Trip to Jordan

May 2000


An immersion in History.   The development of man from nomadic hunter-gatherers through centuries of farming to life in glittering family mansions.  Multi-layered religious changes through a succession of conquerors, warmongers, developers and rulers.


Saturday 6 May


Woke up with an awful sore throat, the prospect of travelling tomorrow seems clouded.


Anyway, went into town and got throat lozenges with antiseptic and mouth gargle with antiseptic – kills every known throat germ in 30 seconds!

Despite that felt totally lethargic all day, lay on the sofa yawning twice to the minute.  Didn’t feel like food and eventually took self off to bed at 6.00p.m.

Got up at 10.30p.m., cleared bed in the spare room and went into the kitchen for a drink.  Felt awful.   If that’s the way death comes, then its easy – like a shutting down of systems to oblivion.  Head felt burning hot, nauseous, giddy and I felt desperately tired.   Lay on the bed with a sheet and must have fallen asleep for a bit, for woke up and wanted the duvet on.  Slept fitfully until 7.30a.m. when I got up and made tea/coffee without feeling at all bad!   Strange.


Sunday 7 May


Usual assortment of jobs prior to a holiday.  Packing, plants, watering, tidying, toilets.

Horrified to find a tick attached to me – was it that that caused the weird sickness yesterday?

Taxi arrived at 3.10 and we piled in with Tom and Joyce, John and Monique, Terry and Lin.  A good steady drive to Larnaca – there well before the required time.  The baggage / desk hall was chaotic with travellers, luggage and trolleys  queuing for Cyprus Airways, so we edged our way through to the Royal Jordanian desk, only to find it wasn’t yet open and we had to wait in the crush for half an hour!   Finally, with our bags consigned to the conveyor belt we wandered into the Departure area.  Having been given a Priority Pass card by Alpha Bank, Brian and I decided to try the Sunjet Executive Lounge upstairs.   Plush, free drinks and sandwiches, Internet access, newspapers … all the bizz – We had a coffee and a few sandwiches lounging on the black leather sofa watching CNN thinking of the others downstairs in the crush!   Brian went downstairs to buy a reading book and in passing, extolled the virtues of Priority pass … and wondered how it was all paid for.   I picked up a leaflet about it and read through to find a nasty paragraph that says it is £14.00 per person, per visit for the privilege!   Whoops!   Everyone laughed when we told them!

The Royal Jordanian plane turned out to be a MIDWEST leased plane and got us in 40 swift minutes and a dryish bread roll to Queen Alia International Airport, Amman.  An easy transfer through Visa and customs into a 20 seater small a/c coach.  Couldn’t see much on the 30 minute drive into Amman as it was already dark.   Hotel Ammon is OK but not a 4*.  Television is in a section past the twin beds – no watching TV in bed!

Go down for a ‘middling’  buffet diner (wine at £14 a bottle) and bed at 12.30.


Monday 8


Off through Amman, expensive looking houses but without much evidence of Islamic style.  Had expected more arches, more Mosques. 

Our first visit is to Mount Nebo, where according to tradition, Moses died.   81% of the country is desert or near-desert but the drive up to Mount Nebo is through fields and areas of cultivation.  Suddenly, we are high up and overlooking a huge rift valley.  It’s 1000 metres deep and luckily we have a fairly clear view of the fields, valleys and mountains (the group last week couldn’t see much due to the high dust content of the air).    We walked up to the Memorial Church, in the steps of the Pope who was here in March, indeed it is the site of 4 Churches:

A 4th Century AD Byzantine Church

Old Baptistry – 5th Century AD – with a wonderful mosaic floor

New Baptistry – 6th Century AD

Church Of St Mary the Virgin – 6th Century AD

Inscriptions were in Greek as all the trade from the 4thC – 6thC was Greek rather than Aramaic.   The reconstruction of the Church was mellow and peaceful, aesthetically designed to produce a tasteful mix of ancient and new.


