11 October 2022

Jordan Trip (with her)

  1. First trip after starting to empty nest Sep 30, 2022

    I had gone to Jordan for the first time in my life about four months back. I saw only a small portion of the country – but whatever I saw was incredibly beautiful. (You can read the whole journey here

    Going back there with Sharmila this time. Hoping to see a lot more of the country. Right now, we have Dead Sea, Wadi Al-Mujib, Aqaba, Wadi Rum, Petra and Amman in our plans.

  2. We are off to a flying start Oct 1, 2022

    The plan is to the take in some of the beauty of the deserts, learn the history and enjoy the people of the middle east.

    In reality, the action was to get down at Doha (transit airport) after a fifteen hour flight and make a beeline for the gold store!!!

  3. Warm welcome in Amman! Oct 2, 2022

    Mahmoud and I became great friends during my last trip to Amman. He took me around his country and guided me with a lot of history and geography lessons.

    “You have to promise to come back and bring your family back next time!”, were his parting words when we bid good bye last time.
    “I definitely will”, I had promised him.
    “You will meet my family and have dinner with us”, he had graciously invited.

    After that we have kept up on Whatsapp and occasional phone calls.

    He was the first person there at the airport waiting for us when we finally came out of the customs area.

    He was clearly overjoyed to see us!

    He pronounces my name the Arabic way – almost like “Rajab”. He explained to Sharmila the good times we had last time when we went around in our adventures.

    “Rajab is not my friend. He is my brother,” he explained to her.

    “My family has been talking about you for the last whole week. They have been waiting eagerly! You have to have dinner with us tomorrow.”

    “We will do so!”, I assured him as we sped away in the dark from the airport for our over an hour ride to the Dead Sea.

    Always very reassuring to get a great welcome in a foreign country!

  4. Arrived at the Dead Sea Oct 2, 2022

    Finally arrived at the Dead Sea well past midnight. Of course, we cannot see the Sea in the dark. This is the view right now. If you see the dim lights at the very end, that is West Bank on the other side of the Sea. And the very dim lights on the top (you need to zoom in) is Jerusalem.

  5. Morning view of the Dead Sea from the hotel room Oct 2, 2022

  6. Entering Wadi Al-Mujib Oct 2, 2022

  7. A few minutes in Oct 2, 2022

  8. Getting knee deep now Oct 2, 2022

    The sheer faces of the rocks on either side were magnificent. That is Sharmila nearest to me taking the picture.

  9. Beautiful canyon walls Oct 2, 2022

  10. Still trekking along Oct 2, 2022

  11. The waters started getting a little fast… Oct 2, 2022

  12. Golden mountains Oct 2, 2022

    Peeking high up, we could see mountain heads that looked golden in the sunshine

  13. Learning the ropes Oct 2, 2022

    The water got really deep. Needed the rope to navigate.

  14. On our way back Oct 2, 2022

  15. Climbing back out of the canyon river Oct 2, 2022

  16. Found a crack thru the towering canyon walls Oct 2, 2022

  17. My friend from the past Oct 2, 2022

    Last time I was in Jordan, I had befriended Peterson sitting at the bar in the Marriott at Dead Sea. He makes a killer mojito. He had told me about his life story in the Philippines and how he eventually landed in Jordan.

    A little more than a week back, I had called him to wish him a happy birthday and also let him know that I will be visiting again. And that is how, we made sure we meet one more time today before he left for the Philippines for his vacation.

  18. About that Archimedes’ Principle bit… Oct 2, 2022

    Sharmila doing the Dead Sea thing that you gotta do!

  19. It is Durga Pujo time in Bengal Oct 2, 2022

    In a related news, there is one Pujo Mandap somewhere in Kolkata that is running one Mahishasura short.

  20. He remembered!!! Oct 2, 2022

    This evening when we went down to the beach by the Dead Sea to do the mud-salt rub and the floating in the Dead Sea thingy, I was hoping to run into Mahmoud. He is a young guy that I had met last time (see the smaller picture with my outstretched hand). He had rubbed the salt on my hand and asked me to try the mud and salt. I had demurred and bowed out.

    But between his broken English and my non existing Arabic, I had told him that I would do it the next time. He told me he would get me some salt crystals then.

    Mahmoud was indeed there when we went to the beach today. We started talking and I realized he had not recognized me. So, I fished out the old picture of us from the phone. He immediately jumped up!

    Got us a fresh pile of mud and salt stack. Followed by some bottles of cold water. And then after making sure Sharmila and I had a good time with the whole experience, he ran back somewhere and showed up with some large salt crystals (see picture)!!

    Couldn’t believe that he remembered.

  21. Straw hat. In front of a straw hat. Oct 2, 2022

  22. The Spanish will recognize the sunset as the inverted interrogation mark (¡) Oct 2, 2022

  23. Sunset over the Dead Sea Oct 2, 2022

  24. We reached the crystal rock area Oct 3, 2022

    Everything you see below (and at this point we were quite high up at the car parking area) is made of salt!!

  25. Essentially, you have two choices… Oct 3, 2022

    (*) salt and
    (*) salty water

  26. Salt beaches Oct 3, 2022

  27. What does this giant salt crystal formation remind you of? Oct 3, 2022

    It reminded me of an armadillo (a rather well built one, at that)

  28. This might remind you of glaciers Oct 3, 2022

    But it really just salt rocks with some mud layered in.

  29. There was salt and there was Sharmila Oct 3, 2022

    What I was missing was some Tequila and a lime

  30. We were in the lowest land in the Earth Oct 3, 2022

    I was not too sure about the claim. But I did Google it up and it is true. This is the lowest land in the world. A little south of the Dead Sea, this is the “Gawr” area. I am not 100% sure of this but I believe the term translates to “low lying areas” in Arabic.

