Woke up at 6.30 early morning, freshened, packed and excited to get, set, go. Ramesh dropped us at the Kuwait airport from where we caught the Jazeera flight J416 to arrive at the capital city of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan – Amman. The flight landed at 1.20 and by 2 p.m., we had collected a rental car from the rental cars guy (a blue Mitsubishi Lancer) and headed straight to the Dead Sea (Al Bahar Al Marriyat).
We reached the Amman beach at 3, bought the tickets, had a shower and plunged into the sea. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth, 446 m below sea level. 33% salt content makes the water feel sticky after we come out. The best part is the floating. No swimming and no moving the body, we just have to rest on our back and ho! We float like a cork in water. Its an amazing experience and equally exciting too. We were told that the other bank of the sea that is distantly visible is Israel.
After a proper shower and Pavan enjoying the swim in the fresh water pools, we started our drive to Petra. Must admit, it was a very very scary and nail biting one. Hilly terrain and no lights made it so. Except for our map and a few passersby who were thankfully amazingly sweet and a few road signs that beamed once in a while there was no way we could have found our way through those dark roads which seemed like they ended every now and then but yet remained endless. Pavan however, thoroughly enjoyed the ride and terms it “an enthralling adventure”.
After a seemingly tiring three hours we reached Petra, checked into our hotel, had some self made cucumber and cheese sandwiches exchanged some JD’s, called up our earnestly waiting moms informing them about the day and hit the bed.
Woke up to a cold water bath and a horribly horrible breakfast (the guy gaped at me when I said vegetarian) we set off on our expedition of Petra or Al Batra. Since it was at walking distance we got right there hired a guide and entered the main gate. Petra, meaning rock, in greek and latin is a city that existed around 2700 years ago. The marvel lies in the fact that the whole city has been carved on rock. Inhabited by a tribe called the Nabateans history has it that this hill licked city gained popularity for its deemed secret riches and treasures. The Nabatean tribe even before the birth of Christianity or Islam had migrated from the present day Saudi to settle down in Petra. They worshipped Lord Dussala and believed him to be their provider of riches, prosperity and joy. So for every ceremony from weddings to divorce and for every festival they sacrificed lambs to Lord Dussala (Its true and interesting, only women were allowed to seek divorce and for that they had to sacrifice 2 lambs to Lord Dussala). The entrance of the city of Petra is a passage of cave like hills called The Siq. Through the Siq there are water pipes carved through the rock to let water flow in a stream (mostly open). There is also a natural dam that is said to have saved the city from floods. Its interesting to note that the canal on the left is for agriculture and the one on the right is to carry drinking water. Another interesting fact to note is that the rocks are multi-colored and contain different minerals line sandstone, limestone, etc. Also, we find stone carved in the shapes of elephant and fish (because they were Lord Dussala’s favorite animals), camels and a Nabatean shepherd. The guide also informed us that history of Petra is thus – Kind Obada II married a Petran girl who described the beauty of Petra to him and thus he visited Petra and liked it and brought the Nabateans to live there. The Nabateans thereon built it to become a big establishment. The Romans later invaded Petra in 97 BC.
As we come to the end of the Siq we see a massive building carved in stone. In fact this is the picture of Petra found all over. The building is called Al Khazna or Treasury in Arabic. When the Romans invaded Petra they believed the Khazna held a lot of the Nabatean treasure and shot at the building mercilessly (The bullet holes are visible even today). They however realized that it had no riches but it was named thus because it was the main place of worship of Lord Dussala.
Speaking of the architecture, marvel is a small word, spectacular is smaller. Giant structures built or rather carved into the stone to make a building is indeed amazing to even grasp in.
To the right as we move on we find a cave that served as a cafeteria for all the caravans of camels and horses that came to Petra to sell their goods. It is said that the Nabateans were fond of shoes from China and Silk from India and had good trade relations with India, China and Rome. They used to send around 3000 camels on the exports mission!
As we move further down, to the left we see houses of the rich people who were called Mango People by the Nabateans. Multi storied houses with steps to climb up and having God Dussala’s idol on the top, all still carved in a rock. Move on to see the houses of the poor which are of course aplenty. By the way, the houses were also their tombs. The dead were buried in their own bedrooms. While through the houses of the poor, the guide told us about a few poor guys who promised to marry 10 wives if they got rich and eventually kept their promise on becoming rich. (Hope husbands don’t get ideas!) Also, Petra housed 150,000 people. Further down, passing through the then agricultural lands, we reach the Roman amphitheatre constructed in the Roman era (obviously to have their mark like they do whenever they invade). To the right we again get to see building carved into rocks high above on the hills that were the courts. Beneath the courts are caves that served as prisons. Further down, as we reach the Roman street, we see the remains of a temple, a few shops and the palace of a girl. The girl here requested the guy to build a huge palace for her but unfortunately a stone from the building fell on the guy and they were unmarried. With this the city of Petra is done. Our guide bid a goodbye to us and we were on our trek back. Now we realized that we had to walk the whole 4 kms stretch back and the climb was indeed terrifying at 12 in the noon. Half way through, we were done with 4 water bottles each and exhausted. We caught a carriage and reached the main entrance, got back to the hotel, had a few more of the cheese sandwiches and set off to Amman. This time round, we were careful to take the only national highway of Jordan, the King’s highway. Thankfully, it’s a straight, smooth and a single road to Amman.
