The Last Jordanian Sites

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We spent our last Friday in Jordan traveling to the few sites we had yet to see.  Our driver, Mohamed, who had driven us to Wadi Rum was kind enough to drive as around to the remaining 4 sites and bring us a wool rug as a gift to bring home.

First stop: MadabaImage

Madaba is one of the largest Christian communities in Jordan with approximately one third of the population being Christian.  Madaba is famous for a collection of Bysantine-era mosaics, the most famous being the mosaic map on the floor of St George’s Church.  The mosaic map represents the oldest map of Palestine in existence and depicts all the major biblical sites of the Middle East from Egypt to Palestine.ImageImageImageImageImageImage

Church of SS Lot & Procopius:Image

In between Madaba and Mt. Nebo is the Church of SS Lot & Procopius, originally built in AD 557.  Inside this building are some remarkably well-preserved mosaics depicting scenes of daily life such as agriculture, fishing, and wine making.  When turning off of the main road to visit the church, our driver stopped and picked up a man whose parents lived in the church and he was born there.  There are burnt spots on the mosaic where they had made tea before they realized the mosaics were underneath…Image

Mt Nebo:

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“Go up this mountain of the Abarim, Mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, opposite Jericho, and view the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Isreal for a possession.  And die on the mountain which you go up, and be gathered to your people…” Deuteronomy 32:49-50Image

Mt. Nebo is where Moses was shown the Promise Land, unfortunately it was very hazy and rainy when we visited so we were unable to see as far as one might on a clear day.  There was a sign directing tourists in which direction to look in order to see the Dead Sea, Bethlehem, Jericho, etc.ImageImage

Bethany Beyond the Jordan, Baptism Site Image

“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him.” Matthew 3:13

“These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.” John 1:28

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To tour the baptism site, after purchasing tickets one is instructed to board a shuttle bus along with a tour guide.   The shuttle bus makes a brief stop at Tell Elias, where Elijah is said to have ascended to heaven.  The tour continues on foot to see the baptism site, the remains of the churches, the Jordan River, and the St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox church. The main archaeological site comprises the remains of three churches, one on top of the other.  Steps lead down to the original water level and a building nearby marks the likely site of Jesus’ baptism. ImageImage

Dead Sea:

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The Dead Sea is extremely salty {31% (9 times that of the ocean)} due to the high evaporation rate.  The Dead Sea is the lowest spot on earth at 408m below sea level and more than 390m deep.  Despite the weather being cold and rainy every where we went on Friday, the water in the Dead Sea was 84 degrees and was quite enjoyable.Image

Wadi Rum

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Wadi Rum is described as one of the most captivating deserts on the planet; being the only desert I’ve been to I can’t comment in comparison to other deserts, but captivating is definitely an adjective I would use to describe Wadi Rum.  Not only is the spectacular view captivating, being the only ones in the desert is pretty serene.  Granted, November is a low point for tourism but we rarely saw any other people… we saw two other groups on camels and a few people doing jeep tours, but for the majority of the trip the desert was deserted. Haha Image

We had a driver take us from Amman to Wadi Rum at 5:30 on Friday morning in order to meet our guide at 9 am.  We arrived in Wadi Rum and were met by a young man who ran the camp – he drove us from the Rest house in Rum Village to the house of our Bedouin, Nasr, to meet our camels

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We rode camels from around 9:30 until 4 pm when we reached camp; we were actually riding around 6 hours and hiking/picnicking the rest of the time.   Thankfully my camel did not make this face when I got on or I might not have gotten on!

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After about 30 minutes we reached an area that has a stream running down the cliff resulting in a random tree in the middle of the dessert.Image

There was also an inscription on one of the rocks that we were supposed to check out and “take a photo” of.  Our Bedouin was super nice and let people try out the camel ride.  While we were checking out the scenery these cute sisters rode my camel…

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I definitely had the best-behaved camel, until Nasr let me be in charge of my own rope and my camel went in the opposite direction and did not care how hard I pulled that rope… hahaImage

Our next stop was the Siq…

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Our guide decided to lie down and rest a while…

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We rode a couple more hours before stopping for our picnic lunch… pita bread, canned tuna, cheese, and tea made on a campfire.

