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Desert Sessions Volume I: Jordan

Beginning our latest venture into the Middle East by spending some time exploring Jordan

There are some trips you dream of for a lifetime and when I was a child I always wanted to be an archaeologist so my obvious choice for a travel destination would be Egypt to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Our most recent journey, once again accompanied by our old friends, Tom Cargill and Leonie Brown, would have us doing exactly that, followed by a four-day cruise down the Nile, but all of that would have to wait until after our first stop on this epic adventure, Jordan. We would begin by staying in the nation’s capital, Amman, for two nights, followed by another two nights in Petra, and then a final two at the Dead Sea. We first started organising this little getaway almost 12 months ago with a little help and eventually a full itinerary put together especially for us by Isabel de Galleani at Original Travel so, just like I did with our African Safari earlier in the year, I will include excerpts from Issy’s custom itinerary.
I had been anticipating this trip for 43 years, now it’s time to see if it was truly worth the wait

Sunday, November 19, 2022
We had departed Singapore the previous afternoon and had a dubious layover in Dubai that evening. It wasn’t just because the terminal we had landed in was terrible, not something I would’ve expected in a city as affluent as Dubai, but more because of how some of the Singaporeans were treated at immigration. Our layover was supposed to be relatively short so we needed to be fast-tracked through, which wasn’t an issue, however, we noticed that there were a significant number of passengers in front of us that were being turned away. Was it because the immigration staff were new or incompetent, or was it due to them believing that all racially Chinese people look the same, we’ll never know, but we soon found out that the reason they were turning some Singaporean passengers away was because the staff weren’t completely sure they were the same person as the one in their passport photo. In fact, even Anna got asked to confirm her name at immigration and then the officer felt the need to ask the opinion of the colleague next to him before stamping her passport and letting her through and this was after being approved by a facial recognition scanner. I would’ve assumed that an eye for detail would be a key factor in being an immigration officer, but I guess that’s not always the case.
Anyway, we made our connecting flight on time and a little after midnight on Sunday morning we were in Amman, Jordan and finally checked into the Four Seasons at about 2:00am. Tom and Leonie were flying in from Frankfurt, Germany and wouldn’t arrive until later that night so we would be embarking on this first leg by ourselves.

AMMAN

From Friday 18 until Sunday 20 November

Amman’s illustrious past coexists with modern life through its many museums and archaeological sites. Referred to in the Bible as ‘Rabbath-Ammon’ – Amman’s name as the capital of the Ammonites in around 1200BC – recent excavations have also uncovered evidence of substantial Stone Age settlements and visitors to the city should not miss the impressive Roman Theatre, built in around 151AD to seat 6000 spectators. The Roman Citadel, set on a hill overlooking the city, houses the ancient Temple of Hercules and was once a crucial military and religious site; today it offers particularly impressive panoramas over downtown Amman.  Visitors to Amman should visit the Jordan Archeological Museum, home to the region’s substantial collection of ancient discoveries, and the National Museum, which exhibits varied elements of Jordan’s historical and cultural heritage. The district of Jabal Amman is worth a visit for its atmospheric souks and the historic city centre still retains an old-time charm, despite Amman’s modern development. 

Private tour of Jerash and Amman
19/11/2022

Today you will be picked up by your English-speaking driver at 10am for your tour of Jerash.

From Amman you will head north to the Greco-Roman city of Jerash. Second only to Petra in tourist appeal, the ancient city of Jerash in remarkable for its long chain of human occupation. Here at a well-watered site in the hills of Gilead, remains from Neolithic times have been found, as well as Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Umayyad and others. Jerash’s golden age, however arrived with Roman rule. Today it is acknowledged as one of the best-preserved province cities of the Roman Empire. Jerash was a member of the Decapolis, a dynamic commercial league of ten Greco-Roman Cities.

