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December 2006 - January 2007
Boat to Jordan
Jordan basically is an inland country except for a few miles of coastline on the tip of the Gulf of Aqaba. The port town of Aqaba is the only place to arrive by boat to marvel at the goodies, mysteries and wonders of Jordan. All settlements with major attractions are on or around the King’s Highway which runs north from Aqaba to the capital city Amman, passing through Petra, Shobak, Karak and Madaba. The Kingdom of Jordan as we know it today is comparatively new. King Abdullah I founded the nation after World War I. His grandson, King Hussein ruled the country for forty six years, who in 1999 passed the throne to his son, the present King Abdullah II.
Historically and archeologically speaking this part of the Middle East was inhabited
for many thousands of years before Christ. Referring to biblical times, it was
on this land that John baptised Jesus and Moses died in a Wadi (valley) near
the city of Madaba, and was buried on the Mount Nebo.
Amman, capital of Jordan is built on many hills. The ruins of the ancient Citadel on top of a hill have traces of a Roman Temple, a Byzantine Church and an Umayyad Palace. The terraces of the Citadel offer grand panoramic views of Amman. In the downtown there is a restored Roman Theatre built into the hillside. It seats 6,000 spectators and is still in use. It also houses the Museum of Folklore and the Museum of Popular Tradition. The most distinctive landmark in West Amman is the newly constructed King Abdullah Mosque with its giant blue dome. It is also an Islamic Cultural Centre. The main area of the mosque is octagonal in shape with capacity to house 3000 worshippers. The design of the beautiful interior is focused on the Quranic Verse.
Crusader Castle: Two of the impressive castles which the Crusaders built are
Shobak and Karak. The former is smaller and was constructed on top of a hill
to dominate the surrounding landscape with secret passages leading to the important
parts of the castle from the land below. The Karak Castle is large and is also
at the crown of a hill. The castle is in a state of dilapidation but clearly
tells the tales of hard times faced by the commanders and the garrison alike.
Both Mamluke and Ottoman rulers rebuilt these castles and left traces of their
Petra: In modern tourism the ancient rose red city of Petra ranks quite high on the list of ‘must see’ areas of interest. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. It has been suggested by some archaeologists that Petra should be considered as the eighth wonder of the ancient world. Arabs settled in this area some 2200 years ago and controlled the trading routes between India and China to the Mediterranean Coastal towns. They levied tolls and provided hospitality to caravans carrying Indian silks and spices, and African ivory and animal hides. The city is spectacularly set inside a narrow desert gorge. There are more than thirty five building ruins to be explored, including siqs (gorges), theatre, tombs, colonnaded street, temple, gate and a monastery. However, the prized monument is the Treasury with its facade delicately carved in classic proportions into a pink and red sandstone mountain. It is said by some scholars that it was a tomb of an important King in the 1st century and later used as a temple.
Wadi Rum is a large area covering some 720 square kilometres and also known as Desert of Mountains. It is a vast, magnificent and stunning desert landscape where Jabals (hills) of interesting and astonishing shapes rise above the floor of the valley reaching heights of up to 1700 meters. Both the floor of the valley and the mountains bear shades of beige, orange and red colours. Several Bedouin tribes with their goat herds still live in the area. Somebody had rightly said that ‘the Wadi Rum is truly a wilderness and an immense space where man is dwarfed to insignificance’. In World War I the area of Rum was the Headquarter of T.E. Lawrence who fought for the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire. The famous film by David Lean ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ was also filmed here.
Aqaba is a port city and is now being developed as a Red Sea resort. There
are facilities of water sports in particular, catering for divers and snorkellers
for the exploration of colourful coral reefs and fish.