Jordan 10/2012

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On the eve of our flight His Majesty King Abdullah II dissolves his Parliament. The Times explains more about the protests going on today.

But anyway at the airport we are surprised to find a contingent of about fifty persons all wearing 'Help for Heroes' shirts. They are doing a 100k trek ending at Petra. Unfortunately on landing we appear to get behind them in the queue for visas, and by the time we leave the airport it is dark. We travel for an hour, descending all the time at about 5 degrees. The journey would be most spectacular in daylight with a huge panorama of the Dead Sea unfolding. Never mind. Our room goes onto the terrace, two floors up, at the centre of this [MAP] After checking in we check out the bar. Arabic ethno funk music is the perfect backdrop for the gurgling of the hubbllee bubbblee shishas and the dark haired belly dancer. So here we are 391 meters below sea level ( minus 3 floors).

1: Thou shalt not use double negatives.

There is definitely some added pressure, the opposite of altitude sickness. The pool complex is a series of three levels with the water cascading down them in fountains, waterfalls and slides. It looks wonderful at night...

And even better in the day. The final level is the Infinity pool.

Population: 6.5 million (UN, 2010)

Capital: Amman

Area: 89,342 sq km

Major language: Arabic

Major religion: Islam

Monetary unit: 1 Jordan dinar = 1,000 fils

Internet domain: .jo

International dialling code: +962

Lowest Point

The Jordan Valley is completely devoid of natural fresh drinking water. All the water we use is from reservoirs in the North. 115,144,00 litres per year sustains the population. It does make sense to use it carefully, so I only have half my usual splash in my Jack Daniels.

We are staying at almost the most Northerly point of the Sea as you can see.

This is serious brine. Reports of the occasional tourist being assaulted [Thanks Rob.] turned out to be quite true.

2: Thou shalt not sink.

The mud treatment: A little goes a long way and it is invigorating.

After a flying visit to our next door hotel for a Pinacolada and Greek Salad lunch we come back to watch as night rapidly falls and we can see the lights of Jericho and Jerusalem in the distance. There is an early start in the morning for some sight seeing. I wonder what is on TV? No BBC World Service ! But as it is Sunday, it will be just a matter of flicking a few channels before we get to the EPL weekend highlights right? Wrong, not a sausage, except Horse Dancing. Night Night.

Mount Nebo

There is a constant stream of green tankers outside the Hotels. They are delivering water of course. We both LOL having spent so much effort in the last few weeks trying to pump the water away from our Croquet lawns.

Our first visit is to the exact place where John baptised Jesus. While we are interested to see the sites relating to such important stories from the Bible, for some visitors this is a pilgrimage. You may arrange your own baptism just around the corner in a large pool with seats for an audience.

From here is is a short trek to the bank of the river Jordan. The border with Israel is of course the river so we have to cross into no-mans-land. At this spot Moses found water. Today the industries and countries up river have used so much of the water it is only a shallow stream flowing into the Dead Sea. We face off to the Israelis bathing their feet on the other side.

3: Thou shalt not jump across to Israel.

Today we will go from 400 meters below to 850 above sea level. The Jordan Valley is an extension of the Great African Rift ending in Mozambique. There are 400 earthquakes a day, too small to feel. This is a good thing because catastrophic movements of the African and Asian plates are avoided. But not in 747 when much of the beautiful ancient architecture was destroyed. There was also a biggie in 1929. Thousands of mosaics have been discovered in the area.

We visit a school teaching restoration. They have a lot to do. But the ravages of all the wars has taken its toll on these examples which were IYWHO low quality in the first place. Seems as if any old Joe Jordan would have had one. We do however get to see some beauties.

Lying on the Silk Road the area has always controlled trade and consequently has a legacy of invasion and wars. This wonderful road is all that is left of the Roman city at Madaba. The flag stones set diagonally this was a motorway for chariots and wheeled vehicles.

Further onward and upward to the top of Mount Nebo and the spot Moses looked out to see the Promised Land.

A fine site.

A fine sight.

Kerak Castle

Amos 1:5
'I will break down the gate of Damascus;
I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven
and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden.
The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir.' says the Lord.

There has been a lot of this sort of thing going on for quite a while around here and we are going to see Kerak Castle which was involved in most of it. We drive South down the coast of the Dead Sea and join the Silk Road before climbing up to the castle.

