Category Archives: Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea

the king’s highway to the bedouin camp at petra

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Sunday, November 6:  I wake up at 2 a.m. to the same loudspeaker I heard when I went to sleep.  Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla.  Unbelievable!  Somehow I do manage to go back to sleep, but I’m wondering how on earth the owners of this shop, selling whatever “enticing” goods they are selling for whatever bargain price, can even stand this repeating announcement themselves.  And I can’t imagine this sound actually lures shoppers to buy anything!

Later I awake around 4-4:30 to hear that the loudspeaker has stopped. Sweet heavenly relief!  FINALLY that damn thing has quit its bellowing.  I was beginning to think I was in some episode of the Twilight Zone. There is still a buzz of activity on the street below but it’s a gentle buzz now, like static.  I roll over and drift off again….only to be awakened a half hour later by the call to prayer from the mosque!  It never ends, this noise in Amman!

In the morning, I eat an omelet, cucumbers and tomatoes, bread and cheese, followed by hot coffee in the lobby. Our driver for today, Aboud, brings his tiny sedan, already carrying a Turkish couple, to the Jordan Tower Hotel.  The plan is to drive from Amman back to the Dead Sea where we will pick up Minako from the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea.  Then, all four of us tourists plus Aboud will take a long meandering drive along the King’s Highway.  This drive will take about 11 hours, including numerous stops along the way, with the destination being Petra.   The actual direct drive from Amman to Petra is really only 3 hours, but we all want to stop and see the sights along the way.

The Turkish couple, Emre and Zeynap, are friendly but Emre’s English is rudimentary.  Zeynap’s is very good.  Of course I have to tell them how much I adore Turkey, how it is my favorite country ever, how I love Cappadocia and Istanbul.  They live in Taksim, not the beautiful hill in Sultanahmet graced by the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia.

The car is very small and it is only slightly comfortable with me, Emre and Zeynap.  When we stop at the Movenpick by the Dead Sea to pick up Minako, even though she is tiny, it suddenly becomes miserably tight.  Minako sits in the middle between Zeynap and me; Emre gets to stretch out in the front seat with Aboud.  I’m so happy to see Minako again, I’m distracted from the discomfort.

the grounds of the Movenpick where we pick up Minako

the grounds of the Movenpick where we pick up Minako

At the Movenpick I run in to find Minako and she takes me out back to the magnificent view.  She tells how she spent all yesterday afternoon relaxing by the pool and swimming in the Dead Sea.  I ask her how she put up with the flies.  She said, “Flies?  What flies?”  She apparently didn’t have any problem with flies at the Movenpick.  All I can say is that hotel must do something right with regard to the flies, because I never had a moment’s relief from them at the O Beach Hotel.

Then I ask her if she had a nice massage or any kind of spa treatments.  “I didn’t have time!” she said.  “I was only there one afternoon and overnight.”  I say, “I was only at the O Beach Hotel for 2 1/2 hours and I had a massage!”  She finds that hilarious, that I managed to squeeze in a massage in my short time at the Dead Sea, while she was at her hotel overnight and “didn’t have time.”  I guess it all boils down to priorities.  The rest of the day, she jokes about this ridiculous situation.

another view of the Movenpick

another view of the Movenpick

Our route today is along the King’s Highway, a trade route of vital importance to the ancient Middle East. It began in Egypt, and stretched across the Sinai Peninsula to Aqaba. From there it turned northward across Jordan, leading to Damascus and the Euphrates River.  The Nabataeans used this road as a trade route for luxury goods such as frankincense and spices from southern Arabia.  The Highway has also been used as an important pilgrimage route for Christians as it passed numerous sites important in Christianity, including Mount Nebo and “the Baptism Site” at the Jordan River, where Jesus is believed to have been baptized by John the Baptist.

Aboud tells us this road is the oldest road in Jordan, going back thousands of years.  I don’t know the fact about this road’s longevity, but no matter.  We do know it is old.  Ancient.

