29 June 2012

Dana Again
Top Spring
More Chai
David’s Birthday

We didn’t take the lift to Petra with the french today, as David & Sophia couldn’t get a bus, and we didn’t want to ditch them before the big 19th!  This ment another day hanging out in Dana.  What a shame.  We still haven’t gotten sick of the view.

As we had already walked around town, over the hill, and done the blog, we took it easy for the morning.  Catching up with our reading, and looking online.  This lead toa midday snooze, as it is too hot to go walking.  At about three it was cool enough to go outside without being burnt to a crisp.

Our small walk for the day was to go up to the top spring.  This was about a quarter of the way down from the top of the ridge.  It is an easy walk.  Especially if you take the road.  As you go up the hill the view changes every couple of metres.  And climbing higher you get a good view of the town, perched on a ridge overlooking the Wadi.

No Pool, but you make do

There were a few people at the top of the road, and saying hello we had a quick chat.  Well tried to.  We found out that it was OK for us to continue up.  No problems.  Continuing along the road, there were a few people under a tree above us.  They called out for us to join them, so we scrambled up the rocks.  This is near where the spring is.  We should have taken the steps.  After introductions we were ushered over to where the women were.  This is the spring proper.  There is a big cement slab, and at the bottom of this is a small round hole.  Big enough for a small child.  The water flows from under the slab into the hole.  From there it is piped to a larger area where a group of women were sitting washing wool.  they had already done piles of it and had spread it out over the cement to dry.  Bags of wool were below them waiting to be done.  Here we had more conversation, as some of the women spoke a little english, and we found out it was sheep’s wool, and not goat.  They wash it, separate it and turn it into a rough yarn.

Anna and the ladies looking for Dags

The women gestured for Anna to sit down and join in.  While Andrew was allowed to take some photos.  This is unusual as most women are against photos.  So here is Anna sitting on the wet sides moving her hands around in the water looking for dagsand washing out the dirt.  The young children running around or staring at us,and all the guys laughing.  Then the invite for Chai came, and we had to move into the shade.  This was good, as it was still hot.  We refilled our water bottles from the spring, which was refreshingly cool, and headed over to the tree to talk to the men.  This was good.  There was a 33 y/o and a few older gents,and we had a great time drinking tea and getting taught arabic words.  The bread and vegetables came out, and they would not let us say no.  So we were now munching away and drinking tea.  We did not want to interrupt their day too much, so we made our apologies.  Still we were not allowed to leave.  We had not had three cups of tea yet.  After the third cup we were allowed to leave.  Going back up to the well, we made our goodbyes to the women and headed down the stairs.  At the bottom was a group of young men.  They invited us over for watermelon, but

Leave me alone already!

Anna had seen a donkey and was blind to anything else.  She grabbed the camera and went over to snap some photos while Andrew got introduced to everyone.  This was a lot of fun, and we thought the donkey would look good with sunnies on.  Anna politely declined a ride on the donkey, as it had just brought up a load of wool or something, and needed a break in the shade, and we moved on.

Further down the hill we sat in the middle of nowhere, away from people,to relax and enjoy the view.  Suddenly a boy starts wandering over and invites us to where his family were having Chai and for us to join them.  We go over to the picnic spot.  Here is a large family.  We are sat down on the rug and bombarded with questions like usual.  You can start to answer one question when three more are being asked.  This is a big family, there are the grandparents, and three of their seven children.  Partners and a few grandchildren running around.  They were from the Dead Sea and up here for a friday picnic. Friday is our sunday.  We were given freshly baked bread that was thick, hot and very tasty.  Explaining where we are from, married for 6 years and no children, but in shallah.  (This seems to work, as when we say no kids we are asked why, and is very hard for people to understand we don’t want any)  What football teams we followed, and what we thought of Jordan.  In reverse it turns out that two of the brothers are

What did I do officer?

Police officers and the women are well educated (they are the ones that spoke english, and we all turned to two of them to translate).  It was very pleasant, then the salad, potatoes and chicken came out.  Followed by More Chi.  Andrew also got an arabic lesson.  The colours.  Unfortunately they all sound very similar, and when he kept getting them wrong, a big stick got produced to rap him over the knuckles if he got them wrong.  which he did.  It was very theatrical, and everyone burst out laughing after the rap.  His hair also attracted a lot of attention.  Like usual as well, but this time more open.  The grandmother really disapproved, but all the rest of the family seemed to like it.  After lots of Chai, and learning the ingredients in Arabic: teabags, sugar, mint and sage.  we were allowed to politely leave and let them pack up to go home.

