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Jordan Map Journey to Amman, Dead Sea, Jerash, Ajlun, Petra , Wadi Rum and Aqaba

We recently spent a 6 day break in Jordan. The main purpose of the trip was to visit Tejas who has been working for the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) in Amman for past six months. Our trip was one of the most thrilling and exciting experiences of our life. We reached Amman on 10th April midnight. A hotel Taxi was waiting for us. Amman is nearly 35 kilometres from the airport. Our driver was an articulate and well-spoken Palestinian who provided an initial set of comments on Amman and it good life. As his car sped on the highway to Amman, we noticed that off the road there were small groups of men, women and children huddled under a


tree with their car parked off the road well past midnight. When we asked our driver what was going on, he explained to us that people came out for picnic to mark the commencement of their weekend from Thursday evening, their Friday and Saturday being equal to our Saturday and Sunday. We were to see similar family picnickers here and there as we travelled about. We were able to get some rest in our Gardenia Hotel room to get set for the following morning. There were no European tourists in the hotel. Those whom we saw were mainly Jordanian men and women who may have been visitors or business people. We came across a number of visitors from India. In greeting them, I learned that they were in Jordan for projects involving Royal Jordanian Airline with airlines from India. Early morning call for prayers relayed across Amman was a beginning of our day. Tejas came and met us at the hotel on Friday morning. The taxi that he had arranged for us drove us all through Amman towards the Dead Sea. We spent the whole day in this rather luxurious resort and spent most of the day by the beach. As you float rather than sink in the Dead Sea, all of us had a wonderful floating experience. Tejas drifted away as he swam till he was no more than a little speck. Dead Sea produces black mud which has properties that can help the skin. Jyoti and Tejas applied black mud to themselves several times and I was content to do it once and enjoyed it very much, There were showering facilities so that you could wash of the mud and refresh yourself. It was a wonderful experience. Movenpick Resort is run by a Swiss company that offers high quality service to its customers. There were numerous European tourists from all over the place as you might expect. There were also wealthy Jordanians with their families and their beautiful wives and daughters. We had very relaxing day and wished we had more time at this resort. We were doing Amman on the next day. Tejas met us and we drove to a wonderful restaurant cum art centre for a breakfast. There were many vegetarian dishes in Middle Eastern style and we enjoyed this treat very much indeed with a glass of fresh lemon juice. We then walked down to the old Amman bazaar which was very much like Indian streets in old quarters like we have in India and full of men, stunning women and children. However, the streets were not absolutely packed as in some Indian cities but there were enough people around for us to get some feeling of rhythm of street life. There was no sign of begging but we did see one decrepit old


woman lying in a corner and begging. It was a pretty depressing site. We explored the bazaar and enjoyed this very much. We sat outside a restaurant and had a cup of tea with fresh mint and that was delightful. Centre of Amman has a famous Roman Amphitheatre which is quite magnificent and very impressive indeed. We stopped there and visited two museums which show traditional Jordanian artefacts. We enjoyed the clear blue sky and intense heat that we had missed for months and months. Tejas also took us two magnificent art galleries where we were able to see paintings by contemporary artists. In one of the places, bleakness of war was striking theme. From the old Amman we drove to Jamal Al Hussein that was a Palestinian refugee camp. Now it is a prosperous looking area full of modern shops. It was wonderful to wander about to see some of the features of this place. Most of the people seemed young men and women. Women who wore burkhas with open faces were just incredibly beautiful and not unfriendly if you stole a glance at them. There were great Arab sweet shops on the street and we did buy a small collection of different sweets akin to baklava. On the following day Tejas joined us again and Nasser, the taxi driver took us to Jerash, a location that is often described as the Pompeii of the East as it has one of the most magnificent ruins dating back to Roman imperial times. We spent good part of the morning there waking through this incredible historical site with most graceful columns and structures going back in time for a thousand years. The sky was crystal clear blue and the temperature was high as it felt like the heat in India, about 38 degrees Celsius. We enjoyed this visit enormously as we moved through the ruins and had a most welcome lunch at an Arab restaurant of local character. Once again the vegetarian dishes we had were absolutely fabulous including their fresh salad and lemon juice. Our next stop was a castle that was built on a hill by the famous Saladin. We saw it from outside and did a little wandering and then drove to a a nature reserve some miles away from there. This isolated spot is being developed to attract tourists. It was very quiet as there were no people around. We drove back to Amman through most serene and peaceful but hilly countryside with a touch of green for an evening meal and rest. On the next day, we left Amman to go to Petra, a city that the famous Nabateans had carved out of huge rock formation six hundred years before the birth of Christ. It took


