Jordan, United Kingdom · 10 Days · 27 Moments · April 2017

Helena's adventure in Jordan

23 April 2017

Early flight Speed bumps Calle to prayer Crazy cab driver

22 April 2017

Kibbeh Coffee pot Souk Museums x2 Falafel

21 April 2017

It was in downtown and has a great roof terrace with views over the Roman theatre, and it's full of pets - rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, tortoises, birds and hedgehogs! In the end we went for a few drinks and stayed there for dinner as we watched the bustle from up above. We went for an walk after dinner through the streets of downtown. It was really interesting - no bars of course but ice cream and coffee shops buzzing.
On the Israeli side it is a stark contrast - it is so busy, there is a modern building and there were lots of people who were being baptised in the river. It was quite a spectacle. After the visit we got on the road again to drive anit 1.5hrs to Jerash. On the way we passed lots of stalls just selling one thing eg carrots and also lots of "garden centres". The other crazy thing was the parking for mosque - cars just abandoned on a roundabout! We got to Jerash and then stocked up for our visit with water etc from some kind of fake souk. Jerash was amazing. It starts with a huge arch, and has a hippodrome, an oval plaza and various temples and theatres. All very well preserved. We drove back to Amman to drop the car - little odd as the depot was shut and a random man came to get the keys but was ok in the end. Then taxi into town to our hotel. Our hotel was low budget but in a great location abs the staff were very friendly.
Woke up to find it had been mullered by mosquitoes. Stupid as I knew the dead sea was bad. More issues with hotel on checkout and lots of belly issues which meant I had a very sparse breakfast. Eventually on our way to Bethny by Jordan - where Jesus was supposed to be baptised by John. We arrived just in time for the 10am shuttle and were bussed over to the site. Firstly we saw the Jordan - now a trickle compared to its former glory. Then we went to the baptism site itself. Basically a pool which is fed from a spring which is now a little way from the Jordan but would have been much nearer 2000 years ago. As I understand they have identified the site by since descriptions in the bible but also from early pilgrims descriptions and they then found this site which matched along with ancient churches in a remote location. There are some ruins from these churches. After this we went to another place on the Jordan. From here you can are only a few metres from Israel.

20 April 2017

Indeed if you were out of your depth for standing it was impossible to push your feet down sufficiently to swim. I then gave my self a bit of a body mud pack before backing of in the sun. We went back to the hotel and took advantage of happy hour before grabbing a bite. All pretty expensive at full price. Ultimately these resorts are very pricey. Finally off to bed.
This is a biblical area and we passed "Lot's sanctuary". We then went up to a panorama point to get a view over the dead sea and into Israel which is just the other side. We carried on to Mt Nebo - where moses is supposed to have seen the promised land and be buried. There is a church there with excellent preserved mosaics. Finally we pressed on to our hotel. Arriving about 3pm ready to take a dip into the dead sea only to discover someone had died the night before and the pools and beaches had been closed. Whilst obviously sad the hotel were completely unhelpful - given the primary purpose of the dead sea spa hotel is to provide access to the dead sea. We will complain. As a result we had to go to the public beach and 43JOD later we found ourselves down by the salty edge of the dead sea. Initially it didn't seem that odd but you soon realised that if you lifted your leg a bit it floated upwards.
So today we had a long drive of c300km up the dead sea highway. We checked out and picked up a takeaway breakfast from Arabian Moon and got on our way. We had to fill up early as we went sure there works be petrol stations (in reality there were a few and more being built). We stopped at one neat the airport and also saw three acrobatic planes (like red bull ones) practicing nearby. The start of the dead sea highway is the wadi Arabia. It starts as a wide rocky valley before turning into soft sandy dunes with camels grazing. It was a very empty road with little other traffic and just occasional lookouts peering into Israel. It was a struggle for Dave with his painful shoulder and I was struggling with stomach cramps. We stopped off at a rest stop and had our breakfast before setting off again. Eventually we reached the bottom of the dead sea. Initially just a series of potash fields before opening out in to the dead sea proper.