    The museum itself is in Gawr es-Safi. Has some great history lessons on how this area got the first humans and how things have evolved from there.

    There is a mummified corpse from long past that completely spooked Sharmila.

    Also, this has a coffee shop (a bit modern day, I admit) that serves some killer karak chai!

  31. TV? Or not TV? (That was the question) Oct 3, 2022

    In the museum, we came to the Bedouin section. There were some great artifacts of Bedouin living that harkened to the past. The clay oven, the tent (most of the time black top), the tools and even a long smoking pipe. (In the picture in the bottom, you can see a picture of a Bedouin lady smoking the long smoking pipe).

    But the TV?

    It does look like straight out of the 70s… but I would think it is post-Bedouin era!

  32. King Lot’s wife’s statue Oct 3, 2022

    This is a rock formation on top of the mountain. We are seeing the backside. And there is a good reason for it. According to Biblical stories, this is King Lot’s wife turning her back to the destruction caused by Sodom and Gomorrah. We did not go to the top but from the front, apparently this natural rock formation has an uncanny look for a women’s face.

  33. Gypsy tent Oct 3, 2022

    The shot was taken from about half a mile away. The difference between a gypsy and a bedouin, I was taught by my Jordanian friend Mahmoud, is that gypsies tend to be a lot dirtier and more unhygienic around their tent and tend to shun work (instead beg). I cannot vouch for that but surely this particular tent was far more unkempt than the Bedouin tents I had seen during my last trip.

  34. You cannot take this with a grain of salt Oct 3, 2022

    The salt vats ran for miles! (these are salt farming operations trying to extract salt from the Dead Sea. I am assuming they do not have to try hard)

    (And that is not a moon in broad noon; that is a reflection on the windshield I was taking my shots thru)

  35. We hit Jordanian desert! Oct 3, 2022

    Some of the scenes reminded me of Mongolia. Except that – that was a cold desert and this is a decidedly hot one…

  36. Those flat topped trees in Jordan desert Oct 3, 2022

    Reminded us so much of the divi divi trees in Aruba island! (We are not sure why the trees here evolved to look like that)

  37. The dromedaries of Jordan! Oct 3, 2022

    Roger, this sure brings back the memories of the Bactrians in Mongolia. I think these would be more difficult to ride than those. What sayest thou?

  38. I was not expecting this… Oct 3, 2022

    After a lot of very hard rocks, salt and then the desert sands, suddenly we were hit with a lot of limestone mountains! I was not expecting this in the least…

  39. What is it about deserts and half buried tires? Oct 3, 2022

    Do you remember the story from Mongolia?

    I asked my friend Mahmoud. He was not too sure. Hope to find out soon what those half buried ties here mean…

  40. Another unexpected scene Oct 3, 2022

    We were going thru a lot of mountains. Eventually, the mountains started receding in the horizon and the desert took over.

    The rather predictability of the horizon was suddenly broken by this very odd landscape. Look at the particular rock I am referring to. It is almost flat on the top for *many* *many* miles. Looks almost like a perfect plateau. Except that it is flanked by either side with normal mountains.

    Not sure about what makes it this way.

  41. Learnt a bit of history Oct 3, 2022

    For most of the drive from the Dead Sea to Aqaba, we were but a hop, skip and jump away from Israel. In fact the whole drive was spotted with border sentry points like you see in this picture. These were, at times, half a mile away (at best). Beyond that was Israel (and of course, Israel’s checkpoints).

    You can literally walk over to Israel if you could negotiate the two checkpoints, that is.

    Prior to the 1994 peace treaty, there used to be a lot of checkpoints on this road itself. After the treaty (where both parties agreed that a third country cannot use their land to attack the other country), all those checkpoints were removed.

    Curiosity led me to read what happened after the 1994 treaty. Just search for Israel Jordan Peace Treaty in Wikipedia. Couldn’t help being impressed by King Hussein’s commitment to peace in the area.

  42. Reached Aqaba!! Why Aqaba? Oct 3, 2022

    I had come to Jordan in May. Then next month, Sharmila, Nikita and I were headed to India. The flight to Doha took a little southernly route due to the war in Ukraine. I was so excited that we might be going near Jordan that I had woken up Sharmila from her sleep to show her the Red Sea and Gulf of Aqaba when we crossed it. From about 40,000 feet high on Jun 10, I had taken pictures and posted them.

    I had also promised that I will have my friend Mahmoud takes us to that city that we saw from the plane.

    Well, today was that day!! Mahmoud brought Sharmila and me to Aqaba. We have not ventured out of the hotel yet. We will do so in the next two days.

    How often do you get to fly over a completely unknown and small city from 40,000 feet high and hit that city soon on the ground as promised?

    (The left is a picture I took from the plane that day; the right is a Google map picture right now)

  43. View from our hotel room Oct 3, 2022

    Those trees that seem a stone’s throw away? Yeah! That is Israel. Literally a half mile away!

  44. Sunset on the Red Sea Oct 3, 2022

  45. Jordan, Israel and Egypt are all lit up! Oct 3, 2022

    (Cities of Aqaba, Eliat and Taba)

  46. We wanted adventure! We got adventure!! Oct 3, 2022

    It was hot as heck outside. A little over 100 degree F. Inside Mahmoud’s air conditioned car, we were, of course, cool and comfortable. Screaming down Jordan Highway 65, looking out and watching the cars on Israel Highway 90 on the other side of the border.

    And then boom! We hit adventure. In a moment reminiscent of what happened to us in Mongolia, we burst our front left tire!!

    Mahmoud quickly pulled over to the side. A minor inconvenience, I reckoned. I got out of the car too with Mahmoud. Wanted to help him move the suitcases out of the boot so we could take the spare out and fit it in. We were only 45 minutes away from our destination – Aqaba.

