road into the city- it must have really been impressive in its heyday
IMG_9484.jpg
After 11-days in Jordan, it is time for us to move. We really enjoyed our time here and especially enjoyed the people. Jordan is relatively easy to get around and there is a lot to see in one small space. Interestingly, we met more American tourists here than in any other country on our trip so far. We would definitely recommend a visit! Next stop for us, Jerusalem, Israel.

Posted by geldere 12:52 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

Jordan and the Amazing Petra…


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We left behind the beaches of Egypt and travelled to Jordan via a small sliver of Israel. We headed directly to Wadi Musa, the town outside of Petra. Petra has been on our short list of places to see for some time- maybe it was Indiana Jones or maybe it was Petra’s designation as one of the seven wonders of the modern world, but, for whatever reason, we had high expectations.

Fortunately, unlike some things in life, Petra lived up to the hype. For starters, walking into the ancient city via what is called the Siq was one of the coolest walks I’ve ever done. For about a mile, you walk through a gorge split almost perfectly by a shift in tectonic plates. At the end of the Siq you reach the infamous and beautiful Treasury building. It just comes out of nowhere and you wonder how in the world anyone rediscovered it all. I had imagined that Petra consisted of the Treasury building and a few other tombs/ruins, but the ancient city is actually huge - ¼ the size of London. Dozens of tombs and ruins are spread out over several miles. What’s most impressive about the tombs is the detailed and well preserved carving on their outsides. In contrast, the insides are just simple rooms with empty, dugout graves. We walked all around the main sites on our first day and ended the day with a walk up the mountain (800 steps) to the Monastery building which was almost as dramatic as the Treasury. We bought a two day pass, so we spent our second day in Petra doing a few of the recommended hikes in the surrounding hillsides. We even climbed up one of the rock formations and along a ridge to get a look at the Treasury from above. We left completely soaked in sweat and exhausted, but Petra was spectacular - seriously, put it on your list.
If you have any interest in taking a "walk" through the final portion of the siq to the Treasury click here
IMG_8770.jpgWalking Through the Siq
IMG_8781.jpg The famous Treasury building
IMG_8823.jpg The exterior of multiple funerary buildings
IMG_8903.jpg The Monestary building- that's actually me standing in the doorway to give some scale (it was pretty hilarious watching me try and climb up there)
IMG_9021.jpgInside one of the buildilngs- just to show you what was in there
IMG_9047.jpg A view from our climb up to see the Treasury building from above
After Petra, we visited the impressive, desert landscapes of Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is famous because it is where TE Lawrence, a British officer, spent time living as a Bedouin while supporting the Arab Revolt during World War I. His story is the basis for the movie Lawrence of Arabia (one of Jeff’s favorite movies), which was shot in part in Wadi Rum. We took a jeep tour for several hours taking in the canyons, siqs, and sand dunes, and completed several short hikes. We spent the night at a Bedouin camp enjoying the sunset, eating a traditional meal, and doing some particularly great star gazing. The experience makes me wonder how Bedouin actually live in such a harsh environment, scorching and dry in the daytime and then freezing at night.
IMG_8705.jpg A view of Wadi Rum Desert
IMG_9058.jpgOur Bedouin host and his cute daughters
IMG_9077.jpgA view from Lawrence's spring
IMG_9096.jpg Our desert crew for the day
IMG_9115.jpg Jeff standing on the "bridge"
IMG_9138.jpg Sunset in the desert
After our desert experience, we had to camp out at our hostel outside of Petra for a few days because I had my first major illness of the trip. I had to burn off a fever and let my upset stomach work itself out while Jeff played Nurse Nancy. He even walked 40-minutes to buy me Gatorade, a luxury in this part of the world - he’s the best :)

After three days, finally healthy and fit, we returned to our travels and set off for Amman, Jordan’s capital, via the King’s Highway. The King’s Highway is very picturesque and has several worthwhile stops along the way to break up the drive. For starters, we stopped at two Crusader castles, Shobak and Karak. Shobak had an 800 step escape tunnel which you can walk in its entirety to the other side at the bottom of the mountain. Man, so again, I found myself walking down a pitch black tunnel under a mountain for enjoyment. Jeff took a slight tumble in the tunnel, like 12 steps, leaving him with a healthy rug burn on his leg – that’s going to sting in the Dead Sea. We also passed through Wadi Mujib (Jordan’s Grand Canyon) and visited Mt. Nebo. Mt. Nebo is the site where Moses led his people (after Mt. Sinai and the Ten Commandments in Egypt) and from which he pointed out the Promised Land. He then promptly died at the ripe old age of 120. There is so much history in the Middle East, it’s amazing. Our last stop before arriving in Amman was Madaba, a town known for its collection of Byzantine- era mosaics. The most famous mosaic, a map of Palestine from around 560 AD, was discovered during the rebuilding of St. George’s church in 1884. After an enjoyable but long day on the King’s Highway, we arrived at our hostel in Amman. We will write more again soon!
IMG_9175.jpg Midway down the escape tunnel
IMG_9185.jpg Shobak Castle
IMG_9232.jpg A scenic view of the King's Highway
IMG_9251.jpgThe mosiac map of Palestine in Madaba

Posted by geldere 21:58 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

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