Pool in the Negev, Wadi Qelt

Pool in the Negev, Wadi Qelt

Flying from Amman to Tel Aviv, I looked out to see where that fabled river Jordan would appear, and it was quite remarkable to see the green after the barren, desert mountains of Jordan.

Swoop over the sea and land at the Ben Gurion airport. Very efficient shared taxi to Jerusalem, the driver drops you right where you have to go - for us it was the rather charming and very comfortable legacy hotel, which according to all my Jewish friends is the wrong area, but it is a 5 minute walk into the Old City, which is what we have come to explore essentially.

Damascus Gate

Damascus Gate

Church of the Sepulchre

Church of the Sepulchre                         

The Old City of Jerusalem, I honestly was not sure what I expected, but it certainly was not a cleanerversion of Chandni Chowk. Local shops rub shoulders with tourist fare, little cobbled alleys crisscross each other, tucked away arches and tiny corridors, what stories the stones could tell!

the citadel

the citadel

Unfortunately we are here on Friday and so cannot visit the Dome of the Rock, it's good Friday for the greek orthodox church so visiting the church of the Sepulchre was also an impossibility, there were barricades and very efficient security. But everything seems to move quite smoothly and it was not uncomfortable and we walked the via dolorosa, immersed ourselves in the sights and smells of old Jerusalem.We did get to the tower of David and the top of the Citadel to see the panoramic views of Jerusalem spread below. Also managed to see the museum and the history of Jerusalem, which is so varied - Solomon, David, Nebuchadnezzar, Herod, Alexander, Ptolemies, Constantine and on and on... So like I say if stones could just tell the tales, I guess they do to archeologists and such!

Druze village, mount meron

We finally did an early morning dash to the church and found it wonderfully empty and accessible. So the parents got to see all they wanted which was good. Later I got panoramic views from the mount of olives aswell.

From Jerusalem to the north. A drive along the valley of the Jordan river, finally getting to understand the area and piece the stories together, sectors divided, one town Palestinian and the adjacent one Israeli, it defies description why a people that co existed once cannot continue to do so, but there is ample evidence around the world that this phenomenon persists and that men who might play a game of chess together one day will build a wall between them when some political or religious propagandist tells them to!

Sea of Galilee

Sea of Galilee

Mount Meron area


Mount Meron area

Regardless, its a fruitful and blooming valley, the river is rather a trickle because water has been diverted for irrigation in both Jordan and Israel, and it was dissapointing to finally see such a mythical river and find a stream. It still greens the desert however.

The sea of Galilee, was large and beautiful, surrounded by the mountains, the water was soft and warm, rather special. I got to visit the Druze community at Mount Meron. They live and farm in the national park area, and gave us a great off road tour of their oak wooded mountains. Stood looking off the Golan heights, standing next to a bunker and seeing just how and why these heights are so key to security.

paradise pool

Little streams cut magical canyons through these mountains. Walked up one to a paradisical waterfall and pool surrounded by pink flowering oleanders, straight out of a Mills and Boon romance. Cold, refreshing swim after a warm walk. There are so many little areas of wilderness and interest all over. It is just so my kind of place.

Tel Aviv, it’s a city that I enjoyed thoroughly. The sea makes it happen as does the energy. Bicycles, motored and all other kinds of funk, scooties and scooters, kayaks and sail boats. Old ports with charming to funky restaurants. Friendly and vibrant. I also flew, over the beaches and skimmed the surface of the water, soaring like a bird with the controls in my hands and a colourful parasail billowing overhead. All in all a smorgasbord of experiences that describe this mixing bowl of a city.Israel was fascinating.

Flying lesson

Flying lesson



Old Jaffa PortOld Jaffa Port

tree in a hanging pot, old jaffa

tree in a hanging pot, old jaffa


Petra/ Jordan

Jordan/ Petra

A country that I always associated with the river and song: ‘deep and wide, chilly and cold, chills the body and not the soul!’

Well it doesn’t chill at all, though it is not as hot as I anticipated. Such a contrast to Egypt…the first thing that changes is the smarm looking for baksheesh. It was probably the single most uncomfortable thing about Egypt, maybe even worse than at home.

Here is pleasant and friendly. We got our car at the airport with smiles, great politeness and not the slightest sensation of ‘when in the world are you going to tip me?’

The gps found us a lovely route to Petra, one part of it was undulating hills with scrub vegetation, flocks of sheep and thistle growing – uncannily akin to Scotland! For the rest it was desert, with a sprinkling of agriculture and industry. Olives and cement.

Wadi Musa the little town adjoining Petra is sprawled up and down the hills in muddy brown, quaint and charming. Our hotel is a lovely old one, beautifully maintained and superbly serviced. Sitting out on the terrace and watching the sunset over the hills. Bedouin tea and a really superb dinner buffet. So pleasant after the bad food in Egypt. The hotel is the Amra Palace International Hotel, and I can solidly reccommend it for great cleanliness, helpful charm and very good food. It’s a little distance from the entrance to Petra, but they have 3 shuttle busses morning and evening. The closest hotel to the entrance is the movenpick, which looked rather good too, however I liked the character of the Amra.

Tomorrow we go explore the depths of the city in stone.

Petra; it starts with a dusty path, alongside the horse track, with the carts and horses throwing up plumes as they come asking if you would like a ride. But then you walk into the shady mouth of a narrow canyon. It is the Siq which forms a passage into the main city. Textured pink rock, carved with old water channels either side and various points with icons and deities all weathered in pink stone. There is a saying that this is where Moses smote the earth and water sprang forth. Moses or not, there is a spring and the early Nabateans who built this city controlled the water, channelled it and made reservoirs, creating a perfect stopping point for cross traffic in all directions and earning from their great resource in the desert.

The Siq winds it’s way into the mountains and emerges you at the point where the most famous Petran monument, the Treasury appears. ( Straight out of Indiana Jones, you can imagine Sean Connery and Harrison Ford charging out of the canyon while ‘Petra’ explodes behind them.) Here the valley opens and one has a surfeit of amazing sculpted rock in every direction. Temples, tombs, cisterns, roman colonnades, a theatre. Crusader castles and the beautiful monastery on the hills. It’s about 12 kms of hot wandering and clambering. Not for the faint hearted.

You can take a horse, donkey, camel to do sections, but it is honestly best explored wandering, with a large hat, a camel back water pack and some chocolate for energy. Start early and take the whole day, or take two days. The ticket cost a dinar or two extra over the basic cost, for each day.

After the hot dusty Petra walk and all that culture and art, the Turkish bath is a must. They steam you and scrub you, pummel and massage all the wellness back in, you emerge; new, refreshed and ready to go back again, however i went and sat on the terrace with an icy beer and watched the sunset.

The old ones certainly knew how to build timelessly!

We drove via the Dead Sea and spent a night there on our way back to Amman and the flight out. The Kempinski Ishtar hotel is large and 5 star with its own private beach – so nice. The Ishtar section is nicer to stay in, and the movenpick next door seemed equally nice.

The Sea is its own amazing experience of just staying on the surface of the water and barely managing to put your feet down on the ground. Hilarious to start with and wonderfully relaxing once you have the measure. Don’t let it get in your eyes or mouth, stinging and foul. Great for the skin, even if you do not coat yourself with the black mud, smoothens and shines making you gleam. We had a thunderstorm and rain in the desert to add value to an already amazing trip.

Sent from Pavane Mann’s iPad
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