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Phespirit goes to Jordan
tour     November 2002

It is a curse upon the people of Jordan that their economy and national image must suffer for the sins of their unruly neighbours. To the east and to the west: state terrorism, guerrilla terrorism, war and intifada, Zionism and jihad, scuffles for oil and power. Not ideal circumstances for living, let alone holidaying. But then again, where is safe in the world these days? So Phespirit went to Jordan .....

The country is awash with sites of historical interest and natural beauty. Take these three, for example:

  1. The Dead Sea. Why had it never previously dawned on Phespirit that since the Dead Sea has an eastern shore it must be possible to take a swim from the Jordanian side? Wading into the warm shallows at the Dead Sea Spa hotel, the water feels just like ordinary water, despite saline levels standing at seventy percent. As the sea gets deeper, so the mind and body feels an urge to float. Normal swimming is not an option as the backside and legs naturally buoy to the surface leaving the feet to kick against fresh air. This is all highly entertaining, comfortable and relaxing, but woe betide those who get water in their eyes - it burns like caustic.

  2. The Rose Red City of Petra. No amount of dredging the thesaurus will bring forth adequate words to describe this place. In an era when words like "awesome" and "amazing" are bandied about to describe anything from snowboarding to clipart it seems like something of a disservice to employ them correctly in this context. Phespirit spent a full day at the site, setting off on horseback from the visitors centre to the entrance of the siq: the 1.2km gorge, high and narrow, that coolly twists into Petra as far as the huge carved edifice of the Treasury. Fools rush in and miss subtle details along the way. When the Treasury finally appears in view - a heart-jumping sliver of pink light that booms into a revelation of magnificence - it is everything and more than could be hoped. And this is just the beginning. Nabataean and Roman ruins spread across the valley and mountainside for a further 3-4km all around. Phespirit stayed in the site until well past sunset, entering the by-now deserted siq at 5:15pm and emerging in pitch darkness almost half an hour later, having narrowly avoided being trampled by two Bedouin thundering through the chasm on their horses. Exciting!

  3. Wadi Rum. A two hour drive south from Petra, turning east off the Desert Highway at Rashidiyeh, following the Hejaz railway, is Wadi Rum - the most spectacular desert landscape in Jordan. The spectacle is in the vast open spaces, the colossal mountains, the brilliance and range of colours. Phespirit rode from Rum Village on the open tail of a 4WD Toyota to view Nabataean inscriptions in the siq of Jebel Khazali; then on to visit the site of the Lawrence Spring. As the afternoon drew to a close, the thick covering clouds which until that point had muted the pink, orange, and ochre sandstone, split asunder, and the setting sun cast rich golden rays across the dunes. The scene rendered Phespirit wide-eyed and slack-jawed during the drive back to Rum Village. The arrival of evening allowed the local Arabs to break their Ramadan fast. Hot and cold buffet was brought out at the village resthouse. Several rounds of Arak were poured while musicians from Jordan, Sudan and Egypt played up a riot. English people sang and danced badly, and a good night was had.

With so many people scared away from Jordan because of the regional problems, this was an excellent chance to see world-reknowned heritage sites without the clutter of tourist hoards. A chance taken.

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