26.03.2010 - 05.04.2010 18 °C
Transport between cities in Jordan is what one might call a little disorganized. One option is to take a service taxi, but they are expensive and in Jordan expensive means expensive (1 Jordanian Dinar = 1 Euro) - it's probably the most expensive country I've been to so far since Japan. The cheaper transport alternative is to catch a mini-bus which entails going to the local mini-bus stand (which is usually little more than a car park) and asking around until someone points you in the right direction. Then you hop on your mini-bus and wait until it's full before it departs.
At least in Wadi Musa it was simple because Nasser, the kind hotel owner, called the the driver of mini-bus service to Amman so I just had to wait at the hotel to be picked up. Once on the mini-bus I sat next to a young Jordanian guy who's English vocabulary was limited to "Hello", yet even without the expectation of a conversation, he shared his snacks with me for the entire trip to Amman; he even bought me a peanut bar at the rest stop. What can I say, Jordanians are truly very nice people.
Amman was never going to be a terribly exciting city to visit, the sights are limited and not nearly as impressive as other cities in the Middle East. I basically went there to use as a base for excursions to Jerash and the Dead Sea. It was also a good place to just hang back without the pressure of having to go sightseeing everyday which I kind of needed at the time after my long excursions in Petra. I didn't really intend to stay too long in Amman, but I found a really comfortable hostel in the middle of Downtown so a couple of days turned into over a week.
After about five months of not watching television, it was nice to discover my room at the hostel had satellite TV. Only a few channels were in English it was nice to veg out and watch random movies and old tv series - even though they were cut to shreds (even kissing scenes fell victim to the sensors). Best of all, I got to watch two live F1 Grands Prix while I was there, albeit with Arabic commentary - I'm still hoping to go to at least one Grand Prix while I'm travelling, hopefully one takes place in a country or near a country where I happen to be at the time.
A fruit market in Amman near my hotel, the view might not look too impressive, but the smells from this place were mouthwatering - I bought some strawberries there which were huge, ripe and juicy - not to mention extremely cheap
Reception at the hostel in Amman - Almost every business in Jordan proudly displays a portrait photograph of King Abdullah II (left) and most also have his father the late King Hussein (right)
On the seventh day, I decided I'd done enough resting and joined a day trip out to the Dead Sea with some other people from the hostel. The group included an Irish guy called Ian, a couple from Chile and a family from Peru. We made a brief stop at Mt Nebo (apparently where Moses saw the so-called "Promised Land", then died) - fortunately I didn't know it was part of the tour until we got there because it was rather disappointing. Just a big hill with a some ruins of a church and a monastery and (surprise surprise) they were in the process of being restored so were covered by scaffolding. It would have been good just for the views of the Dead Sea, the Jordan River Valley and Jericho but it was quite hazy so it was hard to see them let alone take good photos. It was also around Easter when I was there so lots of people were there on pilgrimages, but for someone like me with not much of an interest in biblical sites, it was just another hill.
Then it was the Dead Sea - we went to Amman Beach which is like a public resort where you pay 15 JD which allows you to use their ammenities, like changing rooms, swimming pools and most importantly the showers near the sea front, which you definitely need because the water from the Dead Sea is so salty (33.7% salinity), it not only sticks to you like a layer of slime, it also starts stinging after a while - it was definitely a mistake that I shaved that morning.
The Dead Sea coast from Amman Beach Resort in Jordan - you can see Israel in the background
I know it was cliche, but I had to do it...
Reading my Middle East Lonely Planet in the Dead Sea
It was quite a strange sensation to be floating so high up in the water. I reckon that if you were wearing one of those inflatable pillows around your neck that people use on flights, you could probably fall asleep on the water without drowning. The shores of the Dead Sea are 422 meters below sea level which makes it the lowest elevation on Earth's surface.
We spent the rest of the afternoon taking dips in the pool and lazying around on the deck chairs. The life-guard at the main pool was funny to watch - he had a whistle firmly stuck to his lips and if there was any hint of a kid going near the deep end, he'd chirp away and direct them to the shallow end - he was worse than a traffic cop.
The Dead Sea beach along the Amman Beach resort
The next day was bright and sunny so I went off on my own to Jerash. I opted to go on my own using local buses instead of joining one of the typically overpriced tours hotels usually offer.
Hadrian's Gate in Jerash
Jerash was quite an impressive Roman city, and it happened to be the first one I've ever visited, but after Petra I was a tiny bit underwhelmed. NevertheleIss I did enjoy it a lot because I took it at a very slow pace and it was large enough that I could get away from the large tourist crowds and explore on my own.
The South Theatre in Jerash
The South Theatre with the Oval Plaza and Cardo Maximus in the background, Jerash
The Oval Plaza and Cardo Maximus from the top of the South Theatre in Jerash
The South Decumanos in Jerash
Cardo Decumanos in Jerash
My day trip to Jerash ended up being the end of my Jordanian experience. It was the first country I'd been to in my trip where I stayed less than five weeks but it is a small country and I'd seen and done all that I wanted to do there so it was time to move on.
My final thoughts on Jordan?
Well first and foremost, Petra was out of this world - definitely one of the highlights of my trip so far. For a place with such a high profile in the tourist trail, there were very few hassles. This goes hand in hand with the people of Jordan who are very generous and friendly, hopefully it stays that way and doesn't go the way Egypt has.
Me, Nejmal (the friendly hotel owner in Amman) and Ian the Irish lad who I went to the Dead Sea with
I can't find anything to really complain about. Perhaps the only thing that could have been better would be the public transport. I would have liked to have visited more of the areas around the Dead Sea but public transport there is thin to none-existent. An alternative in Jordan would be to hitch-hike which is supposed to be quite common and relatively safe compared to most countries, but I'm not the hitch-hiking type either way.
Anyway, onwards and upwards.
Until next time!