After your tour you will enjoy lunch at Um Khalil Restaurant in Jerash before returning to Amman.
Afternoon city tour of Amman –

The Citadel which towers above the city from atop Jabal al-Qala’a is a good place to begin a tour of the city. The Citadel is the site of ancient Rabbath-Ammon, and excavations here have revealed numerous Roman, Byzantine and early Islamic remains. The most impressive building of the Citadel, known simply as al-Qasr (“the Palace”), dates back to the Islamic Umayyad period. Its exact function is unclear, but it includes a monumental gateway, an audience hall and four vaulted chambers. A colonnaded street also runs through the complex. To the north and northeast are the ruins of Umayyad palace grounds.

Downhill from the Citadel and five minutes’ walk east from downtown, the Roman Theatre is the most obvious and impressive relic of ancient Philadelphia. The theatre, which was built during the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161 CE), is cut into the northern side of a hill that once served as a necropolis or graveyard. It is very similar in design to the amphitheatre at Jerash, and can accommodate 6000 spectators. The theater is still used periodically for sporting and cultural events.

You will also have a chance to visit the Folklore and Archaeological Museums of Amman, along with some of the more panoramic and modern sights of the city.

You will also enjoy a walking tour of downtown Amman, passing through the old market and experiencing the best Kunafeh from Habibah Sweets.

The plan for the day might’ve been for the two us to be picked up by our driver and occasional guide around Jordan, Waheed, at 10:00am, but we managed to push it back an hour, allowing us to get a bit more sleep and then enjoy the bacon-free hotel breakfast before embarking on our relatively short drive to Jerash, located just 48 kilometres (30 miles) away. We drove through some of the bleaker parts of town, past some ancient ruins and before long we were there. Having just eaten, we skipped lunch upon arrival and instead Waheed lead us through a market and then took us around the old city, showing us archaeology from Jerash’s Greco-Roman period. Here we wandered around the Arch of Hadrien before exploring the hippodrome, the Oval Forum, two ancient theatres, a nymphaeum, and the Cardo Maximus. Waheed had plenty of information for us, but it was a lot to take in so just have a look for yourself:
One thing that a man showed us was an incredible ancient engineering feat involving the columns. This part of the world is prone to earthquakes, however, the columns, although carved from stone, were designed to be able to withstand and absorb the shock, as he demonstrated to us with a spoon:

After tiptoeing up all of those steps that weren’t large enough to accommodate my feet in both the North and South Theatres, the ambience of the southern one being destroyed by two local men who for some reason felt the need to bust out a drum and some bagpipes to play their rendition of Frère Jacques, my legs felt a bit rubbery so we got back on the road and went for a late lunch before making our way back to Amman. The weekend in this part of the world is Friday and Saturday so we found ourselves in a peak hour traffic jam, making it a significantly longer journey back to the hotel, but this also allowed us to have some interesting conversations with Waheed. One of these chats was prompted by him saying that when he takes Australian couples on tours, the women can be quite fierce and a little scary. “My wife is my cousin, she knows me!”, he said. “It’s alright, the kids are healthy, but it’s not something I recommend, some of my friends’ kids are quite sick”. It turned out that he and his wife married when she was 14 years old and they have eight children; six sons and two daughters. Anyway once we finally reached the hotel we showered and decided to have a look around town, me feeling like I was doing so in a pair of wobbly boots.
The part of Amman in which we were staying was beautiful, however, it starts to get dark at around 5:30pm. We walked around for a while and Anna found a place selling the local snack hareeseh and there was an extremely long line, generally a decent sign that there would be some great stuff to eat so she joined it to kill some time, the queue actually moving quite quickly. We also saw that a lot of places were preparing for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which was being held in nearby Qatar, but being a Muslim country, it wasn’t particularly easy to buy alcohol outside of hotel bars so we decided to head back to ours. We passed another ancient theatre along the way, but climbing that wasn’t an option so we pulled up a seat in the Four Seasons rooftop bar, had a couple of drinks, finally ate some dinner, and waited for Tom and Leonie to arrive, spending a couple of hours chatting and catching up once they did, but we couldn’t overdo it and they had had a long day.
A look around the city of Amman:

Monday, November 20, 2022
Today was the beginning of the main event for the Jordanian portion of our trip, visiting Petra, although upon arrival the evening would be spent in the neighbouring town of Wadi Musa:

AMMAN PETRA

Sunday 20 November

The Road of Kings is the most beautiful route that connecs Amman and Petra. Stops in Madaba, Mount Nebo and Kerak will let you discover the major historical sites in the history of the region. You will also cross the breathtaking landscapes of Wadi Mujib and Wadi Araba. It takes a day to travel the 186 miles.

