It was my first time visiting the Middle East.
Short and cheap flight (thanks RyanAir!) with a nice sparkling wine on the flight and seat belt on while flying over the land of Israel – and we landed in the desert.
The Queen Alia International Airport is a bit far away from the capital of Jordan so we had the transport arranged to our hotel – Burj al Arab. Just to say that the owner Tamim was a brilliant host!
First impressions: dirty and chaotic! And everyone wanted to make photos with me as I am blonde – my boyfriend was particularly annoyed with situations. And there is no alcohol, of course.
We had a quick lunch and started to explore!
Amman is the capital and most populous city of Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
First stop were the Roman ruins. It was named Philadelphia during its Greek and Roman periods…
Actually, we had a great sunset view on the city of Amman. We noticed that playing with the kite was very popular in Middle East as well, as there were many families kitting from every hill of Amman.
The Citadel is considered an important site because it has had a long history of occupation by many great civilizations. Most of the buildings still visible at the site are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods (kaliphat).[The major buildings at the site are the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, and the Ummayad Palace.
We strolled down to the city for a dinner. In the meantime, some first captures of the city – one of the Middle East and North Africa’s best cities for living. The city is among the most popular locations in the Arab world. Somehow.
We went to Rainbow street famous for expats living and restaurants. Less chaotic, middleeast charming and decent. And we found the jordanian beer.
We went for good old falafels for the dinner. With many different types of hummus.
Second day we started with the local market. Actually there is no such things as local market in Amman as the entire city is one big market place: souvenirs, jewelry, food etc. It is chaotic and definitely full of heavy smells.
When it comes to food, again (total foodie here) 🙂 I have to admit, it is hard to find a good place to dine. We got recommendations to go to Jaffra for excellent brunch.
I was really missing good old espresso or cappuccino as the turkish coffee served in Jordan is black coffee with mint as a spice. You get used to it, but old habits die hard. Hence, Jaffra caffee! 🙂
Amman is introducing itself as a business hub. Me – I would call one big Middle East local market. Or how in Jordan they call it: Souk Jara.
Then the Royal Palace:
The visit to Jordan Museum was a delight. Some taxi driver stopped us to tell us kindly about the directions, without us even asking. Indeed, they really care about their tourists. But they charge it as well, nicely and pricely.
The museum was very educative introducing us the history and culture of Jordan as a country from early neolithic ages.
Or Mediaval Ages of Islamic World that were the rise of the civilisation. Not so Dark at all. 🙂
Food again! 🙂 Restaurants with view…
And then we took the road towards the south. It is called the King’s Highway. It goes through entire Jordan – passing the main cities. Not to mention – it goes through the dessert. Sand storm is nothing here 🙂 As our crazy driver as well.
Our destination was Petra.
It is the lost city. originally known to its inhabitants as Raqmu, a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan.
Petra had the very first inhabitants already around 9,000 BCE, and it was the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs as Petra was part of trade routes. Actually, Petra was a major regional trading hub.
The Nabataeans were, unlike their enemies, accustomed to living in the barren deserts, and were able to repel attacks by utilizing the area’s mountainous terrain. They were particularly skillful in harvesting rainwater, agriculture and stone carving. Apparently, they were unique architects of water drain. Hence,
In the 1st century, Petra fell to the Romans, who annexed and renamed Nabataea to Arabia Petraea. Petra’s importance declined as sea trade routes emerged, and after a 363 CE earthquake destroyed many structures.
Anyway, the entrance fee is 70 EUR per person!!!
And no, you do not need a donkey or a horse or a camel to get there. It takes 20 min through the beautiful cliffs and Petra – the Rose City – will appear!
And then the disappointment happened.
You know Indiana Jones in Petra? Well, I always thought that you can enter in this temple and that city happens there. In reality, you turn on the right and you walk through some valley where the river used to flow, the ruins are hard to see, and the rest of the carved city is far away towards the mountains.
Also, UNESCO is quite clear when it comes to child and animal abuse and encouraging the tourists to report the violence. However, some things are inevitable, still.
Of course, the local Arab beduins are there to sell as well. Just like in good old times. 🙂
Petra continued to flourish under Roman rule. It was around this time that the Petra Roman Road was built.
Actually, Nabateans constructed the lay water pipes that brought water into the city. The angle was always 8 degree to have the constant flow of the water.
That day was continued by going more towards the south. Our driver made a phone call and arranged the 4×4 car driven by the beduin to take us to the dessert to the National Park Wadi Rum.
Btw, there is garbage everywhere. Even when we went far away deep into the desert, there were still some plastic bags stuck on the trees.
Wadi room translated from Arabic means Valley of the Moon.