us about three hours to get there and we reached Taybet Zaman our magnificent hotel tastefully designed to mirror old Arab quarters. It is perched on rock from where you can see the range of rocky hills that was once upon a time the home of the Nabateans. We immediately went to the location of the site and soon entered this incredible realm of the Nabateans. There is a long walk through a narrow gorge that is one of the most magnificent rock formation that we had ever seen. If you use Google Earth, I suggest that you take a virtual tour of Petra site which is dotted with scores of photographs. The gorge route takes more than two miles. Along with many tourists including a pack of young Jordanian girls from a school in Amman who were dancing and singing all the way, we reached one of the central points called Khazaneh (almost sounds like Khazana) the treasury. Our guide told us that this designation was of recent Arabic origin. The entire structure of Khazaneh is carved into a huge rock. It is really an impressive looking site and you can see this on the Internet. We wandered around and saw many sites which indicated that Nabateans were sophisticated people and absorbed Greek and Roman influences of their time in their architecture and urban living. The effect of lighting through the gorge was most beautiful and and so pleasing. The girls from Amman with their teacher were still dancing and singing away and did make a contact with Jyoti and exchanged greetings. One of them confirmed that she was an avid watcher of Film India. Tejas had already bought tickets for us to do Petra at night. Although we were very tired, after a most refreshing and enjoyable dinner at Taybek Zaman, we took a taxi back to the site to do see what the night time walk through the gorge would be like. What the organizers had done was to place lanterns all the way through to Khazaneh. It was quite an experience to walk through dimly lighted gorge to Khazaneh. It really was a unique experience. In an open space in front of the Treasury, there were hundreds of lanterns to provide minimal illumination. More than 250 to 300 people were invited to sit down to listen to Jordanian Bedouin music. First there was a most lyrical and beautiful Bedouin song that sounded primordial and so deeply evocative. In the silence of this amazing rock, the song had a profound effect. As soon as the song ended, from the Treasury came the sound of Bedouin flute that was quite something. The sound had a magical quality and seemed to heighten the silence of the gorge as the flute player walked around in his dimly visible Bedouin outfit. We were


served delicious mint tea and enjoyed the walk back through the gorge to the entrance and a drive back to Taybet Zaman. On the following morning, there was a magnificent sunrise and we did a little walk about outside Taybek Zaman and had one of those rich and enjoyable Arab vegetarian breakfast. Our destination was Wadi Rum which is known to be one of the most remarkable landscapes of high rocks and desert sand. Nasser drove us to Wadi Rum and change in the landscape was notable. The flat desert that stretches for miles and miles South of Amman begins to show rocky hills and rocks which rise majestically to give a special character to Wadi Rum. Soon we were to reach a massive rock formation around which a number of camps have been set up for the visitors to spend a night or so to taste the rough and tumble of camp life. We arrived at the camp and it seemed as if it was empty except for two white men who were shying away from bright sun and more than 38 Celsius temperature. Our Captain Desert camp had Bedouin tents which were square dwelling with local black material that was heavy and black. The camp was being arranged to receive visitors later in the day. We sipped mint tea and had a good roasting in the sun till a Toyota jeep arrived to take us on a four hour drive through Wadi Rum. Our driver youthful Hassan with an angular face and sharp eyes met us and we sat at the back in the open as Hassan began to take us through vast expanses of Wadi Rum. It was hot and sunny and the sky was crystal blue. The drive through this empty and desolate landscape was a most unique and enjoyable experience. Huge and tall rocks stood like sentries who had watched their surroundings for thousands of years. All of us were deeply moved by this journey. There were several stops on the way and it was obvious that jeeps with other visitors were in the vicinity and would assemble at a certain point now and then and continue the journey through Wadi Rum. Deserts remind us that nature is a mighty force making our habitat for millions of years and shaping and and reshaping our habitat into some of the most beautiful landscape imaginable. This wonderful journey was to end just before the sunset. All the jeeps gather with their passengers to see the sun setting on Wadi Rum. The sun set had a beauty that was to become a part of digital memory for many of us. When we reached the camp, it had been already set up for the evening entertainment with Bedouin rugs covering tables and chairs with a fire burning in the centre with a