PETRA

From Sunday 20 until Tuesday 22 November

The historic city of Petra was lost to the world for a millennium and has been recently classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The prehistoric Nabateans constructed Petra as their capital city, possibly as early as 300 BC, carving it from the surrounding distinctive pink sandstone cliffs. Petra continued to thrive under Roman rule until around 200 AD when a sudden combination of invasion and a shift in trading routes caused a dramatic decline in the city’s fortunes; the site remained completely unknown to the Western world until 1812, when it was ‘discovered’ by the Swiss explorer J L Burckhardt. It  is now one of the planet’s ‘must see’ destinations. The entrance to the site is a narrow high-walled gully – the Siq – which widens to reveal the spectacular Treasury building. From here, explore Petra’s unfolding secrets; the site encompasses  a huge theatre as well as numerous tombs, a street of facades, a nymphaeum, markets, temples and a vast Monastery. You will have plenty of time to explore the extensive site at your own pace, either on horseback or by foot. The adjacent village of Wadi Musa has some nice restaurants and craftshops; you might want to consider an evening meal in Petras kitchen where you can learn to cook some traditional Jordanian dishes before consuming them.  

One of the reasons the route to Petra along the ‘Road of Kings’ takes so long to complete that our itinerary fails to mention is that, despite being a freeway, there are speed-bumps every couple of kilometres for the whole 186 mile (300 km) drive, plus we made several stops along the way, the first being just out of Amman at Mount Nebo, a location of considerable biblical significance:

According to the Bible (Deuteronomy), Moses ascended Mount Nebo, in the land of Moab (today in Jordan), and from there he saw the Land of Canaan (the Promised Land), which God had said he would not enter; Moses then died there. The Bible (Deuteronomy 34:6) says Moses’ burial place was unknown. A monument atop Mount Nebo commemorates Moses’ death after seeing Canaan, across the Jordan valley. A purported grave of Moses is located at Maqam El-Nabi Musa, in the West Bank, 11 km (6.8 mi) south of Jericho and 20 km (12 mi) east of Jerusalem.[2]

Mount Nebo is then mentioned again in the Bible in 2 Maccabees (2:4–7), when the prophet Jeremiah hid the tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant in a cave there.

Also nearby are some incredible Byzantine mosaics dating back around 1,500 years in both Mount Nebo and nearby Madaba:

One of the earliest examples of Byzantine mosaic art in the region can be found on Mount Nebo, a place of pilgrimage in the Byzantine era where Moses died. Among the many 6th century mosaics in the church complex in an area known as Siyagha (discovered after 1933) the most interesting one is located in the baptistery. The intact floor mosaic in the Byzantine monastery, built on the foundations of an even earlier chapel from the third or fourth century CE, was laid down in circa 530. It covers an area of 9 x 3 m and depicts the monastic pastime of wine-making, as well as hunters, with a rich assortment of Middle Eastern flora and fauna.

The Church of Sts. Lot and Procopius was founded in 567 in Nebo village under Mount Nebo (now Khirbet al-Mukhayyat). Its floor mosaic depicts everyday activities like grape harvest. Another two spectacular mosaics were discovered in the ruined Church of Preacher John nearby. One of the mosaics was placed above the other one which was completely covered and unknown until the modern restoration. The figures on the older mosaic have thus escaped the iconoclasts.

The single most important piece of Byzantine Christian mosaic art in the East is the Madaba Map, made between 542 and 570 as the floor of the church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan. It was rediscovered in 1894. The Madaba Map is the oldest surviving cartographic depiction of the Holy Land. It depicts an area from Lebanon in the north to the Nile Delta in the south, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the Eastern Desert. The largest and most detailed element of the topographic depiction is Jerusalem, at the center of the map. The map is enriched with many naturalistic features, like animals, fishing boats, bridges and palm trees.

