Jordan

Winter 2014

We went to Jordan for a week of old stuff, driving and getting lost. Tommy is 8 and has a wider range of interests in ancient civilizations and natural history and Danny is 6 and there is enough death and destruction in places like Petra to hold his interest for a while.

Where we stayed near Petra 

Hotels all had family rooms which meant we could all get in one room with up to 4 beds quite comfortably. Both the hotels we stayed in included breakfast labneh, hummus, cucumber and tomato, bread and jam, so needless the say the boys didn’t eat very much of it beyond the bread and jam.

We also stayed in a Bedouin camp which the BOYS LOVED the place was called the Rock Camp near Petra and we were the only guests. It was in a lovely spot in the desert with rocks to climb

The boys loved climbing over the rocks
The boys loved climbing over the rocks

and campfires to build….

Another night another campfire
Another night another campfire

The accommodation was of course in tents and we tried two, the first one was freezing to be honest so we upgraded to a goats’s hair number that was much warmer.

This was tent number 1, fine in nice weather I'm sure, but we nearly froze in December
This was tent number 1, fine in nice weather I’m sure, but we nearly froze in December
Version number 2 was great
Version number 2 was great

There were plenty of places to walk and for the boys they could get lost without too many worries. Although if I had toddlers the 15 metre hole on one side of the camp might make me a bit wary of leaving them to wander around. We all went for walks through the canyon at the back of the camp which was like a mini Indiana Jones adventure in its own right.

The canyon goes back far enough for a 20 minute walk each way
The canyon goes back far enough for a 20 minute walk each way

But the highlight of camp were the family that looked after us.

We all went for a walk in the canyon
We all went for a walk in the canyon
Mona and Sharoub and Mahmoud and Ramadan
Mona and Sharoub and Mahmoud and Ramadan
Readings from the holy lonely Planet with the boys
Readings from the holy Lonely Planet with the boys

Mahmoud, Mona and their daughter Ashroub and Ramadan the cook made us feel that we were friends staying there rather than paying guests. They are Egyptian Bedouins and I guess it was combination of the experience with tourists, their Bedouin culture and the fact that living in Rock Camp would make anyone chilled out. Anyway whatever the reason we had a laugh at our shonky Arabic, drank tea and sangs songs around the campfire.

The was like a mini Wadi Rum
The camp was like a mini Wadi Rum

What we did

We started with a trip to Karak Castle, a crusader castle featured in the Ridley Scott movie Heaven and Earth. It was easy to get to the town but less easy to find the entrance to the castle and when we did it was a bit of let down…

Karak Castle, we took a wrong turn but at least we got this photo out of it
Karak Castle, we took a wrong turn but at least we got this photo out of it

First, we had to take a tour guide, who had very little English, coupled with only one or two really dry information boards that had too much text for the boys to read (and for me come to that). Second, like a lot of places we saw in Jordan the whole place was run down (notwithstanding it’s a 900 year-old castle!). The boys entertained themselves picking up stones and pretending to shoot arrows through the slit windows, but really I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit again.

Walking towards the light in the castle
Walking towards the light in the castle

Petra was certainly much better looked after but at the entrance price I should hope so! It was JOD80 for the two adults and the kids didn’t pay making it around US$25 a head add to that the donkey rides up the massive hill, food and drinks and I reckon we spent the best part of US$200 for really sore feet and some amazing photos. Was it worth it?

The first look at the treasury
The first look at the treasury
Little donkey, going onwards with his heavy load....
Little donkey, going onwards with his heavy load….

For sure, but do be aware of the high cost before you go. Also with the kids do bear in mind that you’re not going to see it all. They will get old stuff fatigue and you will end up giving in and renting one of the donkeys for at least part of the day cause they just won’t be able to walk it all. I personally also got a bit tired of the hawkers, and at one point lost it with one guy, who was trying the hard camel sell on Lorena after trying it on me, so I used the Arab man line and acted offended that he dared ask my wife after me the “HUSBAND” had already said no (Lorena surprisingly didn’t punish for this presumption later, she must have been really exhausted).

I want my money back the monastery is nothing of the sort
I want my money back, the monastery is nothing of the sort
The boys as Nabatean statues
The boys as Nabatean statues
The crack Nabatean strike force
The crack Nabatean strike force

Jerash was next on the agenda, a city and a Roman remains fest about an hour (with traffic) North of Amman. We did the drive from our Rock Camp all the way with a lunch stop in Amman.

The roads in Jordan are nothing like Gulf States, they are potholed and poorly signed. At least that is my excuse for how we ended up crossing the most devoid-of-life stony plain I have ever had the pleasure of crossing (and bearing in mind I work in the Empty Quarter in the UAE). The service stations seemed to be manned exclusively by flies as well, so it’s a good idea to take a few snacks with you.