Our first stop is at the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve which was established for the captive breeding of the Nubian ibex, a desert-dwelling goat species found in the mountainous areas of Jordan, among other places.  These goats are even found in Oman! We are told that the reserve is closed and we can only stand at an overlook area near the entrance.  We protest, “But we can’t see anything!!” The keeper of the reserve relents slightly, “Ok, you can walk just around the corner.” We go around the corner and find another couple meandering from quite a distance down the canyon, or the Siq Trail, a gorge with a river that flows into the Dead Sea.  We figure since those other people are allowed to walk down there, so are we, so off we go.  Minako takes off her sandals and wades into the water.  I have on tennis shoes so don’t wade, but I cross over some rocks to the central gravel island.  It’s really quite beautiful and refreshing.  Guides call this place “Petra with Water.”

Mujib Nature Preserve ~ "Petra with water"

Mujib Nature Preserve ~ “Petra with water”

Me in the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve

Me in the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve

Emre and Zeynap from Turkey in Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve

Emre and Zeynap from Turkey in Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve

At one point I ask the Turkish couple their opinion of Prime Minister Erdoğan, who is slowly unraveling Ataturk’s progressive achievement of making Turkey a more secular state. From what I’ve read, Erdoğan is trying to take Turkey backwards to its pre-Ataturk, more Muslim roots.  I am curious about this couple’s opinion.  Emre goes on and on in  barely intelligible English.  All I hear are things about Gaddafi and Libya and some other unintelligible stuff about oil and America and blah blah blah.  I just nod as he speaks and say, “Mmm. Yes. Right. Yep. Yes….”  Later I tell Minako I don’t think Emre can really speak English.  She says, “I couldn’t understand a word he was saying, but you seemed to know what he was talking about.”  I laugh, tell her I was just faking it, pretending to understand.  She laughs out loud at this and says I sure had her fooled.

Me at Mujib Nature Preserve

Me at Mujib Nature Preserve

Minako in Wadi Mujib

Minako in Wadi Mujib

Zeynap and Emre climb the ladder out of Mujib Nature Preserve

Zeynap and Emre climb the ladder out of Mujib Nature Preserve

our tiny group and our tinier car

our tiny group and our tinier car

After we explore the canyon for a bit, we climb back up a metal ladder and walk back to our tiny box of a car and squeeze in again.  Our next stop is Lot’s Cave.  In the hills east of Ghor as-Safi (ancient Zoar) a cave was found in 1991 with Early and Middle Bronze Age pottery inside. Speculation linked the finds with Abraham’s nephew Lot who, according to the Bible, moved to a cave in the hills above Zoar after Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed.

me at the entrance to Lot's Cave

me at the entrance to Lot’s Cave

We all know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah: Sodom and Gomorrah were two of the wickedest cities in the world. God therefore decided to destroy them both, but  there was just one good family in the city, so God decided to save them. Lot and his family were told to flee the city, but not to look back. Unfortunately his wife looked back and was turned into a pillar of salt.  After escaping,  Lot and his daughters hid in a cave where they watched the awesome destruction of the wicked cities.   This is apparently that cave.

me with Minako at Lot's Cave

me with Minako at Lot’s Cave

We climb and climb to the top of a small mountain overlooking the Dead Sea, where we find the aforementioned cave.  We enjoy an amazing view of the Dead Sea and the valley below.  Breathless and tired, we climb back into the car for a long drive to Karak.

Our guide Aboud

Our guide Aboud

The ancient Crusader castle of Karak (or Kerak) was the setting for 12th century battles between the Crusaders and the Muslim armies of Salah-ad-Din (Saladin). Karak is only one in a long line of castles built by the Crusaders stretching from Aqaba in southern Jordan to Turkey in the north.

random Jordanian and me at Karak

random Jordanian and me at Karak

entering the ancient Crusader castle of Karak

entering the ancient Crusader castle of Karak

steps at Karak Castle

steps at Karak Castle

A particularly evil Crusader, Renauld de Chatillon, arrived from France in 1148 to take part in the Crusades.  He took delight in torturing prisoners and throwing them off the walls into the valley 450 meters below.  It is said he fastened wooden boxes over his victims’ heads so they wouldn’t lose consciousness before hitting the ground.

