Jordan

Jordan

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  • Day11

    What an eventful day! It started at 3am this morning when we were roused from our sleep by a wake-up call so that we could be on the bus at 5am for our journey to the airport. Our flight to Amman, Jordan departed at 9.15am so we had plenty of time to get through the four security check points & two pat downs before we boarded the plane (with plain clothes security guards) for the 1.5 hour flight - in hindsight, this should have been our first red flag on how strict Jordan is on those visiting the country...
    We arrived safely at just after 9.30am local time & proceeded through customs (& more security check points) to the baggage carousel. Now the fun begins....Pauly's bag, along with a number of other tour members' luggage did not arrive on the carousel. After discussions with Jordanian Security Forces, the bags were located but further inspection & questioning was required...Almost 3 hours later, & after segregation & questioning (via translator), Pauly was freed to us with his secured contraband item, for which a refundable fee of $54JD ($115AUD) was required. We have been told that the fee will be refunded to us at the Israeli border on Thursday, upon which our binoculars shall also be freed from their secure, plastic prison 😂...Second lesson learnt on this trip - don't carry binoculars into Jordan; ever!
    After all of the excitement at the airport, we were then on our way to the hotel (beautiful, by the way) before heading out to the ancient Citadel (built around the time of Alexander the Great) for a lecture, given by Kelvin Crombie, on the wartime history of the city & its Aussie/Kiwi connection. This stop also provided incredible picture opportunities of the beautiful city of Amman.
    By the time we finished & navigated our way back through traffic to the hotel (imagine traffic being slightly less crazy than Cairo, but a whole lot more scary! - I am not sure that driving tests are compulsory in Jordan before being issued a licence...), we were well & truly worn out & enjoyed an early night with dinner in bed.
    Tomorrow we meet the Australian Ambassador to Jordan & Jordanian dignitaries for a wreath laying ceremony at Es Salt before boarding a restored WWI steam train at Amman Station for a journey to Zizah Station where a very important event occured in relation to the Middle East campaign in WWI...
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  • Day12

    After a wonderful 8 hour sleep at our hotel in Amman, we awoke refreshed & ready for another big day. We had a special tour organised for us in the morning on a steam train from Amman Station to Zizah Station, the latter of which was significant for our Light Horse troops in WWI as it was here where our troops helped protect the Turks in the region against the Bedouin tribes who would have slaughtered them if they surrendered to the Aussies. The incident was known as the Zizah Farce. This was a fantastic journey that intrigued the local Jordanians as much as it did us; apparantly it is not very often that the steam train ventures out, so we were greeted with lots of curiosity, smiles & waves. We saw many things of interest, including the old city's viaduct (from Roman times) & Bedouin tents in the arid countryside.
    After lunch we took a special journey to Es Salt's Turkish Memorial where we held a special wreath laying ceremony in honour of the fallen Turkish troops who battled here in 1918. It included a visit to a cave that was discovered in 1953 that held the bodies of 300 Turkish soldiers. We were privileged to have Colonel Christopher Buxton from the Australian Defence Attache in attendance as well as the Turkish Ambassador to Jordan, the latter of whom was deeply moved, as this was the first time any Australian group has honoroured the fallen Turkish soldiers here. It was a very special moment that we were able to share in.
    As an added bonus today, we witnessed a police motorcade escorting Australia's Govenor General who had just arrived in Amman for trade talks. Our group leaders, & the Consulate staff had tried in vain to have him join us, but unfortunately his time was limited. Apparantly, he was most upset at the missed opportunity.
    We are off to Israel tomorrow where we should be at the border crossing by 9.30am; then the fun will begin again for Pauly & those dastardly binoculars....
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  • Day20

    A full day walk around the ancient city of Petra, carved into rock around 300BC. We met our guide, Hamsa, at 8.30am, returning to the hotel at 3pm.

