Following Petra, the second part our Jordan rendezvouswas a drive to the Dead Sea, up to Madaba and winding to the airport for our flight back to Kuwait. A breakfast chat with a couple from Chicago (a broker and a consultant to the World Bank), and after postulating the world’s water woes with them, we left Wadi Musa.
From the start the day proved most educational and eye opening…
We drove toward Amman, the capital of Jordan, perfecting our u-turns sans GPS and finally tootled along toward the Dead Sea. Half an hour on the northern side of Amman we were waved to pull over. I grabbed my passport and marriage certificate, our car registration provided by the car rental and waited as my husband took out his drivers’ license and passport.
The last time I’d been stopped with people holding machine guns was in Nepal when Maoists were collecting money from anyone walking a path to one of the passes. Our sherpa negotiated and it was all done and dusted within ten minutes.
This time however we had no sherpa and the war in Syria, less than two hours drive away, was top of our minds. The policeman dressed in blue camo peered at our passports then delivered a huge grin, “Australians!” he smiled, waving us on. I felt relieved to come from a country with a reputation of fuzzy kangaroos and peace.
Soon we saw a turn off indicating the baptism site of Jesus Christ. This was a religious lesson and a half! Unfortunately for our historical interests the site was a long wait for the next shuttle bus and we didn’t have time to visit.
The roads in this area, just past the horticulture belt, revealed the poverty in Jordan. Fields devoid of topsoil were dotted with shanty makeshift homes, pieces of material and tents amongst the rocks, accompanied by goats or a couple of donkeys. Children sold fruit and vegetables on the side of the road and a few camels were being ridden along the highway, loping along with unimpressed expressions.
My naive expectations of the Dead Sea involved scenes of blue sky, salt and sparkly beaches. What I saw was not something I could have imagined myself. We took an early right turn past a checkpoint entering the area to a section of coastline between two gigantic hotel chains.
I have to say, to all those tourists visiting the resorts and floating in the Dead Sea, I encourage you to stop along this piece of coastline. Your Dead Sea mineral face mask treatment might make your face feel like smooth plastic, though you might want to question the plastic content of the source!
Washed up on the shore and in every runnel of eroded, compacted, brown mud we walked on, was rubbish. I was disgusted and tried to reason why it was so? Lack of education, no funding for rubbish collection and definitely no recycling stations were a few reasons that came to mind. Even said, it made me angry and disappointed in the lack of respect for the earth.
Waving away locals following us for horse and camel rides we walked back to the car. We drove to Madaba, a city of about 60,000 people atop the hills.
The depth of the Dead Sea, about 422m below sea level, meant our drive up was even more spectacular in height. We passed through another checkpoint and the winding road took us higher and higher, with views across to Israel becoming more impressive.
Approaching Mount Nebo I had another lesson in religious studies. The hill was mentioned in the Bible as the place where Moses saw the Promised Land. I have to say it was an impressive view back over the Dead Sea.
Again, with our flight ahead, we didn’t have time to take a long look around Madaba which I would recommend to anyone visiting the area. From our crawl through the traffic with the windows down it was a place full of character, and characters who I only guess would be better experienced walking the streets.
Back at the airport we checked in with plenty of time. Plenty of time unless you’re flying with Kuwait Airways! The plane left 45 minutes before boarding time and we only knew to line up as a staff member had spotted our tickets as we walked about finding something to eat! Leaving Jordan so early in a way summed up our weekend; a place with so much time in history yet we couldn’t give it the time…