January 16th, 2024
Jordan, officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is a country in West Asia. It is situated at the crossroads of Asia, Africa, and Europe, on the east bank of the Jordan River. Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia to the south and east, Iraq, to the northeast, Syria, to the north, and the Palestinian West Bank and Israel to the west. The Dead Sea is located along its western border and the country has a 26 km / 16 m coastline in its southwest on the Gulf of Aqaba’s Red Sea, which separates Jordan from Egypt. Amman is Jordan’s capital and largest city, as well as its economic, political, and cultural centre. It compares in size to the state of Maine.
Modern-day Jordan has been inhabited by humans since the Paleolithic period. Jordan is a semi-arid country. Three kingdoms emerged there at the end of the Bronze Age; Ammon, Moab and Edom. In the third century BC, the Arab Nabataeans, established their Kingdom with Petra as the capital. Later rulers of the Transjordan region include the Assyrian, Babylonian, Roman, Ottoman empires and many more. After the Great Ara Revolt against the Ottomans in 1916 during WWI, the Greater Syria region was partitioned by Britain and France. The Emirate of Transjordan was established in 1921 and became a British protectorate. In 1946, Jordan gained independence and became officially known in Arabic as the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The country captured and annexed the West Bank during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War until it was occupied by Israel in 1967. Jordan renounced its claim to the territory in 1988, became the second Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel in 1994, and since then supports Palestinian statehood within a two-state solution.
From as early as 1948, Jordan has accepted refugees from multiple neighbouring countries in conflict. An estimated 2.1 million Palestinian and 1.4 million Syrian refugees are present in Jordan (as of 2015), with most of the former holding Jordanian citizenship. The kingdom is also a refuge for thousands of Christian Iraqis fleeing persecution by the Islamic State. While Jordan continues to accept refugees, the recent large influx from Syria placed substantial strain on national resources and infrastructure.
The sovereign state is a constitutional monarchy, but the king holds wide executive and legislative powers. Jordan is a founding member of the Arab League. The Jordanian economy, one of the smallest economies in the region, is attractive to foreign investors based upon a skilled workforce. The country is a major tourist destination, also attracting medical tourism due to its well developed health sector. Nonetheless, a lack of natural resources, large flow of refugees, and regional turmoil have hampered economic growth.
The national flag of Jordan is based on the flag of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during World War I. The horizontal colors on this flag stand for the Abbasid, Umayyad and Fatimid Caliphates. The red triangle is for the Hashemite dynasty and the Arab Revolt.
CURRENCY: Jordanian Dinar – $.71 USD or $.53CDN
BEER: Petra – 8% (most popular is Amstel). This is a Muslim country, so beer is not readily available.
GAS: 0.895 JOD per litre – about $4.77 USD per gallon
Jordan makes country 85 on our list of countries visited!
The flight from Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, went pretty smoothly and our luggage was not amongst the last off the belt this time. Immigration was pretty quick as we’d purchased the “Jordan Pass” which includes a free visa and entails a special line which was virtually empty. After your visa is processed, you walk to the next set of counters and get stamped in.
While waiting for the bags, Fran got some cash from the ATM and then we stopped at a SIM card shop for Zain cards for our phones. Here in Jordan we got 50GB for 30 days for 29 JOD (about $40 USD – so not cheap but necessary, as we won’t use that much in a week!).
Fran had arranged a rental car and the company picked us up from the airport. We got a black Nissan Sunny for the week. After the usual paperwork was done, we were on our way.
We only have a week here in Jordan and we decided to head to the further point first: Wadi Rum in the south.
Fran had arranged a jeep tour for us for tomorrow so we just had to get nearby tonight. It was less than 300 km / 200 mi and would take about 3.5 hours. This seemed doable.
Enroute we booked some accommodation in a “camp” only to learn that since we had not booked a tour through them, there would be an additional fee to be picked up from a designated parking area – WTH? We tried three other places with the same result. So screw them, we’ll find something else nearby. The small village of Ad Disa had very little to offer and we ended up at a “hostel”. We had a twin room with a private bath for 15 JOD per night. There was free parking and heat and that was about it – not even any towels. But by this time, it was dark, nearly 7pm and we just needed to get settled.
