Day 27: Aqaba - Amman

Amman Travel Blog

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View over Amman from the citadel

We had an extra day to spare. Or actually, we had two days to spare, as we weren't really planning on being back in Amman until Thursday (originally we had even contemplated travelling from Aqaba straight to Damascus on Friday). However, because of the lack of transportation in this country we had travelled much faster south than anticipated.

Personally I would have loved to stay another day in Aqaba and do some more diving, but a diving trip is only half a day, and there isn't a thing to do in Aqaba to spend an afternoon. And diving in the morning and taking the bus back to Amman in the afternoon is not recommended because of the altitude difference.

remains of the Hercules temple

Neighbouring Eilat was off-limits because we had to get back into Syria to fly home. Saudi Arabia is closed to most foreigners. And a day trip to Egypt would be a very costly affair and a two-day trip even more costly and would put too much strain on our travel schedule, as we had to be back in Damascus by Friday night. And besides, a day (or two-day) trip to the Sinai peninsula would probably have given us the same feeling as our trip to Beirut: seeing such a tiny bit of such a big country only leaves you hungry for more. I do admit we seriously contemplated Egypt anyway, and we had looked for trips out of Aqaba. But again, we found that very few people actually plan their trips from Jordan itself, and while it is possible to do a day trip to Mount Sinai and the St Catherine monastery from Eilat, or a trip to Aqaba and Petra from Dahab across the gulf, There is not a single tour operator in town doing an international day or two-day trip to Egypt, and taking the ferry to Dahab and see what we could find from there seemed to big a risk for us considering the timeframe, the cost involved and the hassle with the visas.

remains of the Hercules temple
 

So in the end we opted to go back to Amman and see what we would do from there. Not that Amman is a nice city, but at least there are people there, something which couldn't be said of Aqaba. And if we didn't like Amman we could always go on to Damascus tomorrow and see more of Syria.

I wasn't in particularly high spirits because of all this. Running out of time is bad enough, but running out of places to go while having time left feels even worse, as it makes you question the chosen itinerary. Should we have stayed an extra day in Wadi Rum? Or in Petra? Or should we have gone to Wadi Dana after all? Or -and I don't want to think about this, really- we could have stayed longer in Lebanon...

We took the 'luxury' bus, which dropped us off in Amman three and a half hours later.

Roman ruins in central Amman
I say 'luxury' between quotations, because luxury is a relative notion. Sure, we had airconditioning and television and even a hostess serving us drinks, but on the other hand they put about twice as many seats in these buses than originally intended, so leg room is nowhere near enough for two Dutch guys of nearly 2 metres tall. And then three and a half hours last very very long.

Once in Amman we had plenty of time to visit the citadel and the national museum, which we had missed last time we were in the city.
There isn't much left of the citadel itself. It boasts nice views over the city, but for the rest it is a mishmash of remains of a Roman temple and a Muslim fortress.

The museum was much more interesting, especially because of the one room dedicated to the famous Dead Sea scrolls.

Restored Umayyad vestibule
These documents were discovered in 1948 in an ancient hidden library in a cave on the Western side of the Dead Sea (part of Jordan at the time). The scrolls contain the entire old testament and many other ancient scriptures.
Some of the lesser intact scrolls are on display in exhibition cases. We were surprised about how these ancient treasures are laid out here in these simple glass cases, almost literally up for grabs. We thought back of the Americans we met in Aqaba with whom we talked about the declaration of independence. That document is on display behind bullet proof glass, with guards and lasers and cameras around it. These documents are about 3000 years older (not to mention their importance). Of course, the scrolls on display here are just snippets of relatively little importance. Some sixty-odd scriptures are locked away in a safe in Jerusalem.

At the musuem we also bumped into Will - the guy who we had done the Wadi Rum tour with. In the days we spent in Aqaba he had visited Petra, where he too had come to the conclusion that it is damn hard to visit the country between Petra and Amman as an individual traveller. So he had come to Amman to visit the rest of Jordan as day trips.
Well, that was good for us, as we were one guy short to fill up our car for our trip tomorrow!

Derk and I spent the rest of the day and afternoon in one of the largest malls in the country, which lies just outside of Amman. I was still looking for some more shirts in my size (which is slightly larger than the average Jordanian) and Derk was looking for some sneakers, preferably in a European size as well.
In the end we spent nearly 4 hours looking at every store in the mall, and not buying anything. You'd almost think we were a bunch of women! :-)
But it kept us busy for a while, and it was nice enough to see a mall full of people for a change. 

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View over Amman from the citadel
View over Amman from the citadel
remains of the Hercules temple
remains of the Hercules temple
remains of the Hercules temple
remains of the Hercules temple
Roman ruins in central Amman
Roman ruins in central Amman
Restored Umayyad vestibule
Restored Umayyad vestibule
Amman
photo by: benwielenga