Jordan and Jerusalem
15 July 2012 | Girne Cyprus
Jane hot and sunny
After the EMYR finished we decided to leave Ta-b in Herzilya’s marina (really cheap) and go walk about as we wanted to spend some time in Jordan and Jerusalem/Bethlehem.
There are only three crossings into Jordan, we bused south to Eiat on the Red sea as it is easiest to cross from Israel. It was weird crossing on foot through no man’s land, but it was certainly quiet and quick as we only saw two other couples. We did not see much of the Red sea as we wanted to get to the Wadi Rum desert, the home (and movie) of Lawrence of Arabia, which we had heard so much about. It was stunning, deep red with huge mountains/rocks everywhere amongst the desert. We had a jeep to ourselves with two guides and spent a magical evening in a Bedouin camp with one other Italian family. The Bedouins were charming and we had lovely evening under the stars listening to their music, drinking the sweet sage tea everyone consumes in great quantities, and learning about their lives.
From Wadi Rum we bused up to Petra and stayed at a gem of a hotel (thank you trip advisor). It had a ton of character with a lovely pool, and turkish bath which helped get rid of any leftover red desert sand. We spent the afternoon exploring ancient Petra, ranked the eighth wonder of the world and justifiably so – it is magnificent, my pictures do not do it justice. We also went in the evening when they have it lit by candle lights, a very special event. The next day we hiked up to the monastry (quite the hike, most people seemed to go by donkey) which gave us the most spectacular views and then covered what we had missed the day before.
We also met a great guy called Raami, whose mother from New Zealand, met and married a Bedouin from Petra in 1978. She lived with him in a two thousand-year-old cave carved into the red rock hillside, learned Arabic and gave birth to three children. We bought her book which tells her extraordinary story, sadly she was away visiting family in New Zealand so we were unable to meet her.
From Petra we went to Amman via the Kings Highway visiting Shobak Castle and the Mosaic Maps in Madaba, and then onto Jerash, one of the largest and well preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy. We thought the Italians were crazy drivers, but in Jordan everyone is on their cell phone, they do not mark the two way roads and so everyone makes them three, kids hang out of windows, they use their horns the whole time, it is wild!!
We decided to cross back into Israel from Amman, it was a bit chaotic, but we were in Jersaleum by lunchtime and were able to check into our hotel early. We stayed at the four star YMCA International, just by Jaffa gate in the old town, a fabulous building with terrific food which we would highly recommend. We ended up staying there four nights, as three was not enough! I think we covered most of the main sights, there were some great tours, and we ended up spending a whole day in the Holocaust Museum, an emotional, but fascinating experience. We also went to Bethlehem in Palestine so are totally holied out – 180 different religious churches in a very small area. For the same cost as a tour we hired a driver and guide and went in the back entrance, not even having to show our passports at the check point. Apparently it can take up to an hour with a regular tour to get across – weird.
Back on the boat we reflected on our time spent in Israel and Jordan. Taking politics and religion aside. Firstly we did not realise how small Israel is, most of it being on the coast. We were also interested to learn that they all go into the military after they leave school – men for 3 years and women for 2 years. Certainly not a bad thing as we saw no lazy slobs around, just proud healthy fit youngsters, although it must be hard to be on standby the whole time as after they finish they get put into the reserves. We found Israel to be a rightfully proud, tolerant and resourceful country with very friendly people. The changes they have made since 1948 are incrediable, they have reclaimed a huge amount of the desert with their recyling of water from the north and are now able to support the country totally with local produce. They have restored most of the old buildings and their infrastructure and new buildings are well thought out. We think it is a lovely country.
Jordan was also delightful, however you could tell that only 100 years ago they all lived as Bedouins or farmers in their tents and caves. It was scruffier, dirtier and the cities just seemed thrown together. Most of the women (and men) were fully covered (they must cook in the heat) and donkeys, horses and camels were still a regular form of travel. They all seem to smoke and most are small and lean.
We found their langage easy to learn and especially enjoyed “moomooshkin” (no problem) and “Yallah” (lets go). Jordan is a stunning country and the people are so wonderful, we are glad we did not miss it.
So where are we now? Well a week ago we left Israel and sailed a couple of hundred miles back to Monastry Bay in Northern Cyprus to chill out. The EMYR should come with a health warning as our immune system is shot, both of us got what Russell affectionately calls the Jordan Jig while we were away travelling, although Russ much worse than me. What a way to Detox (difficult to get booze in Jordan) and get fit (walked/climbed up to 6 hours a day) and loose some of the weight we had put on. In Monastry we were at anchor for about four days swimming/snorkeling/exploring/reading/cleaning and catching up with chores. We have just arrived in Girne via an anchorage off Karpas Gate and are anchored off the marina. We plan to tie up for a few days, when we go off to explore the rest of the island, and are off to a BBQ at our Turkish friends tomorrow night. Sadly, even with our special discount, the cost is 60 euro a day reduced from 89 and that does not include electricity or water, so we will not be staying long!! Next stop Turkey.