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A PROMISED LAND, A FAMOUS SEA AND AN ANCIENT CASTLE!

Jordan

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OCTOBER 13TH 2019 DAY2

It's up at 8am for breakfast, had a great chat with my new roomie.

After a good nights sleep and large amounts of coffee (I learnt my lesson and stuck with instant, I like my teeth) the jet lag has gone and we hit the road for the first official day of the tour.  As we head out of the city our guide Husam tells us about the Royal Family their history and how it works politically, I find it interesting and have a greater understanding of Jordan and how it works among it's neighbors, they  certainly have a good stable balance in politics and region.

We stop for petrol and some of us run to the nearest McDonalds for lattes, oh how I miss these, and we have dubbed ourselves the "Latte Ladies".

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Leaving the city!

We continue out of the city and countryside although dry is not a  typical desert it is rocky and there are sparse planting of trees on the landscape.  We pass through the village our guide Hussam is from and you can tell it is still growing with varying stages of development it seems more colorful than the capital Amman with peoples homes having gardens and decorations to brighten up the décor.

As we drive up a hill you can look out over the valley and there is spots of green below.  Our stop is Mt Nebo, this is a holy place said to be where Moses left the Israelites before they set of into the Promised Land leaving him behind, quite sad really all that hard work of leading the people and he doesn't get to continue on with them.  Hussam points out a patch of green in the valley below where there is a spring, legend has it this is the place where Moses struck the rock with his staff and water sprung from the earth, one of his many miracles.

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Mt Nebo!

The views are spectacular on a clear you can see Israel, but today there is a dusty haze on the horizon. 

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Israel in the distance!

A statue of modern art dominates the entrance there are 3 faces carved into it of Jesus, Moses and the third is the profit Mohammed.

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Statue of the 3 religious faces...!

As we go up to the top there is a perfectly round what looks like a stone wheel, but it is The Abu Badd stone used as door to byzantine monastery that is one heavy door!

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Said to be the door to Jesus dwelling!

At the top of the hill is a little chapel made of light stone.  Small olive trees surround it.  The Byzantine chapel has been reconstructed and inside the mosaics are stunning, the originals unearthed from the 4th century, it was built to commemorate the place of Moses' death. The scenes in the mosaics depict the life of Moses some the flora, fauna and animal life from the region and most have been perfectly restored.

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Such Detail!

Out the front is an artist depiction of Moses staff entwined  with 2 serpents made from bronze, representing the act of Moses removing a curse from the Israelites that was placed upon them for being unfaithful, which is now the symbol for medicine.

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Staff of Moses!

We stop and take in one last view of the valley below, somewhere down there is Moses final resting place.

It really sucks that he spent most of his adult life leading the Israelites to the promised land and then God told him wouldn't be able to enter, all that hard work and suffering and no reward.  So here on Mt Nebo is where his journey ended... Not fair really!

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Moses final resting place!

We head back to the bus and make our way to an artisan workshop that still makes mosaics in the same way since the 4th century. 

We are given a tour of the workshop and watch them at work, cutting tiny slices of marble from the region and glue them onto fabric stretched over a board, the glue is simple flour and water (like we used at school back in the day) and once the picture is completed they remove the cloth wash it and there you have a lovely mosaic.  This company prides itself on giving those with disabilities a chance to learn a skill which is unique to the area and that has been around for centuries. 

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Such detail in the workmanship!

After a spot of shopping and wishing I had more luggage allowance, and after spending time browsing and, ok and a bit of shopping we pile back bus and make our way down into the rocky valleys to the Dead Sea.

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Painted Ostrich Egg!

The roads twist and turn, the group is still getting to know one another, our driver doesn't say much but Husam is happy to answer our questions no matter how crazy they may seem.  I am surprised to learn that the wildlife in the region includes Hyena, and that even though the Asian Wild Cat numbers are on the rise they have been spotted here.

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Where we heading next?!

The haze is clearing and the Dead Sea appears as we wind our way out of the hills glistening below. As we drive around the shore there is a mishmash of partly built houses, modern expensive hotels and shacks.  I wonder if people live there permanently or if they are temporary stops for workers and shepherds, who you see wandering the countryside with their herds of goats.

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The Dead Sea!

We pull up in front of a resort complex, its not a hotel more like a day spa.  The swimming pool looks so inviting as its been a hot morning.  We change and have been warned not to get the water in our eyes and that high high salt density of the water will sting it we have any cuts.  Its quite a walk to the water and the black sand shimmers in the harsh sun.  They weren't wrong when they said it would sting OMG!

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The rules!

The water is warm like a warm bath and feels silky on the skin.  It is a weird feeling  as the deeper you get the harder it is to keep your feet on the ground, and once you lay down it takes a yoga move to get back on your feet. 

You can hear the giggles of the group, some have paid the extra to be covered in the black mud which is famous for its healing properties.  It is bought from the center of the Sea now as the water level has dropped dramatically and made it more difficult to get. 

