Madaba, an ideal stop close to the Airport. I arrived in Madaba from Wadi Rum. Good Byzantine churches, a vibrant Arab Christian community, well located to explore the Dead Sea region. Mukawir is about 45 minutes away from Madaba. A beautiful drive and a beautiful place, and good views of the Dead Sea, best done early in the morning.
Top Things to Do/ Highlights of Madaba:
1. Church of St John the Baptist and the views from the top of the Bell Tower, go in the evening.
2. Haret Jdouna Restaurant for it’s excellent Middle Eastern fare, but slightly costly.
3. Buying Dead Sea cosmetics..LOL.
4. The rural areas around Madaba, especially towards Mukawir, beautiful views and you see a nice way of rural life.
5. And the Jerusalem mosaic Map.
Accommodation: I stayed at the Queen Ayola Homestay place, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taxi to Mukawir and further to the airport cost me 40 JD, just to Mukawir and back would be 25 JD
After Wadi Rum, the next stop was Madaba. I should have taken the morning bus to Aqaba, but then it would have been difficult with the luggage, plus getting up early in the morning. So I decided to go to Petra by the Petra bus, and then take a bus to Amman and then Madaba. The journey to Petra was gorgeous, most of it along the King’s Highway. The views were phenomenal. I wish I had taken a car for this journey so that I could click pictures on the way. Next was the bus to Amman, who again charged me an extra seat because of my luggage( how do I complain, there was a family of 4 who was paying for 7 seats because of their luggage). The bus stopped at a place where I had a good falafel roll. I reached the Madaba intersection from where I took a taxi which charged me 7 JD, again I was helpless, if I would have gone to Amman and then got a bus to madaba, it would have taken too much of time, and the attractions in Madaba would have closed by then. So 28 JD for the not-so-long Wadi Rum- Madaba journey.
I stayed at the Queen Ayola Homestay place, got a dorm bed for just 5.5 JD. The owner Mr.Fadi(contact: email@example.com) was a great host, very friendly and he quickly oriented me with Madaba and it’s attractions, and I was all set to go. Actually I didn’t know too much about Madaba before, just that it has a small arab christian community and there are a few churches to be visited. And here I was baffled by an Orthodox christian school, plenty of living churches, and a strong Arab christian community. The mosaic map of Jersusalem was amazing, so was the Archaeological Park, with all the mosaics. The touristy streets were actually fun after being in desolate lands for a week. The shops, activity, street vendors, all of it was quite refreshing. The Church of St John the Baptist was a big surprise. Some of the regulars at the church were enthusiastic about the place, and they told me quite a bit of history of the place and showed me around the church. The underground area was quite interesting. And the balcony of the Bell Tower had sweeping views of the town and the fields that surround it. And the church itself was beautiful, the color of the stone + the light coming through the green panes created a magical effect.
Now atleast some shopping had to be done. I bought plenty of Dead Sea cosmetics for folks(soaps, creams, masks,what-not) from one of the shops in the area for a reasonable price, maybe 3 JD for a soap, 4 for a facewash. Mr.Fadi took me to one of his favorite sweet shops, Al-Anbatawi sweets, and I packed a lot of sweets to take home, all of them turned out to be great. I think the cost was around 9 JD for a 750gm-1kg pack. Dinner was at Haret Jdouna, one of my most expensive meals in the trip. The food and ambience was fabulous. I ordered a cheese filled sambousik which was brilliant, a muhammara with bread, and I just thought it would be a good idea to break my vegetrianism for a meal and enjoy some local specialities. So I got a chicken sadayet, which turned out to be excellent, except that I don’t really enjoy the taste of meat. The total bill was almost like 15 Dinars, but quite, if not totally worth it.
At the hotel I met a few Russian guys who were studying atthe mosaic school and were stying in a tent in the hotel’s terrace, while the temperature dropped quite a bit at nigh
Mukawir / Machaerus
I had booked a taxi rough my hotel, 40 JD for Mukawir and a drop-off at th airport. The road upto Mukawir was beautiful, high mluntains, cold winds, farms and villages everywhere. We had a falafel roll at one of the villages, and it was one of the best I ad in Jordan. And then suddenly you see the Hilltop fortress of Mukawir with a wonderful view of the Dead Sea. Dead Sea wasn’t very high on my priority list, since I didn’t want to go there all alone, but the view of the Dead Sea early in the morning was gorgeous.
The hilltop of Mukawir was brilliant, a small hike leads you to a totally windswept place, where you some ruins of the Hellenestic era still exist, you see only a few columns, flooring and mosaics. Nevertheless, the place is very evocative, since I had seen the TV series “Masada” which shows the Roman siege of the Masada fortress. The mountains + the Dead Sea made the place special. You can see the mountains on the Israel/Palestine side rigt infront of you. On the top you see only a few archaeologists excavating. It was also a little like Mount Nemrut I’ve been to, in Turkey HERE, ofcourse witout the statues. By the time I left, people ad started coming in bus loads, mostly foreigners I guess. And the haze too was settling on the Dead Sea,so I was glad I came this early(8 AM).