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Pink sandstone city

Pink sandstone city
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First Published: Sat, Mar 10 2007. 12 08 AM IST
Updated: Sat, Mar 10 2007. 12 08 AM IST
Amit Kaushik, 42, education project moderator, Unesco, has travelled to Jordan several times. This time he went with friends and, besides the capital city, Amman, travelled to the desert at Wadi Rum, the rock city of Petra, and the ruins at Jerash.
Since it is in West Asia, isn’t Jordan hot?
I’ve been to Jordan several times and in different months, so I know that it’s got great weather most of the year, except from November to February, when it’s freezing. It even snows in Amman in the winter, so that’s actually the only time in the year when it’s avoidable. The rest of the year, even the summers, is nice and the temperature doesn’t go much above 30°C. There’s always a pleasant breeze blowing, keeping things very comfortable.
You went deep into the desert. What is it like?
Very beautiful. We went to Wadi Rum, a stunning spot in the Jordanian desert, and spent the night there. We stayed in tents and were treated to a Bedouin-style night out. It was great fun and one of the most exciting moments of the trip to Jordan. The desert here is so quiet, the stillness and calm is unbelievable. At night the sky is just full of stars—the most brilliant I’ve ever seen anywhere. There was a campfire and a Bedouin dance organized for us, and we were served typical Jordanian food and alcohol.
Isn’t alcohol taboo in this West Asian country?
Not at all. It’s freely available and freely consumed all over Jordan. Amman has plenty of clubs and bars, frequented by visitors as well as locals. Besides regular alcohol, there’s the popular local drink called arak—a bit like our feni—an acquired taste, really. It’s an aniseed-based liquor that turns milky when you put ice in it. And it’s very potent. It’s like, one tequila, two tequila, three tequila… floor. You think after three drinks that nothing has happened, there’s no effect, and then you have the fourth one and, suddenly, it hits you. We enjoyed it so much, it made part of our trip an alcoholic blur.
What is typical Jordanian food like?
The national dish is mansaf, which is lamb cooked in a lightly flavoured broth, served with rice. We ate this in the desert, and several times again. The food also has lots of grilled kebabs; in general, lots of meat, mostly lamb and beef, but absolutely no pork. You also get plenty of salads and accompaniments such as hummus and tabouleh.
What are the historic sites you went to?
Petra is a fabulous place. It’s famous also because parts of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed there. It’s a rock-cut, pink sandstone city carved by hand 2,000 years ago. It’s truly well preserved, with enormous facades and caves. The whole complex is spread out and you have to be prepared to walk a lot. It’s a one-hour climb to the top of the hill, but if you’re too lazy or unable to walk, you can go on mule-back.
Just one hour’s journey from Amman are the magnificent Greco-Roman ruins at Jerash. It’s an imposing sight with huge colonnaded remains of buildings and a long, interesting history.
Any stay or restaurant recommendations for visitors?
I stayed at and really liked the Capri Suites in Amman. These are modern apartment suites, situated in a tony neighbourhood called Om Uthayna. It’s very close to the commercial centre of the city and very convenient. In general, you can stay in 3- to 5-star hotels in Jordan starting as low as $30. Some restaurants I recommend are the newly opened Fame, for, believe or not, its great sushi, and a fancy English pub with a live band called Grenadier, which serves good western food (cooked by an Indian chef). Thursday is India night at the pub. India is pretty well known and Indians well liked. Everyone knows of Amitabh Bachchan and Bollywood, though they know more about the old films and stars and always ask about them.
As told to Niloufer Venkatraman. Share your last holiday with us at lounge@livemint.com
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First Published: Sat, Mar 10 2007. 12 08 AM IST
More Topics: Travel |