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While we were eating lunch, Nasr just let the camels go roam on their own… two of the three camels climbed up this steep rocky cliff and after we took pictures Nasr asked us to bring the camels down with us… We couldn’t get them to budge

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I pulled with all my weight and then the camel lifted it’s head and pulled me up with it… Nasr ended up having to climb up and bring them down after all.Image

After lunch we rode the camels another hour to camp and had some more tea.

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We were the only two people at our camp, which was really nice.  After tea, we climbed up a sand dune to watch the sunset and drew in the sand… {Kyle in Arabic}ImageImage

Dinner was rice and vegetables… followed by tea

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After dinner we laid out under the stars watching for a shooting star {Kyle saw one right as we came out of the tent, but I missed it and have never seen one. Never.}  It was surprisingly cold in the dessert so we didn’t last long before heading in for bed.

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The next morning we had pita, cheese, and jam or olive oil and zatar… and tea.  We took a jeep back into Rum Village to meet our driver to head back to Amman Saturday morning.Image

Petra

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Petra is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and is located in south Jordan.  We decided to put off all of our travel within Jordan until the end of the semester as to make the time go by faster as we counted down to going home.

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Petra was established possibly as early as 312 BC but remained unknown to the Western world until 1812 when it was introduced by a Swiss explorer, Johann Ludwig Burckhardt {Jean Lois, ‘Ibrahim’}.  Burckhardt went to extreme measures in order to see this amazing site.  Burckhardt was obsessed with the Arabic Orient and knew he would not get as far as a European infidel so he began studying Arabic at Cambridge University.  He then moved to Aleppo, converted to Islam, and took on the name Sheikh Ibrahim bin Abdullah.  He took on customs and began to test his disguise with local Bedouins.

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He heard locals discussing fantastic ruins hidden in the mountains of Wadi Musa and felt he must see them for himself.  He came up with a plan –“I, therefore, pretended to have made a vow to have slaughtered a goat in honour of Haroun {Aaron}, whose tomb I knew was situated at the extremity of the valley, and by this stratagem I thought that I should have the means of seeing the valley on the way to the tomb.”

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He was unable to hide his astonishment for long and in order to avoid more suspicion he had to restrict his curiosity to a quick examination of Petra’s monuments but journaled “the situation and beauty of [the Treasury] are calculated to make an extraordinary impression upon the traveler, after having traversed… such a gloomy and almost subterranean passage [the Siq]… it is one of the most elegant remains of antiquity existing. … As far as I know, no European traveler has ever visited. “

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Petra was described as a “rose red city half as old as time” by a prize winning poet, John William Burgon.  Those of you who have seen Indiana Jones have gotten a glimpse of Petra… and the Petra Tourism is proud to promote Indiana Jones!

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I cannot describe in words the beauty and awe that comes from being in Petra, the carvings in and of themselves are magnificent but the sheer size and vast expanse of the mountains are the most spectacular sights.  The blue sky was surreal – even in person it looked photoshopped.  We rode the bus from Amman for three hours to Petra and hiked for the majority of the day before retiring to our hotel just outside the gate, Saturday was a little hazy and had much fewer tourists but we were able to hike another trail and take in the scenery once more before catching the bus back to Amman that afternoon.  Petra should definitely be added to your bucket list.

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Roman Theatre, Amman

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Way back in September when Matt was still here {Matt was doing a home stay with the family that lives in the apartment next to us} we visited the Roman Theatre in Amman… surprisingly it got trumped by all of our vacation posts and then well to be honest I forgot I needed to post it until we got ready to go to Petra and I put the pictures on my computer…

The restored Roman Theatre is the most obvious and impressive remnant of Roman Philadelphia, and is the highlight of Amman for most foreign visitors. The theatre itself is cut into the northern side of a hill that once served as a necropolis and had a seating capacity of 6000. It was built on three tiers: the rulers sat on the lowest level, followed by the military, with the public left to sit on the top tier.

