Swimming in the Dead Sea and exploring the ancient ruins of Jerash

Before I start I just wanted to let you all know I made a quick Youtube video of some of the highlights from Jordan, check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqzDhnbU-u8

Going off from the last post, I will be talking about how the hostel manager, Ahmed, helped plan out my upcoming days. I told him that I really wanted to go to the Dead Sea and I asked him the best way to get there. He said to take the Jett bus which leaves Amman at 9 AM and then you have to wait all day at the Dead Sea until a 5 PM return. That bus ride is about 15 JD round trip, and then you need a taxi to get you to the beach, and the cost of the beach (called Amman beach) is 20 JD. He called the company for me to make the arrangements and they were full. I was obviously really bummed, but looked into alternative options. In the end we agreed on hiring a taxi for the day for the same price as public transport (25 JD). That’s when I started ghetting excited and asking a ton of questions about the Dead Sea and what it feels like to float in it. He admitted that he had never swam in the Dead Sea because he didn’t know how to swim. That’s when I decided to invite him to spend the day with him, offering to teach him how to swim in the pool before venturing out into the sea (half assuming he’d decline). But he accepted the offer and got very excited at the idea of learning to swim.

The next morning I woke up and took a little walk on the main road that the hostel is located on to look for a bite to eat. Eventually I found a shop that serves fresh made smoothies, which I obviously am a huge fan of. I got a banana pomegranate smoothie (sounds weird but I swear it was good) and sat and people watched for a bit. Ok to be honest I think I got more stares, people just aren’t used to solo female western travelers but no one really bothered me, they just stared and said “welcome”. I headed beck to the hostel to pack my cameras, travel book, swim stuff, and water. Then, at around 9:00 my taxi driver Raed grabbed Ahmed and I and we were on our way. They secured to take me to the top of Mt.Nebo before heading to the sea, as this is a popular spot for tourists. It has a lot of biblical significance, and to completely honest I didn’t really have any idea what that significance was until I got there (still I have a lot to learn). The view from the road was already quite breathtaking with panoramic views from all directions. The top of the hill is evidently where Moses saw the promised land, but he died before being able to go (?? Right guys or am I making this up). There’s a beautiful church with a nice memorial for Moses as well as a historical museum. The pope came for a visit a few years ago so you know the spot is pretty legit. I tried eavesdropping to some of the religious tours going on to learn something but it all went right over my head, I really should have paid more attention in history class in high school. IMG_0505

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Here is the promised land

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I took some photos of the views and just cruises around enjoying the amazing temperature up there. For once I wasn’t dripping sweat, and the sky was even blue!! For some reason (probably dust?) Saudi skies are hardly ever vivid blue. To read more about the significance of Mt.Nebo, here is some background: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Nebo. After this stop, I got back into the taxi and we headed down some INCREDIBLE mountains, with an unreal landscape.  It was gorgeous.  The road was very windy and fun to fly down.  We were jamming to some Arabic music and singing and dancing, it was a great time.

When we got to the valley, we stopped at a random store near the Dead Sea so Ahmed could buy some swim trunks, and they also bought some water, drinks, and snacks for the day (so nice!). Our final stop was Amman Beach.  So on the Jordan side of the Red Sea it is recommended that you go to a resort with access to showers (because the Dead Sea is also very very salty).  I also asked many people about a beach I read about in my guidebook that was public (aka free) but everyone advised me as a solo female to not go there.  I took their advice and we went to Amman Beach.  It was 20 JD but because it was my lucky day cause I was able to go in for free 🙂 I am a pretty frugal traveler so obviously this made me very happy, as I saved myself some money, well Ahmen and Raed saved it for me so shoutout to them for helping me out.

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Views from the store we stopped at

The reviews I read about Amman Beach said the facilities weren’t very nice but I thought it was lovely.  There were two huge pools, and of course a beautiful beach where you could swim in the Dead Sea, the saltiest body of water in the world, and the beach is the lowest land area on Earth, how cool!?  There were also nice(as in they were warm and worked) showers and a changing area.  We started off at the pool as I promised I would teach him to swim.  The goal was  to earn to swim breaststroke, and work on floating on his back (cause the Dead Sea is so salty and buoyant, you should really only float on your back so water doesnt get in your eyes).  We worked on that for a half hour or so then I headed into the Dead Sea.  I sort of thought the beach would be polluted and gross, and expected the water to be murky (cause of Dead Sea mud) but the water was crystal clear.  With absolutely no fishes or critters (obvs cause it is way too salty).  Along the shoreline were beautiful white chunks of salt, looking SO cool.  In the water were what looked like rocks but if you bent down and picked them up you can tell they were salt blocks.  It was such a cool experience, if you come to this part of the world you HAVE to check it out.

