Friday, May 31, 2019

Day -2: Desert Castles in the Sand

February 26: Karolina continues her guest blog posts of our pre-Jordan Trail adventures!


Our plan for today was a road trip to visit three desert castles. What are desert castles? Some of them were built so that caravans traveling across the Syrian Desert would have a place to spend the night. Others belonged to kings who stayed in them during their hunting trips – in the old days when the Syrian Desert was still bustling with animal life.

The first of the desert castles
We had an appointment with Abu Sameer, the owner of our hotel, at 9:00 – today he was going to be our taxi driver. Driving through Jordanian landscape was an adventurous experience on its own. Abu Sameer drove a very good and comfortable car. The seatbelts worked, so both Ryan and I were using them – but our driver didn’t. He also had a habit of talking on his phone while driving. It seemed that all car rides in Jordan looked like that – no seatbelts fastened, playing with phone, abusing the horn and maneuvering among and around other traffic participants. In these conditions particularly large numbers of kids were running around streets, playing or walking to and from school. Places near streets where there was a patch of grass were often claimed by shepherds herding their goats – inside a city! There were groups of people – sorry, correction: men – sitting or squatting along the streets, chatting or just looking around – just loitering. There were farmers selling their produce to passing cars, roadside tea shops and an occasional camel.

The road we were driving on out of Madaba was in a very good condition – our driver explained that it was built only six or seven years ago with American money, I presume USAID. The signage was both in Arabic and English – to make life easier for thousands of tourists who visit the area each year. The surroundings were green and full of flowers – at least until we reached the desert. According to Abu Sameer in a week or two the number of flowers was going to increase significantly and turn into a true flower explosion. The only thing that ruined the landscape were tons of garbage scattered around – mainly plastic bags dancing in the wind or caught up in vegetation. (We jokingly called them "Jordanian flowers" and they were in "bloom" everywhere!) During the rest of our trip we would learn the sad fact that garbage was part of the Jordanian landscape anywhere you go.

The first of the castles – Qasr Al-Mushatta – was located right next to Queen Alia International Airport. Planes flew very low right above our heads and there were many armed police and border guards with huge machine guns on the roofs of their trucks. Kind of a scary setting in my opinion, but at the same time fascinating. Ryan said he would have loved to be able to take a picture of one of the huge weapons but doing that was definitely out of question – strictly forbidden to photograph military and strategic zones or equipment!

Qasr Al Mushatta was pretty, with lots of decorative carvings on the walls. We seemed to be the only visitors at the site – except for lizards, scarab beetles and pigeons. Also here flowers were in bloom and also here garbage was everywhere.

To reach the other two castles we drove on a road which connects Damascus and Amman with Baghdad. Every now and then we would pass signs informing how far we were from the Iraqi border – I think the closest we got was about 270 km (168 miles). Never imagined I'd be traveling on a road to Baghdad!

Just 300 km away from Iraq! (And a mere 110 km away from Saudi Arabia, but we'd be getting much closer to that so we weren't as impressed with that one.)
The second castle, Qasr Al-Kharrana – was a cube-like construction in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by a desert. It was a two-story building with an inner patio , many rooms and many windows. It even had a ventilation system – specially formed openings in the walls which created air drafts. In front of the castle premises there was a Bedouin tent which served as a souvenir shop.

This was castle #2

 Our driver came back and we set off for the last castle – Quseir Amra. Here we got a guided tour by a very short Bedouin. Qusair Amra was very different from the two other castles. It used to serve as a secret party-place for a certain king during his hunting trips. It had a very non-Islamic décor inside - wall paintings featuring naked ladies, dancers, party scenes, hunting scenes and the Zodiac. Our guide explained that the castle used to have a steam bath, heated floor and a hydraulic system which transported water from a nearby well.

On the way back our driver pulled out a little bag with some artifacts he found in the western part of Madaba – ancient coins, nails and some other items which I couldn’t identified. He told us they date back to the Roman and Byzantine periods and that he finds them with the help of a metal detector, cleans them and sells them. I was a little surprised about that – where I live you can’t just go digging for ancient stuff and if you happen to find some by accident you are obliged to give it to a museum, not keep for yourself or sell!

