Day 2 of our tour was extended to a full day with the addition of visits to 3 different desert castles, free of charge! We aren’t quite sure as to why but, we won’t complain.
- Qasr Amra (Amra Palace) – one of the best well known desert castles in modern day Jordan as it depicts an early example of Islamic art and architecture. Only the foundation of the castle complex remains and a small cabin which was meant for a retreat house. Amra Palace is particularly famous for its well kept frescoes (mural painting technique) all alongside the interior walls of the building. Most of the art shows hunting, biblical figures, dancing and some nudity ….which makes the building sound very questionable given it also has a large bathouse, haha.
- Qasr Al-Azraq (Azraq Castle) – known as the Blue Fortress as it used to hold a lot of water which was then transported to other cities for use. It’s strategic value was due to its location by an oasis which was the only permanent water source in the desert area. The basalt used to construct the castle reminded me of medieval European castles more than what I would have imagined in the Middle East.
- Qasr Al-Kharanah (Alharana Palace) – whether this building is really a “castle” per se or not is unclear as it does not appear to have been used for military purposes. There are no slits in the walls for arrow / boulder attacks against intruders. It’s location is also not close to any body of water to make it very useful as a resting spot for travelers. However it is remained intact extremely well and we were able to walk around and through the floors of the castle. The layout of the castle is perfectly symmetrical.
For the majority of the tour (and for the entirety of our time at Azraq Castle) there were very few to no other tourists. Which again is very amazing for photographs and to be able to view the ruins in it’s true form. However, it is also extremely saddening to realize how much tourism, which Jordan relies heavily on, has declined due to the current political situation in the Middle East and the fear that many of us have towards the region.
Jordan, I have felt was quite safe during my visit…for the rest of the Middle Eastern countries nearby I am not knowledgeable enough to say for sure :S But many of the surrounding countries are not encouraged to be visited at all by the Canadian Government so I will heed their advice.
In the afternoon we made our way to The Dead Sea. Due to the high and increasing temperatures (our tour guide says), it’s possible it will dry up in 50 years time. Currently there are considerations to funnel water from the Red Sea to continue to preserving the body of water. I read many reviews online where people had written that it would burn if you had any cuts on your skin (even small hangnails, or if you recently shaved), but I didn’t particularly have any issues to note. It was also advised to wear an older swimsuit as the saline may damage the colour – but again, I didn’t notice any difference in my swimsuit although I did bring an older one in case too.
I wasn’t extremely impressed with the amount of floating the salty water helped, probably because I’m generally a good swimmer and don’t have issues floating. However, when I went into a regular pool to try and float I definitely did notice a difference. The way the Dead Sea works is it is sectioned off to various private beaches and beaches owned by adjacent hotels, so the area you can really swim in width wise isn’t that big.
As we were swimming towards shore we realized that other than many smooth rocks there were also chunks of what looked like salt (or some sort of salt material). It would be solidified but when you break the piece off and squish it a bit, it would turn into powder and melt away into the water. Embarrassingly enough, we decided that it would be a great skin exfoliant. Whether it works or not we will not know : ‘) Jordan weather made our skin extremely dry. *side note: upon googling apparently there can be salt cubes found! I’m quite sad I didn’t see any.
Dead Sea is also famous for its mud to be used for beauty in the form of various masks, moisturizers, soaps etc. It’s not accessible easily just in the rock bed so it wasn’t like we could just scoop some up while we were floating around to apply on ourselves. They did have some available to purchase to use…but I didn’t want to wash my face given that I was wearing contacts and the saline water would burn my eyes. I was very happy to find some mini mask packages to buy as souvenirs for friends, as everyone wants beautiful skin right? Sorry boys, I didn’t get you any though.