A road trip to Dead sea, Jerash, Madaba

We get back to Amman in the early afternoon. We don't really have a plan except getting a rental car, because we want to go on a road trip for the last 4 days. We searched online for the best deals and chose one just for us (which was too economic, since in some parts going up a hill was a challenge), we went to get it to the airport where we're going to return it right before our flight home. 

Woohoo! Freedom! No more early mornings! Since it is already the second part of the day, we decided to go to Madaba city. We didn't have this in our plans before, but during our trip we heard travelers mention it multiple times, so we decided to visit it. 7 kilometres away from Madaba is the Nebo mountain, which is considered to be a sacred place and the place where according to the Bible is supposed to be Mozus' grave. From the mountaintop God showed his way to the promise land - on clearer days you can see Bethlehem. There is also a basilica on the top of the mountain, where right at the moment we were there was a church service happening. In Italian - for an Italian group. I sat there, didn't understand a word, but I enjoyed it. And the basilica - the most beautiful one I've ever visited. The history mixing with modernism made a beautiful tandem. We also enjoyed a spectacular sunset on the mountaintop. Did I mention already that the sunsets here are super specific? They are very yellow. And the yellow then turns the sky in orange, pink and purple colors.

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As we got out of the car at the hotel, we ran into a Polish couple we met in the desert - Eva is Polish, Richardo is a Spaniard living in Poland. We decided we were going to go get dinner. Of course we decided on taking a group selfie and sending it to our new American friends - Stephanie and Domingo.

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We got and answer in the chat - “Hi! We are also in Madaba! We'll join you shortly!' Whaaaat! All of us almost fell out of our chairs. And this I will probably never understand - how do the stars align it this way?! How does this magic happen? Each couple started their trips on a different day, coming from different places - one from Israel, one from Amman. When we got to the desert each of the couples had already seen multiple different parts of Jordan. But in four days we're all sitting in Madaba at a dinner table, sharing stories, memories and also saying our goodbyes since for everyone else it is their last night in Jordan.

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It makes me think about how important time is in our lives. It was one minute that made this happen. If we would've gotten out of the car a minute earlier or if our friends would've gone to take a walk through the city, we would not have met them. And we would definitely not have met Steph and Domingo, because we didn't really keep in touch in the chat daily. It reminded me of my Santiago trip when at the end of my journey I saw my friends by accident. It was a very special moment and a great ending to my trip. It really made me think that we can be late to things after all, or miss out on something. 

One of our plans was to go see Wadi Mujib canyon. It's not one of those sandy, dry, hot canyons we had gotten so used to. This one has water and we're supposed to walk through it in according shoes since it is not so easy to do without. We were doubting whether we should go, since we already had spent a little too much money and the entrance fee is around 25 Eur per person. But now I say - definitely go! This was one of the best attractions on our trip. And finally it wasn't too hot. It was so nice and refreshing. At the entrance, they hand out life jackets and then you gooo! This was better than an aqua bike exercise class, because very soon you could feel how the muscles are working with the resistance of the water stream. The goal of the trip is the waterfall, but to get to it you have to get through multiple obstacles - bigger rocks, smaller waterfalls - a strong stream at moments. To get it done there are ropes and stairs in the tougher parts of the hike, there are also sometimes queues at these stops. Overall the hike is very fun, people watching sometimes cheer you on and applaud for you. Shouts, laughter and water splashes are bouncing off of the canyon walls. And the fishes - they poke your calves and ankles. It's a real party! On our way back  you can relax and let the stream take you. Watching from the side it's quite funny seeing bodies get carried with the stream. A great couple hours spent! We really got the use of my boyfriends Samsung phone which is waterproof. But still, a lot of photos are quite blurry since the water was splashing everywhere. The rest of the stuff gets left in the cars or the administration booth - they don't really make an effort to keep an eye on it though.

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After the canyon, it's time for something warmer - the Dead sea. Since I had walked along the sea before on my Israel trip a couple years ago, I wasn't too surprised about the sea itself. But I had a plan of taking a swim this time. There are public beaches in Jordan near Dead sea or hotel owned beaches, where paying a fee can get you to enjoy the beach, the pools and showers. But price for one person for a whole day starts at 30 euros. From another traveler we had found out about a place that is not far from the canyon, where it is forbidden to swim (there are also signs), but the locals very often go for a swim there. If you can call it swimming. They have the sign there just because they don't have a lifeguard for that beach, but everyone goes there anyway. And for free!

