Dead Sea

Towns and Tourist Sites in Jordan – Page 2
The Dead Sea, Mount Nebo and Madaba


Photo Jordan Tourist Board

Dead Sea


Photo Jordan Tourist Board

To get to the Dead Sea it is easiest to go from Amman. There are buses from Muhajrin station that take you to the Dead Sea Resthouse at Sweymeh. Be careful not to miss the last bus back at 4pm or you will have to spend the night there and there is no budget accommodation available.

However, there is now a bus route from Madaba which passes by Mount Nebo and connects at Shunieh with a bus for Sweymeh. There are several buses a day on this route which takes a bit less than an hour. At Shunieh it is also possible to get the bus to Amman, so you can do Amman – Dead Sea – Madaba (or vice versa) in one day if you like.

There are some good facilities for swimming at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel. If you are not staying at the hotel there is a charge of 10JD per person (children free), but this also includes the use of the swimming pool (fresh water) and the bars if you should be thirsty, and of course showers to get rid of the salt from the Dead Sea.

 

Photo Jordan Tourist Board

 

This salt is very unpleasant on your skin, not to mention being bad for any clothes you might put on on top of it, so it is pretty well mandatory to be able to wash it off afterwards.

If the 10JD at the Dead Sea Spa is too expensive, I suggest you do what many locals do: keep on going down the road which eventually runs along the shore with the mountains rising immediately to your left. Along there you will find plenty of quiet spots to go down to the shore and bathe in the Dead Sea. To rinse off afterwards, keep going down the road until you come to a bridge over a stream which comes down a narrow gorge and enters the Dead Sea. The stream is very warm and fresh and well worth walking upriver a bit – climbing up the waterfalls can be good fun! This place is very popular – try to avoid Fridays!

There is some question about just how clean this water is, however.

 

Note that swimming in the Dead Sea means that any abrasions or pimples will sting like fury and when you get water in your eyes they also sting a lot. Certainly floating is fun, but getting upright again isn’t, you splash around quite a lot, and unless you are being very cautious you get water in your eyes all over again – DO NOT RUB THEM! The sea bottom is covered with slimy mud! Once is OK but next time I shall sit and watch other people going through all this. The Red Sea is better.

There is no budget sleeping accommodation anywhere near the Dead Sea, you would have to go to Madaba or to Amman (see note above about buses).

Mount Nebo
(you can see more photos of Mount Nebo on the Photo Gallery page)

Photo Leon and Mirjam

I love this particular place, a few miles out from Madaba on the new road to the Dead Sea. It has a most beautiful view, even in a country where beautiful views are frequent, looking out over the Jordan Valley. On a good day, one can see as far as Jerusalem, some 45kms away. Early in the morning is the best time for this. The very first time that I came to Jordan, I slipped away from the group I was with (not for the first or the last time, incidentally), and looked down, almost vertically, to where far below, a young boy was leading a flock of goats, and playing on what I now know to be called the “shababa”. At the time, it was just a shepherd’s pipe, sounding plaintively in the silence.

Unfortunately, the new road linking Madaba to the Dead Sea passes Mount Nebo, and the sight of the road and the sounds of the traffic straining to climb the hill do nothing nowadays to recall the Biblical landscape that I remember.

The church, administered by the Franciscan order, was much restored and repaired for the Pope’s visit in 2000. There is now an impressive paved path from the main road. But the peaceful atmosphere of the church is still there. The site of the church and the viewpoint is open from 9am until 4pm.

You will find a good restaurant nearby (the “Syagha Restaurant”), several souvenir shops with gorgeous hand blown glass “bubbles” which make lovely Christmas tree decorations, and a bit closer to Madaba, a huge handcrafts centre. Locals disapprove of it, since it is run by “outsiders” but the rugs are beautiful as are the moaaics and other things there. Not everything is expensive.