Turns out we were very close to a mosque so we had an early wake up before 6am. We had to be at the meeting point for the tour at nine but first had to have our Jordan Pass stamped to enter the protected area at the Visitor’s Centre.
Wadi Rum known also as the Valley of the Moon is a valley cut into the sandstone and granite rock in southern Jordan near the border with Saudi Arabia. With an area of 720 km2 (280 sq mi) it is the largest wadi (river valley) in Jordan.
Several prehistoric civilizations left petroglyphs, rock inscriptions and ruins in Wadi Rum. Today it is a tourist attraction, offering guided tours, hiking and rock climbing. The Wadi Rum Protected Area has been a UNESCO site since 2011.
Wadi Rum is located within the Sandstone Mountain and Valley Region of southern Jordan the area is characterized by tall, near vertical mountains of iron-rich, erosion resistant, Umm Ishrin Sandstone, separated by flat-bottom valleys of alluvial sediments, aeolian sands, and salt pans. Alluvial fans compose most of the alluvial sediments. Aeolian systems include tafoni, natural bridges, and sand dunes. Sand dunes include barkhans, climbing dunes consisting of sand ramps that reach the tops of hills, and echo dunes consisting of sands that have crawled over a hill to be deposited on the lee side.
Desert scenes of Wadi Rum in Lawrence of Arabia from 1962 kick-started Jordan’s tourism industry.
Wadi Rum is one of Jordan’s most popular tourist sites. Wadi Rum is home to the Zalabieh tribe, who developed eco-adventure tourism and services throughout the protected area. Using local guides and services brings many benefits to the protected area. In particular, it enables people to continue earning a living from the land and helps to ensure that the protected area remains protected.
The area has been used as a background setting in a number of films esides “Lawrence of Arabia”. Filmmakers are particularly drawn to it for science fiction films set on Mars. Here is a list of other movies filmed here:
- Prometheus – scenes for the Alien Planet
- The Last days on Mars – filmed for exterior shots for this 2013 film.
- The Martian – in March 2015, for shots that stood in for the surface of Mars.
- Rogue One: a Star Wars Story, used for scenes set on Jedha.
- Aladdin, 2019 live action remake of the 1992 Disney animated film
- Star Wars: The Risde of Skykwalker, used for the desert planet Pasaana.
- Dune (2021), used as a location for the desert planet Arrakis.
- The Amazing Race Season 34
- John Wick: Chapter 4 (2023), used for a desert scene while John Wick is on the move.
After grabbing something to drink at the little coffee shop across the street from the parking lot in Wadi Rum village, our driver and his employer showed up. Abdullah runs Wadi Rum Escapes and he set us with with Yousef, a young driver in a Toyota pickup (jeeps are not used any longer it seems…) and we jumped in the back where there were benches and a sun shade.
Off we went for a fantastic day. We made over a dozen and a half stops, some for views, some for history, some for spots Lawrence of of Arabia is said to have been, some for short canyon hikes, dune hikes, sand boarding and one for lunch and one for sunset.
Here are some videos and photos of the highlights:
Just before noon Yousef found us a spot where he prepared some lunch; a tomato stew, a tuna salad with corn, hummus, feta cheese and pita bread with of course, Bedouin tea. Then the drive continued – we figured we covered nearly 50km / 30 mi in the wadi and everywhere we looked the scenery was fantastic; somewhat reminiscent of southern Utah but way more sand, no real roads and amazing rock formations.
Doug tried sandboarding down a dune:
We were very fortunate that the wadi was almost empty of tourists – the conflict in Israel has apparently scared many people from coming to Jordan – so a huge advantage for anyone who wishes to come. Major tourist destinations without the throngs! We maybe saw 15 other tourists like us the entire day!
After 4pm we found a spot to settle to watch the sunset; Yousef made more Bedouin tea and we waited till about 5:50 pm for the sun to dip behind the mountains. As we waited in the silence we spent some time planning our walk through Petra. The drive back to the village was rather cold as the wind while driving was rather biting. It was nice to get to the car and get the heat going.
Click here to see so many many more photos of this experience.
We highly recommend a day in the wadi!
