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Wadi Rum and the Camel Adventure



img_2071Wadi Rum is located at the southern part of Jordan near the Red Sea.  It is famous for its magnificent desert landscape with red rock formations and narrow canyons called Siqs. Over 30 000 petroglyphs decorate the red sandstone cliffs, a place inhabited by humans since prehistoric times. About 5000 Bedouins live now in this area, sharing their traditional life with the tourists visiting their camps.

 

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Instead of hiking, we used a 4WD Toyota Pick up Truck to discover the area. A 25 year old Bedouin was driving it.  It was an adventure by itself, as he was driving through the deep, red sand with an incredible speed.

 

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Wadi Rum is blessed with many wells and water holes in the rocks, which makes life in the extreme summer heat  possible.

 

img_9447Entrance of a narrow Siq in Wadi Rum

Walking through deep sand is like walking through deep snow – slow and exhausting.  It was great to have tea every so often  in the Bedouine tents.

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This photo is of Mohammed Mutlak Camp, where we stayed overnight. Despite sitting with the Bedouines beside the fire pit and smoking Shisha, we ate the traditional Bedouine barbecue called zerb. It is food cooked in an oven buried in sand.

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Zarb, the traditional Bedouine food.

The next morning, I decided to ride on a camel back to the village. It was supposed to be a 2 hour ride. One of the camels just recently won  the race of all the camels in Wadi Rum.

 

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The race camel was supposed to stay in the camp, but the group of camels did not want to be separated. Two strong men where holding the camel back when the little boy (maybe  10 years old) and I were riding out of the camp. Only after several meters, my camel made a wild jump and threw me out of the saddle.  I was falling into the soft sand,  just an inch away from a large rock. I was increadible thankful for that soft landing.

Wadi Attun; the Hot Spring Trail

In the middle of the desert, in a relatively unknown wadi near the Dead Sea, a small creek made the canyon into a little paradise.

The wadi is surrounded by steep, red cliffs and winds up to higher grounds. It was not always easy to find the way over the high boulders and through the dense vegetation of desert grass and high reeds.

Often, the fast flowing water was cascading down into small basins, which would usually be perfect to cool down.


However, the water was too warm to be refreshing, as hot springs were feeding the creek.



Hot water rushing down a waterfall.


The sharp edges of  palm tree leaves were scratching our arms and legs.


A group of teenagers led by two coaches were climbing up the waterfall with a rope. Lorenz looked for another path, but the terrain was too steep, so we had to turn back.

The way down the wadi was as beautiful as the way up.


Some of the water of the creek was reaching the Dead Sea, quite a rarity.

Wadi Zarqa Maeen Trail

The trek in Wadi Zarqa was planned by the Tropical Desert Company and led by three experienced climbers. Wadi Zarqa is located near the Dead Sea and only known by insiders. Overall, we were a group of 13 people walking the canyon trail.

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It was a 15 minutes hike through the dry, rocky desert down to the upper canyon. Blooming oleander shrubs were growing beside the little stream, a pure paradise in the barren landscape surrounding us.

 

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The little creek contained an abundance of wild life – like frogs, fish and crabs.

 

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Besides the different sounds of moving water, the song of birds filled the air.  Sometimes, we had to swim through the water basins made by the waterfalls.  The water was warm and refreshing.

 

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We had to repel down two waterfalls, one of them 45 meters high.  It always took a long time for the whole group to get to the next level.

 

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Ale waiting for her turn to repel.

 

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It was my first time repelling.  I was against the rock for the first 10 meters and afterwards I was hanging freely in the air .  Water was crashing down my body and I was part of this falling, of this letting go.  I loved every minute of it.

 

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Our three leaders did an excellent job of caring for our safety.

 

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Moss in the desert is a real miracle.

 

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Some waterfalls we could pass on the side.

Our trek ended near a hot spring with incredible hot water.  It smelled like rotten eggs, a typical sulfur smell.  Farther down the Wadi the hot springs are used by a resort hotel.  Jordan has lots of hot springs,  a great thing in the cold winter time.

 

The beauty of Roman cities: Madaba and Gerasa (Jerash)

It was the devastating earthquake in 747 AD that helped preserve many sites of the Roman Cities in the Levantine area.


In Madaba, the 19th century Greek Orthodox church of St. George houses a map from 560AD. The map depicted once all the major biblical sites of the Middle East. Most of the mosaic is lost.


Map of Jerusalem and the Dead Sea with the Jordan river in the upper left hand side.

The mosaic of an early 6th century Byzantine villa shows Aphrodite and Adonis. She slaps Eros with her sandal. The 3 Graces (joy, beauty and charm) float around them.


8th-century mosaic of the Church of St. Mary built over a former  Roman temple. All lines of the multi-colored and intricate mosaic are connected  with each other forming patterns with no beginnings or ends. It was fascinating!


Floor mosaic depicting a Roman house beside a fruit tree with a Greek inscription above.

The Roman city of Gerasa (Jerash) was so well built that despite the earthquake the structures  of many public buildings still remain.


In honor of emperor Hadrian, who visited Gerasa and stayed there for one year, the Triumphal Arch was built. Originally, it was twice as high!