From the top of Mount Nebo we could see Jericho, The Dead Sea, the River Jordan and the fertile Jordan Valley – a wonderful panorama.  In the Church the postcards showed some magnificent mosaics in local churches, which we didn’t see; instead we were taken to the Church of St George in Madaba.   Ahead of us a large group of Greeks – old girls in plump blackness, bandy legs and incessant chatter; all there to look at the 6th Century AD map of the Holy Land and surrounding areas.  Arkan wanted to tell us about the map but the Greeks continued to chat and annoy until a firm clapping of hands alerted them to the fact that other groups were in the Church!    The half of the map that remains shows trading routes to and from the walled city of Jerusalem.   Everything is neatly labelled in mosaic – the Dead Sea with two ships on it, trading salt and goods between Jordan and Palestine. 


Our route then followed the Kings Highway, the ancient link between Idomite, Moabite, Ammonite traders and armies.  The Romans in the reign of Trajan (2nd century AD) used the Kings Highway, but now tourists mainly use it as the larger, wider Desert Highway is quicker.   We were bound for Kerak and on the way stopped at the top of a huge rift valley – a great natural border between Moabites and some other ‘ites!   The lookout gave a magnificent view of the twisting and zig-zagging drive down 1000 metres and up again on the other side.  The hillsides looked forbidding and difficult to traverse on foot due to shale and loose rock.


We arrived in Kerak for lunch.  A good local restaurant with full buffet lunch.  Beers are 3JD (about £3) and even a bottle of water is 1.5JD!   But the food and ambience was good.   Then on to the castle at Kerak, which is actually a hilltop site that has grown with succeeding centuries.   First it was a Moabite stronghold, then Nabatean, then Roman (63 BC – 324 AD) and then taken over by the Crusaders and improved through 1099 – 1198.  Now there remains evidence of 7 floors, defense towers and tunnels.   We walked through cavernous, vaulted, dark rooms, and decided it was certainly not a castle for the disabled – rough passages, dark uneven steps, unlit tunnels and caverns!   The Archaeological Museum had glass, pottery and coins from early times.


Through Madaba and on towards Petra.  We passed through towns, their shops laden with garish, cheap goods and gaz bottles that even the Cypriots wouldn’t have!   The Petra Inn was a definite disappointment.  Only 2* - we had a small room with foam mattresses on the two single beds, a TV with fuzzy Arabic channels and Eurosport in mixed German and English!  The shower room was so tiny, you could sit on the toilet and shower at the same time.  The washbasin didn’t have enough surround to put the wash bags on, and there wasn’t a wardrobe – just a rail with 4 measly coat hangers.  Very poor value room.


The evening meal was again buffet style:  salads, rice, courgettes, cauliflower and carrots, three main meat dishes and a selection of (two) blancmange-type puddings.


The bed is awful, a foam biscuit that heats up with the warmth of the body and the smallest hardest pillow imaginable.  We asked for extra pillows – what masochists!


Wrote 12 post cards.


Tuesday 9th    Petra day.


Up for a 7.00 a.m. call.  Shower and breakfast – same buffet layout and the most gruesome coffee yet experienced.   We were all ready to walk by 8.30 after getting a map of Petra from the Tourist Office and posting cards.  The Post Office was a dingy little room with a grubby man at a grubby desk fumbling in the drawer to glue and stick stamps on to the cards and then give them a Petra frank.  From the pile of postcards lurking in a grubby plastic bag in the corner I’m pretty sure we shall be back before them – indeed they may never get out of that Office!


We started walking down towards the Siq, on one of two tidy paths, one for horses and one for walkers.  The sky was a brilliant blue, the day warm and the colours on the rocks pale and golden.  We walked past some tombs carved into the rock face  - one with four carvings indicating four burials – weathering and time having eroded its original precision.    Arkan was fairly good at explaining various parts but he goes into ‘auto-pilot’ at times!


The siq in majesty and beauty hasn’t changed at all – what has changed is the lack of horses, the number of people and the flattened walkway through (instead of the rough stones as remembered) Arkan says that it has been lowered by 5 feet or so, and indeed there are water channels down the sides that I don’t remember from last time.  It’s quite a long walk –1.25 km some in shade and some in sun until one comes to the final turn and ahead is the vision in pink sandstone of the façade of the Treasury. It still is awesome!


