Petra, Jordan: History on the Rocks

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel, canyon, stone

I first went to Petra, Jordan back in 1998 on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheikh at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt.  If you know the lay of the land, that may sound impossible.  Well, not if you take a flight from Sharm-el-Sheikh to Aqaba, Jordan and then hop on a bus.  That’s exactly what I did.  I did not have the luxury of time so it was an either do it on a day trip or not do it.  Since I could not predict the future, I had to go for it to be sure I got to see Petra in case I didn’t get to come back.

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel

Headed to Petra

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Great vistas along the way

Return to Petra

Fast forward 15 years and I return to this necropolis-turned-town-turned-movie-setting-turned-massive-tourist-site.  I was thrilled at the opportunity to return and explore it on more depth.  You see, in my first visit, I decided to walk my way in which is great in many ways but it eats away precious time for someone on a day trip there from Sharm-el-Sheikh.  The second time, while I did walk in, I walked faster knowing time was precious and I rented a donkey to take me up to save time.  That was a great idea except that the donkey preferred the edge of the path on the way up rather than risk hitting itself against the rocks at the other side of the path, making this rider a little bit worried about the way down!

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Donkey in the shade – smart!

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel

Giddy up!

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel

Look Ma, no hands!

Thanks, Nabateans

Petra is amazing due to how it has evolved over time but it was the Nabateans who deserve the credit (after God, of course) for this place.  Certainly, the landscape and topography are thanks to the Maker but what happened after that really starts with the Nabateans who carved a necropolis out of these beautiful rocks.  Others, like the Romans, continued to develop the site to what we know now.

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Some of the tombs around Petra that later peoples used for other purposes – like commerce

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The Romans put Petra to good use

More than the Treasury

You can see evidence of amazing early engineering when you see the channels that were carved into the rock to capture the rare rainfall that rolled down canyon walls and take it into a natural “holding tank.”

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Channel that collected rainwater from the canyon walls and directed to a well

Also impressive are the facades of the tombs built into the rocks such as the Royal Tombs and other areas like the Monastery and the very famous Treasury, which many think to be what the Indiana Jones movie showed.  In reality the Treasury is more of a facade.  Be sure to get a guide who explains to you what you are looking at as the Treasury, for example, shows evidence of how it was carved out of the stone.  And be sure to go all over!

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, donkey, ilivetotravel, Royal Tombs

The Royal Tombs from a distance

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, Royal Tombs

Some of the Royal Tombs

My advice if you are visiting Petra and don’t have but a day or two is to use a donkey for some of the climbs (unless you want or need the exercise) and then walk and explore – this way, you will maximize what you will see from this one-of-a-kind place and there is PLENTY to see and admire about this unique site.

Petra, Jordan, Nabatean, archeology, ruins, history, necropolis, ancient site, exploring, Middle East, travel, photos, Canon EOS Rebel, Treasury, ilivetotravel

My family “came along” with me to Petra!

 

During my second visit to Petra, I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board.  That notwithstanding, the stories I share were my real experiences and nothing else.  As they always are!

Photo of the Week – Color in a Bowl

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While not a big shopper here, sometimes I do stop to take a look at the arts and crafts made in the places I visit – usually hoping that something unusual catches my eye:  either for a purchase or a picture.  During my trip to Jordan I stopped at a store that had plenty to grab my attention.  Here is one of my favorite finds (nope, I did not purchase it; no space!).

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Colorful bowl made in Jordan

Top 16 Memorable Moments from 2013 in Photos

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As I think of 2013, I recall the many neat experiences at home and away.  Looking through my photos is a great way to bring back the memories.  I’d thought I’d share with you some of my most memorable moments from 2013 via photos – some of which have been shared before in other posts and some have not – in no particular order.  Hope you like them!

#1  When I first saw Mt. Kilimanjaro

Not necessarily a great photo from a technique standpoint but pretty “momentous”.  I landed at Kilimanjaro International Airport around midnight.  When I woke up the next day at my hotel, someone told me that if I went outside to the local road, I could see Kilimanjaro, which I was about to climb.  Neat to see it but even neater to run into two little locals on their way to school!  A moment I will always treasure.

Kilimanjaro, schoolchildren, kids, Tanzania, Africa, vista, view, Olympus, travel, photo

#2  At Uhuru Peak in Mt. Kilimanjaro

I have shared a lot of pictures I love through my prior posts about hiking Kilimanjaro (start with the Day 1 summary if you want to see them all!).  So to keep this post manageable, to go along with my first sighting of the mountain in #1, I’d thought I’d then include me by the new sign at Uhuru Peak (the highest point in Mt. Kilimanjaro).  This photo is special as I brought my family along for this once-in-a-lifetime adventure!

Kilimanjaro, hiking, hiker, Uhuru Peak, climbing, Tanzania, Africa, vista, view, Olympus, travel, photo

#3  Ancient ruins

I shared this photo in an earlier post about my visit to Jerash, Jordan but it remains one of my favorite pictures for the year so it deserves inclusion here.  Seeing Jerash – a complete unknown to me until that point – was a great discovery in 2013.

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Beautiful columns in the Temple of Artemis

#4  Monumental Petra

Everyone has seen the same picture of the Treasury in Petra and that is because there is not much space to back away from it.  But there are plenty of other angles to photograph this incredible “carving”.  This is one of my favorites.  I had been to Petra before but seeing how well this photo turned out back at home made me happy!

Jordan, Petra, Treasury, Indiana Jones, ruins, column, architecture, sky, travel, photo, Olympus

#5  Twins?

While touring Jordan, after a long day at Petra, the group went out for dinner.  Yes, we were all a little tired.  One of our fellow travelers pointed out how our guide and I were not only dressed alike but were in the same pose – and snap! the picture was taken.  We were laughing when we realized this was all true and the photo captured that moment so well!