    However, Mahmoud made no effort to open the boot. He looked at the tire and started making phone calls. After he was done, I asked him – “Shall we put the spare in?”.

    That is when I learnt that we had no spare!! This is exactly what had happened to us in the middle of the desert in Mongolia. We had to wait there til we saw a jeep coming in the horizon, wave him down and took his spare.

    We were in the desert again. Once more, with a flat. This time, I was wondering what was going to happen. It was hot, hot, hot.

    “You go sit inside. Jordanian people are good. We will get help soon.”

    I went inside and explained to Sharmila what was happening. And then must have spent about two minutes on my phone trying to mark the spot on Google maps. I looked behind to see what Mahmoud was up to.

    Sure enough, another car had come and stopped behind us. Mahmoud was speaking to him in a very animated fashion.

    After a couple of minutes, both of them came by.

    “Hello sir! I am Ali from a nearby place Karak. I will take you and Mahmoud to Aqaba.”, he spoke in perfect English.

    We got out thinking – “Ah our problems had been solved”.

    Well, one problem. Or a couple of problems. First, the car was very small. There was no way our suitcases would fit.

    “Just take your passports”, said Ali. So I grabbed my back pack. And we left our car by the roadside – with our luggage in it!!

    And the car had no air conditioner. So, we proceeded on our trip in a very small car in bright sunlight at 103 degrees with windows down screaming down the highway at about 100 mph (60mph). Sharmila and I were on the west side of the car – so the sun was in full blast on us. I was personally getting baked. Sharmila put on a brave face, determined to weather it all.

    Mahmoud and Ali were talking loudly all this time in Arabic. To ears not used to the language, it seemed that they were saying a lot of “l”s and “h”s and throwing in an occasional “b” or “m” to break the monotony. Later, Ali explained to me that he was telling Mahmoud to always carry a spare.

    In about 10 minutes, we suddenly got off the road to a side road. In a couple of minutes, we were in a village. Looking for a store that might have tires.

    Good news! We found a car shop!! They had tires!

    Bad news!! None of them matched the size we wanted!

    So, we continued on the road again.

    In about 20 minutes, the military stopped us. Just a routine check. Ali and Mahmoud explained the situation. Not knowing much Arabic, at least that was my guess about what was going on. The military personnel asked if we had our American passports. Thanking Ali for his idea before, I produced the passports. And we were waved by.

    Another 10 minutes later, we came upon a green taxi. Mahmoud got off and said he will find a tire, fix the car and come back and see us in the hotel. He went off in the taxi. Ali continued with us and then dropped us at our hotel.

    Mahmoud, as it turns out, did find a tire and go back to his car. And there was more drama waiting for him there. By the time he reached there, our car was surrounded by Jordanian military. They were leery about a car standing by the road without anybody in sight. Remember, we were barely half a mile away from the Israeli border.

    But they had noticed the flat tire. So, instead of forcing their way in, they were busy making phone calls trying to track the owner and driver down.

    Eventually, everything was back where they were supposed to be. And the three of us sat down at the Al Manara hotel for some beer and wine to take the sunset in.

    And going over the story in our heads over and over again!

  47. Morning calm in Red Sea Oct 4, 2022

  48. Venturing into the Red Sea in a glass bottom boat Oct 4, 2022

  49. That has to be the biggest “No Smoking” sign I have seen in my life… Oct 4, 2022

    Which is an irony given what the ship seems to be surreptitiously doing!!

  50. I have no idea why they have it there Oct 4, 2022

    You see the guy standing there? Near the base of the larger of the two cranes that you can see? Now zoom in… Yes, it is a mannequin! I have no idea whey they have kept it there!

  51. This was a bit of a shock for me Oct 4, 2022

    As we were walking towards the boat, Sharmila noticed it first. A lot of dates… fallen on the ground… and trampled by people like when flowers fall down. Was a bit of a shock for me since I love eating them 🙂

  52. The city of Eliat, Israel from our boat Oct 4, 2022

  53. The city of Taba, Egypt Oct 4, 2022

  54. That was a surprise! Oct 4, 2022

    Our captain indicated that we are going to be near a coral reef and should see some interesting stuff. He slowed the boat and eventually had the engine idling. Suddenly, something big showed up under the glass bottom. The three of us were very excited. Till we realized that it was one of the guys there cleaning up the bottom of the boat so we could see clearly!!

    He went from one boat to the next doing this! I do not think I have seen anything like this!! Have you?

  55. Some of the colorful growth in the sea Oct 4, 2022

  56. Wait! Is that a shark? Oct 4, 2022

    No! It is an airplane!! There is an airplane sitting at the bottom of the sea bed!! This is when we were expecting to see corals and fishes!

    Our first reaction was that it was a plane crash. But the plane was laying down too nicely on its bed (not a sign of crashing in) for that to be true.

    Turns out that in an effort to boost tourism, the government lowered a plane last year to attract divers. The water is so clear that you can see the plane from the surface without any effort.

    According to the internet, in some dark humor, one of the tourist divers has set up a artificial skeleton at the pilot’s seat too!!

  57. There is a trash can … right in the middle of the sea! Oct 4, 2022

    On that note, for all the things that are great about Jordan, one big setback is people just do not take care of their waters. We saw numerous plastics floating in the water and many a bright Pepsi can in the reefs were mistaken for a short time as a bright blue fish! That is a real shame. The city has all the potential of being a great tourist haven in the Middle East. I hope they will focus on this problem.

  58. Something was amiss! Oct 4, 2022

    “Brother Mahmoud, what happened to the star?”

    Mahmoud looked up in the sky wondering why was I looking for a star in broad daylight. He realized I was pointing to the Jordanian flag at the port.

    He was a bit confused too. Without the star, that looked like the flag of Palestine.

    “Perhaps it is on the other side?”, he said.