The small cuts on my hands start to really sting so I head out and into the pool... Ahhh that's better the water is so refreshingly cool, it is difficult to get some of us out as the temptation to stay in all day is so strong.

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The Dead Sea Day Resort!

The resort restaurant has a buffet lunch included in the entry price, the food is delicious and plentiful, it gives us the opportunity to get to know each other better.

We say goodbye to the enticing swimming pool and drive around the Dead Sea to head inland.  In places you really notice how much the water level has receded leaving scars on the shoreline marking its decline.  While at the Jordan Museum there was display with plans to to build a pipeline, with the Jordan government working with their neighbors, to pump in salt water from the Red Sea to bring it up to its natural levels, will it ever happen, who knows. Will pumping sea water dilute the salt density?

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Goodbye to the Dead Sea

We turn in land and make our way up into the hills once again.  The valley we are following is surprisingly green, we pass through villages and modern life hasn't escaped here in the countryside as we pass a boy lounging on his donkey talking on a mobile phone, this causes us to chuckle, the irony of modern life and cultural life collides, it gives a new meaning to "texting and driving".

As we head further up the Kerak Castle begins to dominate the skyline above a town that a first glance seems like a tiny village but as you wind your way through is a becomes a modern gleaming town.  But all roads lead to the castle entrance.  It is an imposing structure and easy to see why the Crusaders chose this spot to build as it would have been easy to defend and difficult to penetrate.

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Kerak Crusader Castle!

The township is right next to the entrance and with tickets in had we head on in thru the only entrance which is quite well blended in from a distance.

It is made up of twists and turns, fantastic archways and tunnels, Husam is a great guide he knows what all the rooms where for and the has great historical stories.  You can tell he is really passionate about his job!

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The inner courtyard!

The first part of the castle was built in 1140s and because of it's  perfect location east of the Dead Sea Kerak Castle was able to control the supply routes to Egypt and Mecca.  

When you look out over the wall you can see why it was difficult for invaders to win in a siege, until Saladin the first Sultan of both Egypt and Syria came along!  He tried twice but with little luck until his nephew in 1188 surrounded the castle and cut of supplies forcing the Crusaders to surrender without an arrow being fired.  He let the population of the township live and even left the chapel for them, which was unusual considering they worshiped a Christian god.

The large halls on the lower levels are fantastic, curved arches and long windows, they even had the stables down there.

The windows go up for 7 seven levels to let the light in, quite clever really!

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Quite amazing!

It seems there was room for everyone.  Wouldn't wanna be in jail though those rooms were so tiny you can hardly move and with on a small vertical opening in the wall it must have been hot in there, eww and the smell cause there ain't no bathroom!  That's if you even made it to the cell, some criminals had their private parts cut which were thrown over the wall and their families were exiled... ouch!

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It's a long way down!

The remains of the kitchen still show a clear layout of where the ovens were and the fresh water system, but it is quite a small dark place which had to prepare meals for everyone living in the castle, and I am guessing it wasn't the easiest of jobs!

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The Kitchen!

There is a meeting room and the entry arches are extra low and it takes 2 or 3 steps to get thru them, Husan explains it was defence strategy, so that if anyone did get in and try to invade in their hysteria they would knock themselves out on the arch frame not thinking to duck!  We all laugh but it is simple and effective!

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The Meeting Chamber!

We continue to explore the lower levels with the amazing stone work and winding corridors.  Before we head out into the sunlight.

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How did they find their way around!
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Crusaders air-conditioning unit!

Once we get outside the views across the valley towards the Dead Sea are amazing, patches of green farmland on the beige rolling hazy hills.

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Looking out towards The Dead Sea!

The Fortress walls are dotted with symbols and carvings,  some are very worn and difficult to make out, others or so well preserved that the show how intricate and precise the engravings are.

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Crusader Artwork!
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That's along way down!

Husam rounds us up as it's time to go.  The minivan has arrived when we make our way out so do a spot of shopping for snacks and  cold drinks and we relax under the shade of shop awnings and enjoy the shade.

As we drive back down thru the town, I am glad I am not driving the streets are so narrow and they seem to twist in on themselves!

The drive to Petra takes us thru wonderful scenery.  As we descended out of the hills the desert opens up and the rusty  jagged rock formations break up the landscape, somewhere below is the ancient city of Petra, how did they find it, it looks like a maze that stretches into the distance fading into the horizon.

Dusk has taken over the valley when we arrive at Petra, and the twisting road into town is quite a feat of driving.

Ancient Petra entrance is surrounded by shops, restaurants and hotels, our hotel 'Candles' is on an opposite hillside directly across from the entrance and we get a great view of valley below, but it is hard to see the ancient city is, even from up here.

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The view from the hotel, it's in there somewhere!

After we have checked in and found our rooms we head up to the roof top restaurant for a late dinner.  My roomie and I don't stay up too late as tomorrow is going to be a long day.....

Posted by TracingTheWorld 02:45 Archived in Jordan

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