Thursday, June 21, 2012

Heading Back to Amman

I suppose, that driving back home is less exciting that driving to a resort, but I would be a poor hostess if I did not see that you made the return trip properly.. although, if I were to virtually strand you somewhere, the resort at the Dead Sea wouldn’t be too cruel. Anyway…

Heading back last Saturday took place on another very HOT day. Jordan had about a week long heat wave and the weekend was right in the middle of it. Today, Thursday, we’ve barely made it up to 81F by noon, but on Saturday, it was triple digits. People, and animals, were taking advantage of shade where ever they could find it.


We passed a mosque on a hill.


And a small village of tents.


More critters, goats, and their shepherds, trying to beat the heat.


Dry, arid rock and sand… with a lovely green tree…


The kids looked over this valley and claimed that it looked like it belonged in a video game. I rather wish it hadn’t been so hazy so you could see how vast it looks in real life!


Melons… YUM!


Weighting station? Ah… close enough…


Watch out for houses and football games.


Small town traffic jam ahead…


More shops with floaties!!


Seriously, we loved the bright floaties!


A colorful truck


How hot was it?? Enough to make a little kid go right to sleep!

Ready the Foton Torpedoes Mr. Sulu! (sorry… geek moment… )


I believe that I have mentioned before, we must have flag photos when driving around here. I love the flags.


Getting closer to the city, there are more roadside vegetable vendors.



And a Harley Shop


This next photo is to show that, even way off down south yet, you can (start to) see a major Amman landmark. About 2/3rds across the photo (left to right) there is a skyscraper on the horizon… it’s actually two tall towers with cranes on top. They’re at 6th Circle Zahran, and you can see them from pretty much anywhere. If you know where you need to go in relation to 6th circle, look for these big blue towers!



Amman is GROWING. New construction everywhere. Here are a bunch of new buildings going up… and down below, a village of tents.



Need some clay pots?


Gas Station with newly increased prices listed. (That’s price per liter/JD – a bit less than $6 a gallon for premium, about $4 a gallon for regular unleaded)


Getting closer to town. The blue towers can now be seen behind the first light post here. Some drivers use modern navigation techniques…like GPS…  I do things the old fashioned way and use landmarks, a compass, and following taxis that look like they know where they’re going…


More flags!


And a couple views of Zahran, a main street through Amman, and a much better glimpse of the two towers.


Notice that the traffic signs are very clear in Arabic and in English. It really helps with navigating!


Ok… so driving through town is not quite as fun as going to the beach, but the tour wouldn’t have been complete without some Amman area sightseeing too!

And of course… a shot of Brian looking cool in shades… under his regular glasses, so I guess ‘acting silly’ is a better description, but he’s still looking cool in my book.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Dead Sea Resort

After the short trip, coasting downhill from Amman, we arrived at the Marriott Dead Sea Resort. How to describe it, other than it lives up to what we expect from Marriott. Very nice quality, very friendly staff, nice rooms and accessories, etc. It’s a lovely place, not that we spent much time exploring the facilities. As soon as we dumped our bags in our room, we grabbed our swim stuff and headed off to the water. It was quite the hike.


Just when you think you can’t possibly go downhill any further… there will be another set of stairs come into your view in the distance…


At least it was a pleasant walk. The resort is nicely laid out. I mean, if you must walk for a long hot distance, and it really is needed… how else to get down to the water?? This isn’t a pool, it’s a nature area! Well then, when the hike must be hiked, it’s nice to have a pleasant area to meander through.


Stop and admire the flowers, then more downhill…

Why am I so fussy about the hike? I don’t really mind the walking, and it was, like I said, nicely laid out for walking… it really is… paths, stairs, ramps, etc. It really didn’t feel like we were walking that far. But. This was about 3-4pm, the temps were at least 104F (which was the last temp I saw on the car thermometer before the valet took it, and it tends to be pretty accurate), and this was not a minor slope to the beach. The hotel is at –383 elevation. The sign on the shore is at –423. That’s 40 meters to descend and ascend in the heat. 40 meters is about 131ft. If you estimate a single story of a building to be 10ft, then we’re talking a 13 storey building. No elevator. In 100+F heat. Sorry to be a wimp, but excuse me while I pause by the waterfall!


More stairs.


And even after reaching the beach, there’s still a bit more ‘down’ to go.


Yay! We’re almost there!