We returned to the hostel and had a light dinner with the remainder of the food we’d purchased yesterday enroute here. Thank goodness the air conditioners in these places also produce heat! The nighttime temperatures dip to about 5C / 40F but the daytime highs reach near 20C / 70F.
We were up on the early side on Thursday and after morning routine (Doug had found a shop nearby that had hot water so Fran could have her tea – what a good husband!) and we left the village. About 45 minutes down the road Fran realized she didn’t have her phone! She remembered seeing it on the bed but when she went to leave the room, the light switch was on the wrong side of the room and she had to walk in the dark to get to the door. So, we turned around and luckily the room had not been entered and her phone was there as she’d left it. We took advantage of the room by using the bathroom and then left and did the drive north to Petra – one of the seven wonders of the world.
Petra, originally known to its inhabitants as Raqmu or Raqēmō is a historic and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system, Petra is also called the “Rose City” because of the colour of the sandstone from which it is carved. Access to the city is through a famously picturesque 1.2-km / ¾ of a mile long gorge called the Siq which leads directly to the famous “Treasury”.
The area around Petra has been inhabited from as early as 7000 BC, and the Nabataeans might have settled here in what would become their capital city as early as the 4th century BC. Archaeological work has only discovered evidence of Nabataean presence dating back to the second century BC, by which time Petra had become their capital. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra’s proximity to the incense trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.
The trading business gained the Nabataeans considerable revenue and Petra became the focus of their wealth. Unlike their enemies, the Nabataeans were accustomed to living in the barren deserts and were able to repel attacks by taking advantage of the area’s mountainous terrain. They were particularly skillful in harvesting rainwater, agriculture and stone carving. Petra flourished in the 1st century AD, and its population peaked at an estimated 20,000 inhabitants. Most of the famous rock-cut buildings, which are mainly tombs, date from this and the following period. Much less remains of the free-standing buildings of the city.
Although the Nabataean kingdom became a client state of the Roman Empire in the first century BC, it was only in 106 AD that it lost its independence. Petra fell to the Romans, who annexed Nabataea and renamed it as Arabia Petraea. Petra’s importance declined as sea trade routes emerged, and after an earthquake in 363 destroyed many structures. In the Byzantine era, several Christian churches were built, but the city continued to decline and, by the early Islamic era, it was abandoned except for a handful of nomads. It remained unknown to the western world until 1812, when Swiss traveler Johann Ludwig Burckhardt rediscovered it.
Excavations have demonstrated that it was the ability of the Nabataeans to control the water supply that led to the rise of the desert city, creating an artificial oasis. The area is visited by flash floods, but archaeological evidence shows that the Nabataeans controlled these floods by the use of dams, cisterns, and water conduits. These innovations stored water for prolonged periods of drought and enabled the city to prosper from its sale.
It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. UNESCO has described Petra as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. In 2007, Petra was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Petra is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction.
On that note, we again want to point out: what a great time to come to Jordan this is with little crowds.
We arrived about 10:15 and found the free parking; here we were approached by a taxi driver who offered to take us to the back end of the site to start. He said he’d drive us to Little Petra and there we could take a park jeep to the Monastery and just do the place in reverse (this was supposed to save steps because if you enter at the entrance gate, to get to the Monastery at the other end you have to walk all the way to the end which is an up, up and up climb and then all the way back down and then return to the main gate. His way meant we’d only have to walk through the site once. He said he’d take us for 20JOD. As we arrived at Little Petra he said it was 20JOD per person – this was new. We were pretty annoyed and said “no that’s not what you said” and after some heated discussion, he said “pay what you want”. Doug paid him 25JOD.
Once you reach Little Petra you get your Jordan Pass stamped and then pay 5JOD per person for the jeep ride which we had been told was to the Monastery.
At Little Petra we had some time to wait for the ride so we walked around this small site and saw its sites and at the end of the trail was a lookout. While walking we met two couples from Argentina (Alfredo, Hannibal, Victoria and Florencia) whom we chatted with for a while; their English was no so good so we explained to them how to get to the main Petra site and they walked with us to the lookout before we all took the drive.