The large area looks just the same, a camel sitting dejected (as only camels can) in the middle, trestle tables full of tat and books, milling camera clicking tourists and a group of local Bedouin and guides smoking and chatting.  Over on one side 4 donkeys standing patiently (as only donkeys can) waiting for their next American load. 

We walked down the path into the main area of Petra used for carving tombs.  The Nabatean culture was strong on memorials, apparently having memorials that far outshone living quarters.  Looking around the eyes have a feast of caves and memorial carvings to look at – both left and right in apparently impossible places the Nabateans had carved rock caverns.  Some were quite simple, sometimes with external carving and often repeated on the upper parts were the typical ‘step’ shapes.  


The large amphitheatre was originally Nabatean, then completely revamped by the Romans.  A natural rock semi-circle holding up to 3000 people, mainly used for ceremonial occasions.

Then up to the ‘Kings Chamber’ where Arkan stood and sang an Arabic intonation to show how strong the echo was in the chamber.  It had also been remodeled since Nabatean times into a Church with a main and two lesser apses.   From there we walked across the site, well above the Roman part to a recently excavated Byzantine Church.  Some mosaics down the side isles and obvious painstaking reconstruction going on.  American money and excavation team, which probably explains why there is an imposing over-arching span of roofing.


Lunch was in the middle of Petra – self-service café style.  We sat outside in the wafting smell of chicken and lamb being char-grilled.   I ate quite well, unsure whether a wise move before tackling the 1000+ steps to the Monastery.   Monique decided uphill steps would be better on a donkey (4JD) – so she rather nervously mounted a dark brown animal and was led off at a cracking pace, the donkey no doubt pleased it only had a light load!  Sure-footed it tripped up the uneven steps while we followed on in spurts and stops.  It’s a long climb with some improved sections and a continual stream of people coming down and going up.  Some in the most impractical looking shoes!  The reward as you reach the top is a cool breeze and the magnificent façade of the Monastery.  I hadn’t remembered it as being so much less ornately carved than the Treasury, but in sheer size it is awesome.  Only when a person stands in the ‘doorway’ do you realize just how big it is.


Sat in the Bedouin tent with a magically reviving cup of sage tea, recommended by Arkan as a body restorer!  Just a few metres higher is a spot where you can look down over the Jordan Valley and across to Israel.  Walking down was easier on the lungs but it took a dreadful toll on the calves for a couple of days afterwards!  (I think we all suffered to a greater or lesser degree)  At the bottom we had a short rest before Arkan said “That’s it – make your way back to the Treasury, through the Siq and back to the Hotel”.   Simple words but our steps were not as springy as this morning.  We passed a desultory looking heap of camels and the attendant Bedouins tried to persuade us to ride them back to the Treasury.  “7JD to the Treasury”  I’d long wanted to try the motion of a camel so bargained him down to 4JD!


Camel 81 was duly concertinaed and I climbed aboard.  Brian, Tom and Joyce preferred to walk.  How sedate and slow, a gentle rocking motion that was not at all unpleasant, the worst parts being a slight sense of insecurity at being up so high and a lack of stirrups to take the weight of your legs off arse and crutch!

Then, under the mass of blankets and padding (to make the uncomfortable hump a little easier to ride) I found a stirrup for my right foot and remembering the Lawrence of Arabia pose I crossed my left leg around the front pommel and riding became a lot more comfortable.  But camels are more aloof than horses – disdainful and dimmer, controlling them seems flimsy and their responses capricious.  The young lad who was leading the camel asked if I would like to take control myself but considering how precariously I was perched, my lack of knowledge of any Arabic words of command, I resisted the offer!   Arriving back in Treasury square and with the concertina legs again folded, dismounting was easy!


