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Phespirit goes to Jordan
tour     November 2002

AROUND JORDAN

Map of Jordan

1 Jerash

The ancient city of Gerasa was founded in the Hellenistic period, became a 'free city' of the Roman Empire in 64BC and flourished in a federation of ten such cities known as the Decapolis:

  • Damascus   (Syria)
  • Philadelphia   (Amman, Jordan)
  • Scythopolis   (Bet Shean, Israel)
  • Gadara   (Umm Qais, Jordan)
  • Pella   (Tabaqat Fahl, Jordan)
  • Gerasa   (Jerash, Jordan)
  • Canatha   (Qanawat, Syria)
  • Hippos   (Qalat al-Hosn, Israel)
  • Dium   (lost)
  • Raphana   (lost)

Jerash continued to do well until ruination came in the form of an earthquake in 747AD. The ruins remain impressive even today.

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2 Amman

Phespirit lacked sufficient time for a good look around the capital, Amman, despite spending his first and last nights in Jordan there at the Firas Palace Hotel. Indeed, a twenty-minute walk up to the citadel for a swift wander around inside was all he could manage.

For those interested, however, Phespirit can confirm that Amman has branches of McDonald's, KFC and Burger King, so American multi-nationals are well represented on the streets of Jordan.

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3 Wadi Kharrar

Wadi Kharrar is said to be the site of 'Bethany across the Jordan', where John the Baptist dunked Jesus.

Phespirit arrived two minutes before the 4:00pm closing time, only to find the gates locked and half the staff pissed off home to break their Ramadan fasts. Negotiations with the remaining guards hung on a knife-edge until a minibus crammed with beautiful young girls from Russia, all Orthodox Christian pilgrims, arrived on the scene.

Arguments ceased, monies were paid, and the gates flung wide.

Once inside, Phespirit had a ten minute look at the narrow muddy wadi stream but gave the Byzantine churches a miss.

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4 Dead Sea Spa

At the Dead Sea Spa hotel, proceed from reception thusly:

  • hike the convoluted route to their outdoor swimming pool;
  • change in changing rooms with lockers without locks;
  • ignore the pool and head directly to the hotel beach;
  • wade out into the nice warm toxic water;
  • float, float, float, float, float;
  • muse over being at the lowest point on Earth;
  • float, float, float, float, float;
  • reluctantly exit the sea when night falls;
  • take a cold shower on the beach and retrace steps.

Phespirit additionally slashed his feet on underwater concrete and scalded his eyes by dipping his head ..... so it wasn't all fun.

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5 Mount Nebo

As at Wadi Kharrar, Phespirit rolled up at the Memorial Church of Moses on Mount Nebo precisely in time for the 4:00pm lock-up.

The resident Franciscan monks are supposedly quite uncharitable and tyrannical when enforcing this hour, but Phespirit was allowed enough minutes to look inside the church with its mosaics, and to savour the panoramic views from the summit.

From here Moses saw the promised land and promptly expired.

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6 Madaba

If the Madaba visitor sees but one thing and one thing only then it has to be the mosaic map of the holy land in the Greek Orthodox church of St George.

So that's what Phespirit saw.

The map is ancient - the oldest known - and quite wonderful.
The church is modern - blandly painted - and quite lack-lustre.

Places shown on the map:
 
Jerusalem, Bethlehem, The Dead Sea, The River Jordan, Jericho, Jacob's Well, The Mediterranean Sea, Mount Sinai, The Nile Delta, Karak, St Lot's Monastery, Hebron ..... plus 145 other things labelled up in Byzantine Greek.

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7 Wadi Mujib

Wadi Mujib is a huge spectacular gorge which spans 4km across the top and plunges 400m to the bottom. Phespirit crossed at the point where a dam of proportional immensity was midway through being constructed, with infinitely hairpinned roads on either side.

It is the Arnon Gorge of Bible fame (Deuteronomy 2:24).

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8 Kerak

Around the middle of the eleventh century, Christians from all over Europe agreed that what the Middle East really needed was a few more religious wars .....

The hilltop town of Kerak is built around a well preserved crusader castle which dates back to 1140. Phespirit clambered through the ruined underground chambers and up to the windswept Mameluke keep, where he munched a molten Kit-Kat in the sunshine.

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9 Al Barid / Beidha

Two sites for the price of one!

Not a million miles from Petra, the Nabataean site of Al Barid has inevitably been stuck with the tag 'Little Petra'. This is unfortunate as the place has a unique charm all of its own.

Visitors should look out for the temple that has an iron grille fitted inside. The bars protect a much-damaged ceiling fresco depicting grapevines and waterfowl, the gods Cupid and Pan, and the angel of judgement over to the right.

Beidha is a Pre-Pottery Neolithic settlement dating back to 7000-6500BC. It was partially excavated by the British in 1956, and the modest remains are conveniently located just ten minutes on foot from Al Barid, or one minute on the back of a Bedouin's 4WD.

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10 Petra

Today the once-lost Nabataean city and the modern town of Petra co-exist cheek by jowl, but are kept separate by an entrance gate leading to a long crescent trail, followed by a 1.2km rock chasm.

In November 2002, monies to be paid for entry to Petra were thus:

  • JD11 for a day ticket or JD13 for two days;
  • JD7 mandatory tax to support the Bedouin horsemen;
  • a few dinars tip for the use of a horse to reach the chasm;

Exchange rate: JD1.00 = £1.00 UK Sterling - as near as damn it - but don't quibble, it's the bargain of a lifetime.

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11 Wadi Rum

This remote "vast echoing and Godlike" land was the star of David Lean's 'Lawrence of Arabia', and also T.E. Lawrence's 'The Seven Pillars of Wisdom', which Phespirit read in preparation for his visit.

Here is majesty.

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  1. Jerash
  2. Amman
  3. Wadi Kharrar
  4. Dead Sea Spa
  5. Mount Nebo
  6. Madaba
  7. Wadi Mujib
  8. Kerak
  9. Al Barid / Beidha
  10. Petra
  11. Wadi Rum
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Jerash Amman Wadi Kharrar Dead Sea Spa Mount Nebo Madaba Wadi Mujib Kerak Al Barid / Beidha Petra Wadi Rum