The town of Madaba remained an important center of mosaic making during the 5-8th centuries. In the Church of the Apostles even the name of the master mosaicist, Salomios was also recorded (from 568). In the middle of the main panel Thalassa, goddess of the sea, can be seen surrounded by fishes and other sea creatures. Native Middle Eastern birds, mammals, plants and fruits were also added. The Church of Prophet Elijah was built in 607. Its carpet-like central panel in the nave framed by a row of medallions depicting native animals.

For some bizarre reason my legs were still painful from the previous day, but we still managed to take a stroll around Mount Nebo and Madaba, taking in Siyagha Monastery and of course the mosaics:

Waheed and the four of us got back in the van and about 20 minutes later we stopped off at a nearby market for a bit of fun, which was a good thing, because I knew I was going to need some decent sun protection over the coming couple of weeks, but I had too much dignity to bust out that hideous, orange sunhat that I wore in Africa again. Nope, I was going to try to blend in as best as I could so my plan was to buy a keffiyeh and agal, the traditional chequered, cloth headdress with the black rope to hold it in place. Keffiyehs come in various qualities and mine wasn’t for any formal ceremony so I got one of the cheaper ones, Waheed able to bargain with the storeowner to settle US$10.00. Money well-spent.

Our next stop on this bumpy road trip was Kerak, sometimes referred to as al-Karak, and along the way it became abundantly clear that single use plastics are a major problem in this area, there were plastic bottles strewn everywhere and every chainlink fence was plastered with blue plastic bags held in place by the breeze, many more in every open space as well. We also began to notice that Waheed has connections absolutely everywhere in this country! While we were driving Waheed began talking about some traditional regional dishes and he brought up what is essentially the Jordanian national dish, mansaf, which consists of lamb and rice served with a goat’s milk yoghurt. That sounded pretty good to us and it turned out that Waheed knew the right place in Kerak to eat it so he made a quick phone call and then told us that our mansaf would be ready when we arrived in town. We made a stop along the way to take in the scenery and a bit after 3:00pm we were in Kerak, scoffing down our mansaf which turned out to be fantastic, although we could still smell it on our hands even after washing them multiple times.

Kerak itself is a relatively nondescript Middle Easter town, but one thing we were going to have a look at was Kerak Castle:

Kerak Castle is a large medieval castle located in al-Karak, Jordan. It is one of the largest castles in the Levant. Construction began in the 1140s, under Pagan and Fulk, King of Jerusalem. The Crusaders called it Crac des Moabites or “Karak in Moab”, as it is referred to in history books. It was also colloquially referred to as Krak of the Desert.

Kerak Castle is an example of one of the first castles built by the Franks that used a fortified tower structure and is a notable example of Crusader architecture, a mixture of west European, Byzantine, and Arab designs. Many early Frankish castles that predate Kerak were merely towers built along the crusader states during the early years of crusading. In the second half of the twelfth century, the growing Muslim threat made crusaders update their castle design and prioritize defensive elements.

Tom managed to disappoint a man whom he thought was trying to scam him at the castle. The guy asked “Photo?”, a common ploy to take a tourist’s picture and then get them to pay before they return the phone or camera, but in this case he just wanted Tom to take a photo of him and his girlfriend, something we only realised after Tom refused.
Some scenes from the market, the road trip, lunch, and the castle:

We drove for about another 90 minutes before we were finally at our hotel, the fabulous Mövenpick Resort Petra in Wadi Musa, so we checked in, I removed my extremely sweaty keffiyeh, showered, had a look around some of the shops in our hotel, and then set out to find a place to hang out for the night. We knew Tom would want our nightlife on this trip to be dictated by where we could watch the World Cup, but just like in Amman, and at the actual World Cup matches in Qatar for that matter, it was borderline impossible to find a location that had both the football and booze. One place looked like it had a bit of a party atmosphere, but everyone in attendance was completely fine just drinking Coke, however, we eventually stumbled upon a relatively empty restaurant with a tapestry of what looked like a young Steve Buscemi on the wall where the manager would discreetly sell us beer under the table while the match was on.
Once it was over it was back to the hotel for us. The main event was tomorrow, but first, a final look at that night:

