Crusader Castles and Mosaics

Trip Start Mar 26, 2011
Trip End May 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
La Maison Hotel Petra

Flag of Jordan  ,
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Today was going to be a long day so we started out at 7 am.  I needed to hustle a bit to make it and when I did get on the bus, all seats were already taken...or so it appeared.  I got the hump seat in back with half a window but it was OK.  I shouldn't always hog my favorite seat.

I am trying to think of where we stopped.  The first stop was Mount Nebo where Moses saw the promised land but God told him he would never reach it.  Here there was a church or series of churches one on top of another with some mosaics.  Next we stopped at the place where there was a mosaic of the known world with Jerusalem as the center.  This was in a Greek Orthodox church floor.  Not all of it was there but it was supposed to be accurate.  I feel as if my descriptions are very lame and I will have to do a lot of work to fix them up when I get home.  (I am now home and getting tired of trying to fix these things, but will do what I can.)

We had lunch at a nice local place and Betty and I both had mushroom soup and mixed appetizer plates.  You don't think of mushrooms in a desert country.  It was great.  After lunch we toured the various mosaic sites.  It was interesting to see the animals...birds, peacock, gazelles, lions, etc.  Some of the mosaics are incredibly well preserved.  One museum caretaker put water over the mosaics so we could see them better.  He also showed us a new discovery of mosaics under a former church building.  He wiped away the sand and there were more mosaics!  This part of the world is just layer upon layer of artifacts and history, but I am getting confused at this point..

Our final stop was the crusader castle at Karak.  Here we started at the top and looked way down into the valley.  The castle was obviously commanding a high point.  I think all of us were surprised that Jordan is so hilly.  We passed a valley on a very windy road and after leaving Amman were mostly on hilly or mountainous terrain.  Back to the castle.  We saw their cistern system for collecting water, a room for making wine and one with a huge oven for baking bread.  There were cells lower down for prisoners and we saw arrow slot windows.  There was an outer wall and a moat that we could see.  Not all of the castle was reconstructed.  Some of the building stones were special. I recognized the name at the time but have forgotten it now.  I need to look up some of this information so that I can be more accurate.

It was interesting to see the topography as we traveled from Amman to Petra.  First there were the rocky hills with trees planted here and there and olive groves.  Our guide Abdul was quite irate because we drove through one valley with very green wheat fields.  This was Jordan's bread basket.  They had been able to grow their own wheat and even export lentils to France, but now unregulated building has cut into the land available for farming.wheat.  Instead people have planted olives which could have grown on rockier soil so that they can make a bigger profit.  After Karak we descended into desert...not so much only sand but sand and dirt and rocks.  Here it was flat.  We continued to see shepherds with flocks of sheep and goats.  There was also a large black pipe being laid to bring water from Aqaba to Amman.  Abdul told us that Jordan has no oil reserves although they have lots of potash so the increase in oil prices has been very hard for them.

We had one last stop at a highway rest stop with lots of souvenirs.  Erwin initiated a contest for the tackiest souvenir.   I bought a few postcards but think I got ripped off.  I wasn't sure what denomination bill I gave the clerk but was pretty sure it wasn't a one and he didn't give me any change.  oh, well.

We got to our hotel in the touristy town outside Petra:  Wadi Mousa.  It has free wifi in the lobby.  That seems to be the Jordanian hotel norm as far as wifi.  Another huge group just passed through the lobby.  Bedlam.  We are scheduled to go out to dinner at 7:15 to a restaurant started by a former tour guide.

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