    “Unlikely”, I said. We checked. There was no star on the other side either.

    Mahmoud was as curious as I. He went around asking the local folks at the port. He finally came back with the answer – “This is our old flag.”

    I was a little confused. What do you mean – old flag? The star got washed away during the rinse and repeat of the old flag?

    Wikipedia to the rescue. This is indeed the prior flag of Jordan – more accurately that of the “Hashemite Arab Federation”!

    Again, learnt something new.

  59. Does Google Maps confuse me with Moses? Oct 4, 2022

    All I wanted to know is the aerial distance from Aqaba, Jordan to Taba, Egypt. I figured if I found out the road distance, I could estimate from it.

    I certainly had not bargained for Google Maps asking me to driving ON the Red Sea to a city way down south of Taba and then drive back up north on the highway like driving on the sea was no big deal!

    BTW, the real answer is about 12 km. No thanks to Google Maps.

    Edit: Have to edit this for Ram Narayanan – he thinks Google Maps is the original reason why Moses had to do it the way he did!! I have changed the title in honor of Ram’s comment!

  60. If the plane in the sea bed was not interesting for you… Oct 4, 2022

    … try this – a sunken tank!!

  61. Brother Mahmoud … in a pensive mood Oct 4, 2022

  62. It was like one of those rides in India with my brother Oct 4, 2022

    It was hot as heck (as in 100 degree F). We get out of the AC car. The sun hits us immediately. What do we do?

    In India, we have hot tea at a street side stall.

    In Jordan, we get Omar to make us some hot Turkish coffee!!

    Getting a wee bit inspired to set up a traditional Arabic coffee making set up at home.

  63. The 5th country we saw this time Oct 4, 2022

    We drove to the southern most border of Jordan to see Saudi Arabia. After Jordan, Palestine, Israel and Egypt, this is the fifth country we got to see this trip, up, close and personal!

  64. In Ayla Oct 4, 2022

  65. Not sure where all the clouds came from… Oct 4, 2022

    … but it made for a great sunset.

    First time we saw clouds in Jordan.

  66. Taking in the local scene Oct 4, 2022

    Not having anything better to do this evening, we just walked around the local markets in Aqaba…

  67. Part 1 of 3: It all started with me showing interest in a white parakeet… Oct 4, 2022

  68. Part 2 of 3: It quickly escalated from parakeet to karak chai Oct 4, 2022

    I asked the owner of the parakeet – who was running a coffee stall – “How good is your karak chai?”

    “Very good, sir”

    “Let’s us try”

    And just like that, we sat down to have yet another round of karak chai…

  69. Part 3 of 3: From karak chai, it was a short hop to a full fledged party!! Oct 4, 2022

    Soon, we befriended some more tourists and then just made a whole evening out of it!!

  70. Saraya Beach Oct 5, 2022

    Enjoying the Red Sea for one last time before we head out to the deserts

  71. Off to Wadi Rum to stay in desert camps Oct 5, 2022

  72. Hejaz Railway Oct 5, 2022

    Out in the horizon, beyond the Bedouin tents, you can see a railway line. The best way to locate is the relatively smooth line. It is a narrow gauge railway that connects Istanbul, Turkey to Medina, Saudi Arabia. I believe the original plan was to extent to Mecca but the first World War interrupted the constructions.

    Mahmoud let me know that it carries mostly goods trains these days.

  73. Goods train? Oct 5, 2022

    Within 10 minutes of learning that the Hejaz railway is used for good trains, we came across a very short train that seemed to be carrying people. And the people were all sitting in the one coach that did not have a roof! We have no idea what was going on…

  74. Interesting marks on the mountain Oct 5, 2022

    As we were driving from Aqaba to Wadi Rum, we came across some mountains with some interesting marks across them as you can see in the picture. It almost looks like the mountains were sliced by a knife. It cannot be flowing water. Look at the one straight up the road in front of you. The mountain seems to be cut on both sides of it from the top.

    Anybody has any idea what these might be?

  75. Reached our desert camp Oct 5, 2022

    This is no “ger” like where Roger and I stayed in Mongolia. Unlike those, this is air conditioned, has a bathroom, flowing water, fridge and a hot tub!! The coolest part are the wide curtain windows that you can draw back in sleep in watching the moon and the stars!

    I doubt that this is how the Bedouins live!

  76. Jordanian colosseum? Oct 5, 2022

    Our desert camp (more like a glamp) is cocooned against this big mountain – that reminds be uncannily of the Colosseum in Rome!

  77. Headed on an open truck to see the sunset Oct 5, 2022

  78. The rock formations are very interesting… Oct 5, 2022

    … this one has a sheer drop all around. Like somebody pulled it form the ground for some distance

  79. This one had a completely different color than the other mountains near it Oct 5, 2022

  80. Does this not remind you of a huge bird looking back with its aquiline nose? Oct 5, 2022

  81. I think that one has to be a huge corona virus precariously hanging on to the top of the mountain Oct 5, 2022

  82. Camel crossing Oct 5, 2022

  83. Sharmila’s selfie attempt while we try to scale a nearby rock to see the sunset Oct 5, 2022

  84. The hot desert sun is ready to hide Oct 5, 2022

  85. The beautiful aftermath of the sunset Oct 5, 2022

    The mountains lit up in the golden colors. Reminded me of the Bayanzag Flaming Cliffs in Mongolia.

    To give you an idea of the scale, if you can spot the tiny person on the right middle edge of the picture… yes, that person just scaled to the top of a huge sand dune!!


  86. All the folks that had gathered in the valley to watch the sunset Oct 5, 2022

    We were on top of a hill nearby.

