The lowest possible point on earth.

Jordan Travel Blog

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Our pimpin Corolla.
A person standing on the shore of the Dead Sea could say he had hit a new low. The shore is 400m (1310ft) below sea level -- the lowest dry point on earth! Today we had the unusual experience of swimming in its super salty water. Oh, and we visited Jesus’ baptism site too. Good day!

First off, I was feeling much better today. The day started at the breakfast buffet., where we were able to “secure” enough extra food for a picnic lunch later. That’s right, we are like the senior citizens at Old Country Buffet, loading up the purses with buns and boiled eggs!  

And then we were met in the lobby by a man from Payless Car Rental, who was delivering our rental. We got a super deal on this car, at JD27 per day.
Yeah, it's a camel.
The next lowest price was JD40, and Avis was JD83! Per day!

We loaded our provisions into our chariot, an old dinged up Toyota Corolla (you get what you pay for) and headed out. They unfortunately left us with an empty gas tank (you get what you pay for), and it seemed to take forever to find a gas station. The one we found was four pumps and a shack -- that’ll do. It cost JD27 (about $38) to fill the tank --  seemed pretty cheap, but I didn’t notice how big the tank was.  

Then we drove and drove on the winding road around Amman, trying to find something to point us in the right direction. The signs were in Arabic, with bits of English thrown on every fifth sign just to tease us. After what seemed like an hour, Steve said, “Look there’s our hotel!” And sure enough, there was the Intercontinental, gleaming in the distance.
Almost there!
We were about a mile away.

Somehow we finally got straightened out, and found the Southwesternly highway that led us to our first stop, just north of the Dead Sea -- Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan. This place is claimed to be the site of Jesus’ baptism (it is no longer on the shore of the Jordan river though, because the river has narrowed since then). They have found the foundations of five churches build on the site, the oldest being from 5th century. They certainly have gone to great lengths to research the claim and gain authentication. Even the Pope agrees with the claim. (Archeologists have done lots of work here. If you are interested in reading more, go to: www.baptismsite.com).

To visit this site, which is in a sensitive border location (we could see the Isreali flags flying just over the river!), we had to be on a guided tour.
Jordan River, looking very Irish.
Also on our tour was a French guy, who didn't look Arabic at all, wearing a headdress. About eight Arab guys descended on him to fix it -- he had it all messed up. They demonstrated the many ways to wear the headdress (over the face is ‘Angry Arab!’ Flipped over the head is “Happy Arab!”) It was very funny, and after all that education, I noticed it was askew later in the afternoon...'Insouciant Frenchman.'

We took a shuttle bus a ways, and then had to walk to the river. It was so hot! Steve’s watch read 106ºF (41.1º C)! And I have never seen such a parched landscaped. Everything looked thirsty. And dusty.

We viewed the river, just for the sake of viewing the river. There was a soldier there to make sure we didn’t stray too far from the group.
Just over the there... the West Bank.
But he was wearing a big smile along with the machine gun, and was pretty non-threatening. We were on the East Bank of the Jordan river, and could see the famed West Bank -- the site of so many disputes -- just over on the other side, where the Israeli flag flew high. Jordan lost the West Bank -- along with the Gaza Strip, Eastern Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights -- to Israel in 1967 during the 6-day war.  The fact that we were standing there was quite a big step… this area was demilitarized in 1999, and the archeologists were allowed to come in. A new church was built, and these all seems like steps in the right direction.

Then we visited the baptism site itself, where they had dug down to the water table, and a bit of green stagnant water met some marble steps and other excavated stones.
The Baptism Site excavation.
This is where Jesus shed his gowns to step into the water, according to the historians. We got a long explanation of how they determined this to be THE spot, which you can read about on that website if you like.

We visited the new church, and stopped at a vendor -- just a lean-to in the desert, selling ice cold drinks! Of course, he had the market cornered and could charge what he wanted. Everyone paid the price…it was SCORCHING HOT out there.  

Then it was time to swim in the Dead Sea. We went to a Spa Resort, Movenpick, where we were able to buy single-day spa passes that allowed us access to their beach and pools for JD35 each (note that Lonely Planet incorrectly lists the price at JD20). This is pretty expensive, but we thought, Hey how many times will we float in the Dead Sea?! Let’s do it in style!

We were greeted in the lobby by a man wearing a very large, ornate metal contraption on his back.
Wheeee!
He bowed forward and in doing so, tipped some liquid from his contraption into a glass. Lemonade! And very sweet and tasty. Good start. Then we found our way to the spa, where we were given lockers, towels, robes, lotion, and sandals -- the works.

Our first stop was the beach. We secured shaded seats and headed right down to the Main Attraction. The sand was scorching and Steve went barefoot! He hates sand, hates beaches, and this only furthered his low opinion. We entered the water and right away noticed something was not right. My limbs wanted to float! And we could easily lay flat on our backs, bobbing like corks. Swimming was out of the question, as it was too hard to keep our limbs UNDER water! It was a lot of fun, and a great experience. (Tip: do NOT get the water on your face, especially the lips! It burns!).
I have no idea what the benefit of this is. It's just fun.
On the shore, they had placed vats of clay from the sea. I am not sure of its benefits, but we gave ourselves a good coating. It’s always fun to play in the mud.

