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Old 25th March 2020, 00:21   #1
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Default The Road Trip across Jordan

Do you remember the travel series, Lonely planet(renamed to globe trekker) that used to come more than 20 years back and that iconic theme song on the Discovery channel?


A particular scene that is etched in my mind is the show presenter smearing the Dead sea mud and floating in the sea. A mental note was made in my mind as a kid and then that experience was achieved in February 2020. This series has been inspirational for millennials like me to travel, learn and experience many places around the world.

It started one December in the evening after a critical delivery of a feature was done. The mind was free that day and a part in the corner of the brain got ignited that I need to visit Jordan just to see beautiful sights in the country that I saw as a kid on TV.

Tracked airfares for few days and booked it when it was at the lowest point. Oman Air was latched for traveling to Jordan. Randomly pinged my friend, Mr. K who is my school buddy and stays in Singapore now. After giving him a rough plan, he said he will ask for leave. In the mean time, I booked Jordan pass for myself and booked a car rental. I started making itineraries and we covered below places in Jordan in the end.
  1. Amman
  2. Jerash
  3. Dead Sea
  4. Petra
  5. Wadi Rum
  6. Aqaba
  7. Madaba

For easier calculations, consider 1 JOD = 100 INR. (That was the rate in Mid February, 2020). JOD is pegged to USD.

Most of the pics are shot with a OnePlus 3T with few from DSLR and GoPro7.

We knew the weather was going to be cold and knew this will be an off season in Jordan.

A small snap shot of things to come in this log.
The Road Trip across Jordan-intro_jordan-1-1.jpeg

(P.S: Don't forget to click on google maps hyperlink and save them for your use)

Last edited by rst89 : 28th March 2020 at 00:20.
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Old 25th March 2020, 00:24   #2
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Default Re: The Road trip across Jordan

This index will give a good idea of what will follow up in the travelogue:
Jordan pass and the Visa panic

Driving in Jordan

Walking Amman

Exploring Jerash and Mount Nebo

How to Swim Free in Dead Sea

Petra

Wadi Rum: A treat to your eyes

Hiking the highest mountain in Jordan

Scuba diving in Aqaba

Madaba

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Old 25th March 2020, 00:25   #3
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Jordan pass and the Visa panic:

It was December and I booked a Jordan pass for myself. Checked the official website of Visit Jordan and the visa requirements and it was visa on arrival for us. I had seen it was visa on arrival one year back and now it remains same, so we were raring to go. The main advantage of Jordan pass is you get free visa on arrival when you land in Jordan. It starts from 70 JOD which includes one day entry to Petra and other host of attractions in Jordan. So the Pro trip: Never enter Jordan without Jordan pass as you save 40 JOD visa on arrival fees and save entry fees to attractions like Petra, Jerash, Amman Citadel and Roman theatre in Amman and Wadi Rum.

Mr. K got his leave approved. (Part of this can be attributed to SARS-Covid-19 panic in Singapore and most of conferences and AGM got cancelled). He searched flights to match my timings from India and luckily Oman air was giving the best deal among the whole lot of international flights from Singapore. The flight is booked and I told him to proceed with booking the Jordan pass.

Mr. K sent me a screenshot that he got a pop up window to contact the nearest Jordanian embassy when he was trying to book Jordan pass with Indian nationality. I checked the Jordan pass website and indeed they have changed it for Indian citizens!

Social media was activated and visa on arrival was indeed revoked. Indian embassy site of Amman had a conflicting notice compared to official notice from the Jordanians. This notice from the Jordanian embassy was authentic after I confirmed with few other people. Social media was abuzz with denial of boarding and people who had bought the Jordan pass asked for refund. Looks like Jordan pass officials woke up and the conditions for Indians were changed overnight. I checked the IATA site for requirements and it was changed as per Jordanian circular.

Indian citizens were eligible for Visa on arrival if they hold valid visa or residency of Australia, Canada, Japan, USA, UK or Schengen countries.

This notice relieved me as I had a valid USA visa and I double checked with a travel agent whose contact I found out from Visit Jordan website. But Mr. K needed a visa. One week was spent on applying on Ministry of Interior, Jordan website. There he got a rejection that no Pre visa is required for him. We were pretty sure he will get denied boarding by airlines and since Singapore is a small country, he went to the embassy over there and got visa stamped on his passport for 45 JOD.

Below is the process is for independent travellers like me:

I boarded 15th Feb from Mumbai to Amman. The USA visa was checked by both the airlines and at the Indian immigration. I reached Amman around 2330h and at the Queen Alia international airport, Amman airport, I casually reached the Jordan pass kiosk and they told me to contact police. I reached police office and after waiting for 10 to 15 minutes, I was called inside. The main officer took Xerox of the USA visa and front page of passport, wrote something in Arabic on the Xerox copy, handed it over to me and told me to go to the Jordan pass kiosk and submit over there.

Jordan pass was checked at the kiosk and he took the Xerox from me and stamped my passport. Now the terms and conditions of Jordan pass is that you need to stay in Jordan for minimum three days or else 40 JOD will be charged from you when you exit Jordan.


At the passport control, the immigration official called his senior. My passport was stamped by immigration official anyways but the senior guy asked me my profession and said, welcome to Jordan.

I was in contact with Mr. K over Whatsapp as my luggage was on the carousel and told him to collect it. The whole process took 20 minutes to 30 minutes extra. In short, I got visa on arrival for free but with this extra time.

Now Mr. Ks process. Since he had visa stamped on his passport, there was some questioning by airline officials at places of transit. He directly went to immigration, was asked whether he wanted to enter on Jordan pass or stamped visa, he said stamped visa. Again the immigration official called his senior. Mr. K showed his Singapore pass and he was let through without any further questions.

It looks like Indian passports are under renewed scrutiny, main reason is Indians abusing the visa on arrival and working over there illegally. In the end, genuine Indian travellers have to go through this undue process and questioning.

