Traveling Through Jordan To Amman
Trip Start Oct 21, 2009
52Trip End Jan 12, 2010
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I had a bad night of sleep last night – now that the cat's out of the bag, it was more icky stomach stuff – so I woke up today (11.15.09) a little cranky. However, the morning did improve after another great breakfast at our village-y hotel, and after our first stops of the day: to the bank to retrieve my ATM card, still intact and still activated – and onto the pharmacy, to fill and pick up my antibiotic!!!
[The Jordanian bank does not know why the ATM ate my Visa debit card yesterday. It told me only to contact my own bank. I’m thinking it might have something to do with the fact that Murray is using his Visa debit card (also linked to our joint checking account) in Egypt, while I am using my own card, linked to the same account, at the same time but here in Jordan – despite Bank of America having detailed itineraries for both of us – but who knows? I’m just happy to have the darn thing back, as where would they have sent a new card if the ATM had really eaten mine?
Back on the tour bus after these two stops – feeling both more financially secure and on my way to a better stomach – we began our three-hour drive to Kerak, Jordan. I slept the WHOLE way.
Kerak is a little town between Petra and Jordan’s capital of Amman, but its main attraction is the Crusader Castle. Since we arrived in Kerak around lunchtime, we first had one hour on our own to get something to eat and to look around the small town. As our group got off the tour bus, one of the first people we met was a small shop owner who asked us if we were Americans, and when we confirmed that we were, he then said that he would give us the "Obama discount" on anything we purchased from his little shop! (He even had an Obama/Biden sticker in the front window of his shop! PS – I have been getting the “Go, Obama” thumbs up from people throughout Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan!)
After lunch on our own (Mom, Dad, and I had cheese sandwiches packed at the hotel this morning!), the group reunited at and toured the Crusader Castle at Kerak. The castle dates back to around the 11th century BC, when the crusaders came and rebuilt the former citadel of the Moabite people (the citadel itself dates back to at least the 9th century BC, although older references are contained in the Old Testament)
It was an impressive site, and one we toured for about one hour. The castle is situated on the top of – and built into – a mountaintop. We learned about the uses (many nefarious) to which the crusaders put various parts of the castle. And, even though the castle is in different states of disrepair, still enough remains of the structure and its interior to glean a lot of information from this era of the crusaders.
After the Crusader Castle at Kerak, we got back on the bus and continued on our way to Amman. Later afternoon, Nassir had the bus driver go a little off the beaten path in order to show us the Wadi Mujib – the Grand Canyon of Jordan – and it was absolutely spectacular. Our bus wound its way down one side of the canyon and across and up the other side, and we pulled into a few lookouts to take pictures as the sun set over the rolling mountains and deep gorges.
We arrived at our hotel – the Geneva Hotel, Amman – sometime after 6pm, and the group met for dinner at the hotel around 7pm. While it was another extensive, luxury hotel buffet – to be honest with you, I cannot wait (nor can my waistline) until our buffet days are over. Hahaha. After dinner, Dad went for a walk with Sherry Christl and a few others from the group, and later they returned to my room with a bottle of wine they had purchased on their walk (plus Mom in tow)! It was fun to relax and unwind after the long day (even though it was not a heavy sightseeing day!). I was in bed, blissfully, by 10:15pm
On Monday (11.16.09), after breakfast at the hotel, we explored the city of Amman, Jordan. Jordan has a population of roughly 6 million people – and anywhere from 40-50 percent live in and around Amman. It also is the most expensive Arab capital after Dubai (we immediately noticed that Jordan, in general, has been more expensive than Egypt).
With a Jordanian tourist police officer on board, our first stop of the day was the King Abdullah I Mosque – the largest mosque in the entire country. Once again, we women had to robe up in order to enter the mosque, but unlike the courtyards and various rooms of the Mosque of Amr ibn al-As (the first mosque ever built in Egypt, constructed around 642 AD) that we toured while in Cairo, this mosque was just one giant, bright, modern room with high ceilings and printed carpet.
