Are you Traveling to Jordan?

If you are planning to travel to Jordan, I have some good news for you. Byond Travel is offering the readers of Travel Tales from India Rs 6000 off if you book your vacation with them through this link.

mridula-byond-travel-jordan
The Travel Tales from India Discount from Byond

Clicking on the link should show you a window with the picture shown above. You can register with the link to avail the discount. The discount is valid only on the first purchase.

Not only that, Byond further lets you personalize your Jordan Itinerary. Once again if you wish to personalize your itinerary and avail a discount, use this link. Since I did a short trip myself (I was invited by Jordan Tourism Board and I have Business Relationship with Byond) I would surely add Petra and Wadi Rum if I were planning a trip again.

If you are looking for reasons to go, I will give you five of my experiences.

5. The Biblical Sites

mt-nebo-jordan
Mt. Nebo, Jordan

Jordan is popular with Christians for the biblical sites. Mt Nebo, Madaba, Bethany Beyond the Jordan, all have deep significance for Christianity.

4. Fabulous Amman

Amman
Amman, the Capital of Jordan

Amman is the capital city. I found it a beautiful mixture of old and new. They have luxury hotels and brand new shopping malls and they have old amphitheaters and shopping district. I was more fascinated by the history and culture. Shopping malls after a while look the same everywhere.

3. Jordan is Peaceful

jordan
Jordan is Peaceful

When my family knew I was traveling to Jordan they were not so thrilled. I told them if the tourism board thought it safe, it must be safe and I am going. I clearly remember my husband saying, “there are millions of Syrian refugees out there.” And I retorted, “yes and all of them would be sitting in Amman.” My trip went perfectly fine. In fact the mandate of the trip was to cover Pope Francis’s visit the country. In spite of being in Middle East, Jordan is a peaceful nation.

2. Vegetarian Food in Jordan

veg-food-jordan
Vegetarian Food in Jordan

A lot of Indians are vegetarians. I am a vegetarian too. Jordan has fabulous vegetarian starters. The people and restaurants are hospitable. They will find something vegetarian for you. As long as you don’t insist on the Indian food, you would do fine in Jordan.

1. Dead Sea

dead-sea-jordan
The Mandatory Dead Sea Picture

It is an experience of a lifetime to float on the dead sea and read a newspaper! Need I say more? But one has to be very careful to keep the water out of the eyes, it stings like mad!

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This year starting from March till about now, I traveled a lot. When I traveled a lot I would crib because I was traveling too much, which would leave me very tired. Then for the past two weeks I have been at home. So, now I am getting nostalgic about traveling and then, you guessed it right, I crib again! So this is a nostalgic Skywatch Friday, featuring the Amman Citadel in Jordan. I visited Jordan in May 2014.

 Amman Citadel, Jordan
Blue Skies at the Amman Citadel, Jordan #Canon550D

The Amman Citadel is ancient, said to be occupied since neolithic period. It is also known as Jabal al-Qal’a. One meaning of Jabal is a hill. This citadel is on one of the seven hills which constituted the original city of Amman. It is said to have passed influence of three religions- Judaism, Christianity and Islam. It is a popular tourist destination in Amman. The main ruins which you can see above is the Temple of Hercules.

Amman Citadel, Jordan
Amman Citadel Premises, Jordan #Lumia1020

The citadel is spread in a vast area and has many places of interest. Jordan Archaeological Museum is within the grounds. Umayyad palace, a huge water tank and a mosque are other points of interest. Visiting this place would require some amount of walking.

View of the Amman City from Amman Citadel
View of the Amman City from Amman Citadel #Canon550D

The view of the city from the  Amman Citadel is quite impressive. The day we visited the place it was not too crowded. The weather was nice, we had clear blue skies and a nice breeze. The sun was happy to lord over the sky. As the place is quite huge it never felt crowded. Almost everyone climbed up the ruins to get photographed next to the pillars of the Temple of Hercules.

I had left my zoom lens in the bus itself, as I never thought I would need it at this spot. Guess what? There were birds around the place and I did kick myself for not carrying the lens around. But that is a minor regret. Overall, it was a wonderful half day that I spent at the Amman Citadel.

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Immigration and fun are almost an oxymoron, at least in most of the places I visited. But Jordan changed all that, I can now say immigration fun in the same sentence. While going into Jordan. it was almost the same as anywhere else, getting out of Jordan was fun. But then first things first.

I visited Jordan as part of Indian media invited to cover the Pope’s visit to Jordan. I was told that Jordan grants visa on arrival to Indians. As we were accompanied by the officials of the Jordan Tourism Board before immigration, none of us were asked to show USD 1000 in cash. I wonder if they really want a visitor to show USD 1000 in cash to give visa on arrival? I have never traveled anywhere with that kind of cash! My visa on arrival was smooth but I guess it was also because I was invited.

Fast forward to the time when we were getting back. There were nine of us checking in one after the other at Queen Alia International Airpot, Amman. Almost all of us had bought the local sweet Backlava. So people ahead in line were entrusted with the task of asking if it was OK to carry backlava in hand luggage? When the lady ahead in the queue asked she was told firmly, “no ma’am.” All of us behind her went into a tizzy. She also went into a tizzy. Then the counter person laughed and said, “ma’am I was only joking, of course you can take it in your hand luggage.” That should have given me some inkling of the things to come.