Other observation are as follows.
  1. While waiting at the police office, I was entertained pretty quick given the immigration standards but I saw one Indian family waiting outside even though they had arrived before me.
  2. There were Indian citizens with residency permit of GCC who had to go same process as I went through it. Now Indian passport holders holding GCC permit have been denied boarding at gulf countries but looks like some made through it.
  3. If you book the whole tour using a Jordan travel agent, they will catch you as soon as you exit the aerobridge at the airport, collect passports and guide you through the immigration. This was collaborated by Indian couple whom we met in Wadi Rum. Off course the extra factor are the charges of the agent.
  4. We met one more couple from India in our hostel in Amman, they neither held any valid visas nor had any residency permit. They shelled some 15k INR for getting visa stamped in India from some travel agent in India itself and were independent travellers like us.
  5. Asian passengers were questioned outside police office due to CoVid-19 scare (Racial profiling: May be)

If you plan to travel to Jordan, I suggest always to look for the latest notices and then travel.

As soon we exited the airport, near arrivals section, we took two SIM cards, one from Zain and the other from Umniah. We wanted double redundancy as google maps was going to be our saviour for the entire trip. They were activated instantly.

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Old 25th March 2020, 00:28   #4
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Driving in Jordan:

When I was searching how to travel in Jordan on Reddit (A great community compared to Twitter), everyone suggested me to book a car rental and not to waste time in paying for costly taxis or mini buses. I have never driven on the right side of road but have observed a lot of people how they drive on the other side in USA and Europe and took a mental notes of what needs to be done when you drive on the other side of the road.

Mr. K was never disclosed about my inexperience of driving on right side of the road. It takes 25 JOD to reach airport to our hostel after midnight and it made sense to take rental from airport itself. Again Reddit helped me zero in a rental agency as Hertz, Thrifty and Sixt were quoting something above roof and I knew I have to pay in between 30 to 35 USD per day, nothing more.
Monte Carlo car rental was chosen and they offered me Automatic Hyundai Accent/Verna or higher at 22 JOD per day. Monte Carlo car rental doesn’t have office at Amman airport, so they charged some surcharge of 10 JOD to pick us in our rental car, drive to their office and complete formalities.

You can drive on your national license in Jordan which should be at least one year old and in English. No IDP is required here.

They were pretty good in Email communication and total quote I received was 164 JOD which includes 22 JOD rent per day for 7 days and plus 10 JOD airport surcharge and included comprehensive insurance. I met the representative who met us at the arrivals and I was pleasantly surprised that I will be having 1.6L Hyundai Creta automatic for 7 days with me. I took extra 15 JOD as anti theft insurance on the spot as we were going South of Jordan. The car had 91000 km on the odometer and looked good to me. 179 JOD was a good deal for 7 days with car given to me with a full tank and to be returned with same.

They charged me 100 JOD as deposit as I am above 21 years of age. We documented few bumps and scratches on the car and we started roughly around 0130h from the car rental office to Amman city. First thing we did sitting in the car was install our mobile holder.

The epic road trip starts!
The Road Trip across Jordan-img_20200216_015404.jpg
Drove the car on the other side of the road for the first time and after 50 meters realised that I was driving without headlamps ON! Tried to switch them on and realised that the stalks are on the opposite side. And the Wiper got switched on when I wanted to take a turn to the right. Got a bit familiarised with the stalks and then switched from service road to the desert highway that goes to Amman.

Got comfortable with the car, it was super smooth. Also it was first time driving an automatic for me. Overtook few bikers doing some crazy stunts at night on highway, navigated interchanges and roundabouts properly and reached our hostel in one shot with the help of google maps.

Distance covered on first day from airport to the hostel
The Road Trip across Jordan-airport_sydney_hostel.png

Some tips while driving in Jordan:
  1. Amman has considerable traffic and lot of interchanges and roundabouts. Give space for the car in front and the other car will be quick to occupy it.
  2. The three major highways in Jordan are good with speed breakers well marked. Amman has bigger roads and has many one ways.
  3. Desert highway (Number 15) has four lanes but somewhere you will get two lanes as construction is going on but there will not be much traffic.
  4. Kings highway( Highway no. 35) has two lanes except the one to Jerash from Amman had four lanes.
  5. Jordan valley highway (Highway no. 65) which goes parallel from Dead Sea to Aqaba has only two lanes.
  6. Speed limit ranges from 100 kmph to 110 kmph on highways with slowing mandatory in construction zones and villages.
  7. There are regular checkpoints on highways and you have to stop when instructed. My Indian license was checked only once at a check point and we were pulled three times in total and let go the other two times just by seeing our faces. Police are professional and one police guy at the check point near Dead sea told me he likes Kareena Kapoor.
  8. Rural roads: They may throw occasional pothole along with unmarked speed breakers. Hence, not recommended to take them at night.
  9. Jordanians like U turns and except Amman, you will see them everywhere in Jordan. They saved us couple of time when we strayed from our path.
  10. Trucks have a siren like light which needs to be on in night.
  11. If you see American pickups like GMC in South of Jordan, they are from Saudi Arabia and one pick up form Saudi overtook me from left even when I was in fast lane at the maximum speed limit. That was a crazy experience, a pickup arrived from nowhere on a four lane highway, went below the road and overtook me from left at a very high speed!
  12. There are no toll roads in Jordan. It produces no oil or very less oil, hence petrol costs more than India per litre.

Review of the car:

The Torque convertor gearbox of Creta served me good. Its was sometimes sluggish when we wanted to overtake a truck on two lane highway. The car guzzled petrol worth 65 JOD during the entire duration of the trip of 1025kms.