Tuesday, November 21, 2022
Today was the big day and the main reason for visiting Jordan, the ancient city of Petra. I’ll spare you the history lesson, but this is what we’d be exploring:

Access to the city is through a 1.2-kilometre-long (34 mi) gorge called the Siq, which leads directly to the Khazneh. Famous for its rock-cut architecture and water conduit system, Petra is also called the “Rose City” because of the colour of the stone from which it is carved. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. UNESCO has described Petra as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. In 2007, Al-Khazneh was voted one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

It’s been 33 years, but who’s counting?

Most people would probably remember Petra from the film Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade among others and amongst the merchandise stalls outside the entrance there were several willing to milk poor Indy dry (right). Although he dropped us off at the entrance at 9:00am, it wouldn’t be Waheed taking us around Petra, but instead a younger guide whose name I can’t recall, but he was fantastic, funny, and really knew his stuff so we did the obligatory cardboard cutout tourist photos while we waited and were soon on our way. Taking a horse was definitely an option and there were more than enough people trying to get you to go on one, but as always they were just a scam and despite my legs still not being one hundred percent from climbing those horrendously steep ancient theatre steps two days prior, we were still going to hoof it.

One of the first major sites we encountered upon entrance was one of many tombs, the Obelisk Tomb, cut into the side of a rock, and then we were to pass through the Siq:

The Siq is the main entrance to the ancient Nabatean city of Petra in southern Jordan. Also known as Siqit, it is a dim, narrow gorge (in some points no more than 3 metres (10 ft) wide) and winds its way approximately 1.2 kilometres (34 mi) and ends at Petra’s most elaborate ruin, Al Khazneh (the Treasury). A wide valley outside leading to the Siq is known as the Bab as-Sīq (Gateway to the Siq).

Unlike slot canyons such as Antelope Canyon in the American Southwest, which are directly shaped by water, the Siq is a natural geological fault split apart by tectonic forces; only later was it worn smooth by water. The walls that enclose the Siq stand between 91–182 metres (299–597 ft) in height.

Fortunately for us there still weren’t as many tourists as there were pre-Covid, because even with smaller numbers, the Siq gets incredibly crowded, but after about 20 minutes of winding our way through, we soon found ourselves standing in front of what we had come to see, Al Khazneh, or The Treasury:

Al-Khazneh is one of the most elaborate temples in Petra, a city of the Nabatean Kingdom inhabited by the Arabs in ancient times. As with most of the other buildings in this ancient town, including the Monastery (Ad Deir), this structure was carved out of a sandstone rock face.

The structure is believed to have been the mausoleum of the Nabatean King Aretas IV in the 1st century AD. It became known as “Al-Khazneh”, or The Treasury, in the early 19th century by the area’s Bedouins as they had believed it contained treasures.

Many of the building’s architectural details have eroded away during the two thousand years since it was carved and sculpted from the cliff. The sculptures are thought to be those of various mythological figures associated with the afterlife. On top are figures of four eagles that would carry away the souls. The figures on the upper level are dancing Amazons with double-axes. The entrance is flanked by statues of the twins Castor and Pollux who lived partly on Olympus and partly in the underworld.

In contrast to the elaborate facade, the interior comprises a plain main chamber and three antechambers with interior volume of around 2,000 m3 (71,000 cu ft).

Once we were in front of The Treasury there were plenty of people offering us camel rides for the rest of our hike, yet again a scam, our guide telling us that these ones will quote a price and then only take you about 50-100 metres (164-328 ft) and from riding one in Oman I know that they are uncomfortable, itchy, and they stink, but later on in hindsight Tom probably would’ve paid anything to have one at his disposal.
Cardboard poses, the Obelisk Tomb, the Siq, and The Treasury:

We’re lucky we visited The Treasury when we did, because in what seems like yet another occurrence of disaster striking not long after we’ve visited a location in our seemingly endless trail of destruction, another edition of the “T-Factor” if you will, the entire area flooded just a little over a month later! However that wasn’t an issue for us and we still had some trekking to do, something that was going to be a little difficult on these legs, but our goal was to make it up to ad Deir, also known as The Monastery:

Ad Deir  is a monumental building carved out of rock in the ancient Jordanian city of Petra. The Deir was probably carved out of the rock in the mid-first century AD.