    Tickets to Petra vary whether you spend a night in the area (50JD = $100ea), or just visit on a day trip (popular with the cruise ships that dock in Aquaba on the Red Sea, 90JD = $180).

    We took the road less travelled today, leaving the main path not far from the entrance and climbing to the cliff top opposite The Treasury, the most iconic and best preserved building in Petra.

    From there we crossed the valley to the Obelisk and High Place of Sacrifice (finding a cache at both locations ☺), then descended into the valley to see The Treasury and Siq at ground level, before the long, hot walk out.

    We had a welcome swim in the hotel pool, had booked in for a Turkish Bath and massage, but no one was at the centre when we arrived, so grabbed a pizza and headed back for an early night.
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  • Day18

    Our first view of Jordan couldn't have been in greater contrast to Rwanda - not a hill or blade of grass in sight!

    We were met before immigration by a rep from the Jordanian agent we booked through, and were expedited through the "Jordanian" queue with a free visa - getting it in Australia was going to cost us $400 each, or buying it on arrival was $80 each, but as we used a registered Jordanian agent, he arranged it for free.

    He handed us over to Abed, our driver for the next 5 days and we headed towards Madaba, 30 minutes from the airport. On the way out of the airport we were stopped by a police patrol. "If he asks, this is a free hotel shuttle service" Abed briefed us as we stopped. Turns out one of the senior politicians owns the taxi company, and he doesn't like anyone else getting paid to pick up people from the airport, so the police do his dirty work. Ah, that's so Congo...!!

    We stopped for a Turkish coffee from a roadside stall on the way, then straight to Madaba on a very quiet road. The roadside was dusty and barren, with piles of rubbish everywhere. Madaba is south of the capital Amman and is best known for the 6th century Mosaic Map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land. Made of two million pieces of coloured local stone, it is believed to be the earlist map of the villages and towns as far as the Nile Delta.

    After checking into our hotel, we went for a walk to the town centre and located the Church of St George. We'd just finished taking photos of the mosaic when a lady appeared and asked for our ticket, which we were apparently meant to buy from the gift shop before entering. Clearly no need for that now ☺.

    We then visited the Archaeological Park and Museum, which has the remains of several 6th century Byzantine churches and homes, even more impressive than the church. The guide also took us to a mosaic workshop where they are keeping the art alive, before we grabbed a drink and some pizza for tea on the way back to our hotel for a swim.

    Early night, ready for our bike ride tomorrow.

    Stayed: Mariam Hotel, Madaba
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  • Day11

    We crept out of Gil and Mira's at 7.15 and caught a cab to the Jerusalem Gateway Hotel, the pickup point for our next big adventure - the trip to Jordan. The bus arrived bang on time, and after we'd collected passengers from several other hotels the bus headed off towards the Jordan River Border Crossing. What happened next was nothing if not amusing. Our first stop was an Israeli checkpoint which, we later discovered, was a good 5km before the border. We can't remember the exact sequence, but know that we had to go through at least four other checkpoints, most of which involved us in getting off the bus we were on, claiming our baggage and transferring to a different bus. All told, we reckon we were on and off four different buses, though one of our fellow passengers was certain it was at least five.

    On one of these occasions the driver demanded payment of five Jordanian dinars from each of us, gave us official-looking receipts and drove us, literally, no more than 200 metres. We lost count of the numbeer of times we had to show our passports, but it must have been at least ten. The best bit was when we had to line up at a cashier's booth (sadly, I think it was on the Israeli side of the border), where there was a real free-for-all of a queue with much shouting, mainly on the part of our driver of the moment, who very clearly was looking after our interests.

    Before leaving home, we'd been told that we needed to pay around $US50 per head in folding money as we exited
    Israel. With the driver yelling at the cashier, it seemed that each passenger ahead of us in the line was being charged a different amount. When our turn came, we handed over the two $US50 notes, whereupon the driver started arguing with the girl in Hebrew, while turning in our direction from time to time and winking. She reluctantly handed us back $US15, after which he continued to argue until she gave us a further bundle of dinar notes. With all the carry-on one would think that Israel and Jordan were sworn enemies rather than supposedly close allies. While the place looked to be formal and official there's no doubt that the negotiations were more like what one finds in a Middle-Eastern market.