Genghis Khan, Alexander TG and some Crusaders all sucessfully captured this fortress on occasions. It is impossible to see how. A huge stack of arched rooms built ontop of each other ove time created a monsterous maze of tunnels and rooms.

We press on to Wadi Mousa, the town which serves to feed the tourists visiting Petra.

4: Thou shalt not photograph the Police.

So we did not. Photograph from Wikimedia Commons


Petra is a very large city. From our hotel to the entrance is only 400m. From the entrance to the Siq is 1200m and from there through the rocks another winding 1000m to the Treasury.

We push on another 1800m to the basin. So far it has all been down hill, following the course of the ancient river which they diverted to make the city. But now we ascend 200m to the Monastery where we have a picnic.

The way down is much easier, but to exit we are faced with almost 4k climbing in sand in the afternoon heat. We flagged down these passing Donkeys which helped us back to the Treasury.

5: Thou shalt not covert thy wife's Donkey.

Later we went for a Bedouin dinner in the desert, where I ate something that woke me up a 3am with stomach cramp.

Place of sacrifice

Sacrifice indeed. I was not well enough to go on this jaunt. I research 54 channels of TV from around the World. It is all mixed up because some is daytime TV and some is evening. Arabic Football commentators scream constantly at the top of their voice while a team keeps possession in their own half. Italian soaps us the same lingering close up to finish a scene. Canadians like to get a wacky presenter to learn how to do something. Unfortunately when he went to the Chinese Rhythmic Gymnastics team to learn the Ball discipline, he turned out to be able to do it very well first time. This annoyed the precocious 13 year olds very much, who tried to give him more and more difficult things to do, but without him failing.

There are various guys doing the Chris Tarrant thing on Millionaire and a version of DOND where the presenter tries to bring the contestant to tears with his 'kindness'. Tummy recovered, but began to feel sick for a different reason.

6: Thou shalt not flicky flicky.

Meanwhile Liz tells me that it was a shorter climb than yesterday done earlier in the day. The top of the hill has been flattened to provide an area for sacrifice.

In the view back the path to get here can be seen. Cocktails and Dinner in the Cave Bar. A restaurant themed on the rooms cut out of the stone in Petra.

Little Petra

We gathered in the lobby to wait for our transport. I took a chair in an alcove and became aware of some guides looking at me. One peered around the corner and then I saw one taking a picture of me. I waved back, so they came to speak with me. They explained that I looked exactly like one of the guides. I put on their ID tags and they took photos. They were on their phones and more turned up to see. Shame he was not there himself. We leave by coach for Aqaba and climb out of the valley first stop Little Petra. This is a much smaller, cooler, flatter and less visited site. Unlike Petra, where the water carved the channels and opened out into a huge basin these channels peter out to a dead end. Except that you may clamber over rocks and climb a bit to get past the blocked end and visit the shop.

We continue along the desert road and eventually descend into the busy port of Aqaba where it is very hot and the second largest flagpole in the world proclaims Jordan from afar.

7: Thou shalt not try this at home

This must be visible on the other side of the gulf in Tel Aviv and Elat in Israel and to the South the Hotels of Taba Bay in Egypt. South on our side is Saudi.

A busy place, where the ideas of history and conservation have come too late to save anything.

We check out the castle, but it is not one of the best examples we have seen. No, this part of the trip will be about the magnificent sea and getting out in the city under our own steam.

The clear warm sea is full of exotic fish and there are a lot of trips out into the gulf for snorkelling. We pass on that having done it in the Red Sea but the aquarium is worth a visit.


The hotel is extreemly busy with Jordainians here for the week end (Fri - Sat). We bail out to the Sister hotel via shuttle. That is nice and quiet and expect everything to calm down on Sunday which it did.

8: Thou shalt not put white on the left

Do not worry, I turned the board around for them and left a stiff complaint at reception.

Aqaba Gulf

We're all going on a yellow Submarine, no more worries for an hour or two, fun and laughter on our yellow sumbmarine for me and you and some Germans.

In Das Boot we sit in twos between two plates of glass about three metrers below the surface. Things could have been better had we been looking at the coral when it was illuminated by the sun rather than in the shade as it was. Surprisingly short of fish too. Quite clear but probably suffering from the nearby port. A better view can be had by floating quietly in shallow water and gently disturbing the sand, the fish come to you and feed.

