Jani's Excursion to

Day 1: Jerash, Madaba, Kerak

On a very quiet Shabbat right after Christmas my family packed itself into a white Mitsubishi Carisma and headed northeast from Tel Aviv, towards the Jordanian border.  The usually jam-packed highways were deserted and even the McDonaldses were closed.  After passing through the phenomenally ugly border town of Beit She'an we arrived at the Jordan River border crossing, where the Israelis subjected us to a security check, departure tax, customs inspection, passport control and a second security check before letting us cross the mighty Jordan Trickle.  On the other side, the smiling face of King Hussein greeted us and his acolytes proceeded to subject us to a security check, customs inspection, passport control, compulsory car insurance, new Jordanian license plates and a final security check.  In all, this crossing, the "warmest" of Israel's borders and described by Lonely Planet Jordan as "no trouble at all" took us a mere 1.5 hours and an obscene amount of dinars -- and the rest of my family has diplomatic passports.  Welcome to Jordan!

Unusually enough, given our destination, it was raining as we headed towards Amman.  Jordanian roads are actually quite good, although little effort is expended on such luxuries as painted lane dividers or traffic signs (aside from the omnipresent curve warning).  One section of the road was being repaired and traffic was directed straight into the construction area, where the sand had congealed into orange-brown mud that thoroughly encrusted the bottom of the car.  Cars drove past on both sides as we shuttled past massive earth-moving equipment, the usually lethargic work crews all at work for once.

Soon after we arrived at our first destination Jerash, an obscure Roman provincial town famous today solely because of its well-preserved ruins.  Buried under sand for over 1000 years, excavations started in the 1920s and continue today.  Well-preserved is still a relative concept, as most buildings were long since reduced to rubble by war and earthquakes, but the basic city plan is still evident and there are a great many intricatedly carved pillars lying about.   The central square (top left), the amphiteatre (top center) and the Cardo (lower left) have been reconstructed.  Since the wet weather and overcast sky made large objects unphotogenic, I concentrated on details, with a few interesting results.

It started to rain again and we set off, driving past Amman and getting on the old King's Highway.  The next stop was Madaba, home of the famed mosaic map of Jerusalem and little else.  Historically the map is important, but artistically less so, and I didn't even bother to take a picture.  I would've gotten better pictures at the nearby souq, featuring disemboweled goat carcasses hanging upside down in neat rows with the heads still attached, etc...  but alas, I had left the camera in the car.
We kept on going.  The sky was clearing and night was falling, but we reached the massive ravine of Wadi al-Mujib before dusk.  My pictures cannot do it any justice (missing the best viewpoint right after arrival didn't help), a previous visitor did a better job.  At the bottom of the ravine a forlorn little post office sat quietly among the occasional spots of greenery.

Soon afterward we arrived at the Kerak Rest House and, after a less than impressive meal, settled down for a night's sleep.

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