Thursday, March 31, 2011

Travelogue: Amazing Jordan

It was November of the year 2000 when my sister and I went to Jordan. She had to attend a conference there for a few days so I thought I might as well tag along for the trip. We boarded a 2 1/2 hour Emirates flight from Dubai to Amman.

Formerly known as Rabbath Ammon in biblical times and as Philadelphia during the Roman Empire era, it is the modern capital of Jordan. Amman was originally spread over seven hills. We visited the 6,000 seater Roman amphitheater in the heart of the city. We made our way up to the Citadel, which shows a lovely view of Amman. Located within its grounds are ruins of the Temple of Hercules, and an ancient Arab castle.

Next stop was Jerash. It is located 45 minutes from Amman so we hired a car with a driver to take us there. One of the world's best preserved Roman provincial towns, it was a member of the Decapolis, a commercial league of 10 Greco-Roman cities. It was quite exhausting to explore its temples, theaters, hippodromes and Roman baths because it is sprawled over a very wide expanse. Tracks of chariot wheels are still visible on the cobbled stones of the colonnaded street.

But nothing could prepare us for the magnificence of Petra. After a 6 hour drive from Amman along the scenic Kings Highway, we reached this ancient Nabataean city in the evening and booked into a hotel. The next morning, we were off with a local guide, Khaled who was recommended by the hotel staff. Armed with a good pair of walking shoes, bottles of mineral water, and a packed lunch, we were ready to spend the entire day there. Arguably Jordan's most famous tourist site, Petra is an amazing city carved out of rose-colored sandstone mountains.

At one point in our exploration, we rode donkeys to reach the top of the mountains. I was terrified that they might step across the edge and plunged down the steep ravines but thankfully they were properly trained. We had our packed lunch c/o of the hotel on a flat surface way up in the mountains with a fantastic view of Petra.

On our way to Petra, we dropped by one of the many crusader castles that dot Jordan's landscape, the 12th century Kerak Castle. This fortress is a maze of halls and passageways and once housed 1,000 people within its walls. A bedouin guide, Adil showed us the chambers and provided commentary on its history.

The next day, we were informed by the concierge that we could travel to Aqaba. A spectacular desert landscape of granite and sandstone mountains jutting out of reddish sand oceans - such is the beauty of the Wadi Rum. It is also known as the "Valley of the Moon". A certified movie buff will know about this place from the movie "Lawrence of Arabia". We hired a 4WD vehicle to tour around Wadi Rum. It was amazing to view the hues of the sands changing as the sun was setting and nightfall soon enveloped the entire place.

My Jordan trip is one of my most cherished travels. The weather was pleasant (not too cold nor too warm), the historical sights were fantastic to explore and I was with my best travel buddy, my sister!

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