Driving Jordan

08:55 Alyson Tart 0 Comments

Lately I’ve been looking for new types of experiences in my travel. I know I sound horribly spoiled when I say I’m a bit over cathedrals and ruins, but the truth is I’m really looking for things now that give me a new perspective and a better insight into the local culture, not just something I’ve done before.  Part of this is trying to get an authentic feel for the places I go, away from the tourist packed streets, shops and restaurants, and into places that you discover on your own or through locals, so I’ve been focused on independent travel. I’ve found when you’re in a tour (especially depending on the tour or country) you stop in places that were built to serve the giant buses of tourists that stop in some of the most popular destinations of the world.

Jordan was one of my first true experiments with this outside of Europe, because not only were we not with a group, but we decided to drive ourselves. We figure, if we can drive in Istanbul, we can drive most places?


So, after picking up our car in Amman, we started our explorations.  While our first overnight stay was at the Dead Sea, we had planned a few other pit stops on the way where a car would be necessary.

First was Mount Nebo – this is where Moses was said to stand out and see the promised land of Israel. You can see the vast expanse of desert around the mountain, dotted with lakes (or pools) and even the Dead Sea in the edge of your view. There is a church on site which supposedly has beautiful mosaics, but it was closed when we visited, so we snapped some shots, took in the expanse of it all, then started our drive towards the Jordan River.

The road weaved back and forth on the desert plain, taking you from a mount to one of the lowest areas in the world. You passed bedouin tents with fires out front and can imagine a lively scene at night with music, dancing and laughter around the camp fire. In some places, you may have been stopped by a shepherd moving his sheep across to the other side of the road, in no particular hurry. It highlights the way that many locals live and the bedouin history of the area.

The Jordan River was easy to find after joining the main road, thanks to many signs in English that dotted the highway. Along with the signs, we found tons of people selling fruits, vegetables and who knows what else along the road to those who can be enticed to stop. You can't drive yourself through the sites at the River Jordan, so we waited for the bus and crammed ourselves in along with everyone else, giving me flashbacks to my days boarding the buses in Istanbul.

We walked around the site with the guide, who I think was mainly there to make sure no one wandered over into Israel. The main place to see is the site where historians think Jesus was baptised. Nowadays, it's not on the river, just a sad pool of water that doesn't connect to anything else and is not fit for anyone to dip as much as a toe in. There are the relics of a church nearby that were likely built to commemorate the importance of the site. 


After that, we followed the path down to the river itself. It's a slow moving river, flanked on either side by rushes, and so narrow that you can see the Israel side a stones throw away (really, less than 50 metres away). The Jordan side seemed more relaxed, with people watching, talking quietly among themselves and sitting to take in the tranquility.  The Israel side is full of people in white robes, immersing themselves in the water, either to clean themselves or have themselves baptised by others. We sat for some time, just watching - it may have 5 minutes, 30 minutes, I can't recall now, but just taking in the nature and scene around us.

Then it was back to the crowded bus, back to our hot car, and back on the road. As we drove, we saw the way of life in Jordan. More street vendors selling fruits, waters and knick knacks. More shepherds along with their gaggly looking sheep, and even some with camels, sat beside the road, perhaps waiting to spit on the next passerby. I was happy to be in control, making our own pace and picking our own stops, but for now, we decided to keep on going and headed further down into Jordan.

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