Jordan – on the road

On Sunday morning I joined my group – motley as usual but dominated by Aussies. There are two native Canadian girls – Susanne and Jean – from BC, Elisabeth and Kevin from Ireland and the UK respectively but long-term Canadian residents, solo English travellers John and Ashley, three Aussie sisters and their mate from Melbourne – Jenny, Rose, Libby and Chris, and Italian-Australians Dana and Phil from Sydney.

Group shot at the Citadel overlooking Amman

Don’t know why I bother to report all the names. I’ve only just mastered them myself after three days. We also have Lhoucine – sounds like ‘Hussein’ – a tour guide from Morocco and Berber by culture who’s on this trip as a kind of encouragement award, I gather, for being top of the tour guide charts in his native country.

With driver Mohammed (left) and Lhoucine for sunset view over Petra
The ancient Rose Red City is over beyond them thar hills. That metal contraption in the foreground lights up during Ramadan to signal end of fast after sunset.

In firm command is ethnically Bedouin Petra native Hameed, who has firm ideas on such things as how to walk in formation – heaven help you if you get a few steps ahead of him – and the perils of dehydration. He urged us to buy lakeloads of water in plastic bottles at the start of the tour. I got away – just – with a sparse two litres, which was more than I needed and a pain in the arse to carry around. He actually said to us on the Petra hike: ‘I don’t see enough drinking of water!’ I didn’t dare confess that I had only brought one 330ml bottle with me, and only drank half of that! But he knows everybody in Petra and can fix or sort out anything. Hi Hameed, and thank you for a) having milk sent to my room, b) getting the fridge replaced, c) arranging a personal lesson for me from the Duty Manager in how to unlock a door (I abjectly apologise for being such an idiot incidentally), d) getting Mohammed to retrieve my sunglasses from the bus that time and finally all your good advice about taxis and ATMs and suchlike. Now can we go back to mutual teasing please.

The most indispensable member of the group is of course our driver, Mohammed. He speaks no English which is a pity because he’s a merry fellow who’s constantly cracking the other two Arab blokes up as we drive along.

Mohammed, our driver

So, day one was Sunday and started with a drive north to Gadara, Um Qais and Jarash, passing close by the Syrian border.

We’ve just turned off a highway that leads to a much-used border crossing. Hameed said he could get me across easily, an offer I would have accepted readily if we’d had the time for such an indulgence.

Group photo Gadara, overlooking the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee, known to the Roamans as Lake Tiberius. Top pic shows the pale hills of the Golan Heights much better.
Umm Qais
Jerash is a vast Graeco-Roman ruin second only in size to Petra
Jerash modern city hasn’t been allowed to encroach on ancient city remains
Graeco-Roman ruins at vast Jerash

Day two (Monday) started with a visit to the Citadel overlooking Amman, something Ray and I didn’t get round to on account of It’s punishingly high up.

Amman from citadel
Ancient reservoir atop the citadel. Amman has a neolithic, Roman, Byzantine and muslim history. Everything built and adapted on top of everything else. Dome to the left is atop what used to be a reception centre in muslim times.
Walking round Amman. I put this in to show off my newly-purchased Jordanian keffiyeh.

Later we went to Mt Nebo, a Christian site founded by Franciscans

Me at Franciscan site at Mt Nebo
The Pope planted an olive tree for peace here
Amish (?) American girl at Mt Nebo
The big tree towards the right top corner supposedly marks the cave where Moses was buried after being granted a vision of the Promised Land.
There was a fabulous museum too
..and one of the most beautiful public toilets I’ve ever used!