Jordan - Edamame's quest for the holy grail

Trip Start Feb 26, 2006
Trip End Nov 28, 2006

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Friday, June 16, 2006

A large part of why we wanted to come to the Middle East was Jordon. My reason was a little superficial - I wanted to see the Lost City of Petra, the resting place of the holy grail in 'Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade'! As it turns out, Jordon has much more to offer than just amazing scenery for movie sets.

As if we hadn't seen enough ruins, when we arrived in Jordon we decided we had to see one of the best preserved Roman ruins at the ancient city of Jerash. We saw more marble columns, sat in another amphitheatre, and stood in grand temples. What was really cool was that we could clearly see in the roads the marks left by the chariots from all those years ago. It's a reminder that these places aren't just ruins and tourist attractions, but rather actual cities where people used to live and work. While we've seen the biggest or oldest of a lot of things, Jerash boasts the world's smallest hippodrome (basically, a very small coliseum) ever discovered. They've actually restored parts of it, and as an added bonus, since last year they have begun using the hippodrome to hold re-enactments of chariot races. Pretty cool to be sitting in a real Roman coliseum watching chariot races!

After our regular fill of ruins was satisfied, we went in search of the 'promised land'....or at least where Moses is said to have found it - Mt. Nebo. It's said that Moses, after wandering 40 years in the desert, came to this mountain at the age of 120 and peered across the valley to the 'promised land' (present day Israel) before dying on the mountain. We stood on top of the mountain admiring the green valley ahead sandwiched in a harsh desert environment. Although it was hazy that day, we could just make out the Dead Sea, Ramallah, Jericho, and Bethlehem in the distance. As we stood there taking in the serene atmosphere, an explosion went off in the distance and a dust cloud appeared. No one knew what it was, but everyone began looking up in the much for the peaceful experience!

One of the sites that Amy was most looking forward to in the Middle East was the Dead Sea. What better way to relax than floating around on the surface with no effort at all (the Dead Sea is at the lowest point on earth and has a high salt content due to evaporation). The Dead Sea experience wouldn't be complete if we didn't slop on the black mud from the bottom of the sea for deep cleaning and exfoliation. It was a strange feeling at first and we definitely looked funny, but the reward was baby smooth skin!

Sufficiently refreshed, we felt ready to get back on "Ruin tour 2006". The Lost City of Petra, built in the 3rd century B.C., is in a valley hidden from the outside world. The entrance is a long and narrow path in between incredibly high rock walls. They towered over us so much that there was hardly any sunlight as we walked the 1.2km to the opening of the city. The impressive thing about Petra is that it's made up of palaces, temples, and tombs...all carved from rock!!

Ending our trip in Jordan was a desert excursion, which of course meant another camel ride! To mix things up a bit we also went on a desert 'jeep safari' (turns out this 'jeep' safari consisted of riding in the back of a pickup).

While seeing all these historic and famous places has been incredible, the other half of our experience has been meeting really interesting people. In the port city of Aqaba, where we would be taking the ferry to Egypt, I was wandering around looking at dive shops when I met a dive shop owner who invited me to talk over a cup of Turkish coffee. I told him a little about my diving in Canada and our travels, and he told me about his travels. Turns out he's been diving for 40 years and started with the British Navy in 1966. He also talked about how he trained the Jordanian Navy and his experiences diving the Dead Sea. It was really amazing to hear about his training and missions, including swimming 2km underwater on re-breathers (no bubbles) to plant mines on docks and boats on the Israeli side of the Dead Sea. Unreal!! Who would have thought I'd run into the James Bond of Jordan in a dive shop?

We had a great time in Jordan, but the icing on the cake was the discovery of a McDonald's in Aqaba!! We couldn't pass up the opportunity for McD' was like a little piece (or a Super Size piece!) of home. Jordan was completely different than what we expected. We thought it would be similar to Syria which still has an old world feel, but Jordan was super modern and we saw not only McDonald's, but also Burger King, KFC, and Pizza Hut. There's nothing more western than greasy fast food chains!

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