There was still the long, slightly uphill walk back through the Siq to negotiate, so, foot weary we plodded back towards the hotel.  A dozen or so horse drawn buggies passed us, full of plump tourists who might have benefited more from walking!  It was mostly uphill back to the town and with very tired legs we stopped off for a couple of Movenpick ice creams at the 5* Movenpick Hotel before reaching the less glamorous comforts of the Petra Inn.    Flopped on to the bed for a relaxing snoozy hour, took a refreshing shower and went down for a meal at 8.00 and to see how the others had fared.


Tom and Joyce had done brilliantly up until the very last part when Joyce felt wobbly and completely knackered – complaining that she couldn’t go a step further.  Monique and John only just got back in one piece; whereas Lin, who has dodgy knees, was still sprightly and ache free!   Dinner was the usual mix of salads and hots.  Nothing different.

Bed early.

On our side of the Hotel it is peaceful and quiet – no traffic or noise, but the muezzin calling the faithful to prayers wakes John and Monique / Terry and Lin, at 5.00 and 6.00!


Wednesday 10th


Aching limbs to be counted at breakfast!  All of us suffered in some way or another from yesterday’s visit to the Rose Red City!  Everyone was decidedly certain that to do 2 days in Petra would have been impossible!  Thank goodness we changed the itinerary – even counting the extra 10JD it cost to see Little Petra instead.


A later start (and my little blue notebook was still in the coach!) and the drive to Little Petra gave a lovely overview of Petra itself.  We could easily see the white dot of Aaron’s Tomb on the mountain above Petra and the tent canopy over the archaeological site of the Byzantine Church we had stood inside, yesterday.  Little Petra is nowhere such a popular site but it has a little extra to offer.  The wind was blowing hard at our backs, whipping up the sand into our eyes – a reminder of why the traditional headgear is still worn by many desert Arabs.  A few small urchin children with dirty clothes and hair, attached themselves to our group and followed us through a narrow siq of maybe 20 yards and then into a wider channel.  Hewn caves on both sides were simpler than in Petra.  There were two huge underground square water cisterns, laboriously carved out of the rock and a small cave excavated into a simple church with some wall/ceiling paintings.  Quite delicate, (and similar to some Indian decoration) a tree, branches, a man and two birds all partly obliterated by the black smoke stains of numerous Bedouin fires.  

Not much else so we turned around and braved the dust and wind back to the entrance.  Then a 500m walk past goats in pens, Bedouin tents and a few stalls with ‘gimcrack’ rubbish on them – shards of pottery, coloured stones, well-worn fossil shells.  Out to the Neolithic site of a village dated as 6000BC.  Archaeologists are only just uncovering the site and it seemed quite an organised (non-nomadic) community.

Beside the site was a Bedouin tent and we were invited to take tea inside.  Dirty, dusty, cool, with rough hair matting on the floor and ‘walls’, so lit only by the light that comes in through the gaps.  A small child was lying completely covered in blankets.  The clothes that the Bedouin wore were dark and thick and the tea pretty gruesome!


Back against sand-in-the-eyes to the coach and Hotel Petra Inn for a short break before driving south towards Wadi Rum.   The land became gradually more and more barren.  Dry desert with the occasional Bedouin tent and herd of scraggy sheep/goats.  Parallel for part of the way we could see the single line railway built in 1901 – 07 by the Ottomans to transport goods from Aqaba in the south to the north and then through Syria and up to Turkey.  We arrived in the small settlement of Wadi Rum.  Shacks and concrete boxes – not very romantic!  It had been arranged that we would have our lunch first, and it was excellent!  Mainly due to some exquisite garlic flavoured chips!  Everyone praised them!

Brian decided not to be joggled in a jeep for 1-½ hours so the rest of us, armed with scarves and sun cream set out in the rear of a pickup!  Not a jeep at all.  The makeshift wooden seats had a minimal bit of covering and we bounced out of the ‘town’ into the desert.  I’m not sure what I expected – perhaps a little “Out of Africa” wilderness and charm – but the sand paths were well trodden by scores of pickups doing the exact same route. 