Housed in one of the rooms on the eastern side of the theatre is now the Jordanian Museum of Popular Traditions. Established in 1971, the museum aims to collect Jordanian and Palestinian folk heritage from all over Jordan, to protect and conserve the heritage, preserve it for future generations, and introduce the culture to tourists from around the world. The museum exhibits include traditional costumes of the East Bank, traditional jewelry and cosmetic items from various regions, Palestinian costumes and headdresses, pottery and wooden cooking pots and food preparation vessels, and mosaics from Byzantine churches in Jerash and Madaba.

The theatre is quite impressive in that it is built right into the city, giving a pretty unique view of downtown Amman.

We also visited Citadel Hill on the same afternoon. The citadel is a national historic site and artifacts found here date back to the Neolithic period, making it one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited places. In the 13th century BC Amman was called Rabbath Ammon by the Ammonites. It was later conquered by the Assyrians, followed by the Persians, and then the Macedonians. The Macedonian ruler of Egypt renamed it Philadelphia and it became part of the Nabataean kingdom until 106 AD when it came under Roman control. Philadelphia became the seat of a bishopric {district under supervision of a bishop} and the remnants one of the churches from that time can be seen still. {The Umayyad Palace}

Philadelphia was renamed Amman during the Ghassanian era and flourished under the caliphates of the Umayyads. It was then destroyed by several earthquakes and natural disasters leaving a small village and a pile of ruins until the Circassian settlement in 1878. The tide changed when the Ottoman Sultan decided to link Damascus and Medina through Amman putting Amman back on the commercial map. Now that you’ve had your history lesson for the day… The Roman Corinthian columns of the Temple of Hercules also still remain on Citadel Hill.

Venice, Italy

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Venice is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world averaging 50,000 tourists a day… which was my least favorite part of Venice.  Venice was the last stop of our cruise and we did not actually dock until after 9:00 am, which meant by the time we took the water taxi to St. Mark’s Basilica it was around 11:00 – all of the other tourists had enough time to wake up and get moving… overcrowding the streets. Image

Kyle and I are not your typical travelers… we do not sleep in and then leisurely tour the area – we wake up, eat breakfast, and get to it! This is ideal because we are heading in for the day as all of the other tourists are heading out.  Not being able to get off of the ship and get started until almost lunchtime was beginning to make us a little restless.  Luckily we had an amazing view from our balcony as we slowly entered the port and awaited the announcement that we were allowed to get off {I think it took 2 hours from when we began to “enter the port” and actually docked}.ImageImageAfter we got off the ship we loaded up on a shuttle boat to take us to the main tourist area of Venice… The view was serene; the buildings on the canal looked like postcards.  It was cool, cloudy, and windy as we arrived in Venice.Image

We found St. Mark’s Square and took a few pictures and then just wandered the picturesque streets attempting to avoid the crowds of tourists until we stopped for pizza and gelato.  St. Mark’s square was a bit of sensory overload for me as there were tremendous amounts of people and birds {birds that are not afraid of people, which in turn made me even more skiddish}.  The architecture was spectacular, but I was a bit distracted by the masses of people… luckily Kyle was in charge of the camera here, I am grateful he is tall enough to capture pictures over people’s heads! ImageAfter lunch, we felt rejuvenated and attempted to find some of the infamous tourist sites. Like the Rialto Bridge: ImageImage

The Church of San Simeon Piccolo:ImageThe Church of San Giorgio Maggiore:ImageDoge’s Palace:ImageSanta Maria Della Salute: ImageChurch of Saint John the Baptist:ImageAs we explored the streets of Venice, we had a few drops of rain fall on us {the first rain we had seen since the night before we left for Amman in June} but we kept exploring and as the city became devoid of tourists it became more enjoyable… and then came a downpour. We were soaked and hopped into the first restaurant door we could find to order drinks until the rain stopped.  The great thing about Europe is it is not uncommon to just order drinks, every restaurant you stop at asks drinks or food?  We sat at what turned out to be a hotel lobby for about 45 minutes while we dried out and waited on the rain to pass.  We then decided it was time to find our way back to the shuttle boat and get back on the cruise ship… it started to pour again as we ran to board the boat.  Luckily the rain didn’t seem to affect the small boat in the way I expected. ImageImageWe got back to the ship and ended up eating miso soup and stuff we found on the buffet instead of getting dressed up for dinner, we had enough 4 course meals!