It has been inhabited by many human cultures since prehistoric times, with many cultures–including the Nabataeans–leaving their mark in the form of rock paintings, graffiti, and temples.
We met the local beduins who allowed us to ride a camel. The name of my camel was Baha. She was young and pleasant animal, looking at me with big eyes.
The cliff behind us is called The Bridge. Some stories and legends are connected to this sandstone mountain. Most of them romantic ones as the sunset is amazing from this spot.
The beduins were nice hosts. They invited us to their camp and offered the tea next to the open fire. They were telling us stories about famous Lawrence of Arabia – British officer who passed through several times during the Arab Revolt in WW1 against Ottoman Empire.
Usually tourists stay the night and watch the stars as the sky is clear and eat lamb. But our mission was to continue further.
Again the driver who took us to this day trip. Even more crazy than the fisrt one, but we survived.
First stop was Madaba – the Church of Saint George were the floor is decorated with beautiful mosaics from 4 century CE maping the important places of Holy Land.
I was also a bit shocked by this painting as well, but then again: it explains how tricks are working:
Next stop was the souvenir shop . Ran by the friends of our crazy driver. Of course, with the prices triple time expensive. Thank you, next.
After 40 years of running through the dessert after the exodus of Israelis from Egyptian slavery, Mosis saw the Promised Land, shown by the God. And received Ten Testaments.
I really have to say it is an amazing place all 360 degrees where you see the rain of Jerusalem, the sunshine above Jericho, the dessert, the rivers, the nature, the animals… Indeed, amazing!
This place has a huge religious significance for both Jews and Christians,
as, according to Christian tradition, Moses was buried on the mountain, although his place of burial is not specified.
According to Maccabees, in the Bible, the prophet Jeremiah hid the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant with Testaments in a cave there.
The church from 6th century has been erased there.
It houses some of the best (and best presented) mosaics in Jordan.
The masterpiece is a hunting and herding scene interspersed with an assortment of African fauna.
Going down the mountain…
Or Bethabara – ”house of the ford, place of crossing” is the name used by some versions of the New Testament for the site “beyond the Jordan” where John the Baptist preached and performed baptisms and where he baptised Jesus. The Christianity was born!
The baptism occured on the river of Jordan which is today out f the course. However, Jordanians say it has been done there. I wonder what is told just 2 km away, across the nowadays river of Jordan on the Israel side?
The river is dirty, muddy, polluted. I touched it with my fingers, made a symbol of a cross and continued my way. Unlike some maniacs 🙂
Salt lake – the saltest actually, so salty that makes your body flows over the water. I wonder if the Jesus used the trick?
However, many deads occur through the year as the waves turn the swimmer on the belly and salty water hits the eyes so it becomes painful. The swimmers usually panic and loose their lifes.
The Dead Sea is bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River. Oh yeah, it is also the lowest point in Earth.
Our crazy driver was again acting as a idiot, dictating us the time and schedule: ”Half an hour for bathing, half an hour for lunch, let’s go, let’s go!” (with arabian accent). Of course, he arranged with a friend the entrance, the access to the hotel changing rooms etc. For the additional price.
The mud is extremely healing as it contains some healthy ingredients. The Arabs are selling the mud just next to it. Pay 3 Jordanian dinars.
Our crazy hotel driver was ready. Appearing out of nowhere, advising us to have a quick lunch. On our way, some more wadis.
Al – Kerak castle
It is a large Crusader castle located in the Levant. Built in 12th century. Later it has been conquered by Saladin – the leader of Muslim against crusades.
The rain was falling heavily, Middle East, I guess! So some local guy started to give us a tour explaining poor examples in very poor english the castle chambers. He asked the money at the end of the show. Of course! When we offered him 1 Jordanian dinar, he said it is too low for him. I wonder how much they gain in this poor country if a tip of 1 JD was too low? I remember myself working as a waitress during my student days in the coast of Croatia – every tip was a good tip. And no, it is not a USA tipping system.
Anyhow, we were wet and decided to take a tea. The crazy driver was already there telling us to hurry. ??
Through the car window I spotted the mosque. The conversation with the driver:
- Yes, the Karaki mosque.
- Really? I thought it was Amman mosque?
- hehe noooo, Amman mosque in Amman. Karaki mosque in Karak.
- Really??? And Jordan river in Jordan only?
- hehe noooooo
You could tell I was already irritated by him by that time. Not to mention the window he had constantly open as I just came out of Dead sea and hat a bath under the beautiful desert rain of Middle East. Take the sun cream, they said! It is Middle East!
Anyhow, on our way back to Amman, the rainbow appeared above some castle. Just like in the biblical story of Noah’s Arch. 🙂
Good bye beautiful Jordan!