Bright orange sand, dull orange sand, yellowish sand and strange protrusions of sandstone weathered with ‘candle dribbles’ down their sides.   We stopped first at Lawrence’s Spring – a camping spot for some of the ‘Explore …’ type groups who enjoy a night under the stars in Bedouin style.   But they weren’t like that at all – they were 2 rows of 2 man yellow and blue tents with 2 toilet tents looking very unattractive, beside them.  (Glad we didn’t do a Bedouin night experience!) 

Then on to another spot where we clambered around a rock and into a small chasm where there were wall scratchings and water channels.  Everyone had orange feet and shoes from the sand.


That was it – not much magic for me, I’m afraid.  Back to Wadi Rum and Brian who had a short sleep in the coach during our absence.  Then it was a long drive all the way back to our final night at the Petra Inn.   Quite glad not to have much walking to do as the calves ache!   Everyones!   



Thursday 11th 


Not up too early as we are leaving at 9.30 and our packing won’t take long.  It’s quite a long drive again as we go to the Dead Sea and then back to Amman.


The first part of the drive was fairly barren but gradually we saw more and more evidence of agriculture.  The last part of the drive to the Dead Sea was downhill and wound back and forth giving wonderful far-reaching views.  We arrived at the Dead Sea Spa Resort (next to a Movenpick Dead Sea Resort – in the making) and had lunch first.  A nice dining room, with a few attendant flies and an enormous selection of self-service foods.  Loads of salads and the best selection of puddings yet.


Then it was down to the sea itself.  A large chlorine swimming pool with a blue slide, lots of white plastic sun chairs (no cushions) and poor changing facilities.  Brian and I stayed with the cameras and clothes while the others braved the salty water.  Lin got a thigh rash, Monique only went in up to her knees and anyway one isn’t supposed to stay in the water for much more than 15 minutes.  When we went down to the waters edge the ‘launching’ spot was littered with large rough stones and the bottom unpleasantly gooey with dark brown mud.   Despite that, we launched ourselves into the water and found floating easier on the back as floating forwards leaves legs and feet sticking out of the sea and balance quite uncertain.  Around us a few visitors had covered their bodies with the dark sticky mud.

The sun beds were fairly uncomfortable, the new floor tiles lethal when wet and the whole thing needed re-thinking.  The blue slide in the swimming pool was great fun and quite sedate if you just gave a gentle push!  We had 2 hours in the resort and were all OK about it being enough time.  Lin said that the Israeli side was much better organised.  Dead Sea Products were sold – at huge prices for things that had nothing more than a bit of Dead Sea salt in them!  Simple moisturizers at 10JD, shampoos the same – there wasn’t anything less than 8JD.  The packaging was mass plastic stuff.  All in all not very exciting and I didn’t have any difficulty in resisting buying anything.   Indeed, buying anything in Jordan is hugely expensive for tourists – a whopping 30% Tax on all imported goods, for a start.


The trip back to Amman was a further 2 hours in the coach but it was nice to get a reasonable room with TV (CNN), air-con and a double bed.

Quite a nice dinner in the Coffee Shop where I raised my glass to Vicki (her Birthday!)






Friday 12th


Quite a busy day ahead – with 4 sites well spread apart, to see.  We set out after an early breakfast for the 1 ½ hour drive to the castle of Ajloun.   Much added to and adapted over its centuries of usefulness, a castle built against the Crusaders.

Outside in the car park a man was selling coffee from one of those huge eastern coffee pots as well as bags of plump green fruits.  Arkan tried one and spat it out immediately – an unripe cherry?

The castle was built between 1184 - 85CE by the nephew  of Salah Eddin al-Ayyubi ( known in the west as Saladin) the great Muslim commander who waged  a  successful campaign to recover lands lost to the invading Crusaders  over the previous century.  It was conquered and destroyed by the Mongols in 1260; the fortress was then immediately rebuilt and enlarged by the Mamluke Sultan Baibars and then it suffered serious earthquake damage in both 1837 and 1927.  The castle was once surrounded by a broad moat with a drawbridge, which is now replaced by a boardwalk.   The main parts of the castle are made from limestone blocks that create lovely light rooms, despite only having small arrow-hole windows.  Many of the ceilings are vaulted and in the tiny ‘church’ there are simple mosaics of a cross and a fish.

