I see the Promised Land!!!

Trip Start Mar 14, 2010
Trip End Mar 21, 2010

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Flag of Jordan  ,
Saturday, March 20, 2010

Off to an early start.   Crazy is as crazy does and that is what I like - CRAZY.  It is our last day here in Jordan, so we want to squeeze as many things to see in as possible.  At 8:00AM we are already on the road to head up to Mount Nebo, where Moses first saw the Promised Land - and according to the Jews and Christians this is also where Moses is laid to rest.  The air is cool up here.  The sky is filled with haze.  I think we are ahead of the game.  We are here before the buses loaded with tourists... Wait, speaking too soon, within 20 minutes... this place fills with bus loads of tourists.  Once again we see the Korean tour group.  Almost like meeting old friends.  We have to push through the crowd to get the view from top.   Once we have had a field day with the view, we are out of there.

Must go to the Dead Sea.  After all, the Dead Sea is the reason everyone is here in this area in the first place.  Back to the hotel for breakfast, just before breakfast time ends.  Got dressed and ready for the Dead Sea.  At 400 meters below sea level, this place is the lowest place on earth.  Supposedly, there is an extra layer of atmosphere here that prevents the sun tanners from getting burnt.  But I am not ready to put that to the test.  I sure slap myself with layers of sunscreen.  I dress appropriately, shorts and shirt.  I understand that this is a resort and a hotel catering to Westerners, but I don't want any trouble. 

This place is amazing.  I am not a swimmer, but yet I am floating on water.  This water is so thick, 30% salt, compared to normal sea water which is 3 to 4% salt.  I accidentally get a drop of the Dead Sea water into one of my eyes - it stings with pain!!!  Looking at the water, I can almost see a thick brine.  Once I get out of this sea water, it feels oily on my skin.  Quick evaporation, leaves the salt that sticks to my skin all over.  I am waiting for the healing power of the Dead Sea, but so far I can only feel pains.  I cannot go to the Dead Sea without having a mud rub.  I come out of the mud rub looking like a wild woman just out of the jungle.  Floating in the Dead Sea is more fun than we expected... if only I had more time.

It has gone past 1:00PM.  We are pressing on towards the Baptism Site, where John the Baptist was active and where Jesus was baptized.  Back on the Dead Sea Highway... after 5 minutes driving, once again another policeman flags us down.   Keith is a speed demon this time.  He is going 100Km in a 90Km speed zone.  He has gotten too comfortable on the Jordanian highway.  Caught red-handed!!! He does not get off easily this time.  This is a speed trap - police with the speed gun out to get speeders like him.  "...you speeding...90Km" - policeman says.  "I thought this is 100Km speed zone".  Policeman starts to impose a speeding fine.."20 dinarrr..." - policemen says.  "OK, I'll pay, you give me a ticket" - Keith says as he hands a 20JD note over along with his UK driver's license.  The policeman goes back to his patrol car for about 5 minutes...Policeman comes back and returns to Keith his driver's license with the 20JD.   Policeman says "...prrromise me ...slow down... OK?"   Welcome to Jordan.  We are both shocked.  We feel more welcome than ever... We move on to the Baptism Site and I keep on reminding Keith of his promise.

The Baptism Site has only been excavated since the 1994 peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, but it is still a military zone.  All visit to this site must be escorted.  I am sooo surprised when seeing the anticlimactic River Jordan.  It is no longer a wide open flowing river.  It looks dried up.  The amount of water flowing through this river has been controlled with dams.   New church being built on this site, including a Russian Orthodox, Catholic, etc...  The old Baptism Site, which was used by John the Baptist is no longer active.  How do they know?  It is based on excavations, pilgrims' records of events... it is a religious experience for anyone who is here.  We are brought to the new Baptism Site, which is currently active.  I cannot help but feel the tension between the Jordanian side and the Israeli side.  Both sites are being guarded by soldiers on both ends... and the Jordan River is now a narrow flow of water forming the border between the two countries.   I start to communicate to a guide on the Israeli side by responding to his questions: "Are you having a good time?" - he says.  "Yes, are you?" I say.  "I am a guide" - he says... we just chuckle to ease the tension.  After this visit, I have a new appreciation for PEACE and quiet.

Knowing Keith, my tour guide, he has packed yet another visit onto the itinerary, Jerash.  Perhaps it is one of the best Roman ruined cities outside of Italy.  With less than 2 hours to get there, we don't even know if we have time but we press on...drive past Amman, the capital city of Jordan.  What I have seen is a more modern city unlike what we have seen the past few days.  I can now see some women driving their children...I am very surprised.  My feeling for Jordan is slowly changing.  It is okay for people of my gender to travel around Jordan.  Five minutes before 5:00PM, Jerash withing sight. I can see some of the Roman ruins, but we can only see the best from afar.  No more admission is allowed.  We leave claiming victory - that we have seen Jerash, properly or not, but we have seen it...

We are now heading toward Madaba for a restaurant, which according to the travel book, here is one of the best restaurants, perhaps the best in the nation. I can't pass on this opportunity... I will do almost anything for good food!!!  We park.  Keith sees a policeman, gets out of the car and asks if where we are parked is OK.  "Wherrre you go?" "To a restaurant." "And wherrre yourrr wife?" "In the car, waiting for me to find out from you whether it is OK for me to park there..." "OK. you can park there". The policeman then recommends Keith an inexpensive local eatery (Abo al Arabi) around the corner. We decide to give it a try. The food is decent.  After the snack, we visit the souvenir shops.  We happen to stumble upon a shop run by an older gentleman, in his 50's or 60's.  "You speak English?  I want to practice my English" he says.  "Yes" - I say and point at Keith "You might want to speak to him.  He is English!".   We hit it off really well.  The best English we have heard so far from a Jordanian and the first Catholic we have met in this country.  It is fascinating speaking to him.  In the middle of tea and conversation, we have a total blackout in this part of town... At no point do we feel unsafe, then the light comes back, but a few minutes later - blackout again.  We decide to leave and walk back to our car in the dark!

We return to our hotel with a new and positive feeling on Jordan.  It and its people are welcoming...

Assalaamu allaykoom - Peace be upon you!!!
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