Thursday, July 1, 2010

GUEST BLOG: JORDAN, BY JEFF & ERIN

Our son Jeff and his wife Erin are avid travlers themselves and recently returned from a trip to Jordan and Istanbul...just a hop across the Med from one other, of course.  I asked them to submit a guest blog about their experiences and hope you enjoy it.

Jordan: The New Middle East

Our friends know that Erin and I love to travel… but Jordan? Why would you guys go there?

Sadly, many American travelers are still hesitant to put the Middle East atop their lists of places to visit. Let’s face it: it can be quite the culture shock for the uninitiated. And yet there are some amazing and rewarding treasures the Middle East has to offer, both in terms of the physical, with its ancient sites and historic cities, and of the mind, by helping us open our eyes a bit more and appreciate what for most is a different way of life.

Jordan is the perfect country to dip your toes into the water, Middle East style.

Why? Well, it’s an incredibly Western country. Its pluralistic society means you’ll find many Christians living alongside Muslims. Sure, you’ll see a few women wearing burqas… alongside others wearing Prada suits and wearing their hair down. And best of all, nobody seems to care.

Many know Jordan is a monarchy, thanks to the famous and Western-educated King Abdulla II and Queen Rania. The entire country--and and much of the world -- is in love with the royal couple, almost evoking the glam of Monaco’s royalty. The (incredibly beautiful) Queen contributes much to the country’s western image and is practically a saint given all her charity work.

On to the sights… First, Petra!

One of the seven new wonders of the world, Petra is probably most famous to Americans due to its appearance in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. (The fa├žade of Petra’s Treasury served as the entrance to the temple where Indy met the old knight and drank from the holy grail… penitently.) Petra is actually a large complex of dozens of fascinating buildings that pre-date the Romans, and it’s a must-see on any trip to Jordan.

The ruins are a considerable drive from the capital of Amman, which most travelers make their home base. Three hours down, four hours of exploration, and then three hours back makes for a full day. We booked a driver through our hotel concierge the day before -- pretty easy and worth every dinar.
What else? The Dead Sea!

This famous body of water also has to be on any visitor’s list, and taking a dip is a must. For us, the experience was surreal. It looks like water. It feels like water. And yet we were floating on our backs or stomachs without exerting a muscle. If you dare, take a quick (but tiny) taste, too. The salt water in the Dead Sea makes KFC’s Double Down taste sweet.

All along the Dead Sea are several beachside resorts which sell day passes. We went to “Amman Beach,” which offered a couple of nice swimming pools, basic showers, and beach access. More luxurious options were available for much more than the 30 dinars we paid, but we decided to go cheap and didn’t regret it. All of them are conveniently located about an hour and a half outside Amman.

Next up, we stopped at the site of Jesus’ baptism along the Jordan River, not far from the Dead Sea. The one hour tour literally walks you through the sacred site and offers up both historical and archeological factoids along the way. The tour culminates with a platform where you can dip your feet into the Jordan River yourselves. (How can you not?) Interestingly, there was a similar platform on the Israeli side of the river, not 10 feet away! We smiled waved to the armed guard.

So while those are some of the main attractions, Jordan offers much, much more that sadly our three-night say didn’t afford us to see. Then again, that gives us a great reason to return.

In the meantime, take a look at our photos!

Safe travels,

Jeff & Erin

And Happy Fourth of July to all of you!

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