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#6  Kid in Mt. Nebo

Exploring Jordan was incredible:  lots of history, incredible nature, etc.  But the people is what really made the difference:  warm and friendly and the smile on this kid’s face captures well how we were made to feel welcome by everyone.

Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, photo, child, Canon EOS Rebel#7  Food, food, food

I summarized my year in food and drinks in an earlier post but this plate deserves inclusion here.  It is from a lunch I had in Mardaba, Jordan but I’ve enjoyed great food this year from Manila to Miami, from Jordan to Minneapolis, from Washington, D.C. to Mt. Kilimanjaro!  Oh, and don’t forget Tampa and Atlanta!

food, Jordan, travel, photo#8  DragonCon’s parade in Atlanta

DragonCon is an interesting event held in Atlanta every year.  I went with friends to see the parade and enjoyed seeing all the characters that walked along.  This is one of my favorite pictures from that parade (others here).

DragonCon, Dragon, Atlanta, parade, conference, convention, science fiction, fantasy, Canon EOS Rebel

#9, 10 and 11  Africa and the great outdoors!

In addition to hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, my Tanzania experience included doing a safari the right way (4 days, not just a one drive in-and-out as I had done a few years before due to limited time while on a business trip).  These images capture well my favorite moments from that experience!

elephants, acacia, tree, shade, Serengeti, Tanzania, Africa, Olympus, travel, adventure, photo, safariElephant, sunset, skies, clouds, Africa, Serengeti, Tanzania, travel, safari, photo, OlympusSunset, tree, birds, blue, sky, dark cloud, safari, travel, photo, Olympus, Serengeti, memorable

#12  An amazing construction scene

Driving around the neighborhood next to mine in Atlanta, I ran into this scene!  What an incredible sight.  The house was being lifted so it can sit higher on the ground due to being in a flood plain.

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 #13  Stormy sky in Atlanta

My hometown provided another of the most memorable photos I took on 2013:  stormy skies over Buckhead.

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#14 and 15  Pictures of this traveler

During my trip to Jordan, a few pictures of me were taken by fellow travelers.  I like these two (which clearly were taken on the same day…) in particular because they show how happy I was at the time.  The second one has me with my faithful companion:  no, not the donkey but my camera!

traveler, explorer, Jordan, photo, travel, adventuretraveler, explorer, Jordan, photo, travel, adventure, donkey, ride, Petra, camera, Canon EOS Rebel

#16  Sunset over the Dead Sea with a couple of love birds

To close this post, I will re-share one of my favorite photos ever from 2013 taken by me as the sun set over the Dead Sea from our hotel in Jordan (the Movenpick resort – awesome).  I was lucky these two birds were waiting for me on that palm tree to capture the moment!

sunset, Jordan, Dead Sea, birds, palm tree, golden, travel, photo, Olympus

Is this a sunset scene or what??!!

I hope 2014 brings you many memorable moments, whether you capture them on a photo or not!

 

2013: Oh, The Places I Stayed At

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OK, ending with a preposition is not proper but to make it sound Dr. Seuss-ish I hardly could have made it “Oh, the places at which I stayed.”

In any case, I shared my year in food and beverages in an earlier post.  But 2013 was also a good year in terms of exploring places to stay.  Here are the highlights of my year in accommodations!

Moshi, Tanzania

While in Moshi working with the Kili Centre orphanage, we stayed at two different hotels:  one before climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro and one after.  Each is special for different reasons.

The Honey Badger Lodge had a great feel in the grounds and other public areas (bar and pool area) as well as spacious rooms / cabanas.  The owners and staff were incredible.  It was amazing to be greeted by the friendly wait staff by name every day!

Honey Badger Lodge,Moshi, Tanzania, Kilimanjaro, lodging, hotel, travel, photo, Olympus

Notice the monkey out for a walk in the beautiful gardens of the Honey Badger Lodge

After coming down from the mountain, we went to the Springlands Hotel.  This place was special because it is where we got to celebrate our success in climbing the mountain (100% of our group of 16 summitted!).

Springlands Hotel, Moshi, Tanzania, Kilimanjaro, lodging, hotel, travel, photo, Olympus

The ground of the Springlands Hotel

Mt. Kilimanjaro

One of the biggest pulls on me to consider doing Kili again are some of the great views afforded by some of the camps in which we stayed.  Shira Camp on day 2 and Karanga Camp on day 4 were just stunning for me.  Tell me what you think!

Shira Camp, Kilimanjaro, Uhuru, cimbing, hiking, photo, beauty, Olympus, Africa, Tanzania

Shira Camp with the summit and a nice set of clouds behind it

Karanga Camp, Kilimanjaro, Uhuru, cimbing, hiking, photo, beauty, Olympus, Africa, Tanzania

Looking at the top of Kili from Karanga Camp

Washington, D.C.

I stayed at a few different hotels over my two years of constant travel up there for work.  The Mayflower definitely was my number one choice though some of that is because it was the closest one to work.

Mayflower, hotel, Washington, DC, hotel, lodging, travel, photo, architecture, historical, Olympus

The newly renovated lobby and new restaurant bar: Edgar. A place I enjoyed hanging out at

Mayflower, hotel, Washington, DC, hotel, lodging, travel, photo, architecture, historical, Olympus

Elegant main corridor by the ballrooms

Mayflower, hotel, Washington, DC, hotel, lodging, travel, photo, architecture, historical, Olympus

Rooms were spacious and with the right amount of furnishings – not overdone

The Sofitel D.C. was not usually in range of my approved budget but even if I did not get to stay there, I loved trying the specialty cocktails of Le Bar.  I got to check out the W Hotel, right near The White House.  Though the room’s window did not close properly and it took a while to resolve the situation, the hotel was gracious in making it up to me.  It was a nice touch.  I love the modernity of the rooms (as with any Ws) and the great view from the room I finally got settled into!