Last edited by rst89 : 27th March 2020 at 23:35.
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Old 25th March 2020, 00:30   #5
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Day one (16th Feb): Walking Amman

We arrived at 0215h at our pre-booked hostel, Sydney Hostel in Amman. This one has a 24 Hr reception and we had given the reception ample notification about our early morning arrival. This hostel had a free parking just in front of it. Parked the car, and hauled our backpacks to the first floor. The receptionist gave us coins when we paid our dorm cost, he patiently explained us each denominations which are called Piasters. Our fuzzy minds still asked him same question the next morning with all coins of different denomination spread on his desk.

Since our clocks were ahead, we woke up early and had breakfast which cost 3 JOD per head in the hostel itself. And that was our first introduction to Pita bread and hummus which we had in each meal for next 7 days. We ate it leisurely, got refreshed and set out to explore the city on foot.

Amman is composed of hills. Hence, you need to have strong legs to walk those gradients. A mere look at the map and we knew we are walking the whole Amman. There is no better way to experience a city than walking. It was beautiful day with crisp sunlight and light wind. Google weather actually predicted rains that day!

Amman is full of walkways like this as the city is composed of seven hills.
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-1-12.jpeg

Started around 1000h from hostel. First stop was the Amman Citadel, it gives a very good view of the city. Some titbits about the Citadel from Wiki:

Quote:
The Amman Citadel is a historical site at the center of downtown Amman, the capital of Jordan. The L-shaped hill is one of the seven hills (jabals) that originally made up Amman. The Citadel is considered an important site because it has had a long history of occupation by many great civilizations. Most of the buildings still visible at the site are from the Roman, Byzantine, and Umayyad periods. The major buildings at the site are the Temple of Hercules, a Byzantine church, and the Umayyad Palace
We spent 2 hours over here. Given this is off season for tourism in Jordan, the citadel was pretty empty. Got some sweeping views of the city and the next destination was locked, the Roman Theatre. Jordan pass was asked at both places but it was never checked, they verbally trusted you.

The temple of Hercules is huge here in the citadel and given the size of feet and the hand of Hercules, this might have been a huge structure. Nothing much remains of the statue. They have a small museum in the same complex.

Look at the feet and the hands of the statue of Hercules
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-5-12.jpeg

Amman City
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-2-12.jpeg

Overlooking the capital
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-3-12.jpeg

Amman
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-4-12.jpeg

The remains of the temple of Hercules
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-10-12.jpeg

With the massive Jordan flag in the background
The Road Trip across Jordan-dsc_0045.jpg

We then descended to the Hashemite plaza and Roman theatre. Those stairs going through the neighbourhood of Amman gave us good views of the theatre.

View of the Roman theatre
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-6-12.jpeg

We crossed the streets and made it to the top of the theatre. The theatre has steep stairs and you need to be careful about the height as it can make you dizzy at any instant.

Capacity of the theatre is 25000 people
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-11-12.jpeg

The views are amazing from the scary heights and the Hashemite plaza
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-12-12.jpeg

The citadel from the Roman theatre
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-7-12.jpeg

Pillars near the base of the theatre
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-8-12.jpeg

We descended, visited one museum at the base of the theatre and set out to the fountain or Roman Nymphaeum very near to the theatre. As we walking to the Roman Nymphaeum, we entered one bakery got us something to munch along. The bakery has really good products. Do visit if possible.

The Nymphaeum was under restoration and entry was restricted.

Nymphaeum or the fountain
The Road Trip across Jordan-walking_amman-9-12.jpeg

After all that walking, we were tired due to the long travel we had yesterday.

We came back to the hostel and slept till 1830h before hunger pangs started kicking us in the stomach. I woke up Mr.K and it was pre decided that we are going to Hashem Restaurant near our hostel. This a pure Veg restaurant and I had one of the best falafels in my life here along with Hummus and white peas preparation, all for 8 JOD.

Mr.K had forgotten his winter jacket in Singapore itself and we did buy it in downtown from a shop. We then walked to the rainbow street. This place was supposed to be a happening place in Amman but it was quiet. We just went to a bar at one of the restaurants over there and came back to the hostel to sleep early as the next day was very ambitious for us in terms of travelling.

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Old 25th March 2020, 00:32   #6
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Day two: Exploring Jerash and Mount Nebo

Again our body clocks made us get up at 0600h, we freshened up a bit, loaded our car by 0700h and started driving North.

Jerash is around 50 odd kilometres from Amman and being Monday, there was traffic in opposite direction to us. We covered 45 kms pretty fast and the sign of Syrian border on the kilometre signage on the road gave us mixed kind of feelings. A civil war ravaged country was just 40 odd kilometres from our point. Jordan valley is north of Amman and is the green part of Jordan. It produces a lot of agricultural products for Jordan.

Amman to Jerash early morning
The Road Trip across Jordan-amman_jerash.png

The green valley of North Jordan
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-2-19.jpeg

We parked our car in the visitor parking lot and ours was only car in the same. No shops were open and gates of Jerash were opened for us at 0800h. We walked with security guards having the whole site to ourselves.

Some information about Jerash Archaeological site from Wiki:
Quote:
Jerash is home to one of the best preserved Greco-Roman cities. And is sometimes misleadingly referred to as the "Pompeii of the Middle East" or of Asia, referring to its size, extent of excavation and level of preservation. It was called Gerasa in Roman and is one of the major places of settlement for the Romans fitting it in Decapolis cities of Roman era.
Jerash is huge. We set a time limit of 2 hours and started our visit from arch of Hadrian and continued to the Hippodrome.

The Arch of Hadrian built to commemorate his visit to Gerasa
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-3-19.jpeg

Hippodrome where chariot races took place
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-4-19.jpeg

The oval plaza after you enter from South gate
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-5-19.jpeg

One more view of the oval plaza from the top
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-1-19.jpeg

The temple of Zeus
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-6-19.jpeg

We ambled along the Cardo Maximus to the temple of Artemis.
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-7-19.jpeg

Jerash is well preserved Roman site with the temple of Artemis having some really long pillars.

