A detour to the Middle East

While I travelled through Uganda and its neighbouring countries, my wife Gosia was deployed to Jordan to support humanitarian aid projects for people in war-torn Syria.
I joined my wife at the end of her deployment in Amman. On a flight with Egypt Air, I had more than nine -hour lay over in Kairo, which might sound tiring, but turned out to be really pleasant as Egypt Air organised a visa-free entry into Egypt and booked a room in a 4-star hotel near the airport. On top of that, they arranged a private tour to the pyramids for just 30USD. The pyramids and the nearby Sphinx were well frequented, mostly with locals who enjoyed the weekend.

Due to leaving Entebbe at an ungodly hour, I had the chance to see a beautiful sunrise over Sudan. This picture shows the confluence of the Blue Nile (the smaller river making a bow) and White Nile (the huge river on the right side) between the cities of Khartoum and Omdurman.

Sunrise over the Merowe dam in Sudan, the largest contemporary hydropower project in Africa. The dam is 9km long and 67m high.

Approach to Kairo

If you don’t wan’t to walk to the view point that offers the best view on the pyramids, hundreds of camel and horse carriages are waiting to take you there

Usually, haze is the enemy of a good landscape picture, but in this case it was the best what could happen as it covered the grim -looking city of Gizeh.

From left to right the Cheops, Chephren, Menkaure and Queens pyramids

Amman lively street-art scene is giving some colour to the otherwise uniformly sand coloured city

I was struck by this powerful graffiti… and the selection of books beneath it

Marcel Khalife, a Lebanese musician, has obviously some fans in Amman

A beautiful art cafe where you can have painting classes while sipping your coffee

A picture can say more than a thousand words 😉


Making traditional bread on the bazaar in Amman

In a hipster neighbourhood in Amman

One of the many new skyscrapers that rise in the western districts of Amman

The Mars rover that was used in the Hollywood movie The Martian is exhibited at the entrance of the Royal Automobile Museum. It was a gift to Jordan as its famous Wadi Rum was used as the backdrop for the film.

Similarly to his father and predecessor, the king of Jordan, Abdullah II, has a liking for the most expensive cars in the world. The collection of the royal family consists of dozens of luxurious limousines and sports cars from the time from the beginning of the 19th century until today.

The museum was build by Abdullah II as an homage to his father, Hussein. It tells the story of King Hussein’s life and reign through the cars he used. I’m sure he had more limousines than I had matchbox cars 😉

I forgot to mention that king Hussein also loved motorcycles…

…particularly if they have a lot of shiny chrome

It wasn’t my first time to Jordan. Previous year, we spent our Christmas holidays in Jordan and visited the famous necropolis of Petra, took a dive in the Red Sea and marveled at the Mars-like landscape of Wadi Rum. But Jordan has much more to see. The trek from the village of Dana to Petra, a 72km part of the more than 600km long Jordan Trail, is definitely worth recommending. The National Geographic rating as of one the world’s 15 best hikes raises the bar for a bit too high my taste but it is certainly a memorable hike. We planned to hike in three days to an archaeological site dubbed as Little Petra and skip the last part into the necropolis of Petra as we have hiked a considerable part of that trek already during our last visit.

The Dead Sea

Due to unfavourable weather, we delayed the hike by one day and opted for a DIY salt and mud treat in one of the plenty wellness hotels along the shore of the Dead Sea. According to the extensive information and GPS tracks offered by Jordantrail.org, no food and very limited water supply were available along the way, with the exception of a lodge that one passes after the first three hours. We filled our backpacks with plenty of food (far too much and too heavy as we have later realized), water, camping gear and of course my photography equipment. Thanks to Gosia (and in accordance to a piece of advice received by a friend who did this track a couple of weeks earlier), we took more water than I suggested, being too optimistic regarding our needs. On the first day we descended along the picturesque Wadi Dana from an altitude of 1300m to 300m and temperature rose to very comfortable twenty something degrees, not bad for the end of February 🙂 Think twice before coming here during the summer months, as temperatures will be unbearable during the day. Even though the trek is not an insider tip anymore and it was the best season for hiking, we’ve met just one group with a guide on their way to Petra and one couple doing the short hike to the lodge. With no villages and infrastructure other than dirt roads, a quiet  and peaceful trek is almost guaranteed. The four bedouin families we saw during our 23km trail didn’t take much notice of us. It is certainly not easy to keep on living the traditional nomadic lifestyle with its difficulties when the modern and comfortable life is so close.