W Hotel, Washington, D.C., lodging, accommodations, travel, photo, Olympus

View towards the Dept of Treasury (right) looking towards the south lawn of The White House

W Hotel, Washington, D.C., lodging, accommodations, travel, photo, Olympus

Great lines and furnishings in the room. And the translucent shower wall.

Other mainstays of my time there were the Renaissance on 9th St NW, near Chinatown, and the Renaissance in New Hampshire.  Of the former, I really liked the lobby, a space where I would happily sit for happy hour or a Friday night out with friends.  It also had the nicest executive lounge in the U.S. properties of hotels affiliated with Marriott.  Of the latter, I loved its location: closer to Georgetown, right by residential areas, walking distance from the Kennedy Center, and easy access to running trails without having to deal with too many street crossings and heavy traffic.  Also, very close to Dupont Circle which was nice in terms of having a broad range of dining options – and watching the unique character of the area!

Jordan

In Jordan we stayed all over the country and in many different types of accommodations.  I wrote specifically about all these different type of accommodations experienced here so I will not duplicate here what I have already shared (but do check that post out!).  However, I will share here more about the Six Senses Spa where we stayed two nights because I don’t feel I shared how unique a place this is, in the middle of nowhere (it feels), nestled in a narrow canyon that hosts the hot springs the place is known for.

spa, Jordan, Six Senses, Evanson, hot springs, travel, relaxation, photo

The lower hot springs are behind the building on the picture (taken from the hotel)

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Looking at the hotel from the entrance to the area

While management’s attention to the guest needed a little bit of polishing, the staff itself made every effort possible to deliver a great experience.  The rooms’ use of wood panels instead of curtains on the balconies’ doors was very unique and provided a warmth to the room that I really liked.  But take a look at the spa area from behind the falls!

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The public hot springs

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From behind the waterfall in the public hot springs

Manila, The Philippines

In my short trip to Manila, I stayed at two hotels, The Bayleaf Hotel and The Manila Marriott.  I wrote previously about how the former provided the best location to explore the Intramuros district of Manila whereas the latter was a paradise of relaxation. While The Bayleaf had less glamour than the Manila Marriott, its convenience to learn about Manila’s history was great.  Both shone because of the incredible attention to service and the customer by their staffs.

Minneapolis

While visiting Minneapolis, I stayed at The Hotel Minneapolis, from Marriott’s Autograph Collection.  It was my first time trying a property from the Autograph Collection so I was curious how it would be.   I really liked its spacious lobby and its location, close to the river, the theater district, and the business district. I walked everywhere downtown from the hotel.  The rooms, though not huge, were well-enough sized.  The building dates from the earlier 20th century when it was built as a bank.  I was really impressed by how cleverly the time and function of the building were tapped and applied to create great public spaces in the hotel.  If I were there on a business trip, I would definitely enjoy lounging in the lobby spaces after working hours.  The friendliness of the staff topped off what was a great stay.

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The lobby is a comfortable space to lounge around after work or during a weekend stay

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Some original details of the bank, like this vault, are preserved

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Bar design takes advantage of the original architectural details

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High ceilings and marble columns add a lot of character to the lobby spaces

Hope everyone has a great holidays and I wish you the best in 2014!

I was hosted at the Jordan, Minneapolis and Manila hotels.  All opinions are my own based on my experiences and observations.

The Walls of the Wadi Mujib

Wadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, colors, travel, photo, Olympus

The Wadi Mujib in Jordan is a fun place because you get to explore a gully (“wadi”) in which water is flowing.  The first part of the Wadi is maybe ankle deep or a little higher in some places so pretty easy and fun (though I kept worrying I would drop my camera in the water!).  It is also a refreshing way to spend part of the day as you are generally out of the sun and the water feels good!

Wadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, colors, travel, photo, Olympus

The entrance to the wadi

Wadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, colors, travel, photo, OlympusWadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, colors, travel, photo, OlympusWadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, colors, travel, photo, Olympus

My favorite part of exploring the Wadi Mujib is to see those colorful walls up close.  I walked with no rush and soaked in the view all around me.  For the more intrepid, go deeper into the canyon where a true adventure awaits (don’t bring your camera unless it is waterproof!).Wadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, colors, travel, photo, Olympus Wadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, colors, travel, photo, Olympus Wadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, colors, travel, photo, Olympus Wadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, colors, travel, photo, Olympus

And if you are tired of walking, just ride your way out!Wadi Mujib, Jordan, outdoors, adventure, fun, Middle East, travel, photo, Olympus

If you go to Jordan, don’t miss this neat outdoor experience!

“Moses Wuz Here” – Mt. Nebo, Jordan

Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, photo, child, Canon EOS Rebel

Show me the way to the Promised Land, said Moses

Mt. Nebo is located on what seems to be an area north of the Dead Sea that sits high on a ridge and, according to the Bible, is the place where Moses was allowed to see the Promised Land he would never enter (after guiding his people out of Egypt for 40 years!).

Moses, Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Moses, I suppose

Mt. Nebo, Jordan, Moses, Promised Land, Holy Land, religion, archeology, history, sign, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Today, without Moses around, this sign does the job of pointing to the Promised Land

Mt. Nebo overlooks the valley of the River Jordan and one can glimpse Jericho and Jerusalem to the west on a good day.  The site was visited by Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI at some point giving the site an added level of credibility if you will, as a site of religious importance.

Moses, Mt. Nebo, Jordan, archeology, history, religion, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Welcome to Mt. Nebo!

It is also claimed Moses is buried there but there is no conclusive evidence (as conclusive as one may expect a few thousand years later…).  Whether any of this interests you or not, the views of the valley below are certainly worth it.

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Some of the view

The visit

There was a small temporary-looking exhibit at the site showing some of the beautiful mosaics of the remains of a church found in the first half of the 20th century on Mt. Nebo.  It really makes you ponder the history of the place and the area and all the events it has witnessed over time.