A pleasant visit.


We had driven through Jerash to get to Ajloun, so back on the same road through a more green and fertile area. 

Jerash greets you with the Triumphal Arch – built to impress the Roman Emperor Hadrian on the occasion of his visit to the city in A-D. 129/130.  Then it was called Gerasa and was one of the famous Decapolis Cities (10 Roman cities bound together for trade and security)  In the 1st and 2nd Centuries AD 20 – 25,000 people inhabited the area of Gerasa and in the 4th – 6th Century it was inhabited by Byzantine Christians who built a number of Churches in the area (I think I heard 18!)  But by in the 15th Century the city had lost its trade importance, Roman influence was declining and it was effectively forgotten until 1806 when a German called Seetzen rediscovered it


Walking through the huge Triumphal Arch one sees stretched ahead a colonnaded way with a mix of Ionic/Roman and Corinthian capitals.  And at the end of the ‘street’ it opened out into a vast oval forum, fully paved and with a complete ring of columns.   Further on we walked through yet another 2 colonnaded streets the Cardo maximus running North/South and the Decumanus running East/West.  The sheer volume of stone needed for paved streets, carved columns and temples is quite mind boggling – where did it all come from, who had to transport it and where did the waste chippings go?


On our left a majestic Nymphaem or fountain showed how important water was to the city.  Water channels ran the length of the pathways.  Next to that was a huge imposing 4 columned entrance to the Temple of Artemis (Diana) although only part of the Temple structure was standing. The Amphitheatre seated 1500 and it had been beautifully restored – mild coloured stone with a flat backdrop of columns in front of columns in order to improve acoustics.   I wandered down on to the stage and gave the first verse of ‘Adieu charmant pays de France.’ to some French visitors – I’d have done all three verses but I got a case of stage fright and dried!   There was a second amphitheatre at the other end of the site where a group of locals with a ghetto blaster and tinny rendition of a current favourite were dancing and making a noise!  It struck me how the company and noise level in the two amphitheatres changed the atmosphere.  We took a group photo by some stone ruins with the oval Forum in the background.

On to a Lebanese restaurant for lunch where we sat outside shaded and with a cool breeze.  A plate of fresh salad vegetables followed by some mezze dishes, a piece of dry chicken and a ‘dogs dickie!’


Om Qais, UmmQays (or any of 5 variations) was our next stop.   Another of the Decapolis cities – then known as Gadara.   On top of another hill, but this time the Roman remains were surrounded by later additions and the buildings were in a mix of sandstone and black basalt.  The little museum had a completely different feel with the hard black basalt, but because of that the carvings remained much sharper.  Pity the poor stonemasons!    Lintels with roses, animals and egg+dart   friezes, various carvings and a wide, squat door made entirely out of basalt.  Arkan pushed it open quite easily on its basalt hinges.  More basalt doors to be seen and lots of Jordanians as today is one of their ‘weekend’ days.  We all tried some fresh chickpeas – mealyish but definitely pea tasting, looked down to the Sea of Galilee/Lake Tiberius and the Jordan Valley.  Not too impressed with the smallish black basalt amphitheatre, most of which was lying flat in the grass!


From here we drove down into the valley that is just spitting distance from Israel. Jordanians can go into Israel, but it isn’t ‘easy access’ and they need a visa.  We drove down past a bridge that used to be a crossing between Jordan and Israel, T E Lawrence blew it up during the ‘Great Arab Revolt’ (Arkan’s phrase), and then into the Jordan Valley.  A fabulously fertile plain which is divided by the Jordan River.  Crops grow in abundance, in field after field, yet to the other side of the road there were barren rocky hills only suitable for grazing a few sheep and goats.  A short detour up into an area of barren rocky hill to our final site – Pella.  (Another Decapolis city)   The site has been settled since Neolithic and Chalcolithic times and it is only slowly being excavated.  Luckily we only looked down on it from a café where we sat and drank tea, I’m not so sure my enthusiasm would have lasted if we’d had to walk around it!   It was quite a long drive along the Jordan valley, which is also below sea level, and then we turned to drive up the longest, steepest hill I’ve ever been up – half an hour of low-gear straining to get the bus up to the main plain and back to Amman. 