The view at the lookout was so so:
Well it was not a drive all the way to the Monastery; the truck (similar to the one we took yesterday but with more seating) only took us about one third of the way and then we had to walk nearly 3km / 2mi to the Monastery. Of course there were donkeys, horse and camels on offer to take you but they were not what we wanted to do at all. We were rather annoyed. The walk was also uphill and downhill with many stairs – not Fran’s favourite hiking scenario. Oh well it was what it was and in the end it turned out to be a good way to see Petra with no backtracking.
The Monastery was breathtaking – the weather was perfect and the rest of the day was equally enjoyable. We had two days to visit the site with our Jordan Pass but preferred not to spend two entire days at Petra if we could do it in less.
We saw about ¾ of the sites on our “plan” opting not to walk to the lookouts over the Treasury and Place of High Sacrifice saving Fran’s knees thousands of stairs! There are an amazing amount of tombs here and so much more.
You cannot enter any of the tombs or buildings although you can walk in the theatre and down the colonnaded street in front. The facades are quite something and it’s a site to behold.
With our visit to Petra, we have now seen all the 7 wonders of the modern world!
- The Great Wall of China.
- Taj Mahal, India.
- Petra, Jordan.
- The Colosseum, Italy.
- Christ the Redeemer, Brazil.
- Chichén Itzá, Mexico.
- Machu Picchu, Peru.
- The Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt.
We reached The Treasury by mid-afternoon:
We walked through the Siq (narrow canyon) to reach the entrance.
Fran had booked us a hostel in nearby Wadi Musa and as we’d managed to see all we wanted to see and spending some time gazing at the Treasury, we decided to leave the site and get to the hostel in time for some downtime before dinner. It was about a 2.5 km walk to the entrance from the Treasury through the Siq (narrow canyon) and that in itself was pretty memorable.
Upon getting to the entrance we decided to check out the Visitor’s Centre (and like the one in Wadi Rum, there’s not much there) so we left and saw a billboard for “The Cave Bar” serving alcohol! Now a cold beer had been well earned. We’d not had a beer since our time in Canada over Christmas (Saudi is a dry country and has no official beer) and we wanted to try Jordan’s beer, Petra, so this was a good idea. The bar is inside a former tomb so even more special. We sat our selves in our own little tomb and enjoyed the cold beer.
(see pic at the top of this post)
After we were more than halfway through our beers, the bartender came over with a bowl of snacks and another smaller pint of beer – said it was free! At 7.50 JOD ($11 USD) for one large beer, this was a nice surprise.
We then walked over to the Petra Museum and took a quick stroll through it (it’s not very big) – nothing super special to us and returned to get our car.
We had to drive a whole 600 m to the hostel where Mohammed showed us our room and asked if we’d like to order a four course homemade dinner for 10 JOD a person. This saved us having to go out again. The hostel has a dining room where we would eat this nice meal and then spend a quiet night in our room.
We did have the option (at an additional fee) to go see Petra at night (only 3 times a week is this possible) but after reading some reviews on it, and realizing it’s a 6km return walk, we decided to pass. Petra is huge and we’d already walked over 21,000 steps today. Besides, you can see the definition in the architecture much better in the daylight. Also when we were in the visitor’s centre the ticket office was closed.
Click here for lots more shots of this amazing site.
This has been a second highlight of our trip to Jordan and one that should not be missed if you come here. The site we saw in Saudi, Hegra, also built by the Nabateans, pales in comparison.
After a nice dinner made at the hostel of soup, salad, chicken, rice and dessert we had a quiet night and Fran slept great. Doug went for a run and Fran tried yoga but her knees were screaming “no” after yesterday, so she gave up. We left Wadi Musa about 8:30 and drove northward. Just outside the city there is a small pullout where you can see the remains of where crusaders resided long ago:
Our first stop was to see the Shouback Castle.
Shouback Castle was built by the Crusaders and expanded by the Mamluks, on the eastern side of the Arabah Valley, perched on the side of a rocky, conical mountain, looking out over fruit orchards below. The ruins are located next to the modern town of Shoubak in Jordan.