Back at the Dana hotel.  More tea to celebrate the sunset, and David & Sophia are in  helping cook Manshef.  A traditional bedouin meal for dinner tonight.

The Dana Hotel Co-Operative:  Khalid Khawaldeh is a founding member.

This hotel was set up as a co-operative.  It was created in response to the Dana Nature Reserve.  Apparently there is supposed to be money put aside for social programs to help the people who had to relocate after the park was created.  Education, infrastructure, health etc.  There was an issue that this was being reported to the UN as being done, and the UN sent out translators to see the progress and ask the people what they thought.  As all the people affected did not speak english the translator apparently only said what the observers wanted to hear, and nothing was being done for the people.  The co-op was created to raise money from tourism to provide these.  At the moment they have bought a minibus to act as a taxi to the closest town a few kilometres away.  They are also sponsoring children for school and uni.  Computer training and english are big priorities.  Sports programs and the like.  It is a good initiative, and will update this more after Khalid gets back to us.
It is a great hotel, and definitely a time warp, as we were only supposed to be here for a night or two, and it is now four days later!

The reserve is doing things for communities.  They are helping with arts and crafts as well as some education programs for the local people as well.



28 June 2012

Dana village

Woke up late again. Great to be able to sleep in. This place is very quiet and laid back.
After breakfast we went to the visitors centre, where we got some more info on the reserve.  We had been here for a day and a half and done nothing but a quick walk out of town so we have to do something.  Still the batteries are recharging.

Today was a bit clearer than yesterday

It is the biggest reserve in Jordan with very diverse ecosystems. There are 4 distinctly different climates in the park, from moderate on the high peaks (1500m+) to Sahara climate in the low canyons (50m undersea level) There is also a big range of wildlife, but we have only seen some birds and lizards around.  We decided to skip a long walk down to the bottom of the Wadi as it is 8JD each, and the view from the top is superb.  It would have been nice, but we really don’t see the need.

A chance to catch up on our blog, hope you appreciate it

A quick walk through town, got us invite into a little shop. We bought some water and hung out with the shop keepers. They proudly showed us the various fossils and roman coins they have found around the place.  The most impressive fossil looked like the skin of a snake mixed with a jigsaw puzzle.  Andrew had seen nothing like it.  It was really impressive.  The other fossils were clams and shells, and also an impressive size.  The coins had all been found in Dana, showing that it had been inhabited at Roman time.

Our cosy room

We then had a guided tour of the town.  They are repairing all the old buildings, to make more accommodation for the tourists.  This ranges from basic tents on the roof, to rooms, and these new ones will be self contained units.  They are planning on having this next stage of development done in about 2 years.  I am glad we are here now, as it will be a tourist resort soon enough.
Back at the hotel we focused.  Well, Anna focused on doing the blog, while Andrew slept.

David and Sofia go off to help our chef with dinner. They are hoping to pick up a few tips on Jordanian cuisine. It turned out even better than the last two nights. And we all ate to much 🙂
Another huge dinner with a few Australians and a french couple.  The french couple are driving to Petra tomorrow, but only have seats for two.  Sophia and David offered us to take the lift, and they would meet us later at Petra.  However we found out that there are no busses with tomorrow being friday, and as it is David’s birthday we don’t want to ditch them.  So it looks like we are another day in Dana.  What a shame.


27 June 2012


Dana town perched on a litte hill

Today we woke up in Dana Village. There is not much here. The town is being reconstructed

and there seem to be 2 hotels. Years ago the valley here has been turned into the Dana Nature Reserve. The local Bedouin people could then no longer stay in the valley and some moved in to old Dana town. The original town is a fifteenth century stone village, but had been abandoned for years.
We slept in and got up at 10ish. We assumed we would be too late for breakfast, but here

Cute little bridge

they serve it whenever you want. David and Sophia joined us. Flatbread, humus, jam, cheese, boiled eggs, yummy yummy..
Most of the morning we just hung out on the roof of our hotel. Very comfortable and lots of friendly people. A few live in town, others are travelers. Lots of tea (sweet sage tea.)