We walk towards the temple of Artemis
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-8-19.jpeg

The temple of Artemis as we reach closer to it.
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-10-19.jpeg

The huge pillars of the temple
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-11-19.jpeg

A pic of one of the remains in Jerash
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-9-19.jpeg

The panorama of the whole site
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-12-19.jpeg

One more Roman theatre is also present here
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-13-19.jpeg

The panorama as seen from the temple of Zeus
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-14-19.jpeg

We had a costly breakfast near visitor centre. More like a heavy brunch, we started to Mount Nebo. Mr. K was interested to visit Mount Nebo, the place from where Moses saw the promised land of Israel.

Jerash to Mount Nebo skirting Amman
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_mountnebo.png

We had to bypass Amman and reached Mount Nebo at noon after going through some really beautiful green villages. There is an entry fees over here. A church undergoing restoration is one of the highlights of Mount Nebo as it has some beautiful mosaics. From Mount Nebo, you can see the dry and brown arid plains which stretch beyond Jordan to Israel. Since there was some dust in the air, the view was restricted.

Some info from Wiki about Mount Nebo
Quote:
According to the final chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses ascended Mount Nebo to view the Land of Canaan, which God had said he would not enter; he died in Moab. The the remains of a Byzantine church are present here. The church was first constructed in the second half of the 4th century to commemorate the place of Moses' death. The church design follows a typical basilica pattern.
The views from Mount Nebo
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-15-19.jpeg

The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-16-19.jpeg

The church and the mosaics inside it.
The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-17-19.jpeg

The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-18-19.jpeg

The Road Trip across Jordan-jerash_nebo-19-19.jpeg

We wrapped up the visit early by 1230h. From a height of 700 meters, we are descending to -400m, that is the Dead sea.

Mount Nebo to Dead Sea.
The Road Trip across Jordan-nebo_dead_sea.png

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Old 25th March 2020, 00:33   #7
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How to Swim free in Dead Sea?

Now dead sea part of Jordan is heavily commercialised with 5 star properties. They allow you to use their facilities at cost of 20 JOD per person and above. Even the therapeutic dead sea mud is not free sometimes here.

Next is Amman beach, it costs less than the 5 star ones but here also you have to pay to enter.
We had read that there is a spot in Dead Sea where local swims for free and there is hot spring water to wash off the salts after the swim. We anyways had a car, if we didn’t find the spot, we will go back to Amman beach.

Driving parallel to Dead Sea to reach our spot
The Road Trip across Jordan-dead_sea-1-9.jpeg

The Dead Sea with Israel-Palestine border on the opposite side.
The Road Trip across Jordan-dead_sea-2-9.jpeg

Bookmark this spot on Google maps for the location. You will find cars parked of local people on the road side. There is open shower system along side the road which had running hot water from the hot springs, all this for free. The fence is broken at one spot where we have to hike down to dead sea shore.

After changing our clothes in the car, we followed the spot where the locals were going. We finally reached the shore and were pleasantly surprised to find the locals had dug up small pools which collected hot sulphur water coming from the Ma'in Hot Springs where you can laze after floating in dead sea.

Experience in Dead Sea.

We knew that the therapeutic dead sea was somewhere around the corner and a local Jordanian showed us how to extract the mud from the shore. We applied copious amount of the dead sea mud on ourselves. There were some people around us, including a European family with the kids refusing to leave the Sulphur water pool. Israel was right opposite to us.

You can’t swim in Dead Sea, you just float in it. This is due to the high salinity in the same and only fresh water source is River Jordan. There is literally no life in Dead Sea.

This is the shore where we ventured in the Dead Sea
The Road Trip across Jordan-dead_sea-3-9.jpeg

We set up our GoPro, let the mud dry for some time and entered the sea. The sea shore is rocky and you have to place your legs carefully. We entered the water till our thighs, now was the real test.

We floated on our backs and we were not ready to leave our hands that were resting on the sea bed as we were not confident that the Dead sea allows you to float. Slowly we released our hands and we started floating. The feeling was surreal to stay the least. The floating was something that you need to experience in your life. You just float and drift with the current.

Once in a lifetime experience in Dead Sea.
The Road Trip across Jordan-dead_sea-9-9.jpeg

After some 10 minutes I saw Mr. K coming out of water while I floated for half an hour. After coming back to shore, he said keeping head out of water is an extra effort and his non existent abdomen muscles have started to pain. I told him to enter water again and I took his pics and he did the same after I entered the water.

The sea water is really salty and by mistake it entered my mouth when one wave came to the shore. You may not want it to taste in your life.

After lazing some more time in the sea, as I was coming to the shore, I had a small cut on my hand while getting up and even on my sole of leg as the shore is rocky. You need to be careful here. Then we just relaxed in those sulphur pools that locals had dug up and washed ourself of all the salt on our body.

Now I understood why those pools were inviting for those small kids and warm water from the hot water springs high up was soothing. We didn’t want to leave it at all. It was 1600h by the time we decided to go back to our car.

We did some unthinkable thing that I would have never done in India. We again took a bath on the roadside in Jordan with cars whizzing past you. The locals have set up a free shower system with continuous flow of same hot water spring. The shower was again good and I felt very fresh after the same.

I just feel the shore can be a little more clean as I saw locals nonchalantly throw waste over the fence in dead sea.

We changed again in the car and had some snacks and tea at one of the stalls that the locals had set up. It was 1630h and then we decided to visit the dead sea panorama centre. There was an elevation gain of 400m to reach the same and it was 16km odd from our spot.

We paid an entry fees of 2 JOD per head to enter the same. This place has a restaurant and we just wanted to catch the sunset over the Israel from this point. After layering up as it was getting cold, we reached the point and just had time with ourself and witnessed the sun go down.

