Monday, 11 March 2013

jordan day 3: dead sea

from mount nebo, we descended right down to the lowest point on earth to one of the highlights of our trip, the dead sea. even though it's called "dead sea", it's not really a sea, but is actually a really big lake.

first glimpse of the dead sea! palestine is just beyond the mountains there...

our package included the use of the private beach at the dead sea hotel and spa, which is better than using the public beaches. for a fee, the hotel allows guests to use their bathroom and shower facilities and their beach is cleaner too.

while waiting for our driver to make payments at the counter... here's the private pool for in-house guests only.

and these are for the use of outsiders who paid for the use of their beach. but we didn't come to the pool here, coz we were dead hungry after frolicking on the beach and salty water that we were dying for lunch!

floating effortlessly in the salty water! in fact, don't even try to swim, coz you're so buoyant that you'll loose control and risk dunking your head into the water. the water is super salty and you'll start tearing coz the saltiness will get into your eyes.

and it's said that we'll never get sunburnt here, no matter how long we stay in the water coz lowest point on earth also means furthest away from the sun. hence the uv rays are the lowest here.

we only get black from doing the mud spa! lol... the dead sea area has become a major centre for health research and treatment for several reasons: the mineral content of the water, the very low content of pollen and other allergens in the atmosphere, the reduced ultraviolet component of solar radiation and the higher atmospheric pressure at this great depth. each of these qualities have specific healing properties.

crystalised salt on the beach! the salt content is said to be so high that no fish nor any water organisms can survive in it.

after an hour or two at the beach, we were dead tired and our stomachs were growling! so our driver took us for yet another arabic buffet. no photos this time, as we were really exhausted and too hungry...

after a late lunch, we were on our way again... going further south.

still in the vicinity of the dead sea area... the drive was awesome! 

then our driver stopped at the roadside so that we can take this signature shot of the dead sea. see the crystalised salt at the water's edge! 

then right opposite the road, our driver pointed to that brown "formation" and told us the story of sodom and gomorrah from the bible.

from wikipedia (coz i only caught snatches of the story from our driver, as i was bz photographing the crytalised salt in the pic above!): In Genesis 18, three men came, thought by most commentators to have been angels appearing as men, to Abram (Abraham) in the plains of Mamre. After the angels received the hospitality of Abraham and Sarah, his wife, the LORD revealed to Abraham that he would destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, because their cry was great, "and because their sin is very grievous."[Gen 18:20] In response, Abraham inquired of the LORD if he would spare the city if 50 righteous people were found in it, to which the LORD agreed he would not destroy it for the sake of the righteous yet dwelling therein. Abraham then inquired of God for mercy at lower numbers (first 45, then 40, then 30, then 20, and finally at 10), with the LORD agreeing each time.[Gen 18:22-33] Two of the angels proceeded to Sodom and were met by Abraham's nephew Lot, who convinced the angels to lodge with him, and they ate with Lot.
Genesis 19:4-5 (KJV) described what followed, which confirmed its end:
4 But before they lay down, the men of the city, [even] the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter.
5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where [are] the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them. (NRSV: know them, NIV: can have sex with them, NJB: can have intercourse with them).
Lot refused to give his guests to the inhabitants of Sodom and, instead, offered them his two virgin daughters "which have not known man" and to "do ye to them as [is] good in your eyes".[Gen 19:8] However, they refused this offer and threatened to do worse to Lot than they would have done to his guests, and then came near to break down the door. Lot's angelic guests rescued him and struck the men with blindness, thereby revealing to Lot that they were not ordinary men but angels, and they informed Lot of their mission to destroy the city.[Genesis 19:9-13]
Then (not having found even 10 righteous people in the city), they commanded Lot to gather his family and leave. As they made their escape, one angel commanded Lot to "look not behind thee" (singular "thee").[Genesis 19:17] However, as Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed with brimstone and fire from the LORDLot's wife looked back at the city, and she became a pillar of salt.[Genesis 19:23-26]

 that longish "formation" is said to be lot's wife turned into a pillar of salt...

dusk... this is still the dead sea, but not so pretty anymore. these were the black mud that a lot of the jordanian pharmaceutical companies use to produce facial mask, scrubs and a host of other beauty products from.

after driving along the straight main road for some time, our driver turned into a side street, stopped by the roadside and fiddled with his tires.

