Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Umm Ar-Rasas, Karak, Aqaba.

Today we had a 'free' day! No hotel was booked, so we could go where we pleased? well---once we had dropped our traveller at the airport.
Getting from the Dead Sea to the Airport was easy, the road we used was new and not charted on the map. It cut straight up the mountain from the low Dead Sea to the Madaba Plateau. Passing the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex. This new building houses a Restaurant and Museum dedicated to the Dead Sea. The museum is run by the RSCN. there is a magnificent view of the dead sea from the viewing deck.
We then travelled along a back road from Madaba to an outpost called Umm ar-Rasas, after all the fuss about the 'Mosaic Map', this small place was a revelation! Umm ar-Rasas was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Here we found the ruins of a once great city and whole floors of intricate Mosaics, some sheltered by a green roof, but others sadly left facing the elements. We were the loan visitors to this site. this photo is of one of the uncovered Mosaics. We joined the Kings Highway at the village of Dhiban, and now drove at the back of the Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve. This nature Reserve is also called 'Jordans Grand Canyon'. This name is well earned, as we passed many viewpoints offering stunning views over the barren landscape. Due to the winding nature of the road it was very slow going and late afternoon when we came to the Town of Karak.
The town is famous for the crusader castle around which the town is built. The Castle dominates the town, it is the first thing you see as you approach the town.
An ancient Crusader stronghold, Karak sits 900m above sea level and lies inside the walls of the old city. The city today is home to around 170,000 people and continues to boast a number of restored 19th century Ottoman buildings, restaurants, places to stay. While it could hardly be described as beautiful, Karak is an impressive example of the Crusaders' architectural military genius. We spent a long time exploring the dark, dank passages of the Castle. Unfortunately we could not find any accommodation so decided to travel on to Aqaba.
Using the flat Desert Highway we headed to Aqaba, arriving at the new Movenpick Tala Bay Hotel late at night. The hotel was very nice, and with some good opening offers on, it was good value.
We spent the next few days relaxing on the beach, snorkeling at the reef of the nearby Royal Diving Club and exploring the markets of Aqaba, this photo shows the neighboring town of Eilat. One small tip, the best place we found to eat, good food at a good price, was the Royal Yacht Club on the main corniche roundabout in the town center.
The nice modern Room.