19 April 2017

Whilst the resort was clearly nice we had come to snorkel which the dead sea is famous for and this place had no snorkeling. What a waste of money. We ended up going to the public beach (beach 3 - free) at Japanese gardens where we grabbed a quick wrap (because there was no menu and that was what the people before ordered) and then got ready to go into the sea. A bit rocky and painful on the feet we eventually got in and found the reef. You had to swim over the shallow corals to get the best look at the reef and we did see some interesting fish but the cold water currents and our various holiday ailments meant we didn't stay in for long. After the beach we went back to the hotel and then had drinks on the roof terrace before going for pizza in town. Whilst very nice it was at this point that traveller's belly finally hit. Quick dash back to room....
Well I wasn't very comfortable about it but we pressed on. We nearly missed the turning and ended up at the border but found the office and a friendly man who leant us some binoculars and assured us it was ok to surrender our passports. He gave us since directions to the main pools of the sanctuary but they were a little difficult to follow and our I initial attempt saw us shy away from a fence which we thought was the border only to almost mistake a guard post for a bird hide! Eventually we went back to the visitor centre and got proper directions and went back to the fence that was protecting the treatment pools which was the bird sanctuary. We walked over to the bird hide which was by some pretty stinking pools (and red in colour). We did see some birds (yet to be identified) but the bigger experience was definitely the place itself. After the birds we drive down the coast to Tala Bay - where the hilton has an arrangement for 10JOD to use their facilities.
So today we had a full day in Aqaba. We didn't have breakfast included so rather than pay 10JOD each we went back to Raghadan St and found a cafe called Arabian Moon where they were cooking bread on an outside oven. The oven was powered by gas but was like a traditional oven where they bake the bread on the inside by sticking a flat piece of dough on the inside of the oven for about 1 min and then peeling it off cooked. We had 2 pieces with some hummus and meat and mutabbal. It was a great breakfast with 2 teas for 6 JOD. After breakfast we set of for the aqaba bird observatory. The site was up near the border with Israel and the airport. We merrily drove along the road and got stopped at a check point like we had before (you just show your driving license and cat registration but normally a a foreigner you get waived through with a welcome to Jordan) but this time they looked a bit confused, went and got a visitors pass eventually and then asked us to surrender our passports!

18 April 2017

Evening meal we went to an English Pub called Rovers Return. It was in the mall area where they are some modern restaurants that served alcohol. Anyway it was quite nice and I had some calamari and chips - I think from a freezer but pretty nice. Too full from dinner so we wondered back to the hotel.
We stopped at Raghadan St - a street full of local restaurants. We went to Al Shami which was full of local kids. Anyway the food was fab. We had an appetiser and I had a shish kebab and Dave had a kofta with tahini sauce. Both were great. After lunch we walked through the market type shops and then along the beach front where the ladies were bathing in full garb. We arrived at the huge flag pole they have and e were disappointed to find out that the fort was closed. We wondered back to the hotel in the blistering heat. I took the opportunity for a quick afternoon nap. We then went to the sports bar in the hotel for happy hour before popping to a very empty yacht club bar where it proved very difficile to get a second drink!
In the morning we got up early for a 7:30 breakfast and then or camels for the trip back to the village arrived (there's had been some issue the night before as camels seemed in particular high demand but we manager to get that sorted). Anyway we departed on our camels - me getting the grumpy greedy one who wanted to eat everything en route! Well whilst it was an experience one hour was definitely enough for our bums and thighs. In fact I would say that an hour couldn't pass quickly enough and both of us were grateful when the village came into sight! We dismounted gingerly before settling up and getting on the way to Aqaba. It was only a short drive of an hour or so through some very barren rocky mountains and then we arrived. Initially mistaking Eliat in Israel as Aqaba as both cities are so close! We checked in early and got out cookie from the Hilton. Very posh for us. Afterwards we got our bearings and visited some of the ruins in town before lunch.

