A Travellerspoint blog

Closing Thoughts

Farewell


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Some closing thoughts, because why not?

We indeed had the trip of a lifetime. It met or exceeded every expectation.

The positives:
We saw amazing things every day, treasures of civilization, and we are so grateful.

In Egypt and Jordan, the people we met were warm and welcoming.

I never felt threatened or afraid. Egypt’s high level of security took some getting used to…dogs sniff every car that enters hotel properties, bags pass through X-ray machines, and you get used to watching men with big machine guns walking around.

Our guides were phenomenal and their passion and knowledge truly enhanced our experience. Our heads are exploding with new facts.

Being guided through the airports by A+R staff was enormously helpful, especially this morning when a few things that we bought in Egypt raised suspicion (damn that little statue of Horus)and required an unpacking of our bag and alternate screenings by men who spoke no English.

The cautions (and we expected a lot of this…)

In Egypt, you cannot walk a block when you enter or exit any tourist location without someone trying to sell you something. It was mind-numbingly relentless, and you could not let it faze you. We felt as if we were running the gauntlet, and some of the more persistent souls would walk along with you. (In Jordan, they respected the polite “no.”)

Egypt is a chaotic place. Traffic is chaotic, it is noisy in the cities, there are lots of people in Cairo, and living conditions for many people appear challenging.

There is trash everywhere in Egypt. This was the thing that upset me the most, especially along the banks of the Nile River. I am not certain as to whether this is an issue with public service or just indicates a level of poverty where people have just given up.

Egypt and Jordan are experiencing much colder than usual temperatures, so some of our packing was off the mark, nothing we could not handle but a challenge some mornings! Climate change is real!

In sum:
We cannot for a minute imagine navigating Egypt independently. Jordan was a much more organized place. We were extremely pleased with the services of Alexander+Roberts. We loved the fact that we were in a small group in Egypt and had virtually a private tour in Jordan.

Thanks for traveling along with us on the blog. We loved getting your comments; even though we cannot respond to them on the blog, they meant a lot to us!

Posted by Cybercsp 05:55 Archived in Jordan Tagged jordan Comments (2)

Wadi Rum - Day 16 Thursday March 24

Valley of the Moon


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Today's adventure took us deep into the captivating landscapes of Wadi Rum. "Wadi" is an Arabic term that refers to a valley and "Rum" refers to the high mountains surrounding the valley. This is the largest Wadi in Jordan (Sadly, there was no actual rum at Wadi Rum). The area is also known as the Valley of the Moon.

We asked Elias to use our scarves as traditional head coverings, so be prepared.

Wadi Rum may be best known for its connection with British officer T. E. Lawrence, who passed through it several times during the Arab Revolt. His book “The Seven Pillars” takes its name from this impressive rock formation.

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Lawrence set up British camps in this area with the Bedouins as they fought against the Turks. The area was immortalized in the 1962 epic film "Lawrence of Arabia" whose desert scenes kicked-started Jordan's tourism industry. Other movies filmed here include: The Martian, Star Wars, Dune, and Aladdin (live action), along with many others.

These photos will let you know why this landscape could pass as Mars.

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Just look at this sand.

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The rock minerals can give the sand different colors, as illustrated over the ridge, where the sand appears to be blue...or could it be a mirage?.

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Unlike Lawrence, we traversed this desolate region in a 4 WD pick-up truck. I thought it best not to ask why there was a Saddam Hussein air freshener in the truck.

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The vistas were magnificent - sandstone and granite mountains rise sheer-sided from wide sandy valleys to reach spectacular heights of 4,000 feet.

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Then, it was time to channel our inner Lawrence of Arabia on our second camel ride. We could have ridden for an hour, but settled on 30 minutes as a compromise between my vote for 60 minutes and Charlie’s vote for zero. To my horror, there was no step stool or stirrup, so the mounting was an undignified challenge that is best left to the imagination. Once mounted and upright, we both truly enjoyed the ride (at least Charlie and I did…I dare not speak for the camel.). We rode for about a half hour and I did hum a little “Lawrence of Arabia” soundtrack.

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At Khazali Canyon, we took a hike to see ancient Nabataean inscriptions and drawings (lots of human and antelopes).

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Here are some photos taken of us making sure that our feet were on solid rock.

