Trip Start Aug 27, 2007
34Trip End Sep 17, 2011
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So after months of humming and harring we were finally at Heathrow getting ready to fly out to the Middle East. I must say it was a nice start to the trip. We were being charmed by the Baileys guy at the duty free shop who kept giving us cocktails...it may have been 11 in the morning but hey we were on holiday!
After a pretty non eventful flight we arrived into Amman all excited about our big trip. Little did we know our transfer to our hotel had failed to show up and we would still be at the airport four and a half hours later.....
I have to say we handled it pretty well, there was no panicking or swearing (my usual style) but just a lot of laughing. We had kinda picked something was bound to go wrong on the holiday so we were glad to have it over and done with before the trip had even begun. Unfortunately the emergency contact numbers we had been given for our tour representatives in Jordan didn't work. Had we of known what hotel we were staying at we could have just caught a cab but alas no that would have been too simple.
After finally having someone in NZ manage to get through to our tour company it turned out they had no idea where we were suppose to be staying. They gave us a name of a hotel to book into for the night and then they would send someone to come find us in the morning.
We arrived at the hotel thankfully to find we were actually supposed to be staying there but the down side being that they had put us in separate rooms with other people and expected us to go wake them up to let us is in the rooms. At 2 in the morning that definately made us popular.
The following morning though we woke up to start our tour and meet the others. We were a small group of only 9 and fortunately we all gelled quite well. Our guide was extremely apologetic about forgetting us the night before and with that we were on our way. We started day one with a tour of the city, we visited the citadel, the old part of the city as well as the new and to a local museum which held a small part of the original dead sea scrolls.
A drive past the US embassy proved to be interesting as I have never seen anything so heavily guarded in all my life. The sight of Jeeps with massive machine guns bolted to the tops were everywhere as well as soldiers fully armed is not something I will forget in a hurry.
After our tour of the city we drove to the ancient city of Jerash to see Hadrian's Arch. It was just incredible to see how advanced civilisation was. It was also the first chance we had time to do a bit of shopping and for me to try my hand at bargaining. I must admit I was pretty useless at this, I probably got completely ripped off but it still felt good having haggled the price down slightly.
That night the Assistant manager and a colleague took Elizabeth and I out for dinner to apologise for the antics the night before. The meal was to die for and to be honest the four and half hour wait at the airport was worth it just to have such a fantastic meal. I have to say it was amusing to see their reactions once they realised I am a travel agent and Liz is a journalist. They practically fell over backwards trying to impress us. Somehow I think Topdeck, our tour company had given them a right earful about leaving us as everywhere we went for the rest of the tour transfer drivers kept asking for us two only making sure they never left us behind.
PHOTO_ID_R=mount-nebo.jpg] The following day we started our trek towards Petra. Our first stop was a town called Madaba which is the main Christian city in Jordan. From Madaba we drove to Mount Nebo to see spectacular views of the country side. It was here that Moses claimed to see the promised land and it is believed that he is buried somewhere in this area. After Mount Nebo we stopped at Mujeb Valley-The Grand Canyon of Jordan. It was definately impressive but unfortunately the fog meant it didn't lend itself to the best photos.
On arriving at the hotel a couple of the girls and I decided to have a Turkish bath. Man it felt like heaven. After my experience in Turkey I've quite taken to Turkish baths...not a fan of the Sauna bit as sweating like a pig just doesn't appeal but the massage and full body scrub are awesome. It was an early retreat to bed that night in preparation for the next day.
We set off early the following morning geared up tp go to Petra. For most of us Petra was the major attraction in going to Jordan. You arrive at the site to have a horse ride for a km before walking another 2 km into the valley. The horse ride was challenging and as I'm sure most of u know I'm not much of an animal person. The last time I was on a horse I was 12 and was bucked off Sandy Lund's horse legs astride over an electric fence....until Petra I had never even considered getting on a horse again.
The last two km into the valley everyone was getting snap happy at all the different rock formations, it wasn't until we reached the actual entrance to Petra and saw the beginning of the ancient city I realised there were far better things to be taking pictures of. The first glimpse of the Treasury through the rocks was unbelievable.