Back in Madaba we decided to do some more sightseeing and went to check out the John the Baptist Church. Madaba is where the Christian community of Jordan is concentrated and there are several churches in the area – right next to mosques. The main reason we wanted to visit the John the Baptist Church was its bell tower – we were counting on some awesome views. We walked 100 steps up a very narrow staircase to a little balcony. On our way we passed ropes which are used to ring the bells and Ryan was very tempted to pull them but he refrained from doing that, not wanting to end up in trouble. (Rule #1: Don't end up in a Jordanian prison! Rule #2: Don't get yourself killed.)

I was so tempted to pull the ropes that would ring the bells! Despite the sign (or maybe because of it?) behind me saying not to do so.
It was very blustery on the balcony and my fear of heights kicked in so I didn’t stay up there too long. I went back down and waited for Ryan at the entrance to Acropolis – the underground part of the church where you can see many very beautiful mosaics, a Bedouin tent and some tunnels.

For dinner we went to a shwarma place downtown Madaba. Most of you probably know shawarma under the name döner kebab – the former name is Arabic and the latter one is Turkish but it is practically the same thing. The waiter asked which type of shawarma we wished – they had one with chicken and one with meat. Wait a second, isn’t chicken meat? What do you mean by meat? It turned out in Jordan meat refers to lamb, sometimes beef. Chicken is chicken...and never called meat. Anyways, I ordered my shawarma with meat (it was lamb) while Ryan settled for the chicken version.

The waiter took us to a terrace with a pretty view on a bustling street and St. George Church where the famous Mosaic of Madaba is located – we were going to go see it tomorrow. We ate our dinner watching the street life, writing in our journals and listening to the sung prayers from the mosque.

After dinner we decided to go for a walk around Madaba. I wanted to visit some souvenir shops and buy fridge magnets and a Bedouin scarf – locally known as kuffiyah or shemagh and used by the Bedouins as sun protection.

In one of the shops I saw a display of scarves which got my attention. They were all very pretty and it wasn’t easy to decided which one I wanted. Ryan helped me by advising that I should go for the very colorful scarf – after all, I am a rainbow person and usually dress in many colors.

Michael, the owner of the shop, was very nice and offered to show us how to wrap the scarf around my head. Then I had a brilliant idea: let's film his instructions! I gave my smartphone to Ryan and let Michael work on my head. After he was done, Ryan realized that he had pressed a wrong button and instead of making a movie, he took two photos –one at the beginning of the instruction and one at the end. So we had Michael repeat the whole procedure a second time – and fortunately this time Ryan didn't mess up this time. But watching Michael wrapping the scarf around my head, he decided that it was fun and that he wanted to have a scarf of his own! So off he went to choose his scarf and we had Michael show us how to wrap it.

Michael shows Karolina a scarf... then how to wrap it around her head.

We learned from Michael that women and men wrap the scarves differently and that many men wear an extra decoration on their scarves – a circlet of rope called an agal. If you’re wealthy your agal is decorated with a thin rope with a thingy at the end which dangles down your back. Ryan, being a rich American, got himself the rich version of agal. ;-)

Once the scarves were draped around our heads and we looked like real Bedouins Michael invited us for a cup of sweet Bedouin tea with sage. I was shocked that Ryan wanted to drink tea, too  ;-o)

Michael arranged chairs and a table for us inside his shop and brought tea in beautiful clay cups decorated with mosaics. The top of the table was all mosaic, too. Michael introduced himself as a mosaic artist and told us that he even did some mosaic renovation projects in the United States where there aren’t many local mosaic specialists. In Madaba Michael ran a souvenir shop – the one we were in – and an artist atelier across the street from the shop where he worked on mosaics and produced other types of souvenirs which he sold in bulk to retail vendors. He showed us some figurines he had made for someone from Petra and said that producing them cost him 5 dinars per item, he sold them for 15 dinars and in Petra they went for 100 dinars.

Learning how to wrap those scarves around our heads had totally made our day and we returned to the hotel with giant smiles on our faces. Another great day in Jordan! =)

And more photos from the desert castles. Back at castle #1!

Genuine artifacts? Who knows?!
I'm taking a photo of the mileage sign that includes distances to... Iraq! We won't go quite that far, though.
Relaxing at castle #2
Just be careful of the drop!

Cute little guys!
Mural in castle #3

And back in Madaba!
Inside the church

Outside the church. (That's me standing at the top of the tower in the background.)
View of Madaba from the top of the tower

I know this icon is supposed to represent a mosque (and is a sign really necessary?), but I couldn't help but notice that both the dome and the minaret both look a little... well, you don't need to use your imagination too much.... =) How does something like that happen in such a conservative country?!