Reached Amman, searched, researched, searched and researched to finally at Hotel Liwan where we were already booked in. Checked in, had some Khubboos, Hummos and Falafel and slept, completely tired.
Woke up early to a very cosy warm water bath and some decent breakfast, at least compared to the previous day’s one. We were all set to move on when we decided to withdraw cash to be on the safe side. And what did we realize?? LOST THE ATM CARD!!! Surprised, shocked, confused, we frisked the suitcase, my purse, the car and the room all in vain. Luckily my mobile was active and on roaming. So we called up Ramesh and briefed him the situation, and the credit in my mobile was done!! We tried using the hotel phone to call Kuwait and block the card but it is so weird that calls don’t go to Kuwait from Jordan! I just tried dad’s number in India and his phone rang! Phew!! Explained to dad and he in turn called up Kuwait and we finally had some credit in my phone, block the card and thank god as everything was safe. In this melee, we troubled Ramesh, Dad, Mom, Neehari and even Bhargav. Thank you to each of them.
After settling down, we continued our site seeing expedition, this time towards Jerash. Jerash is in North Jordan and said to have been a Roman settlement. We got to see some age old Roman horse carriage races which were real fun and picturesque before the hippodrome. We trekked a little further to catch a glimpse of the Roman architecture in their long columns, an ovally placed line of pillars, the Roman amphitheatre that is said to seat around 3000 people at a time. Indeed a massive and magnificent one that is still used today.
It was already 12 and we were tired so we headed non-stop to the baptism site which is to the other corner of Amman around 30 km from Amman. There was a shuttle that drove us into the military area. The area is cordoned off as it is the border between Jordan and Israel. We were in a group of around 10 people and we walked in from the place where the shuttle had dropped us. Our guide told us that we were 28 kms from Jerusalem. We saw a small stream which is the river Jordan. Walked further down to see the church and the place where Jesus was baptized. It was amazing to see that but sadly now no water flows there. The guide led us into the church to show us the remains of 3 different churches that existed there in three different eras. The church and site were excavated in 1996 before which there was regular war between Jordan and Israel and the place we walked was said to have been filled with landmines! God! We were also told that the other side of the river Jordan is the West Bank, the area which is an internationally sensitive issue. The guide led us to the church of John the Baptist and to River Jordan to touch the water. It seems kids are baptized even today at this church and River Jordan. We saw a few old ladies filling water into the bottles to baptize their grand children and decided to carry some for Chelly Jr.
And now an interesting part, on the opposite bank we could actually see Israel. There were flags and an Israeli establishment. Of course we were accompanied by Jordanian army men. The funny part was I guess I was the only one carrying a mobile and I got SMSs from a Palestine network called Jawal welcoming me to Palestine and wishing me a pleasant stay and one from Zain Kuwait. I have saved these messages to show them to Varun and of course Neehari and Nanna!
We then walked back or shall I say crawled back as we had nil energy left and were beaten by the blazing sun. The shuttle dropped us back at the starting point from where we enquired to know Mt. Nebo was closed and so was Madaba. So we directly drove to the hot springs at Ma’in. Another wonderful drive. The waterfalls were wonderful but too hot, so we decided not to take a plunge. The steam moistened my camera lens and I had to clean it to save my cam. We had some chips and coke, enjoyed the calm surroundings. The only sound we could hear was the gushing of the water fall.
By now we were completely exhausted and our legs had given us a hand. So we drove back to Amman catching a few scenic glimpses of the Dead Sea en route and reached our hotel by 6.45 p.m. At 8.30 when Amman broke the Ramadan fast we again managed to grab some Khubboos, Hummos rolls, falafel and laban to sleep like logs.
Woke up late next morning, had breakfast, returned the car took a taxi to the airport and returned through the Jazeera J417 to Kuwait by 4.00 in the evening.
Had an extremely wonderful and memorable trip. Would like to thank Pavan most of all. Pavan and me would like to thank Hushi, Pramod, Sanjay and Sridhar for all the help in planning the trip and Abhishek and Shraddha for the veggie food tips.
Another of those superb journeys that we shall always reminisce! Awaiting the next one… ;)