Taxi to bus station
Bus to Madaba
Roof top sleeping
Mosque no go
Taxi to Mount Nebo
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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..
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..
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.