Eventually we got ourselves up from the comfy couches and decided to go for a walk. The

View over Dana reserve

views are amazing and although it is nice to have a lazy day, we do have to see some of the landscape. Our good shoes are still soaked from the gorge walk, so we go in flip flops. Not so great as the tracks are steep and slippery with loose sand. We make it past town and follow a little stream.. We make it to a place with a good view and a tree to sit under. After about 15 minutes we saw a head pop up from behind a rock. Than it dug down again and a foot popped up..?.. It turned out to be Sanid. A young man that had been asleep there. We apologise for waking him up, but he seems very happy to

Old houses of Dana village

Lounging around at the roof of our hotel

find some english speaking people. His english is not so good, but good enough to tell us about the path of the stream. If we go up we can see where the stream starts. We go up for a bit, but Anna decides to stay under a tree. Andrew goes on and Sanid keeps Anna company. With little english and anna’s non existent arabic, not much conversation is possible. Andrew makes in up, and sees the local women do their laundry and the kids swimming. We say our goodbyes to Sanid and go back to the hotel. A lot for wildflowers are still around and a fig tree or two. Some donkeys and goats greet us along the way. Anna again talks to the goats, trying to get the perfect photo, ignoring the fact that there is probably a shepherd nearby holding his sides laughing.  Back in town we make a little detour to see if town is really as small as we think. It is.
At the hotel we relax. Andrew goes for a nap and gets back up when Sophia and David come back from their walk. They basically did the same walk as us.
The afternoon we spend updating our blog and talking with the visiting tourists. A big group come trough from England. They were in a yacht race to Egypt, but were not allowed to dock due to the recent problems. So now they are traveling Israel and Jordan a bit instead. Later a few Australians arrive for the night and Sophia and David

Not the best photo, but the best food!

spend the night playing cards. Dinner is again served at 21.00. Not sure why it is so late. Maybe because the first night we asked for it at 21.00, they think we always want to eat this late? As we skipped lunch we were pretty hungry by now, and dinner was delicious again.  This was several different dishes, ranging from a spicy salad to cooked cucumber and eggplant with mince.  These meals are the best we have had in Jordan and they are the first proper meals we have had here as well.
Did I say the meal was good?  It was great.  After diner we met Rhiad, he was the guy Sophia and David were playing cards with, so we all went down to his room to talk and play.  The game is a bit like Joker, with some differences that make it quite tricky, still, it was a good night.


26 June 2012

Karak Castle
Dana Town

Today we wanted to visit Karak castle and try to make it to Dana for the night. We woke fairly late, with no real plan on how to make this happen. To catch a bus to Karak we would have to go back to Amman and to make it to Dana later, once again we would first have to go back to the capital. Madaba – Amman – Karak – Amman – Dana… Seems like a long way around..
Once again we checked the taxi prices and as they were all the same, we decided to go with Abu Sameer again. This is the more expensive way of traveling, but it is quicker and we can save quite a bit of time.

Mosaic map of the holy lands

First we needed to visit the Map church in Madaba. This is where they found the big mosiac map of the holy land.  It stretches from Karak to the meditaranian to Medina and Egypt. It is a bit hard to see inside the curch, but they have big posters outside, listing all the different points of interest. The curch itself is nice, Greek Orthodox. Just a quick visit as we have a long drive ahead.
The drive out to Karak was ok. On the way out of town we passed some burnt out cars, a testament to the action last night.  Still apparently the last time this happened was fifty years ago.  Some nice views along the way and Abu Sameer was nice enough to stop for good photo opportunities. One such point was a look out over Wadi Hussan. The grand canyon of Jordan. The views are stunning. A little shop is set up to buy a drink or the standard souvenirs. Jewelry and carpets. The wind was blowing the carpets everywhere, but nobody seemed to care. Besides these there was also a big range of fossils. This whole area is littered with them. There are the mid Devonian fossils that we had been seeing and also clams and bigger shells from about 60 million years ago.  A quick chat with the store holder turned out to be surprising. He spoke Dutch! We never expected to come across a dutch speaking Jordanian, let alone on a rock over looking the grand canyon! He is practising his dutch with the visiting tourists, as he really wants a wife from holland. Apparently holland has the most beautiful women in the world.. With Anna smiling from the compliments, we loaded back in the car for the last stretch to Karak castle.

Karak castle was built by the Crusaders

Karak lies on the route that ancient caravans traveled between egypt and Syria. It is mentioned in the bible and it features on the famous mosaic we some in Madaba of the biblical lands.
The castle is a crusader stronghold and lies with in the walls of the old city. King Baldwin

Rooms inside the castle

(strange name for a king?) had the castle build in 1142AD. It was an important position between Jerusalem and Shobak castle further south (hoping to visit that one later)
The castle eventually was in the hands of Renauld de Chatillon, a sadistic crusader leader who enjoyed throwing people of the walls into the valley 450 meters down. He even got them to put on wooden helmets, so the prisoners would not pass out before hitting the ground with a splash. He peed off the leader of the islamic armies Saladin for disrupting their supply lines. When Saladin took the castle in 1183 after a siege, he had Chatillon beheaded. Chatillon was the only crusader leader beheaded by Saladin, who is know for treating his prisoners fairly well.
In 1263 the Mamluks took the castle and fortified it.

