Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jordan : The Dead Sea, Which Tasted Most Foul

Ever since I saw Ian Wright and other TV travellers floating in the Dead Sea, I have always imagined what that would feel like.

On the Jordan side, you can access the Dead Sea through the private beaches fronting the resorts; or you can go to the public beach like we did. We were brought to the Amman Beach, a 'public beach' that has all the facilities, with an entrance fee of JD15 *vomit blood*

From top of the slope. The other side is Israel.

Plastic chairs are available to sit and rest on the beach.

The beachside is actually on a gentle slope. Up there as you enter they have all the facilities - showers, lockers, nice swimming pools, restaurants, souvenir shops - the usual.

It was quite shallow until about 20 metres out.

Yeay! I am floating! Try as you may you can't sink. Erm, in the beginning I floated around and then managed to splash the water onto my face - waaaaa, it stung like crazy! And when I tried to wipe the seawater off my face some went inside my eyes and that was horrible. A little bit of water got into my mouth as well and boy, it tasted AWFUL. Undescribable taste, but undeniably foul. I got out of the water and went to stand under the shower for a while. What a relief! So yeah, do float gently and elegantly to avoid what I experienced.

With friends Sue and Bachlan, who pretended to be reading something; we should have had some props. Oh, if you have cuts or nicks on your body they sting 100x so if possible make sure your skin is flawless when you bathe in the Dead Sea. Afterwards, your skin feels like it has a very light, almost slimy film clinging on it. We later got out and continued swimming in the pool; refreshing and lovely on a hot day, and after all that saltwater!

Other bathers. Men can go topless and ladies can wear bikinis here; no biggie.

To cover yourself in the black mud costs JD3.

Crystallised salt on the beach. I took some for souvenir :). No need to buy dead sea salt.

Feet Shot.

One more to-do ticked off the list.

Except maybe, one day, to float there again on the Israel side.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Syria : Minding the Language

For the first time, I thought that maybe those Kelas Bahasa Arab many many years ago back in secondary school may finally have some use during the Syria-Jordan trip.

In truth, sadly, I remember only remnants of it; very very little, negligible, except for the numbers; I can remember them and can count from 1 to 8 :-P.

Okay enough school stories. Knowing the Arabic language is definitely an advantage when travelling in the Middle East.

In Damascus' Christian Quarter, we found this beautiful copy of The Bible, The New Testament, printed in Arabic.

The shopowner was kind enough to let us browse through it - though I don't really know what to look for since I could not read it.

This has an interesting story - I was exploring Aleppo on Sunday morning and walked into the Syriac Catholic church where the mass was halfway. I stayed on and experienced my first ever mass in Arabic! It was almost ... surreal. After the mass ended I asked a gentleman there whether there was a bookstore in the Church for me to buy some books or stuff. He said there is none and the markets are closed too, and promptly asked me to wait as he will ask the priest! Long story short, I was introduced to the priest who invited us inside the rectory and into his office and presented me with this small maroon Bible.

The New Testament.

Guess why I put up this picture?
(i) to show the number plate (I know my Arabic numbers, ngeh)
(ii) it's a Proton! (why are we always excited to see a Proton overseas?)

I thought - wouldn't it be nice to be able to read this?

This seems to be some kind of award or royal recognition.

At the Umayyad Mosque.

You can find a few street signages like these in Arab and English. This area was where we wanted to head first in Damascus but we could not find it and the taxi driver ... well, did not know either.

There are a few English adverts posted in the Christian Quarter - I am guessing more expats live there. (Exchange Partner??? ;-P)

Well, amidst those there are 'clever' signboards like this - with pictures! You definitely know what they're selling :) By the way, these shops are equivalent to fast food outlets in Syria since they do not have any Western food franchises.

Learn the numbers, and some useful phrases - that will help a lot in your travels.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jordan : On Mount Nebo, Where I Glimpsed The Holy Land

My Bible knowledge is far from fantastic, so I had to go read a bit and be reminded of the importance of Mount Nebo.

According to the final chapter of Deuteronomy, Mount Nebo is where the Hebrew prophet Moses was given a view of the Promised Land that God was giving to the Israelites. "And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho." (Deuteronomy 34:1). Source : Wikipedia.

The late Pope John Paul II and current Pope Benedict XVI both have visited Mount Nebo in 2000 and 2009 respectively.

Please enjoy the pictures I have taken at this beautiful place :

A short walk up a gentle slope. Entrance fee JD1. Elevation approx 2,680 a.s.l.



This commemorative monument to mark the visit of Pope John Paul II in March 2000 welcomes all visitors.

Taken from one side.

And from another side.

And yet another side.

A close-up.

I think those are events/organisations commemorated on the tiles.

I only noticed these later - names on the lower part of the memorial.

A temporary (I am guessing) tent which houses ...

... this huge piece of mosaic floor dating from 4-6 A.D. which is in very good condition.

Restoration and upgrading works on the remains of a church and a monastery on the highest point of the mountain. So it was off limits to visitors. I think the Memorial of Moses is here? Archaeological excavation is still ongoing.

Mount Nebo and Memorial of Moses is under the custody of the Custodia di Terra Santa (Custodians of the Holy Land), as with other Holy Sites in the region.

But I am guessing this is the main highlight :

The spot where Moses looked out to the Promised Land.

You can also see part of the Dead Sea faintly in the middle of the picture.

A picture of Pope John Paul II's visit in March 2000.

Bethlehem - 50 km away.

Jerusalem and Mount of Olives - only 46 km away.

It's crowded with busloads of tourists and pilgrims.

We looked out to the vast landscape too. It was a sunny hot morning but still bearable.

This round stone was once a door in ancient times.

Noticed the tree had some kind white ribbons tied on its branches.

Taken from the book 'The Life of Peter The Iberian' by John Rufus.

View of the landscape on the right side of the mountain.

I tried taking a few shots of myself with the Serpent Cross scuplture in the background but kept on missing something (like my head or the cross). Finally asked a girl from another group to help. The sculpture was created by Italian artist, Giovanni Fantoni, and is "symbolic of the bronze serpent created by Moses in the wilderness and the cross upon which Jesus was crucified".

Patience patience - there were so many people wanting to take photos at this particular stone signage. You had to wait for your turn. Thankfully everyone was polite and patiently waited. So while waiting I took pictures of other people.

My turn came :) thank you.

Mount Nebo is a beautiful peaceful place. I am thankful I have stepped foot here.