Sunday, 31 January 2010

Visit to Madaba & Mount Nebo

This Friday we decided to venture out of Amman and took the direction of Madaba, a larger city located a 30-40 minutes drive south of the capital. Not wanting to try our luck again we took a GPS with us and it was a good idea! Not that difficult to get to Madaba, but it was useful to Mount Nebo and back as there are not so many signs showing the direction – seems to be a trend! There are quite a few things to see in this city, more than what we saw… but a tired Bobs – now working a 6 day week – and a 6 months old Bibs will give us the occasion to get back to this interesting city. Let’s not forget that Madaba is one of the oldest settled places in Jordan.It is known as the “Mosaic City”; the mosaics are dating from between 500 to 800AD – many more are still being found.

So we headed for the Visitor Centre in Madaba – it is located in the middle of the city and within walking distance of all the main attractions (except the Church of the Apostles, located a little bit further out). At the centre we could easily park our car (ok it was Friday, don’t know how it is in the week) and we got a brochure with a map of the city which explains briefly what there is to see at each site – we didn’t use it though , and I have just seen there was stuff we missed! Well tourism in Jordan is for the adventurous – even at sites like The Archaeological Park – there are not so many signs and you easily miss some things – but then there are areas closed to the public as well for renovation, except it doesn’t always tell!

The first thing as you exit the Visitor Centre is The Mosaic School which is open for the public – we didn’t get to visit it as it was Friday – so that’s for the next trip. It is the only project as such in the Middle East. Next to it is located The Archaeological Park – where there are loads of very interesting mosaics.
“God is the only Creator”… And sadly in AD 726 Emperor Leo forbid by decree the use of people and animals in “images”, so most of the mosaics are badly defaced. Those which have survived were the ones covered by sand or other mosaics (as the ones you can see below).
IMG_8656The Church of the Virgin – Archaeological Park
  It was built above a Roman monument at the end of the 6th century.
This well preserved mosaic dates to AD 767 – the medallion reads:
“If you want to look at Mary, Virginal Mother of God, and to Christ whom she generated, Universal King, only Son of the only God, purify (your) mind, flesh and works! May you purify with (your) prayers the people of God.”
It is then a short walk through a touristy street to the Greek Orthodox Church of St George. 
200_MadabaChurch031110 St George Church – view from the Street
The Church is also known as the Church of the Map – it is a modern church built in the late 19th century over a ruined Byzantine church from the time of Justinian (527-565). The mosaic map, belonging to the foundation of the old church, is the oldest existing map of Palestine.
The mosaic represented the biblical land from Egypt to Lebanon, inc Sinai, Israel, Palestine and Transjordan. It is greatly deteriorated and many sections are missing. The original map was about 94 square meters but only 25 have been preserved. There are 157 captions written in Greek and most of the cities have been identified.
The central focus of  the map is Jerusalem, one of the pieces which remains nearly intact. The Holy City is captioned in red letters:“Hagia Polis Ierousa…” Dominating the city is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (upside down) built by the Emperor Constantine – showing the Martyrion Basilica, the courtyard containing the Rock of the Calvary and the dome covering the Tomb of Jesus.
To finish our little visit in Madaba, we ate at the Haret Jdoudna Restaurant – it was a nice lunch, with typical Jordanian food. It is apparently famous – If you want to sit outside, better call and reserve a table! (Their site is still under construction at the time I am writing this).
DSC00502Our Lunch! 
There are more things to visit, but we continued our journey to Mount Nebo. It is a short drive from Madaba (10km), and suddenly you have the most amazing view…
Mount Nebo has been inhabited since antiquity. However it is of course the biblical event that has made the mountain famous. “Then Moses went up from the lowlands of Moab to Mount Nebo (…), and the Lord showed him the Whole Land (…)” Book of Deuteronomy 34. It is said that It is on this Mount that Moses is buried as well, but the location remains unknown.
DSC00520On the platform at the summit is a modern sculpture by an Italian artist representing Moses' staff and Jesus' words in John 3: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up."
(it is a view from the side as there are renovation works going on at the moment and the site is partially closed, as was the Byzantine Church).
It is a very interesting site, many pilgrims and tourists come to the Mount. It is one the most important Christian site. It is quite a sensation to stand on this mountain and looking out over the promised land

One last picture to finish this posting... a random roundabout in Madaba...

