Jordan – to Petra

Panorama of the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee

I’ve started this post with a panoramic shot looking east from the ancient Graeco-Roman city of Gadara over the Golan Heights to the Sea of Galilee. IMost of the land you see is present-day Israel. I’ve posted a similar photo in a previous post, but I can’t get over the awesomeness of being in these fabled biblical places.

2,000 year-old Jerash, number 2 Jordanian tourist spot after Petra and site of recent stabbing attack

And here I’m posting another photo of Jerash to reassure everyone that I wasn’t there on Wednesday Nov 6 when eight people were stabbed: two Jordanian cops, a tour guide and a driver, and four tourists from Mexico and Switzerland. None of the victims has died, fortunately, but it’s a bit of a worry.

Musicians playing for tourists at Jerash on Sunday Nov 3, 2019

We were there last Sunday, Nov 3. I knew nothing about the stabbings till yesterday morning when I had an email from Alec. Other Aussie correspondents had heard it too, but not us travellers! I asked guide Hameed….he knew all about it but downplayed the whole business as the work of a mentally ill person, which it probably is. Their reluctance to spread it about is understandable, I suppose, given how much Jordan’s economy relies on tourism. 17% was the figure Hameed quoted, and it’s ultimately up to us to inform ourselves and make wise choices. I see the Australian government has since upgraded its travel advice for Jordan, saying there have been reports of a planned campaign to attack foreign tourists.

Schoolgirls waiting for bus

But it’s still not as high a danger level as for Egypt, which is ‘reconsider your need to travel’ all over the country, and ‘don’t go there’, for the border areas with Sinai and Libya. For Jordan it’s ‘exercise a high degree of caution’, except for the entry and exit points where it’s as bad as Egypt. I suppose I’ll be able to ‘reconsider my need’ to leave Jordan retrospectively after I’ve – fingers crossed – actually left the country!

Woman with baby by roadside. Hameed is skeptical about the neediness of such people

Meanwhile, some images captured as we travel along, which are pretty good except for the same thing that blights so many places – the wholesale dumping of rubbish along the roadsides and in the towns. I saw it in Lebanon, and earlier this year in Nepal and India, earlier still in central America and probably worst of all in Africa. Won’t post pics – too depressing.

This plane is a memorial to the Jordanian pilot captured and burnt to death by ISIL in Dec 2014 when his plane crashed over Syria.

That was the same day we visited the beautiful old Byzantine church of St George at Madaba near Amman.

Inside Church of St George
Here he is, the old dragon-slayer himself
Superbly beautiful dark-eyed madonna and child

Madaba was the place Hameed took us sinful infidels to buy cheap(-ish) grog. Most people bought some wine or beer. I bought one small can of beer (which I drank in Petra the next day), one bottle of Mt Nebo Perlette White which wasn’t half bad and of which a good glass remains four days later, as you can see from this pic taken today, Friday Nov 8th and which I can prove if need be by the date on this photo….

Under ‘Haddad’ it says ‘Wine of the Holy Land’.

….. and one small bottle of vodka which has not even been touched yet but which might have its debut tonight when I squeeze these chilled oranges, which are sweet and juicy even when they’re green.

I’ll finish this post with our visit to Umm Ar-Rasas – ‘Mother of the Rocks’ – a World Heritage site and once a stop on a busy caravan route.

Desert landscape around Umm Ar-Rasas
Mosaic floor of St Stephen’s church – an early Christian site properly covered for preservation and archaeological investigation.

As with the terracotta warriors at Xi’an in China and other notable ancient sites, it’s strongly suspected that much more remains undiscovered underground.

Old Village Resort, Petra, by night

After a very long drive south, almost as far as the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, we finally arrived at Petra, known in Arabic as Wadi Musa – the valley of Moses. Petra by day will be the subject of the next post.