Abu Samir dropped us off and was going to wait for us in a little restaurant. We headed up to the ticket office. and started exploring the lower terraces. Great views again and quite a nice museum, set up with help of the Japanese government. It took us a while to go through all the history. apparently under the lower terrace are tunnels and meeting room, but unfortunately we were not allowed in them due to the structure being unstable and unsafe.. To bad.. We started making our way up, when an arabic man called us over. He had a flashlight and wanted to show us some of the darker rooms here. He led us around some living quarters, kitchen, winepress etc. Interesting, but we are loosing track of where we are. He is trying to have some fun and drags Anna and Sophia into a dark corner, when the boys are not paying attention. We can then jump out and scare them. It works, and our guide is over the moon! He keeps doing this though, and

The bedouin Annoyance

Sophis and Anna are stuck in little dark corners with him for longer than amusing. Besides after the first scare the guys aren’t falling for it anymore. He continuous to show us around even when we have left the dark rooms, where a torch was necessary. We are now out in the light, but he is not leaving. Andrew and Anna are starting to feel what will happen at the end of the “impromptu tour”. We see the old church built by the crusaders, and the mosque built by the Muslims. A few carvings in the stone along the way. Hard to tell if they were done on purpose or if they were already on the building stones as the crusaders recycled everything they could get there hands on. In some of the walls are perfectly round stone, that used to be pillars in pagan temples.
We had a good look around and as it was now about 17.00 we were starving. We should have eaten before visiting the castle like Abu Samir told us, but we hadn’t. When making our way back out, our guide did do what we were expecting. He held up his hand for a “tip”. We kinda knew it was coming, but this is the first time in Jordan. So far the local people that have showed us around, have done so for free and even when offered some money would not take it.

We find Abu Samir having a shave and haircut at the local barbershop, and went to get some

Black Mountain

lunch. For once we are not doing the falafel sandwich or kebab, but do the buffet that is set out. We ask for a 2 people serving though as it is more expensive. We share this between the four of us and it is still more then enough. They served us Kofte (mince is a yoghurt sauce) and a red sauce with okra. This came with rice and of course some flatbread on the side. Great to eat something different for a change and try out some local food. Opinions afterwards were divided though, ranging from delicious to tasteless. None the less we were all full and loaded back in the car to go to Dana. UP and down the hills again.
We did not arrive in Dana until about 19.00. Dana is a small village perched on the rocks overlooking the Dana nature reserve. Uba Samir had called ahead to the Dana hotel and had booked the four of us in for the tents on the roof. 5 Dinar including breakfast.

On arrival we were informed that the tent were not available as they wanted to clean them. Instead we were offered the more expensive twin rooms for the same price! The rooms are lovely with the traditional roof and mosquito netting. We have picked the perfect place to chill out for a few days. On the roof of the hotel is a dining room and lounge set out and on the other side is even a double swing. The people are welcoming and ask if we still need diner. We agree as there don’t seem to be many restaurants in town (possibly none..) Diner was served at 21.00 and it was amazing. Rice, chicken, flatbread, salad, a mince dish with red sauce and a dish with meat balls, pumpkin and potatoes. We delved in and did our best, but it was way to much food for our little group.  Considering it was our first real meal in Jordan we put a big dent in it.
Overfull, tired and happy we went to sleep.  Our only plan is to cill here for a few days.  Check out the Wadi and update the blog.


25 June 2012

Abu Sameer
Mukawir Castle (Herod)
Dead Sea
Zirka Ma’in Canyon
Quiet town of Madaba

Today we have a busy day planned. We have asked around for the best prices for a car for the day, and have decided to go with Abu Sameer. He is a local Jordanian with a Romanian wife, so David is happy to be able to practice his Romaneski.  Apparently David’s grandmother is Romanian.
Abu Samir will take us to Mukawir Castle, the dead sea (free beach) and Zirka Ma’in. We all wanted to do the Mujib reserve for canyon walking and the local hotsprings. This would have been pricy with all the entrance fees, and he has promised us that Zirka will be a combination of the two. Again for free, so it all sounds good!  We compared this with the Brother of the guy at Madaba Hotel, who had taken us up Mt Nebo yesterday. That would be 50JD as well, but only take us to a lookout point, and the touristy section of the Dead Sea where it would cost us 16JD each to go swimming.

