After a mild winter, plenty of 9-to-5 bollocks and the longing for a new adventure, which I planned when I was in marvellous SA, I boarded a plane to the so-called cradle of Western civilisation from which I was to take another flight to the Holy Land. In Athens I met up with an old mate from London who showed me his groovy neighbourhood of Exarchia and brought me to the top of the hill from which I could see the Acropolis, which made my five-year-old traveller’s heart very excited. Boarding a plane around midnight flying over the Eastern Mediterranean and what I assume must have been Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Ramallah, we landed in Amman, Jordan in the early hours of Friday ,which is the day off in the Arab world. As it was ‘their’ day off, it was also my day off, so I did very little on that day. The next day it was a sight- seeing day when I and two other travellers staying at the same hotel went to see the ancient monuments of Umm Quais, Ajloun Castle and Jerash. Jerash is also called the Pompei of the East and as the site is of considerable size and in a great state it is very impressive indeed.
I’ve been to the mountaintop
The next day I visited with three different travellers Mount Nebo, which Moses, according to the biblical book Deuteronomy chapter 32, had climbed to be shown the Promised Land shortly before he died. He is supposed to have been buried in the vicinity, but no one know where exactly. The question is if he existed in the first place, but that is a contemplation for another post. Before our visit to Mount Nebo we spent a view hours at the Dead Sea, which was just fabulous. I had driven passed he Dead Sea when I was in the Holy Land about 6 years ago, but didn’t have a dip into it. On the Jordanian side there are not many, if any public beaches at the Dead Sea. So one goes to a resort for which one pays and entrance fee varying from 15 Jordanian Dinars, which is pretty much the same as 15 pounds sterling, up to 50 JD for the fancier resorts. Besides the beach there is a restaurant, two swimming pools, changing facilities and stuff for rent and sale like towels and beachwear. This particular beach we were at in it self is not that special and contained a few chairs and parasols. While you wade into the water there doesn’t seem to be anything special to water until you wade in a bit deeper and your legs are pushed upwards as by magic- i.e. a lot of salt- which is such a weird sensation that it made me giggle to the amusement of some ladies in the vicinity. I gave myself a proper mud bath with Dead Sea mud and floated around for a couple of hours. It’s the most relaxing sensation and one’s skin feels baby soft afterwards.
After a few days I can hardly call myself an expert on the country, but up till now the experience has been great. Amman is just noisy and although there is plenty to see, it is no comparison to Umm-ad-dunya, The Invincible, my beloved Cairo. I have only travelled a fairly small region, yet the area in the North bordering Lake Tiberius and the Golan Heights, the Jordan Valley and the Northern stretch of the Dead Sea, have been very varied and strewn with magnificent sites. Jordanians in general seem gentler, less pushy than Egyptians and the country seems slightly more developed.
When I told people my next adventure was to take me to Jordan I got a few raised eyebrows from some square-heads who tend to believe what they read in the papers. Jordan is full of Arabs and muslims so therefore it must be very dangerous. It is true that the wider region is in great turmoil and Jordan, luckily and surprisingly, is an oasis of calm. When I asked a couple of locals why Jordan seems to be able to avoid all the trouble one said half-jokingly, but with a most serious undertone that Jordan is the 51st state of the US and calm most remain. The US has tens of thousands of military personal based in the country of which at least 10.000 apparently are based at the US embassy. A very large proportion of Jordanians are from Palestinian decent and about half a million Palestinians are still housed in refugee camps, where many have been for decades. The Jordanian flag is very similar to the Palestinian flag and often you see the two flags waving side by side on buildings and on cars. Many Jordanians fled what was called Palestine in 1948, during what muslim and christian Arabs call the Nakba or the catastrophe and in 1967 during another Arab- Israeli war. One of our guides told us that he fled his birth place of Bethlehem in 1967 as a 19 year-old young man never to return, as the Israeli state doesn’t allow him and many others with him to return to his homeland. The extra bitter taste is that on a clear day you can see Jericho, Jerusalem and Bethlehem on the other side of the Dead Sea. The homeland is so close yet so far. Despite a lot of misinformation my experience with Palestinians is that there are very kind and dignified people and also with the Jordanians of Palestinian decent I sense little to no feelings of resentment or hatred, which is most remarkable.
More Jordan Magic
What is up next is the country’s most famous site the Pink City of Petra and the desert area Wadi Rum, after which I plan to do some (more) hiking in Dana Biosphere and hunt some more crusader castles. This country is magic. It can be difficult not to be influenced by what the square-heads are saying, but it pays to ignore them. This country is magnificent and I think the best is yet to come.