Look at the tourist hordes
Look at the tourist hordes

The Roman site in Jerash was a welcome relief after the busy Petra, and to be honest if it was anywhere else would be the star of the show in itself. The only disappointment was that we had chosen the site in part because of the Roman re-enactment show that is advertised every day at the site, and promised to be a highlight of the holiday for the kids. Unfortunately what the website doesn’t tell you is that it shut down for lack of tourists. As well as being a shame, it made us sad to think that the tourist trade has been so badly affected in Jordan because of people’s fears about travel in the Middle East combined with the world economic crisis.

Tomyy and his Bedouin pipe
Tommy and his Bedouin pipe

Still there is still some infrastructure there, including a good deal on a buffet lunch and some Bedouin kids hanging round selling pipes. the site itself has a pretty impressive range of stuff, and because it was pretty empty the kids could run around and play hide and seek, and we managed to reenact a WWII battle as well as you can see in the photo below.

Danny took his soldiers along for a serious reenactment
Danny took his soldiers along for a serious reenactment

We also found this guy playing bagpipes in the amphitheatre which was a good spot to rest for a while for the price of a thank you tip. The site is in the middle of the city and comes with a trinket market attached as well as the aforementioned restaurant, so you could spend some cash, but we did the whole day for about US$50.

We told him we were from South America so he played Old Dixie Land
We told him we were from South America so he played Old Dixie Land

Our hotel was just outside the city and provided great opportunities for practicing our Arabic (because it was completely impossible to find), and had a sightly odd motel feel when we did find it, but the grounds were nice and true to its name there were plenty of olive trees everywhere.

The city itself is a small working city and it was nice to see somewhere ‘normal’. People were unfailingly helpful and we had the chance to stock up on olive soap at a really low price. Also as the food at the hotel didn’t look that great (although the Arabic breakfast was pretty filling), we had some good take-out in the kebab/falafel vein….

We also did another day trip from Jerash this time to the  Ajloun Forest Reserve , which led to a day of adventure, a little mishap and a happy ending.

Our first mishap was not being able to find the place, after half-an hour of searching we stopped to ask a traffic cop in our terrible Arabic, after a 10 minute conversation and me repeating “big tree where?” over and over they got the message and decided we should follow them, so we did. After another 20 minutes of police escort we got to the reserve, or so they thought. They had taken us to a rubbish strewn stand of trees and an abandoned restaurant and left us there, talk about killing with kindness! I wandered around for ten minutes before an old guy appeared for a chat, and to charge Lorena for using the toilet! I was not too impressed with that and we beat a retreat with me complaining about bloody thieving Jordanians.

Our Police secort
Our Police escort

Not to be deterred we carried on up the road a bit, and lo and behold, there was the reserve and it was great :).  We followed one of the routes around the forest for an hour or so, until our light ran out and then went for a chat with wardens in the visitors’ centre who counterbalanced the horrible old toilet guy by inviting us to tea and restoring my faith in Jordanian humanity…

Lovely to see some green in the Middle East
Lovely to see some green in the Middle East
Lovely green hills
Lovely green hills

It’s worth noting that there were virtually no facilities opened at the reserve so again bring some snacks, if it hadn’t been for the kindness of the wardens we wouldn’t even have had a cuppa.

The view from the Ajloun reserve
Sunset from the Ajloun reserve

After tea and good chat, it was back to the hotel, with a stop to buy bottled water in a shop and another happy ending, the lad in shop asked us where we were from and we answered UK, he then insisted we didn’t pay for the water, a small gesture but one I will never forget, my faith in Jordanians was now more than restored.

After Jerash we drove back South, travelling via the the Dead Sea and the Jordan river for a couple of photo opps. A lot people put a Dead Sea trip at the centre of a trip to Jordan, but the amount of salt in the water (a lot) and knowing the boys, who would get it in their eyes, coupled with the time of year, (cold),  put us off. What we did see didn’t look too enticing from a landscape point of view, but then that’s not the gag I guess.

We stopped on the cliffs above the sea, where there is a sort of promenade with lots of sisha cafes. I guess because of the time of day they were empty, but not to be deterred we chose one and ordered tea and shisha from the young Egyptian waiter. As soon as the tea arrived so did the flies, hundreds of them, and I don’t mean that metaphorically, I mean hundreds. And if that wasn’t enough, Danny came gallumping up to sit down on one of the plastic garden chairs and it collapsed. So the bill for our fly infested shishi and tea was:

4 teas = $2

1 Shisha = $4

1 plastic chair = $15

And what was priceless as they say in the ad was me trying to argue the price down in Arabic with a 14-year-old doe eyed sorrowful Egyptian waiter…

Our other destination on this day trip was thankfully a bit more successful, to Jesus’s baptism site on the River Jordan. I’m not religious but just from a historical perspective it was pretty mind-blowing to think that the big JC had been in the spot 2000 years ago, although I imagine in his day there were less gift shops.