  87. Some lit a fire to prepare food after sunset Oct 5, 2022

  88. Some pre-dinner Bedouin entertainment Oct 5, 2022

    With Bedouin music and dance and Bedouin coffee

  89. Digging up the Bedouin dinner Oct 5, 2022

    After the entertainment, we were taken to a place to see how the Bedouins cook their food. As was demonstrated, a hole was dug in the afternoon in the sand and then a black container was inserter. Charcoal/wood was added and lit. And the food was then hung in it (in this case, food meant chicken, potatoes and onions) and left to cook. A metal cover was put on it, with a cloth cover on that and then sand was dumped on it.

    Once the layers were removed, out came some really, really well cooked feast!

  90. The camp looked good in the background of the lit rock Oct 5, 2022

  91. Now, for some wine and watching the stars to wind down the day Oct 5, 2022

  92. Early morning climb up a rock Oct 6, 2022

    The long shadow will tell you this was pretty early

  93. See if you can spot Sharmila Oct 6, 2022

  94. We are ready for a full day of open truck ride thru the desert sand for some adventure! Oct 6, 2022

  95. Camel ride with Sharmila Oct 6, 2022

    The last one I did was in Mongolia. Those were the two humped, big ones (Bactrian). These were smaller and single humped (Dromedary)

  96. They shared a joke or two… which I did not get at all! Oct 6, 2022

  97. Petroglyphs in Wadi Rum Oct 6, 2022

    The Wadi Rum desert lies right in the ancient path from Istanbul to Saudi Arabia. All over the desert you can see the inscriptions carved on rock paces by ancient travelers and original tribes.

    This one is mostly petroglyphs of camels that dates back to the Thamud people (eight centuries before Christ).

  98. Lawrence of Arabia house Oct 6, 2022

    This rubble is reputed to be Lawrence of Arabia’s (British general who fought successfully with the Arab rebels against the Ottomans) house and armory storage. It cannot be independently verified whether this was indeed where he stayed, nonetheless, this location was used in the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”

  99. There goes my hero!! Oct 6, 2022

    Standing near the Lawrence of Arabia place, straining my eyes way out into the desert, I thought I saw something moving. At first I assumed, it was somebody on a camel. But the image was too thin for that. Then, it appeared that whoever it was, seemed to be running.

    I asked Sharmila and Mahmoud – “Do you think, he is running this way?”

    In the top picture, you can see the small image in the middle of the picture.

    As I trained my zoom camera lens on the person, it became evident that it was a runner. In fact, he took a right turn around the mountain and I got a clean shot of him running.

    That was awe inspiring. Running in that heat, in the middle of the desert on a hard to run surface like sand. And look at the perfect gait with the ankles thrown up high (unlike me).

    Just as I was getting inspired, Sharmila put cold water on me… “Don’t get any ideas!!”

    I was hoping that our four wheeler will cross path with him again. I wanted to ask him why was he running in the middle of the desert. Also, if he had any prior experience in ignoring his wife’s advice!

  100. Jebel Burdah Rock Bridge Oct 6, 2022

    Considered one of the highest rock bridges in the world, the Burdah Rock Bridge stands a clear 115 feet (about 11 floors) above ground. We did not climb it.

    In the tea stall below, we had some free tea and cookies. And made some friends with fellow tourists. Got some photography tips from Zoltan who was visiting from Hungary with his Canon DSLR EOS 6D.

    Also, met Pam and Greg.

    “Where are you visiting from?” (I must have used this line 50 times this trip and made all sorts of new friends)
    “America”, the gentleman replied. “And you?”
    “We are from America too. Atlanta”.
    “We are from DC. We have 2 of our children in South Carolina”.
    “And we have a daughter in DC!”

    … and the conversations and exchanging of notes from places visited started. Turns out Pam and Greg are avid hikers and talked about some of the most difficult treks they have done.

    I suddenly had a doubt.

    “Did you guys go up to the top of the bridge?”

    “Yes. We cam down 10 minutes back”

    “Wait a minute… blue shirt, black shorts … I wonder….”, I mumbled and quickly scanned thru the pictures on my camera. And then stopped at one. Zoomed in as hard as I could…

    And then showing the picture to both of them, I asked – “Isn’t that you two?”

    Turned out that it was them!!

    Just as we had reached the area, I had taken a few shots. In the very first one, I had managed to capture my new friends from Washington DC!!

    We exchanged phone numbers to send the picture!!

  101. Mushroom rock Oct 6, 2022

    Sandstone rock formed this way thru erosion

  102. Blazing sun behind towering mountains Oct 6, 2022

  103. Red sand, white sand and the ragged mountain Oct 6, 2022

    The white sand is actually in a valley much lower than the red sand. We had to go down a side of the sand dune (of red sand) to get there.

  104. Check out the effect of erosion over thousand of years Oct 6, 2022

  105. It looks like somebody took a sharp knife and cut thru the mountain Oct 6, 2022

  106. The triple peaks Oct 6, 2022

  107. This time, white sand, red sand and black mountains Oct 6, 2022

  108. Nice and long camel caravan Oct 6, 2022

  109. Rock shaped like a head Oct 6, 2022

    This is purely the work of erosion – no sculpting or carving

  110. Another precariously balanced rock Oct 6, 2022

  111. The color of the rocks changed quickly again Oct 6, 2022

  112. View from the top of a deep canyon Oct 6, 2022

  113. Red sandstone? Oct 6, 2022

    Not sure what the material was but the red fine rock particles were coming off when we rubbed our fingers against it. This, we were told is used to make cosmetics.

  114. Time for some desert lunch!! Oct 6, 2022

    But first, of course, karak chai!!

    We found a spot in the shade of a large mountain, lit a fire and started making tea.

  115. And when I say “we” lit up fire for tea and lunch… Oct 6, 2022

    … some of us were laying down like a Queen waiting for the tea to be served!!