The next morning we woke up early to disembark the ship, take the people mover {yes that was the name of the train, Kyle could not comprehend them not having another name} to the bus station, took the bus to the airport, got our luggage checked in and grabbed a coffee and muffin before flying back to Paris and then to Amman.  We had a fabulous trip, but were ready to be back “home” {despite the fact that we were in a hotel because we were moving apartments… but that’s a story for another day}.

Chania {Souda}, Crete, Greece

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We visited Crete on September 1 – the start of my birthday month!  Of course we got one last cup of “greek coffee” and we got complimentary cake!

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We spent the morning walking around town, much of which was spent walking around to the Chania lighthouse for a picture of the panoramic view of the town!  We walked past quite a few fishermen fishing as we walked down the path to the lighthouse.The seven very old, large and interconnected buildings called To Megali Arsenali (Great Arsenals) built by the Venetians, which were the shipyards.  They are now used for storage.

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This was our last stop before Venice and I decided I needed to at least get my feet wet in the Mediterranean! {Check out my awesome tan line!}

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Chania was a quiet town with picturesque buildings lining the harbor, many of which were cafes with primarily outdoor seating with a relaxing view of the water.Image

Along the harbor was the Mosque of Kiotsouk Hassan, the oldest Ottoman building in Crete, erected in 1645.  The Mosque is now used as an exhibit hall for some very interesting artwork… Image

 

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The old city had many small shops overflowing with souvenirs and cafes as well as the Chania Cathedral.Image

The Chania Cathedral is called “Trimartyri” because, while the central aisle is dedicated to the Virgin, the north aisle is dedicated to St Nicholas and the south aisle to the Three Hierarchs.  The church was converted into a soap factory during the Turkish period by the Ottomans and then given back to the Christians to be a church again.

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After spending the morning exploring the town we headed back to the ship for a late lunch and I got a birthday pedicure that afternoon.

Santorini, Greece

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Visiting Santorini is not for those with weak stomachs.  Our ship anchored in the small harbor between Nea Kameni and Fira and then we were loaded on to small boats called tenders.  The boats each held about 50 passengers as close as you could possibly squeeze together… while the boat was tethered to the ship it was rocking rather violently from side to side, I was sure someone was going to get sick inciting a chain reaction of sick passengers – luckily this didn’t happen!  Once the boat headed for land the water seemed much less rough. 

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Fira is the modern capital of Santorini; access to Fira is mainly by roads on its eastern side, climbing from its port via the Z-shaped footpath on foot or on donkeys, or by riding the steep cable car from its lower terminal by the port.

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We opted to ride the cable car up from the port to the city, I could not get off of the small car swaying on a thin cable fast enough – the steep view down did not help my queasiness much!

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Luckily the view from the top was breath taking, making the experience worth it!

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Fira’s landscape is filled with churches, souvenir shops, café’s and hotel’s with spectacular views – I would not want to try to get my luggage to any of the tiny hotels located on the steep, uneven, windy roads!

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After spending the day in Santorini we opted to walk down the z-shaped footpath consisting of over 600+ steps about three strides deep each, covered in donkey poop and urine.  The line to ride the cable car back down was going to take over an hour so we thought how bad can it be to walk? Ha. It was VERY slippery because the steps are made out of cobblestone and then covered in donkey waste… we had to catch ourselves more than once to keep from falling while trying to avoid stepping in anything.  Again, this path was not for those with sensitive stomach because the donkeys certainly did not provide a pleasant smell… and the donkeys did not take well to the pedestrians getting in their way; a donkey ran into me and after avoiding the poop almost to the end stepped right in a big pile!

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Santorini was beautiful and such a unique experience, but I do not think it will make the list of places to visit again!

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