The castle was built in 1115 by Baldwin 1 of Jerusalem during his expedition to the area when he captured Aqaba on the Red Sea in 1116. Originally called ‘Krak de Montreal’ or ‘Mons Regalis’, it was named in honor of the king’s own contribution to its construction (Mont Royal). The castle is located on a round hilltop site that is separated from the rest of the plateau of Edom along the Moab Rivder. Despite appearance, the area was a relatively fertile location, which made the site, along with its strategic importance, highly desirable. The castle was strategically important due to the fact that it also dominated the main passage from Egypt to Syria. This allowed whoever held the castle to tax not only traders, but also those who were on pilgrimages to Mecca and Medina. One of the major disadvantages of the site was the lack of a reliable source of water, an issue that the Crusaders encountered all over the Middle East. This problem was solved by the construction of a tunnel down the hill to two spring-fed cisterns. The tunnel allowed defenders to go and retrieve water without exposing themselves to any attackers.
As often is the case with castles for us, we only wanted to see it from the outside. We drove into the parking lot and saw that you couldn’t drive right up to it. We took a few photos and then drove back up hill to get a better shot that showed how it is situated on the hilltop better then we hit a traffic jam!
We began the drive next to the Dead Sea – the lowest point on earth – over 400m / 1312’ below sea level!
The drive there first took us up to 1685 m / 5528’ (we were already at about 900M / 2952’) and then the road went down, down, down and the lowest point we reached was 386m / 1266’ below sea level.
The landscapre greens up and we see much more life.
Enroute we passed the huge Arab potash ponds (there are more on the Israeli side too).
We reached the south of the Dead Sea and had to stop for a moment.
The Dead Sea, is a landlocked salt lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel to the west. It lies in the Jordan Rift Valley, and its main tributary is the Jordan River.
As of 2019, the lake’s surface is 430.5 metres (1,412 ft) below sea level making its shores the lowest land based elevation on Earth. It is 304 m (997 ft) deep. With a salinity of 342 g/kg, or 34.2% (in 2011), it is one of the world’s saltiest bodies of water – 9.6 times as salty as the ocean – and has a density of 1.24 kg/litre, which makes swimming similar to floating. This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which plants and animals cannot flourish, hence its name. The Dead Sea’s main, northern basin is 50 kilometres (31 mi) long and 15 kilometres (9 mi) wide at its widest point.
The Dead Sea has attracted visitors from around the Mediterranean Basin for thousands of years. It was one of the world’s first health resorts, and it has been the supplier of a wide variety of products, from asphalt for Egyptian mummification to potash for fertilizers. Today, tourists visit the sea on its Israeli, Jordanian and West Bank coastlines.
The Dead Sea is receding at a swift rate; its surface area today is 605 km2 (234 sq mi), having been 1,050 km2 (410 sq mi) in 1930.
We had researched where we could actually go into the Dead Sea and the main area is up further north at Amman beach but they charge you about $35 to go on the beach and we didn’t want to pay that. We found a spot south of Wadi Mujib and went there.
You park just up off the highway and walk down a couple of hundred metres to the shore. We brought our swim suits, water shoes and a beach blanket for a towel (since we don’t have one…).
We changed behind the beach blanket on the side of the little bay only to learn there was a change room and two showers! We are at 386 m / 1266′ below sea level on the shoreline. We’d brought some water to rinse off with so seemed we didn’t need it.
This was such a cool experience. We each went in separately to take photos and then put away the phone and “floated around for a about seven minutes. They recommend not staying in for more than ten minutes due to the high mineral content. It was a cool sensation. Doug rarely ever floats and here he had no problem.
After taking a shower, we used the change rooms to get dressed and took a stroll around the sea.
As you can see once again, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Click here for more photos of our time at the Dead Sea.
Then we drove ourselves to the Dead Sea Panoramic Centre funded by the Japanese. Here we had a very up high view and you could actually see the mountains of Israel. There is a restaurant up here and we considered having lunch but nothing on the menu grabbed us. Up here we are STILL 84 m / 286′ below sea level. The lowest point in the US is 81 m below!