17 April 2017

Others arrived and at sunset we all went up on to the rocks to watch sunset. We then carried on chilling over some bedouin tea before dinner was served. A great spread with the main dish being chicken cooked in a pit in the sand. Yummy. A bit more chilling but then early to bed as everyone else seemed to have gone and we had to be up early for a camel ride!
After lunch we went back for some Bedouin tea and found that one of the families from the cookery course was staying at our camp. We then got picked up by Muhammad's brother in his jeep who was to be our guide. It was quite surreal to plow down the main road of Rum which then abruptly stopped and turned into desert. First stop was Lawrence Spring. I believe it might be questionable if it was to do with Lawrence but it is a source of water for the Bedouin. We then drove deeper into the desert and climbed a sand dune (very hard!) before visiting a Siq with old writing carved into the rock. We drove on and went to a rock bridge but I was too much of a wimp to climb it but Dave did. It looked very high. We drove on to see more ancient writing and dunes (where I fell over and couldn't get up!) and a place called Lawrence's house. We then went to the Bedouin camp where we were staying. All very civilised and also calming. We sat in the main tent reading for a while.
So the next morning we got up for breakfast and hit the road by around 9:30. We topped up with cash and petrol and then carried on the King's highway out of wadi musa. The road wound up a alongside some amazing views in quite rural locations before hitting the plans. Very barren but there were somehow signs of cultivation. We then hit the Desert highway and the plains dropped away. This road was busier and we saw signs of sand mining. We took the turn off to wadi rum, following a train track for some of the way before arriving at the visitor centre and then driving to the village set amongst the mountains either side of the valley. We arrived at the rest house and were met by Muhammad, our history. He showed us the way to his house to leave the car and directed us to the wadi rum cafe to grab some lunch. Excellent place - you turn up and say "lunch?"and 5mins later some rice, chicken, yoghurt and a bottle with water turn up.

16 April 2017

After little petra we drove back to wadi musa and booked ourselves in for a cookery course that evening at petra kitchen. We then drove into the main town to find somewhere for lunch. We stopped at a place on the roundabout and had a bit to eat. I carelessly ate some raw tomato and spent the afternoon with stomach ache and being sick. I just about managed to recover to go to the cookery course which I'm glad I did. We cooked a range of mezze (lentil soup, baba ganuj, tahina salad, galayat bandura, cucumber and yoghurt salad, fatoosh, cheese and thyme triangles) as well as oven roasted chicken. All tasted amazing and we learnt so much about Jordanian cooking, cooking in general, the culture and it was also great talking to others who were on the course. The chefs also gave me fennel to settle my stomach - very nice. We have all the recipes to try at home :) We went to the room after that and watched more stuff on the tablet.
So we got up a bit late and had a late breakfast (which meant it was a bit lacking) and then went on our way to little petra. The way to little petra was out past the movenpick and on through a village for about 8km. On the way we stopped the car at a place where you can take in all the great scenery and get a view of Petra. The mountains are amazing and it was all topped off by a herd of goats coming down the road and surrounding our car! We pressed on to little Petra and pulled up in the little car park. It was free to enter and we walked down the Siq which had lots of Nabatean frontages and stairs you could climb up. It was much quieter than Petra which was nice although there was no town beyond the Siq. After little Petra we went to a a bronze age village about a 15min walk away. It was completely empty other than a few Bedouin in tents and it was interesting to see the old stone houses and a couple of reconstructions.

15 April 2017

Dave had Sandstone Chicken which was also nice. The waiter seemed to take a shine to me and we were given a free bottle of water! Sandstone served wine and beer which was welcome. We went back to the room and watched the rest of Indiana Jones over a glass of duty free vodka and coke.
We had a late lunch of Shwarma at one of the street cafes before heading back to the room so I could sleep and Dave could do some work! At 5pm we had arranged to go for a Turkish Bath and the guy collected us and took us a few doors up (al Farasi?), where we were given sweet tea. We then kicked off the session by going into a steam room. Took Dave a while to adapt but we soon settled in. Then we were shown to a hot table where you laid for a few mins on both your front and back. After that we were taking to separate rooms where we were both scrubbed and massaged. To say it was vigorous is an understatement- Dave was bruised! It was a bit like being washed by your mum - nothing off limits! After our wash we felt very clean and decided to wander back to the Cave Bar for more beer and some lovely Jordanian white wine. For dinner we went to Sandstone Restaurant. I had chicken with a herb called Soumak which is kind of lemony but it is red in colour. It was very tasty.
It felt quiet at that time, only broken by the occasional thunder of hooves as the locals rode past on their horses to get through the site. We then walked up the colonnade street and visited the great temple - a ruined roman temple and the largest structure in Petra. A local cat had settled in and made it is home - quite a palace!! Dave decided he would brave the hour trek (and 800 steps) to the Monastery. Another spectacular building like the Treasury. I went off to Petra church where there are some lovely mosaic and a good view over the colonnade road. I managed to buy a scarf, necklace, pot and oil lamp (apparently Nabatean but I think I've been fleeced). We meet back at the Treasury at which point the masses had most definitely arrived and tour groups from far and wide were pouring in. It was a rather different experience! We made it back up the Siq and to the entrance and most importantly my back survived the trek (I did 20000 steps that day!).
So today was Petra day. We got up early and grabbed breakfast at 6:30am making it to the entrance at around 7:00. Even as you walk up to the Siq there are Nabatean tombs built into the cliffs. You then arrive at the entrance to the Siq - a narrow gorge between some amazing coloured cliffs which the Nabateans had carved a channel along to allow water to flow. The walk along the Siq meanders along for about 1.2km, in part along the original flagstones, before suddenly turning a corner where you catch a slither of the Treasury in all is glory. It was quite empty when we arrived and you felt a but like you had just discovered it. It is truly imposing. After the requisite pictures we walked further into Petra, turning the next corner we were met by so many temples/carved houses and a huge theatre seating and 6000 people. We went up some stairs to see some of the higher temples and get some great views over the site. As we were arriving the locals were only just setting up their stalls.

