This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Rose Red City Half as Old

Madaba Muslim quarter

From Turkey we flew out to Amman and at the end of the afternoon secured our Avis rental car which we drove instead of Amman to Madaba where we stayed the night in comfort in the Salome Hotel, right next to the Miriam, for 27 dinars (1 dinar is around $1.7 US).

Panorama of a bedouin camp

This took a slightly convoluted route across desert towns on small roads, passing bedouin encampments along the way ...

The Salome Hotel

There is a substantial Orthodox Christian population in and around Madaba and some very old churches with ancient mosaics including an old map of the holy land discovered buried under the church floor as well as a revered madonna in the crypt. From there, after encouragement from the woman selling tickets for the church we traveled on the the summit of Mt. Nebo where Moses was buried which happened to be right on the way to the Allenby Bridge which has an awe inspiring view of mountains rolling down to the lowland plain around the dead sea.

St Georges church Madaba

The mosaic map

Marian devotional shrine in the crypt


Mosaic at Mt. Nebo

Panorama from Nebo

The saga of the bridge crossing to Jerusalem is detailed in the last blog.

On our return from Jerusalem we picked up our car and traveled down the shores of the Dead Sea and south to the salt pans and then away up high back into the rugged hot desert mountains on ever steeper more winding roads which caused the car to overheat so the cab filled with petrol fumes and we began to winder if, having started the day struggling in the crowds of the Old City we would end it alone parched in the desert as the car broke down under the strain of climbing steep desert inclines in the peak of the hottest time of the day and year.

Dead Sea panorama

Panoramas from the lonely desert heights we traversed

Finally we drove into some remote desert towns, managed to buy water for an emergency, found the car was settling down on the plateau and drove on to Wadi Musa the town by Petra where after checking out several hotels we found the Elgee (Roman name for Wadi Musa) offering an air con room with free internet for 20 dinars - the best deal in town!.

Wadi Musa the town outside Petra

Today was an absolute endurance test under extreme desert conditions. We decided to stay another night at the Elgee because entry to Petra costs the princely sum of 33 dinars each (around $50 us) so we tried to make a day of it and bought juice, water and milk with coffee pita bread and buns and drove down to the visitor centre at the bottom of town.

When we got there in the scorching sun, we found that to get to Petra you had to walk 2 kms down a sun drenched open valley over stony ground unless you wanted to ay another 20 dinars on top to get a ride in a horse and trap. Ath this time of the year with the temperatures soaring in the 40s and higher in the sun, wlaking down this slope is like descending into the oven of hell.

The valley then reaches the narrow cleft in the strata that characterizes many peoples view of Petra and its treasury and is a fantastic geological desert formation. Form there is was a slightly dangerous hike over huge flagstones alternating with dusty shingle being constantly over run by horses and traps down the kilometre or so to the treasury, that single building that gives Petra its title as a rose red city half as old as time, which is pretty accurate since is heyday was around 0 AD in the time of Jesus.

Along the way are large cubical stones of Djinn stones variously attributed to the worship of Dhushara the ancient God of Seir mentioned in Genesis from whence I got my cognomen as the subterranean counterpart of Christ. The treasury seems to be set in the middle of the cleft for security reasons (they probably had guards blocking both ends) but from there the rest of Petra, including a Greek style forum cut into the solid rock and the remains of a suburb of cave dwellings as well as an avenue of pillars opens out again into a sun drenched open wadi which people were descending and having to be brought out again on camels and horses once they discovered they didn't have the energy to get back up in the scorching heat.

As it was we had a litre of coffee milk, a litre of juice and half a litre of water and to get out in the desert afternoon, we had to conserve it through the cleft which did have partial shade and an occasional wind and then fill up like thirsty camels before taking on the final scorching ascent back to the visitor centre.

Beware the horses in the cleft!

The gigantic treasury in the cleft

Coming to the central city

Panorama of the forum and street of facades

The forum

Standing in front of the huge treasury pillars

Night scene of Christine at the restaurant in Wadi Musa

The next day, we threaded our way back up north through Jordan stopping off at a couple of desolate Crusader castles, Shobak and Karak, and Dana village in the upper valley of the Dana nature reserve, a 15th century village becoming a restored ghost town.

Shobak castle

A panorama from the battlements

Dana village

Panorama of the main street

Panorama of Dana village in Dana valley

Karak castle has a dire reputation for the sadistic Crusader who took great pleasure in throwing his prisoners off the 300 m cliff the castle overlooked even putting their heads in boxes so they wouldn't lose consciousness before hitting the ground. He was the only crusader to be executed by Saladin.

To give an idea of the contrasting chivalry of the times, at one time there was a wedding in swing in the castle to unite warring Frankish clans, which Saladin took the opportunity to attack, seizing the town and beseiging the castle. During the ceremony the Lady of Karak sent meals to Saladin and he in return avoided bombarding the area where the wedding was taking place.

Panorama of Karak castle and town

Panorama of the precipice off the castle walls

We also drove through several benighted regional towns where the women hide their faces under niqabs or are simply not seen on the street at all unless they are under 15 or over 65.

About half way back we began to run low on gas, but all the gas stations seemed to be closed for Friday prayers, with disconsolate drivers parked waiting in the hope that someone might turn up and release them from stasis in the desert sun. By the time we got to Karak we were running too low and after finding the one open gas station had no petrol - only diesel - we finally took to the four-lane desert highway and managed to tank up as well as arriving an hour early for our car drop off.

The same male-only ritual occurred with Royal Jordanian check in, but when you finally come to board, the game changes into Western style with chic unveiled air hostesses.

No comments:

Post a Comment