The trail at Jebel Rum
The final day. We woke
up feeling a bit caught up with sleep, but still suffering from a lack of
motivation. One very full day remained –
my flight departed at 1:40AM and Mark’s at 3:15AM – but we had been thoroughly
overwhelmed by getting to know Jordan
and somewhat anxious to return home to our families.
Over breakfast we decided we should return to Rum and do the
hike we wanted to yesterday before it got too hot. So we checked out after extracting a promise
that we could come back and shower around lunch time. Back in Rum we picked up the trail around
Jebel Rum that begins right behind the Rum Rest House and was supposed to lead
past Nabatean ruins to an oasis teeming with mint.
After proceeding along the trail a bit with nary a sight of
any Nabatean ruins, we came across a local family who had driven down in their
4WD and were enjoying a picnic brunch.
Farther along the Jebel Rum trail
Though they didn’t speak any English, we just expressed ‘Nabatean’ after
exchanging greetings and the husband motioned for us to follow him.
He led us to a boulder which had etched
characters that were similar to those we had seen in Petra
(clearly not Thamudic inscriptions).
He patted one at the top and uttered
Then he worked his way down the
boulder, patting each character and exclaiming “here” over and over.
There was one last “here” as he got to the
bottom, whereupon he patted the ground and said loudly “GOLD!” and grinned ear
It was a very funny moment and
one that will stay with me as a reminder of how friendly everyone was.
We returned to the trail and followed it back to where the
mint oasis was, chasing a lot of lizards and butterflies on our way.
The mint filled the air and was tremendously
refreshing, but already we could sense the temperature rising towards the
unbearable and doubled back.
showering at Bait Ali we returned to the Desert Highway for the three-to-four
hour drive north towards the airport.
Mark was driving and I scoured our guide to find something
to fill the last few hours. We toyed
with the notion of venturing into Amman
for a bit, but grappling with all the traffic of a big city seemed too intense
to wrap up an adventure that had been thoroughly rural so far. It eventually occurred to me that the single
item we hadn’t satisfied from the original itinerary was visiting St. George’s church in
Madaba to see the Mosaic Map. As I tried
to get better coordinates on exactly where the heck the church was, I
discovered that one of the best restaurants in all of Jordan was located a mere
100 meters away.
So back to Madaba
We switched positions as we neared Madaba and I did a u-turn
on the Desert Highway
when so instructed by signs to Madaba.
Then it was one last gas station stop since we only had to return the
rental car half full. I recommend
keeping topped off whenever you have the chance in Jordan
– gas stations were few and far between, always full service (and oddly enough,
all of the attendants we talked with were from Egypt). However, we drove the other way for a little
and never saw another sign to turn off for Madaba, so we decided to bushwhack
This was the first time we had really strayed from main
thoroughfares and as crappy as we thought the roads had been, they were
relative super-highways compared to the back roads.
The mint oasis at Jebel Rum
Narrow, twisty and plagued with goats and
donkeys, this was a real treat.
Particularly perilous was going through a small village where there
would be speed bumps that weren’t marked.
After stopping to ask locals at various points for Madaba, we made
Madaba in good time.
Even better, our
master plan was to just park once downtown and strike out on foot, rather than
go round and round.
A great plan. Our
respect for Madaba grew appreciably because on foot you get to peek into the
many shops and it is considerably less hassle than driving. Pinned down the church with little trouble
and plunked down one dinar apiece to get in. We spent considerable time digesting the
Mosaic map, confirming that it had accurately depicted so many details about
the Middle East fifteen hundred years ago.
View along hike at Jebel Rum
Our eyes had been opened to the attractions of Madaba and
next we went to the Archaeological
Museum two blocks
away. Here was a magnificent collection
of mosaics displayed amidst Roman ruins in the heart of downtown (entry here
was two dinar each, but gets you into two other places if you don’t start as
close to closing time as we did).
When the museum shut down at 6PM we walked over to Haret
Jdoudna, the touted restaurant. The
accolades were well deserved. A tasteful
and elegant setting which blends Ottoman and Roman themes, Mark and I sat down
for our first non-buffet meal since the Dead Sea Panoramic a week ago. We both ordered the filet Sarayana for
entrees, with me supplementing the main choice with red lentil soup, Mark with
hot spinach mezza. Everything was
delectable, including the hot popovers served for bread. If you want to enjoy a first class meal in Jordan at a
price that is more than reasonable, please check out Haret Jdoudna in Madaba!
After dinner it was time to head for the airport. Traffic in Madaba was nuts, which made me
glad we didn’t go to Amman,
but we made the airport without any problems around 9PM. We discovered that our departing flights were
in the same terminal, but they wouldn’t let you in until three hours before
your flight (the ticket counters are inside the terminals and they don’t open
up until then), so we parked at a coffee stand and got the cards out for the
final Spite & Malice tournament.
The luck I had gained from smoking shi-sha persisted and I
won honors for the Queen
Alia Airport. We broke off the card games around 11:30 when
it was two hours before my flight – of course Mark still had to wait another
forty five minutes before he could follow.
Mark actually had a bit more of a wait getting into the terminal,
meeting back up with me only ten minutes before my flight boarded. This was still enough time for me to spend my
last ten dinars on a couple of Heinekens to toast a grand adventure.
So now I am wrapping this journal up in Paris
as I wait for my flight back to the States, and it occurs to me that I will be
arriving in Philadelphia. Philadelphia
was a former name for Amman, one of many things
I learned about the fascinating country of Jordan. The entire education was thanks to coming
across some pictures of Petra
somewhere. Those pictures turned me on to some great discoveries and reinforced
my belief that if we take the time to meet our neighbors, we may come to know
that they are friends.