Alive and well at the Dead Sea
Trip Start Sep 07, 2005
124Trip End Aug 18, 2006
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Our first stop was Kerak Castle, one of the better preserved and more important castles on the "Crusader Circuit" in the Middle East.
Next on the agenda was a dramatic descent to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth and the saltiest body of water, too
We were disappointed because we all had wanted to take a dip in the Dead Sea, but the driving wind and intermittent rain made the prospect less than appealing. Apparently, the waters of the Dead Sea make a person very buoyant (we saw pictures of people floating easily on their backs while raising their arms and legs out of the water), and they have healing properties, as well, although entry can hurt like a #!$%^* on cuts or open wounds. Our driver stopped the car by one precipitous cliff looking down to the waters. Below we could see salt-incrusted rocks sitting above the waterline (the sea loses a couple centimeters as year to evaporation); they looked like jagged, enormous snowballs hugging the coast. Above we could see slender rock formations, jutting jauntily into the sky; our driver explained that local legend has it that one of these formations is Lot's wife, who turned to a pillar of salt after flouting God's warning not to look back as her family evacuated Sodom and Gomorhha
Our next stop called for a brief visit to Mt. Nebo, reputed to be the final resting spot of Moses and an important church for the many Christians still living in the area. When we arrived it was raining cats and dogs, so we and Ana Maria demurred, but Andrew, super-tourer as he is, ran in to grab a few shots of the place. You might be able to find them on his website, www.Andrewday.com. When he returned, Ana Maria dubbed him our hero, which we agreed was a deserved title given the downpour.
Finally, we pulled into Madaba, a small town well known for its Christian churches and Byzantine-era mosaics, the most famous being the Orthodox church of St. George. St. George has just a small sanctuary but a very large tile mosaic built into the floor, some of which has worn away over time. Some portions, however, are well-preserved, and they depict the known world at the time of the mosaic's creation, including many of the places we had visited or planned to visit in the next few days. The holy land featured prominently but the mosaic also stretched as far north as Greece and as far south as Egypt. Clearly, we were walking through the cradle of civilization, or at very least the cradle of the civilization from which our Western perspective was born.
The balance of our day consisted of a drive into Jordan's less than stunning capital city preceded by a few administrational stops. Andrew, and more specifically Andrew's luggage, had been very unlucky on this trip. On the 7 flights he took during his visit to the region, his checked baggage was located at his destination only 4 times. Fortunately the airport was on our way into the city, so Andrew persuaded the cab driver to make a short detour to the folks at Royal Jordanian so that he could be reunited with his luggage. To our collective surprise Andrew's rescue mission went off without a hitch, and after another 30 minutes or so we were in the out-skirts of Amman.
Before entering the city, however, we had to make one more stop. Anna had become friends with a Jordanian living in Athens and had been in communication with a mutual friend in Amman who insisted on hosting her while she passed through. This was another needle in a haystack type arrangement, but again after only 15 minutes or so of cell phone coordination and waiting around, Anna met up with her host and we parted ways. We panned to meet up with her the next day for a trip to Jerash and we were also interested in learning about Amman through her host family. Our plan was to meet up the next morning at a hotel we had selected and continue our adventure into Northern Jordan from there.