A Farewell Tour of Jordan: The Dead Sea, Jerash, & the Citadel

No tour of Jordan is complete without a stop at the Dead Sea. My sister was visiting us as Ramadan transitioned into Eid al-Fitr, making available rooms difficult to find. With a little flexibility, we got rooms at our favorite Dead Sea resort, the Kempinski.

I was last at the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea for my 30th birthday (already two years ago!), but despite that (and yet another previous visit in 2017), I had never truly experienced the salt flats.

Floating by the resorts is wonderful – so is lathering yourself up with mud – but if you drive further south past the resorts, you get the salt in its natural form.

Of course, it wasn’t enough for me to simply drive around and view the salt from above. We parked the car and went down to explore in person. It probably took about 10 minutes to walk down from the road to the “beach.”

It’s so funny, because of course people float all around the Dead Sea, but it had never really struck me as a beach you can simple hop in. The Kempinski is one of the few (only?) resorts that adds sand to their beach to make it more comfortable for guests. Everywhere else requires wearing shoes in the water to prevent cuts and scrapes (that sting so much in the salt water!).

We wandered through the handful of sun bathers and got up close and personal with the salt.

It’s stunning and so much larger than I had anticipated. None of these photos really do justice to the scale, but I was so glad we took the extra time to explore. It was an incredible experience that was really simple to execute – I just used this guide from the blog Docs in the Wild.

We spent the rest of our Dead Sea time at the Kempinski itself. The first day started in the sea with the obligatory float and mud scrub.

Once I was feeling perfectly polished, we spent the rest of the day at the pool. This was glorious minus the guy chain smoking next to us. That’s one major thing I won’t miss about Jordanian culture – all the smoking!

The next day was another day of firsts – we treated ourselves to the Ishtar Spa at the Kempinski. They claim it’s the largest spa in the Middle East and it’s definitely one of the most luxurious! The treatments are far from free, but I enjoyed (tolerated?) my salt scrub, sweated during my mud wrap, and, finally, relaxed during my massage.

With that, we said goodbye to the Dead Sea. This time for good.

Another must-do (that we skipped on our initial trip, but didn’t want my sister to miss out on) was a trip up to Jerash. This one’s nice because it’s a day trip that only takes half the day.

The initial gates are always one of the most impressive sights at Jerash and something I probably photograph the most.

Just like our Petra by Night experience, this visit was completely unlike our first trip to Jerash. Last time we went, we were stuck in Jordan with the airports completely shut down and tourism at a standstill. This time? Jerash was packed. Everyone was celebrating and we found ourselves weaving in and out of groups.

The nice thing about Jerash is that it’s surprisingly large and there are a lot of places to wander off to. We even found something new this time! A giant floor mosaic tucked off into a corner of the park that we clearly hadn’t made our way to last time. In fact, we nearly missed it again, but my sister was determined to cover every square inch of the ruins.

I love looking at the mosaics in Jordan because they have so much in common with Italian mosaics and yet are also totally their own.

I always love “ending” our time at Jerash with a visit down the stairs below the Temple of Athena – I put “ending” in quotation marks because you still have to walk back down the colonnade and through the forum, out the gates and past the vendors to make it back to the car park.

On Brittany’s last full day, we made our way to the Citadel, tucked inside Amman. We went to view the sunset, but luckily arrived a little early, as they were just closing the ticket office. We actually went through a few shenanigans to get into the grounds, but it was worth it.

The Citadel has unmatched views to see urban sprawl at its finest – you can see the city of Amman from all directions, stretching out to the horizon.

Our time in Jordan is up and we’re ready to say goodbye to this city that’s been our home for the last three years. I’ll never know what’s it’s like to live here not during a pandemic. We’re ready for a change of scenery and our next two years in Texas. It may be home to Chandler, but I always feel a bit like a visitor – who knows, maybe that will change this time.

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