The center of the city is the forum, encircling an enormous space. Everything is original. The pomp and the luxury of the Roman way of life became very real by walking through the city.


The south theater seated 3000 spectators. The stage (photo) is still used for performances.



Colonnaded street leading to the North Gate and further on to the city of Pella.

A small relief on the wall of the northern theater.


Columns of the Artemis temple. The temple is the biggest and most important temple of the city. Up to the Ottoman period, the city was  surrounded by healthy forest with lots of wildlife hence the strong veneration of Artemis, the goddess of hunting.

At the end of our day, we bought figs from one of the many fruit stands beside the highway.

Wadi Mujib Siq Trail

Wadi Mujib Siq is a fantastic valley near the Dead Sea and only 45 minutes car drive south of Amman.  The contrast to the Dead Sea is stunning!


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Throughout the last 60 years the water level of the Dead Sea has dropped 27 meters.  With its heavy, almost oily looking surface, the Dead Sea is 400 meters below sea level. The fresh water that once fed it is now diverted for other use.

In contrast to the Dead Sea, the Wadi is a narrow canyon where red, vertical cliffs provided shade most of the day. Warm fresh water streamed down with high speed, crashing against boulders and cascading to lower levels.

 

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The visitor center at the entrance of the Wadi with an artistic pattern of light and shade.

 

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The Canyon only opened up and let light in as it got closer to the Dead Sea.

 

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Lorenz wading into the Canyon.  Most of the time the water level was shallow.

 

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Fantastic patterns covered the rocks.

 

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In some parts ropes were required to climb up boulders and little waterfalls.

 

 

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Sometimes, the force of the water was incredibly strong. Without Lorenz’ helping  hand I could not have crossed some parts of the river.

 

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Another beautiful rock pattern.

 

A strong waterfall was preventing us to walk up further into the canyon.

 

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The waterfall was the end of our hike into the Wadi.  It was fun feeling the crushing water on my shoulders and head.

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My son Lorenz and I

 

Abraham Trail; from Pella to Umm Qais

Before breakfast, I visited the excavation sites again. Broken columns, corinthian capitals decorated with leaves and cut out rocks were covering the dusty ground.  There were broken pieces of Roman pottery scattered all over the place. Tiny holes in the floor were evidence of metal detectors whose job is to search for Roman coins.

View from one of three Byzantine churches (former Roman temples) to Pella and the Jordan Valley.

Already at 8am the heat was unbearable. We decided to take a taxi to our next destination and had to stop at many checkpoints due to how close we were to Israel. Our Palestinian driver (now a Jordanian citizen) told us about his yearning to return to his homeland. He still has the key to his grandmother’s house were he grew up!

View from Umm Qais, the former Roman Decapolis city of Gardara, to lake of Tiberias (was called sea of Galilee) and the Golan Heights (Syria) to the right.

The ruins of Gardara still show the life of the city’s past.


West theater built from black basalt and seating 3000 people.


Decumanus Maximus, the main road in Gardara. The paved road once led to the Mediterranean coast.


We also visited some underground sites in Gardara, like the crypt underneath a Byzantine church (see photo) and the aqueduct, which was part of a sophisticated water system of a 170 km long tunnel connecting many Roman cities. A powerful earthquake in the 8th century destroyed many cities and part of this tunnel.

In the Romero restaurant, a former Ottoman school on the site, we had a great lunch with a fantastic view.

From the restaurant the view was spectacular!

Abraham Path; From Beit Idis to Pella


It was still dark when the Muezin announced the start of EID, the festival of breaking the second fasting after Ramadan.



In the early morning our host showed us his herd of sheep. It was cloudy, a rare weather condition for the summer time.

We started our hike with the visit of the ruins of a Byzantine Church. Most of the mosaic floor was covered by  sand. The site, a  cultural treasure, was unprotected.


Our hike took us through two Wadis- Wadi Sirr and Wadi Malawi – with only a few very old oak trees providing shade along the way. We walked down from 600 meters to around sea level.

Despite the unhospitable seeming land we came  across some wildlife – a giant lizard and two communicating Levantine turtles. Das With their hard shells they bumped into each other which made a loud noise.

Walking down into the Jordan Valley in a temperature of over 40 degree celsius was a challenge. Good thing that we carried plenty of water!

From under the shade of a few pine trees we enjoyed the view down into the Jordan  Valley and the West Bank.

We stayed overnight in Pella, a city founded by the Romans. Pella was one of the 10 fabled cities that made up the Decapolis.

Our first sight of Pella. The city has a history of 7000 years of continous settlement. The reason for this is the existence of a well that, according to a Pella resident, produces 700 liters of water in a second.

In the evening we visited the site with our local host. He showed us the pre-Roman Canaanite  temple of Baal costructed in 1270 BC (in the foreground). In the distance down below is the well-preserved Roman Civic complex which was transformed into a church during the Byzantine times.

In the past the site was not protected and stealing artifacts was done without punishment. Nowadays a small area of the site is sourrounded by a wired fence with holes in it for easy access. This site is a treasure for humanity. It needs to be researched, guarded and protected.


Local children watching us with curiosity.

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