Trouble usually comes in three. At least that’s all I hope if does because we’ve certainly had our fill and don’t need anymore.
Wadi Rum. The largest valley in Jordan, also known as Valley of the Moon and synonymous with Lawrence of Arabia and the multi-Oscar award winning film of the same name. If there is one thing that has driven the tourism industry of the area, it is the journey T.E. Lawrence made on camel back through this area with a 500-man Arabic force to attack the Ottoman Turks in Aqaba.
Aqaba city, itself, is situated at the northernmost tip of the Gulf of Aqaba where four countries are within spitting distance of each other. Jordan’s only coastal city is a mere three kilometres from the Israeli city of Eilat, with the two eyeballing each other across the sparkling waters. About eight kilometres down the coast from Eilat is Egypt and on the Jordanian side of the Gulf of Aqaba, Saudi Arabia is less than 20 kilometres away.
With a lot of time planned on the road, we’re very conscious of the need to not always be rushing around. Hence, our intention is to build a fair amount of down days into our travels. After a pretty full-on first 2 weeks, it was time to kick back for a bit on the shores of the Red Sea, known for some of the best diving in the world.
Located up the top of a giant hill in al-Kerak, thankfully this time accessible directly by car, is the large Crusader castle, Kerak Castle. Pagan the Butler, Lord of Oultrejordain, began construction of this desert fort in the 1140’s and is living proof that you can work your way up from the bottom, having literally been the King of Jerusalem’s butler earlier in his life.
I’ve been called quite a few names over the years, but not nearly as many as that of the Dead Sea. Past names have included the Primordial Sea, the East Sea, the Sea of Lot, the Sea of the Arabah, the Sea of Sodom, the Stinking Sea, the Sea of Asphalt and the Devil’s Sea. Even now, the sea is not content with having just the one name, with it also being called Yam HaMelah (Salt Sea) in Hebrew and Al-Baḥr Al-Mayyit (Sea of Death) in Arabic. The funny thing is, that all these names are in fact wrong. Because the sea, is in fact, an inland lake.
Seven hundred metres above the Jordan Valley, on a mountain now called Mount Nebo, Moses is said to have sighted the promised land of Canaan before dying. Thanks to Google Maps, we didn’t spend forty years wandering in the desert before arriving. Instead, we drove up the winding road from Sowaya and were there in about 30 minutes. Modernity does have its perks.
When it comes to sightseeing, I’m definitely Toy Story’s Woody to Veronica’s Buzz Lightyear. Bounding around looking for new things to see, I’m always rushing around taking just one more picture. As the perfect foil to Woody, Buzz looks after the kids when they (or Buzz) start complaining about getting bored or tired. Usually that means I race off on my own, so as not to make everyone’s life completely unbearable, arriving back drenched in sweat from being a power tourist.
It is said that Jordan has some of the best preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy. While this mostly relates to the ruins in Jerash, an hour or so north of Amman, the capital city has its own fair share of quality Roman ruins. Our own Roman recce began in downtown Amman with a visit to the Roman Theatre.
Over the next six months or so that we plan being on the road, we’re booked into a reasonably wide range of accommodation types. Most have been booked through www.booking.com, which, when I was doing price comparisons, always came out as the cheapest on identical properties. Apart from the odd hotel-stay, we have opted for apartment style “living”. This seems the cheapest way for us to travel outside of staying in hostels, which Veronica vetoed by saying she’d take me hostage if I booked anything along those lines.
Amman is a city often overlooked by people visiting Jordan. When you’ve got uber-famous sites such as Petra, Wadi Rum and the Dead Sea in your stable, not to mention the Jerash Ruins, Karnak Temple and Red Sea diving, it’s easy to see why. Our experience so far is that anyone who invests the time in Jordan’s capital city will, however, be amply rewarded.