Madaba
(You can see some more photos of the mosaics of Madaba on the Photo Gallery page)

A very pleasant town about 30kms from Amman and less than this from the airport. Unless you are coming from Syria or Israel, it could be a good base for seeing Jordan. Good roads lead just about everywhere from Madaba, to the Kings’ Highway, the Desert Highway towards the south, the Dead Sea, to Amman and its ring road to take you to Jerash and the Desert Castles. Madaba (“the mosaic city”) has a much longer history than Amman – see www.madaba.freeservers.com for more information. There are regular buses from Amman which leave from the Wahedat bus station, from the Ragadan bus station which is close to the Roman theatre and also from the Abdali bus station.

Madaba is well known in Jordan as an important horse breeding centre. It also has a very large Christian population, so you may notice a great number of women without the “Islamic scarf” in the streets.

The Mariam Hotel (mh@go.com.jo) is run by the same family as the Caravan hotel in Amman, and will give you the same 15% discount if you say that you have their name from Ruth. The Mariam is a two star hotel, unpretentious, but scrupulously clean and comfortable and with a lovely family atmosphere. Charl al Twal, the owner/manager is very helpful if you need advice or help in getting around, he keeps well up to date with all changes for tourists in Jordan. Be sure to give him my regards. The Mariam is the largest and most comfortable hotel in Madaba at the moment, the others like the Madaba Hotel or the Black Iris are also perfectly clean and acceptable, and slightly cheaper than the Mariam’s normal prices – BUT with the discount offered to “Ruth customers”, the Mariam becomes the cheapest hotel in Madaba! Charl can arrange to pick guests up at the airport at any time of day (or night), usual price is 7JD during the day and 10JD at night – rather a good deal compared to taxis from Amman. The phone number of the Mariam is 05.325.1529, Charl’s mobile is 0195.385.625..

“Charly” has also undertaken the organisation of the bus that takes the Kings’ Highway to Petra every day that three passengers are available to take it. It leaves at 10am, stops for an hour at Kerak, and fifteen minutes at Wadi Mujib and the fare per person is 12JD. It should normally arrive in Petra around 3 or 4pm and will drop you off wherever you want. It is a good idea to make a prior reservation for this bus. If there are not enough passengers, your only alternative is to take a taxi – see below. Unfortunately, for various reasons this bus doesn’t do the trip in the other direction. Call Charl at the Mariam for any more details.

There is more! Charl has negotiated special rates for the Mariam Hotel with several Madaba taxi drivers. If you go through him here are the prices you would pay for excursions to the following destinations (unless otherwise stated with an hour’s stop at each site named. If you want to stay longer, then you will have to see with the driver).

 

Madaba to the airport 7JD by day or by night
From the airport to Madaba 7JD during the day
From the airport to Madaba 10JD after midnight
Madaba to the Dead Sea and Mount Nebo 17JD one hour at each site
Madaba, Mount Nebo, Dead Sea, and Bethany 20JD one hour at each site
Madaba to the Desert Castles 30JD one hour at each site (see note on the FAQ page)
Madaba to Hamamet Ma’in 12JD with a two hour stop
Madaba to Petra via the Kings’ Highway 45JD with a quick stop at Wadi Mujib and an hour at Kerak
Madaba to Petra via the Desert Highway 40JD
Madaba to Aqaba via Wadi Araba 50JD
From the airport to Petra via the Desert Highway 45JD

 

There is also a bus from the Mariam Hotel to the spa of Hamamet Ma’in; the twin interest here is that no normal public transport goes as far as the hot springs, and that the bus is free! You do have to pay for entrance to the spa, 7JD. This is a very attractive spot for bathing in the hot springs, or just rambling in the shady countryside. There is also a swimming pool. The bus leaves Madaba at 10am and returns from Hammamet Ma’in at 5pm. If you have the time, this is an day excursion well worth doing.

You might be starting to realise just how enterprising Charl is! I do repeat however, that these prices are only offered to the Mariam Hotel and you are unlikely to be able to negotiate yourself for these rates. However, he doesn’t insist that you be staying at his hotel before organising these excursions for you.

Please see my note under “Dead Sea” for transport from Madaba to the Dead Sea, passing by Mount Nebo.

You might like also to check the page on “An itinerary for a short visit to Jordan” for an easy way to visit the Dead Sea and Mount Nebo before taking the Kings’ Highway bus.