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Jordan

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Map of Jordan (47844 bytes)

Jordan was great, and what an adventure!

I flew to Amman from Kuwait City.   It was a short two-hour flight on Royal Jordanian Airlines.  The plane detoured south after leaving Kuwait City, so as to fly over Saudi Arabia instead of Iraq.    Seemed like a good idea to me!

I intended to take a bus from Amman to Petra ("planned" would be too strong a word here!).  When I asked at the Amman airport they said, "No bus.  Saturday.  No bus.  Take taxi".   I wasn't about to take a taxi 240 km (each way!), so I rented a car.  Fortunately, I had gotten an "International Driving Permit" the night before I left Dallas, on a lark, just in case ...  It turned out to be a great decision! 

What an experience!   I had an el cheapo Daewoo, with a standard transmission.   Now this may not seem like a big deal, but I have only been driving a standard for about a year now - I taught myself when I bought my grey car!   So I set out alone in a car that I wasn't sure I could drive, with a roadmap written all in Arabic, reading (mostly) Arabic road signs, and I decided to take the scenic route since I had some time to kill (Dead Sea Road to the Kings Highway).

The Dead Sea

I drove to the Dead Sea first.  That wasn't on my original plan, but I didn't think I'd ever be there again.  Of course I had to stick my feet in the Dead Sea.   It is every bit as salty as people claim! 

The big hotels take up the more desirable bathing locations, and provide the only showers.  But I wasn't staying at one of these hotels ...  I saw a Bedouin encampment, (below center image), and went four-wheeling for about 1/2 mile to get to the shore (nothing handles quite like a rental car!).   The shore is very muddy, and I couldn't completely bathe in the Dead Sea because there was no place to shower afterwards.  I rolled up my pants as far as I could, and waded right in.  I had a "high water mark" of salt brine on my legs, along with copious muck from the shore.  Thank goodness for the "baby wipes" I had with me. 

Map of the Dead Sea (52290 bytes)

Dead Sea

Dead Sea

The Dead Sea

The Dead Sea
(if you look closely on the beach, you can see the Bedouins on the shore)

The Dead Sea
(see the salt crystals on the shore, with Israel and the West Bank faintly visible on the other shore)

Then I drove through a bunch of small towns and through the mountains to Petra.  Western Jordan is quite hilly - the Dead Sea is in the Great Rift Valley, 1,296 feet below sea level, and the hills are another 3000 ft above sea level.   The hills aren't very large - but they are amazingly steep - and the Jordanian roads aren't very good.  I spent a lot of time down-shifting to keep the car from careening wildly off the edge of the narrow, twisting road!   When the road was flat I had to watch out for flocks of sheep, or camels.  I was surprised at the number of police/military checkpoints I had to go through out in way-rural Jordan - especially in the area adjoining the West Bank. 

Crusader Fortress

Crusader Fortress

Terrain

Crusader Fortress at Karak

Crusader Fortress at Karak

Hilly Jordanian terrain
Goats Goat herder Camels

Goats

The goatherd - who insisted that I take his picture, too!

A herd of camels grazing (look closely).   Can't imagine what they can find to eat though ...

Near Petra (30 km), all the roads were marked as closed and detoured.  That was a bad experience.  For over an hour I couldn't find a way to get to Petra.  Finally I saw some other cars go right past the "Closed-Detour" sign, so I did the same thing (this was just about the time that I was really afraid that I was going to be spending the night sleeping in the car in the desert someplace!).  

Other observations about Jordan:
* The roads are terrible!
* The road signs are non-existant, confusing, or worse (and generally in Arabic), and spaced at 30 mile intervals
* All the pickup trucks are old white Toyota's with wide red door/body stripes
* The shepherds are infuriatingly convinced that they (and the sheep) own the road and will cross whenever, wherever, and at whatever (slow) pace they would like
* "You're welcome", the ubiquitous reply to everything, including rejection, clearly means something a bit different to them than it does to us!

Jordan is fabulously rich with both religious and historical sites.  I hope to someday go back and see some of what I missed. 

PORTAL TO PETRA

Link to:   Jordan Tourism Board Site

Click here to enter the portal to Petra

 

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