We tried to rinse off (another swimsuit bites the dust), then used the showers they had conveniently placed on the beach for us. After about five minutes on the chairs, during which time Steve complained incessantly about the horrid sand on his feet, we decided to try out the hydropool, and relocated ourselves back in the spa area. The hydropool was an infinity pool facing the sea, which wound around to several alcoves housing water jets, power showers, and things like that. It was great.

After a little time on the chairs there by the pool, we decided we had certainly gotten our JD70 worth of entertainment, and headed out.
Me in the hydrapool at the Movenpick.
We ate some picnic food, then our drive back to the hotel was uneventful, as we found the hotel right away…it was basically a straight shot! Kind of anti-climatic. I had expected to spend hours driving in circles looking for the hotel.  

For dinner, we ate at the Intercontinental again (there’s a real dearth of restaurants in our neighborhood…we will have to venture out to some other areas now that we have a car). I went overboard and ordered a margarita with my soup, which made me feel sick. Guess I still need to take it easy with food, even though I felt great all day.

Everything that happened today furthered our high opinion of this country and its people. Even at the checkpoints (because of the nearby border), we were given a friendly welcome from the guards (“where are you from?” “United States” “Very nice.
Then I dropped my camera in the soup. Luckily it's waterproof (and apparently soup-proof!)
You are welcome here!”). Everyone we met has been so welcoming, so kind. And the land itself is so interesting, so…ancient. I am happy to be in Jordan… and I think you should visit here as well :^)

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Our pimpin Corolla.
Our pimpin Corolla.
Yeah, its a camel.
Yeah, it's a camel.
Almost there!
Almost there!
Jordan River, looking very Irish.
Jordan River, looking very Irish.
Just over the there... the West Ba…
Just over the there... the West B…
The Baptism Site excavation.
The Baptism Site excavation.
Wheeee!
Wheeee!
I have no idea what the benefit of…
I have no idea what the benefit o…
Me in the hydrapool at the Movenpi…
Me in the hydrapool at the Movenp…
Then I dropped my camera in the so…
Then I dropped my camera in the s…
Rental car paperwork.
Rental car paperwork.
On the road to the Dead Sea.
On the road to the Dead Sea.
Road Block on the road to the De…
"Road Block" on the road to the D…
Roadside camels.
Roadside camels.
Waiting for the shuttle bus to the…
Waiting for the shuttle bus to th…
Our ride. No AC.
Our ride. No AC.
On the banks of the Jordan River.
On the banks of the Jordan River.
Guard makes sure we dont swim ove…
Guard makes sure we don't swim ov…
East Bank...
East Bank...
New Greek Orthodox church at Betha…
New Greek Orthodox church at Beth…
Newly built Greek Orthodox church.
Newly built Greek Orthodox church.
Inside the Greek Orthodox Church. …
Inside the Greek Orthodox Church.…
Need water... please...
Need water... please...
Our tour group.
Our tour group.
Altitude check! 880 feet BELOW sea…
Altitude check! 880 feet BELOW se…
Info sign for the Baptism Site.
Info sign for the Baptism Site.
An education from our guide.
An education from our guide.
Excavated marble floor, thought to…
Excavated marble floor, thought t…
Off in the distance...
Off in the distance...
Goat. Just hanging out on the road.
Goat. Just hanging out on the road.
Our tour group.
Our tour group.
Roadside sheep.
Roadside sheep.
Roadside sheep.
Roadside sheep.
Oh, what am I doing here? I hate s…
Oh, what am I doing here? I hate …
Some sort of desert village or ref…
Some sort of desert village or re…
Wanna drag race?
Wanna drag race?
Three baby camels play hide and se…
Three baby camels play hide and s…
Green food ... camel heaven!
Green food ... camel heaven!
Check point on the way to the Dead…
Check point on the way to the Dea…
Its not just salty..its EXTREMEL…
It's not just salty..it's EXTREME…
Whats with all this trash!??
What's with all this trash!??
Our home for the afternoon.
Our home for the afternoon.
My friend, Mr. Lemonade Man!
My friend, Mr. Lemonade Man!
Pool with a view to the Dead Sea. …
Pool with a view to the Dead Sea.…
Some lady in the infinity pool.
Some lady in the infinity pool.
Nice flowers on the resort walkway.
Nice flowers on the resort walkway.
Starting to look more like a local!
Starting to look more like a local!
My floating feet.
My floating feet.
Boo!
Boo!
Steves turn.
Steve's turn.
What a couple.
What a couple.
My favorite Mud Man!
My favorite Mud Man!
Movenpicks Dead Sea beach.
Movenpick's Dead Sea beach.
Hydrapool at the Movenpick.
Hydrapool at the Movenpick.
The infinity pool, an the Dead Sea.
The infinity pool, an the Dead Sea.
Spa pool at the Movenpick.
Spa pool at the Movenpick.
Getting a shower massage. It nearl…
Getting a shower massage. It near…