Jordan – Petra to Madaba, 21 December 2010

We made prior arrangements with Cleopatra hotel for our transportation back to Amman. They have minibuses running to Amman about every hour or so. Just let your guesthouse know what time you plan to leave, and they will usually ask one of the buses to stop by the guesthouse, and pick you up for the journey back to Amman.

Getting back to Amman, we were dropped at a bus station. Not having the best clue of where we were, and E being somewhat intimidated by the taxi drivers, we asked the police at the bus stop for the bus to Madaba. We did manage to get on the right one, and ended up in Madaba bus station one hour later. We then transferred on a taxi, that brought us to Mariam Hotel . It was definitely a great call on E’s part! Although it was marketed as a two-star establishment, it definitely felt like more than two-stars. A family-run establishment, it definitely had a very, very homely feeling. We walked into a lobby with a Christmas tree, and a very nice, welcoming seating area with comfy-looking sofas. Rates were decent, and we paid about 90 USD for a triple room (this was near Christmas, btw), and this included breakfast. Apart from the welcoming lobby, I also loved the rooms and the floor we were on (3rd, I think). It was painted in yellow and orange, and gave a really warm feeling. The rooms were clean, and big, and had a little balcony. In addition to all that, they have really reliable drivers, who charged extremely fair rates for driving us around. We signed up for a tour of Bethany-beyond-Jordan and the Dead Sea with them for the next day.

After settling in, we took a walk to the city of mosaics – Madaba. We visited St. George Church, an orthodox church, I believe. It is most famous for the mosaic map on the floor, which is supposed to depict the Holy Land. We definitely needed some help with identification. After that, we just kinda walked around Madaba a little, and checked out some of the architecture around town. We then proceeded to buy stuff for our dinner to take back to our hotel, and this included an excellent roast chicken, and some of the famous Jordanian sweets, for our little potluck dinner in our room. I love the small town of Madaba!

Triple Room in Mariam Hotel

St. George

Mosaic Map in St. George

Hanging balconies of Madaba


Jordan – Petra, 20 December 2010

Second day in the grand city. We headed towards the monastery today, which was quite a climb, at more than 200 steps. Add that to 30+ degree Celsius temperature, and you can conclude that it was not the most pleasant climb. Others did cop out and take the donkey ride, but that looked kinda scary, and also, we still had our 26-year old pride. πŸ˜›

Anyway, if seeing the Treasury was a marvel, I’m going to say that the Monastery was even better! We walked round and round and round not knowing what to expect, and then, when we turned the final corner, this huge structure carved into the mountains just appeared in front of us. To give you an idea of scale, the first step to the entry was at least 1.5 m high. I’m guessing it’s easily 20-30 m high. Another nice thing about the monastery? There were fewer people. So, trying to take photos of the place was easier without unintentional photo bombs.

After gawking at the marvel of the Monastery, we headed towards the lookout points. The climbs for some of them were harrowing, but it was definitely worth it. I’ll let the pictures do the talking. I was quite amazed by how some of the Bedouins actually moved their shops to these lookout points to try and sell their wares. We didn’t patronize their shops, but nonetheless, they were really nice, and shared their chicken and pita with us.

After sitting there for maybe about 3 hours, we went back down, and headed back to Petra town center, where we had dinner at a restaurant. I guess I had some sort of kebab-y thing, and that ends our trip to the city carved in stone.

Our first look at the Monastery

That’s how it looks like, from afar

View from the look out

Dinner of kabab with lamb

Mood – non-alcoholic beer

Jordan – Amman to Petra, 19 December 2010

We left Amman before sunrise on a Jett bus, which was a luxury bus service that serves mainly tourists in Jordan. The trip from Amman to Petra took maybe about two to three hours, and costs around 10 JD (~15 USD). We checked into our guesthouse, Cleopatra HotelΒ which was located slightly further away from Petra in Wadi Musa as compared to the other hotels. It was cheap at 42 JD for a triple room, and they also offered free one way service to Petra. It was a clean, albeit slightly noisy option, and had no elevators for those with heavy luggage. But nothing major to complain about.

After leaving our stuff in Cleopatra, we requested for a ride down to Petra. We arrived around noon, and got a 2-day pass for 55JD. Apparently, if you’re not staying overnight (the implication being, you came from Israel), it costs 90JD for a day pass. Yikes! Walking through the Siq (the valley cut into rocks) was really quite an experience. We didn’t know what to expect, nor did we know how long did we have to walk, nor did we really know what we would get to see. So that was quite an experience. There were some carvings along the way, which were pretty cool. Without some signage, however, it is sometimes a little hard for us to figure things out! We were looking at a carving that was supposed to be a camel caravan, and we thought we saw a camel, but we only realized we were seeing the wrong things. πŸ˜›

Walking out of the Siq finally, and seeing the Treasury building for the first time is really quite an experience. Although it was not dark, it really felt like walking out of a long, and dark cave and into the light after the journey. As the most photographed sight in Petra/Jordan, we stopped for the shot, and well, had to share the shot with a thousand other tourists. Thankfully, we did not go during the high season, so it didn’t feel that crowded.

The treasury is but a small part of Petra city (though I suspect way too many people just stop there), so after many photos, we decided to move on, and see other sights that Petra had to offer. After a quick lunch where we could see the Roman Colisseum and tombs, we decided to hike up to the High Place of Sacrifice. Although it was not exactly far, it did feel like forever, given my disinclination towards scaling up stairs. After approximately 45 min, we managed to reach the top. The view from the top was certainly spectacular, although getting to the edge was slightly scary.

We proceeded to try and descend in another way that was not exactly path. That was quite a journey. Although we saw a lot of other rock carvings, it was slightly disconcerting, as the sun began to set, and there were no other tourists around. When we finally reached the bottom, we were quite lost, as a plain spread before us, and there were no distinct marked paths which indicated the way back to Petra city center. Thankfully, we saw some local kids, and asked for directions. (mucho pressure to take donkey ride! :() We eventually got back, and hastened to the exit as Petra was closing up.

Dead beat from our adventurous trek, we just ended up eating dinner in Cleopatra. Every other day, the staff at Cleopatra hotel will serve dinner for 6 JD. Tonight, it was a dish called Maqlooba, otherwise known as upside down. I guess it is a chicken cooked upside down? The lentil soup was great, but I thought the chicken was a little dry. The portion was massive, so we went to bed real full.

Call to Prayer in Petra

Looking up from within the Siq

Seeing the Treasury after going through the Siq

Upcoming: Turkey – Jordan – Syria, 15-28 December 2010

15 December 2010: Istanbul, Turkey

16 December 2010: Istanbul, Turkey

17 December 2010: Istanbul, Turkey

18 December 2010: Istanbul, Turkey to Amman, Jordan (plane)

19 December 2010: Amman to Petra, Jordan (bua)

20 December 2010: Petra, Jordan

21 December 2010: Petra to Madaba, Jordan (bus)

22 December 2010: Madaba to Dead Sea, Bethany beyond Jordan, Mount Nebo to Madaba, Jordan (taxi)

23 December 2010: Madaba to Amman, Jordan (taxi, bus)

24 December 2010: Amman, Jordan

25 December 2010: Amman, Jordan

26 December 2010: Amman, Jordan to Damascus, Syria (bus)

27 December 2010: Damascus, Syria

28 December 2010: Damascus, Syria to home.