In God's Country

Trip Start Dec 15, 2009
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Trip End Aug 27, 2010


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Where I stayed

Flag of Jordan  ,
Saturday, June 26, 2010

Arrival at Queen Alia airport preceded an unexpected but straightforward visa process and pick up by the hotel driver with a short transfer to the Mariam hotel in Madaba. This had us at the hotel in good time to see the Spain-Chile game, having already missed the most of the Brazil-Portugal (0-0) encounter ….. not a bad one to miss.

After another two day transfer with little sleep the next day demanded some R&R and so we spent it exploring the town of Madaba and relaxing in the hotel watching World Cup games. As it turns out, Madaba is World famous as a centre for Mosaics, both in terms of their religious and historical significance as well as a vibrant modern-day industry. There are ancient mosaics all over this historic town, the highlights being the first recorded map of the Holy land including Jerusalem city, as well as the "Madaba tree" and “Tree of life”. In our exploration of the city we found several small mosaic workshops and the kids were quite fascinated to watch the intricate process and even got to help out in one of the workshops, each kid gluing a single tile into place –unfortunately not enough assistance to qualify for a discount on the final piece ;-) Besides mosaics, Madaba has various other claims to fame and states that at one time it was as important a city on the east bank of the dead sea as Jerusalem was on the west bank.

Jordan is a pretty small country with a high density of sights and activities and it seems the easiest and most efficient way to get around is via car, so we hired a driver through the hotel and set off to explore the surrounds of Madaba. Our first destination was the Roman city of Jerash, but we'll detail those exploits in the next blog entry (Sunday Bloody Sunday) for reasons that should become apparent.

Part of Jordan’s border sits on the Dead Sea, apparently the lowest point on earth and this was our second stop of the day. When we had made our plans at the hotel with the driver, we were expecting to turn up at a beach, go for a swim in the sea and then be on our way. Apparently it doesn’t work that way here in Jordan and our only option to be able to swim in the Dead Sea was to pay for admission into one of several resorts lining the beaches. The resort was nice enough and not only provided the option to swim in the sea, but had several pools and showering facilities, however, had we known ahead of time that it would cost us ~$75 to get in we’d probably have planned to spend more than an hour there! We’d come too far not to swim in the sea and so duly paid the entry fee and made our way to the beach. The weather was a tad on the warm side and the sand was too hot to walk on bare foot, which made for a speedy entry into the water, which itself was bathtub warm. Underfoot is a mixture of sand, pebbles, salt blocks and mud though once the water is more than a foot or two deep it really doesn’t matter as you float from then on. Swimming in the Dead Sea is harder than you might think – floating is easy, but actually swimming is hard when you are so buoyant. Having found a nice area of mud, we followed suit with the other (more informed) visitors and proceeded to apply the mud from top to toe for a good body scrub – very therapeutic ;-)

Near to Madaba town is Mount Nebo, a rocky outcrop said to be the place from which God showed Moses the Promised Land, and our final stop of the day. Standing on supposedly the same spot as Moses we looked out across the land and Dead Sea towards Jerusalem; a rather barren yet poignant landscape. Mount Nebo is now home to a 6th Century Moses Memorial Church currently under refurbishment. It also boasts a modern but unique iron cross that has become its symbol and main attraction. It was a rather hurried visit to Mount Nebo, but the clock was ticking and England were due to kick-off against Germany in less than an hour……
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