9: Thou shalt not use any false image.

Well maybe just one from the aquarium. Back on deck for the return to port we saw flying fish. Funny that.

Time for another wander around the town in the heat of the night.

Aqaba Gulf


10a: Thou shalt not have to open your own umbrella.

Returning to the Chessboard, the pieces were set up incorrectly again today with a black square on the right. Referring back to my earlier photo you will observe that time the Queen was put 'on its own colour' which is correct when the board is the right way around. But today the Kings were set on the correct side of the board, putting the Queen not on its colour. So all you need to do is think white squares are black and the orientation of the openings is maintained.

Aqaba Gulf


I saw Dr Iyad Dweik about my gastroenteritis which had not gone away. He gave me a jab which improved matters immediately and a prescription. We called into the pharmacy. Oh dear dear, tummy upset? He put together the 4 boxes of stuff I needed. We got chatting. You must have coffee with me, please sit, sit. We sat down and coffee was produced with Dates. Amazing Dates. An ash tray was produced, did we want to smoke? He did and so it continued while customers came and went. We chatted some more over the coffee in his modern chemist shop. We talked about covering the head and the full Burkah, smoking and rain before continuing:

10b:Thou shalt not forget thy tablets (stone or otherwise).


Chess set update. Board set up incorrectly as yesterday but with Black K & Q switched around. A mixture of the first two days. I trace the source of the problem to a couple of ten year old German boys who have been playing. They have both now been arrested.

Rift Valley

We head back North through the interesting landscape of the Rift Valley. The Evason Ma'In hot springs hotel is located in an isolated valley which we climb and descend steeply into. Amazingly there are waterfalls everywhere and a river flowing away down the valley. The water is forced through the rocks from deep below and consequently is hot. The hotel has built bathing pools in several locations.

The hotel has the massive sides of the valley towering over it. Sunshine must be limited but that is not the feature here. The hotel has a unique ambiance. It is trying to pamper your soul with dark moody lighting and smells of exotic oils and a full menu of massage therapies is offered. All the furniture and fittings have been made from the same hard wood. Mobile phones are discouraged. Dinner was a stunning Indian buffet. We debate how amazing it is to see this water flowing and wonder where it goes. Perhaps we will find out tomorrow.

Azraq Wetland

The trip takes us to a visitors centre where we can see the effects of the climatic water shortages combined with illegal pumping by farmers over the years. The migrant bird population has fallen dramatically as has the water level. Ancient walls and constructions tell of a time where the water was metres deep but now just a small lake with damp patches around where there were once springs.

Further on we see an isolated building located in the vast desert. There is a well 80m deep with a mechanism to draw the water up and fill several bath houses. The desert has preserved the frescos very well and they depict scenes containing nude bathers. But guess what, the well is dry.

We end our day with a visit to another isolated building which we can explore at will. A vast number of interconnected rooms with differing features seem to suggest an ancient hotel.


The city of 1000 columns. That is an underestimation. We see the remains of the Roman era, a huge site in wonderful shape. The design clearly visible and the scale still awe inspiring. In the second half of the first century AD, the city of Jerash achieved great prosperity. In AD 106, the Emperor Trajan constructed roads throughout the province and more trade came to Jerash. The Emperor Hadrian visited Jerash in AD 129-130. The triumphal arch was built to celebrate his visit. A remarkable Latin inscription records a religious dedication set up by members of the imperial mounted bodyguard wintering there.


The city tour started at the Citadel, an area at the top of one of the seven hills that Amman occupies. There were good views in all directions but not much else remaining to be seen. We visited a Turkish Bath, sitting in the reception area with a cool drink. A visit to the shops and a local fast food of Goat Cheese and nuts was OK, but we could have done with being given free time. King Hussain has a large collection of rare motor cars and it is exhibited very well with photographs of the actual times the vehicle was used alongside the car itself. He was also keen on rallying and formula one GP and some of these cars were there too.

Return flight

We returned five minutes early but after spending twenty holding over North East London. At a speed of 450 MPH you will see this is 150 mile of flying over the actual distance. Of course ours was not the only aircraft to be doing this.

Bonus Photos

Looks like Yogi.

Caption Competition: 2nd place: One day my son all this will be yours. Winner: If it is Tuesday it must be Mount Nebo.