Fran had booked a hostel in nearby Madaba for three nights – we are tired of changing hotels so often and will use it as a base; it’s also closer to the airport than staying in the capital city. We drove there and parked before looking for pizza for a late lunch. We found “Mystic Pizza” but the fellow inside said we had to wait an hour for the next batch of dough! We walked over to our hostel, got checked in and the young man there went over to the pizza place and placed the order for us. He said it would be ready shortly after we got back there. It was only around the corner, so not far.
Jasmine Flower Hostel is very new – two months old – and very modern. There is a large shared kitchen with a full array of kitchen supplies as well as a full stove/oven, a micro wave and a washing machine. Our room has a king bed and a twin, a private bath with a huge separate shower and there’s hot water, Wi-Fi, and towels. For this we are paying 75 JOD for three nights ($105USD). It’s very secure with a locking gate to the street, a locking common room and our door has its own code.
Doug went for a walk to get a few grocery items, we showered as we still felt a bit sticky from the salty lake and Fran took are of rinsing out our water shoes, suits and beach blanket. There are clothes line just outside our room.
We will take care of doing all our laundry tomorrow afternoon so we are all good for another week or so. Once we get to the Maldives resort on Thursday, we will be back in summer clothes and expect we’ll spend a lot of time in bathing suits!
This was another great day in Jordan! Come check it out.
Saturday morning we hit the road early to try and beat Amman traffic to reach the city of Jerash. It is home to one of the best preserved Greco-Roman cities, which earned it the nickname “Pompeii of the Middle East” (this too is included in the Jordan Pass). Unfortunately they only had maps in Arabic (?) so we took a photo of the map on the wall and between it and our mapping app, we could figure out what and where things were.
(Note the weekend here, as in Saudi, is Friday/Saturday).
Now as you know, we been to a lot of Greek and Roman ruins but this site is quite good. It’s quite large and includes two theatres (south and north), a hippodrome, Temples of Zeus and Artemis, several churches, gates, two tetrapylons (one is magnificent) and a very long main street with a great deal intact.
Until 2019 they used to hold chariot races here but have not revived them since the pandemic unfortunately. Now that would have been cool to see!
At the south theatre – there was a guy playing bagpipes – we assume to demonstrate the acoustics but it was really just annoying.
We spent about two hours here and felt it was worth the visit.
Click here for more photos of Jerash.
We then drove south into the capital city. Amman is a large city but in no way compares to Riyadh or Dubai; you don’t see a preponderance of large skyscrapers made of glass (we only saw two); the building are mostly made of stone and many need some TLC. The area around the city is very green and there is a fair bit of agriculture including olive trees.
We drove by the huge blue and white mosque of Amman:
We wanted to go to the Amman Citadel which includes the Temple of Hercules and two pieces of a huge 12m / 40’ statue of the god. Most of the site is not much but we wanted to see these. This site is also included in the Jordan Pass (there are like over 30 included).
As we approached the temple, a couple was coming out of the nearby museum and began to speak to us (asking if we’d sleep in this morning! Ha ha ha – early calls to prayer before 6 these days). Turns out Jeff and Lori are from outside Vancouver and they are quite well travelled – more than 100 countries to their credit. We chatted for a while and exchanged contact info and hope to meet up with them next time we are in BC.
Here are the three fingers of Hercules as well as a piece of his elbow – all that remains:
Across the valley from here at the citadel, is a Roman Theatre – we got a bit lazy and instead of going over there, we just took photos from here:
It’s now about lunchtime and we had one more area we wanted to see – Rainbow Street famous for its shops and restaurants where we thought we could have some lunch.
Traffic was a parking lot driving the 3.5 km / 2.2 mi to get there but it meant we could observe more around us.
There were many streets with lanterns or flags hanging.
We almost gave up on finding a place to park when near the end of this several block long street, we found two along the sidewalk. Doug looked up restaurants on Google and we found neither of the two we were looking for but ended up at one called Fatatori – it looked like pizza but not. We asked and were told it was two thin crusts with the toppings in the middle – sounded good.
We ordered a mushroom veggie one and a chicken garlic to share. The first was quite good the second had too much cheese and little chicken so we didn’t eat much of that one. Since we were not full, we walked over to Gerald’s ice cream and each had a two scoop cup of really delicious ice cream (it was quite surprising and a nice treat!).
