Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Jordan day 2

We were leaving Amman today and had arranged to leave two of our cases at the hotel to be collected on our return. This meant that we did not have extra bits of luggage to deal with.

We left the hotel at 8:30 and headed north. The first part of the drive was quite slow as we were contending with the busy roads of Amman.

Our first stop was in Madaba. Within the town, and most of the towns we encountered, traffic is caotic. We parked a little distance from our target: the site of an important mosaic map. The map dates from th Byzantine period (4th to 7th century A.D.). About 30 square metres of fragments of the mosaic map have survived and can be seen in the floor of St George's Church which was built on the site of a previously large cathedral in the latter part of the 19th century. The map shows Jerusalem and other places of religious significance in this region.

These are four parts of the map mosaic

Centre aisle of the church
We stopped on the outskirts of Madaba and visited one of the many places making mosaics and other handcrafts. We were treated to a demonstration of a number of techniques before being given a cup of tea or coffee and then let loose in the attached shop.
Our next stop was at Mount Nebo which is the place where it is beleived that Moses, he of the bullrushes and the Ten Commandments, is buried. The site provides a vast panorama over the Jordan valley. On a clear day it is possible to Jerusalem but not today. Once again, there were some impressive mosaics.

3 views of parts of the mosaic
The church under (re)construction
There was quite a story about the Mt Nebo site. There were actually two mosaic floors. The earlier one contained the images of people and animals and birds. At some stage the church authotities decided that this was not acceptable as it became iconic so the original floor was covered with about a metre of soil and a new floor complete with acceptable mosaics  was added.

Looking out over the valley below Mt Nebo

I hope you can see Jerusalem behind Trevor. I couldn't. Too much haze

Sami had suggested that we have a picnic lunch and we had all agreed. He undertook to obtain the food and drink and said that we would stop somewhere where we could eat our picnic lunch. I think we were all a little surprised when the bus pulled off the Kings Highway, the road we were travelling along, and our lunch spot was announced. I will admit that there were trees which provided shade however that was about the only positive feature of the site.  The site was littered with broken glass and loose, dry soil underfoot. There was nowhere to sit down. The food was fine and plentiful but the setting did not rate as a sensible picnic spot.  The picnic included hot bread which our driver went off and collected.

Getting ready for our picnic lunch

And this is a picnic? On the right with his back to us is our Tourist Policeman
we had a Tourist Policeman with us throughout the day. I'm nogt sure what he was supposed to be doing as he remained quiet, small at us from time to time and that was about it. Sami did introduce him at the start of the day butg said nothing about his role.

Back on the bus we continued the drive north with a stop to view an impressive canyon. A dam has been constructed in the valley which looked a gorgeous blue below us as we wound our way down into the canyon and then up the other side.

Karak boasts an impressive castle that was a stronhold for the Crusaders. erected in 1161 A.D. it stands on a ridge with the town clustered around its impressive walls. Once again there were some great views down to the valleys from the high position of the castle.

Note the huge base to the walls (on the left hand side) ... very defensive

View from the castle

Another view from the castle
Leaving Karak was a challenge and our driver eased our bus through the randomly parked cars and the the heavy town traffic. This was an impressive feat.

We still had quite a drive ahead of us to get to Petra where we will be staying for three nights. We watched the sunset as we continued down the Kings Highway.

Sunset from the bus

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