Tag Archives: madaba

A Historical Melting Pot and a Sea Where You Cannot Drown

Jordan is a history-lover’s paradise. With its location at the crossroads of Asia, Europe and Africa, Jordan is indeed a melting pot of history and cultures. Archaeological remains dating back to 10000 years ago have been unearthed here. It is also religiously significant – being situated in the Levant region (with Syria, Lebanon, Israel and Palestine as neighbours) – there are many sites of religious significance here. Let’s explore some of these places.

A Greco-Roman City

On our first day in Jordan (complete itinerary here), we visited Jerash – one of the most well-preserved Greco-Roman cities in the world. It is situated north of Amman – a one-hour drive. The city, originally known as Gerasa, was an important point in the trade route of the region. It flourished for centuries – its decline started when sea routes started gaining prominence. A major earthquake in the year 749 destroyed much of the city.

Our driver, Ameen, got us the entry tickets and saw us off at the gate. Make sure you have some comfortable shoes on – it’s a long walk exploring the ancient city. The entrance is via a large gateway called the Hadrian’s Arch. Inside, spread across a large area, you can find

  • A hippodrome
  • A circular plaza outlined with pillars
  • Temples of Zeus and Artemis
  • A colonnaded street
  • A Byzantine church
  • Theatres
  • A Nymphaeum.

Walking through the colonnaded street was one of the highlights – the stones which formed the street were the same on which people walked centuries ago. There were even marks left by chariot wheels! As we were visiting in March, the valley was a lush green and beautiful – the panoramic view of the city was amazing. We spent around 2-3 hours here before heading back to Amman.

The Place Where Moses saw the Promised Land

Our first stop on Day 2 was Mt. Nebo. A one-hour drive from Amman took us to the historic hilltop where Moses is said to be buried. It is said that Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land from here. On a clear day, you can see Jerusalem on the other side of the valley. We visited the church there – it had some really amazing mosaic floors.

The Mosaic City of Jordan

15 minutes away from Mt Nebo is Madaba – the town famous for its mosaics. We visited the famous Greek Orthodox St George Church. There are some really detailed mosaics inside and the most famous one is the Map of Madaba. The map is so famous that the church is even referred to as the “Church of the Map”.

A Giant Crusader Castle

A 2-hour drive from Madaba brought us to Al-Karak or Kerak, a city famous for the large castle on one of its peaks. It is located on the King’s Highway – the ancient trade route. The castle was built by the Crusaders, a group of Christians who waged religious wars to conquer the Holy Lands from Muslims. As with all other things in Jordan, it didn’t last long in their hands as different kingdoms came and went. We spent about an hour exploring the castle and proceeded on our drive to Petra.

A Sea Where You Cannot Drown

We visited the Dead Sea on Day 4 of our trip. We were super excited for this unique experience – you must have seen photos of people floating on the sea reading magazines. What makes the Dead Sea so impossible to drown in? Well, it is one of the saltiest water bodies in the world! In fact, it is almost 10 times saltier that the oceans! The salinity makes it impossible for plants and animals to live around it. It is also the lowest point on Earth – more than 400 metres below sea level.

As we drove towards the beach, the road sloped downwards, and we passed by a sign which said that we were at sea level. And as if on cue, we heard a loud cracking noise. Every single water bottle we had got compressed due to the pressure change! This is like the opposite of what happens when you travel to high mountainous regions where packets of chips blow up like footballs.

The Dead Sea is unlike any other water body – so don’t jump right in. The first feeling you get when you enter the water is a burning sensation. Due to its ultra-salinity, any scratches or wounds you may have, start acting up. This settles down in a couple of minutes. Take care you don’t get too much water into your eyes – you’ll probably end up running back to shore looking for clean water. (Tip: keep a bottle of clean water on the beach before entering the water for such emergencies). As hard as we tried to sit down, we were getting pushed right back up. In short, it was fun! We spent plenty of time wading and paddling around and clicking some pics (of course!).

We didn’t choose to cover ourselves in the mud there – if you get a chance, give it a shot.

Our skin felt really soft – apparently the high salt and mineral content helps in exfoliation and gets rid of dead skin cells. In fact, an entire industry has come up which uses the Dead Sea mud and minerals to come up with skincare products! There are many shops along the route and you can pick up a few as souvenirs.

We headed back to Amman for the last leg of our trip. Read all about Amman and its delicious food here.