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Holy Moly! It hurts! Every blister, little scratch marks, you feel it all. A thing checked off my bucket list - but the check-mark hurts! We spent the whole evening in the water like little duckies until the sun went down. And you can't really drown here, because the salty water just keeps you above. Since it is forbidden to be in the water after sunset and we didn't want to break 2 laws, we were on our way out. We heard someone in the parking lot whistling and yelling in Arabic. We were the last ones because the other tourists had left a bit before us. We didn't rush right away because we wanted to rinse off. Since there were no showers, we used our bottled water to do it. We heard someone yell and whistle again. We were going up to our car. We still had a short distance till the end of the street to go. We saw an SUV. We didn't quite understand right away if it was police. As we got closer we realized it was border patrol. They asked for our passports. Whoops! I stood closer to one of them and saw that he was typing in his phone. A moment later he read in English from google translate - “it is forbidden to swim in the border area!”. I asked him - what border? They ignored my question. They probably didn't understand what I said. My boyfriend tried to say something, or to apologize. In situations in these I guess it is best to say sorry. Maybe they'll let us go with just a warning. The man keeps typing in his phone, then he reads: “Jordan is honored to host you in our land!”. And gave us our passports. We laughed. Thank you for a joke + a lesson learned. As they were leaving they also handed us two cold water bottles. That's the people of Jordan! So kind, grateful and nice. Choosing to thank us for visiting their country instead of punishing us. With warm hearts we sat and watched the night take over this beautiful land.

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Next morning we went to Jerash. First thing on the agenda is going to see the Al Ma'va animal shelter which has taken lions, tigers and bears in their care. These animals come from the countries currently in war, like Gaza strip, Syria. They're from the zoo's of their countries, which have been destroyed because of the war. Unfortunately, it is impossible to let them back out in the wild since they've lived in cages their whole lives and would not know how to hunt or protect themselves. Mostly during our visit, the big cats - just like cats - mostly sleeping. They sleep up to 20 hours a day. Of course, you can't pet them in this shelter or play with them for a bit, but anyway, the ticket price donation will come in handy for them.

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Jerash is the second most visited city after Petra. There are still Roman city remains left all over the town, like amphitheater, temples, the streets, hippodrome. As we were sitting in the amphitheater, we listened to the sounds of the city - invitations to pray. And in a couple moments everything get darker and we see a big gray cloud in the sky, and do we feel some raindrops fall on us? Seriously? Wow! After all these hot days. I want to dance in the rain. A man selling umbrellas is coming towards us already, as always - for a 'good price'. Some locals told us that this is the first rain after summer. Lightning, thunder, heavy rain. We ran to hide in a rock tunnel. We take a breather. The freshness. The rain comes and goes quickly and the heat is back!

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Since now we had the car, it was not necessary for us to stay in the middle of the city, so for the last 3 days we rented a nice apartment 3.5 kilometres from the city center. The apartment was super nice and the price was even nicer - 20 Eur/per night for 2 people. 

We spent the last full day in the center of Amman, visiting the market and the mall, because we needed some souvenirs for ourselves and our friends and family. We also went to King Abdullah I mosque. Even though I had a long dress and a big scarf around my head and shoulders, it still didn't match the traditions of this religion, so they gave me their traditional suit. We got there a little bit before the prayers, so we didn't have much time to sit on the soft carpets, watch the people who were there early and thank God for this unforgettable trip and people we've met. Not long after expressing my gratitude, life gave me another accidental meeting with a woman, right there in the basement of the mosque in the souvenir shop. We started a conversation about the history of our countries, about how we were oppressed, and how Palestine is still getting oppressed, about the deaths of innocent people, and about people who are only chasing power. We comforted each other with hugs and shed a tear. We were standing there - completely different people that accidentally had ran into each other in a souvenir shop, but we felt this empathy and closeness. Suhad was her name. She took a ring off her finger and gave it to me. The ring was with a blue Avanturin rock, which translated from Italian means “by chance”. Now it will forever symbolize how meaningful accidental meetings can be. I hope with all my heart, that Suhad can come visit me some day.

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Our time in Jordan, just like a sand-glass, was coming to an end. We still have our last evening. And we wanted to end it right where we started. We went to the busiest street in the city center, where the hostel was and where we spent our first night. On the second floor of it there was a cafe with a balcony. As we ordered the hookah and some cold beverages, we were watching them - the kind, sweet, giving, smiling, grateful people of this country, which has left its mark in our hearts, inspired and full of hope. A hope for the best and an inspiration to be better. We're grateful!

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