Shower and dinner.




Saturday 13 May   Lin’s Birthday


A late start as we are only ‘doing’ Amman today.   In olden days it was called Philadelphia and was another of the Decapolis cities.  The coach took us first to West Amman, an area where all the newest, grandest and most affluent have their mansions.  Nothing Islamic here – just pure ostentatious design and grandeur.  Houses that cost up to JD6 Million.   One of the past Presidents has such a house, Jordanians who have worked outside Jordan and those who have had a hand in politics…. Say no more!


The coach drove us up to a hill above the city – we could see the main parts of the city spread out below.  We walked around the site of a Roman temple, a Byzantine Church and a huge circular water tank with steps down the side.  There’s a lot more to excavate, when money etc. is available.   Arkan left us at this point, and we were on our own for the afternoon.  The enormous amphitheatre, which is beautifully restored and free to wander around, is down in the main part of the town.  After a ‘Turkish’ coffee in the shade of a nice café we all went our different ways looking at the small shops in a souk area.  In the main, goods were fairly cheaply made and Brian tried on a pair of “Timberland” sandals for 10JD.  Never Timberland!  I looked for a pair of reading glasses, but we weren’t in Glasses Street!

We did have an absolutely wonderful burger, though.  ‘Fast-eat’ or some such name – brilliant large bun, garlic and bits inside with a full glass of cold, fresh mango juice – all for JD2.80  for the two of us!  Took a taxi back to the Hotel and relaxed with a shower, a bit of reading and a drink before the visit to the Kan-Zaman Restaurant tonight.  


Our coach drove the same route as to the airport, but we turned off into the hills to the Kan-Zaman complex.  A typical old, local building which had been attractively restored and now houses examples of old crafts and of course, lots to buy!   The glass blowers were making glass bottles and jugs, the tin man was bashing away at his design on a large table top and the sand pourers were pouring sand into bottles.  An interesting wander around before settling down for the evening food and entertainment.  

The restaurant was large and yet cosy.  The natural stone blocks, in what might have been old stabling, arched overhead and the food area was most impressive under a huge coppery dome.  Another serve yourself spot, copious salads, mains and puddings.  As it was Lin’s Birthday, Terry ordered a bottle of champagne to celebrate!   Cheers Lin!

The music was ‘live’ – two blokes with bazookie things intoning a mix of boring and less boring eastern high-pitched wailing.  But it made Lin get up and dance when they played ‘Linda-linda”  A thoroughly enjoyable evening to round off our trip to Jordan. 



Sunday 14th May


A reasonably sedate breakfast, a trip to the Airport, a quick flight back to Larnaca and home by 3.00.







The Archaeological Periods for Syria-Palestine
These date are only approximate. Scholars disagree about these dates, which are
constantly being refined with the discoveries of new archaeological evidence.

PALEOLITHIC: 700, 000--14, 000 BC

EPIPALEOLITHIC: 14, 000--8000 BC

NEOLITHIC: 8000--4200 BC


EB I: 3300--2850 BC
EB II: 2850--2650 BC
EB III: 2650--2350 BC
EB IV: 2350--2100 BC

MB I: 2100--1950 BC
MB IIA: 1950--1750 BC
MB IIB: 1750--1650 BC
MB IIC: 1650--1550 BC

LATE BRONZE (LB) AGE 1550--1200 BC
LB I: 1550--1400 BC
LB II: 1400--1300 BC
LB III: 1300--1200 BC

IRON AGE 1200--539 BC
Iron I: 1200--900 BC
Iron II: 900--721 BC
Iron IIB: 721--606 BC
Iron IIC: 606--539 BC


Early Hellenistic: 332--198 BC
Late Hellenistic: 198--63 BC

Early Roman: 63 BC--AD 135
Late Roman: AD 135--324

Early Byzantine: AD 324--491
Late Byzantine: AD 491--640

Umayyad: 661--750 CE
Abbasid: 750--878 CE
Fatamid: 969--1174 CE

CRUSADES 1099--1291 CE

Ayyubid: 1174--1250 CE
Mamluk: 1250--1516 CE
Ottoman: 1516--1918 CE











A 1st Century AD traveler named the Dead Sea, but it isn’t a true sea at all, rather a lake.

