Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jordan Highlights

Here is kind of a highlight reel of each of my days in Jordan.

I awoke pretty early to catch a morning flight to Amman from Abu Dhabi. The flight there was quite enjoyable, and we arrived in Jordan with no problems. The line at immigrations to get our traveller's visa was a bit ridiculous, but we got through it and were on our way to Madaba in a taxi in no time. Madaba, a small market town about 30 minutes from the airport, was a nice, quiet place to begin our trip with. We walked around the town and took a look at some of the local shops, many of which specialized in small mosaics--a local specialty. Then we went to St. George's Church, which is famous for the centuries-old mosaic that was discovered underneath the floor there. The mosaic once served as a large, detailed map of the entire area, and includes parts of Jordan, the Dead Sea, and the West Bank region of Israel. After walking around all afternoon, we called it a day early to rest up for a big Day 2.

Inside St. George's Church.

We arose early to get the most out of our day. First, we traveled a short distance to Mt. Nebo, where it is said that God revealed the Promised Land to Moses. Though the haziness limited our views of the surrounding area, we thought it was pretty neat to be at the historic site.
A view of the Promised Land from Mt. Nebo.

Next, we traveled down the mountain and through the Jordan River Valley to Bethany, the place where it is said that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Though this area is military tension zone (it's right on the border of the West Bank), everything was very calm and peaceful there. As with Mt. Nebo, it was very cool to be at a religious and historic site such as this and it seemed to be a place that people of all religious backgrounds in our group seemed to enjoy.
The point where Jesus was baptized. (The river has migrated away from this point over the past 2000 years, but it used to be here!)

Just 30 minutes down the road from Bethany was one of the main beach areas for the Dead Sea, which was our next stop for the day. Keeping in mind that Jordan is very much a developing country and therefore the beaches shouldn't have been expected to match our sometimes very high, Western standards, I rather enjoyed our brief 3-hour stop there. The water was very calm, and like most people who come to visit the place, I just had a lot of fun floating around in the super salty water. (For those who do not know, the Dead Sea is so salty that 1) it is pretty much impossible to sink in the water, and 2) it is completely devoid of marine wildlife.) We were even able to rub this black mud dug up from the bottom of the Sea all over our skin, which, after rinsing off in the water, made our skins feel super smooth and healthy.
Me with some Dead Sea mud on me.

After we had our fill of the Dead Sea and had dried all the salty water off our skin, we moved on up through some mountains to the Ma'in Springs, where people can swim in play in these natural hot springs and waterfalls. While I had my fill of this place in no more than 30 minutes, the natural beauty of the place made it worth the detour on our way back to Madaba. After a pretty full day of events, we were pretty exhausted by the time we got home. We went out for dinner, then again hit the hay early to prepare for our next day's travels.

This day was mostly spent as a travel day. We spent a better part of the day on a 6-hour drive on winding, mountain roads, with stops at Wadi Mujib and Karak Castle. If it weren't for the gorgeous scenery to keep my mind off of all our drastic elevation changes, I think I may have gotten a bit of motion sickness. Nonetheless, it was a very enjoyable ride. Wadi Mujib, dubbed the "Grand Canyon of the Middle East," was simply breathtaking. And the stop at Karak Castle gave me a good warm-up for all the climbing I would be doing over the next few days.
Hanging out at Wadi Mujib.

It was mid-afternoon by the time we arrived in Wadi Musa, the city that kind of serves as base-camp for the Petra site. Not to be caught slacking off, we chose to take a mini-trip out to "Little Petra" that evening, where we got a nice sneak preview of all the cool things we would see the following day. After witnessing a nice sunset over the top of the mountains, we went to bed.
A part of "Little Petra."

This day, the day we went to Petra, was easily my favorite day of our trip to Jordan. Basically, Petra is an ancient city where most of the buildings are not free-standing structures, but rather carved out of the side of the mountains. Between these amazing structures and the cool mountain paths you travel on to see many of them, I had a blast! As an added bonus, for somebody who loves to climb on and explore things like I do, this place was pretty much a giant playground for me.
The Treasury at Petra. This place was not built, but rather completely carved out of the side of the mountain.

A view of some tombs from above. (You always get cooler pictures when you climb on stuff.)

Side-view of the monastery at Petra. Had to climb up 900 steps to get up this place!

We spent a good 9 hours of non-stop hiking and climbing at Petra, and I was exhausted when the day was over. Near the main entrance to Petra, there is a bar inside a cave (not unlike many of the structures we saw in Petra) which is said to be the oldest bar in the world, have served as such for nearly 2000 years. Naturally I couldn't pass up finishing my day with a fresh beer in such an establishment.

On this day, we took a 3 hour bus ride up to the capital city of Amman. We purposely avoided the city all week (our main goal of the trip was to get away from the big-city setting), but our curiosity about the Roman Citadel was enough to get us there for a few hours. We toured the Citadel, which at various times throughout history has served as a fort, hill-top acropolis/marketplace, and/or religious center for the area. Still experiencing some hangover from the awesomeness of Petra, it was difficult to get super excited about the Citadel on that particular day, but in hindsight I can say that it was a pretty cool little area.
Some ruins in the Citadel.

After we had gotten our fill of the city of Amman, we headed back to Madaba to rest up for the night so we could catch our morning flight back to Abu Dhabi the next day.

Though my narrative of my trip may seem a little lackluster, it was actually one of the coolest vacations I've ever been on. In fact, I've been recommending it to all my friends here in Abu Dhabi for their travels in the near future!

Good night from Abu Dhabi,



  1. Man that sounds awesome! The bar sounds cool.

  2. Matt,

    Dad and I really enjoyed reading about your vacation to Jordan. What an awesome experience this must have been. It was great to see all of the photos you have posted too. The opportunities you have had the past few months have truly been life changing for you and we are so happy that you are being able to travel. Thanks for sharing all of this with us! We love you!


  3. Sounds like a super awesome trip!!

  4. The best vacation you've ever been on?!?! COME ON!!!

    :) It looked like there were shark fins in the Dead Sea, but I know better. And I'm proud to say my brother had a beer in the oldest bar in the world. haha



  5. RoRo said thanks for letting me come along on your "vicarious vacation." Sure beats correcting papers or making up a final!

  6. What a wonderful experience for you or for anyone that has the opportunity. Thank you for sharing with all of us.