Mount Nebo, Jordan, mosaic, Moses, history, religion, archeology, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Part of the mosaics

Mount Nebo, Jordan, mosaic, Moses, history, religion, archeology, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Color manages to survive close to two millenia

Mount Nebo, Jordan, mosaic, Moses, history, religion, archeology, photo, Canon EOS Rebel

Up close and personal

The place is crowded with tourists of all ages and that takes away for sure from the importance of the place.  Perhaps some construction during the time of my visit contributed to the small chaos, though there were moments when I was glad there was chaos and a crowd…

Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, photo, children, Canon EOS Rebel

Young Mt. Nebo visitors

Mt. Nebo, Jordan, tourism, photo, child, Canon EOS Rebel

Another schoolkid visiting the site

I was patient, though, and I was rewarded when the key spot where Moses stood cleared up for a good 5 minute and I was able to soak it all in better during that pause in the visitors.

Let ME show you the Promised Land

So, in case you have not been there, allow me show you the Promised Land!

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“Over yonder!” says this modern-day Moses-wanna-be

 

During this trip, I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board.  That notwithstanding, the stories I share were my real experiences and nothing else.  As they always are!

From Suite to Tent: What Made Accommodations Memorable in Jordan

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Throughout all my travels, I have experienced different types of accommodations.  A rented apartment in Tuscany, Krakow, Paris and SofiaNo-frills basic hotels in Stone Town, Moshi, Aswan and Brasov.  Bed & breakfasts in Sonoma, the Dordogne, and Tavistock.  Middle-of-the-road hotels in Reston, Stellenbosch and Venice.  Top-of-the-line in Santiago de Chile, Mykonos, Boca Raton, and Washington D.C.  And a camping tent in Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The type of place I stay at is not happenstance – though staying at a youth hostel in my very late 30s in Oslo was due to no hotels being available for my business trip…  quite the experience!   I select the type of place I stay at based on many factors, such as:

  • am I going solo or with others
  • nature of the trip (business or personal)
  • am I staying in one place for the most part or roaming
  • what I want to spend,
  • what am I looking to experience in this vacation (I may only need a bed or I may want to enjoy a royal experience in my lodging).

But seldom do I experience many types of lodging in one trip.  And that’s exactly what I did in my recent trip to Jordan.  My trip to Jordan confirmed for me that that special something is what makes accommodations truly enjoyable and memorable (which is just as important as enjoying them at the moment!) regardless of the type of accommodation.

Here are the places I stayed at and why they each became as memorable a part of my trip as the many of the sights and sites I got to see in awesome Jordan.

Standard nice hotel

I got to continue my Marriott stays quite accidentally (as I did not have a hand in choosing this time), in both Amman and Petra.  Marriotts give you that standard feel that provides continuity for the very frequent traveler who moves around towns and hotels.  I can count on standard amenities, service and comfort in these.

The Amman Marriott first surprises because it feels like it is in the middle of a neighborhood.  Then you have to go through security – and odd thing but one that I am sure they do to keep me safe and unconcerned.  I felt both.  The restaurant offers a great breakfast buffet.  The outdoor pool area is spacious enough but there is ALSO an indoor pool and and jacuzzi so something for everyone’s water preferences.  The hallways in the room floors feel very luxurious and the rooms are nicer than the regular Marriott I have experienced and I separate this from the room I actually got which was an upgrade due to my Platinum Elite status with the chain:  I got quite a nice suite!!!

Marriott Amman Jordan lobby photo Canon EOS Rebel

Amman Marriott: A great lobby to hang out and read your paper

The Petra Marriott is a smaller hotel than the one in Amman – but what it lacks in size (no executive lounge, for example) it makes up for in the view.  The hotel faces the mountains around Petra from a high vantage point which makes it a great place to watch sunset as well!  The breakfast buffet was also smaller when compared to the Amman one and the staff not as “going out of their way” but it was still a good breakfast.

Lobby of Petra Marriott in Jordan

Lobby area

Atrium in the Petra Marriott in Jordan Olympus

Atrium

Beautiful sunset looking towards the mountains by Petra

Sunset view towards Petra and the hotel’s pool area

Clearly the view from the Petra Marriott made it most memorable but that feeling of arriving at a “second home”-type of place was also pretty darn cool.

Roughing it in a camp

One night we actually “roughed” it at Camp Rummana in the Dana Biosphere Reserve where one can see nature at its best is this part of Jordan.  I put rough in quote because, though sleeping in a tent and using a common bathroom facility are not high-styling it, these tents beat the tent I slept in while climbing Kilimanjaro for sure.  The tents were spacious and they had mattresses on the ground.  There was a common bathroom facility (a hike away if you woke up in the middle of the night and “had to go”) with showers and also a dining area where we had our meals.  Closer to the sleeping tents, was a set of large tents to hang out after dinner before bedtime – true to the Bedouin way.

Inside of a tent in Camp Rummana in the Dana Biosphere Reserve Olympus

A mattress and the basics

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The sleeping tent area of the Rummana camp

Dining area in Camp Rummana in Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan

The dining area. No, he is not a giant.

Nothing like being so close to nature to make a place memorable and the Rummana Camp definitely connected me with the great setting.

An ecolodge

After the hike through the Dana-Feynan canyon, we arrived exhausted at the Feynan Ecolodge, right in the heart of the Dana Biosphere Reserve.  It has been rated one of the world’s top 50 ecolodges by National Geographic’s Adventure magazine. A partnership between the Royal Conservation Society of Jordan and EcoHotels, this lodge seeks to fit in not only with the terrain but also by respecting the local traditions and culture and providing the opportunity for an economic livelihood for the locals of the area.  There is a LOT that is done right by this ecolodge, so remote from main roads and anything urban yet surrounded by some incredible landscapes and skies as well as by the welcoming Bedouins of the area.

Feynan ecolodge, Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan, desert, lodge Olympus

The ecolodge as one approaches it – unassuming!

