At the beginning of February we traveled to Jordan. After arriving in Amman in the late evening we drove south in the pouring rain to Karak (aka Kerak, Kerack, Al Karak, etc). Almost every sign spelled it differently.

Driving in Jordan is an experience. Randy described it as “not the most psychotic thing we’ve done”. Between the goats in the road, the random unmarked speed bumps, and just general lack of respect for traffic laws, things can get pretty interesting. Once you get the hang of it, it’s not too bad, though.

Waking up in Karak/Kerak/Kerack the next morning, we fortified ourselves with plenty of delicious hummus, pita, falafel, and eggplant for breakfast.

Kerak is home to a large 12th century crusader castle. The ruins were extensive, with lots of underground tunnels. One of the few signs we could read stated that there were even more tunnels and rooms that have yet to be excavated.

After seeing the castle we left Kerak and continued our drive south. We passed some gorgeous scenery.

We eventually found our way to another crusader castle, Shobak Castle. We arrived just as it was closing, but the gatekeeper allowed us to do some quick exploring.

We spent the next two days exploring Petra and the Wadi Rum desert. Those were cool enough to warrant their own posts, so you will have to wait to hear about them.

After Wadi Rum, we began our journey back north towards Amman. We stopped halfway along the route at the Dana Nature Reserve. Dana Village is quite small, consisting of some houses, two or three small hotels and a visitor center. It recently received some grants, though, and evidence of construction was visible throughout the village.

We spent the afternoon hiking in the reserve and relaxing in the sunshine. We watched a Bedouin goatherd slowly bringing his goats up the valley.

Our last day was spent bagging some more World Heritage sites for our collection.

The first site we visited was Umm ar-Rasas which consists of Roman, Byzantine, and early Muslim ruins. There looked to be a lot here, but most of it was not excavated so we couldn’t explore. There were also very few signs explaining the things you saw. They had excavated and preserved some beautiful mosaics, while others were just covered in sand.

After Umm ar-Rasas we drove around Amman to Qasr Amra on the East of the city. It was a bit surreal seeing signs for the Iraq border.

The drive to Qasr Amra went through a rather desolate and depressing desert. We read that the area had once been a lush wetlands, but as Amman and its water needs grew the wetlands were drained and destroyed. Some recent efforts have been made to restore some of the wetlands.

Qasr Amra was an 8th century royal retreat in what was once probably beautiful surroundings. Once a larger complex, today there are several rooms, including a bath house, that are covered in elaborate (and sometimes risqué) frescoes. The frescos were beautiful, but overall the site was in poor condition.

That night we flew back home (despite French transportation strikes). Another trip done!

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