Thursday, 28 January 2010

So much to tell!!

I have so much to talk about, I don’t even know where to start… There was this interesting article about the reclassification of the hotels in a new system – I will find time to do a separate post on that.

Then yesterday I was at The British Club – every Wednesday at around 11am there is a Mum & Baby meeting and as babies become toddlers there is a group as well (meeting Sun-Tue-Thu @ 10am I think). You can find the info about full membership on the link above and I think for the Mum & Baby group it’s 90JD per annum – not 100% sure as I haven’t joined yet… will confirm it next week. The group is very nice, yesterday there was a British lady, a scot, a Dane, a lady from New Zealand, a French lady and me :) I am also in contact with a Swedish gal who is coming next week. Babies are girls & boys (most girls though) from 6 weeks to 1 year. Bibs really enjoyed being with other babies! and she sat up for the first time as well, proud mummy I am! I guess it’s because she looked at other babies doing it…

I discovered Cozmo - with a "z" not "s" - (around 7th circle), next to Safeway as well – another shopping mall called ABC mall (also known as Albaraka Mall) and I saw some shops outside where you can walk with a stroller – need to check it out and will get back about it as well. Well Cosmo was really nice – not as big as Carrefour. Lots of Waitrose products and you can buy pork as well – not fresh but as salami, hams… You will have some products in one place and some in another supermarket (I love supermarkets! – I can walk down every single aisle :) Talking about supermarkets you’ll mainly find Johnson’s products for babies here.
I was told there is a shop not far from the 5th circle where you can buy baby food in jars – they have “bledina” – a French product, but apparently they have ordered things from the UK as well.
I need some pictures of all this! next Wednesday I’ll add some of the British Club and I’ll take some of the place I see in Amman – will link a map of Amman as well.

That's all I have time for right now! Need to get ready for a walk with Bibs - Have decided I am going to visit the Four Seasons Hotel...

Monday, 25 January 2010

Snow! What to do?? :)

As every morning while I eat my breakfast I read the Jordan Times. It is interesting to see other points of view and read about things you never ever would hear about in European newspapers, but this one made me smile: Snow! What to do? – Activities to try if your family gets snowed in this winter. And off we are for a whole page in the Life section about what to do with your family. I don’t know what the odds are that this would actually happen. A Kuwaiti employee from the main restaurant here in the hotel, told me though that the first year he arrived to Amman – I think it was 1991 – there was 3m of snow and he cried and wanted to go home – but it hasn’t happened since, he reassured me.
The article covers everything from games (kids, intellectual ones…) to watching TV, playing on or surfing the net to snowball fighting, catching a snow flake or measuring the snow should the “hazardous conditions subside”! Maybe some newspapers in the UK should have had the same idea this winter.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Our first drive in Amman… finding our way to Jabal al-Qal'a

So here we are, Bob’s first day off and we decide to go out for a drive. It’s good, it’s Friday – so there are not a lot of people on the road. I am always the designated driver so off we go. We decide to head for Jabal al-Qal’a – the Hill of the Citadel. Or that’s what we think, because Amman is a city without signs! We find the hill at the top of which we think the Citadel is, only to discover that yet it is the wrong one. There is a taxi stopped on the road and we ask him for the way. As Bob’s gets out of the car, he discovers that the taxi driver is Hassan, the one from the hotel. He laughs a little bit at us and tells us we are not in the right place… Hassan stops another taxi and asks him to drive us there, so we follow the taxi and yes it’s true we were not at all on the right hill. We pay the driver 3JD (as we were told) and we are at the top of one of the hills, and the right one this time!

the view from the Citadel

You have an amazing view over Amman – I have the impression that we are in the middle of Amman on the top of that hill. The city is in all the directions. This feeling is even stronger as the 3 o’clock prayer call starts on this Friday afternoon. The call echoes through the entire city – it is very beautiful.
The site was occupied as early as the Neolithic Period and fortified during the Bronze Age – the ruins that you can see today are Roman through early Islamic.
the Temple of Hercules – built between 161-166 AD

 the Byzantine Church – constructed in the 5th-6th centuries AD

the Umayyad Mosque – ca. 730 AD

Historically it is an interesting site to visit, also because it covers such a long period of time. It is also a very nice place to walk around with a stroller. We haven’t been here for very long, but I have discovered that you have to be a little adventurous and have a solid stroller to walk around in Amman! The pavements are really high, cars are parked everywhere… I don’t mind and Bibs thinks it’s funny with the bumps – but let’s be honest it is not the easiest country to walk your baby asleep in!