one of the few walls left standing at Karak

one of the few walls left standing at Karak

We enter through the Ottoman Gate and cross a bridge over a dry moat.  Karak sits impressively at the top of a large cliff and the views are phenomenal, especially the golden valley below dotted with farmhouses and bushes and cloud shadows.

another beautiful view from Karak

another beautiful view from Karak

view from Karak

view from Karak

the stunning view from Karak

the stunning view from Karak

The castle itself is not that impressive, considering that only parts of walls are still standing, but the view is amazing.  At one point Minako climbs to the top of the only full wall left standing of Karak, following in the footsteps of some Jordanian boys.  At the top she is buffeted about by the wind and I fear as tiny as she is, she will blow right off that wall.  Like one of Chatillon’s victims.  But she slowly makes her way back down, clinging for dear life to each stone so she won’t topple over.

Minako celebrates making it down alive from the wall at Karak

Minako celebrates making it down alive from the wall at Karak

Jordanian boys at Karak

Jordanian boys at Karak

Karak

Karak

After we explore the rest of the castle grounds, where the most notable thing is the view all around, we meet Aboud at a local restaurant called Al-Fid’a, where we have the most delicious food I’ve had in Jordan so far.  I have a Spanish omelet and lemon with mint and some lentil soup.  Minako has a mixed grill with lamb and chicken.  It’s all delicious and the sun is amber-glowing and the air is as cool and crisp as a cucumber.  An utterly perfect day.

me at Al-Fida for lunch

me at Al-Fida for lunch

Al-Fida

Al-Fida

lunch time

lunch time

Lemon with mint.... my favorite drink throughout Jordan

Lemon with mint…. my favorite drink throughout Jordan

Our next stop is Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine.  Aboud tells us the story of this shrine which revolves around the Battle of Mu’tah in 629, where (according to Aboud) the Byzantines outnumbered the Muslims by about 10 to 1. Apparently the prophet Muhammad mobilized an army to confront Byzantine forces in the Levant (Jordan), because a Byzantine governor had treacherously killed one of his emissaries. He appointed Zayd ibn Harithah as commander of the army and gave the following instructions: “If Zayd is wounded or killed, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib would take over the command. If Jafar ibn Abu Talib is killed or wounded, then your commander would be Abdullah ibn Rawahah. If Abdullah ibn Rawahah is killed, then let the Muslims choose for themselves a commander.”  All three commanders were killed and replaced successively as Muhammed instructed.  This shrine we see today is where the second commander in that battle, Ja’far ibn Abu Talib, is enshrined.

Apparently the battle ended in a draw and the safe retreat of both sides, according to Muslim sources,but it’s recorded as a Byzantine victory by Christian sources.  Some have claimed that this battle, far from being a defeat, was a strategic success; the Muslims had challenged the Byzantines and had made their presence felt amongst the Arab Bedouin tribes in the region.

Ja'far ibn Abi Talib Shrine

Ja’far ibn Abi Talib Shrine

the courtyard at Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine

the courtyard at Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine

Aboud tells Zeynap, Minako and me that we need to wear headscarves into the mosque, so we put some on.  He tells Minako, since she is wearing only shorts and tights, that she should put on an abaya, but she never seems to find her way into one. She’s so funny when Aboud tells her to hurry out of the mosque so the Iman doesn’t get angry.  She does a hilarious high-step tiptoe out of the mosque.

Minako at the Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine

Minako at the Jafar Bin Abi Taleb Shrine

As we wander around, a nice man offers to take pictures of Minako and me next to the shrine;  After, he promptly extorts one dinar from us for taking the picture.

Minako and me in headscarves next to the enshrined martyr ~ before the 1 dinar extortion

Minako and me in headscarves next to the enshrined martyr ~ before the 1 dinar extortion

in the courtyard at the shrine

in the courtyard at the shrine

Later, we take a drive further along the King’s Highway, where trees are permanently leaning in an easterly direction, due to the continual winds from the west.  It’s strange to see every single tree along this road leaning at 45 degree angles.