The Sunset and the views we got overlooking Israel-Palestine.
The Road Trip across Jordan-dead_sea-4-9.jpeg

The Road Trip across Jordan-dead_sea-5-9.jpeg

The Road Trip across Jordan-dead_sea-6-9.jpeg

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The Road Trip across Jordan-dead_sea-8-9.jpeg

Dead Sea to Wadi Musa.
The Road Trip across Jordan-dead_sea_petra.png

Around 1800h we knew, we had a long distance to cover of around 190 kms and we will be driving in night. Set the location to our hostel in Wadi Musa and again descended to Dead sea. We took the highway that went parallel to Dead Sea and then with the border to Israel. At one point along highway, we were so close to Israel-Palestine border that we were only 500m from the border and we can see lights on the other side.

In the mean time, I was getting hungry and a little bit restless due to continuous driving and asked Mr.K to find a spot to eat. After some time, on the other mobile, he set up a location in middle of nowhere very close to the Israel-Palestine border.

We just stopped at Mid-way restaurant hoping that we will get some good solid food. And guess what, we got chai made Indian style here. The Jordanian person serving the food here had studied English in Pune 20 years back and when we asked for Chai, he readily made us it Indian style with ginger in it. It was good chatting with a local guy who knew good English and was working here as it’s off season for him or else he hikes the Jordan trail with tourists.

Sipping the tea, we causally asked him if there is anything to eat and he made us a vegetarian dish consisting of tomatoes, caramelised onions and few spices which was served to us right in the pan along with Hummus, some lamb salami and yoghurt. Enjoyed the meal with the pita bread and replenished our tanks here. And all this including custom made tea for 6 JOD, way better than the restaurant near Jerash in morning. We spent around one hour here and since being a border area, we saw pick ups loaded with guns coming to the stop.

Started again the journey to Wadi Musa. After leaving highway no. 65, the Jordan valley highway, we saw maximum 3 cars in opposite direction to us. The roads were empty and then the crazy hair pin bends started. We were gaining height quite rapidly with the high beams of the Creta showcasing that we were missing some amazing desert scenery around us.

We came across a landslide with a rough road on the sides, Mr. K face was frozen and he was like we have to go back. The rough road was navigable and we reached other side where the road again met us. Finally after 2 hours, we saw lights and were closer to Wadi Musa.

Navigated to our hostel, Nomads hostel and told Mr. K to take our bags and stuff outside. As soon as he opened the door, he entered again back in the car using back door very quickly. I was like, planning to sleep in car for the night? He said it was windy and chilly outside.

The winds were guzzling outside like anything. He took out luggage while I parked the car somewhere ahead of the hostel property. Completed the checkin formalities, and slept on our beds.

What a long day it has been, so many experiences and driving in one day, all in 350 odd kilometres.

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Day three: Petra!

Woke up in the morning feeling pain in my non existent abdomen muscles. Ahh.. floated too much in Dead sea trying to keep head above water!

We had breakfast in the hostel for 4 JOD itself and from the huge windows, we saw the Petra visitor centre. It was a downhill walk. We decided to walk downhill for 1 km and in 100 meters we turned our way back to car. Reason: We anticipated we will get so tired that we will not have energy again climbing the hill back to the hostel. That was a wise decision we took and parked the car in paid visitor centre as free parking was full as it was already 1015h.

We entered the visitor centre and directly went to entry gate. They have this unique thing that you have to buy the physical ticket which is literally 0 JOD in spite of showing the Jordan pass. The entry fees to Petra is 50 JOD if you don’t have the Jordan pass. We trooped back again to visitor centre to get the those paper tickets. When we getting those paper ticket, a free walking tour was organised by the tourism department and we lapped that opportunity. It was going to start in half an hour, so we just sat in the visitor centre.

The walk from Petra visitor centre to the Monastery(Ad Deir) is roughly 5.5km one way and involves a hike. You require good amount of endurance to reach the Monastery which is more huge that the main attraction, the famed Treasury of the Petra.

Strong legs required to reach from one end to the other in Petra.
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We started the tour around 1100h with a group of people. Our tour guide was very good and explained a lot of history around the Nabateans. He showed us all the structures as we started walking towards the Treasury and shared his excitement when he saw Helicopter way back in 1970s who came to drop equipment for the movie of Indiana Jones.

We then entered Al-Siq which is a narrow gorge through which you enter the Nabatean city of Petra. It is 1.2km long and little bit downhill till you reach Petra. It had a gate which collapsed in late 1800s. The guide showed us dam at the entrance of the Siq to channel the flood water from Wadi Musa. The Petra city is really old, more that 1900 to 2100 years old and it’s amazing to see those huge structures intact after so many years.

Al Siq or the Gorge
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The colours in the Al Siq
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The walls of the Al Siq
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The guide showed us few recent structures like merchants leading camels that were recently found on the walls of the Al Siq gorge.
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He also showed us a structure that has Roman base and an Egyptian top which was quite unique given the Nabateans were traders and the city flourished as its was on trading route of incense.

You have to be careful while walking the Al Siq as there are horse carriages transporting people and some battery operated golf carts. All of them charge you extra. No horse or camel riding is allowed in gorge at least when tourists are present.

The views along Al Siq gorge are amazing and we spent at least 2.5 hours in the walking tour.

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The gorge opens to the view that everyone captures, that is Treasury or Al-Khazanah.
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No one knows the ultimate use of the Treasury. It was thought that the top structure of the Treasury contained some treasure and you can see gun shots to the top the structure. The structure is made of sandstone that shines in sunlight. Still some excavation is going at the base of the the treasury which started few years back due to decline in tourism during the ISIS instability in surrounding regions of Jordan.

The Treasury!
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The stairs one has to take if you want to see the top view of the Treasury
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We stopped the walking tour at the Nabatean theatre which closely resembled a smaller Roman theatre.
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The guide in the end advertised himself for a paid tour that if any one wants to explore the caves and the Al-khubtha trail. We wanted to do the trail but decided against as our ultimate aim was Ad Deir.