    Eventually, we got through all the official stuff, and finished up on a 15 seat mini-bus with eight of us on board, the other six all being very friendly Americans. Our Jordanian guide, Sam, who has been doing the job for 26 years, proved to be very knowledgeable and friendly. Once he'd introduced himself we were off, along some steep, windy and scenic roads in the direction of the ancient city of Jerash. It's a massive site, with a continuous history dating from the bronze age through to today. It is best known for its spectacular Roman ruins and is widely acknowledged as one of the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world. To quote from the guide map, "...it comprises paved and colonnaded streets,, soaring hill-top temples, handsome theatres, spacious public squares nd plazas, baths, fountains and city walls pierced by towers and gates.

    Very impressive, but boy, was it hot! There wasn't a lot of shade, though Sam did his best to allow us to rest in the shade whenever we stopped for him to explain something to us. To a varying extent all of us in the tour group overdid it. Heroically, Brian walked almost to the far extremity of the site, and definitely pushed himself hard. We were the oldest members of the group, and both of us were proud of our efforts alongside the others.

    We then headed back for the 90 minute drive to Amman where our mini-bus driver took us on a comprehensive tour of the capital. We were shown some of the major vistas and other tourist attractions, after which we were dropped off at the Liwan Hotel, a clean and spacious 3-star establishment.

    When Brian asked our guide whether Petra is likely to be any less challenging he was non-committal, beyond emphasising that we need to wear strong walking shoes. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
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  • Day12

    When your Jordanian guide, who had been quite nonchalant about the hot conditions on the previous day in Jerash, tells you that they're expecting heatwave conditions at Petra, our destination, then you'd better start worrying. When he adds that the minimum distance one needs to walk in order to see this world-famous tourist attraction is about 8km then you'd better be very concerned.

    We set off from Petra - Sam the guide, an American couple, two groups of two American women, a Pom who was slipping in a day of R&R during a business trip, a young Maori chap from the Bay of Islands, a tourist policeman who is evidently required by law to accompany us, our guide Sam - and us. We drove for about four hours, this time through desert landscape rather than the very hilly terrain of the previous day. Unlike the previous day, we were mentally prepared for the heat and were carrying plenty of drinking water. Our guide warned us that the walk to the ancient city would be a nice easy downhill stroll but that the trip back up would be rather more challenging.

    Leaving the parking area on foot it certainly seemed to be a nice easy downhill stroll, and it got even better when we reached the narrow fissure in the rocks which runs for a distance of a kilometre or more. There was a refreshing breeze in our faces and the path was mostly in the shade. When one actually catches ones first glimpse of the Treasury through the outline of the fissure and then, a couple of minutes later, gets to view that famous facade, it really is something. It's one thing to view it in books or on TV, but being up close to it in real life is something else again.

    A couple of our less hardy fellow travellers decided that they'd turn back at that point and hire a donkey carriage to get them back up the hill. More on that later. The rest of the group, us included, decided to press on. Petra is far more than the Treasury, and most people don't realise how vast it is. In fact it covers over 60 square kilometres and some of the walks can take as long as six to eight hours. We weren't that ambitious, but were certainly keen to see as much as possible. We were feeling reasonably OK, so decided to press on. New scenes open up at every turn, which really adds to the excitement of the place.

