Crossing the Jordan

Trip Start Dec 08, 2010
Trip End Oct 22, 2011

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Flag of Jordan  , Ma’an,
Wednesday, October 12, 2011

We eventually crossed the Jordan to get into Israel, but first things first...

I arrived at Queen Alia (Amman) airport and took an illegal taxi to the hotel my parents told me. When we arrived I doublechecked with the driver whether it was the correct one - and felt a bit awkward crossing the lobby - I wasn't used to that level of luxury. First thing in the room was a 30-minute shower to make sure all the Indian dirt was off, enjoyed to finally SIT on a toilet again and then ordered a massive breakfast from the roomservice. A couple of hours later my parents arrived and we celebrated that we met again.

The next day we explored downtown Amman, the souk with all its vegetables and fruits, the Roman theatre and the citadel, and visited a mosque, a first-time experience for my parents. Amman - just like Rome - is built on seven hills. The beatutiful thing about the city is its uniformity - all buldings are made from the same, white stone. For dinner we met Rebcca, a friend from high school, who now lives in Amman with her husband. They took us to a noce, local restaurant for mezze, the Middle Eastern version of tapas, were we enjoyed hummus, grilled lamb and the like followed by a good shisha.

The next day we picked up the car and drove north to Jerash, old Roman ruins with an impressive Theatre and a well preserved cardo. From there we went to Madaba, a Christian stronghold in Jordan and home to a beautiful mosaic depicting the region from the Nile, to Jersualem and Damascus. Via Mount Nebo, from which Moses once looked over the "holy Land" we went down to the Dead Sea, to float on our backs - amazing.

Via the King's Road along colourful sandstone formations and through deep wadis we went south, just to be stopped by a road block. People were throwing stones and at first we were a bit scared, but when we asked they told us they were just protesting against the King and asked us to turn around. Back on the highway it was another roadblock, but following some cars though the desert we made it passed it.

While Jordan is certainly the most stable and secure country in the region, many people are not happy with the western approach of King Abdullah and his Palestianian wife Rania. Originally a Bedouin country, most of the population has only settled down in the last 50 years. Jordan gained independance only after the Second World War, before it was a British protectorate. After the Arab Revolt, liberating the whole region from the Osman Empire, the British promised the Middle East to the Arabs, while secretly also making the plans to create the Jewish Israel. As a middle way, the Hashemite family, direct descendants of Mohamed, was given the royalty of the area on the East bank of the Jordan. During the war in 1948, Jordan claimed Jerusalem and the Westbank, but lost it to the Israelis again in 1968 during the Six-day war.
Nowadays, Jordan is prospering, mainly due to many international companies and NGO having their Middle Eastern headquarters in Amman, while at the same time roughly half a million of Palestine and Iraqi refugees each destabilize the country.

We continued south to Petra, the ancient city of the Nabateans. From atop the wadi you can hardly imagine the granbdeur of this old city; the entrance is via the Siq, a two-kilometre natural, narrow gorge. At the end you reach the stunning Treasury, a giant facade carved out of the sandstone. Continuing, there are hundreds of tombs carved into the sandstone cliffs, a truly magnificent sight. We spent the whole day exploring the valley, and bearing in mind that only ten percent have been excavated, there is still lots to explore.

Via Wadi Musa, a breathtaking formation of sandstone within the desert in all possible colours - deep red, purple, orange, yellow - we went down to Aqaba at the Red Sea. Aqaba, the only Jordanian port, is a small, sleepy city, but the main beach resort in Jordan, within the triangle of Israel, Egypt and Jordan and just 20 km of the border with Saudi-Arabia. We relaxed a day and enjoyed a swim in the clear Red Sea.
From there it was back to Amman and off early the next morning to cross the Jordan....
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