Our last stop is at a lookout point in the Dana Nature Reserve.  This is the largest reserve in Jordan, with landscapes ranging from sandstone cliffs to the below-sea-level Wadi Araba.  Of course, we don’t have time for any hiking in this reserve, sadly, because I’m sure it would be beautiful.  The view alone is breathtaking.  It looks like a fantasy landscape, otherworldly.

Dana Nature Reserve

Dana Nature Reserve

me at Dana Nature Reserve along the King's Highway in Jordan

me at Dana Nature Reserve along the King’s Highway in Jordan

We finally arrive in Wadi Musa as the sun is setting.  Wadi Musa (Moses’ Valley) is the village that has sprung up around Petra.  Aboud drops Minako and me off at the Rocky Mountain Hotel, run by Jane and Atef.  Jane is a pretty blonde New Zealander and Atef is her younger, and gorgeous, Bedouin boyfriend.  They also own the Seven Wonders Bedouin Camp, where I’m due to stay on Tuesday night.  My colleague from the university has sent three gift packages of Omani dates with me to give to the staff at Rocky Mountain, so I unload my bag and hand them over to Jane upon my arrival.  Jane is a little stressed because she says there is currently no hot water in the hotel and she’s trying to get the situation resolved.  She thanks me for the dates and I say I’ll tell Willem she likes them.  Then she mentions to me that she doesn’t know why she got involved with someone ridiculously younger than her.  “I would have been happy to just be business partners; I don’t need all these problems with a younger man.”

I settle in to my room to relax a bit while the staff gives Minako a ride to the Bedouin camp, where she plans to stay tonight.  I tell her I’ll join her for dinner at the camp, making a stop along the way to buy a bottle of wine, around 7 p.m.  A young and skinny Jordanian guy named Sammy comes to pick me up and makes a stop to pick up a friend.  He is busy yapping on his cell phone and sending messages the whole time he is driving.  He picks up the friend and sends that friend into some hotel to buy the wine, instructing him numerous times that it should be red wine.  The guy comes back with a bottle of wine, but I can see it’s clear.  I protest. “No, no, that’s white wine!  I want red!” As much as I’m paying, 20 dinar, I insist on getting what I want.  Then they have to go on a circuitous route to find the red wine.  Finally, they find me two half-liter bottles for 13 dinar each and I agree that it’s fine.  We don’t arrive at the camp until 8:30, and I fear Minako has given up on me!

the lobby at the Rocky Mountain Hotel in Petra

the lobby at the Rocky Mountain Hotel in Petra

At the Bedouin camp, I meet Minako already halfway through her dinner.  It is quite cold in the dining tent.  I am so happy I bought a winter vest and heavy sweater in Muscat before I left!  It is freezing.  We shiver and huddle over our food, which is mostly cold salads, with some lukewarm chicken and rice and lukewarm lentil soup served buffet-style.  Luckily the wine adds some warmth to the meal, and we down that quite heartily.

After dinner we go into another long rectangular tent where there is a nice fire in a kind of metal grill.  We bring the rest of our wine with us and order some shisha.  Some Bedouin guys play a stringed musical instrument somewhat like a guitar and sing songs in Arabic.  We smoke our apple-flavored shisha and drink our wine and warm ourselves by the fire.

atef and minako in the bedouin tent

atef and minako in the bedouin tent

While there I get a call from a guy named Mohammed Gabaah who I met online though a website called TravelBuddy over nine months ago.  He added me on Facebook soon after and then we spoke by Skype various times.  I actually was quite put off by him because he, like many Arab men I’ve met, was so sex-obsessed that I didn’t feel comfortable talking to him.  I deleted him from Skype but not from Facebook because the work he does in film-making in Jordan is quite interesting.

me smoking shisha in the bedouin camp

me smoking shisha in the bedouin camp

So when I post on my Facebook status my plans to travel to Jordan, he messages me numerous times, asking me to call him when I arrive in Jordan.  I do so reluctantly when I arrive in Petra. I figure it can’t hurt to meet him since I had spoken to him in the past.