Jordan is beautiful and much more colourful than we expected

First we stop to get some supplies: water and breakfast. Flat bread and cheese.
Then off to Mukawir. Mukawir castle is King Herod’s castle. It is here where John the Baptist was beheaded. The drive out is beautiful. The country side is mountainous and extremely colourful. The hills seem to be made up of many different types of stone, and they al reflect different colours, from grey, pale yellow to purple and black.

Makawir Castle

Arriving at the site, there doesn’t seem to be much castle left.. We buy our tickets at one hill and walk down and up the castle one. Along the way we notice the ridge lines in the hills. This country must have been under a lot of pressure, or many earthquakes as the lines go up and down a lot. We are finding lines of different stone structures and a lot of fossiles. The hill side is also dotted with little caves that are still being used by the bedouin

Pillars at top of hill

people for resting places out of the hot sun. On the opposite hill a goat-herd goes by with his flock. On top of the hill are only the remains of the castle. A few low walls. They seem to still be excavating here as there is a very deep structure here.  Andrew, David & Sophia had decided to walk up the steep section to get there, rather than following the path.  Anna was surprised to reach the top and find no sign of them.  There were several interesting caves along the vertical route.  Some of these had been carved out to form rooms, and one had a steep drop leading to a staircase descending into darkness.  Not having a torch, and not sure if they could get out again, they skipped exploring it.
The hole at the top is blocked of from entering. A few pillars have also been resurrected, although they look like new ones. We have a break and go back down (and up) and have some breakie in the shade.  The ridgelines are interesting, and as we returned we had a closer look at them.  There were large sections of sand/dust that isn’t even realy rock, with lined of limestone through them.  This limestone contains many fossils.  They are all similar to the ones found at Taemas.  All small shells, with no coral.  There are gastropods, things similar to spirifers, and what looks to be tentaculities.

View along the way

From here the plan was to drive to the Dead Sea.  This took us through winding roads around Wadi’s and over black volcanic hills.  These hills stick out in the landscape and are completely black.  They are quarrying them for the rock and sand.  Nearby are the other colours.  Most of these we had seen with the people making the coloured sand bottles, and now we know where it comes from.  We had thought it came from other bottles, but no.  It is around this region.  We stopped again a little later on the hillside opposite Hammamat Ma’in Hotsprings.  This is where the resorts are and

Hammamat Ma’in waterval across the valley

more are being built at the moment.  It is a fantastic view of two waterfalls.  The contrasting green around the falls and the desert is amazing.  There is also a long yellow line parallel to one of the falls, where the sulphur is building up on the rocks.  We are going to canyon further downstream of these waterfalls later today, and Abu Samir wanted to show us where the water comes from.
Back on the road, we find out that it has only been built in the last couple of years, and no-body really drives it yet, except for the trucks.  Winding down, as we were about 1600m above sea level to the dead sea about 400m below.  This was quite a decent.  We drove past a few oases, and found out there were many hot springs in the region.  But most tourists only know of the ones with the resorts.  The rest are used by locals, or for irrigation.

Dead sea shore

A drive along the shores of the dead sea, we come to a stop.  Piling out of the car we walk down a steep path and are on the shores of the Dead Sea.  There is a little spring flowing down here as well so there is some fresh water around.  If you ignore the water bottles and used nappies in the area it is quite pleasant.  A stone beach and you can see the salt formations off around the corner.  We change for our swim, and find the stones are too hot to stand on.  Running to the water we are told to slow down.  The salt builds up on the rocks under the water and can be quite sharp.  Abu Samir pointed out the rocks that are covered, and they are a pale purple colour under the water.  On closer examination the rocks were purple, and

Rocks covered in thick layers of salt

covered in a white layer of salt creating the pink look.  As the salt builds up on the rocks it can create sharp spikes and ridges, that make it easy to cut yourself.  Navigating past these treacherous mines we waded out into the dead sea.  The swirls of salt in the water were mesmerizing.  If you pour a lot of salt into a saucepan and simmer it, I think the effect would be similar.  You could feel the resistance in the water, but it was still fairly easy to walk in.  We were not there to walk though, but to float.  Andrew is not the best floater,so this would be a good test.  Can he sink in the dead sea?  Or is there that much salt that he can float?  It would be a close call.  The salt won.  Andrew could float quite happily.  We had been warned not to get the salt in our eyes, and not dunk our heads under water.  This was fairly easily done, or not done as the case may be, and we worked out why when, with the hot sun and water, we licked our parched lips.  The salt stings your entire mouth, and you cannot get rid of the taste.  Floating around was a lot of fun.  Especially rolling over from back to front.  You could even drop your legs down and bob around at chest level.

