King’s Highway Tour

Criss-Crossing the Backbone of Jordan

Amman -> Madaba -> the Dead Sea -> Kerak -> Wadi Musa & Petra, Jordan

Despite short notice, a full work schedule, and the threat of snow, I was determined that Philip get to see the highlights of Jordan in his brief stay here. As luck would have it, my co-worker John also had a friend, Ann, visiting from London, and had hired a driver to take us down the King’s Highway to Madaba, the Dead Sea, Kerak and Wadi Musa, the town at the entrance of Petra National Park. Philip and I decided to tag along, despite my corporate client’s warnings that it was supposed to snow and be miserable all weekend long. Philip agreed, it would be silly to come all this way and not even get a brief, rainy glimpse of Petra!

So we left early, in order to arrive in Madaba as St. George’s Church opened in the morning. The Greek Orthodox church features a Sixth Century mosaic map of the Classical World, one of the oldest and most accurate maps of the Trans-Jordan region, though the part of the map depicting Egypt is quite skewed, so that the Nile River runs perpendicular and not parallel to the Jordan River and the Dead Sea. Archaeologists interpret this to mean that the mosaic makers were probably from the Trans-Jordan, and were only able to construct the Egyptian section of the map from texts and word of mouth.

As it turned out, the weather was simply beautiful today, warm and sunny and perfect for a trip down the Dead Sea, and along the backbone of Jordan, through the mountains that formed the edge of the Crusader kingdoms. Back in the period of the film “Kingdom of Heaven,” the European Crusaders had built a series of castles along the mountain range beyond the Jordan River: Aqaba, Wu’ayra (in Petra National Park), Kerak (which features prominently in the film), Shobak, Ajlun, Krak de Chevaliers and others. They were built at such intervals that signal fires could be lit at one castle at night, and seen at the next one north and south. We visited one of the best preserved of those, Kerak Castle. One of the fun things about archaeological sites in Jordan is that they’re poorly labeled (and likely poorly understood as well), so you mostly get to make things up as you go along. Sadly, I couldn’t locate what Auntie Viv and I thought was probably the kitchens, but we had some fun wandering around and wondering.

After lunch, we went out to the Desert Highway and hurried down to Wadi Musa so that we could make it to Petra By Night … which was rather more fun when I came with my parents and there were about fifty people, instead of a couple hundred. Being one of the New Seven Wonders of the World has made Petra an awfully crowded place! On the other hand, I could tell my Arabic was better, because I understood what the rababah player was singing!

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