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Isn't this beautiful?

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Some additional vistas before lunch.

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Our touring ended with a traditional lunch in a Bedouin home. We were served mansaf, which is a dish with rice, lamb, and parsley, wrapped in a Bedouin pita. When served, a “Bedouin yogurt”, which seemed more like a buttery sauce, is poured on top.

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The meal was capped with hot sweet tea.

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We enjoyed talking to the young men who worked as a team. I will add that I did not see a single Bedouin woman the whole time that I was there.

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We experienced a few sandstorms across the highway on our long ride back to Amman. When the winds kick up, there is nothing to stop them.

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We returned to the W Hotel, where we took the necessary COVID test for our departure from Jordan tomorrow. They actually came up to our hotel room to administer the test, and we had the (thank God) negative results by 9:30 PM.

We had a light meal at the hotel. I had a fig and feta cheese salad and Charlie had his favorite, a club sandwich with fries.

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Pick-up tomorrow for the airport is 6 AM. Jordan is a beautiful, clean country and we have seen amazing things. The people are very welcoming. I am so happy that we decided to come here, but we miss our family and friends and we are ready to head home. (Not to mention tired!)

Photos are tagged Jordan and Wadi_Rum

Posted by Cybercsp 19:27 Archived in Jordan Tagged jordan wadi_rum Comments (2)

Petra - Day 15 Wednesday March 23

In search of the Holy Grail (don't choose poorly!)


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Good morning! Our hotel offered a very attractive breakfast buffet.

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Then, at 8:30 AM, we meet Elias in the lobby and headed across the street to the historic site of Petra.

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Once past some very cheesy gift shops, we began our descent to the ancient city. I took 270 photos today that are in the photo gallery if you wish to have the full tour. I will try to control myself on today's blog entry (no promises).

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Petra was a strategic link in ancient caravan routes, and it is stunningly preserved after nearly 2,000 years. Built by the Nabataeans (Nomadic Arabs) around 312 BC, it was later abandoned during the 7th Century, following earthquakes and the Islamic invasion. By the end of the Crusades, Petra was lost to civilization until its re-discovery in 1812 by the Swiss adventurer, Burckhardt, who you might remember from his discovery of Abu Simbel. I'd say he was quite the lucky guy.

The first part of the journey is fairly open, and we passed through cliffs of sandstone that contained ancient tombs.

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These shrines to the gods would reassure travelers along the trade route.

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The entire city of Petra is carved into the sides of a deep gorge, and the only entrance is through a three-quarters of a mile long, narrow gorge (ranging from 10 to 40 feet in width) through the 100-foot cliffs that is called the Siq. This journey is very impressive as the minerals color the walls and erosion has created some dramatic effects.

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There are alternate ways to make the journey, such as hiring a golf cart, donkey, or horse.

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The Siq begins to narrow....

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...until suddenly, you catch your first views!

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The reward for the journey through the Siq is a jaw-dropping, "pinch-me I must be dreaming" vista…Temples, tombs, and dwellings chiseled out of the solid, rose-hued stone. For the next few hours, Elias introduced us to the area.

The first thing that you will see, also the most iconic image of Petra, is the Treasury, or Al Khazna, which was probably constructed in the 1st century BC. It is almost 40 meters high and 25 meters wide. The name is deceiving, as the Treasury was actually found to be a burial tomb that is very simple inside (it is not accessible). It is intricately decorated with Corinthian capitals, friezes, and figures. It comprises three chambers, a center chamber flanked by one on either side. The elaborately carved facade represents the Nabataean engineering genius.

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Now, let's take a closer look at the elements.

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Notice the footholds at the side of the Treasury that the carvers used to reach their work.

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At some point, I suggest that you pause and imagine the workers, perched precariously above the ground, diligently scratching into the sandstone to create these masterpieces because everything that you have seen is carved out of the rock.

Once past the Treasury, the Siq widens and you can view this row of monumental Nabataean tombs, known as the Street of Facades. The necropolis contains tombs that ranged from the very simple to more elaborate, depending upon the status of the deceased.

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Throughout the site, there were plenty of opportunities for camel rides.

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There were vendor sites along the way. In fact, we recognized one guy who was selling DVDs as one of the assistant chefs at the Petra Kitchen last night!