  116. Sumptuous dinner in the desert Oct 6, 2022

    What a luxury in life!! Our local driver’s (Awad) wife had cooked chicken for us which Awad and his cousin heated up in the fire they lit. And we sat around and made a meal out of it. I asked Awad’s cousin why he was not joining us. Seems like he had gone to school and then come back home early (Thursdays are early school off days), finished his lunch and then met us at that spot to help heat up lunch and make chai.

    “How old are you?”, I asked him.

    “Sixteen”, he replied thru my translator friend Mahmud.

    He lives in the desert, studies and then helps the family with earning income.

    Had to reflect on how easy I had it growing up, let alone my own kids. (all our parents wanted was that we kept studying)

  117. Dinner with a couple of differences today… Oct 6, 2022

    We had live music today. The Bedouin singer has come from Yemen. He played the ubiquitous Bedouin instrument (the “Oud”) and sang.

    The second difference is after all the Arabic and Turkish coffee, today, we had American coffee – also known as wine and beer!!

  118. Now to take glamping to a new level Oct 6, 2022

    After all the tiring trips into the desert, there is even more tiring job of picking pictures, blogging them and posting them in Facebook.

    I am sure you are far more tired of reading the posts.

    The solution is for you to block me and save you all the tiredness. Meanwhile, I am going to jump into the hot tub in my desert camp (I mean glamp) to get rid of my tiredness.

  119. Goodbye Wadi Rum! Oct 7, 2022

    It was a memorable desert stay. If any of you ever come to this part of the world, please look up Orbit Camp. We had simply the best time. Great staff. Awesome service. To give you an idea, when we said our wine and beer was getting hot in the camp, they got us a new, small fridge and put it in!!

    Off to Petra. Not high on my list. I am not big into archaeology or long dead people for that matter. But Her Highness wants to. So, here we go!!

  120. Remember that train carrying people in an open carriage? Oct 7, 2022

    Today, we saw a train carrying… well, just open carriages!

  121. Long, winding, desert roads… Oct 7, 2022

    … reminded us of the drive to Laguna del Inca in Chile

  122. Another Bedouin camp Oct 7, 2022

  123. A long tarred ribbon Oct 7, 2022

  124. Al Rajef Wind Farm Oct 7, 2022

    Wind is one of the top energy sources in Jordan. We went thru Rajef Wind Farm today with 40+ windmills.

  125. Interesting different layers of the soil Oct 7, 2022

  126. Wonderful sight to behold!! Oct 7, 2022

    (The mountains did not look bad either 🙂 )

  127. There was a general congress of local goats on the mountain top Oct 7, 2022

    I am not sure whaat they were up to or why they were looking down upon us!!

  128. That mountain had caramel dripping off its side like an icecream Oct 7, 2022

  129. Little Petra (1 of 6) Oct 7, 2022

  130. Little Petra (2 of 6) Siq Al-Bared Oct 7, 2022

  131. Little Petra (3 of 6) Oct 7, 2022

  132. Little Petra (4 of 6) Steps to the top Oct 7, 2022

  133. Little Petra (5 of 6) Reached the top Oct 7, 2022

  134. Little Petra (6 of 6) Oct 7, 2022

  135. Sunset over Petra (1 of 4) Oct 7, 2022

  136. Sunset over Petra (2 of 4) Oct 7, 2022

  137. Sunset over Petra (3 of 4) Oct 7, 2022

  138. Sunset over Petra (4 of 4) Oct 7, 2022

  139. Which way do you think she is facing? Oct 7, 2022

    Towards the sun or towards the camera?

  140. Petra – the walk begins Oct 8, 2022

  141. Petra – The Obelisk Tomb and the Bab as-Siq Triclinium Oct 8, 2022

    The nefeshes above (shaped like obelisks) are built on the base of somebody’s burial ground. The triclinium below is the dining hall.

  142. Petra – The Dam Oct 8, 2022

    The ancient Nabataens had built this dam to channel the water thru a dark tunnel whenever the water levels rose (to prevent flooding of the capital.)

    The capital itself was called Raqeem but when the Greeks came, they named it Petra (root word for rocks – as in petrified)

  143. Petra – Siq Oct 8, 2022

    Walking thru the Siq (main road into the capital), I was again struck my the gold-topped mountain heads (like in Wadi Al-Mujib)

  144. Petra – The Siq continued Oct 8, 2022

    The Siq sometimes became very narrow. Probably giving the Nabataens an advantage over any advancing enemies.

  145. Petra – the sheer size can be mind boggling Oct 8, 2022

  146. Petra – this Siq is much longer than that in the little Petra Oct 8, 2022

  147. Petra – the mountain striations suddenly became horizontal Oct 8, 2022

  148. Petra – the famous Treasury Oct 8, 2022

    The name is a bit misguiding. While the exact purpose is not known, it is believed to be a mausoleum. The bedouins, much later, found this place and assumes it had much treasure hidden inside it. And that is how it got the name. Imposing structure.

  149. Some bedouin tea in front of the Treasury Oct 8, 2022

  150. Petra – Street of Facades Oct 8, 2022

    This is one tomb facade after another made in the rock faces…

  151. Amazing rock colors Oct 8, 2022

    While walking down the Street of Facades, I noticed a cave up in the rocks and the roof of it looked very colorful. Went up there to check what was lending it the colors. Turned out it is the natural color of the rocks. (red sandstone, sandstone and other rocks).

    You will see another picture of this in a much bigger scale later.

  152. Petra – The Theater Oct 8, 2022

    The Theater could hold eight thousand people. The Nabataeans probably had a reasonably rich social life.

  153. Petra – some intricate entrances into the tombs Oct 8, 2022

  154. A familiar smell! Oct 8, 2022

    While walking down the Street of Facades, a familiar smell from the yesteryears hit our noses. The smell of “dhuno” (frankincense)!! It is very commonly used during Durga Pujo in India (which incidentally just concluded). I think I smelt this for the first time after three and half decades.