Feynan is an ecolodge which means little or no electricity available (you can re-charge your device on one of two power outlets in the lobby) which is tough but, at the same time, we are too connected some times so maybe this is a good break?  It also means it only offers vegetarian fare as meat would require refrigeration.  But the food was delicious and quite diverse much to my surprise!  The rooms are very nice; no frills but nice.  Each has its own bathroom.  Oh and water is free – straight from a mineral spring so it is safe to drink!  Now, if it is a hot time of the year, know that the rooms have no fans or A/C (of course) – but you are here for the adventure, right?  Finally, it also has a rooftop telescope – a great place to explore the skies at night.

Room at Feynan Ecolodge in Jordan's Dana Biosphere Reserve Olympus

Room at the ecolodge

Earthen jar or pitcher in the Feynan Ecolodge - mineral watier

Earthen pitcher of mineral water awaits in the room

The ability to get close to the locals without being taken to a “shop” definitely made the Feynan Ecolodge quite memorable to me as was the interesting sunset I got to watch.

A place with an experience

After exploring the Wadi Rum by pick-up truck well into the evening, we arrived at a Captain’s Desert Private Camp to spend the night.  But it was not just to have dinner and spend the night.  There was to be music and more of a soirée experience.  The tents were different than the Rummana Camp‘s but no worse, no better.  There was a nice area to have dinner and hang out, and, in fact, some folks opted to sleep there under the stars.  What was really cool about this place was that it was nested in canyon walls and it was beautiful in the morning.

Captain desert camp in the Wadi Rum, Jordan

Tents in Captain’s Desert Camp

Captain desert camp in the Wadi Rum, Jordan

Hanging out at the camp

The Bedouin experience and the setting made the Captain’s Desert Camp quite a memorable place to stay.  I wish I had been feeling 100% that night to enjoy it more!

A hideaway

We got to stay at this hideaway two times each for one night.  The Evason Ma’in Six Senses hotel may have some details to work out, mainly in its managerial/front office efforts, but the place is in an idyllic and very secluded setting.  Further, it provides great comfort in its rooms, offers great views, and is around hot springs that offer great relaxation.

Room at the Evason Ma'in Six Senses hotel in Jordan

Room. Really like the wooden shutter doors and spacious comfort

Lobby of the Evason Ma'in Six Senses hotel in Jordan

Lobby area

Lobby of the Evason Ma'in Six Senses hotel in Jordan

Detail of the lobby area

The uniqueness of the setting and the proximity and relative isolation of the hot springs as well as the inviting rooms made this place a memorable part of my trip.

And the “living-it-up” resort

My last night in Jordan was by the Dead Sea, where great resorts are located.  I stayed at the Mövenpick, a 5-star resort with a great view, a great offering in terms of food and fun, and an interesting design whether in architectural details or in the concept itself.

Movepick resort Dead Sea Jordan luxury comfort

Incredible details in the decorations at the main entrance

The room was not as luxurious as I would have expected but it was comfortable and spacious for sure.

 

The hotel grounds had several pools including one only for adults (closest to the Dead Sea).

Pools Movenpick hotel resort Dead Sea Jordan Olympus

One of the all-ages pool overlooking the Dead Sea

The main hotel building had many different areas to lounge in with very nice decorations and details.  The restaurant was outstanding in the diversity and quality of the buffet it offered for dinner and breakfast.

Room at Movenpick resort Dead Sea Jordan Olympus

Room

Lounge Movenpick resort by the Dead Sea in Jordan Olympus

One of the many sitting areas

At night there was an area that offered music and belly dancing without the corniness typically associated with belly dancing in the U.S. (where there HAS to be audience participation); you could just really appreciate the art form here without worrying you were going to be called upon to make a fool of yourself…

Movenpick Dead Sea Jordan resort outdoor Olympus

Outdoor area for drinks and entertainment in the evening

What made this place the most memorable was the amazing sunset I got to live through and watch…

Sunset Dead Sea pool Movenpick resort Jordan amazing awesome infinity Olympus photo

The lowest of the pools, closest to the Dead Sea during a GREAT sunset

Glorious, eh?

Sunset Dead Sea birds tree Jordan Canon EOS Rebel, photo

Is this a sunset scene or what??!!

Nuff said!

 

During this trip, I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board.  That notwithstanding, the stories I share were my real experiences and nothing else.  As they always are!

Ancient Roman Ruins That Are Alive Today in Jerash, Jordan

Columns, temple, artemis, jerash, jordan, history, roman ruins, travel, photo

Yes, Jordan is more than Petra and if you have read some of my other posts on what I saw in Jordan, you are aware of that. But when it comes to historical sites of significance, it is worth noting that Jerash, in northwestern Jordan is quite important a historical place on its own right even if overshadowed by the more famous Petra.  However, Jerash struck me not only for its historical significance but also because it was ALIVE!!!

Jerash – the ancient Greco-Roman city

Before I tell you how it is alive, let’s explore the historical and architectural gem Jerash is.  Jerash (known as Gerasa in older times) was a city built originally in Greco-Roman times (estimated to have been established in the 4th century BC) and which, after a large earthquake in the 8th century and further destruction brought about by other earthquakes and wars, became a footnote of history until it was begun to be excavated in the early 19th century.  Even Emperor Hadrian himself visited Jerash in his days and there is a triumphal arch commemorating that visit.