Queen Alia International Airport, Jordan
Queen Alia International Airport, Amman, Jordan

After depositing my luggage I proceeded to the passport control. When a counter became vacant I asked if I could proceed in sign language, and the person said no! So, I stood in the queue thinking that counter might be closing. I cursed my luck in general as well. Then he talked to an airport staff in Arabic who told me I could proceed to that counter! When I started walking, he too started laughing and said, “of course you can come to this counter, why not?” Now I was wondering what was going on! While he looked at my passport he said, “Bandra 25 Bandra 25  Bandra 25, are you taking that one?” I laughed and laughed.

Now won’t you agree with me that this was one of the most hilarious immigration experiences you ever read about? I do remember two passport control personnel saying bye to me, at Thailand and Maldives but this was something unique.

The only thing that comes close to this was a person, staff, at Johannesburg, South Africa at the luggage belt, who was dancing while we waited for our luggage!

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When the plane started making its descent at the Queen Alia International Airport, Amman, Jordan I was hooked to my window seat. If someone could have seen me from the other side, they would find my face quashed flat against the window. The landscape unfolding beneath was unlike any other I had seen ever before! It held me completely in its thrall.

I was traveling to Jordan on an invitation from Jordan Tourism Board. This has been my maiden trip to middle east! The Jordan trip is always going to be special for me because I got to photograph Pope Francis on this visit!

The Approach to Amman Airport, Jordan
The Approach to Amman Airport, Jordan

Most of Jordan is an arid desert but even in my wildest dreams I never imagined that it would look so fascinating from the air! My first stop in the country was also an equally fascinating place, the Dead Sea. Contrary to the name it is actually a lake bordering Jordan, Palestine and Israel.

Holiday Inn at Dead Sea, Jordan
Holiday Inn at Dead Sea, Jordan

At Dead Sea we were hosted by the Holiday Inn. First things first, the resort has a free wifi access. What you see in the picture is the pool area and behind that near the horizon is the Dead Sea. I had a comfortable stay at the resort.

Dead Sea, Jordan
Dead Sea, Jordan

Before my visit my niece was quite excited as she was reading about Dead Sea in her school. Dead Sea is 427 meters below sea level. It is one of the most saline lakes in the world. I had infinite fun at the place but that is surely a separate post.

Mount Nebo, Jordan
Mount Nebo, Jordan

As our primary mandate in Jordan was to cover the Pope’s visit the sightseeing was also around the biblical places. Mount Nebo finds a mention in the bible as the place from where Moses got a glimpse of the holy land though he could never enter it. Our guide Salah told us that on a clear day one could see Jerusalem from Mount Nebo. The group you see in the picture was from a Kerala Church doing a Holy Land tour. Church tours are very popular in the region.

A Mosaic at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, Madaba, Jordan
A Mosaic at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George, Madaba, Jordan

There are outstanding pieces of mosaic art all over in Jordan. The most famous is the mosaic map of the Holy Land at the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George which belongs to 6th century. It was rediscovered in 1896. The mosaics on the church’s walls were equally impressive.

Bethany Beyond the Jordan
Bethany Beyond the Jordan

Bethany Beyond the Jordan is the ancient site where it is said that John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ. My mind simply fails to comprehend the significance of the idea! However, its modern day manifestation is an equally fascinating. Jordan River flows close to the baptism site and you can see that I am sitting in Jordan. However, across the river is Israel! So if you wish to travel without visa to Israel you simply need to get pushed across! There was a mild visible presence of soldiers on both the sides, so I have warned you too. So, however much I craved for the visa less travel, I firmly remained on the Jordanian side.

Good Food in Jordan
Good Food in Jordan

Being a vegetarian I rarely get excited about food when I travel to other countries. Jordan proved me wrong. They have a culture of serving Mezze or small dishes before the main meal. It used to be served with hummus, flat Arabic bread  and the salads were lip smacking with many vegetarian choices. They would always find something vegetarian for me for the main course as well, but I could happily live on the salads for the entire trip. Food was certainly a wonderful surprise for me on this trip.

Pope Francis at Amman
Memorable Moments of my Life- Photographing the Pope

Then came one of the most memorable events of my life, when I attended the Pope’s mass at Amman Stadium and got to photograph Pope Francis! Never even in my dreams I thought I would such an opportunity and that too because 9 years ago I decided to start a blog!

Grand Hyatt, Amman, Jordan
Grand Hyatt, Amman, Jordan

We were hosted at Grand Hyatt in Amman, which was once again a luxurious property. The wifi is not free in the rooms at Hyatt but Jordan Tourism Board had arranged free access for us which was much appreciated. The breakfast buffet at the hotel was lavish. Wifi is free in the lobby.

Sheesha
Sheesha

Sheesha is very popular at restaurants in Jordan both with women and men. For the first time in my life I took a few mild puffs and quickly decided it was not for me. Even those timid whiffs gave a sore throat for the next half an hour!

Amman, Jordan
Amman, Jordan

Our last day was devoted to exploring the city of Amman. It has a huge refugee population and the dense housing you see in the picture are Palestinian settlements. I feel I have not even scratched the surface of this amazing country but for me it will always remain special because of the opportunity to photograph the pope.

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