This was our last stop in Jordan – the Crowne Plaza, a sprawling resort complex on the Dead Sea. It was luxurious I suppose in a conventional way, with a huge pool and several bars and restaurants to choose from – even alcohol! – but it was so busy this holiday weekend that it took a while to get checked in although Hameed hustled mightily on our behalf. It was a long trek to my room in the ‘village’ (as opposed to one of the upper floors) and while they brought my suitcase to me fairly quickly, I had to schlep it back and up some stairs at check-out because there were so many people leaving at the same time. I know, I know…’first world problem,’ I hear you cry.
The Dead Sea is surrounded by mountains, not a sea-level flat plain.
I was surprised how steep a descent it is. I think Hameed said something like 1400m from the plateau above to 400m below sea level. It’s enough to make your ears pop at least. Also, it’s way hotter than up top – 30-ish compared to the perfect mid-twenties I’ve had virtually since setting foot in the Levant.
I went for a pre-brekky walk before the heat of the day. I swung wide and came out some distance from where a stretch of beach had been cleared of plastic rubbish, rocks and woody flotsam, where people go to bathe.
Gotta hand it to this Russian girl in a wheelchair. Definitely doing it on her own, although the lifeguard (in yellow shirt) offered to help.
I have a rule that I’ve got to at least dip my toes in every famous foreign sea or ocean I visit.
People pay to have that mud spread all over themselves, but it was a bugger to get off my trainers. I gave a dip in the sea a miss because I didn’t have my togs on and I don’t believe there are any health benefits to immersing oneself in very salty water. The gals who did it felt wonderful to be virtually able to sit up in the ocean like on a chair. Maybe I should have had a go after all.
Some of my travelling companions felt a free day at this isolated resort was a bit of a waste of time and would have preferred more sightseeing, but I was happy to spend most of the day after brekkie blogging away in my nice cool room. Admittedly there was not much to do if you weren’t a blogger or a pool or beach lover. I did venture out mid-afternoon to see what trinkets or treats might tempt me at the Samarah Mall, two kilometres up the road, past resorts both finished and under development. The finished ones share the same massive pale stone construction model and desert hues as the King Hussein Convention Centre (above) which also had its landscaping pretty well done, which is a bit of a rarity.
It was hot and dusty, and the Samarah Mall turned out to have only about 8 ground floor shopfronts altogether, despite its imposing size. But one of them was a cafe that sold a damn fine iced coffee. There were tight security measures at all these Dead Sea places, including an armed checkpoint at the start of the approach road a few kilometres away and x-raying and frisking at hotel entrances, although after a while they knew a harmless Aussie tourist when they saw one and waved you through. They also did that thing of looking under cars with a mirror on the end of a pole, something I haven’t seen since Kenya and Tanzania.
I walked back with one of my fellow travellers who’d been killing time in the cafe, and took the above pic of typical residential developments in the area. Notable is the fact that they just seem plonked in an empty spot with only the desert around them. Not just houses but schools, universities, police stations and mosques, although Hameed did explain that you would find mosques at regular intervals along the highways so muslim motorists don’t miss prayer-time.
The last supper in Jordan – at the Burj Hamam Lebanese restaurant at the resort. Two meat skewers, a generous salad and two glasses of Jordanian merlot set me back the equivalent of about $80 Aussie. But I’d dined on breakfast scavengings, nuts and chips the night before so I was due a treat.
Next morning was Saturday 9/11, the day we left the Dead Sea to drive west across the Jordan/Israel border and to Jerusalem. We’d taken leave of Hameed the afternoon before, so his cousin Ghedan (he knows or is related to everyone in Jordan, it seems) accompanied us on the short drive.
The drive may have been short but the customs queue was long. Ghedan literally ran to get ahead of the queue with our papers while we pampered tourists waited in the air-conditioned bus and played with its excellent wifi.