Thursday March 22
Well it was great to spent time in Business Class Sydney to Doha in Qatar on a flat bed. And before that in the Qantas lounge having a glass of wine and some food. Got a fair bit of sleep. Transfer at Doha was a fiddle - through security even taking off my watch, then going to transfer desk then through security again. A short wait to the connecting Royal Jordanian flight to Amman, the capital of Jordan which is only just over an hour. Even so it will be good to get to my hotel. Today is the joining day for the Discover Jordan trip with Intrepid. 8 days with an extra day in Amman at the end. Only 12 of us on the tour, 4 Australians, 4 Irish, 2 US and 2 British. Majority about my age and 2 30-40 year olds.
Jordan is an Arab Muslim country, located in the north of the Arabian Peninsula and in West Asia. Bordered by Syria to the north, Iraq to the east, Saudi Arabia to the south and south-east, and Palestine (the West Bank) to the west. Jordan is named after the Jordan River, which passes on its western border, and Amman is the capital. Given its boundaries it’s not surprising that it is home to about 2.2 million Palestinians, 660000 Syrians and 66000 Iraqis. There is no longer any compulsory military service since peace with Israel.
Amman is about 4.5 million of the 9.5million Jordanians. 99.9% of them smoke hence the short average life span of about 65 years. 99.9% Sunni Moslems. They have no oil and the main industry is tourism. Main exports are potash, phosphates, fertilizers,textiles, olive oil, vegetables and pharmaceuticals. They also get a lot of help from the UN. Average monthly wage is around 500 dinars or $A900. Women are supposedly equal to men. Men can have more than 1 wife but the first wife must agree to subsequent ones. 65% end in divorce. Houses are mostly white granite which comes from Israel. As in many countries in this part of the world they are not quite complete so then they don’t pay whatever taxes are due when the building is finished.
The total area of the Kingdom up to 92.300 square kilometers, land 91.971 sq km, and water 329 sq km. And total length of 1,635 km border divided as follows 744 km shared with Saudi Arabia, 375 with Syria, 238 kilometers with the 1948 Green Line, 181 km with Iraq, and the least 97 with the West Bank. The border water amounts to 26 km. Jordan has a port on the Red Sea through the city of Aqaba, located in the far north of the Gulf of Aqaba. The lowest point is the surface of the Dead Sea and of -408 m below sea level. The highest point stands at 1854 m on the summit of Mount Umm Al-Dami . .
Health care is free.
Trumps locating US embassy to Jerusalem will cause problems for other countries according to our tour leade( who by the way is originally from Palestine.)
Friday March 23
Drove south for around 5 hours on the Desert Highway to Aqaba on the Red Sea. Captains Hotel. Walked to the port and went on a boat to go snorkeling. It was very close to the road and although we saw some lovely fish and coral there was lots of rubbish in the water.
Saturday March 24
Today a late start followed by a visit to the outside of the Ottoman Mameluke Fort dating from the 14th century. This is where Lawrence of Arabia rode to Cairo. There was a market there with proceeds going to charity. We tasted very good Zatar bread and bought some to take for lunch. Also went to the fruit market. Then on to Wadi Rum,( Wadi means valley and Rum means sand ) a Bedouin community, with rugged sandstone mountains. Then a 4 wheel drive through the amazing landscape which have been eroded by wind and rain into incredible shapes. It was part of a trade route which passed through Arabia. We stayed in a very new Bedouin camp - could hardly call it camping. Had a “tent” which was really a large hut with very comfortable beds, cloth lined walls and ceiling. Very passable shared ablution block. Sat around an open fire drinking tea with car Damon and listening to stories. A large dining area and we were given a delicious meal with chicken and vegetables cooked in the ground and a fabulous lot of salads.
Sunday March 25
Said farewell to our Bedouin hosts and after a camel ride for about 45 minutes drove to Wadi Musa, the town by Petra, the highlight of our trip to Jordan. After checking in to our hotel ( Amra Palace) we explored Siq Al-Baird which is also referred to as 'Little Petra' due to similarities with the main site. A ten-minute drive north of Petra it is thought to have been an important suburb of Petra and is entered through a narrow opening, similar to Siq but of a much smaller scale. The site includes tombs, temples, water channels and cisterns carved out of the rock as well as the remains of frescoes on plaster.
This is one of the most important features of Beida and is where many religious activities were held, including the Feast of Drink, when the king of the Nabataeans hosted celebrations and provided drinks for his guests. There is also a cave with the remains of a fresco painted by the Nabataeans that represented grape vines, which confirmed the view that Beida was the area of wine production. In the Siq Al Barid the Nabataean irrigation system, which distributed water through long channels, reservoirs carved into the rock, and dams, is evidence of the greatness of this system.
Monday March 26
The city of Petra, capital of the Nabataean Arabs, is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world, it is Located 240 km south of the capital Amman and 120 km north of the red sea town of Aqaba.
It is not known precisely when Petra was built, but the city began to prosper as the capital of the Nabataean Empire from the 1st century BC, which grew rich through trade in frankincense, myrrh, and spices.
Petra was later annexed to the Roman Empire and continued to thrive until a large earthquake in 363 AD destroyed much of the city in the 4th century AD.
The earthquake combined with changes in trade routes, eventually led to the downfall of the city which was ultimately abandoned.
By the middle of the 7th century Petra appears to have been largely deserted and it was then lost to all except local Bedouin from the area.
In 1812 a Swiss explorer named Johannes Burckhardt set out to ‘rediscover’ Petra; he dressed up as an Arab and convinced his Bedouin guide to take him to the lost city,
Petra is also known as the rose-red city, a name it gets from the wonderful colour of the rock from which many of the city’s structures were carved.
The Nabataeans buried their dead in intricate tombs that were cut out of the mountain sides and the city also had temples, a theater, and following the Roman annexation and later the Byzantine influence, a colonnaded street and churches.
In addition to the magnificent remains of the Nabataean city, human settlement and land use for over 10,000 years can be traced in Petra, where great natural, cultural, archaeological and geological features merge.
It was a magnificent site, a tough day starting at 6am and finishing around 5pm on a very hot day with lots of walking and climbing. Unfortunately I didn’t feel up to the long climb up many steps to the Monastry.
Tuesday March 27
Back to Amman via Dana Nature Reserve, and Madaba where there is a 6th century Greek Orthodox Church with wonderful mosaics depicting Holy sites.
Wednesday March 28
Today north to Jerash a city of 6500 years human occupation, the highlight of which is the best preserved Roman provincial towns in the world . Then to the Dead Sea for lunch followed by a “float” and then being covered by black mud later washed off in the sea. The sea is heavy with salt and minerals which allow you to float but is quickly drying up. It is now about 440 m below sea level.