We had been looking forward to floating in the Dead Sea together for a really long time. The drive from Amman was under an hour bringing us to the Crowne Plaza with enough time to dip into the water.
There were only a couple of people on the beach which was quite clean and the water was warm (around 25 C even in the middle of November). There was a grey mud pit that you could “dip” yourself into or the “magical” black mud located in a small tub at the lifeguard desk – which is considered much better for your skin. The trick is to go into the water and get wet, plaster yourself with the black mud, let it dry for at least 10 minutes and then enter the Sea again to wash it off – with a final rinse in the outdoor shower. Truly a fun experience which we did a few days in a row!
Most of the Dead Sea resorts on the Jordanian side are clustered together. With the Jordanian Dinar being so strong against other currencies it was quite expensive to eat in the resorts – and not practical for me as I couldn’t find much from a vegan perspective. We did locate a fantastic little cafe just a 12 minute walk from the Crowne Plaza and next door to the Hilton. The place is called Pastich Cafe where I found amazing food for a few dollars a plate and Rob was able to have a huge selection of meats and other options. It is located in the Samarah Mall – which conveniently also has a small supermarket.
Since Madaba and Mt. Nebo were quite close to the Dead Sea we decided to make a day trip and visit both places. Madaba is an ancient town just 30 km southwest of Amman and 40 km east of the Dead Sea. It is dubbed “The City of Mosaics”.
In many respects Madaba is a typical East Bank town which differs in one major aspect: underneath almost every house lies a Byzantine mosaic. Many of these mosaics have been excavated and are on display in the town’s museum, but it is estimated that many more lie hidden waiting to be discovered.
Madaba’s chief attraction – in the contemporary Greek Orthodox church of St. George – is a wonderfully vivid, 6th-century Byzantine mosaic map showing the entire region from Jordan and Palestine in the north, to Egypt in the south. The churches of Madaba are not included in the Jordan Pass, but are only 1 JD/person.
The Madaba Archaeological Park preserves the mosaic-rich Church of the Virgin Mary and artifacts from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic eras. It is a wonderful museum and really worth the visit.
Our next stop on the way back to the Dead Sea was Mt. Nebo – an elevated ridge (about 710 meters above sea level). It is believed to be the place where Moses was granted a view of the promised land. On a clear day you can see Jerusalem and Jericho.
According to Christian tradition it is thought that Moses is buried on Mt. Nebo. We were lucky to arrive when there were no tour buses. The panoramic views and positive energy on this quiet mountain top is worth the visit. There is a modern church on the site which houses some spectacular Byzantine mosaics. Even though this site is one of the very few which is not part of the Jordan Pass the 4 JD/person was truly worth it.