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Posts Tagged ‘bethany’

I thought I was getting better, but my bug is now trying to become a cold.

October 30-31, 2009: At 10:45 on my watch I left the business center to go get ready for the visit to Jerash. On my way through the lobby I noticed a young local man standing around. After a little hesitation I asked him if he was with Explore! and discovered that he was the ground agent. The ground agent who had made absolutely no, nada, zilch attempt to contact me. Did he welcome me to the tour? Apologize for not contacting me? Hope I enjoyed the tour? Did he hell. Instead he lit into me for being late!!!

The River Jordan (looking at the West Bank)

True, on his watch it was 10:55, but that still gave me five minutes, and what effort had he made to see that I even knew to be there at 11:00? This tour wasn’t starting well, and went down hill some more when I discovered that there were 21 people in the group and that we would travel around on a big tour bus. I had expected a maximum of 16, but when I reread the Explore! brochure later I discovered that it said 16-22. I was used to Intrepid tours that maxed out at 12, and had never, in my experience, used a big tour bus.

We met up with the tour leader, Roger, who had come down from Syria that morning, at Jerash, where we ate a selection of meze for lunch. And then it started raining. Hard. It also turned cold and although I was wearing hiking boots and carrying an umbrella, I wasn’t wearing warm clothes and I knew from experience that if I got really chilled I’d get sick. So I chose not to follow the guide round the site. I spent some time in the very overcrowded cafe drinking bad coffee, and then took a quick look on my own – enough of a look to see that this was an impressively big site, but I think I have OD’ed on Roman ruins for a while.

Mosaic at Mt. Nebo

Back in Amman I tried to get a restaurant recommendation for dinner, but neither the ground agent nor the tour leader were willing to suggest anything other than eating at the hotel. I chose to eat with the group: not-bad lentil soup, dry chicken, under-cooked potatoes and some welcome beans and cauliflower. So far the only good thing about this tour was my roommate, an Australian headed home after several years in Edinburgh – as usual I lucked out with an assigned roommate and we got on well.

The next morning we set out on the bus with a crowded schedule of sights to see on the way to Petra.

Wadi Mujib

  • Bethany Beyond the Jordan – recently validated as the site of Jesus’ baptism. Close up view of the very, very, muddy Jordan. One devout group with its minister having a service around a pool of filtered water. View across the river of a similar but deserted site on the West Bank side.
  • Mount Nebo – where Moses looked over Canaan. I thought the Promised Land was the land of milk and honey: it certainly didn’t look it, but much of the view was obscured by haze. I did enjoy some quite nice mosaics, but the main church was off-limits for renovation.
  • Madaba – only enough time to visit the map in St. George’s church and eat lunch. I was very glad I had visited on my own before the tour. I listened to the guide’s lecture, and then ate falafel at Ayola again before visiting the map with just my roommate instead of the whole group.
  • King’s Highway and Wadi Muji – I had boarded the bus early so I could grab the front seat for this ride, and was glad to have seen the wadi – a deep, steep gash in the earth’s surface, with the road inching its way down in a series of switchbacks.
  • Karak – not very interesting, perhaps because our national guide gave us a lot of boring facts and no insight, and we only got a close-up view. I would have been happier if the guide had lectured us on the bus, while we were sitting down, instead of standing in front of the castle, but very few guides seem willing to do that.

Karak at dusk

We finally made it into Petra, or more precisely Wadi Musa, well after dark. I’m not sure whether our hotel was the Al-Anbat II or the Al-Anbat III but I certainly can’t recomend it. After a favorable first impression – big bedroom, clean bathroom – my opinion kept going down.

  • Nowhere to hang anything in the bathroom, no hooks, no towel rail, not even a shower-curtain rod.
  • No hairdryer, and the little, light one I was carrying had died on me – sparks out of the plug end and no air out of the business end.  (It was over 30 years old…)
  • The TV didn’t work.
  • The AC unit only did AC, not heat, as many units do, and it was cold at night.
  • Only one power outlet, and that didn’t produce much power.
  • Sheets that totally didn’t fit the matress. Remaking my bed with the top sheet on the botom helped some, but I still needed my silk sleep sack. And then I was too hot with the coverlet on and too cold without it.

Even a bad hotel couldn’t spoil my visit to Petra, though.

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