  155. Petra – the Great Temple Oct 8, 2022

  156. Petra – the Royal Tombs Oct 8, 2022

  157. View from the Urn Tomb Oct 8, 2022

    To get an idea of scale, check out the size of the people below on the street

  158. Petra – the Urn Tomb facade Oct 8, 2022

  159. Petra – the ceiling of the Urn Tomb Oct 8, 2022

    This is what I waas referring to before. This is the picture of the ceiling. Looks like somebody put a colorful rug on the ceiling. Which, by the way, is not an uncommon thing – to put colorful rugs on ceilings here – to keep the heat away. However, these are nothing but pure rocks!!

  160. Petra – Palace Tomb Oct 8, 2022

  161. This is a throwback to a Mongolia moment!! Oct 8, 2022

    If you remember that picture of Roger and me….

  162. Petra – Cave Bar! Oct 8, 2022

    10Km of walking and 15,000 steps later, we took refuge in the Cave Bar!! A bar opened up inside what used to be a big cave. They claim to the be oldest bar location. Certainly not the oldest bar. Just that the location is very old!!

  163. Sunset today, followed by moonrise Oct 8, 2022

  164. Wrapping up our Petra trip with some local dinner Oct 8, 2022

    Highly recommend this place (Sajiah). Great food and very reasonable prices.

    The menu has the picture of a Bedouin old woman. I understand aa lot of old Bedouin women smoke. And the women tend to have tattoos between their eyes (as you see here) and on their chin (not here).

  165. Ash-Shawbak castle Oct 9, 2022

    Fairly awe inspiring how the folks built these castles so far back with so little access to technologies and tools we are used to today.

  166. Another new mountain topography Oct 9, 2022

    It is like somebody cut multiple parallel lines down the mountain with a sharp knife. And people built caves into the sides to live in…

  167. World’s smallest hotel Oct 9, 2022

    The self proclaimed world’s smallest hotel is this small VW jalopy that Mohammad Abu Ali opened up to guests in 2011 after he retired. His sole purpose is to put his village on the tourist map! He was getting quite a few of them too as we saw! The picture also shows the President of the country visiting the hotel!

    You can read up more about this here.

    Instead of taking pictures and moving on, we decided to sit down and chat with Abu Ai. Pretty soon, Basel, who often takes care of him came by and joined us.

    Abu Ali started chatting with us while making some Bedouin tea for us.

    “Hindia?”, he asked with a typical H added by many folks in this part of the world.

    Then he went in looking for something and coming out, he gifted me a 2000 year old coin from India that the gypsies had brought. It has a picture of a soldier with a horse on one side and a king on the other. They are very faint – but if you wash it, you can see it.

    “How did you get it?”, I asked

    Basel translated it in Arabic for me.

    Immediately, this septuagenarian started moving his hand around pointing to the ground and started making a “Brrrrr… beep beep” noise.

    “Ah, a metal detector!”

    Turns out, he goes around the mountains with his metal detector looking for old artifacts.

    We had a fabulous time. It is meetings like this that makes trips to foreign countries so enjoyable and educational. Get to truly know the local people and interact with them and understand how they live their lives.

    Evidently, he enjoyed our conversation too. As we took leave, he asked us to wait, went inside his house and gave me another coin. Again 2000 years old – but from Jordan area – around the time of Nabatean people!!

  168. Check out the pronounced mirage in the desert roads Oct 9, 2022

  169. Crowded Madaba streets Oct 9, 2022

  170. A promise fulfilled Oct 9, 2022

    Back in May, when I had come to Jordan for the first time, one of the places I had visited is a place called ‘Tree of Life’. This was one our way to Mount Nebo. It is a mosaic handicraft store.

    A mosaic store, in this part of the world is really not that big a deal. What made this place special is that – first, the artisans make the art right here. So, you can see how the whole thing is done.

    Second and more importantly, all the artisans are physically handicapped. Wael (who himself is in a wheelchair) and Hashim had started this place to support the physically handicapped but artistically talented folks. They have a Handicapped Foundation in Jordan.

    Last time, I had met them and Hashim’s Bulgarian wife – Zoy. After looking at all the beautiful stuff, I had to tell them the truth – “I have no idea what my wife will like. I will come back and I will bring my wife.”

    “Promise?”, Hashim had asked.


    As I walked in, Hashim and Wael, both greeted me and then raised their eyebrows. I suspected they vaguely remembered.

    “Remember me?”, I asked.

    “America?”, Hashim asked


    “where is your wife?”

    “Aha! So you do remember me”, I said as I pointed to Sharmila.

    Wael was so happy that he took Sharmila to the artisans to show how they were making the art pieces.

    After a lot of choosing and negotiating, we finally picked up something. Zoya and Hashim were both very helpful. It is too big and heavy for us to carry. So, they will take care of delivering it to our house.

    Before we left, we asked “Can we meet the artist who made this?’

    And that is how we met Josef (the blue shirt gentleman in wheelchair – who is originally from Palestine) who was deep in his work when we went to thank him for his work. And let him know that his work will have a new home in America.

    I am so glad (although feeling a bit lighter in the pocket) that I was able to take Sharmila to this place. And support a good cause at the same time.

  171. Sunset in Amman city Oct 9, 2022

    View from our room

  172. Rooftop bar at the W Oct 9, 2022

  173. The two sisters smoking in Jordan Oct 9, 2022

    Amal and Sharmila

    We hope to meet again!

  174. A make believe Siq Oct 9, 2022

    You remember the narrow Siq of high rocks – often red in color in Petra and Little Petra? Well, W has done a great job of replicating it at their entrance!!

  175. The return trip commences Oct 10, 2022

    One of the best trips we have done, undoubtedly. Not a bad kickoff to empty nesting travel series.

