Recent day trip to Karak

 Karak is South of Amman and within easy reach via Madaba.  It is an ancient town of strategic important for the trade routes and also during the Crusades and latter the Ottomans.

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The most spectacular part is the drive down and across the valley via the road across a dam. One the otherside is a hotel atop the hill with fantasitc views, and they served a most delightful array of local dips, olives and breads, I think we spend almost an hour eating, watching the view and talking with the owner.  The place is called Rest House Trajan and the can be contacted on 00962 3 2310295 – it is well worth the visit.

The slide shows some of the pics taken on this day, it was windy and cool but perfect blue skies.

Father-Daughter time in Jordan

Nicola arrived safely and we enjoyed a great time travelling around some of Jordan and sampling some of what Amman has to offer.

Her flight from Heathrow was delayed nearly two hours, but she was out so quickly at the Amman airport I nearly missed her. On Tuesday she was woken in the morning by 2 hours of call to prayer to mark the Eid holiday celebration.

We ventured up to Jerash and enjoyed the sites and had lunch which was very nice. It was lovely weather and not too crowded. Jerash is just fantastic and now that I can get in for 1JD with my residency card I will go back often. The North West of Jordan is full of interesting places: Jearsh, Pella, Ajloun, Umm Qais to name a few.

After an early night we left for Petra at 6.30 and made it down by 9.30 – the highway, especially after the turn-off passes through some of the most inhospitable terrain. The weather again was kind and although Niki was not too impressed with the treatment of the horses and one amazing scene with a donkey, she thoughly enjoyed chalking up number 4 on the list of the Worlds Wonder she has seen.

The incident with the donkey deserves mention. The boy rider was trying to get the donkey to move, it would not, so he got off and grabbed a small boulder about 1foot in diameter, jumped back on and banged it onto the donkeys head. Well I let the boy, his two adult minders and who else cared to listen that this was just not on! It occurred to me latter that this was obviously learned behaviour and that probably the animals were not as well treated as we might hope.

Petra was left behind and off we headed to the Movenpick resort on the Dead Sea – we were upgraded to private suits with a private pool and patio area, which you got to via double opening doors. This was a highlight in Nicola’s eyes, and mine I have to say.

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The trip back to Amman was over the mountain range to Madaba and then onto Amman, this, like all trips down or up the range to or from the Dead Sea provides spectacular vistas of the West Bank and other occupied areas, as well of the geographic landscapes in general.

Thursday night was a trip to books@cafe for dinner and an early night – Niki is getting tied these days and needs her rest.

In the middle of this fun we got the news that my younger daughter was ill with of all things Glandular Fever! Flowers and a teddy bear were dispatched to cheer her up.

The Friday was a quiet rest day, but thanks to my good friend Niki (can be confusing as they have the same first name) who took us to the old town at night, Nicola was able to sample the delights of the famous Hashem eatery and to have a look around the souks and markets – thanks Niki for taking us.

Arising at 5.30am for the trip to the airport, Nicola has flown back to London.

A great experience for both father and daughter – possibly our last holiday together on our own.

By the way, on Friday morning I received the news that I had been awarded my Doctorate from the University of Melbourne – well done me!

Pella

A trip to Pella from Amman is best done via Jerash, if you go up to Irbid it is bit longer and the signage is easy to miss! Take the turn-off to Jerash, then via Aljon Castle and little further on you reach Pella, if you continue on past the Pella turn-off you will make it to the Jordan valley.

The day was perfect, weather warm, sky blue and the start of a nine day break. I picked my friend Niki up at 9am and by lunch time we had found Pella, and it was reasonably warm so I think we were both relieved that we did not feel it necessary to walk in through the small gate marking the entrance to the site but could head straight to lunch.

The Rest restaurant is managed by the people who run the eatery in Omm Quais and the view is just as impressive, overlooking the Jordan Valley. The view can be seen in the slide show below at the start – along with a picture of a helpful cat, who managed to eat most of Niki’s chicken!

The menu is not as extensive as the one at Omm Qais,you are restricted to chicken and fish, we saw the fish whisked by and ordered chicken, salad and somehow managed to end up with a lime drink as well, all very reasonably priced.

The ruins can be easily seen from the table – no need for clambering over rocks just use the zoom! Anyway, they looked, well just like the other Romans ruins. Australia is very well known here as it is one of the countries whose Universities have been digging and exploring since the early 1970s.

After negotiating the tour bus blocking the exit we headed off to visit Aljon castle. This is an impressive place with vistas across much of North West Jordan, somehow we managed to attract a guide who actually turned out to be very helpful and informative.

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Just a nice day and I didn’t get lost!

It is now Saturday, and I am so exciting – the hot water works. I got the diesel tank filled and had a visit from the school maintenance person who checked everything and seemed to give the boiler the thumbs up, alas, as is often the case here, not everything was just quite ready to fire. One final check tomorrow, but at least I had a nice HOT shower, and I reckon Nicola will be pleased when she visits next week.

Off to Books@Cafe to meet some people from school.

Just an update on the hot water – its off, problem with the boiler, it will be fixed but it is now the Eid holiday!

Niki my elder daughter has arrived safe and sound and is sleeping in, off to Jerash today.

