Antiques and natural treasures in Jordan

If destiny does not fit you, fit yourself to destiny – Jordanian proverb

Amman, March 2005. A hectic city, capital of Jordan. We, 2 girls, arrive in our hotel in the outskirts of town and receive our rental car. How are we going to drive in this mess? Well, beeping the horn, stepping on the gas and driving like a kamikaze pilot. On a three lane street, 5 cars can easily overtake each other. I close my eyes and just drive. Without a streetplan we manage to get around, even though many signs are in Arabic. We find a sign to Jerash, one of the antique highlights we want to visit and manage to drive… onto private property of an oil company. A man with a machine gun stops us and sends us back. A few drops of sweat later we arrive in an impressive open air museum with many remains of the rich Roman era like a collonaded street, many facades of buildings, a hippodrome and two nice theatres. In one of them some Bedouin men wearing the traditional red and white keffiyeh play folk music.

After Jerash we proceed to the Dead Sea. We pass many military check points and realize we are close to conflict area Israel and the West Bank. The street signs keep giving us some trouble sometimes. We learn to ‘read’ arabic: 1 dot below, 2 dots below, 2 dots above, read from right to left. Well, we get to where we want to be, floating in the Dead Sea with a newspaper in our hands. Typical. At the end of the day, while driving back to Amman we doubt if we can find the hotel without a city plan, especially in the dark. Well, we did.

The next day we see all the signs to the Dead Sea, obviously we took a back road yesterday. Today we drive South. First stop Mount Nebo. This is the place where Moses saw the promised landin the distance. We stand next to the Brazen Serpent Monument to enjoy the same view and visit the baptist church on top of the mountain, just to be surprised by the impressive Byzantine mosaic floor. Next stop is Madaba,  where we visit a church with yet another impressive mosaic, this time it is a map of Jerusalem.
We proceed on the King’s Highway, a route with many man-holes, bumps, detours and strange traffic signs. Along the way we are enjoying the landscape with olive trees and many sheep & goats. We pass Wadi Mujib, a gorge as big as the Grand Canyon. We pass Karak with it’s gigantic castle and reach Wadi Musa, where we stay the night in a hotel without heating. It is freeeeezing cold in Jordan in March.

Next day we go to a real highlight, the World Heritage Site Petra. A city, dating back a few hundred years before Christ and build by the Nabatean rock-cutting society. We enter through the Siq, a narrow natural formed geology feature (gorge) used as entrance. In the distance the famous facade of ‘The Treasury’ appears. We hike up to the ‘High place of sacrifice’ and are presented with a spectacular view over the valley of Petra, with many ancient ruins and tombs. We proceed to the other side of the valley, where we climb the 850 stairs to the monastry ‘Ad-Deir’. Another great ruin. Imagine how people carved out all this nice red rose rock with very simple tools ages ago. We hike back, pass more tombs, a collonaded street and in the end are invited for some tea by Samira. She is a small Bedouin girl with many questions, which we answer with a lot of patience. How lovely. Exhausted we return to the hotel, have diner and return to Petra again. We have booked the night walk. A touristic, but nevertheless very impressive event. The whole 1.2km track in the Siq is lit with candles in small paper bags. Romantic. When we arrive at the ‘Treasury’, a few Bedouin musician plays folk music in the lute and flute. Beautiful, and freezing cold!

Next day we go further South, past a lot of industry and into the desert. Wadi Rum, one of the greatest dry places on earth. We stay in a Bedouin camp, which we had a bit of trouble to find. But when we finally get there, we feel very welcome. We have tea with family (10 kids!) of the owner, dinner with a neighbour and a sunset tea in the desert. How beautiful. Sand, rock and natural bridges. The colours presented during the sunset are mesmerizing. The night is freezing cold (again), especially while we camp in a goat hair tent and sleep under goat hair blankets.

After a restless night we proceed in the direction of Aqaba. Driving through the rocky desert we again enjoy all the spectacular views. Jordan is simply great. Aqaba is a bit different. It is a thriving harbour at the end of the Red Sea. Nothing much to see while diving though. After all the impressions we have received in the past week, we have simply no room for more. We just enjoy some nice Jordan food at ‘Ali Baba and his 40 waiters’…

Only in complete silence you will hear the desert – Bedouin proverb


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