Gorgeous red rocks under the bright white salt

There was a fairly strong current, and we could see ourselves being pulled south, although it was not hard to swim against.  We chose to go with the flow for a while, and even went faster, as it was taking us towards a small rocky cliff.  This was caked with salt.  You can see the lines of built up salt all along it.  The formation must have taken years to develop.  Towards the bottom there was maybe 30 centimetres of clear rock, with no salt on it at all.  We were curious about this and asked Abu Sameer about it later.  We found out that the Dead Sea was dropping roughly one metre per year, and the last rainy season was really bad as well.  This could explain the difference.
Back at the salt.  Drifting around there was a sudden change in water temperature.  A spring was coming out of the cliff, and even though the springs around here are all warm, this was cooler than the sea’s water temperature.  It was fun to sit there for a while feeling the currents swirl cool and warm water around.  Looking at the formations, we were reminded of cave/limestone formations.  They were all represented except for helictites.  There were small shawls, stalactites and cauliflowering.  At the base of the salt above the water line the stalictites were still dripping water.  Geology at work.

Anna and Andrew had planned on skipping the Dead sea due to its cost, but David and Sophia had said how good it was.  We were glad that we went, as it is amazing, and well worth the time.  Asking David and Sophia if it was better than when they had visited before (on the paying beach) and they said it was much better, as there was no salt where they had been before.  Except in the water I suppose!

We washed up in the small creek to get rid of the salt, and headed back to the car.  At the car we ran into a policeman that did not look that happy.  Tourists not paying for the Dead Sea!  However Abu Sameer smoothed things over and we drove off to Zirka Ma’in.

Zirka Ma’in gorge

Wadi Zirka Ma’in is a little further north than where we went swimming, and after we crossed over a bridge we came to an impromptu car park.  This was fairly full.  Walking back to the entrance to the Wadi we started seeing a lot of people, and were wondering if our secluded canyon walk would be full of people.
There were a lot of people there.  Picnic time for a lot of people.  Walking past we had all the young ones calling out to us to take their photos.  Going past the main pools at the entrance the people dropped off exponentially.  The Wadi has been dammed at the entrance to provide irrigation water, and this made a great swimming pool.  Continuing up the side of the water for a while, then zigzagging through it we

Amazing colours

proceeded up the canyon.  The walls were steep and the colours ranged from a fantastic rose coloured rock to sandstone.  There were the occasional palm trees, and occasionally you could walk for over a minute and not see a plastic bottle anywhere.  The canyon walls are very steep, and tall.  It would take a professional climber to scale them, but as we didn’t need to, we didn’t worry about it.  Scrambling over boulders washed down in untold floods, and through the water we came to a nice deep pool where we had our first swim.  This was great, and you could feel the salt washing out of your cloths and hair.  From here we proceeded up the canyon for another hour and a half.  During this time we only saw one other person going the other way.  Apparently it is not a popular walk, although the empty drink bottles said enough people did go that way.  Or they were washed down from upstream.

A double waterfall to top it all off

As we progressed the water was getting steadily warmer.  This had the drawback that we drank more, and finished off our drinking water before we made it to the end.  But we were almost there.  It was not a grueling trek through the Thai Jungle, yet we were still happy to see our destination.  Two large boulders had fallen into the stream, cutting it off, except for two waterfalls.  There was also a fairly deep pool there.  Climbing part of the way up the stones you can jump in.  This is fine as long as you are careful.  It is also a lot of fun.  Then you can swim up to the heavy waterfall, Andrew tried to swim into it a few times, but was pushed back before he could get there.  The other one was easier.  You could sit in the bottom section and get a massage, or move up to the main section for a shower.  It was a warmer shower than in some hotels we had stayed in.  Andrew made another attempt for the big one and god around the edge.  There is a small ledge here big enough for two.  There is also another ledge to the side that goes under the rock about a metre or so.
We had a great time hanging out there, swimming, jumping, and generally having fun.  The only down side is that towards the end Annerieke’s camera fell into the water.  Gathering everything up we started to head back,as the shadows on the walls were climbing steadily.  We made it out in plenty of time, and as we were sorting out our stuff, Andrew & Anna noticed the guys in the car next to us.  They were changing to go swimming, and as they finished, started pocketing pistols.  There were five pistols between two men.  We asked Abu Sameer if this was common, and he said not as much as it used to be.

