At the airport we met our driver, Mohammud, who took us to our hotel in Ammon. He filled us in a bit on the area, and told us he would pick us up at 9:00 AM.
Our room had a nice soft bed, and a walk-in shower. Thank the heavens!
Monday, February 11, 2019
The first place we visited was Madaba, where the famous mosaic 6th-century map of Palestine is in St. George’s church, a Greek Orthodox Church. The town was first established by Christians and boasted a 90% population, but now they only make up about 25% of the population; the rest are Muslim.
Next on the tour was a mosaic workshop, a charity education established by the former queen Noor. This place employs physically challenged people who go to school back in Madaba for five years to learn the craft of mosaic. The schooling is free and the students are provided a stipend. When their pieces are sold they get 50-75% of the sale. While in the sales room we were offered coffee, which I decided to try, but it was just too bitter for me, even after sugar was added. We did purchase some mosaics which would be shipped to us at home.
From the workshop we went to Mount Nebo, the place where Moses gazed at last at the promised land before he died, and it is his alleged burial place.
The monastery at Mount Nebo has walls of beautiful mosaics. We visited this for awhile, witnessed a service, and stood at the overlook of the Jordan Valley, Dead Sea, Jericho and Jerusalem. It was too foggy though; all we could see was the valley.
Afterwards, we drove to the lowest point on land on the earth, the Dead Sea, where we took the chance to float on its waters. It was amazing, you really could only float in it. Alan was so pleased that he stayed out on the water much longer than I did. One of the big things at the Dead Sea was teh mud, which was available in large pots near the water. You are supposed to pay a small fee, then you can use the mud to smear all over your body and face. There are claims that it cures things, or gives you a beautiful glowing complexion. We opted not to pay for the mud. When we were done we rinsed off, changed back into our regular clothes, had a pleasant lunch, then headed back to our hotel for some rest.
Dinner was at Mood, a rooftop Lebanese restaurant.
Tuesday, February 12, 2019
Petra was first established around the 6th century B.C. by the Nabataean Arabs, a nomadic tribe who settled in the area and laid the foundations of a commercial empire that extended into Syria. Among the many aspects of Petra that we found surprising were: the long(ish) hike to the iconic “Treasury” (think: the scene from the Indiana Jones film) – it was about 1.25 miles – there are many other carvings, tombs, and living areas along the Siq (the canyon leading to the larger iconic structures); and that people, including our guide, actually lived there until about 25 years ago.
This was another huge bucket-list item for both of us and coming down (it’s ALL downhill) in the Siq and finally seeing the Treasury (it was really a tomb, never an actual treasury) filled me with so much awe I found myself fighting back tears. Something about being surrounded by the deep history of places like this humbles me and makes me feel connected in a way I cannot describe. Machu Picchu, the Great Wall of China, Puebloan ruins, the pyramids, tombs and temples of Egypt – all of these are burned not just in my memory, but in my heart as well.
Once we had reached Umm ‘Ulayda, a place where we could view the Royal Tombs (Urn, Silk, Corinthian, and Palace), our guide left us to explore and return on our own.
The nearly two miles of gravel, rough paved, and stone road back was all uphill. We stopped a couple of times for a breather and more photos, but finally made it back in time for a late lunch at a local restaurant with THE best falafel I’ve ever had.
The three-hour drive back to our hotel was quiet. Mohammed stopped to fill the car and use the restroom, telling us that the gas station had a deal going on today where they paid him $5 JOD for buying gas there! Wild.
When we got back to Ammon we got terribly stuck in traffic not far from the hotel. After about thirty minutes, we found out why – people were backed up like crazy at one of the gas stations with the pay-back offer to try and get the same deal Mohammed had earlier on the highway. It was insane.
We finally arrived at the hotel and Mohammed told us he would pick us up at 2:15 AM since we had a flight at 5:45 AM. We went up to our room, ordered room service, packed for the last time, showered and went to bed at 9:00.
