Cairo to Istanbul 2010 travel blog

Kerak Crusader Castle

The Dead Sea Float

Mt Nebo, where Moses first saw the Promised Land

Roman Amphitheatre at Jerash

More ruins at Jerash

Bagpipes at Jerash

On Saturday we hit the road again, en route for Madaba. First stop was Kerak Crusader castle, which was famous for the bloody battles in the 12th century between the Crusaders and Saladin's Muslim troops. It's set on top of a hill with magnificent views over the surrounding countryside - no way the enemy could creep up on them. At one time the castle was commanded by a sadistic Crusader knight called Renauld de Chatillon, who had a nasty habit of torturing prisoners and then throwing them off the castle walls to the ground 450m below. He even went to the trouble of tying a wooden box around their heads so they would be conscious when they hit the ground - nice guy!

Next stop was a fancy resort on the Dead Sea where we had a buffet lunch before heading down to the beach for "the float". The Dead Sea is 7 times saltier than ordinary sea water and it's a really strange experience as there is no way you can sink. If you do manage to roll onto your stomach your legs go up in the air and you cannot possibly swim. Apparently there are a couple of deaths each year when overweight people get stuck on their stomachs and can't roll over again and drown. It really stings your eyes if you get a drop of water in them, and we were told not to shave anyhthing for a couple of days before going.

Back in the bus again for a quick stop at Mr Nebo, where Moses first saw the Promised Land. Unfortunately he died before reaching it and is supposed to be buried somewhere on Mt Nebo.

Then it was on to Madaba, our stop for two nights.

Madaba is a pretty little town famous for its mosaics, especially the mosaic map on the floor of St Georges Greek Orthadox Church. One third of Madaba's population is Christian with the rest being Muslim, but they seem to get along fine.

Sunday was our free day in Madaba and we arranged a car to take us to Jerash where there are very well preserved Roman ruins, then to the capital Amman to see more ruins.

Jerash, near Amman, was once home to 15,000 people and dates from the time of Alexander the Great in 333BC (although Neolithic relics have been discovered there). They have been excavating the site for 85 years and estimate that 90% of the city is still to be unearthed. The ruins are very well preserved and we spent a few hours wandering round. We were surprised to see a Jordanian pipe band playing Scotland the Brave and other non-Jordanian tunes - couldn't quite work out the history of this.

After Jerash our driver took us on to Amman so we could visit the citadel, another Roman ruin. Amman is the capital of Jordan, around 3,000 people which is half of Jordan's population.

Finally, all ruined out, we headed back to Madaba to chill out in one of the cafes before tea time.

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