The group : Andrew, Anna, Abu Sameer, David and Sofia

Driving back to Madaba was great.  Romanian music and good views.  We stopped at the top of the hill for a last look at the Dead Sea and a few photos, and realised that Andrew’s camera was caked with salt.  It hadn’t even gotten wet, but there was a thin sheen over the entire camera, just from the salt evaporating into the air.  Still, it looked like no harm was done.
In town things were weird.  Abu Sameer had mentioned earlier that a Taxi driver had been murdered about a week before, by four young guys.  There were two big families involved, and traditionally for every person involved the wronged party needed to kill five people to retain their honour.  This ment 20 people.  The streets were quiet, hardly any cars around with a lot of burning garbage on the roads.  Abu Sameer decided to take us to his place for a coffee and as we went there we passed armored vehicles and military riot squads.  There was a policeman and car on almost every corner.

Abu Sameer has a really nice house, and is proud of it.  They have just built it, and there are a few things that still need doing, but it is basically finished.  It took 8 months to build.  His Romanian wife is a darling, and although she doesn’t speak english, made us feel at home straight away.  The turkish coffee came out, then the bedouin coffee.  This was followed by freshly baked cake and juice.  It was great, and we were welcome to stay there for a long time, but we were all very hungry by then.  Abu Sameer took us back to the hotel, and now there was a tank stationed besides the armored cars.

At the hotel we were told to go inside, and if we needed dinner we could order delivery from the shop around the corner.  We passed on this.  It is a cousins restaurant, and very expensive.  So we broke out the Bottle of Hong Tong we were saving for France and preemptively celebrated Davids birthday on the 29th with bread and Thai whiskey!

The streets were eerily quiet.  Silent with the occasional burst of gunfire.  It came as quite a shock to hear the call for prayer.  It was so loud against the silence of the city.  It was the quietest night we have had in Jordan.  Probably ever.


24 June 2012

Taxi to bus station
Bus to Madaba
Roof top sleeping
Catholic Church
Mosque no go
Taxi to Mount Nebo
Walk around

Today we decided to go south. Only a little bit though. Madaba is the last big town before Petra to base ourselves for a few days, but it is only 40km from Amman. It is famous for it’s churches and mosaics. After Madaba accommodation can be very hard to find, and we are hoping that it doesn’t turnout like Irbid.
We catch a taxi to the Madaba bus station in Amman. All seems to be going well, till the taxi meter suddenly stops at 1.30 JD and then goes black.. We ask about it and the taxi driver says we do not go on the meter we have to pay 3 JD. We off course are not happy. About 200 meters further he drops us at a bus station. He is seriously expecting us to pay 3 JD, apparently because of our luggage.. For all Jordanians the taxi’s work on the meter or a beforehand agreed on price. Just for the tourists they seem to change prices mid way through and overcharge. This has now happened a few times, and it is starting to bug us out. Yes, we have some money, but this is just outright lying and ripping off the foreigners. We were willing to pay the driver 1.50 JD as that is what the meter would have read. Unfortunately this lead to a big argument between us four and the driver. A police officer came over and agreed with the driver!! You WHAT?!? We did not give in and paid 1.50. Only after that were we told that this is not the bus station to catch a bus to Madaba. After all that he dropped us at the wrong place?
We are now so over Jordanian taxi drivers.. The police officer had come around and arranged another cab to take us to the right station for 1 JD. We had no choice but to trust this cabbie. All good though, this is a nice man and he delivers us at the right bus. Load straight on and off we go. This has put a big damper on our day, hopefully it will get better from now on.

Rooftop Sleeping..

The drive is fine and at the Madaba station we once again have to find a taxi. We have a few addresses for hotels and luck out with a great driver. As we make our way to our first choice, he is pointing out all the other hotels and sites.  I know we rave on about the taxis here, and we mention the bad one,but there are more good ones than bad.  He offered us all cigarettes, and after Andrew commented on how good it was, he gave Andrew the rest of the pack.  There was no refusal to be had.
Madaba Hotel is supposed to be the cheapest option in town. It turns out to be kinda pricy, but the rooms are very nice with en suite. They also have the option to sleep on the top floor on mattresses on the ground, with a shared shower. This is 7 JD per person and the cheapest they offer. Mmmm. Not the lap of luxury.. We decide to check out the place across the road, The Pilgrim Hotel. Run by Christians for pilgrims, but other tourists are welcome too. This is listed in our 6 year old book for 7 JD. Prices have gone up a bit to 35 JD. Way above our budget. We went back to check into/onto the rooftop for two nights. A bit primitive, but it will do.
We are in the touristy part of town. Everything is in easy walking distance and the

Used carpets salesman

streets are lined with shop. They sell and make carpets and mosaics and lots of knickknacks and “antiques”. Some are tempting, but once again, how do we travel with them? So for now we are just window shopping.  This does not stop the calling out to enter each shop and talk with the people, which Sophia and David happily do.  I am jealous of their ability to do this, as we have gotten over it years ago.  Although everyone is really impressed with Sophia’s Arabic.