Learning how to put on a scarf.

Mosques everywhere play music through their speakers so everyone knows when it's time to pray. This is the last prayer for the day today from the window of our hotel room.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Day -3: Floating in the Dead Sea

Karolina continues with another guest blog post of our pre-Jordan Trail adventures....


February 25: Today started with a delicious breakfast in Queen Ayola Hotel – pita bread, hummus, olives, tomatoes, cucumbers, boiled eggs, white cheese and of course sweet tea with mint. Being a novelty we enjoyed the meal composed by these ingredients, not knowing that we will be eating the very same stuff practically every single morning until the end of the trip.

A common Jordanian breakfast
At breakfast we met a fellow hotel guest, Peter from Eastern Germany, who - as it turned out - had just finished hiking the Jordan Trail from south to north. Having still had a few days left in Jordan he was looking for options to do some sightseeing in the north of the country. He seemed to be particularly interested in visiting places mentioned in the Bible, checking out mosaics, frescos and seccos in various churches and going to the Dead Sea.

He introduced himself as a conservator-restorer of wall paintings and mosaics, which explained these interests. I remember learning from him the difference between frescos and seccos – to make a fresco pigment is applied on fresh or wet plaster while a secco are made by applying pigment onto a dry plaster. Make sense – fresco means ‘fresh’ in Italian and secco means ‘dry’. Peter said that most people – myself included – have never heard of seccos and they think all the ancient wall paintings they see in places are frescos. It had apparently happened to him several times that he went to visit an old church expecting to see some awesome frescos – based on what he had read about the place in a guidebook or a tourist bulletin – only to find – to his great disappointment – seccos. He was understanding of your average person you meet in the street not knowing the difference but he strongly disapproved of guidebook and writers and monument keepers to make such mistakes.

Anyways, Peter was looking for company for a trip to some interesting places and asked us about our plans for the day. We told him that after breakfast we were meeting the son of out hotel’s owner who was going to drive us to Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea. Both places were on Peter’s list, so he asked whether he could join us and share the costs of the ride, which wasn’t a problem. For a moment he tried to talk us into extending the trip and going to Bethany Beyond Jordan – the place where Jesus was allegedly baptized – but we weren’t interested and also our driver (whose name was Tareq) said that we wouldn’t have time to do that.

Mount Nebo, where Moses allegedly died and was buried somewhere nearby.

Mount Nebo was very windy. There was an old church with very pretty mosaic floor, some ancient ruins, a giant boulder which used to be used to cover the entrance to the church, an olive garden, a monument commemorating the visit of pope John Paul II to the site and views. My favorites were the mosaics and the views. The mosaics depicted fruit and animals of the region and people’s relations with them – agriculture, animal herding and hunting. There were figs and pomegranates, lions, wild boars, ostriches, camels and sheep. Regarding the views – they were somewhat hazy due to all the dust carried by the wind from the surrounding desert, but we still got pretty good views of the Dead Sea, Jordan Valley and the Palestine beyond. This was the Promised Land which God allowed Moses to see before letting him die somewhere at Mount Nebo…

From Mount Nebo we drove on a road which winded steeply down, down, down through a very dry landscape, all the way to the Dead Sea – the lowest point on Earth! Mount Nebo is located at 710 m (2,300 ft) above the sea level while the surface and shores of the Dead Sea are currently at about 430.5 m (1,412 ft) below the sea level, so we had quite a way down.

We drove to Amman Beach Resort and agreed with Tareq we will meet him after another 3 or so hours. I wasn’t sure what was the dress code for women at the beach, so I asked Tareq. He said Amman Beach was a tourist place, so it was perfectly fine for (tourist) women to wear bikinis. The local women seemed to prefer remaining covered – not only did we see ladies wearing long dresses and headscarves while sitting at the shore, we also passed a shop selling beach gear where you
could buy bikinis!

Floating in the Dead Sea was a lot of fun! A strange feeling at first – it is really quite buoyant and you can literally lie down on water and read books if you like. Some people seem to have troubles standing up again as the buoyancy keeps pushing their legs and bottoms up.