Although „Dead Sea is dying“ sounds ridiculous, it is true in the sense that water level has been dropping steadily since records began in 1930’s. This causes huge sink holes appear on the shores


Sunset over the Dead Sea

Due to the low altitude of 429m below sea level, the Dead Sea offers a mild climate all year round and an opportunity for a pleasant sunset bath even in February 🙂

You have to be cautious though as the see is filled with weird creatures 😉

A mudman 😉


Salt and mud treatment can be exhausting 😉


Though I’m definitely not a friend of big hotels, I’ve to admit that this one did a really good job of arranging the garden


Sometimes the infrastructure built by humans adds to the beauty of a landscape

The village of Dana where our trek began

Looking down into Wadi Dana that we’re going to cross

Wadi Ghweir

Ruins along the trail

This tent looked like an illusion to me

After we had dinner and crawled into our sleeping bags, lights of a passing car suddenly flooded our tent. Three men in an antiquated and battered jeep were trying to find their way following tracks in the rocky desert. But the tracks near our tent apparently didn’t lead to where they wanted to be and a few minutes later the jeep rumbled all the way back. The dry riverbed next to our camping spot wasn’t a better choice and the car had to turn around when big rocks blocked its way.

With some of the tracks visible in openstreetmaps on my smartphone, I tried to help them find their way. That seemed successful until the headlights of the jeep appeared again half an hour later. However, this time the car was followed by a donkey tied to the car. The car drove from where it has come, but returned several minutes later. It looked like a bad comedy and I was afraid this game will go on all night long. Fortunately, their next choice of trail was better and the jeep rumbled into the darkness without returning again.

Our tent in the vast landscape of the Jordan valley

The outlet of Wadi Abu

The Ras Naqb Shdeid pass

Wadi Feyd which features the important fresh water spring

Let your imagination decide what these rocks resemble

The steep mountains rising from the Jordan rift valley created waves in the clouds of the weather front

Impressive landscape along the kings highway

The crusader castle of Al-Karak

When we crossed the rocky desert to head back towards the mountain range we felt the strain of our heavy backpacks. Gosia had to fight against blisters and my ankles began to hurt while walking over the loose gravel and rocks. But the nice views over the Jordan valley and Wadi Fayd on the other side of the pass that we climbed compensated for the pain. Running low on water, we were quite relieved when we found the spring in Wadi Fayd, the only water source available on the second day of the hike, bubbling with clear and cool water.
While stretching our legs at the camping spot just above Wadi Fayd, we assessed our situation. We saw a weather front approaching from the west, possibly causing flash floods in the wadis. Furthermore, our feet didn’t feel like going another 24km the next day. However, getting back to civilisation required another 8km and 600m elevation gain. We opted for cutting the hike short and taking a warm shower afterwards 🙂

In the desert that covers a big part of eastern Jordan, one can find several ruins of castles and palaces from Ummayad to Ottoman rule. We spent one day to visiting the best preserved desert castles before we continued further north to the city of Al-Salt.

Qasr Kharana

Qasr Amra, only a small part of which remains, is one of the few examples of early islamic art and architecture that survived until today

The most notable about Amra are the frescoes that depict rulers, hunting scenes and naked women bathing

The zodiac is depicted on the dome of the caldarium

The current setting of Qasr Al-Mshatta could not be much worse: it neighbours Queen Alia International Airport and an industrial park. The parking place of the tourist attraction is littered with construction rubble and rubbish, which does not make for a good first impression.

Not far from Amman lays the town of Al-Salt, which is beautifully set on the slopes of three hills

A view on the colonnaded oval forum

Hadrian’s Arch

We tried to see the forum from all possible perspectives

One of the two theaters

The artemis temple


The second theater


Gosia enjoys her ashta ice cream which is famous for its elastic texture

From Al-Salt we continued further north to the city of Jerash. Named Gerasa in the Greco-Roman world, the city was one of the Decapolis, a group of autonomous cities on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. Today, one can visit in Jerash, a well-preserved Roman city with temples, theatres, a hippodrome, a huge colonnaded forum and so forth. If you make an early start, you will likely have the ruins almost for yourself during the first hour.

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