Catholic Church

After dropping our bags, we went for a walk around. We started with the closest church, a Catholic one on the hill that is dedicated to the life of John the Baptist. Not one of the most famous ones here. At the moment they are still excavating under the building and a local man was happy to show us around. He took us down to the indoor well and got us some nice cold spring water. A few rooms were done up with information about John the Baptist. This area is famous as he preached here and baptised

John baptising Jesus

Jesus near by. Herod wanted to marry his brothers wife Herodius. As Herod’s brother was still alive, this was against Jewish law, and John spoke up against it. Herod wanted to kill John for this, but feared the reaction from the people. Herodius daughter was a great dancer and Herod liked her dancing so much, that he wanted to award her. Anything she wanted. After referring with her mother, she chose to have John’s head on a platter. So Herod kept his promise and had John the Baptist beheaded.

Andrew riding his imaginary camel Bob

The cellars and catacombs of the church are nicely set out. The site is built on an old 1883 chapel, and they are currently excavating underneath to see what else is there.  In a side room they have even set up a bedouin tent for the tourist to rest and take some photo’s. We went for a lie down for a photo, and discover how comfy these bed/sofa’s are. And when you are then offered some arabic coffee.. we were ready to move in permanently.

Next up the main church. Beautiful paintings around of all the standard Christian

More bells then mosques

characters. A nice mosaic floor etc.
We decide to head for the bell tower. A bit of a climb up, but we were rewarded with a great view over the city. The different churches and mosques with the country side beyond.

We had seen the big mosque and finally wanted to have a look inside, as we still hadn’t seen a Jordanian mosque inside. The gates were open and quite a few girls were there. An American came over to let us know that none of us were dressed right to enter. Anna had bare arms and covering it with a shawl was not good enough, Sophia was showing her enkels, David was in knee-length shorts, and Andrew’s hair was not pulled back. Ok, Andrew could have fixed himself up, but the other three were denied excess. We are used to Turkish mosques, were they want you to visit and will provide some covering if necessary. Here they don’t. They make it very hard to see a mosque..

View over Madaba

Madaba is famous for its mosaics

After the mosque attempt, we ended up at the archeological park in the centre of town.  There is not much there.  Just the ruins of a few buildings.  As Madaba is new, and built directly on top of another ancient town, this is not surprising.  There were no details about what was happening here, so without any imagination, it was rather disappointing.  With an imagination you could weave a story about political intrigue, assassination, romance and forbidden love.  Oh wait.  That was the John the Baptist story.  How about one of people living on the fringe, trying to scrape together enough to get by each day.  On top of the hill incase that little bit was too much and someone decided to attach you as they had even less?

Back to the hotel to arrange a taxi to Mount Nebo. This is the famous hill where Moses stood and showed his people the promised land. When it’s clear you can see the ancient lands of Gilead, Judah and Jericho. It wasn’t clear enough for all that, but the views were very good. Unfortunately the church at the site was closed. (has been since 2008 for repairs to the roof) There is really not much more out there. A few information signs, info about Pope John Paul II’s visit in 2000 and the outside of the Franciscan monestary. At the top of the hill is an artistic statue, symbolising Moses’s staff and snake.
Our American/Jordanian driver took us back, and told us about a few more sightseeing spots around. Nice to know, but very hard to get to..

View for Mt Nebo / The Promised Land

Jericho is out there somewhere

We found a nice falafel place for diner, and picked up a bottle of vodka for later. In this muslim country alcohol is not easy to get to. There are bottle shops in Amman, but outside of the capital they tend to get scarce. As muslims are not supposed to drink, the government sees no reason for bottle shops in all muslim towns. Madaba has a sizable Christian community and so a few shops are around. We are taking advantage of it and spend the night with a drink and good conversation. We haven’t done this for a while and David and Sophia are fun to hang out with.  So we sat down in the open air area of the hotel, drinking late into the night.  Politics, religion, school, and futures were all discussed at length.  Anna & Sophia went to bed leaving David and Andrew to talk more.