High 33% salt content.   No life or fish.

Byzantines used it for trading with neighbours – salt and wheat.

1000 sq km – now lost 15% due to taking of salt and minerals

Can’t sink in it

412m below sea level (one of the lowest spots on earth)


Tourism 15%

Phosphate and Potash 21% exported

Apples exported

High Tax on Imports eg car can be 60 – 120% total cost of car

Eg JD10, 000 + another JD6-10, 000 Tax

Car number plates:

White = Private

Red = Government

Green = Leased

Yellow = Min of Ag

Blue = Min of Ed


The Nabateans were exceptionally skilled traders, facilitating commerce between China, India, the Far East, Egypt, Syria, Greece and Rome. They dealt in such goods as spices, incense, gold, animals, iron, copper, sugar, medicines, ivory, perfumes and fabrics, just to name a few. From its origins as a fortress city, Petra became a wealthy commercial crossroads between the Arabian, Assyrian, Egyptian, Greek and Roman cultures. Control of this crucial trade route between the upland areas of Jordan, the Red Sea, Damascus and southern Arabia was the lifeblood of the Nabatean Empire.

We still know comparatively little about Nabatean society, however, they spoke a dialect of Arabic and later on adopted Aramaic; their community was governed by a royal family, although a strong spirit of democracy prevailed. The Nabateans worshipped a pantheon of deities, chief among which were the sun god Dushara and the goddess Allat.

As the Nabateans grew in power and wealth, they attracted the attention of their neighbours to the north. The Seleucid King Antigonus, who had come to power when Alexander’s empire was divided, attacked Petra in 312 BCE. His army met with relatively little resistance, and was able to sack the city. The quantity of booty was so great, however, that it slowed their return journey north and the Nabateans were able to annihilate them in the desert. Records indicate that the Nabateans were eager to remain on good terms with the Seleucids in order to perpetuate their trading ambitions. Throughout much of the third century BC, the Ptolemies and Seleucids warred over control of Jordan, with the Seleucids emerging victorious in 198 BC. Nabatea remained essentially untouched and independent throughout this period.

Although the Nabateans resisted military conquest, the Hellenistic culture of their neighbours influenced them greatly. Hellenistic influences can be seen in Nabatean art and architecture, especially at the time that their empire was expanding northward into Syria, around 150 BC. However, the growing economic and political power of the Nabateans began to worry the Romans. In 65 BC, the Romans arrived in Damascus and ordered the Nabateans to withdraw their forces. Two years later, Pompey dispatched a force to cripple Petra. The Nabatean King Aretas III either defeated the Roman legions or paid a tribute to keep peace with them.

The assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC augured a period of relative anarchy for the Romans in Jordan, and the Parthian kings of Persia and Mesopotamia took advantage of the chaotic situation to attack. The Nabateans made a mistake by siding with the Parthians in their war with the Romans, and after the Parthians’ defeat, Petra had to pay tribute to Rome. When they fell behind in paying this tribute, they were invaded twice by the Roman vassal King Herod the Great. The second attack, in 31 BC, saw him take control of a large swath of Nabatean territory, including the lucrative northern trading routes into Syria.


The Nabateans profited for a while from their incorporation into the trade routes of the Roman Near East, and Petra may have grown to house 20,000-30,000 people during its heyday. However, commerce became less profitable to the Nabateans with the shift of trade routes to Palmyra in Syria and the expansion of sea borne trade around the Arabian peninsula. Sometime, probably during the fourth century AD, the Nabateans left their capital at Petra. No one really knows why. It seems that the withdrawal was an unhurried and organized process, as very few silver coins or valuable possessions have been unearthed at Petra.



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