The Arabs call it al-Baḥr al-Mayyit (aka The Dead Sea) and it is the lowest point on earth sitting at 427m below sea level. This was my second visit the Dead Sea; I visited – and swam in it – on the Israeli side in 1992.
Irony is interesting and there is irony when it comes to the story of the creation of the Dead Sea. It was formed, or so the Jordanians tell us, back in Biblical times. You see it was here that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah existed. Being rather naughty places, God decided to destroy them. Abraham interceded and managed to have God pause in smiting the cities and two angels were dispatched to Sodom to visit with Abraham’s brother, Lot, to see if 10 good men could be found in the city and thereupon spare the cities God’s fire and brimstone. Finding none, the angels advised Lot and his family to leave and not look back. Unfortunately Lot’s wife, being either deaf or dumb, glanced back and was instantly turned into a pillar of salt (a pillar we in fact did see!).
The next day God took up the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into his hands and crushed them into the land; the land where today the Dead Sea exists. Presumably all the evil and badness that burst forth from these two dreadful cities tempered the waters of the Dead Sea to be so vile and salty. The irony arrives on scene with the fact that the Dead Sea, today, is a much sought after spa destination and its waters, and mud, are heralded as a panacea for all sorts of ailments and diseases.
After leaving Petra we drove through the mountains down to the Dead Sea for a swim before heading into Amman. Amman is Jordan’s capital and has vestiges of its rule by the Ottomans and its colonial protectorate rule by the British (when it was called Trans-Jordan). It is a tremendously sprawling city of 2.5 million citizens with zero regard for traffic rules and regulations (it even beat out Nairobi for the utter chaos of it all), monotone in colour and hot and dusty. I am glad, certainly, that I visited to tour its key archaeological sites – Jabal al-Qal’a (aka the Citadel), the Jordan Archaeological Museum, the Amman Folklore Museum and the 6,000-seat Roman theatre – but I am not sure I would return anytime soon. While in Amman we made our home at the palatial Le Meridien Amman, which was wonderful and a real oasis with endless restaurant choices including China Town (where we enjoyed some long-missed chinese cuisine) and a good club lounge.
2) G and I stop for coffee and a view on route to the Dead Sea, high above the road
3) here’s a video I shot from above
4) the pillar of salt that was once Lot’s wife
5) G takes in the view; this is looking across to Israel on the far side
7) the Dead Sea Spa Hotel where we stopped for a swim
8) the second to last bullet point is – by far – the most important when ‘swimming’ in the dead sea
9) pretty eh … but OMG it was SO hot!
10) you don’t so much as ‘swim’ in the dead sea as float around … it is near impossible to get your feet under you
11) a panoramic view of Amman taken from the Citadel (double-click to open in full view)
12) Amman looks pretty much like this everywhere
13) moi atop the Citadel (shorts would have been a smarter move this day!)
14) the Temple of Hercules, built between 162-166 AD, atop the Citadel
15) the architect considers the temple
16) the Roman theatre built during the reign of Antonius Pius (138-161 BCE) (double-click to open in full view)
17) the theatre seemed a place where Jordanians came to enjoy their lunches
18) would have been nice to see a play here eh
19) the view from the top with the Citadel in the background
20) our room at the Meridien had this on the corner of the dresser – a qiblah, which indicates the direction of Mecca
21) lunchtime in China Town inside the Meridien
22) these were no ordinary western-style chicken balls but were real full-on chicken meat
24) appetizer time in the Club Lounge
25) and finally a full 300 degrees view of Amman taken from atop the Citadel
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