We left our guide here to start the hike to the Monastery
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After eating some snacks that we carried in our bag, we started to the Monastery. We gave a miss to the royal tombs on the main trail, visited the Great temple before starting the hike.

The royal tombs
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The grand temple
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The hike to the Monastery takes some time and there is a climb involved. Some bedouins do try to entice you by offering a mule ride but at some places, the trail is narrow. You have to be careful of the mules. The trail starting from the visitor centre is clean and continued the same level of cleanliness till the Monastery.

The hike starts to the Monastery
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While hiking to the Monastery.
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We hiked a long way, Wadi Musa visible afar
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There are lot of Bedouin shops along the main trail. Many tour groups don’t cover the Monastery due to this hike. We covered the hike pretty quickly and we saw the Monastery bathing in the afternoon sunlight. It was a wonderful sight to see the Monastery with very less crowds compared to the Treasury.

The Monastery!
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We explored a little bit ahead of the Monastery to the valley which open to the west side facing Israel. This was same valley which we traversed in our car yesterday night.

The valley at the end of the trail
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After spending some time sitting on a rock in front of the Monastery, we started our walk back around 1615h. Ohh boy, it was a long walk back to the visitor centre. Evening was the time the crowds thinned near the the Treasury and the Al Siq. We reached back to the visitor centre at 1800h.

Walk back to the visitor centre with the mountains casting shadow on the royal tombs
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No crowds at the Treasury late evening
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We were tired by the end of the day and the pain in non existent abdomen muscles still reminded me of Dead Sea. We took car back to the hostel and freshened up a little bit.

We ditched the 7 JOD three course meal at the hostel as we didn’t get nice reviews of the same by our hostel mates and headed to a place suggested to us by them. It was 1 km but laziness overtook us, took the car out and had dinner at the Al Arabi restaurant. We ended up having again a very good chicken Shawarma and falafels. We came back to hostel as we needed to leave by 0730h to reach Wadi Rum by 1000h tomorrow.

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Old 25th March 2020, 00:36   #9
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Day four: Wadi Rum, a desert that is treat to eyes.

After filling up petrol and checking air in one of the tyres which I felt was low, headed to Wadi Rum. It was raining in Wadi Musa that day and we were lucky that we got bright and clear day in Petra yesterday.

Wadi Musa to Wadi Rum village.
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The road was full of fog, drove carefully till we joined the Desert highway no. 15 to Aqaba.

The desert highway to Wadi Rum
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We reached Wadi Rum visitor centre and showed them Jordan pass. We were asked by Bedouins of the village for packages of the desert but they politely backed off when we said had prior booking.

You can book your camp for stay in Wadi Rum by either directly contacting the camp over mail or negotiating at the visitor centre. The rates are generally fixed as the village is a big community and everyone is related to each other. The maximum difference we saw was around 5 JOD if you negotiate at the visitor centre. Most of the camps offer you more or less the same experience. We booked Rum Stars camp after reading some really good reviews of the same.

Mr. K has a goal to climb the highest mountain of the country which ever he visits. He even carries flag of India to that country so that he can unfurl it at the top. We got a custom tour designed with the Rum star camp for the same. It cost us a 140 JOD per person which includes a classic tour of the desert on a 4 by 4 and a private tour the next day to climb the Jabal Umm Ad Dami, the highest mountain in Jordan at 1854m. All meals from day 1 were included in the tour along with the stay.

At the visitor centre, they have a good platform to view the seven pillars of wisdom along with information about the places to visit in the desert.

We parked our car inside the compound of the office of the village as instructed in the email and were greeted by the main guy of the camp around 0945h. Inside the office, we were greeted by an American lady, may be we were interacting with her in the mail. We paid her the money in cash and we were clubbed with a group by Slovenians in a pickup.

Our luggage was separately going to be brought to the camp. We got into the pickup. It was cloudy the day along with chances of rain. As soon as we sat in the pick up, the cold of the desert hit us. The Slovenians were a bunch of elder folks than us and gave us a good company on Day one.

Wadi Rum is one of those deserts which will give your eyes a treat. If you ever visit Jordan and don’t visit Wadi Rum, your trip is simply incomplete. The topography is just awesome. You will see different colours of sand in the same vision of field. The movie Martian was shot here and this is a UNESCO protected natural reserve. It has maximum 15 camps in the desert, all run by the local Bedouins and the reserve is very clean.

We first visited the Lawrence spring. The name is misnomer as the Bedouins knew its existence from long time. Mr. K didn’t want to hike up as it had started to rain a little bit and involved scrambling rock faces. I hiked half way and stopped after getting not so many good reviews from people descending from the top. Just sat under a rock with an American couple who stayed in our camp previous night. Descended down and it started to rain properly in the desert. It was just a bad day for us as it rains very less in the desert.

View from the top of the Lawrence spring
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Lawrence Spring from our pickup
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Scrambling the rocks to reach the spring but went only half way

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We then proceeded to a Al Ramal Red Sand Dune which gave us sweeping views of the desert. Hiking up the sand dune is a real challenge with the sand and some people were surfing down on this dune. It started to get windy and the rain followed us here.

The views from the dune
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It was raining a bit that time
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We then proceed to a Khazali canyon which has Nabatean descriptions. It is quite narrow and short but puddles of water had got formed in the canyon due to rains. We quickly retreated back to our vehicle. The Slovenians were fun, they were commenting that the driver was cursing us they were lazy and not interested in getting out of the vehicle due to the cold.

We had chosen this camp as all the guides spoke good English, clean toilets and the homely feeling. Sadly, I didn’t click any pics of the camp. We had plans of an open dining experience, given the weather, we were back to the camp for lunch. The lunch for two days consisted of two pita breads, hummus, canned tuna, tomato, cucumber, orange juice, a date cookie and a wafer biscuit.