When Mohammed calls, he asks if he can come meet me at the Bedouin camp, as he knows Atef and the other Bedouins who run it.  I tell him he is welcome to come and meet me but I’m with my Japanese friend and I am enjoying my time here.  In the meantime, I ask Atef if he knows Mohammed and he says yes, he knows him.  I ask if he’s a good guy, and respectfully Atef says yes, he’s a good guy.

me with Mohammed Gabaah

me with Mohammed Gabaah

Mohammed shows up and sits for a while with us, listening to the music and we are mellow and all enjoying ourselves in the warm tent. I introduce Mohammed to Minako and I say, “I’m so happy I met her.  She’s so much fun!”  Minako says, “No!  You’re so much fun!!”  I say “You’re the one who’s fun!”  This goes back and forth for several more rounds and I don’t remember now which one of us ended up on top.  At one point Minako tells me she’s not happy with her “room;” her tent is very small, unheated, with no bathroom.  We walk over so she can show it to me, and it is in fact all of these things she describes.  In the center of the camp is one public bathroom, with two toilets and two showers, unheated.  Much like a bathroom in an American campground.  It is so cold, I decide then and there that I will cancel my reservation for the camp Tuesday night and just stay my third night in the Rocky Mountain Hotel.

my warm and cozy room at the Rocky Mountain Hotel

my warm and cozy room at the Rocky Mountain Hotel

Later Mohammed says he will drive me back to the hotel, and of course he has to stop along the way and show me the beautiful landscape of Wadi Musa under the stars.  I tell him nothing is going to happen between him and me and, after he can see I’m serious, he takes me back to my cozy room at the Rocky Mountain Hotel.

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the dead sea and fun-loving minako

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Saturday, November 5:  I arrive in Amman at 9 a.m. after only a 3 1/2 hour flight from Muscat. Standing in line to buy the 20 Jordanian dinar tourist visa, I meet a man about my age who looks Middle Eastern but is carrying an American passport.  He has longish black hair and is dressed in all black: black suit with a black shirt.  He introduces himself as Alqam and says he grew up in Jordan but is originally from Chechnya, and some of his five children and one granddaughter now live in the country.  He’s going to visit them for the Eid.  He tells me a lot as we wait in line, how his wife died of cancer in 2004, how he’s working in Muscat now trying to get a business off the ground exporting air-conditioners to Oman, how he’s lived in Houston, Texas for many years. He gives me his number in Jordan and tells me to please call him if I need anything at all.  I give him my Oman number and tell him if he wants to have coffee or something when he returns to Muscat, he can feel free to call.  I don’t ever call him in Jordan, but I text him my Jordanian number and he bids me welcome: “you welcome to Jordan. hope you like it, alqam.”

the lobby of the cozy Jordan Tower Hotel

the lobby of the cozy Jordan Tower Hotel

Nihad from the Jordan Tower Hotel picks me up from Queen Alia Airport, cigarette in hand.  He’s got a face with grayish stubble and a mustache. I find out throughout my trip that Jordanians love to smoke, and he’s no exception. We drive through the quiet outer streets, through the sharp cliffs and hills topped with old and decaying granite houses, into the city center, where utter chaos reigns.  Everyone is shopping for the Eid.  I realize after having been in Muscat all day Friday and now being in Jordan on Saturday, that Eid is like America’s Christmas.  It seems that most of the shoppers are men, and they are shopping and shopping for new clothes, food, electronics, you name it… I’m not even sure what they could be buying with such enthusiasm.  These streets have a similar holiday vibe to our Christmas season:  crowds and utter frenzy reign. Male mannequins display western clothing in shop entryways, which are not behind windows but open to the street. Weathered men sell used and broken furniture on the asphalt streets.  A huge traffic jam knots the center of the city and no police are present to sort it out.  Some enterprising young men get out of their cars and direct the traffic to clear up the tangled jam, while drivers honk and holler in frustration.