To ensure safe floating there are life guards present at the shore and they let you read the basic rules, such as:
  • Don’t go too far or too deep
  • Lie down in the water slowly, don’t rush
  • Lie down on your back rather than belly
  • Avoid contact of water with your eyes – it will sting!
  • Avoid shaving for at least three days prior to entering the Dead Sea water – otherwise it will sting!
  • Do not go into the water if you have wounds or deep scratches – they will sting!
Ryan was wondering why they discourage you from lying on your belly, so he decided to check that experimentally. He soon learned that the buoyancy force pushes your bottom upwards much stronger than your head and if you aren’t limber enough to keep your back arched your head goes under the water. Then, if you aren’t agile enough, it may be difficult to flip yourself back onto your back.

Floating is a cinch on the Dead Sea. Which, if you had a dead body to dispose of, would make the Dead Sea a particularly bad place to dispose of it! (Fortunately, we didn't have to dispose of a dead body so we didn't worry about it.)

Standing on the shore and drying in the sun I noticed that salt started crystallizing all over my body. It looked weird. It didn’t hurt or feel uncomfortable – to the contrary, my skin had this nice, leathery touch. Bathing in sea salts is said to be good for your skin and even to help with skin conditions such as psoriasis. Dead Sea surely contains a lot of salt – with a concentration of 35% it is 10 times saltier than the ocean! Near the shore we could see large chunks of crystallized salts – in the form of rocks as well as salt crust on sand. The salt composition in the Dead Sea is however different from that in the ocean – Dead Sea contains mainly chlorides of magnesium, calcium and potassium while the salt in most oceans and seas is primarily sodium chloride, which is our common table salt.

Dead Sea owes its extreme salinity to the fact that it is located at the lowest point in the area and in a very dry climate. There is one major river flowing into the Dead Sea – the Jordan River - and there aren’t any rivers flowing out of it – water flows downwards but not upwards. Due to the hot and dry climate, evaporation from the Dead Sea is high. The Jordan River carry dissolved minerals (salts) into the Dead Sea but only pure water evaporates – the salts are left behind and accumulate.

After a swim, when the salt on your body will crystallize unless you wash it off with fresh water. Very cool!
For thousands of years the evaporation and inflow of the Jordan River were balanced in a way which allowed the Dead Sea to exist. Then people came and started diverting large amounts of water from the Jordan River for irrigation of crops. Nowadays there isn’t enough water flowing into the Dead Sea to balance the evaporation – as a result the Dead Sea is disappearing. The water level is dropping about 1 m (3 ft) a year! You can clearly see that when you visit the resorts – hotels and other facilities which were originally built close to the water are right now located quite a way away from the shore! Sadly enough, if things continue the way they are the Dead Sea may disappear completely within the next 50 years. For the past few years Jordan and Israel have been working on projects aimed at saving this wonder of nature, one idea being to start pumping pre-conditioned water from the Red Sea into the Dead Sea.

In case the Jordanians and the Israeli won’t manage to save the Dead Sea, Ryan and I were happy to have been able to float in it while it was still around. And while we can brag about having been to the current lowest point on Earth, we are aware of the fact that as long as the water level in the Dead Sea continues to drop, the lowest point on Earth is shifting and soon we will only be able to say that we have been to the almost lowest point on Earth.

There is one more fun thing to do at the Dead Sea apart from floating – smearing your entire body with mud! Well, it feels more like clay rather than mud, is quite black and is said to be good for your skin. I couldn’t skip it! Ryan took a pass but he took some photos while I was applying the mud mask to my body. Your supposed to leave the mud on your skin for 15 – 20 min., so I spent quite a while standing on the shore, basking in the sun and letting all the good stuff work on my skin. After that I went into the Dead Sea again to rinse off.

Applying mud is a popular activity at the Dead Sea, allegedly having health benefits for your skin.
Once we were done with floating and applying mud masks time came to have lunch. Before heading to the local restaurant, however, we had to wash the salty layer off our bodies. This can be done under one of the showers with regular tap water placed a short walk from the shore (I bet once upon a time, before the Dead Sea retracted, those showers were located close to the shore!). Too bad the water in the showers wasn’t heated – it seemed colder than in the Dead Sea and standing under the shower wasn’t fun at all. After the shower Ryan decided to take a short swim in one of the pools with fresh water. He was curious to check how he felt going into fresh water after floating in a salt solution of the Dead Sea. And let me tell you, he felt heavy! He definitely couldn’t float anymore! Yep, 35% salt content makes a big difference. *nodding*

Tareq drove us back to Madaba along a different route than the one we took in the morning. We first drove along the Dead Sea shore and then up, up, up – back to the sea level and beyond, trough very desert-looking hills with an occasional palm tree growing here and there. As we were driving along the shore we could see camels parked near traffic signs – probably to catch tourists and encourage them to visit resorts. At one point we were also stopped by the police for control – Tareq explained that this is a frequent procedure in the area because of close proximity of the border with the West Bank – a Palestinian territory governed by Israel.