We then proceed to a small rock bridge which we have a pass given it was really small.
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By the time, the weather cleared up and we can see some blue sky with rain clouds in distance. Took some awesome snaps after climbing a hill near Lawrence house.

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Then we headed to some mushroom rock with vast expanse of desert over looking us.

Walking in the desert
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We then proceeded to the Um Frouth Rock Bridge which we gave a miss as climbing up looked easy but getting down is always a challenge given the nature of rock. We were also shown Burdah rock bridge from afar which was very high and takes considerable time to hike up to there. All the places are far from each other.

The Um Frouth Rock bridge
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We then headed to one more canyon named as Abu Khashaba Canyon and told to hike the entire canyon and meet us on the other side.

The Canyon we hiked
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Views of the desert from the pick up as we traversed from one point to the other.
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The daylight is fading
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Considerable time was spent at each spot and evening arrived. We met two more pickups of our same camp and we met at some spot where we had the ubiquitous chai in that freezing evening weather. We also learnt that was the spot for a non existent sunset as it was still little bit cloudy.

We came back to the the camp where we were shown our individual tents. After getting refreshed, we were shown how our dinner was cooked underground.

We had an early dinner at around 1830h in a bigger tent which had some heating. I had some perfectly cooked potatoes, carrots and Zucchinis with pita bread and Hummus. There was some chicken also which I gave a miss as other spreads were simply delicious ending again with chai.

The head of the camp then introduced himself to everyone, gave history of his clan along with information of the camp. We had some honest conversations with him which included aspirations of young Bedouins and womenfolk in his village along with some political discussions about situation in the complete middle east. The camp is solar powered and water is brought in using tanker. A small patch of sky cleared up and it was the maximum amount of stars I have seen in my life.

We came back to our tent along and slept with 2 blankets, a duvet and layered clothing as temperatures were below freezing point.

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Day five: Hike to the highest mountain in Jordan, Jabal Umm Ad Dami

Since this was a private tour, we had a breakfast in the camp and we were told to get ready at our own pace. We had a different guide today. It was still cold but at least it was not raining.

The total distance to reach base camp was 40 Kms and we were in open top pickup. We were on solitary path to the base camp with no tourists with empty and awesome landscapes in the desert. We reached the base camp and we were the only ones to be there. We were very close to the Saudi Arabia border and Jabal Umm ad Dami was the only one that separated us.

The initial hike is a little bit tricky and we were guided properly at few places to a ridge. From the ridge, it was a simple hike to to the top.

The Hike starts, our pickup was parked way below!
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Slowly reaching the summit.
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It took us 1 hour 45 minutes to reach the top. And as soon as reach top, our mobile latched to STC, a Saudi network and our time went one hour ahead in the mobile. We got some awesome views and Mr. K unfurled our Indian flag here.

And we are at the top of Jordan, it's cold!
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That's Saudi Arabia
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The Saudi Arabia side had fog building up
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Views from the top
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The Jordanian Side
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We started to descend after staying some 40 odd minutes at the top. Hiked back down to the base and we met maximum three people while hiking down.

We had lunch behind a dune with our guide and then started the long journey back to the Wadi Rum village where our car was parked.

Preparation for lunch behind a dune
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Saying goodbye to the desert
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We reached around 1500h to the Wadi Rum village and after resting for some half an hour, we started to our last destination, Aqaba where warm weather awaited us after freezing us in the desert.

Below map gives a good idea how tiny speck of Aqaba stands on the world atlas
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Aqaba lies along the thin strip of land that Jordan has with read Sea. Israel also has a small strip and we can see four countries from here which includes Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Aqaba is a duty free zone of Jordan and there is different custom check point when you enter the same.

We had accommodation near South beach in Aqaba which was very close to the beach and Saudi border crossing was only 10kms from our place. We found this place using couch surfing who was actually scuba diver whom Mr.K contacted and he agreed to take us diving over here along with sorting the 2 night stay here.

We reached the place, and straight headed to the South beach for a walk.

Felt way better in the Aqaba sun
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We met the diver at his centre and our stay was arranged in the hotel adjacent to the centre. After dumping the luggage, we headed to the main city of Aqaba for buying some provisions, getting some cash and having dinner.

A tiring day came to an end as we had more adventures ahead.

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Day Six: Scuba diving in Aqaba.

Instagram is a popular tool through which we fall in traps after seeing those jaw dropping pics on the social media. So Aqaba has all the contents to fall in that trap but they all are underwater.

It was a good day and we are facing Egypt
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Jordan governments has submerged lots of military equipment underwater to develop diving spots and to let the sea life thrive in it. Right from military planes to tanks, it's there near the coast along with some beautiful coral reefs and submerged ship wrecks, all in that 37km long coast line. We saw some pics of people sitting inside the submerged planes on passenger seats and we also wanted the pics.

The villain here: Underwater pressure and we are first time scuba divers.

After having breakfast, we donned our full body suits, practised some signs to be done underwater and how the breathing needs to be done, all on land. We sat in the jeep with all that equipment and visited a place just 1km from our hotel. This was going to be our try dive and max dept you can go in try dive is 6m.

After trying out practical implementation of breathing exercise and wearing the flips, we were taught how to go forward underwater and sit on the surface. Mr. K had some difficulty in breathing out air while I was not been able to sit on the sea surface. The reason for me was I needed more weight attached to my suit for the same. We came back to the surface, added some rocks in the pockets of the breathing apparatus and we were ready to go.

We had bought a GoPro with us and that was handled by our diver. The trick for scuba diving is to be relaxed. I felt relaxed after sometime and the diver took us some reefs and the colour was simply beautiful with the coral fish. A clear day was actually a boon for us as we were able to see all the colours in the reef. After spending some time here, we told us to catch hold of his arms and took us more deep.

The underwater shot
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The corals
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A little bit shallow surface
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As you go more deep, the pressure increased on ear very much and the sight of the sea floor going down in depth was something scary for a first time diver. I was trying all the breathing exercise to relieve the pressure but still I felt it was too much. Luckily, we turned back and came back to the shore.