We began the drive back to our hostel in Madaba and it took a while to get out of the city but we were back by 2:30 and Fran took advantage of our early return and did two loads of laundry hoping they would finish drying by tomorrow afternoon before we have to pack for our flight on Monday. She got it all hung up before the sun went down.
Sidebar: Here in Jordan they have a funny habit at traffic lights. If you’re not first in line, the second the light turns green you honk to get people moving. It makes us chuckle EVERY time as there is no way that first guy in line could be moving yet!
We made pasta for dinner and watched “Lawrence of Arabia” – neither of us had ever seen it.
Sunday, after an early awakening due to three calls to prayer between 5:55 and 6:20 am, we were up and took our time today as we had less to do.
Around 9:30 we left the hostel and made our way 40 km / 25 mi to Bethany on the Jordan – the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ.
Al-Maghtas officially known as Baptism Site “Bethany Beyond the Jordan”, is an archaeological UNESCO site on the east bank of the Jordan River, reputed to be the original location of the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist and venerated as such since at least Byzantine times. The place has also been referred to as Bethabara and historically Bethany (Beyond the Jordan).
The strategic location between Jerusalem and the King’s Highway is already evident from the Book of Joshua report about the Israelitescrossing the Jordan there. The complete area was abandoned after the 1967 Six-Day War, when both banks of the Jordan became part of the frontline. The area was heavily mined then.
After the signing of the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in 1994, de-mining of the area soon took place at the initiative of Jordanian Prince Ghazi. The site has since then seen several archaeological digs, visits by three Popes (John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis) and by many heads of state and attracts tourists and pilgrimage activity.
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry.
— (LUKE 3:21-23)
The symbol of the fish has been frequently used as a symbol of Christ. This is because the five Greek letters forming the word “fish” are the initial letters of eh five words “Jesus Christ God’s Son Saviour”. The fish is also used as a symbol of baptism, for just as fish cannot live except in water, the true Christian cannot live except by the waters of baptism.
— (MATTHEW Chapter 14)
About one kilometre before we reached the site, we began to see armed soldiers; a bunch at the last turn and then every 100 m or so to the gate. At the gate there were several more and they asked us to pop the trunk and took a dog all the way around the car. Once inside the site, you park, buy your ticket and then you get on a shuttle bus. This was news to us. They were maybe ten of us on the “tour”. While waiting for the bus we met an American couple from San Jose, California who were on a tour of Jordan and Egypt and then onto India. Vicki and Stan were quite pleasant to chat with.
It was maybe a couple of kilometres down the road on the shuttle bus that left at 11 and this road too was lined with soldiers every 100 m or so in the barren hills.
The guide pointed out a few things enroute and when we arrived at another parking lot where he had us follow him to a small Greek Orthodox museum/shop. Then we had to follow him again and walked a trail down to the Jordan River view point:
Then we walked some more and he wanted us to take a different way to see something else (didn’t tell us what) but the security forces would not let us. We arrived at the new St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox church and went inside.
The guide then had to discuss for a while with the security about going to the baptismal site itself on the river. They did not want us to go. They finally relented and allowed us to walk for about 30 seconds to the platform over the river where a large baptismal font was set up but we were not allowed to touch the river.
Across the river, just about 3 m away was an Israeli flag despite the fact that the guide called it Palestine.
There apparently was a large Armenian group coming to the site today (so they claimed) and hence the security but it seemed like overkill. Stan thought there was something else going on that they weren’t telling us about (Fran’s sister had been here several years ago and she had mentioned the heavy security then too). Due to this security, we were also not allowed to go to the ruins of the original Saint John the Baptist church or the caves, one of which was his home when he was baptizing here.
Here’s a shot of the caves in the distance and a closer up shot (with our big camera) of the one he is said to have lived in.
So this little trip turned out to be longer than we expected due to having to take a shuttle and go at the group’s pace but Fran was glad we went.
We were returned to the Visitor’s Centre and got back in our car to drive back to Madaba.
Click here for more photos of this place.
Enroute we saw Mount Nebo (where Moses stood when God showed him the Promised Land)
Upon returning to our hostel, we went out for some lunch and then walked to see the sights in this city.
