Day three is our road trip from Amman to Petra via the 5,000 year old King’s Highway. The main advantage of having a driver is we can make stops along the way and there are plenty to make along the King’s Highway!
Our driver today was Nadar and he took us to all of these great places whilst we travelled down the country towards Petra.
Mount Nebo. According to the book of Deuteronomy, this is where Moses looked out across the Promised Land before he died. Jewish and Christian traditions believe Moses was buried on the mountain by God. There is a monastery, a small museum and a viewing area in which you can look across the Promised Land too. I kind of expected this to be a place of serenity but there was building works on the monastery so we looked across the hazy view to the sound of diggers and hammering.
Madaba. A short drive from Mount Nebo brings us to Madaba. If you have longer, there are several things you can do in Madaba, and sometimes it’s a chosen place to stay rather than Amman. For us, we were just visiting St George’s Orthodox Church. St George’s was built on top of the ruins of a 6th century Byzantine Church. When they were building the church in 1896 a mosaic map of Jerusalem and the Holy Land was discovered on the floor of the ruins. Only about a quarter of the map is preserved today but it is well worth visiting. Buy tickets from the small shop next to the entrance of the church and familiarise yourself with a map of the mosaic before entering.
Karak. Our first crusader castle! Excited! Well Dad was especially. Karak is the most well preserved crusader castle in Jordan. Whilst I had read that the castle was contained within the old city walls, all of the tourism photos seem to show Karak on top of a hill standing alone. We drove through the narrow streets of the town and the castle certainly dominates the town, the tourist photos are obviously cleverly taken from an angle we couldn’t reach. There are many tunnels to explore in the castle and Dad and I set upon exploring room to room with our head torches at the ready. A Jordanian man kindly passed us when we were in one of the tunnels and showed us some markings on the wall in the once prison. He indicated that we follow him and there we were – with a guide that we couldn’t seem to say no too and didn’t have as many coins to pay him as he had expected at the end.
Read here for some more of the juicy historical facts. All I could think about when we were wandering around was the story Dad told me of crazy Reynald of Chatillon who ruled the castle around 1170. He was a barbaric character and one of his favourite pastimes was to throw prisoners from the castle walls onto the rocks below *shudders*. In 1177, Saladin – the Sultan of Egypt and Syria, launched an attack on the crusader kingdom and defeated Reynald. Saladin spared the lives of quite a lot of the crusader force however he did make sure that he beheaded Reynald himself. What goes around, comes around!
We stopped for another buffet lunch just outside the walls of the castle. I still haven’t recovered from all of these buffet meals! They were delicious mind you!
Shobak. A few hours drive and Nadar woke us to ask if we wanted to visit Shobak Castle. I had originally asked to visit there but I was a little unsure to where it was in relation to the King’s Highway. Turns out it was only a short drive and there in front of you is Shobak Castle, perched on top of a hill, all by itself. The sun was starting to go down and we drove round the mountain to reach to top. The big wooden doors to the castle were closed and Nadar spoke to the caretaker who was outside the doors. Apparently for a small fee he would open the door and allow us to visit. He even played us a little tune on his make shift instrument as we left. I should think so too as when we checked the details in the book when we left – it was supposed to be free and not close till 5pm AND there were already people around the castle exploring, so it wasn’t exactly closed, closed! Ah well. There were splendid views across the desert and the light was spectacular on the remains of the 12th century castle.
Wadi Musa. Onwards with our journey and we finally arrived in Wadi Musa around 6pm. I had done a lot of research on hotels in Wadi Musa and chose the “Petra Moon Hotel” simply due to it’s proximity to the visitors centre for Petra – about 100 metres, and it was cheaper than the Movenpick which was in front of it. I had no idea what to expect but boy was I happy with the location! Wadi Musa, which is the closest town to Petra is mainly on a hill. A lot of the hotels run a shuttle service to and from the hotels and the visitor centre and there are plenty of taxi’s on hand but I was grateful to be so close to the entrance. There were also surprisingly a row of restaurants and small shops lined up next to the Movenpick. I cannot recommend enough the Red Cave Restaurant. The restaurant offers a varied menu of Bedouin food and has a great selection suitable for vegetarians! The staff were attentive, gracious and remembered us when we went back for a second night. They have a great display of pictures of ‘famous’ people around the restaurant which Dad and I spent probably more time than we should of trying to identify who they were. Hours of enjoyment haha.
After a quick shop in one of the small supermarkets for picnic food for our day in Petra, we headed back to the hotel for an early night. That’s if we could sleep due to our excitement for the next day!