Arguably one of the most iconic monuments in the Petra Archaeological Park, the Monastery is located high in the hills northwest of the Petra city center. It is the second most commonly visited monument in Petra, after the Khazneh or “Treasury”.

The huge facade, the inner chamber and the other structures next to it or in the wider area around the Deir probably originally served a complex religious purpose, and was possibly repurposed as a church in the Byzantine period.

Scholars believe that the flat area in front of the Monastery was levelled through human action in order to make the area suitable for social gatherings or religious occasions. Near the entrance of the structure are the remains of a wall and a colonnade.

The rock-cut façade of the Monastery, 47 m (154 ft) high and 48 m (157 ft) wide, has a broken pediment, the two sides of which flank a central tholos-shaped element. This element has a conical roof that is topped by an urn.

Our guide walked us past some more unfinished rock carvings and yet another ancient theatre, but I had learnt my lesson about climbing those two days earlier. We continued by the Royal Tombs including the Palace Tomb and the Urn Tomb, past the remains of the Temple of the Winged Lions, the Byzantine Church, Hadrian’s Gate, Qsar al-Bint temple, and the Temple of Dushares and soon we were at the foot of the hill where our guide would depart and we would hike alone up to The Monastery. He told us it would be only about a 20-minute walk up some steps and Tom is a rather sedentary person so he was struggling after 10, but soldiered on knowing there was only another 10 minutes to go until we would be at the summit, taking in The Monastery in all of its majesty. After that 10 minutes we were all struggling, however Tom was on the brink of collapse to the point where elderly people who climb the hill everyday to sell handicrafts and souvenirs to tourists were now mocking and trash-talking him every time he had to double over with his hands on his knees, but always followed by the encouraging, “Only ten minutes more”. We kept going, all four of us needing to pull over to the side every couple of minutes for a rest, because as we would find out later, apparently “10 minutes” can mean probably any period of time under half an hour as this turned out to be the case:

The Monastery can be reached by ascending a nearly 800 step path (40 minute walking time) from the Basin. The Wadi Kharrubeh, the Lion’s tomb, and small biclinia and grottos can be seen en route to the Monastery. From the Monastery, one can view the stunning valleys of Wadi Araba and the gorges along with the semi-arid territory immediately around Petra.

It was definitely worth the effort to make it to the summit, because the scenery was simply stunning and fortunately for us, there was a shaded seating area where we could recharge before making our way back down.
A look at the tombs, the ruins, and The Monastery:

We made our way back down again, being heckled along the way by the same vendors as on the way up and when we were finally back at the entrance to Petra it turned out that we had walked 20 kilometres (12.5 mi) and climbed the equivalent of 50 storeys! It wasn’t a difficult decision to agree that either Waheed or taxis would be doing the rest of the work for the day, but even that would later turn out a bit bizarre.

We were booked in to see Petra at night, but when we spoke to some people in our hotel the general consensus was that it was essentially the same as Petra during the day, just by candlelight, and if anything it is a bit of a fire hazard as there is only the one narrow path out. Instead we followed our itinerary and caught a taxi into town to find a restaurant, a ride which cost us 5 dinah (US$7.00) for a relatively short trip so upon arrival we felt like we had been ripped off. Still, dinner was great and Tom was up for watching the World Cup again, but we knew the best option would be the Cave Bar a few doors down from our hotel so we got a cab and when we got in we were quoted a price of JD 5 again. This wasn’t acceptable so we haggled and eventually got the driver down to JD 3 (US$4.20) and it was almost immediately after he began driving that I noticed the striking resemblance between this driver and our previous one. “No”, the driver replied when I questioned him about it. “That was the 5 dinah driver, I am the the 3 dinah driver.”, but nope, it was the same guy.