First was St. George’s Greek Orthodox Church where there is a huge mosaic map. It’s not all there and it’s all in Greek but it was impressive.
The Madaba Map, also known as the Madaba Mosaic Map, is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George. The mMap depicts part of the Middle East and contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. It dates to the sixth century AD.
The mosaic was rediscovered in 1884, during the construction of a new Greek Orthodox on the site of is ancient predecessor. In the following decades, large portions of the mosaic map were damaged by fires, activities in the new church, and by the effects of moisture. In December 1964, the Volkswagen Foundation gave 90,000 DM to save the mosaic. In 1965, the archaeologists Heinz Cüppers and Heinrich Brandt undertook the restoration and conservation of the remaining parts of the mosaic.
The mosaic map depicts an area from Lebanon in the north to the Nile Delta in the south, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Eastern Desert. Among other features, it depicts the Dead Sea with two fishing boats, a variety of bridges linking the banks of the Jordan, fish swimming in the river and receding from the Dead Sea; a lion hunting a gazelle in the Moab desert, palm-ringed Jericho, Bethlehem, and other biblical-Christian sites. All landscape units are labelled with explanations in Greek.
You paid 1JOD to enter and building is under restoration with no information given. The map is cordoned off by ropes and you can walk nearly all the way around. It has a column near the middle so it’s hard to see the entire thing at once.
Here are shots of parts of it, including some close ups.
After this we walked over to the Burnt Palace – a large luxurious residence not a real palace – (also covered in the Jordan Pass) and wandered through it seeing more mosaics. It was built around 700AD and damaged in the earthquake of 767. Across the Roman street from the palace lies the Church of the Martyrs, a 7th century structure that features an expansive mosaic floor. The bright and bold vine-laden borders lining the chapel include scenes from nature and of winemaking, which was once widespread in the region during the Byzantine era. In the largest floor section, many of the animals were missing.
Our last stop was the Madaba Archeological Park where there were even more mosaics (there are also several mosaic schools in this city) and a preserved section of an ancient Roman road.
Then it was back to the hostel for Doug and it was Fran’s turn to go get a few food items for dinner as we had a few left overs but not quite enough.
For more photos of the mosaics and Madaba, click here
On Monday, our final morning we were up on the early side, dropped off the rental car, they drove us to the airport in that car and after too many security checks (they practically emptied out our carry on bags!), our WizzAir flight about 25 minutes late but both us and our bags made it to Abu Dhabi.
We drove a total of 1986 km / 682 mi in Jordan in our rental car. (This does not include the 50km or so we did in the Wadi Rum or the part of the travel to Petra in the taxi and jeep.)
We absolutely loved our time in Jordan. It was something new and interesting every day and we wish we’d reversed the time we spent in Saudi (10 days) with our time in Jordan (7 days). The former was not worth a visit and the latter, has much to offer. The people are super welcoming and right now, with the lack of tourists, they are hurting and as they are not a wealthy nation like Saudi, if you’ve considered coming here at all, do it now. You won’t regret the lack of crowds, the cheap accommodation and food and sunny weather. It may be winter and it does get cool at night but it’s nice and warm during the day! I mean we swam in the Dead Sea in January!
Fun Facts about Jordan:
- Amman, the capital city of Jordan, is one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world. The city has a rich history spanning over 7,000 years, with ancient ruins coexisting with modern infrastructure.
- A great historical fact about Jordan is that it is home to the oldest dam in the world – by a long shot. The Jawa Dam dates back to the 4th millennium BC and was built, as many dams are, for water supply.
- In 2016 Jordan Won Its First-Ever Olympic Medal. It was Taekwondo. The medal winner was Ahmad Abu Ghaush. He won gold in the under 67-kilo weight category. Taekwondo has become one of the most popular sports in Jordan since then.
- Jordan Is The Home Of The Long-Eared Hedgehog.
- Jordan Is One Of Only Two Arab Countries To Sign A Peace Treaty With Israel
- Mansaf is the national dish of the country. It is a tasty lamb dish cooked with fermented, dried yogurt, served with bulgur wheat or rice, and topped with pine nuts.