  176. The best part of Jordan!! Oct 10, 2022

    Without a shred of doubt, the best part of Jordan was to get to know Brother Mahmoud’s family. Our first dinner in Jordan was with the al-Ramamneh family at their place last Sunday. And our last dinner in Jordan was last night outside with them again.

    The younger son Suhaib is the most fluent in English. So, I tended to talk to him more. For a kid that just entered his twenties, he clearly has a very intelligent head on his shoulders. Very independent minded and very caring. He would call on his dad morning and evening to make sure everything was okay for the whole trip that Mahmoud was out of home in South Jordan with us. He has some fascinating ideas in his head and has an uncommon balance in opinions. I sure hope to have more discussions with him.

    The elder son Thair is a little more reserved. At the first dinner, he did not talk much by himself. But in the second dinner he was very open. We talked about his work and aspirations in life in general. He came across as the strong and silent types. Next time, we hope to meet his Turkish girlfriend Noor too.

    Then there is Amal. She takes hospitality to a whole new level. If I admired a piece of art in her house, she would bring it down and offer it as a gift! She even opened her bangles from her arm and insisted that Sharmila accept them as gifts since they matched the earrings Sharmila was wearing! On the first night, she was a little busy with hosting duties. But yesterday, we were outside. So, we talked about her family and brothers and sisters a lot. She used to be a teacher and a principal in a school. (now retired). Wonderful woman.

    And finally, there is my Brother Mahmoud. We bonded from the first drive from Amman airport to the Dead Sea early May this year. It has been a relationship that has only strengthened with every day. Throughout this trip, we got to know about him and his background more and more. He lost his dad a few years back. He was 110 years old when he died!!!

    Mahmoud is a great dad too. He is always careful about the example he sets in front of his family. As en example, he would not drink (like beer) in front of his sons. Here is the funny part – Suhaib and Thair told me how much their dad likes beer!!! Still he won’t drink in front of them!!!

    The beauty of Jordan is enough to make us come back again. But what makes it mandatory is getting to see this beautiful family again.

    There was talk of visiting Lebanon and Syria together (by road from Jordan)! Inshallah!!

  177. Our return trip… interrupted Oct 10, 2022

    We go thru Doha about four to five times a year. We never get out. Other than that one time when I had convinced the immigration officer to bend the rules to let me go and meet Natasha and Gina outside the airport.

    We had arranged our flights to have a night stay in Doha. There are two people we know in Doha.

    First order of business was to see Natasha. We used to run together many moons back in Atlanta. In fact, in 2015, after one of those runs, we had coffee together and had talked about us visiting Galapagos some time.

    Those plans were pulled out from the backburner this evening!!

  178. Another promise kept Oct 10, 2022

    It was last December that I had met Manojit and Paramita in Durgapur – entirely due to efforts taken by them. We had found so many intersections points that I do not think I could even document all of them in that post. Before we parted, I had promised to see them in Doha next time within a year.

    And today was that day.

    Had a great time at their place this evening. Also had the fortune of meeting Sourav, Chandrima and of course, little Reevan!

  179. The moon rising over Doha cityscape Oct 10, 2022

  180. One more interruption on our return journey Oct 11, 2022

    As you can see, this looks neither like Doha airport nor like Atlanta. That is because we have landed in Budapest!!

    Medical situation in flight with an elderly (75 years) gentleman. Unfortunately, he is very sick and is traveling with his wife only. Neither understand English (only Kannada).

    Chatting with the staff, I understood that the procedure in these cases where a decision has been made to divert a plane for medical reasons is to offload the patient after initial paramedic attention and the passenger is NOT allowed to board back the same flight.

    I hope he quickly recovers and the elderly couple do not have too many difficulties with language in getting local help.

    Meanwhile, saw Budapest for the first time. Sharmila had mentioned this once before – saw it for the first time today – that it is really two cities – Buda and Pest on either side of the Danube.

    On that note, I think this is the first time I am seeing the Danube River.

  181. Heartwarming scene Oct 11, 2022

    We were taxing to the Budapest airport, when I saw something intriguing. It looked, from a distance, like a bunch of folks with their construction jackets on sitting on the ground. As we pulled closer, something more interesting and heart warming emerged.

    Those are a bunch of school kids. From the sign on the bus “Air Tours”, I assume they have been brought by the school to watch planes land and take off. You can see a few teachers also around (they are the ones standing).

    The excitement the kids had as the big jumbo rolled past them was palpable. They involuntarily started waving at us. Not sure they could see me thru the window, but I got caught up in the moment and kept waving back at them too!

    Flying has become so run of the mill today that I often forget the romanticism that was attached to it when I was a kid. (I got to fly for the first time when I was 27 years old). Watching a plane go above us would bring all our sports activities in our neighborhood to a stand still. Especially if they left the contrails behind.

    Interestingly enough, as a kid, I had a very wrong impression of how planes land (or take off). I used to think they go in circles as they lower in height! Ah! juvenile ignorance!!

    By the way, I do not think this scene will ever happen in the USA today. These kids can literally walk onto the runway as you can see. Of course, there is a cop car there to ensure such a thing does not happen. But I just do not see such a thing happening in the USA without having a fence between the kids and the runway for safety.

  182. Any scientific explanation for this? Oct 11, 2022

    As I was looking into the clouds on our way to Budapest airport, I noticed something on the left bottom corner. It looked like a rainbow but very circular one. Took a few pictures and color enhanced one of them. Sure enough it looked like a circular rainbow.

    What I am not sure of is whether it is a true rainbow or something to do with the window of the airplane. I checked thru two other windows – I could still see the “rainbow”. And after a few minutes it went away – although the clouds were still there.

    Can anybody throw some light on this? (sorry for the pun). Is this a real rainbow? Can rainbows be of this shape?