Brian was ready to hop right in, but had to stop for sunscreen. We almost didn’t need to bother. One of the brochures claimed that, because of the very low elevation and perhaps thermal inversion, there’s an extra atmosphere layer here and therefore, extra protection from the sun. From this website

“Sunlight at the Dead Sea is high in therapeutic UVA rays and low in burning UVB, so extended exposure is safe and low-risk. The filtering effect comes from a thick atmosphere: the Dead Sea is about 1,200 feet below sea level and the ozone layer above it has minimal depletion.

The Dead Sea is the only place on earth where you can sunbathe for long periods with little or no sunburn because harmful ultraviolet rays are filtered through three natural layers: an extra atmospheric layer, an evaporation layer that exists above the Dead Sea, and a rather thick ozone layer.”

Two days in the sun there and I don’t think I tanned or anything. Compared to Amman. On Sunday, Honor’s class had a pool party. It was only 2 hours and I spent most of it in the shade… and I used sunscreen… and I still got slightly burnt.

No worry about sunburn, but the light was still bright!
DSC03024 And now is the part where you have to imagine photos of us floating effortlessly in the Dead Sea water. Yes, I failed to get family floaty photos. Why? Because it was 100+F and it was HOT!!! There was no way I was going to stay on the beach taking photos when there was a sea full of refreshing cool water to swim in.

We were glad that we wore hiking/water sandals. The ‘beach’ is all rock and hard to maneuver, even with shoes, but totally worth it to get into the water. You really do float… whether you want to or not.

You definitely do NOT want to get water in your eyes or mouth, but of course, you’ll likely manage to do both. We did. Fortunately, there are showers on the beach! There were signs warning folk to ‘swim at your own risk’ because there are no lifeguards, but seriously, you aren’t going to sink… even our skinny bones kids floated. It was funny watching them try to get their feet back down under water to stand up!

After a good soak, Honor and I went up to try the mud.

We only lathered up our arms. Again, remember those temps I told you about?? The thought of smearing hot mud on thickly, anymore than we did, was simply not that appealing. It was fun to play with a little bit though.


Enough’s enough… we went back into the water! With and without mud, we all ended up with super soft skin and hair. It was very nice. Extremely relaxing too.

Of course, Marriott being the great resort/spa that it is, you don’t actually have to hike downhill, clamber over rocks, and deal with the heat. They have a full spa with, among other things, a Dead Sea water pool indoors. Sauna. Whirlpools, etc. But we went the ‘all natural’ route. Maybe, if we’d spent more time there, we might have checked out the spa. It looked very nice.

Eventually it was time to head back up… yea… all the way back up. Whew! But did I mention? Despite the heat, the air there is nice to breathe. Something about the atmosphere made it very easy.


A couple of signs on the beach, talking about the area and swimming.


Max depth is 377m (1200ft) Really? How’d they measure that?? How did they ‘sink’ anything that far! ;D We could barely reach under to pick up rocks! Of course, we did try to reach under to pick up rocks… which is how we got the water in our mouths and eyes! Live and learn.


Brad also forgot the rule about not shaving before swimming the next day. Ouchies.

Anyway, back up the hill…



By the time we got back to our room, we were STARVING! We’d had breakfast, but skipped lunch. There was only about an hour until the steakhouse opened for dinner, but we simply couldn’t wait that long. It was impossible. So, we wandered over to Champions for some TexMex. Fajitas and a margarita… Mmm!

We left dinner just in time to catch a lovely sunset from our room balcony.


After sunset, they guys wanted to relax and read, but Honor wanted to go swimming. I went down with her, but the pool was closed. Instead, she and I took another hike down to the shore of the Dead Sea. It was a much more tolerable hike after sunset!

The next morning, after a nice breakfast where we ran into some lovely friends of ours from Amman, and watched in awe as Brian ate enough breakfast for four kids, we went back down to the water.


It was so quiet and still and calm.




These photos were taken from up on the path. Again, it was hot. I simply grabbed a few shots before tucking the camera away to go jump in the cool water with my family.


Brian and Brad weren’t waiting..


Honor did a little swimming, but all the wandering around had given her a blister. An open blister… and the salt water was NOT kind. She sat out and played with rocks and mud.


We didn’t stay long. We didn’t want our little girl to melt. Instead, we went back uphill to play in the pools.

A view from about mid-way to the top.


The pools were lovely too, and one had a water slide for the kids.


Brad had to go find Brian when it was time to go… that slide was too much fun.


I think they had a lot of fun!



I have some more photos of our road trip back to Amman, but they can wait until next time!