To travel is to discover that everyone is wrong about other countries
- Aldous Huxley

Friday, 9 August 2013

Day 12, 13 & 14 - Religious confusion & Socialising with the locals

Today we decided to get off our butts and do a tour. Of course it happens on the hottest day we've been here. But that's all the fun of it.

Our first stop was Mount Nebo, providing a lovely panoramic view of the Jordan Valley but also the site where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land he would never enter (thanks wiki) but it is also the place where he is believed to be buried, according to Christians.

But Danny, didn't you visit his burial in Israel? Why yes, dear reader I did (I think, if not, I did when I was in Israel. Now that you're caught up...) and this is where the fun of religion comes in.
Not only did we visit the site where Moses is buried twice, we also visited the place where John the Baptist baptised (now I get where that word comes from) Jesus Christ. Also mentioned when I was in Israel. At least both say he was baptised in the Jordan river. 

I'll get to that later.

Mount Nebo has wonderful views and also the remains of a 4th century church with a partially established mosaic in the floor. Which was pretty cool.
After seeing the sites and seeing the first wild animal since I started this holiday (it was a lizard) we travelled a short way to a Jordan Museum.
The museum showed the history of religion, Moses, Jesus Christ, the Last Supper etc and also how the Jordanians lived, the types of jobs they had\have and then we went into the area where they are making the worlds biggest Mosaic. And it is huge, they’ve barely scratched the surface as far as I can tell (they had one section, while the rest of it was rolled up but had yet to have any work on it). We were able to be a part of it by putting a tile on and writing our name on it.
Hey we’re going to be a part of history. That’s pretty cool.
We then headed for the Bethany. Our driver had to drop us off at a shuttle and we were shuttled to Bethany.
Bethany, as mentioned before, is the Christian\Jordan version of where Jesus was baptized in the Jordan River.
Bethany has a 3rd century building with fine mosaics and what is known as a Christian "prayer hall." The prayer hall might be one of the earliest Christian prayer facilities anywhere in the world. Also there is the cave where John the Baptist lived, according to numerous Byzantine pilgrims’ texts. The cave was turned into a church and a freshwater channel running from the cave, purportedly used by John for baptizing, can still be visited today.

A long walk took us past the prayer hall and to the Jordan River where we were able to stick our feet in the river, much like in Israel, guaranteeing my way into heaven whenever I pass away. Near the river is the John the Baptist Church, a small, yet nice designed church with colourful depictions of religious scenes all over the walls (baptism of Jesus, ascention into Heaven etc).

Steps to prayer hall/getting fit

Pretty much sick of walking in desert conditions and wondering how these people survived we were taken back to our driver where he took us to the Jordan site of the Dead Sea.

Much like in Israel, we got in and floated, I splashed and got some water near my mouth and all that salty goodness couldn’t stop me from having fun. There was no mud this time, nor a sulfur pool but it was part of a community swimming pool and it was fun.
The Dead Sea is pretty cool, but the novelty wears off pretty quickly, especially if you have a crack on the bottom of your foot from walking long distances in flip-flops where the salt-water stings like hell and you feel all oily when you get out. Plus you generally need to wear some sort of shoe, or flip-flop and walking up a hill with Dead Sea-soaked shoes makes it slippery and tough work (the Dead Sea is the lowest point on Earth so you generally have to walk down a slope to get there).
So after 15 minutes in the Dead Sea we trudged back up to the pools and had a bit of a swim before relaxing on the chairs in the shade.

Saying goodbye to the Dead Sea we took the scenic route home, climbing through the twisting roads up the mountain, stopping for some awesome views before we returned back to our hotel.

After resting for a bit, we headed back to the Queen Ayola Hotel & Inn where Danni had THE. BEST. FRIGGIN. FOOD. EVER. called Pekata.
Pekata is a beef dish cooked in lemon with grilled vegetables. I had a chicken dish cooked in a sauce (not sure what) and vegetables but it too was amazingly good.
On the way home we stopped at our pastry place and picked up some more cake with lemon and some of the greek pastry ball things and other stuff. I don’t know the names, just look at the photos below.

This is Pekata. The single greatest meal ever.

Day 13 – A lazy lazy day.

Literally we did nothing today. We had breakfast, bummed in the room, had lunch at Ayola and bummed at the pool at the hotel and then had dinner and bummed in our room again.

Relaxing day is awesome.

Jordanians love parking where ever the hell they feel like it (grey car)

Day 14 - Socialising with the locals.

Today is the end of Ramadan, a day known as Eid al-Fitr, translated to Festival of Breaking the Fast, or as I call it The Day where Kids run crazy with Plastic Guns Shooting Us.
Also, nothing was open so our planned walking tour of Madaba lasted about 20 minutes. 
But we did stop in a shop and spent an hour in there talking to the locals, a man whose brother lives in Sydney, Australia (who is currently back in Jordan to get married) and another man who lives in Ohio, USA but owns/runs shops in Madaba as well.
They were very friendly and polite, offered Danielle a cup of tea, and we sat and spoke of what they did, where they lived and the lives of Jordanians. 
Economy wise, Jordan is not very rich (according to the people we spoke with) with no natural resources to sell to the outside world. The average Jordanian isn't very rich, averaging 1-2 Jordanian Dinar per hours work, which probably explains why we are always served by the same people at the restaurants we frequented.
Very sad, but the unfortunate way the world works sometimes. Despite all that, they seem happy and they all have mobile phones and can afford to smoke (perhaps quitting would solve some financial difficulties, it seems everyone here smokes).
It was interesting to get some perspective from a local and how they live.
After spending about an hour in that stores, we browsed more of the local shops, perusing their nik-naks (mozaics, flags, Dead Sea bath salts and mud etc), and went to the The Church of St. Joseph.

The Church of St. Joseph was built in 1896 over the remains of a 6th century Byzantine church which contains the remains of a geographical mozaic maps depicting around 150 sites in the Middle East. It is believed to be the oldest surviving map of the Holy Land.
The map itself is pretty amazing and what remains is well preserved.
Following the Church we went to our favourite restaurant for lunch where one of the waiters 5 sisters were there.
They seemed fascinated by us, probably because of the blonde girl, and were asking us questions, being translated by their father (I assume) about where we were from, how long we have been in Jordan, where we are going and also asked us to take a photo since we had our camera with us.
It was pretty cool to socialise with the locals, despite language barriers, and really makes a holiday worth it.

Chillin' with the locals.

We returned back to our hotel and relaxed a bit before dinner where I had Sajeih, a chicken and onion dish cooked in Arabic spices. Like everything else, it was amazing. We returned home and hit the hay early.
Tomorrow we get up early to check-out and head to Petra where we will spend the next two days exploring ancient Petra.

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