Wednesday, February 13, 2019
At 1:45 AM the alarm jolted us out of bed. We washed up and went down to settle the bill and wait for Mohammed, who was predictably on time.
At the airport I kissed Mohammed on both cheeks promising to keep in touch and Alan shook his hand and gave him a big tip. We then followed the tour manager into the airport where he helped us get our boarding passes and luggage checked. We said goodbye at security. Our carry-on bags were passed through the scanners and my camera bag was flagged – it had our souvenirs from the alabaster factory inside. Each one had to be unwrapped, checked with the chemical residue sensor, then re-wrapped. They were very nice about the whole thing and we actually laughed at the thorough wrapping (lots of tape) that the sales people had done.
We boarded our flight to Istanbul where we would have a little more than six hour layover before the nine-hour flight to Toronto, and then a brief layover there to catch a flight to Raleigh-Durham Airport and home. However, because of bad winter weather in Toronto our flight was delayed by 3:35 hours making the layover 9:30 hours and causing us to miss our flight with United Airlines for the trip home. I phoned United, spoke with a very nice man and he rescheduled us on a flight for the next morning routing us through D.C. to Raleigh. Shout out to United! However, this change meant a layover in Toronto of 7:30 hours. Then we found out that the flight to D.C. was being delayed by 2 hours. Fortunately the connecting flight to RDU didn’t leave D.C. until 12:45pm. This meant we would arrive at RDU by about 2:00pm. All-in-all we spent almost 48 hours at airports and on airplanes, with a majority of that time in the airport.
I have to say that this is the first time we have experienced these sort of delays. With as much as we travel, and despite the time killed at airports, I count us lucky.
Exchange Rate (as of Feb. 2019)
The current exchange rate in Jordan is $0.70 Jordanian Dinar to one American dollar. This makes Jordan more expensive than Egypt. However, the price of some things is still less than in the States.
The common souvenir to buy is mosaic. While you can find this everywhere, be suspicious of the made-in-China knockoffs at roadside vendors.
Tipping is standard for services like bellhops, tour guides, drivers, food service, etc. It is not needed for bathrooms, or just about anything else. Just think about tipping in the USA and you’ll be fine. Restaurant service us generally only 10% though.
Do not put toilet paper down the toilets, use the bin in the stall. I recommend keeping a small supply of tissues with you, just in case it is unavailable, and hand sanitizer, of course.
Traffic & Driving
Traffic and driving are much like the USA. Insane at busy hours, pretty decent at off hours. It is not at all like Egypt.
Taking pictures of police/military is strictly forbidden, it is this way just about anywhere you travel outside of the United States. Pay attention to signage at landmarks, some forbid photos, or at the very least the use of flash. For heaven’s sake, learn how to turn off your flash!
Jordanian food is similar to most Mediterranean fare. They live their hummus,and I do too. The hummus I had in Jordan was the best! Lamb is a common meat. If you don’t want to eat lamb, be sure to ask about a dish’s meat if you aren’t sure of it.
Recommended Packing: What to Bring
Washcloth. There was not a single hotel that supplied a small face cloth in the restroom. If this is an important part of your bathing ritual, bring a few in some ziploc bags. Use a clean one while the other is drying.
OTC Medications. Tylenol, Advil, aspirin for pain. Imodium for problems of that sort. Dayquil in case the need arises. Seasick pills, ginger gum, etc. for motion sickness. There is no need to bring the box these come in, just be sure the blister pack is labeled and toss those in with your other necessities.
Hat. In warmer months the sun can be intense. A simple ballcap or foldable sunhat is a good idea.
Good walking shoes. You will be on your feet a lot when touring the various sites, especially Petra. Make sure you’re comfortable.
Sweater, jacket or pullover. Winder months can get cold and the nights even colder. Always bring something to throw on if the temperature drops. Layers is a good idea too.