Arch Hadrian Roman ruin Jordan Jerash history Canon EOS Rebel

Arch of Hadrian built to honor his visit
Arch Hadrian Roman ruins history Jerash Gerasa Jordan Canon EOS Rebel
Detail of the Arch of Hadrian

Among the many sites in Jerash to explore are the Forum, temples to Zeus and Artemis, the Cardo Maximus (column-lined road), the North and South theaters and many other ruins.
FOrum Roman rins Jerash Jordan history
View of the Forum at Jerash
Forum Roman ruins colonnade columns Jerash Jordan History Canon EOS Rebel
Detail of the colonnade of the Forum
Mosaic Roman ruins Byzantine church Jerash Jordan art design Canon EOS Rebel

Mosaic floor of one of the 3 contiguous Byzantine churches on the site

Cardo Maximus Roman Ruins Colonnade Columns history Jerash Jordan Canon EOS Rebel
Visitors walking down the Cardo Maximus, the north-south colonnaded street

Fallen column Roman ruin history Jerash Jordan Canon EOS Rebel

Jerash’s ruins did not survive powerful earthquakes and other ravages as this reminds us

Columns temple artemis jerash jordan history roman ruins

Beautiful columns in the Temple of Artemis

The place is alive

Oh, you think I am talking figuratively, aren’t you??  There is a column in the Temple of Artemis that is actually moving.  You can place your hand at its base and you will feel it moving.  Yes, indeed!  But that is not quite what I mean when I say Jerash is alive…

Moving column temple artemis Jerash Jordan Roan ruins

I hesitated for a second putting my hand in there. I let someone else go first…

There were also vegetation around (this being the greener part of Jordan) like the following which also contributes to making Jerash a site that is “alive”.  But that’s still not what I mean…

Fig tree in Jerash, Jordan Roman ruins Canon EOS Rebel

Fig tree along the path

But what I really meant about Jerash being alive was neither of the prior two photos.  The day we visited there were several groups of schoolchildren visiting and they enjoyed chanting in the large Roman theater – almost like competing to see who had the best chants – and running up the stands.

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

Children enjoying and LIVING the ruins!

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

Children enjoying and LIVING the ruins!

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

Children climbing the stands of the theater

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

Jerash Jordan children Roman theater Canon EOS Rebel

The smile so typical of every kid we ran into! A happy memory for us all

Though these ancient ruins were some of the most impressive I have seem, it was great to see a historic place so alive that day – it helped me connect more to the essence of Jordan via its children!

 

During this trip, I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board.  That notwithstanding, the stories I share were my real experiences and nothing else.  As they always are!

Got History? Amman Does!

The Roman Theater in Amman, Jordan viewed from The Citadel

Coming to Amman for the first time, I was curious as to what the city would feel like.  Surely, there would be some good restaurants (all cities have them!) and some nationally important buildings or monuments worth visiting (and photographing!).  I have been to Cairo, close to Amman in many ways beyond distance, and Istanbul which, though not Arab, shared the Ottoman Empire with Amman and other places in the Middle East.  But I figured with Amman being smaller and being in a smaller country would likely feel different.  It was.  Starting with its scale but also in the pace it seemed to have.  It felt more livable, relaxed and manageable.

A Wealth of History in Amman

In terms of scale, while it does not have structures that compare with the Hagia Sophia or the Pyramids of Giza (how many places do??), the depth of the historical “record” it has on evidence took me by surprise.  And I like this type of surprises!

I am a history buff but I am more informed about some places than others.  About Jordan, I knew how the country came out of colonial rule in the 20th century, I knew Petra and its history, and had some notion of the Arab Revolution in which Lawrence of Arabia had a hand (thanks Hollywood).  Amman surprised me by the incredible record of civilizations past that it holds and here is some of what I discovered in my visit to the capital of the Hashemite Kingdom.  One of those things is that it is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places town in the world!

The Citadel of Amman

The Citadel is a great example of the amazing historical record available for the visitor to Jordan.  The Citadel not only has amazing ruins to visit and a great small museum but it offers amazing views of the city that surrounds it, all hills!

Amman city view flagpole flag Jordan hills photo Canon EOS Rebel

A city of hills with the massive Raghadan flagpole in the background (3rd tallest free-standing in the world)

As the visitor is reminded by the signage, there has been settlements in current day Amman since thousands of years before Christ past the Bronze and Iron Ages through Persian, Greek, Nabatean, Roman and Byzantine periods.  It also has navigated through various names.  Rammath-Ammon is one of the oldest but did you know the city was also named Philadelphia in ancient times?  Yep, it was.

Among the ruins I explored at The Citadel were the ruins of a Byzantine Church and the Temple of Hercules.

Citadel Amman Jordan Roman ruins columns Canon EOS Rebel

Some of the Roman ruins in The Citadel

temple hercules roman statue, big hand, citadel amman jordan canon eos rebel

The Temple of Hercules as backdrop to the hand of a colossal Roman statue that once stood at The Citadel

Roman Colossus Statue Hand at the citadel in amman jordan canon eos rebel

Close-up of the big ole hand!

A key site at The Citadel is the Umayyad Governor’s Palace from the 8th century built on old Roman ruins.  The Umayyad was a dynasty that ruled Amman for a few centuries but who ruled, at its peak, a vast caliphate from modern-day Pakistan to Spain.  Who knew, right?  Not covered in my ancient history class in high school…

Umayyad Palace Citadel amman jordan dome ruin Canon EOS Rebel

Umayyad Palace

Dome blue sky Umayyad Governor Palace citadel amman jordan Canon EOS Rebel

Detail of the palace’s dome

Umayyad governor palace amman jordan flag architecture detail Canon EOS Rebel

Detail of the exterior of the Umayyad Palace

"Architectural detail" amman jordan umayyad governor palace citadel Canon EOS Rebe,

Detail of the interior of the central room of the palace

"Architectural detail" Umayyad Palace in the Citadel architecture amman jordan Canon EOS Rebel

Detail of the central room at the Umayyad Palace at The Citadel in Amman, Jordan

Ruins Umayyad Mosque palace The Citadel Amman, Jordan Canon EOS Rebel

Ruins from the old Umayyad Mosque by the palace

Artifacts from The Citadel's archeology museum Amman Jordan Canon EOS Rebel

Artifacts from The Citadel’s archeology museum

Archeology museum artifacts Canon EOS Rebel

Artifacts from The Citadel’s archeology museum

The Roman Theater

Amman also has a Roman Theater built in the mid 2nd century A.D. by Emperor Antonius Pius.  It is in the middle of Amman and is a popular place for local young adults to go visit, if my time there was any indication!  Some in my group struck good conversations with locals whilst some of us climbed all over taking pictures!