The full-day trip tired us, so after returning to Queen Ayola Hotel, both Ryan and I decided to retire to our beds for a nap. We were woken up before 6 p.m. by prayers sung at a nearby mosque and broadcasted via megaphones. Our hotel was located very close to the mosque – we could see it through the windows in our room and we could clearly hear all of the five daily prayers. The first one was sung at 4:30ish in the morning, so every day we stayed in Madaba we got a very early wake up call!

Stained-glass windows in the church at Mount Nebo.
Mosaic tiles in the ancient church on Mount Nebo
The views from Mount Nebo were extensive, although a little hazy. It's from here where Biblical accounts say Moses saw the Promised Land. On an unrelated note, although we didn't realize it at the time, the Jordan Trail goes right by Mount Nebo so we would be hiking here from the Red Sea over the next few weeks. (We managed to beat Moses 40-years of wandering by covering the distance in about a single month.)

The lunch buffet

Monday, May 27, 2019

Day -4: Welcome to Jordan!

Originally, I planned to post about the Jordan Trail starting with Day 1. Maybe a Day 0 to introduce the Jordan Trail, but Karolina would have none of that. She felt very strongly I should post about all of my days in Jordan, including the five days before the actual hike started. I didn't want to blog about those days, though, since they weren't directly related to the trail and I'm lazy.

So she said, "Fine! I'll write the posts myself!"

Because she was there with me and knew about all of my pre-trip adventures. And that's what happened. So the first several posts were written by Karolina, and without further ado, here's her take on our arrival into Jordan....

Jordanian flag

Some time ago Ryan contacted me saying: “Hey, I’ve just heard of a new awesome trail in Jordan and am planning to hike it soon, wanna join?”

Jordan? I thought. Middle East?! It sounded exotic and tempting but at the same time a little scary…

So I told Ryan that before committing to this adventure I first wanted to run safety research.

Jordan is advertised as an island of peace and security in the region turmoiled by conflicts. They take particular care to keep things this way as their GDP depends heavily on tourism. As you will see further in this blog, the country has really a lot to offer to visitors – it is bursting in the seams with ancient history, culture and magnificent landscapes. Hiking the Jordan trail – 680 km of Bedouin footpaths running from the Red Sea in the south all the way to the ruins of the ancient Roman city of Umm Qais in the north – is an excellent way to get acquainted with Jordan and everything Jordanian.

The first idea was that Ryan and I were going to hike the trail on our own. At least until I started reading more about it. As it turned out, the trail wasn’t waymarked except for the northernmost sections which run through the countryside. No waymarks whatsoever in the desert in the south or mountains in the middle. Scarcity of water throughout the country. Limited resupply options. Locals in the desert and the countryside may not speak English. Risk of flash floods in the wadis. Unknown culture of the Arabs and the Bedouins. Unfamiliar language and customs. Stray dogs. Stereotypes about the region. All this made me chicken out.

Ryan said that he would understand if I decided to bail out. He would then join the group thru-hike organized by the Jordan Trail Association every spring – after all, hiking in the Middle East was outside of his comfort zone, too.

“Wait a second!” I said. Joining an organized thru-hike was an option? Why had we never spoken about it? That would make me feel so much more secure! "Let’s do that!” I said. And so we signed up – Ryan for the whole thing and I for four out of six weeks, not wanting to take too much time off work.

It's about time I finally rode the airline named after... ME! =) (It was my first flight ever on Ryanair.)

On February 24th , 2019 at 6:00 am our Ryanair aircraft took off from the airport in Brussels heading directly to Amman, the capital of Jordan. The flight was rather uneventful with the exception of some spectacular views as we were flying above the Alps. The skies were absolutely cloudless and we could very clearly see the high snow-capped peaks in Europe as well as other planes cruising above them. We spotted Corsica in the distance, covered with snow and reminisced about our time hiking the GR 20 there.