At the bottom of the hill you can see the Roman Theater, I think there is a path going from the Citadel to the Theater. We didn't visit it, Bibs is tired, so it will be for another time.

The drive back to the Hotel goes a bit better… there is a car with diplomatic plates leaving the Citadel at the same time as us and we decide to follow him. And yes it works, as we find our way back! It took us over an hour to find the Citadel and about 8 minutes to get back. One says that you have to get lost to be able to find your way, well I don’t think that I can find my way back up there without a little bit of help!

Bobs needs to buy some peanut butter for a guest, so we head to Carrefour. And let’s say that it is the last time we do that on a Friday evening! It was absolutely over-crowded. In Europe it is rare to see more than 2 persons doing the groceries together, well here it is a family thing: husband, wife, kids and baby-sitter! I would say that it resembled the first day of sales in London.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Our Arrival in Amman!

What a pleasure to meet so many nice people! It is true: Jordanians are truly nice.

Our flight from London Heathrow was nearly empty, our first contact with Jordanians was on board, and the crew was absolutely lovely. By the end of the flight they all knew the name of Bibs and came and chatted to her constantly. We made our way through the visa section (you need 10JD per visa - so make sure you have money on you - you can exchange in the arrival hall even at 11pm), immigration and passport control very easily. The visa guy had never seen a passport from Mauritius and was inquiring in half-arab half-english where this strange country is located. So with a little help of the hands we managed to explain...
The porters helped us to get our luggage – vey impressive as they check the name on the label and go to get the remaining pieces on the belt! Sure you don’t get such a service in Europe anymore - ? wonder if you ever got it! Then the drive into Amman which took about 30 min.

I spend most of our first day unpacking (what we had finished packing the day before!) and Bobs went to work.

Today after lunch at the Hotel we headed out for the first time to City Mall (one of the shopping malls in Amman) – just a quick tour to Carrefour and to have a look at the shops! Well Carrefour is pretty much the same as in France, but you can add some UK products as well which makes the choices quite large! And the same comment goes for the shops.
Our taxi driver is working at the Hotel and is really nice. He invited us for Mansaf (traditional dish) that his wife cooks very well (so he said) – when we told him that we had one for lunch – and then told us everything about his family. That’s the thing, they will all tell you about their children and their family. All Jordanians love children it’s amazing! You would never have such a response in Europe. All the waiters at the Hotel come and chat to Bibs, of course she loves all the attention she gets.

On a little more serious note… Jordan has recently been downgraded from “partly free” to “not free” in the Freedom House’s 2010 report – this was mainly due to the Parliament’s dissolution and the decision not to hold elections before the end of the year. And here is a link to an article published in the Jordan Times today: Court ruling threatens press freedom – activists. This includes bloggers… which means little me and as well as 100s of others…

But let’s not think about too many serious matters for the moment! We are here to enjoy our life in Jordan and I am sure we will…

The view from our room

Friday, 8 January 2010

I have the time…

Well that’s what one always seem to think!
So here we are, 20-10 is here… I didn’t get the occasion to get anymore Christmas recipes on my blog – I took the pictures though! –, I promise, I will start earlier this year! But we have just been so busy, and so snowed in, it’s not funny.
Monday, the removal company will be here to pack and pick up our furniture and boxes. I still have so much shopping to do, but can’t get any done because of the snow and thanks to the supermarkets who don’t clear their parking and then you don’t know if it’ll snow again, awww! Frustrating. I don’t really fancy sitting in the car with Bibs and not being able to get anywhere… And Wednesday we are off. Amman here we come.
I wish you all a fabulous New Year! Gr8t health, lot’s of love & joy and some money as well :)
My next entry will be when we are in Amman. I can’t wait! Am looking so much forward to sitting in that plane.

Others To Read:

Related Posts with Thumbnails