earlier, he asked if we want to take an alternative route that's not in our itinerary, which is said to be really special and bla bla bla, for an extra fee (i forgot how much he asked for). he said it's really spectacular, but wouldn't tell us how spectacular it is from the usual route. but as we were so tired and exhausted from being out in the sun for so long, that we declined and told him to just stick to the itinerary. in the end, he said he'll still take the alternative route, as a "special gift" to us, because it's just too spectacular and we shouldn't miss it. whatever lar...

anyway, as he was fiddling with his tires, i opened the car door to see what he's doing and saw that he's letting out air from the tires. having been camping in the desert, i knew immediately that we'll be driving through the desert and confirmed it with the driver. he said he'll be taking the back route to our next destination, which is "far more spectacular and special" as compared to the usual route. and it'll cut about 1 hour from our traveling time.

the drive through the desert was beautiful... 

but it got bumpy and bumpier, as there weren't any proper road... and it's quite tiring bumping along for an hour on this kinda road that i felt as if all my bones were rattled loose!

after awhile, we began to climb up a long, narrow and treacherous dirt road on the side of the mountain. it has turned dark by then (it was the beginning of winter and the days had gotten shorter) and there weren't any street lamp on the road. we caught glimpses of the drop below us (the road didn't have any railings) and was praying real hard that our driver won't miscalculate the turnings!

the "spectacular" surprise that our driver had in store for us...

halfway up, our driver stopped at a clearing and showed us the above sight. he said we were too late for the "most spectacular" view, as the sun had already set. but if we'd arrived just half an hour earlier, we'd be able to see the whole of the desert glow up in the setting sun. luckily we didn't agree to pay him the "extra fee"! 

it was another half an hour ride before we arrived at our destination, where we were all dead tired and just can't wait to check into our hotel, take a hot shower and go to sleep! but our driver tried to sell us a "very good and spectacular arabic dinner, with dance performance bla bla bla". we declined because we were still full from our late lunch and also i was suffering from slight car sickness. furthermore, it's not like we've not seen any arabic dances before. we're from dubai, for god's sake! he kept trying to get us to go for the dinner and we guessed it's because he gets to eat for free. during all the meals he's brought us, the proprietors only ever collected money from the 4 of us (usually JD10 per person ≈ RM45), but never him. so if we didn't go with him, maybe he'd need to take care of his own dinner and not get free meals! we stood our grounds and just went up to our rooms to retire early for another long day the next day.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

jordan day 3: mount nebo

(from wikipedia) Mount Nebo (Arabicجبل نيبو‎, Jabal NibuHebrewהַר נְבוֹ‎, Har Nevo, ) is an elevated ridge in Jordan, approximately 817 meters (2680 feet)above sea level, mentioned in the Bible as the place where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land that he would never enter. The view from the summit provides a panorama of the Holy Land and, to the north, a more limited one of the valley of the River Jordan. The West Bank city of Jericho is usually visible from the summit, as is Jerusalem on a very clear day.

the stone commemorating pope john paul II's visit in year 2000

just fooling around...

the brazen serpent 

the sculpture of the brazen serpent, which has become a symbol for mount nebo, is a modern replica of the biblical brazen serpent. during the exodus journey, god sent a plague to kill the rebellious israelites. god also instructed moses to erect a bronze serpent on a pole to stop the plague and all who looked up at the raised serpent survived the plague. thus the curative serpent around the staff became the symbol of pharmacies until today.

viewing platform erected for pope john paul II

if you stand on this platform, you can enjoy the panoramic scene that moses apparently saw more than 3000 years ago. and if you're lucky and the weather permits, you will be able to see the dead sea and several cities on the west bank of jordan river. at sunrise, even the streets can be visible and by sunset, you can also enjoy an amazing view as the sun sinks behind the mountains of jerusalem.

 the panoramic view...

then moses climbed mount nebo from the plains of moab to the top of pisgah, across from jericho. there, the lord showed him the whole land. then the lord said to him, "this is the land i promised on oath to abraham, isaac and jacob when i said, 'i will give it to your descendants'. i have let you see it with your eyes, but you will not cross over into it."

and moses the servant of the lord died there in moab, as the lord had said. he buried him in moab, in the valley opposite beth peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. --deuteronomy 34:1-6

 on our way to our next destination, we saw many bedouin camps around. some of them have brick houses, but as they love the outdoors so much, they'll still have tents as well and would live in the tents when the weather is good.

day 3 to be continued...