We spent the first part of the day finishing off seeing the sites of Amman - there aren't that many. We walked up the hill to see the Citadel - the walk up the hill nearly finished us off before we had started. The Citadel is a large site although it is mostly ruins. It varies from Roman to the Islamic period.
We went into the museum not expecting a lot - but found it had some of the Dead Sea scrolls there. I had always thought that these were in much more prestigious museums but then realised there were lots of scrolls and Jordan is where they were found (despite Israel now laying claim to them).
We were then off to Madaba - about 50km away. The bus ride was straight forward and we were in Madaba by 2:00. After finding our hotel and dumping our bags, we had a walk round Madaba. It is a pleasant little town with lots of shops selling mosaics and crafts etc. (others might say tourist trap) but it did have some of the best figs I've tasted in a long time.
We spent the next morning looking round Madaba. Our first task was to find the tourist office to get some information. We then did the walk round the town looking at all the mosaics. Some were a bit ordinary but quite a few were very impressive. The highlight was the famous one which had a map of the Middle East done in 6th Century AD. It needed a bit of explanation, but eventually we could work out what was where.
We then decided to head out then to Mt Nebo - the place where Moses viewed the promised land before he died. It is about 8km outside of Madaba so we hopped in a cab. The site was a Franciscan monastery with an old church (6th century) - also with a famous mosaic. Unfortunately a large part of the site was undergoing restoration/preservation and was not accessible. There were lots of church groups here as John-Paul II had declared it a site of pilgrimage. The views from it were spectacular - could see over the Jordan valley but it not to the Dead Sea as it was quite hot and hazy.
We had let our taxi go as we did not know how long we would be at the site - a bad move. When we got out there were no taxis so we had a walk in the full heat of the afternoon uphill to the next village - about 45 mins. Fran was not happy - all my fault apparently. We were forced to have diner at the best restaurant in town to compensate!
The following day we were off to see Bethany beyond Jordan and the Dead Sea. The journey by taxi went to Mt Nebo and then dropped dramatically into the Jordan valley. The views were spectacular. The drop is over a 1000 m to the lowest point on earth. The Bethany site is tightly organised - due to it's proximity to the Israeli border. We were dropped at a visitor centre and then taken by shuttle bus the next 5km to the site. The Jordan river here is pretty pathetic - it's more like a small brown muddy stream - this is mainly due to Israeli dams further up stream. (Guide later commented that water politics here are important and will lead to conflict).
The site is where Jesus was baptised - though the Israelis dispute this - and is a place of pilgrimage for lots of Christian denominations. The site itself was a small inlet from the river but is now a muddy pool because of the drop in river level (about 3 metres). There are about 8 churches on the site - Catholic, Anglican, Coptic, Greek Orthodox, Armenian……Whilst we were there, there were several groups holding services. (Poles, Italians) .
From here we went to the Dead Sea. It had got very hot by this time, and the public beach was absolutely heaving as today was Friday (holiday). We couldn't park, found it was £15 each to go on the beach so went to the Movenpick for an Ice-cream instead. The ice cream was certainly the right choice!
The journey home seemed to pass hundreds of cars parked by the side of the road with families having picnics. The driver stopped to buy some eggs - he wanted then for his wife who had just given birth to his 6th child! He said it was his last!