The Roman Theater in Amman, Jordan viewed from The Citadel Canon EOS Rebel

The Roman Theater viewed from The Citadel

The Roman Theater in Amman, Jordan

Approaching the entrance to the Roman Theater

The Roman Theater in Amman, Jordan Canon EOS Rebel ruins

Detail of the front of the theater’s stage

Roman Theater Amman Jordan modern spectator ruins Canon EOS Rebel

Is that a Roman spectator still hanging around??

As you can see, Amman has some incredible testimonials to ancient history in The Citadel and the Roman Theater.  Petra, Jerash and Mardaba are example of other great places to witness history and will be the topic of a future post – stay tuned!!

Camping and Dining under the Stars in the Wadi Rum

Shisha hookah pipe Bedouin "wadi rum" jordan desert

I wrote earlier about exploring the Wadi Rum and how much fun it was to ride around in the back of a pickup truck and admire the magnificence of the landscape of this unique desert.  What made that day even better was how it ended that evening.

We stayed at a Captain’s Desert Camp camp, I am not really sure where in the Wadi Rum, somewhere surrounded by the giant rock formations typical of the Wadi Rum, if that helps any…  The camp was mostly candle-lit at night and the night consisted of enjoying our dinner outdoors, listening to Bedouin music, some dancing, and a lot of star-gazing up above.  It was a wonderful experience.

The tents were spacious and just had the beds – nothing fancy.  The camp had bathroom and shower facilities that, though basic, were not too basic (says he who went a week without showering going up Kilimanjaro…).

In any case, it was the evening activities under the stars that made the night so memorable for me.  The night started with music and Bedouin bread-(“shrak“) making.

We got to sample the shrak right then as the food was still cooking…  In the meantime, we enjoyed listening to local music and shisha (hookah) pipes were also brought out for folks to enjoy.

Bedouin music guitar desert camp "Wadi Rum" Jordan Canon EOS Rebel

Bedouin music players (see short video below for a 20sec sample of the music)

Shisha hookah pipe Bedouin "wadi rum" jordan desert Canon EOS Rebel

One of the locals enjoying the shisha pipe

Then it came time to get the food out:  the meats and vegetables were cooked covered up and underground.

Bedouin "Wadi Rum" Jodan food cooking underground oven Canon EOS Rebel

1.  Beginning to uncover the underground “oven”

Bedouin food cooking Jordan "Wadi Rum" underground oven

2.  All the coverings removed, there is the hole…

Bedouin food Jordan "Wadi Rum" meats vegetables

3.  The goods being pulled out

Bedouin food chicken eggplant potato "Wadi Rum" Jordan desert camp

4.  The final delicious product: chicken, potatoes, eggplant, etc. – mmm!!!

"Wadi Rum" desert captain camp dining area food adventure outdoors Jordan

The seating area for dinner – comfy!

No pictures of dinner itself as this traveler was starving and eating -not my blogging- became the focus.  My apologies 🙂

I close with a picture from the next morning of the comfy area (with its great backdrop) where we had listened to the music by the campfire and had enjoyed our dinner under stars in the amazing Wadi Rum – an experience not to be missed during a trip to Jordan!

Bedouin desert camp captain Jordan "Wadi Rum" divan Olympus

The dining area turned sleeping area for outdoor lovers

Following the Footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia in Jordan’s Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum visitor center Seven Pillars Wisdom

Well, I assume I did follow some of his/his camel’s footsteps in the Wadi Rum in my recent trip to Jordan.  My visit to the Wadi Rum was an amazing experience as I had never had been in such a landscape before.  In an earlier post, I shared how I found color everywhere I went in Jordan.  It is now time to focus on one of the places I explored during my trip.

The visit began at the well-set-up Visitor Center which has great information, a surprisingly good restaurant and an excellent view of the rock/mountain Lawrence himself called the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a reference from the Book of Proverbs.

Wadi Rum visitor center Seven Pillars Wisdom

Entering the Visitor Center, one immediately is rewarded by a view of the Seven Pillars!

T.E. Lawrence, his real name, became involved in the Arab Revolt in the late 1910s when the Arab peoples were revolting against the Ottoman Empire.  Lawrence fell in love with the Wadi Rum area and now I can understand why.  I hope sharing this adventure will also do the same for you and that you get inspired to see it in person some day!

Spending the afternoon exploring the Wadi Rum desert

We left the Visitor Center to find the vehicles that would take the group to explore the Wadi Rum well into the evening, prior to arriving at the Captain’s Camp where we would spend the night (and I will write about this in another post coming up soon).

Transportation Wadi Rum desert Jordan

Off we went in these pick up truck -type vehicles!

Soon we got deep in the incredible mountains/rocks formations characteristic of the Wadi Rum as well as have fun running up dunes and actually witnessing a rare rainstorm in the area (mercifully not over us!)

Sand dune in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan outdoors adventure exploring travel

Sand dune soon to be “hit” by us visitors!

Typical vista or panorama of Wadi Rum desert in Jordan outdoors adventure

Note the Bedouin camp

Iconic landscape Wadi Rum rock formations, desert in Jordan outdoors nature adventure Canon EOS Rebel

Typical / iconic landscape the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan is known for

Amazing rock formations and colors in the Wadi Rum desert Jordan nature adventure outdoors Lawrence

Amazing rock formations and colors in the Wadi Rum!