    After walking another kilometre or so, Mary was starting to flag, so decided to rest in a shady spot while Brian pressed on. The ultimate challenge is to visit the Monastery, which is towards the furthest point of the site and at the top of 800 steps. It was another kilometre or so to the base of the steps, and having reached that point Brian decided, wisely on this occasion, that he would turn back rather than tempt fate by climbing those 800 steep steps in all that heat. So began the return journey, Collecting Mary on the way back, the two of us started the return journey. Apart from ones own two feet, there are several choices of transport covering various sections of the walk. You can ride a camel or donkey, or can climb aboard a carriage pulled by a mule or donkey. In amongst all the souvenir sellers there was certainly no shortage of men trying to sell us the various rides, but we were determined to press on unaided.

    It was certainly hot by this stage, and we were flagging. After struggling at Jerash, Mary was a lot better at Petra, and kept going with determination, rather like the Energizer Bunny. It was hard going for both of us, and we were stopping with increasing frequency to regain our breath. The last 500m or so was especially tough, uphill and in full sun, but we made it!! Towards the end, we were dragging one foot after the other, willing ourselves to get to the top and wondering whether we'd been altogether too stubborn in refusing those dozens of offers of rides to the top.

    No matter which form of animal transport you choose, they're very cunning with the way they price these rides. You can pay upfront for a return trip, which most people choose not to do, since it's easy to amble down the hill and pause to admire the features and ever-changing view as you go. However, once you're at the bottom and want to head back to base, you find that a one-way journey up the hill costs exactly the same as the return trip which you'd decided against previously.

    Fortunately, the bus ride to our hotel was fairly short, only ten minutes or so, and unlike the previous night's hotel, the shower actually worked. Once we'd recovered, we decided to go for a bit of a wander around the neighbourhood, but the area wasn't terribly pedestrian-friendly (not that we were up for too much more walking anyway). We then had some dinner before retiring, dog-tired but very happy.
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  • Day22

    Buffet breakfast at the hotel, followed by 8.30am pick-up for our trip north. We started at the village of Rasun where we met our guide for a walk through Ajloun Forest Reserve. In this park they revere their olive trees, and even have a museum in town to celebrate their 1000+ year old trees. The park also contains Roman era caves and pits used for grape pressing.

    We went to a local house for lunch, another feast of local dishes, including purslane (cooked like spinach).

    After lunch we visited Ajloun Castle, a 12th Century Muslim castle on top of the tallest hill in the region. It is a moated castle with 7 towers to allow the inhabitants to see invading forces.

    After leaving Ajloun we headed to Jerash, a city occupied since 2000BC, now most famous for it's Roman era ruins.

    We arrived back in Amman around 4.30pm, stopping on the way for a date syrup drink from a roadside vendor (3 cups for 1JD = $2).

    Around 7pm we went in search of dinner. We walked back towards the city centre to find the streets abuzz, with many shops still open and the street sellers starting to set up their stalls. We had a local burger each, chips and a drink (3JD = $6 in total). On the way back to the hotel we visited the bakery for dessert, and the supermarket for some drinks for tomorrow.

    Stayed: Toledo Hotel, Amman
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  • Day19

    After breakfast in the hotel restaurant, Abed picked us up at 8am and headed to Mt Nebo, only a few minutes from Madaba.

    Mt Nebo is, according to the Old Testament, where Moses saw the Promised Land before he died. On a clear day you can see Jericho and Jerusalem (that wasn't today), but we did see some more mosaics by early pilgrims which have been excavated and preserved.

    We met our cycling guide, Anas, in the nearby town at 9am and began our journey toward the Dead Sea. He was a member of the Jordanian Road Cycling team for 9 years so we were in good hands. The ride was 55km, and wasn't as easy as we'd been expecting, with many hilly sections and a bit of off-roading between the farms. Fortunately, we had a support vehicle follow us the whole way, so Oliver took advantage of getting a lift for a few kilometres of the steepest section.

    We arrived at Mukawir and went to a local family house for lunch. We had the traditional welcome coffee, followed by sweet black tea with fresh mint, then a delicious meal of chicken with rice and vegetables. Everthing we ate, except the rice, was grown by the family. This was regarded as a small family, with only 6 children - our host's brother has 24 children to 2 wives (Jordanian men can take up to 4 wives simultaneously, who each live in a separate house).

