Our long bus trip along the King’s Highway from Amman to Petra was broken up with a number of very interesting stops. On the way we were amazed to see Jordan’s very own Grand Canyon. Whilst not as large as it’s namesake in the USA it is nevertheless very impressive being 3.5 km wide in some places and up to 1 km deep. Known locally as Wadi al-mujib it is 75km long and leaves a gash in the landscape that runs west from the 5000 year old King’s Highway to the lowest point on earth – the Dead Sea. In ancient times it formed a natural border between bedouin tribes in the south and north of the country.
We stopped at the Bedouin cafe viewpoint to take in the spectacular view before descending down the twisting road to the lowest point and crossed the road on top of the dam wall. Driving up the opposite side of the canyon revealed more magnificent views before we continued our journey along the plateau to our next stop – the Crusader castle at Kerak.
This is the largest and best preserved 12th Century Crusader castle in the region and sits atop a steep hill overlooking the town of Kerak.
The name rang a bell when I first saw it on the tour itinerary as it had been on the news in late 2016 as the location of a terror attack. The evidence of this was apparent on the exterior walls of the castle where holes left from gun fire could be seen. We were assured by our tour guide Mo that all was safe now! He explained that at the time a security operation in the town had flushed out some terrorists and they had retreated to the castle to take shelter followed by the ensuing shoot out.
The castle was very large but the external walls were in quite a state of disrepair. The most interesting parts were the lower stone vaults, corridors and rooms that were in much better condition. We spent time exploring the underground caverns before moving on to our next stop.
DANA BIOSPHERE RESERVE
Another very interesting stop was the view down the valley of Jordan’s largest nature reserve – the Dana Biosphere Reserve.
The reserve was founded in 1989 and the nearby 500 year old town of Dana has a new lease of life as an eco-tourism centre. Nature lover’s can spend a few days hiking here as it is home to 800 plant species, 215 species of birds, and 38 species of mammals. It looked particularly enticing and Jacqueline and I commented it would be a nice to place to visit should we return to Jordan again. More information can be found here Dana Biosphere Reserve
Our final stop before Petra was the remote Crusader castle at Shobak. This castle stands out from the surrounding landscape being perched dramatically on a hill formerly called Mons Realis, or the Royal Mountain. As it was late in the day the castle was bathed in shades of yellow and orange from the setting sun giving it a softer look against the harsh local landscape .
Before walking up the steep access road we sipped tea and coffee from the local shop and then wandered around the ruins taking some happy snaps as went!
We re-boarded the bus for the last time for the day and arrived about an hour later and prepared for the highlight of the trip – 2 full days in Petra.
That will be the subject of my next post……