Sunday, February 27, 2011


Saturday, December 3rd, 2005 Amman, Jordan

We arrived at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan about 7:00 pm and met our new guide for the next five days: Samur or we could just call him “Sam” he said. But since Samur had a more exotic ring, we all called him Samur. Personally, I used “Sam” in my head as a word association memory aid in order to remember his name. He is not staying with us at the hotel here in Amman and he left after settling us in to our new hotel.

Our hotel is the Golden Tulip Hotel, a very nice hotel but not the quality that we’d enjoyed at the hotels in Egypt. We were on the fourth floor and I took advantage of the opportunity and walked up and down except when carrying luggage. It was so nice to be rid of the large suitcases that we left in Egypt. After a late dinner we all headed to our rooms for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday, December 4th: Exploring Amman and floating in the Dead Sea......

Samur arrived and joined us for breakfast about 8 am. By 9 am we were on our bus for a tour of the city. Our bus is built to hold about twenty so the eight of us were very comfortable and each had our own window seat, if we so desired. One of the changes in Jordan was the fact that all water, even at dinner, is an extra charge. All of the water in Jordan is delivered by trucks and each building has reservoir tanks on the roof to hold their water supplies. All water for consummation is bottled. But, fortunately, our bus still had a chest full of individual water bottles for us and priced right at two for $1.00. Water is defiantly a very precious commodity in Jordan.

Amman, which is called the “White City” because so many of the buildings are built from the “white” limestone that is native to Jordan, will be our home for two days. Originally built on seven hills it now covers nineteen different hilltops. Our first stop today was at the Citadel; a very ancient area that is slowly being resurrected, revealing monuments, temples and other relics of the past from the Roman, Islamic and Byzantium periods. It is located high above the present city and gave a wonderful overview of the new and the old. The new is very new; Amman was a quiet village until after 1960.

At different periods of history, the population grew quite large and then would dwindle back to a small village. The earliest civilization on record was during the Neolithic period, around 6500 BC. Originally named Rabbath Ammon in the 13th Century BC, it was during the period that it was ruled by Egypt that it was renamed Philadelphia. The Romans took control in AD 106 and later during the Ghassanian era it was renamed Amman. The city continued to grow until it was destroyed by several earthquakes and natural disasters. It remained a small village until the Circassians (white race) settlement in 1887.

In 1921, Amman was chosen as the Capital of the newly created country of Jordan. Several historical events have contributed to the growth of Jordan, primarily political upheaval in neighboring countries. The wealthy have migrated to the safety of Jordan from areas of conflict including the most recent events in Iraq and Kuwait in 1990. The major countries of the world have their primary Embassies located here for the Arab States primarily because of the lack (until recently) of terrorist problems and the geographical location of the country. Enough of history…

During our tour of the Citadel, we visited the Jordan Archeological Museum and saw many items including some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. When we completed the tour of the Citadel we drove over to visit the Roman Amphitheater, the first, and largest, of several ancient amphitheaters that we would see in Jordan. They had a museum at this site also with some wonderful panoramas of “Jordanian life” with mannequins; and other historical artifacts.

We discovered several interesting items this morning on our bus trip. Traffic is not nearly as hectic as in Egypt; they actually obey the traffic laws here. Atop many of the traffic lights is a large electronic sign that tells you how many second until the light changes…we all thought that would be great in the USA! The streets are much cleaner…maybe because it’s newer! They have white sedan cars that drive all day long from point A to point B (same street) with no deviation on the major streets. It cost thirty cents to ride, no matter the length of time that you are in the cab. People get in and out every time it stops. Works like a city bus on a small scale. There are other means of transportation but this is one of the prime methods of getting around in the downtown area. Gold sold here is 21 – 24 carats. The prices are very high right now. Contrary to Egypt the value of our money is less than the Jordanian currency. Gas is about $3.50 per gallon; all of their gasoline is imported.

Amman has a population of over two million people, approximately seventy-five percent of the entire population of Jordan. Ninety percent of them are Islamic. The city is located thirty-three hundred feet above sea level and has snow during January. So when we started out of town – it was all downhill!

Our destination was a Resort at the Dead Sea and we enjoyed the view of the vast Jordanian Valley on the way down the mountain. We also had to release the air in our water bottles and pop our ear drums as we descended down to thirteen hundred feet below sea level! Along the way we saw many Bedouin tents where they live a nomadic life with their sheep; a very meager existence. The government is attempting to build homes for them to encourage a more stable life style, but the old ways are hard to change.

We also encountered a security check point as we are very close to the border of Israel. It was here that our bus driver got into a rather heated argument with a machine gun toting soldier who was flaunting his authority. They soon let us go, whatever would they do with a bus load of American tourists! But, Samur warned us not to take any photos of the security site while we were sitting there.

The Dead Sea is a very important part of the economical picture of Jordan because of the minerals found from the high concentration of salt. It is also a source of water when it has been modified. The water levels have continued to go down at an alarming rate because of lack of rain and also because Israel is also using it for a source of water. Therefore, a prime project in the near future is using the Jordan Rift Valley to build a canal to bring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Because so many different countries are involved in approving this project; it appears to be a long ways from commencement.

But today we enjoyed a delicious lunch and then headed for the beach in our swimsuits. Six of us waded into the salty brine to enjoy effortless floating and two actually put the mud on their skin. Thought about doing it but knew that I’d have to gingerly walk on the rocks, ankle deep mud and sharp mineral deposits to wash the mud off for the full effects to be worth the effort! It needs to dry on your skin which takes a good twenty minutes. Decided I’d just float as one in and out of the water was more than enough. We did bring a newspaper from home to do one of the “I Read (insert name of newspaper) Here” type of photos; but after viewing the photos decided not to send them to the publishers. Sixty-seven in a bathing suit is not very photogenic. Leaving the beach to the younger set we headed back to the Hotel pool area and enjoyed several trips down the water slide. Maybe I should have left that for the younger set also but just couldn't resist such fun and the teenage boys that were also using the slide got a kick out of the gray haired lady who joined in their fun.

We watched the sun set over the Jordanian Valley as we climbed back up the mountain towards Amman and stopped at the Holy Land Store for an opportunity to purchase some Jordanian mementos. Our last stop of the evening was at an Arabic pastry shop known for their Middle Eastern sweets. The royal families shop here and we also made a few purchases to take home. After dinner in our hotel it was off to bed for the weary travelers. Tomorrow is an early start again!

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