the dining area of the Jordan Tower Hotel

the dining area of the Jordan Tower Hotel

At the hotel, my room isn’t ready yet.  However,  I’m anxious to get started on exploring Jordan so I ask the advice of the hotel staff.  They tell me a Japanese girl is going to the Dead Sea so if I’d like to share a ride with her, the cost will be 25 JD.  She will be staying the night in the Movenpick, but I can go to another resort where they charge 15 dinar to use their facilities and swim in the Dead Sea.  It sounds like as good a way as any to begin my time in Jordan.

me with Minako in the hotel lobby before our trip to the Dead Sea

me with Minako in the hotel lobby before our trip to the Dead Sea

Minako checks out her Japanese guidebook

Minako checks out her Japanese guidebook

Minako and me on the edge of a great view... Jordan is so amazing

Minako and me on the edge of a great view… Jordan is so amazing

Minako is a 30-year-old Japanese girl who now lives in Tokyo but is originally from Okinawa.  She finished her university studies and has worked at Accenture for 8 years.  Now she’s decided to study medicine and is trying to find the right university.  She had a boyfriend, but they broke up 3 months ago.  I’m sure that in Japanese culture, she’s probably a bit of an anomaly, being 30 years old and not married.  Minako is happy and upbeat and her mood is infectious.  Right away she grabs me and pulls me to the lobby couch for photos.  After all, we’re heading to the Dead Sea together; we’ll be great friends.  I love this kind of person who is not at all shy and just befriends everyone.  I so wish I was like this myself, but I’m always more reticent and wait for other people to reach out in friendship.

Minako and Nihad

Minako and Nihad

She asks me all about my situation and finds it quite amusing and “coo….” Though her English is excellent, she has the typical Asian problem with pronunciation of “l” and “r,” so every time she says “cool,” which is A LOT, she says “coo…”  It’s very endearing. She finds my marital situation especially interesting and says “I think your husband still loves you if he accepts what you’re doing.” I say I don’t know about that.   We both take an immediate liking to each other.

The Dead Sea is at the lowest point on earth, about 1300 feet below sea level,  and has such high salt content (over 33%) that nothing but the most microscopic life forms can survive in it. It’s 42 miles long and 11 miles wide and lies in the Jordan Rift Valley.  It’s main tributary is the Jordan River; it borders Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west.  From the Hebrew Bible, it’s likely that Jericho was just north of the Dead Sea.  Somewhere, perhaps on the southeast shore, would be the cities mentioned in the Book of Genesis which were said to have been destroyed in the time of Abraham: Sodom and Gomorra (Genesis 18).  The rich Biblical heritage of this area in Jordan literally takes my breath away, even though I’m not a particularly religious person.

first view of the Dead Sea

first view of the Dead Sea

me and minako in front of the Dead Sea

me and minako in front of the Dead Sea

We share the ride with Nihad to the Dead Sea, and make him stop at a number of spots along the way to take pictures of the views.  We drop Minako at the top-notch Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea.

Minako says goodbye at the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea

Minako says goodbye at the Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea

Nihad takes me down the road a bit to the O Beach Hotel, which is nice in its own right.  I pay my 15 dinar to go in and I change into my bathing suit.  I walk around admiring the views, the infinity pool stretching into the Dead Sea, the bar sunk into the infinity pool, the cushioned lounge chairs and umbrellas and cabanas.

the bar at the O Beach Hotel

the bar at the O Beach Hotel

Down on the beach below a small group of young people are swimming in the Dead Sea.  It’s a little chilly, so I’m not too anxious to jump right in.  Feeling rather hungry, I order a glass of red wine and a turkey sandwich and lie on a lounge chair waiting for them to bring it to me.  The only annoying detraction are the flies.  Flies are swarming all over the bar, all over me as I try to relax on my lounge chair, all over my glass of wine and my turkey and pickle sandwich.  Luckily the flies don’t seem to bite, but they’re hugely annoying.

