We were a crew of 48 aboard the Viking Ra, divided into 2 camps of 24 travelers who identified as Bus A or Bus B.
Most of the cruisers returned home at the end of our Nile excursion, but 18 intrepid globetrotters–a union of both buses–continued our journey to Jordan for four nights, where we were greeted at Queen Alia International Airport by Ahmad Al Khaldi, our tour director and self-proclaimed terrorist, who adopted the moniker after once guiding the brother of ventriloquist/comedian Jeff Dunham.
Upon arrival to Amman, we boarded a coach for a half-hour ride to Madaba. It was an ambitious itinerary with a lot of ground to cover before reaching the Dead Sea,
but we quickly knew–given the depth of Ahmad’s knowledge, wit, and organization skills–that we were in good hands.
During the half-hour ride to Madaba we absorbed some background about this ancient city that’s renowned for its skilled mosaic artisans,
and its deeply religious ties to Christianity and Islam.
After an orientation of one ofJordan’s holiest landmarks,
we headed to Madaba’s feature attraction… the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George,
where the current structure, consecrated in 1896 is adorned by mosaic icons on every pillar…
but it’s the mosaic floor that’s the star of St. George and Madaba!
The partially restored mosaic map of the Holy Land originates from the 6th century, and was excavated in 1884 when the current church was built atop the ruins of the original Byzantine church. Over 2 million tiles comprise a detailed rendering of the Middle East with surprising detail and accuracy, making it both an artistic masterpiece, and the oldest surviving representation of familiar biblical sites.
We bypassed Mt. Nebo (to be explored the following day) and continued to the Dead Sea Museum,
where we enjoyed an aerial panarama of the Jordan Rift Valley with the lowest elevation on earth (-1410 ft).
and a closer examination of the area’s geological and cultural significance.
Developers see tremedous potential in promoting Dead Sea tourism, touting first-class accomodations and access to its briney beaches. And they’re wasting little time in hotel construction,
because at it’s current rate of evaportion, the Dead Sea will cease to exist by 2050.
Shortly after checking into the sprawling Movenpick village…
it was time to relax with a mud treatment,
and a bouyant soak. What a feeling!
There’s been lots of internet chatter about which country, Israel or Jordan, has the best beaches. The answer is easy: it’s whichever one you’re on!
However, the east coast scores extra points for hosting the sunset over Jerusalem most nights.