Barrah Siq Wadi Rum Jordan Lawrence Arabia Bedouin history revolt desert outdoors nature adventure

Barrah Siq where the large rock in the bottom has a carving of Lawrence of Arabia; alongside a Bedouin camp

carving Lawrence of Arabia's face in Barrah Siq Wadi Rum Jordan desert outdoors Olympus

Close-up of the carving of Lawrence of Arabia’s face in Barrah Siq

Canyon siq "wadi rum" desert jordan camel sand travel photo outdoors adventure Olympus

This photo offers a better sense of the scale of the place

 

Rain storm Wadi Rum desert Jordan outdoors unusual travel nature adventure Olympus

The rare rainstorm in the distance – even lightning!

And then dusk began in the desert!

I thought we’d be done exploring as soon as it started getting dark and, while that was close to reality, we still got to enjoy dusk driving around – which made me appreciate the Wadi Rum in a different light, so to speak.

Dusk sunset "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan sky outdoors nature  Olympustravel

Sunset begins…

The magical sky at sunset "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan travel outdoors Olympus photo

The magical sky at sunset

Sunset "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan sky cloud light outdoors nature adventure travel photo Olympus

The clouds played nicely in the sunset scene

"Wadi Rum" sunset night light desert Jordan travel photo

The ride is getting closer to ending as the lights come on. Still a beautiful backdrop!

And the method of exploring changes the next morning!

Camel "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan exploration outdoors adventure wild photo travel

Our ride the next morning: Wadi Rum camels!

Riding camels "Wadi Rum" desert Jordan outdoors adventure travel photo

Riding camels! Yours truly in the blue shirt (via J. Festa – thanks!)

And to finish this, a shot taken by a fellow traveler about ilivetotravel in action!

Photographer ilivetotravel "Wadi Rum" Jordan travel adventure outdoors photo

Notice the tarp covering the back of our pick-up truck. And me so focused… (again, thanks J. Festa!)

 

During this trip, I was a guest of the Jordan Tourism Board.  That notwithstanding, the stories I share were my real experiences and nothing else.  As they always are!

Photo Essay – Colors of Jordan

Desert road Jordan

Before my trip to Jordan, I had this mental image that Jordan was mostly a desert. I knew Jordan faced the Gulf of Aqaba and the Dead Sea and I recalled from my quick visit to Petra (on a day trip from Sharm-el-Sheikh, Egypt), that Petra would have some reddish color to it. But it’s like, if I thought how Jordan would look like, I would have said “fairly mono-chromatic”.

OK, I exaggerate a little.  But the range of vivid colors I encountered during my visit became quite apparent once I was home walking through each of the 3,000+ pictures I took during my 9 days there (yes, quite a few were duplicates as I tried different settings and angles for a given “scene”; so far I am down to around 2,000).  What I found out is that that desert color was a perfect background for all the others colors to pop.  And pop they did!

So, I have decided to share where I found color that caught my eye that will, hopefully, give you a glimpse into Jordan!  When you are done, I would love to hear back from you on which of these photos you like the most (photos are numbered for ease of reference!).

I found color in the landscapes in Jordan…

Much as I had experienced back in 1998, I got to see the colors typically associated with deserts.  But on this trip, I also saw the color of canyons and gorges.  White, sand, red – all colors represented in the landscape around me as I hope the following pictures show…

Desert road Jordan

1. On the way to Mt. Nebo from Mardaba – sand color everywhere except the asphalt

Sand dune Wadi Rum Jordan

2. Shifting sands in the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan

Wadi between Dana and Feynan, Jordan Olympus

3. Canyon we hiked through from Dana to Feynan – great mix of white and red with specks of green on the mountains around us

Canyon walls in Petra Jordan with Canon Rebel

4. Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan!

Colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan Canon Rebel

5. More colorful canyon walls in Petra, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

6. Colorful rocks in the waters of Wadi Mujib, Jordan

Colorful rocks in Wadi Mujib, Jordan Olympus camera

7. Colorful rocks in the walls Wadi Mujib, Jordan

I found color in the markets of Jordan…

Jewelry sold by folks around Petra, Jordan

8. Jewelry sold by folks around Petra

Camels with color in Jordan

9. Who knew camels would be so colorful!

Arab headscarves in Jordan Canon Rebel

10. Headscarves in the traditional colors worn by many around Jordan

Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan Canon Rebel

11. Fruits in the fruit stands in the market in Amman, Jordan

Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market Canon Rebel

12. Colorful market roof in the Amman, Jordan market

I found color in the architecture – old and new – in Jordan…

Ruins column Jerash Roman Jordan

13.  Color of old ruins in the Greco-Roman town of Jerash, Jordan

Ruins Jerash column blue sky Jordan

14.  A still-standing column in Jerash makes a great contrast with the perfectly blue sky

King Abdullah Mosque blue Amman, Jordan

15.  The blues of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (the Blue Mosque) of Amman and the blue of the sky

Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah's Mosque in Amman, Jordan (blue mosque)

16.  Inside view of the dome of King Abdullah’s Mosque (built in the 1980s)

Petra's Treasury in Jordan

17.  The unforgettable Treasury at Petra, Jordan

I found great blues in the waters around Jordan…

Blue sky and Dead Sea

18. A sea and a sky both drapped in great blue!

Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba, Olympus

19.  Beautiful blues in the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba

I found color in sunsets over the Dead Sea…

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

20.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Olympus

21.  Double sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan, Canon EOS Rebel

22.  Sunset over the Dead Sea in Jordan

I found color in Jordanian artisans’ art…

Raw material for creation of mosaic art in workshop in Jordan

23.  The raw materials that will create beautiful mosaics are colorful on their own…

Mosaic art Jordan

24. Mosaic art: not only the great colors but also the shapes draw me

Art handicraft craft Jordan

25.  Beautiful art in this colorful vase

And I found a colorful people in Jordan!

Schoolchildren in Jerash, Jordan

26.  Schoolchildren visiting the ruins of Jerash – singing and showing their pride in their country – a colorful bunch!

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Thank you to the Jordan Tourism Board for showing me all the colors in Jordan.

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