We flew on Egypt Air from Cairo to Amman this morning. The flight is just barely longer than an hour, but they still managed to do a full meal service. None of us were hungry, having already sat for a really good breakfast in the executive lounge at the Cairo Marriott earlier that morning. I can say without a doubt that the food options on our Egypt Air flights were definitely lower quality than all our other flights on the trip.
We arrived in Amman and picked up our rental car, a Mitsubishi Pajero with about 65,000 km on the odometer. Normally a car with that many miles has a lot of dings, dents, and scratches and this car was no exception. What was exceptional was the meticulousness the car rental staff used when examining the car for issues. They marked everything down, even things that wouldn’t usually get marked on a much newer car. This made us realize they would likely be equally meticulous when we returned the car, so we took a video of its condition and made sure everything we could find was marked on the pre-rental report.
Driving in Jordan is fairly similar to driving in the US. Rules are mostly followed and almost all the cars are in good shape. We drove from the airport to Mount Nebo to see the church celebrating Moses looking out over the promised land before he died. The Bible says nobody knows where he was buried, but some people think it was in the same area.
The church was built by the Fransicans on a cliff overlooking the Dead Sea. From there you can almost always see Jericho. On clear days you can also see Jerusalem. It was cloudy today, but we could still see Jericho. The church has a lot of mosaic floors and other things inside that date back to the fifth century.
The River Jordan and the DMZ
After leaving the church we drove the winding road down the side of the cliff to the Dead Sea. It looked like we could get to the spot on the River Jordan where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist. Google said the site would close at 5 pm and we thought we could get there just before closing. We didn’t get there until about five minutes after five. The gate was closed and a guard came out to tell us it was closed. We told him we had come half way around the world to see it and had just missed it. Couldn’t he let us in just a few minutes after closing? No. Google had been wrong. They closed more than an hour ago, at 4 pm. They wouldn’t extend to 5 pm until February 1st.
Undeterred, we set out to find another way down to the river, even if it wasn’t the traditionally recognized spot. We drove down one of the first dirt roads we saw and soon found ourselves driving next to the razor wire that surrounds the site. At some point we saw soldiers, military vehicles and buildings, and realized our attempt to find a way to the river was really an attempt to breach the DMZ between Jordan and Israel. We opted to give up at that point and just head south to our hotel on the banks of the Dead Sea. Maybe there was still time to swim in its salty waters before dinner?
The answer was no. The sun was setting by the time we arrived at the Dead Sea Marriott Resort and Spa. The series of swimming pools and their private beaches on the Dead Sea all closed at sunset and we were too late. That wasn’t a big deal, we planned to swim the next day anyway. The views from some of the many swimming pools overlooking the Dead Sea were really nice and we enjoyed our first spectacular sunset in Jordan. Hotels designated “resorts” in the Marriott system do not have executive lounges where members with status can go for snacks and some meals, so we had dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was a buffet with some good choices and we probably ate more than we needed. The dinner for 4 of us cost about as much as a night at the hotel, but there’s not really anything else around the hotel, so we sort of felt like we didn’t have a choice about where to eat.
We were all pretty tired (jet lag?) so we went to bed a little early. We had all been upgraded to suites and we slept well in the comfortable beds.
It was windy and raining the next morning when we walked down to the beach. We could see big waves and white caps out on the Dead Sea. We guessed correctly that the hotel would have a red flag up, indicating that nobody was allowed to swim. That was disappointing, especially for Brett and Jess, who had not been to the Dead Sea previously. The lifeguard let them stand in the salty waters, but not swim. The hotel had gathered some of the famous black mud from the banks of the Dead Sea and put it into what looked like a bird bath for patrons to use to mud themselves. I didn’t feel like getting all salty and muddy if I wasn’t going to be able to float in the Dead Sea. Brett and Jess decided to mud each other and take some pictures before showering off and walking back up the hill to the resort’s swimming pool complex. We swam in a few of the pools before having breakfast at the hotel.
Marriott resorts are known to have elaborate breakfast buffets and we decided we would try the breakfast buffet here. Once again, we didn’t really have a choice due to the isolated nature of being on a huge resort property in a somewhat remote area. The breakfast buffet looked really good, but it was not cheap. I think it was listed at more than $30 per person. It gave us pause, but our only other option was going hungry, so we just sucked it up and enjoyed the luxurious buffet. As luck would have it, the price for breakfast didn’t matter because it was free for everyone staying at the hotel. Bonus.
After breakfast we checked out and started our drive south to Petra.