The sign says it all
The sign says it all

The road to the site takes you through yet another type of vegetation in this small country, this time a fertile semi-tropical valley with bananas and grasses. When you get to the site you park up and wait for enough tourists to make up a bus load (which doesn’t take long, religious tourism seems to be the one type of tourism that is still doing well), the small bus then takes you to the site for the guided tour.

The river itself is more a stream than a raging torrent, and on the other side is the much fancier Israeli site, which is frankly strange to behold. Back on the Jordanian side you can visit one of the churches (an orthodox one I think), others are being built on the site in a sort of UN of Christian denominations adding to the vaguely Disneyland feel to the place.

Looking across to the other side and the plush Israeli installations.
Looking across to the other side and the plush Israeli installations.
I thought it was the other Jordan
The first of many

Our final stop off before we got to Madaba was Mount Nebo  where Moses was said to have looked into the promised land before keeling over. More mosaics ensued, as well as some blown up photos, a big view and a number of other tourists. Lorena and Danny had monument fatigue at this point and stayed in the car, so it was left to me and Tommy to have a twenty minute walk around the site before heading on.

The view from the top
The view from the top

Our last stop on the week long trip was Madaba an old Roman town famous for mosaics and conveniently close to the airport. We only had a night here and just turned up to look for a hotel, which proved pretty easy because of the aforementioned tourist drought in Jordan. I’m also glad we went for the first place we found, as the friendly owner explained pretty much all the hotels in town are owned by the same family, so I don’t think it would have made much difference where we stayed.

Tommy getting his name written in sand, just what we need more of in Abu Dhabi
Tommy getting his name written in sand, just what we need more of in Abu Dhabi

The most memorable thing about Madaba was a long lunch in Harat Jdoudna  where we lucky to get a room as packed as it was with folks with money from Amman. As well as being top quality local fare we were told it was pricey, but coming from the Gulf. the $60 price tag for 4 seemed more than reasonable.

A slap up lunch
A slap up lunch

We had a good wander around and picked up a couple of last minute souvenirs (you can never have enough fridge magnets), before calling it a day and getting ready to come back home.

All in all I would recommend Jordan as a family destination. Like every other Middle East country they love kids and there is plenty to do in a really varied landscape.

A Madaba mosaic
A Madaba mosaic

Tommy’s Jordan

when I went to Karak castle I was finding old pottery and there was lots of pottery there as for my brother he tried to find crystals surprisingly he found loads!!!

here is Danny trying to find crystals$$
Here is Danny trying to find crystals$$$

Danny’s Jordan

I filled my pockets with lots and lots of crystals

my shorts almost fell down!

003

this is a picture representing what we did in Jordan.

Jordan in Numbers

1 = How many cities are made from rock in Jordan

2326 = How old is Petra in years

850 = How many donkeys are in Petra

3 = How many times I climbed the rocks in Rock Camp

10 = The number of times I drank tea

1= The number of times I rode a donkey

this is me and my brother riding a donkey in Petra
this is me and my brother riding a donkey in Petra

How we did the Jordan stuff

We wrote down words connected to our holiday

Our brainstorm
Our brainstorm

Then I wrote questions based on the words and Danny drew a picture

My questions
My questionsphoto D w

Then I used Google the answer or remember from our experience.

Jordania según Mama

Fueron unas vacaciones lindas, un país pequeño lleno de monumentos muy antiguos como Petra y Jerash con sus ruinas del pueblo Romano. Mi favorito fue las caminatas de Petra, su tranquilidad e increíbles monumentos hechos de piedra, aunque muy seco y rocoso a su alrededor. Fuimos a Petra en la mañana porque los chicos estaban llenos de energía para caminar al menos algo y luego nos ayudaron los burros, pero mucha gente va en la tarde para mirar el atardecer desde el Monasterio. Seguimos con nuestro viaje hacia el norte del país y en unos cinco horas llegamos a Jerash una ciudad muy poblada, no muy interesante para nosotros porque vivimos en una ciudad musulmana. Pero si muy verde con muchos árboles de olivo. lo interesante fueron las ruinas romanas, son tan grandes que lleva un día entero para mirar todo, lamentablemente ese día hacia mucho sol, calor y solo pudimos visitar la mitad de las ruinas. Los chicos les encanto jugar a las escondidas en las ruinas.

El rio Jordano también visitamos, tomamos un tour y el guía nos mostró donde Jesús fue bautizado, por cierto en esos tiempos era de 60 metros de ancho ahora solo tiene 6 metros de ancho, continuamos al Mar muerto pero no me pareció nada especial un lago grande. La última noche nos quedamos en Madaba, muy turística y llena de tiendas con artesanías.

La comida fue deliciosa especialmente los desayunos, que los hoteles que incluyen. Tommy y Daniel no les gusto mucho pero algo comieron del arroz y pollo. El jugo de romana o pomegranate es refrescante y se puede encontrar en las esquinas a solo 1 JD o 4 AED.

One thought on “Jordan

  1. Pingback: Hotels, campsites and holiday cottages. | Family Travels

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