Omm Qias

Travelled up by car via Irbid. Trip is simple and takes about 1.5 hours. Irbid is a ‘working’ town, plenty of activity, even though it was a Friday. Umm Qias is to the West and is the site of an Roman city destroyed in 747AD by earthquakes, a fate that befall many similar places across the Roman Empire at various times. It is similar in layout to Jerash and also Ephesus. When you arrive it is a little unclear where to go to get into the main entrance, drive a little past the first entrance which is populated by touts and look for the tourist buses. The ticket entrance is up on the right. The site is very easy to walk around and you will be struck by the Basalt columns and sandstone columns – I am told the first indicates volcanic activity, hence fertile soil, and the latter, indicates that the sea once covered the area! Looking out to the west you see the Yarmouk River and the Sea of Galliee, which is called Lake Tiberias these days! It is quite a drop down and the area below is obviously fertile with many farms and green olive groves and the like.

According to the Bible this was were Jesus caste the demons from two men into nearby pigs, thus curing them – what from I don’t know, nor is why he picked on the poor pigs, surely rocks would have been better! From the slides below you get a good idea of the ruins and the land forms, the Sea of Galliee can be seen in the distance in one.

The picture of the dryed thistle head is my favorite – there are over 50 species in Jordan and the baking sun dries their flow heads perfectly.

The drive back to Amman is via the Jordan Valley; the otherwise dry environment is provided water from the Jordan River by irrigation channels – water rights is a geo-political issue, which is a fancy way of saying, like many things, people in the area don’t share limited resources very well, not at all really if they can help it!

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The Israel occupied Golan Heights can be seen in the distance – these were occupied during the 1967 war and rested from Syria, who want them back. One does not have to ponder long why accendency over the GH’s has been fought over often – as the French guide said to his group, who where hell bent on crowding around my table, which had the best view!!, all 20 of them: ‘domination and strategic…..’, say those words with a French accent.

Where do the Gum trees come from?

Jordan is covered with Gum trees – EUCALYPTUS trees. This blog provides some info on how come they are here, clearly they like it here. There is one in the grounds of the River Jordan Foundation which is at least 80 years old.

One Internet source (http://www.thefreelibrary.com/A+tree+pilgrimage+in+Israel-a0159285784) indicates that in 1884 the Mikveh Yisrael Agricultural School planned some, which indeed came from Australia and this began the process of swap clearing, which did not fully become complete until the period 1951 to 1958. Hula Lake near the sea of Gallee was a source of malaria and the draining was used to help eradicate the disease. During the British manate era gum trees were planted in other areas to drain swamps – the period is unclear but maybe from as early as the mid 1800s to the early part of last century at least.

The mandate would have included the now area of Jordan. The house used for the River Jordan Fountation dates from about 1936 and was used by the British Army and then went through a series of owners and was used for various purposes – all this time I would surmise the gum tree kept it shaded!

Further north gums were planted to help restore the famous ruins of Aanjar, sometime after Lebanon gained independence in 1943.

Interestingly there is a more modern connection via bee keeping! Jordan and Australia maintain what seems to be a close collaboration and Eucalyptus tree provide viable alternate pollen sources. And, the trees are used for the same purpose in nearby Israel.

There is a lot more, but you’ll have to wait for the book: ‘History of Eucalyptus trees in Jordan and the bee’ – should be a fun read, and remember without bees we would be no place!

Amman – Kakak – Dead Sea Tour

Given I got lost the day before, the enthusiasm for another days touring Jordan began to emerge slowly. The slide shows the vast beauty of this country.

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But, by about 10.30am we were ready, equipped with a replacement hire car – the other more modern beast falling foul of the wrong octane level petrol. The new car, a Nissan Sunny, proved a more than adequate replacement, zipping up and down the hills and nimbly negotiating the Amman traffic.

Karak is in the centre of the Western third of Jordan about an 1hours drive South from Amman. It is famous for its castle and it is impressive, this time round we were happy with pictures and did not venture inside.

On route Cathie found two reason to purchase some odd bits and pieces. At the top of one range the is a fantastic view of a dam from a look out, it is also occupied by two enterprising Jordanians, Cathie was most pleased with her purchases of some small rugs. A little further on we stopped at an enterprising establishment termed the ‘Grand Canyon Jordan’, it was run by an enterprising ex-Jordanian Airforce Officer who was very friendly and spoke with a US accent, gained from three visits for training. He had established an eyrie like place to have tea and coffee under tents, engage in some conversation, look at an amazing view, and if nature called use the newly installed WC – with a view that is unsurpassable! We were servered by his daughters – Sally and Sarah who were delightful. We enjoyed sitting and chatting and of course purchasing! As we progressed on up the mountain we past several more tented places and one established restaurant – seemingly popular with the tourists; they did not know what they had missed.

The country between Amman and Karak is typical of this area of Jordan, rolling country areas of exposed earth being readied in some parts for sowing, with the occasion tented living and herds of goats and sheep. In between there are several towns, Madaba probably being the largest. It is close to Amman and is somewhat caotic but fun to drive through.

Before Karak you descend through amazing mountains bare of most vegetation and after Karak you decend further through similar country to the Dead Sea. From there you simply tour back to Amman and enjor the scenary.

I managed to negoatiate the detour to the 7th Circle of the 35 and then find the loop back onto the Jerash road (35) and eventually made it home and returned the car without getting lost or with any damage to the car!

A wonderful day!