    After lunch we drove to the Dead Sea coast via the Mujib Nature Reserve, a green area on the map, but no green to be seen in real life. It was like a lunar landscape, barely a tree or bush in sight, but with spectacular mountain views and a steep, windy descent to the Dead Sea, 400m below sea level.

    All the "public" beaches are behind the hotels, so you have to pay to access them. Being so hot (it hit 43° later in the day), the hotel was fairly empty, save a few hardy souls swimming in the luke warm hotel pool. The beach was even more deserted, so we had our 10 minute float in the saline, oily waters, then caked a bit of (supposedly) therapeutic mud, before rinsing off in the warm outdoor shower and headed back to the air conditioned car quite hot and unrefreshed!

    We had a 3 hour drive to Petra for the night, but we extended that by an hour to take the scenic route via the Dana Biosphere.

    We arrived at Petra at 8pm, a quick shower to freshen up, and headed out for something to eat. It's a proper tourist town (the main street isn't called Tourism Street for nothing!), so everything is quite expensive, but we managed a shawarma (like yiros, but thinner bread and no salad), and a juice each for $40!
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  • Day21

    We left Petra at 10.30am for the drive to Amman on the Desert Highway. The name is quite descriptive, a couple of small towns where the speed humps force you to slow down to about 60kph, but apart from that, nothing but sand and trucks (and the occasional flock of sheep and goats being herded across the road).

    First stop in Amman was the Blue Mosque - it probably has a proper name, but it's massive blue dome is a focal point in the city. We both had to robe up for the the visit, which was self guided.

    We then made the short drive to the Citadel, an ancient site on top of the largest hill, affording 360° views of the city. Entrance fee was 3JD each ($6) and 25JD ($50) for the optional guided tour - our driver had already advised against taking the (very persistent) offer of a guide - there is ample signage to make sense of everything without a guide.

    Abed then dropped us downtown for a 2km walk back to the hotel via the city centre. Given the traffic it was probably quicker to walk, and it was a great way to experience the buzz and noise of the city on a "Friday" night (the weekend here is Fri and Sat).

    After a fresh juice and some shopping in the main street we stopped at Jerusalem Restaurant for tea, grabbed a quick cache on the way home, then had a pleasant walk back to the hotel, arriving at dusk.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, Jordanien, Jordan, Jordanië, Gyɔdan, ጆርዳን, Chordania, Hascemisc Cynerīce þæs Iordanes, الأردن, ܘܪܕܢ, Ürdün, Іарданія, Йордания, Zɔrdani, জর্ডান, ཇོར་ཌན།, Jordania, Jordània, Jordánsko, Gwlad Iorddonen, Yordan nutome, Ιορδανία, Jordanio, جردن, Jordani, Jordanie, Jordaanje, An Iordáin, Xordania, જોર્ડન, ירדן, जॉर्डन, Jordaniska, Jordánia, Հորդանան, Yordania, Jórdanía, Giordania, ヨルダン・ハシミテ王国, იორდანია, Njorondani, ហ៊្សកដានី, ಜೋರ್ಡಾನ್, 요르단, ئوردن, Iordania, Yorodani, Zɔdani, ຈໍແດນ, Jordanija, Jodani, Jordānija, Јордан, ജോര്‍ദ്ദാന്‍, Ġordan, ဂျော်ဒန်, Djordan, जोर्डन, ଜୋର୍ଡାନ୍, Иордани, Hordanya, اردن, Jordânia, Yorudaniya, Иордания, Giurdania, Zordanïi, ජෝර්දානය, Urdun, Yordani, ஜொர்டான், జార్డాన్, ประเทศจอร์แดน, Hordan, Soatane, Йорданія, Iordaniya, Gioóc-đa-ni (Jordan), Yordän, יארדאניע, Orílẹ́ède Jọdani, 约旦, i-Jordan

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