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Elias treated us to coffee and we enjoyed a well deserved rest. His friend owns the cafe/shop where we stopped.

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There was, of course, an amphitheater with tunnels for the performers to use.

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Al Deir (The Monastery) is one of the largest and best-preserved monuments in Petra. This hall was converted to a Christian chapel at one point, and crosses were carved into the rear wall. There are 800 steps to climb to enter the monastery, but one can opt for a donkey ride (remember what happened to the last donkey we mentioned). The interior is empty, and after discussion with Elias, we opted out. (We later ran into two young girls who we met at the Petra Kitchen, and they said that the walk down from the monastery was very scary.)

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Earthquakes have caused great destruction to this last section of the ancient city of Petra. We walked along the last part of the road to reach it.

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We climbed up to the ruins of the Byzantine Church. The church is not visible from the street, but there is a hiking path that leads to it. There are elaborate mosaics that have survived.

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The baptistry is under reconstruction.

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The view from our elevated position.

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Little is left of the Temple of the Winged Lion, but this toppled column was left where it fell.

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The Great Temple is under restoration through Brown University.

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Dushara Temple is the only temple still standing.

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More coffee on the way back, and a vendor visits Charlie.

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A few final photos.

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As we exited the complex, Charlie returned to the hotel and I went into the Petra Museum. Some of the more delicate treasures found at the site are on display here.

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We were able to take part in the "Petra By Night" experience. This involved walking into the site, guided by the light of luminarias. The effect was so magical that it distracted me from thoughts of twisting an ankle on the uneven path in the dark.

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Our guide, Elias, suggested we sit at the coffee/souvenir shop at the Treasury. So by spending four dinar for coffee, we had nice comfortable seats and did not have to sit on the ground like the others.

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Because it was so dark, the beauty of the stars as we walked back was simply overwhelming.

To offset all this magic and beauty, let me state for the record that I look like a stuffed sausage in these photos because it is so cold and windy here. I am layered in everything I could fit under my vest and jacket. For the night show, I actually wore pajama pants under my jeans! Temperatures started in the high 30s and never reached 45. Elias said that he cannot recall such cold weather in March.

Photos are tagged Jordan and Petra

Posted by Cybercsp 17:51 Archived in Jordan Tagged jordan petra Comments (0)

Jerash - Day 14 Tuesday March 22

Jerash and the King’s Highway to Petra


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Let’s begin with some photos of the breakfast buffet at the W Hotel. That is date yogurt and bread with honey on my plate.

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Taken from a rather dirty 26th floor window, here was our view of Amman.

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After we checked out of the W Hotel, we met our tour guide, Elias, in the lobby at 8 AM, and traveled north for about 45 minutes to the city of Jerash.

Did you know that from the 5th century BC to the 7th century AD, Amman was known as Philadelphia? We saw many references to this, including this one.

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We passed a number of coffee shops along the way. Each shop will have someone who stands outside and waves a silver tray to attract attention. My photo is a bit past the waving, but Charlie was able to capture one through the car windshield.

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Jerash has been described as the "best-preserved provincial Roman city in the world" and is nicknamed "the Pompeii of the East." (They might have added, "Pompeii without the oppressive sun, heat and lava.")

We entered Jerash through the imposing triple-arched gateway which was built to honor Emperor Hadrian.

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Here are ruins of a church with a tomb next to it.

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And would any Roman city be complete without an amphitheater? (I know, everyone was hoping for another one...)

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The acoustics were superb, as proven by this bagpipe and drum duo.

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Here are some of the other ancient sites that we viewed:

High on a hilltop are the remains of the Temple of Zeus.

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The Forum is surrounded by an Ionic colonnade. The flag of Jordan flies next to a platform where anyone was allowed to express their opinion, a la Speaker's Corner in Hyde Park, London.

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At the midpoint of this columned road, we saw the foundations of the Tetrapylon that marked the intersections of the major trade routes: S/N to Damascus and E/W to the Western Gates to Israel.

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Here is the road to Damascus.

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Manhole covers were a thing even on ancient Roman streets.

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Elias insisted that I pose in the goddess niche. I am finally where I belong. <wink>.

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The Circus/Hippodrome was the site of chariot racing…

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…and remains of a porticoed market stand beside it.

