Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel

1st Jan 2013
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 1/10 by Anthony
Bethlehem's Manger Square and the Church of t
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 2/10 by Anthony
Hike in Dana Nature Reserve
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 3/10 by Anthony
Red Sea resort of Aqaba
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 4/10 by Anthony
2000 year-old ruins of Jerash
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 5/10 by Anthony
Western wall Jerusalem
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 6/10 by Anthony
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 7/10 by Anthony
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 8/10 by Anthony
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 9/10 by Anthony
Photo of Adventure Holidays: Jordan & Israel 10/10 by Anthony

Religion can never bind your travel experience, and this trip to Jordon and Israel just seemed to prove this simple fact. What started with a mere fascination of my childhood as an Indiana Jones fan, with the city of Petra, to my mother's stonge believes in religion and faith and a long-standing plan to the Holy Land of Jerusalem; finally all of this culminated into the best historical and memorable experience.

Our travels spotted the maps of Jordon and Israel to cover the major tourist spots in the famous city of Amman, to the ruins in nature's magnificence in Petra, to visiting the gems in the Gulf of Aqaba; and further on, in Israel came the holy lands of Jerusalem and Nazareth. While we couldn't get enough of the mouth-watering authentic Middle Eastern cuisine; we couldn't resist going back to the places that stood the passage of time. The beauty of each metamorphosised rock spoke of its history over the passage of time. And while most of the tourists around us had more of a religious-cultural inclination towards their visits, for me the meaning of these travels stood far beyond religious beliefs. They stood for something more spiritual and meaningful, something beyond human imagination and beyond the faith of a godly idol, and definitely beyond just one visit in a lifetime!

We reached Amman when the warmth of the afternoon sun could be felt in the winds of the cold wintry January. And we couldn't wait to explore the historical excellence and nature's art that this city had to offer! So once we had checked into our hotel and rested enough, we took a car on rental and headed out to the city to unravel its magnificence. We started off at the famous Citadel, which is mapped with artifacts dating back more than thousands of years. And the famous Ummayad Palace stood right there, a symbol of the archaic years of the place. But this wasn't just it. The view of the entire downtown (or lower town) was magnificent and to add to this were the Roman remains of the Temple of Hercules and the Byzantine Church. We also took half a day tour to Wadi Rum, to see the marvels of nature's work in the form of beautiful bare mountains resurrected as lunar-like rocks amongst the carved landscape of the desert.While our sighseeing couldn't stop for the next few days of our stay at Amman, nor could our increasing love for middle eastern cuisine. By the end of our trip, we couldn't resist ordering hummus, ara'yes and mansaf as essential parts to completing a full fledged Lebanese and Jordinian feast! And while it was difficult to pick favourite dishes, we couldn't stop going back to the Tourist cafe, the Books@cafe and Wild Jorndan Bar!

Photo of Amman, Amman, Jordan by Anthony

So as we drove out of Amman, past the Wadi Rum, we headed for the Gulf of Aqaba. Splendid view was an understatement. And what followed was the amazing tour of the Aqaba Castle and Museum. Stepping on the cobbled streets, we were surrounded by the age-old ruins of Aqaba. With Arabic culture and its profound history singing to us stories of its past from every corner, every step took us back to the Byzantine Empire and the Sultanate reigns. Another essence of history was stored at the sight of Ayla, where we were fortunate to visit ancient churches and medieval city walls that have stood with the passage of time. By the end of our visit, we spent a more leisure time basking in the sun at Barracuda Beach and enjoying the privilege of water sports, which made for a truly fun-filled experience. And to count it all off, we went sailing on a half-day trip on a cruise across the Guld of Aqaba, as we snorkelled by the setting sun on the sea and relished middle eastern barbecued delights.

Photo of Aqaba, Aqaba, Jordan by Anthony

From Aqaba, we again set off on an amazing jeep tour into the Wadi Rum desert. And as we reached Petra, we knew it was the perfect place for a history-lover like me. As a young boy, I often imitated the adventures of Indiana Jones and now I was breathing amongst the walls that had once stood for the Last Crusade! So without further adieu, we delved our curious and excited foot steps into the carved pink sandstone and soon made our grand entrance, through the winding canyon of Siq, finally to the legendary Al Khazneh (The Treasury). Walking past the stone-resurrected tombs and narrow gorges amidst the rocks that have withheld a metamorphosis with the passage of time. And finally we got lucky for our first glimpse!Marked in every corner by its history of Bedouin culture, yet it reeks of the once effluent Pharaoh's lavish interests. So as we headed out, content with ourselves of the historical essence our trip had brought on, we realised it was just impossible to stay in Petra for just a day. To get the feel of the ruins that shaped history, we decided we'll stay on and explore more. So in the coming days came the Roman Theater and the Royal Tombs and the magnificent show that we are glad we didn't miss- Petra by Night. And with the visit to the Mountain of Aaron, our trip came to an end.

Photo of Petra, Jordan by Anthony

Well everyone asked us that we had been to Amman and Petra and Aqaba, yet hadn't we had enough of the ruins of the past? Well, I'd say no, because what lay in Jerash was something so different that it had its own bar of excellence. Because the history of Jerash dated back to not just the Byzantine or the Roman extravaganza, but to the ruins of early man from the age of the Neoliths. And, we couldn't have been happier standing amidst the ruins dating back to over 6000 years. So we put on our exploring shows and set our curiosity to learn amidst the ruins of Jerash.What marvelled us cannot be measured in any sense; from the Hadrian's Arch to the Cardo, from the city's market at Cardo to the ornate public fountain of Nymphaeum, from the Temple of Artemis to the Jerash Archaeological Museum, there was a lot more than what meets the eye at Jerash!

Photo of Jerash, Jerash, Jordan by Anthony

Most people think visiting Jerusalem is only for the devout Christian. Well, I'd say think again! 'Cuz at this Holy Land, there's so much to explore, so much that's beyond religion, that's beyond any faith, that makes you believe, in just about anything possible!So however much I may describe Jerusalem, it'll still be less. we were marvelled by the archaeological beauty of the city that unravelled before our eyes in amazement as we visited the key religious and historical spots that Jerusalem is known for; from the Garden of Gethsemane to Manger Square and Church of the Nativity (the birthplace of Jesus Christ) to the Western (Wailing) Wall, Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross) to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the Jewish temple to the Dome of Rock; this land is beyond the imagination and religious bindings of man! Because you see there are hardly any places in this world where three major religions find solace at one single point, proving God's will.

Photo of Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel by Anthony

So finally our trip was coming to a near end when we made our last stop over at Nazareth. Reaching after a two-hour long journey from Jerusalem, our adventures in Israel and Jordan would have been incomplete without the visit to Nazareth. Starting at the Basilica of the Annunciation, where we offered our prayers at the holy place of Jesus' birth, we then toured around the largest church in the Middle East. While we marveled at the architectural excellence of the dome of the Basilica from the Roman Catholic reigns, even the relics from the Byzantine and Crusader era left us awe-struck. This was followed by a short walk of pilgrimage, where we took a few steps towards exploring the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, along with St. Joseph's Church, Mary's Well and the Ancient Bath House amongst other religious structures.However, as we moved beyond the realms of Christianity in the city, we we amazed at the diversity of cultural activities that we saw at Diwan El Lajun, which was a multi-cultural center for the Stage Arts.And finally our trip came to an end with a sumptuous Jewish feast amongst the kind locals of Nazareth Village.

Photo of Nazareth, Nazareth, Israel by Anthony