My trip to Jordan was a long time in coming. Originally booked for last August, it was then moved to April, after which it was finally re-booked for last weekend. It was as if I could see the promised land and yet I kept having to wander through other parts of the world until I could arrive. I think that once happened to some other people in Jordan too.
After over a year of anticipation, Friday was finally the chosen day for my Jordanian adventure. My boyfriend and I hopped on a flight after work and landed in Amman just before midnight. Despite a relapse of my previous week’s illness—I was utterly convinced I had been struck down by a Biblical plague (locust flu?) by the time we landed—I was looking forward to seeing the home of Petra and the Dead Sea.
After a quick night’s sleep in Amman we drove south on the King’s Highway, a road that runs down the middle of the country from Amman to Petra. The road, which was traveled by the Nabateans and crusaders way back when, took us south through gorgeous gorges, beautiful dry deserts, and a number of small towns.
One of those towns was Madaba, home of some miraculously old mosaics. We took a detour to the Byzantine Saint George’s Church, which is best known for its mosaic map of the Dead Sea area. Dating back to 542 AD, the mosaic takes up a large part of the church’s floor. With labels in Greek and dimensions not quite as laser-accurate as modern satellite technology, it was a bit confusing to make out the actual parameters of the map. Thankfully the giant posters outside the church had a convenient 21st century-friendly cheat sheet showing all of the relevant modern cities in English, Italian, German, and other touristy languages.
Moving on from Madaba, we continued south on the King’s Highway until we reached Karak. Known for its 12th century crusader castle and for being half way between Amman and Petra, we decided to stop there for lunch. We enjoyed an amazing meal of lentil soup and herb chicken that might as well have been manna from heaven, then we skipped the castle, which was overrun with tour buses, and got back on the road.
We had heard that the Petra visitor center closes at 5pm, and we were intent on getting there beforehand so that we could have a first glimpse of the ancient Nabatean city before sunset. Realizing that we would need to pick up the pace if we were to accomplish that goal, we headed out to the Desert Highway and drove like a chariot of fire all the way to Petra.
To be continued…