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Time for a short break of fresh squeezed juices or Turkish coffee.

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Back in the van, we traveled along the historic King’s Highway, a trade route of vital importance in the ancient Near East, making our way to Madaba.

En route, we ascended Mt. Nebo, where Moses is believed to have died.

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The summit (2330 feet above sea level) afforded us panoramic views of the Jordan Valley. According to the Bible story, this is the site where Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land before his death. On a clear day it is said that, like Moses, one can see Jerusalem...but this was not that day. Photos do not do justice to the view.

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We could see it clearly, but you might make out the Dead Sea here.

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At the highest point of the mountain, the Franciscans erected this structure to protect the remains of the 4th-century Byzantine church.

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The foundation of the church is original with restoration of the walls and ceiling.

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We visited the interior of the church. Note that the original columns are incorporated in the design.

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Of particular interest are the remains of intricate mosaic floors.

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There are remains of the Franciscan monastery.

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Here is an example of the type of stone that would be rolled to cover a tomb.

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Pope John Paul II planted this olive tree during his visit to the site.

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We enjoyed walking quietly on the grounds. There was a sense of peace and fantastic views.

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This column says simply, “God is love.” Beautiful and moving.

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We were treated to a home-cooked meal in a restored century-old home that was owned by Elias’ wife's family, and is now her restaurant.

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We began with assorted mezzes.

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For the main course, we enjoyed maqlouba, an upside down casserole with chicken, rice, and vegetables.

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Dessert featured date cookies and mint tea.

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After lunch, we visited St. George Church.

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Here is the church interior.

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The treasure here is the oldest-known map of the Holy Land, a 6th-century mosaic that depicts Biblical sites from Egypt to Palestine with 157 Greek captions. It served as a pilgrim's guide. While much has been lost, what remains is amazing.

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There were detailed mosaics throughout the church.

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I loved that the fence posts were designed as candles.

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We continued traveling along the King’s Highway to Petra, a ride of about three hours. Amazingly, as we crossed the desert, we had data access and caught up on the blog.

At 6 PM, we checked into the Mövenpick Hotel, which is ideally located across from the visitor’s entrance to ancient Petra.

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This evening, we dined at the Petra Kitchen for a hands-on culinary experience. Under the (close) supervision of a skilled chef, we prepared a variety of traditional Jordanian dishes. We enjoyed the fruits of our labors for dinner. I can only hope that Charlie will transfer his new skills to our kitchen.

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Photos are tagged Jordan, Jerash, Mount_Nebo, Madaba and Petra

Posted by Cybercsp 12:04 Archived in Jordan Tagged jordan petra jerash madaba mount_nebo Comments (1)

Amman - Day 13 Monday March 21

Next stop Jordan


View Egypt 03/2022 on Cybercsp's travel map.

We enjoyed the company of our friend, Barbara, at our final breakfast at the Kempinski. Today we go from a group of seven to two.

Kempinski Hotel walnut danish pastry, I will miss you.

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Tarek met us in the lobby at 9:30 AM and we were escorted to the airport for our flight to Amman, Jordan. We were extremely grateful to be led like children through the airport. Check-in lines were lengthy, but Mohammed filled out all our paperwork and took us through to the final security check.

We decided to extend our trip with A+R because who knows if we will ever return to this part of the world...and Petra calls!

Our flight to Amman lasted about 90 minutes, and we landed around 3:30 PM.

This view from the airplane shows that Jordan has a lot of desert.

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Believe it or not, it took us the same amount of time to get from the airport to our hotel as it did to fly to Jordan! There was a ridiculous amount of traffic, which our driver said is atypical for the area. One good thing is that you do not have to endure the incessant horn honking or witness the death-defying lane maneuvers that you would encounter in Egypt.

We checked into the W hotel at about 5:45 PM. Our room is on the 26th floor.

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This is quite the trendy place. There was a magazine photo shoot going on while we were enjoying this delicious meal of mezzes.

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A few other hotel photos before we say good night.

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PS: Jordan has changed their daylight saving time to start at the end of February, instead of March, so we are back to a seven hour time difference from home.

Photos are tagged Jordan and Amman

Posted by Cybercsp 13:15 Archived in Jordan Tagged jordan amman Comments (1)

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