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Salty!

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This is all salt

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It was finally time for me to float around.  I got in, laid on my back, and immediately bobbed to the surface.  I didn’t really think it would feel any different, but it definitely did.  It was the coolest feeling ever.  you could just lay on your back, read a book, not having to put any effort into floating!  Just make sure you don’t get any salt in your eyes or in will hurt like crazy.  I accidentally stubbed my toe on a rock, so I was bleeding (but it actually didn’t hurt that bad). I was giggling like a small child cause I loved the feeling so much, that’s when I noticed the girl next to me.  Her name is Lindsey and I had met her at Petra the day before.  She is awesome, she was visiting Jordan for her Master’s thesis and interviewed many syrian refugees.  It was nice to have someone hang out with for the day.  We decided to do the classic Dead Sea mud mask, it was amazing.  We literally covered ourselves head to toe in the stuff and baked in the sun.  I felt super smooth afterwards too!  Ahmed also was able to float in the sea (pretty sure anyone can, you literally just have to lay down) but that was exciting.

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Lindsey ended up sharing our taxi with us for the ride home.  So she jammed to music with us and we chatted about our backgrounds. The whole day I spent 15 JD which is super cheap considering I thought I would be paying 45 for the day, go me!  My evening was spent in the falafel restaurant once again, reading through my Jordan guidebook and trying to figure out what to do the next day.  I decided to go with Jerash, a famous area in Jordan with tons of ruins. After eating, I walked around downtown Amman to do some window shopping (there are a munch of tourist shops) and found some flipflops, because my last pair unfortunately broke.

The next morning, the hotel helped arrange a taxi to take me to Jerash for the day.  On the way we stopped at a nearby bakery with all kinds of baked goods (to be honest I didn’t know what anything was” I told them I would try anything with no meat, so my taxi driver came back to the car with a plate of vegetarian goodies for me to try.  It was super nice. The ride was about an hour, maybe a bit more.  Jerash was also included with my Jordan Pass, so I didn’t have to spend any money.  There was also a bunch of homemade crafts and souvenirs at the entrance. I get pretty stressed when I am alone and have a bunch of people shouting at me to come look at there store so I just put my sunglasses on and passed right through.

The ruins were a lot like what I saw in Amman, but this area was huge, with much more to see. I walked around for 2.5 hours, but if you are into history or have a tour guide you could easily spend a whole day here.  I just snapped photos, and tried to see all the main buildings.  I am referring back to my guidebook so I can share a bit of history with you all, cause I know nothing.  In the biblical times, this area was known as the Decapolis. Jerash is one of the best-preserved and most exploreable Roman cities in the eastern Mediterranean.   Jerash is in the “fertile hills” of Gilead (mentioned frequently in the Old Testament). Gerasha (ancient name for Jerash) was founded around 170 BC, and at that time focused around the temple of Zeus.  In 129-130, Gerasha briefly became the center of the Roman empire while Hadrian wintered in the city.

The most visited sites in Jerash include Hadrian’s arch, the Hippodrome (where chariot races took place), the theaters, temple for Zeus, Church of St Peter and Paul, West Baths, nymphaeum, more churches, ect.  Basically there’s a ton to see.  Again, if you are into history and have time you can hire a tour guide here.  But I didn’t want to spend all day here and I am cheap so I decided to self tour with my guidebook.  Here are some photos of the ruins I saw!

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After Jerash I hung out at the hotel, packed my belongings, and then it was time to go back to “reality” at KAUST.  It had been such a fun long weekend. Especially considering I almost didn’t go because I was nervous for solo travel, but this gave me so much more confidence and I can’t wait for many more solo adventures in the future!  Thanks so much for reading my blog everyone!

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