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Amman Travel Blog

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Karnak Castle

When last I chatted I think I was head over heels for Petra.  Well, nothing changed too much ��" haven’t been able to put that book down that I bought.  I started reading it when I was in Petra and it was fantastic to read a really vivid description about a place I was sitting in.

Anyway, there is more to Jordan than just Petra so I will try to move on.  The following day, we visited Karnak Castle which is in Madaba.  Madaba really isn’t a tourist town, people come to visit the castle (build in 800AD) but not much more.  We ended up touring the castle for about an hour or so and then stayed the night here too.

Mud monsters at the Dead Sea
  The people everywhere here are very traditional ��" no woman was left unveiled.  But also incredibly friendly ��" when we walked the streets on our way to a small restaurant for dinner hands came out from everywhere.  Not begging for money or asking for ‘baksheesh’ but just to shake hands or for small kids to touch us ��" I guess we’re a bit of a novelty.  Nearly every person we walked past said “Welcome” or “Welcome to Jordan”.  I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place where I felt so welcome and safe ��" it was nice. I can understand why there are so many Iraqi refugees (estimated to be 1 million, huge considering Jordan’s total population is only 6 million). After lucking out at the best restaurant in town, we went to another.  Once again, big smiles when about 8 of us entered a restaurant.  The meal was fantastic, cost about AU$8 a head (including beer) and the smell of sheesha everywhere (passive smoking for us tonight though).
Mt Nebo - thank goodness someone thought to put a road up to this one - I just dont have another hike in me.

After another magnificent meal, it was back to our Madaba accommodation.  The hotelier here was the darn friendliest I’ve ever encountered ��" Ever!  He knew that we were planning on making good use of the dvd player he had in his small foyer.  We returned to the hotel to find all the couches lined up, glasses out for our drinks (getting through the alcohol that Tom and Kelly had bought up big on) and, would you believe, fresh made popcorn!!!!  Talk about the WOW factor.  I was blown away.  This guy stayed up till about 11pm making bowl after bowl of popcorn for us.  Talk about hospitality.  We were hoping to watch the Indianna Jones flick that had been relived and hummed all around Petra but alas, no copy anywhere (come on Jordan, get your act together, this is like Crocodile Dundee to Australia or Lord of the Rings for New Zealand).

The city of Amman.
  Anyway, we made do with Kingdom of Heaven which was filmed at Karnak Castle.  Pretty cool watching a flick that was filmed around the place that we’d spent the day walking through. 

The next day it was Mt Nebo, which had a very ancient monastery on top of it.  Thank goodness it had a paved road this time and there was no more climbing up and up to get to view this one.  After that it was the Dead Sea for us.  The dead sea is slowly drying up ��" 30% salt so naturally nothing lives there ��" hence the name.  The biggest draw card here is the mud.  The idea is to coat yourself with it, wait 15 minutes (similar to a facial mud mask, I’m told ��" not being big on that stuff) then wash the mud off in the sea.

Roman ruins in Amman
  It will leave your skin feeling fresh and alive.  Well, we jumped in the Dead sea.  Floated around a bit ��" hard not to here.  Tried to swim but the buoyancy thing makes it hard.  Then went to shore in search of this famous mud.  Others from the group had already coated up and resembled some sort of monster from the deep.  We joined them and smeered mud from head to toe.  After that, there had to be the group photo of us as mud monsters, of course.   Then we washed it all off in the sea.  Can’t say I noticed any difference in my skin at all.  I’m not really big into that sort of stuff though ��" but it was kinda fun just to cake myself in mud.

A couple of hours of swimming at this 5 star resort (we stuck out like dirty backpackers at a luxury resort here but we didn’t care).  Off to a cheap factory to stock up on souvenirs and Dead Sea beauty products (which I passed on ��" I have mud in my backyard I can smeer on should the need arise).  Then we arrived in Amman.

Amman has a population of 2 million but because of the way it is laid out on flowing hills and with uniformity with it’s housing and buildings, you’d think that it had a lot more.  It looks like a really crowded city.  The Jordan flag flies high above the buildings and the sound of Ramadan prayer floats out over the city through loudspeakers ��" as it does everywhere we’ve been, but on a larger scale here.  We visited a few museums scattered throughout the city ��" focusing on antiquity sites throughout Jordan, not just Amman and also the Roman’s influence on their history.

After that, it was off to our hotel ��" pretty basic which we’ve come to expect in all the bigger cities.  We had plans of going out for a final night together ��" a nice restaurant in Amman.  But our hotel was good enough to have an English style pub!  They even had Fosters beer ��" never drinkable but it’s always nice to know the thought’s there.  To make the evening complete, there was a pool table.  Happy Shell!  This was a real one ��" no ripped cloth, cues with the tips still on and all balls ��" complete.  The challenges were on.  Sam proved to be quite tough competition and it took me 6 games to beat him ��" what I lacked in skill I made up for with perseverance.  With such a large group of us, about 12-15, Deb and I explained the game of numbers to the group.  You know where everyone picks a number (we compromised here and wrote them on paper, folded them and whacked them in an ashtray).  The aim of the game is to pot everyone else’s ball but keep your ball on the table.  Everyone picked it up quickly and we played for hours.  It was a great final night as a group.  Everyone had different departures the next day so the numbers of the group dwindled as some went off to get a few hours sleep before their 4am departures.  Some were heading home, others off to more exotic locations like Africa or China.  It was sad saying goodbye to our new friends.  Friends that over the course of the past 2 weeks we’d not only come to know really well but also relied on a lot.  Someone could always be counted on to download photos onto a disc, loan you a dinar when you were out or share their duck tape.  These people were like our temporary family.  There were some that it was harder to say goodbye to but these will be the ones that I just know I will see again and keep in touch with.

Off to the airport Deb and I went, along with Alys from Washington D.C. whose flight was about an hour after ours.  Amman airport was easy for us on our own ��" it seemed quite orderly in comparison to what we’d experienced over the past few weeks.  I remember not thinking this when we landed in Cairo ��" funny how your perception changes, hey.  Anyway, a quick 2.5 hour flight into Abu Dhabi and a night at their lovely hotel (no sarcasm here ��" this place even had small shampoo / conditioner bottles ��" pure luxury I haven’t seen in a while).  Then it was time to tackle the long flight back to Sydney. 

Deb and I were chatting and decided that over the past 2 and a bit weeks, we have stayed in 11 hotels, visited too many temples and antiquities to mention and travelled by plane, train, bus, 4WD, felucca, ferry, hot air balloon, taxi, camel, donkey and our trusted feet!

Sad that it’s all over but we’ll have memories, momento’s and photos to last a lifetime.  We saw some amazing places and met some amazing people.  Homesickness has well and truly set in now though and all I am looking forward to now is the hugs and kisses of the kids on Monday.  And, of course, the question of “What did you get us?” which will soon follow.  Can’t wait.

 

 

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Karnak Castle
Karnak Castle
Mud monsters at the Dead Sea
Mud monsters at the Dead Sea
Mt Nebo - thank goodness someone t…
Mt Nebo - thank goodness someone …
The city of Amman.
The city of Amman.
Roman ruins in Amman
Roman ruins in Amman
Amman
photo by: benwielenga