Middle East, July 2000 part 3: Jordan

Next stop, Jordan! Syria had only recently opened its doors to tourism, but Jordan had not! Jordan felt the closest to the Western lifestyle of any of the Middle East countries. In some ways, it was a pleasure to leave the mess of Syria behind. We walked to our hostel and parked our bags, then wandered the streets. Of note is how well the Middle East in general has built itself around the area's history...

Coliseum parked in the middle of Amman, Jordan

A visit to the Temple of Hercules (on top of a hill, of course) gave a good view of Amman. I was amused to note that almost every house had a satellite dish on the roof! In some ways being behind in the technology wave helped them: they didn't have to install TV lines everywhere. More ice creams let us make it back down the hill and out to dinner with a New Zealand couple basing themselves out of England for 4 years of travel! I took it in my head to go bald again, and this time had a smoother trim. Next day was a trip to Jerash, just outside Amman and home to some interesting Roman ruins.

A field of columns, Jerash, Jordan Jenn looking out over the landscape, Jerash, Jordan The land of the large pendulums, Jerash, Jordan

Of interest, one of the columns in the last shot is swaying back and forth. There is a seam close to the base that cycles larger and smaller every couple seconds. That is one heck of a clock! It seems that the Romans left a lot of history. To see all of Jerash could easily have been a full day, and there was a lot of work being done clearing landscape for excavation and rebuilding and and and. Good to see some history being appreciated rather than built on top of. On the way out from Jerash, we were greeted by some... local traffic.

Local traffic, Jerash, Jordan

We bused on to Madaba and sneaked a look into a church with a mosaic map of the Middle East on the floor. Some of the artwork and attention to style that goes into these older buildings just befuddles the imagination! That night we had grand fun when Jenn went into one bathroom and came back to go to the other bathroom stating she wasn't cockroach-friendly. Dave and I took this as a minor challenge and had ourselves a grand ol' time cockroach warring. Dave and Peter: 9+ Roaches: 1? Those things are quite hard to stop. Next on the list was the Dead Sea. This was a minor adventure... we bused there, only to find that the bus really only went about two-thirds of the way, and that another bus would take us the rest of the way, but that one came in few hours. Well, we really didn't want to spend hours hanging with the local taxi touts yammering at us (trying to get truthful information out of taxi drivers is a Herculean task and often best done by a ratio of 10 or more travelers against 1 Middle Eastern taxi driver!), so we capitulated (after weaseling a deal) and got an air-conditioned taxi ride to the Dead Sea resort of our choice. It was very odd to change into bathing shorts and no top after being covered head to ankles for so long...

Floating around, Dead Sea, Jordan

The ride home was the funny part... We got a bus back to the "middle stop," and found out that there was only one bus back to Madaba, and it wasn't coming until 6pm! So we bused to Amman, and then from Amman to Madaba. The joys of Middle Eastern travel. "You can't get there from here, pilgrim, but you can go to the closest large city (never more than a couple hours away) and get a bus to almost anywhere from there." From Madaba, we tried to find a bus to Karak, a couple hours south, and almost got the "go to Amman, then to Karak" deal, until someone decided they could take us. Whew! That was one crazy mini-bus ride! We traveled though something known as The Rift... and at Mach speed!

Jenn, Dave and Beck at The Rift on the Kings Highway, near Karak, Jordan

Steep precipices and walls, long views, and windy twisty roads. As I hung out the back window looking over the edges, the gals watched the walls to make sure they didn't reach out and push us over. An amazing sight greeted us at the top on the other side: bicyclists! Touring Jordan in the dead of summer and cycling The Rift in the middle of the day! You have got to be nuts (I must be, since I wanted to join them). We crossed paths with these cyclists a few times over the next several days. Karak was another crusader castle, but with many additions and it had seen its share of work. Many hallways and openings and steep drops all around.

Peter and Beck, Karak, Jordan Beck in silhoutte, Karak, Jordan

Yet another bus adventure was awaiting us as we made our way toward Petra. Supposedly, a bus could take us midway to Petra, then another bus ran from there to Petra. We arrived to find our that the bus that went on to Petra didn't go to Petra, but went "close to Petra." Not good enough! There was another bus, however, at 6am that did go to Petra. Amidst far to many taxi touts and policemen and bus touts, the four of us were wanting to carry large baseball bats. We were on the verge of finding a place to stay when a taxi driver quoted us an agreeable price, much to the dismay of the other taxi touts. Off we went via taxi to Petra! The lack of huge touristy towns next to world famous monuments like Petra continued to astound me. I slowly had it drummed into me that many people tour bus in and tour bus out. Petra was an amazing collage of colours and shapes. Started by the Nebateans (pre-Roman civilization in that area), Petra blossomed until Rome decided Petra was a commercial threat to its caravan route. True to current fashion, Rome "bought out" Petra and slowly diverted the caravans to other stops. Petra withered and disappeared from history, until in 1812 an adventurous Swiss convinced his Bedouin guide to lead him to the rumoured ruins of ancient Petra. Petra didn't climb into the limelight, though, until 1924 when the first excavations started.

The Siq, Petra, Jordan The Treasury, Petra, Jordan The Treasury, Petra, Jordan

The classic entrance made famous in Indiana Jones III (which every hostel in Petra has at least one copy of!). While not resting from the heat, we explored nooks and crannies high up and down low. Toward the end of the day, we trekked up (818 steps worth) to the Monastery for a sunset shot... Of note, in the first of the monastery shots, a plant can be seen on the upper level of the carvings... that plant is 6+ feet tall! The lip at the entrance is 4ish feet tall! And thus some scale...

What you looking at? Petra, Jordan Nebatean/Roman Coliseum, Petra, Jordan The world of colours, Petra, Jordan The trek to the Monastery, Petra, Jordan

The Monastery, Petra, Jordan The Monastery overview, Petra, Jordan

We spent 2 days exploring Petra and a third just lazing about and recovering. Next! On to Wadi Rum, where Laurence of Arabia hung his flag. While in Petra, we arranged a desert tour, including some camel rides and sleeping under the stars. We spent much of our time in the back of an old Toyota Landcruiser zipping through amazing landscapes. Noon was a siesta and lunch, followed by a wood fired barbecue dinner and music. We started with tea, then went on to Laurence's Well and other fun sights...

Would you like a spot of tea, sir? Wadi Rum, Jordan Tracks to anywhere, Wadi Rum, Jordan The view from on high, Wadi Rum, Jordan Jenn and Dave MI2ing, Wadi Rum, Jordan

Eventually kicking back and enjoying the view...

Jenn enjoying the view, Wadi Rum, Jordan The illustrious moon, Wadi Rum, Jordan View for Jenn, Wadi Rum, Jordan

The first night was a tad windy and bright (felt like a full moon, even though the picture shows half... it was bright! Beck and I slept up on a rather large rock, somewhat exposed to a wind that managed to find its way down our sleeping mattress and under the blankets rather than across! Next day was more touring around, including a dunk in a freshwater pool maintained by the Bedouin community in Wadi Rum. We spent some time on camels...

Camel racers, beware! Wadi Rum, Jordan Dave sporting with his camel, Wadi Rum, Jordan