the infinity pool at the O Beach Hotel stretching into the Dead Sea

the infinity pool at the O Beach Hotel stretching into the Dead Sea

Chairs at the O Beach Hotel

Chairs at the O Beach Hotel

palms at the O Beach Hotel with the Dead Sea behind

palms at the O Beach Hotel with the Dead Sea behind

a little covered patio at the O Beach Hotel

a little covered patio at the O Beach Hotel

I love watching the families and tourists at the hotel while swatting at the flies to keep from swallowing one.  I check out a good-looking Richard Gere-look-alike and his wife and children and grandchildren.  I walk down to the edge of the sea and watch some Europeans floating.

people floating in the Dead Sea

people floating in the Dead Sea

Finally, with some trepidation, I climb in over the rocks and hardened calcified salt and dip into the sea.  It’s very strange, the sensation of floating in this salt-dense sea.  There is no need to tread water or to make any motion at all to stay afloat.  My body immediately moves into a “sitting in a chair” position, and it’s next-to-impossible to move out of this position.  It’s like the sea is an armchair and all you do is sink into it.  No movement is required at all.

I make an attempt to swim a modified crawl, with my head above the water, but it’s very difficult to swim because my legs pop out of the water behind me.  It’s rather difficult to kick underwater if your legs are jutting out of the water!  In addition, the water is a little choppy and I swallow a mouthful of salt water, which is so thick with salt it’s like a salt-water gargle.  I also have a cut on my lip which burns from the salt-on-a-wound effect.

The Dead Sea in Jordan

The Dead Sea in Jordan

the Dead Sea

the Dead Sea

I don’t stay in long because it just feels too bizarre.  When I get out, I have this slimy film all over my skin and I dip into the downright cold infinity pool to wash off the salt water.  It doesn’t come off and actually the beads of water don’t dry up in the sun.  An exotic woman approaches me and tells me she does massages.  She’s Iraqi and her name is Tonya.  Always a sucker for a massage, I succumb to the temptation for a half-body mud massage for 33 dinar.  We go into an open air room with mats hanging over the opening for semi-privacy.  When I lie face-down on the massage table, there is a mirror below that lets me see the Dead Sea as I get my massage.  Lovely really.

Tonya, the masseuse who gives me a mud massage

Tonya, the masseuse who gives me a mud massage

the massage room looking out at the Dead Sea

the massage room looking out at the Dead Sea

After the massage I take a cold shower (there is no hot water in this massage room), and go outside to meet Nihad for my ride back to Amman.  It takes about an hour to get back.

blossoms swept into a corner

blossoms swept into a corner

I love the Jordan Tower Hotel in Amman’s city center, with its super-friendly and helpful staff and its cozy lobby area. But I have some issues when I finally return to the hotel to check in. First, I had reserved a single room with a private bathroom.  When I finally check in, the hotel manager apologizes profusely, saying my intended room has a problematic bathroom.  So he must give me a room with 3 single beds and no bathroom.  He tells me that the bathroom in the hall will be all mine, because the other three rooms all have their own bathrooms. When he takes me to my room, he struggles mightily with the door handle, and seems to be unable for some time to get it open. Finally, he lets me in and I settle in with my stuff.  I’m not happy about not having a private bathroom when I specifically booked such, but the guy feels so bad about it, I let him off the hook and don’t complain.

my bathroom-less room at the Jordan Tower Hotel

my bathroom-less room at the Jordan Tower Hotel

Outside in Amman, the weather is cold and rainy, a total switch from the Dead Sea. I opt to eat a light snack of mushroom soup, bread and mint tea in the hotel tonight and to sit in the common room writing notes about my day.   I feel chilled and so get cozy early in my room, where I crank up the heat to toasty, toastier, toastiest.  Outside my window, on the busy streets below, is a cacophony of noise that grates on my senses.  Again, it is people enthusiastically shopping for Eid.  People are shouting, cars are honking, loud Arabic music is blaring.  But worst of all there is a loudspeaker right below my window that repeats a sales pitch in Arabic that sounds like this: Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla. Blah blah blah, blablablablabla.

All freaking night long.

Before Minako and I took off this morning, she warned me, laughing her infectious laugh:  “You’ll probably get my room.  It was so noisy!  I’ve never heard anything like it.”  Without a doubt.