number of hookahs and large black kettles which would be placed on the charcoal fire for mint tea, We soon settled to hear two Bedouin musicians playing an instrument similar to mandolin with a drummer joining in. The effect of the sound was lovely and relaxing as we drank mint tea and began to queue for our evening meal. There was a buffet with ample vegetarian choices. As the music went on some Jordanian men and women began to perform a simple circular dance (almost like garba) that added something special to moonlit bounds of Captain Desert camp. Soon the number of visitors began to decline and we dispersed to our camps to find a bed with a little stool that had as march box and some candles. We lighted the candles and saw the end of this most enjoyable day Next morning was our last morning. We were all ready and stepped out for our last walk at Wadi Rum. Tejas went off on his own and soon turned into a little spot in the distance and rejoined us as we were walking away from the camp. A man with several camels asked us if we wanted a camel ride. Tejas took up the offer and mounted a camel and was soon out of our sight as I and Jyoti took a more gentle way and walked away from the cap towards the rocky hills. We must have walked for more than an hour as the camp disappeared behind us. We noticed a small number of goats near one of the hilly rocks. At the same time we also heard a dog barking. Before we could see what was happening, the barking dog came leaping towards us and we were absolutely petrified holding each other's hands to protect ourselves from an attack by this ferocious dog. I tried to shoo him away but without much success. When he came towards us, I made a counter gesture that kept him at bay for a few seconds. We suddenly heard voice of a small Bedouin who came running towards us and throwing a stone towards the dog that could have nearly hit us! She picked up another stone and hit the dog and the dog suddenly became quiet. The woman came to us and began to say something that was beyond our comprehension. We said 'Shoukran' thank you to her and continued walking. After few minutes, we suddenly heard the sound of a flute. The woman was playing her flute and its magical sound was filling the void in Wadi Rum. With a feeling of relief and pleasure, we continued walking till Captain Desert Camp in sight and we were glad to be back and waited for Tejas. Our driver Nasser appeared and we were very pleased to see this friendly, affectionate and amiable person. He spoke some English but all through our journey we had conversation through some basic words and gestures. Nasser grew fond of Tejas as


Tejas had picked up enough Arabic in his six months stay in Amman to sound as if he knew the language well. So there was this touch of friendship between us that was delightful. From Wadi Rum Nasser drove us to Aqaba on a road that was nearly empty almost all the way through to Aqaba. We spent a couple of hours near a marine centre which is popular among the divers. There was a little park where we saw a large group of Jordanian women having a nice time and some young families with their children wading in the sea, women in their full burkha getting into Red Sea water and having a good splash. I met one young family with a small child and said, 'Salaam Walikum' to them. They responded warmly. As I greeted the child, he came towards me and I lifted him. His father asked him to give me a kiss and I gave him a gentle kiss in return. It was a lovely experience of what one might call a spontaneous community or spontaneous humanity. After a lunch at the seaside restaurant, we headed for Amman. Next day Nasser came to our Amman hotel and we were ready to travel last 35 miles to Queen Aliya airport to board our Royal Jordanian flight back to England. On the way Nasser stopped saying that he would be back in two minutes. He was back soon with a blue plastic bag. I assumed he had to shop for something. When he dropped us at the airport, he gave me the blue plastic bag. He said there was a copy of the Koran for me in it. During our journeys, Nasser always played recitations from the Koran. Some of these recitations conveyed a beauty of tonal gentleness that was was superb. I had said to Nasser that the music that he played was very beautiful. May be he thought I was interested in Islamic faith and purchased a beautifully hard bound green copy of the Koran for me. I thanked him for his kind support to us and for his precious gift. He smiled and said good-bye to us and we were soon to check in to catch our midday flight back to England.


Journey to Jordan April 2008  

This is a brief account of our journey to Jordan when we visited Amman and a number of other places including Petra and Wadi Rum

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