You can read all about our Jordan trip here:

The Jordan Itinerary

A Visit to a World Wonder and the Red Planet

A Guide to Amman and some Amazing Jordanian Food

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The Jordan Itinerary

When you pick up a map of the Middle East, you can see it being dominated by Saudi Arabia and Iran. Zoom in a bit to the north of Saudi towards the Mediterranean and you can spot a bunch of countries squeezed in – Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

We were looking for a place to add onto our Egypt trip. And Jordan was the most logical choice. Home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World and one of the safest countries in the region to travel in, Jordan would be perfect for a 5-day trip.

When you think of the Middle East, you usually think of deserts and rugged terrain as far as the eye can see. Jordan is far from that – in fact, we were stunned by the biodiversity and geography as we travelled from north to south!

Jordan is a historically significant region thanks to its location at the crossroads of Asia, Europe and Africa. Humans have been living here for over 200,000 years. The ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Babylonians, Assyrians, Romans, Nabataeans, Byzantines, Umayyads and Ottomans have ruled it at some point in history. Its modern shape started forming after World War I when France and UK re-drew the borders in the region. This gave the British control over Israel, Palestine, Transjordan and south Iraq. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (as it is called today) was finally formed in 1946 as the British Empire started retreating globally. Thanks to all these cultural influences, Jordan is a perfect destination for history lovers as well as foodies!

Best time to visit

Most parts of your Jordan itinerary would include outdoor activities and having good weather really makes for a memorable experience. March-May is considered the best time to visit. September to November is also a good time to visit. Avoid the summer months of June-August and the winter months of December-February. We travelled in March and got beautiful weather throughout the trip.

Getting around Jordan

You can fly into Jordan at the Amman Queen Alia Int’l Airport or the Aqaba King Hussein Int’l Airport depending on where you want to start your trip.

While you do have the option of taking public transport (buses between cities and taxis within them), we would recommend picking an option where you have your own vehicle. You can choose to hire a car and drive yourself. Or you could customize your itinerary with a local travel agency – they will arrange the car and hotels as well as your Visa. We went for the latter option as it was the most convenient one while being very cost effective. Also, we did not want to spend our trip trying to decode signboards and getting used to driving on the other side of the road (in India, we drive on the left).

We picked Sherazade Travel as our agency – they arranged 3-star hotels, a private AC van, Visa and entrance tickets for our tours. Our driver/guide Ameen was the most amazing host as well. We totally recommend them!

Arabic is the main language in Jordan. The currency is the Jordanian Dinar (JOD) which is one of the strongest currencies in the world (1 JOD = 102 INR / 1.41 USD as of Mar 2021).

How many days to spend in Jordan?

Jordan has a lot to offer from the beautiful Roman ruins at Jerash up north to the mesmerizing desert of Wadi Rum in the south. You can spend anywhere between 4 to 10 days in Jordan depending on the activities you’d like to fit in.

Our Itinerary

Day 1: Fly into Amman. Explore the Amman town, Citadel. Drive for a tour of the ancient city of Jerash. Spend the evening enjoying local food in the Amman market. Here is our guide to Amman and the amazing Jordanian food!

Day 2: Drive to Mt Nebo (the place where Moses saw the Promised Land). Visit Madaba and the mosaic church. Explore Kerak castle. Arrive at Petra by night. Read about the historical melting pot that is Jordan here.

Day 3: Spend the day at Petra exploring one of the seven wonders of the world. Evening drive to a desert camp in the middle of Wadi Rum desert. Here’s our experience and guide to Petra and Wadi Rum.

Day 4: Desert safari in Wadi Rum – Mars on Earth. Drive back towards Amman and go below sea level to the Dead Sea. Arrive at Amman by night.

Day 5: Fly out from Amman.

If you have additional days, consider adding one or more of the following

  • Wadi Mujib – a water filled canyon
  • Ajloun Castle – an ancient castle a short distance from Jerash
  • Aqaba – perfect place for scuba diving in the Red Sea

You can read all about our Jordan trip here:

A Visit to a World Wonder and the Red Planet

A Guide to Amman and some Amazing Jordanian Food

A Historical Melting Pot and a Sea Where You Cannot Drown

If you have any questions on how to plan your trip, please leave a comment below and we’d love to help! You can subscribe to our blog for all the updates and travel tips. For a lot more pics and stories about our latest travels, follow us on Instagram @fridgemagnet.tales