If I thought the horse ride was bad it was nothing compared to the donkey ride that I took up to go see the Monastery. I have to admit I feared for my life as my little donkey raced up the hill with rocks falling off the cliff edge. As sad as it sounds the whole time all I could think about was that death by donkey was not my planned exit strategy for leaving this world.
We stopped at little Petra and then went off roading in a jeep at a desert at Wadi Rum. It was absolutely amazing. All you could see for miles was red red sand and the occasional camel traipsing across the desert. The sky was blue with not a cloud in the sky and for the first time since beginning the trip the sun came out to warm us.
Early the following morning we hit the road again while defrosting from the night before. We arrived at the dead sea to dive into the crystal clear water. As gorgeous as it was it absolutely stung like hell from the concentration of salt. I stung where I have not stung before and for some odd reason unbeknownst to me my ankles swelled up. After living in fricking cold london though merely being able to put on togs and loll about in the water and sun was something I had almost forgotten the feeling of.
From the Dead Sea it was off to Israel. I got yellow carded at the border....Im guessing its my surname that did it but do I really look like a terrorist? Gees Louise.
Israel was something else. I was expecting it to be a really uplifting experiencing, as an atheist I thought being in such a holy place with so many religions living together as one in might renew my faith. I couldn't have been any wronger if I tried. I hate to say this about a place but its the first place I can truly say I didn't like and I left the country having reaffirmed my beliefs of why I am an atheist.
We visited amazing sights in Jerusalem like the Mount of Olives, the garden of Gethsamene, and the Western Wailing Wall. We even visited via dolorosa where Jesus walked with the cross. I was in the alter which holds his tomb with two older woman who were so moved by being there they were just crying. At the time I can remember thinking how wonderful it must be to have so much faith in something that it can move you so and those thoughts were dashed about half an hour later.
We were crossing through the city and just went through one quarter into the Jewish quarter when an irate woman started screaming at our tour guide about how the Arabs had destroyed Shabbath glass decorations outside the Jewish houses. Our guide an Arab calmly asked her if she saw the person doing it. When she replied no, then he told her that she has no right to accuse an entire race of people of a crime she never saw committed. It broke out into an all out screaming match between this woman and her family and our guide and a girl on our tour. It was awful. I just couldn't believe it. She just kept screaming about there only being two types of people in Israel- The Jews and the Arabs.
I thought that of all the people out there the Jewish who have been discriminated against for centuries would be the last people to turn around and do the same to others. It completely affirmed my belief that if religion is all about persecuting those who have varying beliefs than your own then I want nothing to do with it.
Later we travelled to Bethlehem a city not even 12 km away. The were huge border crossings as it is technically in the West Bank Gaza Strip. There were huge signs banning the Israelis from entering and our guide told us a sad story about how his son fell in love with girl from Bethlehem and how they are prevented from living with one another despite being married because they live across the border. The Muslims and anyone of Arab decent seem to be treated like absolute crap over there. On coming back we were waived through the border but our poor guide was taken off our bus strip searched for over an hour all because of his nationality. And the Jews were complaining over one smashed glass ornament? Where's the justice in that?
Bethlehem was nice but the damage had been done for me and the magic of being in such a holy place was stripped. We saw where Jesus was born and although I far preferred Bethlehem to Jerusalem a hand painted mural on the West Bank Side of the separation wall summed things up for me.....It said Five fingers of the Same hand......it had god in the palm and then the fingers represented different religions. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. If the Muslims can live in peace and accept that different people believe in different things and still get along....why cant the rest of the world?
I can honestly say I will never go back to Israel. I know that a few people don't represent a whole country or a whole nation of people but I was so disappointed with my visit.
That night we had a long drive back to Amman where we flew back home to London at ridiculous o'clock in the morning. I was sad to leave as my trip had definately left one hell of an impression on me but it was time to go.
My overall impression of Jordan was fantastic. It may not be your typical western country but I was absolutely moved by the people. Everyone was so friendly and helpful. Everyone genuinely cares about how are you are and were so hospitable. It certainly made a change from walking down oxford street in London where you are bowled over by people with their handbags and who don't stop to say sorry.
I would go back to Jordan in a heartbeat but unfortunately that one woman in the streets of Jerusalem has tarnished my views of Israel forever.