14 April 2017

The castle has a more recent darker side as the site of an incident were a number of people were killed a few months prior. After Karak we continued on the King's highway along a range of scenery often catching site of bedouin tents and men hearding goats - often across the road. At one point we were in one of the towns - which often felt a little wild west - when we passed a wedding cavalcade. As at we travelled past someone was firing an AK47 out the car window!! We passed in to wadi musa, the gateway to petra. We settled in to the petra palace hotel which seemed big but nice and wandered around tourist street and up to the cave bar. A bar which is based in a Nabatean tomb. Very cool! Wine and beer reasonably expensive but very welcome. We had dinner at Deretna which was great. Very busy. The Mansaf and Makloba were great abs the pudding - knaffy - amazing! We went to bed after a quick drink in the hotel bar and watched the start of Indiana Jones and the last crusade.
The map was started in 542AD and covers the area around the dead sea from the Nile to Jerusalem to Karak and beyond. After the map we got on our way taking the King's highway south towards Karak. On the way we travelled through some amazing scenery - including their own grand canyon. We arrived at Karak at lunchtime as midday prayers are in full swing. You could hear the service on the loud speaker throughout the town. We wandered up to the castle and grabbed a kebab before going in. It was a really impressive castle. It took us a while before we got our bearings but after a quick walk along the ramparts were the wind was howling we found the main body of the castle and all the tunnels which it is famous for. You could have explored for hours all the nooks and crannies. There we're seven floors in total - very impressive for something that was built during the crusades. Indeed the weather to date hasn't been too warm so we are thinking we will need some layers for Petra.
We got up reasonably early given the late night and had breakfast on the terrace of some toasted flat bread and eggs and jams. During the night we had been woken twice - firstly by the call to pray about 4:30am and secondly by the church about 6:30am. Early risers these guys! We got to the Map church opposite about 8:30 to see if we could get in early to see the map as it seemed open but actually they were holding a service so we had a quick noise before going to the archaeological ruins. These were free with the jordan pass and had some interesting mosaics. The guy looking after the place was obviously bored so let us walk on to the ruins to take pictures! After the ruins we went back to the map church but the service was still going on so we went back to the hotel to get ready to pick up our bags for the car. On the way we saw a half run over rat dying in the road - nice. Our car arrived early (with Monte Carlo) and all seemed good. We then managed to visit the map church.

13 April 2017

So we had the usual hurry to get out the office but managed to get to the Heathrow express at a reasonable time and checked in with sufficient time to get some drinks before our 4pm flight. Flight was pretty good, some decent movies actually and food all good as was the flight until about 30 mins before landing when we had some dreadful turbulence. Dave was not a happy bunny but we made it through and touched down about 23:10. Had a bit of a hiccup when Dave thought he had lost his passport only to run back to the plane and find out he had it in his bag all along. Meant we were a bit delayed coming out of the airport but we made it through and got a cab to Madaba and the Moab Land hotel. We drove across country and it was very dark but interesting from what we could see - some large houses- before entering Madaba where the mosque was light up so brightly. We checked in about 1am and got a quick glimpse from our balcony of the mosque and the church before sleep took hold.