The Queen Alia International Airport in Amman struck me as very modern – and yet it was the place of my first encounter with a more traditional face of Jordan. I spotted my very first Arab wearing keffiyeh, the traditional headscarf, as I was running to the bathroom. How cool and exotic! In the bathroom the next surprise: a hose which can be used to clean one’s butt after doing the business. People in Middle East – and some other parts of the world – find our western habit of wiping with toilet paper disgusting and unhygienic.

We went through immigration where Jordanian officers checked our Jordan Passes which included not only our entry visas to the country but also tickets to a number of tourist attractions, Petra being by far the most famous of them. They also scanned our eyes, stamped our passports and wrote in them with Arabic characters that we couldn't read.

There were a number errands we needed to run before leaving the airport: eat something, get a Jordanian SIM card for the cell phone and arrange a taxi which could take us to Madaba where we were planning to spend the next few days.

Finding something to eat was easy – we spotted a small food place right in front of the terminal. Getting a SIM card wasn't complicated either –inside the terminal there were booths of mobile companies welcoming tourists and offering them various phone call + mobile Internet packages. It was getting a ride that took us the most time –mainly because I insisted on trying Careem, the local version of Uber. It was a mess! We seemed to have booked a ride but couldn't find the car or its place of departure. Then we got a message that our driver and car were changed. Then a phone call followed from a lady who spoke English with a very thick accent and who we had trouble understanding.

Eventually we got fed up with Careem and decided to grab one of the regular taxis waiting in front of the terminal.

We quickly found a taxi, threw our luggage in its trunk and scrambled into the car – Ryan in front and I in the back. I reached behind me in an attempt to grab the safety belt but… it wasn’t there! As my head was turned around I also happen to notice that the back shelf was packed full with various stuff which was completely obscuring the view. The ride got even more interesting where the driver started talking to Ryan. First of all, he only talked to Ryan and completely ignored me. He asked for his name, introduced himself and shook Ryan’s hand. I didn’t exist to him. I was prepared to experience that, though – from my pre-travel research which included both reading online blogs and talking to people who had visited Jordan before I knew that men may want to talk exclusively to other men, sometimes asking their permission to address women in their company.

Ryan’s conversation with the driver wasn’t easy as the driver's English was quite poor. He tried to use an online translator to aid communication which involved him surfing on the internet while driving. That was quite scary. I was sitting there at the back, without a seatbelt, watching the driver fumble with his phone. I was praying for our safe arrival in Madaba!

Once we reached the city the ride got even crazier. The driver used his horn a lot – as all other drivers around us seemed to do – and rather aggressively zigzagged his way around other cars, pedestrians, animals and various obstacles, both mobile and stationary.

The streets of Madaba could be pretty crazy!
I felt quite relieved when we finally arrived at Queen Ayola Hotel. Before departing our driver asked Ryan what plans we had for our visit to Jordan. His eyes open wide and his jaw dropped upon hearing that we were intending to walk all the way from the Gulf of Aqaba to the Syrian border. At first he thought he must have misunderstood Ryan, so he made gestures with his fingers. “Are you really going to walk?! Walk?! On foot?! Aqaba to Umm Qais? Almost 700 km?!”. He gave Ryan that look which said “What is wrong with you guys?!”. It wasn’t the last time Ryan or I would be getting such reaction from the locals when they ask about our visit to their country…

Queen Ayola Hotel was rather simple but cozy and was run by the friendliest man in town. His name was Abu Sameer. He shook our hands (mine too!) and asked whether we needed anything today or tomorrow. Upon hearing that we wanted to reach the Dead Sea the next day he offered to arrange transportation for us – his son was going to drive us to the beach, wait for us until we were done floating and drive us back to Madaba. On the way to the Dead Sea we could also make a stop at Mount Nebo and visit the site where Moses allegedly died.

While making the arrangements and planning the trip Abu Sameer served us some tea with mint and sugar – a very Jordanian thing to do. I was very happy to have my tea but Ryan – who isn’t big on tea – decided to pass. Little did he know how much tea he was going to drink by the end of the trip…

We fly over Madaba--the city where we would spend our first three nights in Jordan.
Allegedly the largest mosaic in the world....
The video shows the mosaic in its entirety--along with my commentary (which isn't especially interesting).

Sunset over Madaba
Mosque in Madaba at sunset