During the visit of this mosque, it wasn’t the site itself that was impressive; rather, it was the hour-long talk we had with Nassir about Islam that really had an impact on me. All of us participated in an open, in-depth dialogue about the Muslim faith that was frank, and honest, and eye-opening
After the mosque, we took the bus up the side of one of the seven hills of Amman to the Citadel of Ammonites (or the Amman Citadel, or Rabbath Ammon). This settlement was built around the 3rd century BC, and also contains the remains of a Neolithic village dating as far back as 9,000 BC!
From the Amman Citadel, we saw beautiful views of the Roman Theatre as well as the entire city of Amman (did you know that in the 7th century AD, this Jordanian capital was renamed Amman – it had previously been named “Philadelphia” by the Greeks!). We toured the entire hilltop, including the excavated waterways, an early Bronze Age cave, and numerous Greek-Roman temple remains dating back to the 7th century BC (specifically, the Temples of Hercules and Malcolm). The Jordan Archeological Museum is also at this site, and contains some of the oldest statues in Jordan (and, in some cases, in the Arab world), including some Dead Sea Scrolls child skeletons (we learned that the burial of infants in jars was a common custom in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Palestine; the jar generally was placed under the family’s living room floor to keep the child within the family circle).
From Amman Citadel, we drove to the Roman Theatre, dating from the 2nd century AD. We ran (sort of) up and down the theatre steps, and even managed to get another group photo in
This afternoon, our tour itinerary gave us a “free afternoon” in Amman. However, the night before (and led by Sherry Christl!), yesterday we had arranged a special afternoon trip for Nassir to take us to the Dead Sea! (We were so close in proximity to it, and all of us were interested in seeing and swimming in it!). So, just after 12 noon, we boarded the bus for the approximately hour-long drive to there (en route, we passed Mt. Nebo, to where Moses led the people of Canaa and then died).
If I remember Nassir correctly, the Dead Sea is the LOWEST point on earth – and has TEN TIMES the salt content of the ocean! We visited the southern part of the Dead Sea, and we were only 23km from Jerusalem. We could see the Mount of Olives in the distance! We also were only 5km from the Baptism Site, where John the Baptist baptized Jesus!
Still, we made no side trips, as we had Dead Sea-ing to do. We spent the afternoon at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, where first we had lunch, and afterward, we donned our bathing suits for some sea swimming
After swimming for a time, most of us ladies (but none of the men – haha) in the group coated ourselves (or had the attendant coat us!) in Dead Sea silica mud, which a hotel attendant was retrieving from just a few meters down the beach from where we were swimming. The mud was warm, thick, smooth, and pitch black. It barely had a scent to it, either. We were told about the wonderful natural qualities of this mud – used as an exfoliant, moisturizer, and pore reducer, amongst other things – and sure enough, when we washed the mud off a bit later, we were all smooth and glowy as if we’d had $1,000 spa days!
Just before leaving the Dead Sea for the return trip to Amman, we saw a stunning sunset over the sea, which was framed by palm and acacia trees, and reflected back to us via rippling Dead Sea waves
Back in Amman, refreshed and on a high from one of the most enjoyable afternoons of the tour (the Dead Sea trip was a REAL highlight!), the group enjoyed our last dinner together at the hotel, as the first two members of our group had a 1:30am flight back to the US! I was in bed by 10pm, as we all have to get up at 4:45am for tomorrow’s departure. Tomorrow, the group returns to the US, and I will have to say goodbye to my Mom and Dad (for at least several months – remember, this long trip of mine ends, and “stays ended”, in Australia), which makes me very sad. However, I will be flying back to Cairo, where I will get to see Murray again. (Hooray, I have missed him!) Tomorrow night, Murray and I will fly together to London for a few days to see friends and generally, to relax and hang out (in other words, a little break from sightseeing). What a change from where we’ve been the last few weeks, eh?!