The first thing I did coming up was to relieve that pressure. Some capillaries from my nose burst and all I can see was that blob of blood floating around in the water.

Frankly we loved the scuba experience and our diver was happy with us, just told us to be more relaxed.

As we sat in the the back seat of the Jeep, Mr. K said, “Accha hua usse bola nahi ki humme plane wreck ko jana hai pahile try me, nahi too chappal se marta tha” (It’s good that we didn’t say him that we wanted to go to plane wreck site in our first dive, or else he would have beaten us with a chappal)

We still laugh over this statement. In the end, dreaming that first time divers will reach so much depth in the first try is a trap you need to avoid.

The dive costed us around 37 JOD per head which included all the equipment.

We came back, had not so good lunch in the hotel and just rested the whole afternoon after this adventure. Around 1630h, we came out of our rooms and walked the entire beach watching sunset over Egypt. The sunset was very good to watch and then slight cold air started on the shore.

Facing the Saudi end, it was only 10 kms from here
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The sunset over Egypt once again
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We came back to the shore and had dinner in hotel itself and this time we had grilled fish which was very good.

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Day Seven: Aqaba to Madaba and then airport.

Today was the day, we were traveling the entire length of Jordan road tripping the Desert highway. After having a heavy breakfast and clearing our hotel bills, we started to Madaba. We had plans to do one more scuba dive today at the tank spot but we never disclosed this to our trainer. We knew scuba diving is tough for first timers at a great depth. So this plan was thrown is the bin and Madaba was planned to be covered.

Visiting Madaba was never in our plan but we included it on the last day. We knew we had arrow straight roads on Desert highway. It was 330 kms to Madaba and we knew we will cover the same before main attractions over there close.

The drive across the length of Jordan
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The drive was so scenic around south beach highway that we took U turn and parked our car and took some pics of the beautiful sea line behind us. One comment I would like to say is that the gulf of Aqaba is so clear in spite of surrounded by four countries and Jordan having a functional port very close to South beach.

Seeing this view from the car, we took a U turn to the sea face
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That's Eilat, Israel in front of us.
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After filling up the petrol, we started to Madaba. The main reason to take this highway as it has four lanes though some places had construction going on for widening to four lanes. We took one break somewhere for coffee.

Madaba has some Byzantine-era mosaic maps in churches which were excavated recently. Some mosaics were restored after families living in this area were rebuilding their houses and they accidentally discovered them. Those houses were bought by the government here and the restoration of the original churches is going on.

It had rained in Madaba with green fields welcoming after that drive through the desert. We reached around 1545 parked our car for free in the Madaba visitor centre. We took some maps and first visited the church of map or the Greek Orthodox church.

As the name suggests, this church has a map on mosaic floor dating back to 6th Century AD. The map is coloured and the most prominent thing we found out was the Dead sea and Jerusalem.

Insides of the church
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Madaba map with Jerusalem in the centre and above you can see Dead Sea with river Jordan opening to it. Imagine the original size of this Mosaic which even had Nile delta and Mediterranean sea in it.
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We then walked around the city and reached the archaeological museum. This museum has remains of churches that got excavated. Among the most prominent is Hippolytus Hall which has some really beautiful mosaics.

Hippolytus Hall in the Archaeological Park of Madaba.
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The remains of the church of Virgin Mary with a room beneath the church
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We then roamed the streets which were devoid of tourists and reached a restaurant, Al Mandi. As name suggests, we had Mandi here with enormous portions of two types of rice and chicken grilled to perfection. That was our way of having a lunch and dinner in one go.

By the time we left the restaurant, it was already 1800h. Our car drop time was 2030h. We first washed the car at a washing centre and then filled petrol to the brim. We set out leisurely and reached the car drop centre away from the airport at 1900h. We had to wait for some time as we had to wait for the manager to arrive back to the centre.

The end of the epic road trip!
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The manager just checked the car for any visible major dents and drove us back to airport around 1945h.

Our flight was around 0125h and the journey long way back to India has started.

Few observations about Jordan:
  • We saw Jordan country side to be littered with single use plastic. They should be banned for preserving the beautiful landscape of the country.
  • We also saw common people casually throwing waste on the side of the road. This problem needs to be solved.
  • Tourism is a big contributor for the country. It has many things to offer so some places are costly.
  • Street side food is clean and light on pockets. Always buy water bottles from super markets and buy snacks also from the same.
  • Aqaba duty free area just has no tax and alcohol rates are comparable to duty free ones in an airport. Also Aqaba has a mild winter, hence it has become a main tourism centre for Europeans for a quick vacation as some low cost airlines service Aqaba airport. It competes with Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt for tourists
  • Do you want to travel in Jordan? Rent a car.
  • English is not widely spoken apart form tourism sector and people here are nice.
  • Don’t be afraid at check points which are many on the road. Just smile and they let you go given there are many rentals out there.
  • The surcharge on cards at petrol bunks differs from one to other petrol bunk
  • You need to be careful about mentioning Palestine border as Israel border as some people take offence to the same.

Expenses: The total cost for the trip was around 80k INR which includes everything including flight ticket, car rental, stay and all the activities done here.

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Old 28th March 2020, 05:54   #13
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Thread moved from Assembly Line to the Travelogues section.

Brilliant travelogue! Really a good reference for anyone who wants to plan a trip to Jordan. Thank you for sharing!

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Old 28th March 2020, 12:21   #14
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Thanks a lot for sharing your experience in Jordan - one more destination added to my Bucket List
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Old 28th March 2020, 15:22   #15
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Default Re: The Road Trip across Jordan

Wow! Wonderful pictures and very informative description. I definitely want to go there soon.
You have shared valuable information regarding the car rental and the Dead Sea spot in particular.
Thank you again.
Rustom is online now   (1) Thanks
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