With the American couple (and sans Tom) that have more than just a handful of issues

Leonie opted to go back to the hotel for some rest, but once the other three of us were inside the Cave Bar it was incredible, a bar carved inside an actual cave so I grabbed a beer, Anna a wine, and Tom a negroni, the quality of which would constantly irritate him throughout the entire trip, yet he would continue to order them. Our night in the Cave Bar would eventually end up taking a weird turn when a couple from the US (left) approached us; Tom and myself were sitting on either side of Anna, who was wearing a rainbow sweater. Tom has his moustache and people often assume I’m gay for some reason so besides thinking we were a couple they also came to the conclusion that Anna was transgender, as they had probably heard about kathoey (and yes, “ladyboy” is still considered an acceptable term in Thailand) from someone who had traveled to South-East Asia. When they came up to us Tom was already a bit drunk and they told Anna that they had been trying to see if she had an adam’s apple so they decided to get a closer look, but were soon to find out that she was born female, was my wife, and that Tom’s wife was back in the room asleep. I don’t think they were completely convinced, but the male began talking to Tom and I while the woman was speaking to Anna. She was worried about the progression of their six-month relationship, not completely sure that she trusted her partner so it probably didn’t help much when Tom told her that her boyfriend had just confided in him that he had adopted a child without telling her. Surprisingly, they still hung around us, but Tom went missing, leaving a half-finished negroni and his glasses on our table. We figured he may have just gone to the bathroom, but he had been gone a while and me checking up on him would only add fuel to the “are they or aren’t they?” debate if Tom had snuck off to the toilet and I followed a little while later. I still checked and it turned out he had just drunkenly ghosted us. Oh well, I guess we’d just have to give him his glasses back the next day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2022
Our awkward conversations and the random ghosting at the Cave Bar were now in the past and it was time to move on to the relaxing portion of the Jordanian leg of our trip, the Dead Sea. I never thought I’d say this, but Anna and I had been to the Dead Sea before, last time on the Israeli side, but I still think it’s safe to say that the highlight for all four of us was actually our accommodation for the following two nights, the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar, Dead Sea. This place was next level luxury with our rooms in this sprawling resort overlooking the sea itself, so upon arrival we bid a final farewell to Waheed, and just took it easy for the day, exploring the resort, grabbing lunch, and then kicking back that night with a shisha.
The scenery along the way to the Dead Sea was breathtaking and the Kempinski was definitely the perfect spot to unwind:

Thursday, November 23, 2022
It was our final day in Jordan and our last day where we would try to relax properly on this vacation, we were on the edge of the Dead Sea so what better plan than to bathe in it again? We got in, floated around under the scorching sun for about five minutes, on this occasion with the constant noise from heavy machinery operating in the background, but unlike our time in Israel, I decided to join in with the others and do what what is commonly recommended — we all smeared every centimetre of exposed skin with the mud from the sea’s floor. Apparently coating yourself in the mud, letting it dry in the sun, and then getting back into the sea to wash it off is supposed to make your skin feel incredible and to be fair parts of it did, but I also managed to break out in a rash in other areas as well.

The rest of the day was pure laziness on our part, just relaxing in the pool, relaxing in the sunset on the balcony, relaxing while a belly dancer performed after dinner, and trying to relax while watching Australia get destroyed by France in the World Cup, 4-1. In fact we were so relaxed watching the football that I thought that after everyone had left I saw some people we could join inside. Nope, it turned out they were just our reflections in a window in the distance.
A look at the Dead Sea from a different perspective to last time with undeniable proof that I did the mud bit, plus a few scenes from later in that lazy day:

Well, that’s it for the Jordanian portion of our trip. Stay tuned for the next instalment when we take a chaotic flight to Cairo and visit the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, as well as the Cairo Museum, before moving on to Luxor for a not-so-pleasant stay in the Hilton.

2 Comments on Desert Sessions Volume I: Jordan

  1. Excellent photo-story with great images and practical info.
    Thanks for visiting my blog and nice to come by yours.
    Happy Sunday.

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