Tag Archives: dead sea

Jerusalem, Israel

The modern Jerusalem, with the Old City behindJerusalem is definitely my favourite city in Israel. It is clean, modern, the people are friendly, the architecture – both old and new – is fascinating and it has a positive vibe. It has a smaller town feel than Tel Aviv, but is actually the biggest city in Israel with an approximate population of 800,000.

The city is a very holy place for a number of religions. While the people appear to get along, not all of them are happy with this and in some areas you can feel the undertones of tension, anger and intolerance. Attacks or attack attempts of various forms happen almost daily according to one of the taxi drivers I spoke to. But they are usually handled swiftly and to the tourists, invisibly.

Jerusalem, the new city

The newer parts of Jerusalem are all quite modern, very square shaped buildings all of a creamy sandstone colour. There are loads of shops, restaurants and cafes. The Mehane Yehuda market is a lively, colourful place to visit during the day or night.

The best way to explore Jerusalem is to wander up and down Jaffa Street, then branch off and get lost in the side streets.

Jaffa Street

Yemin Moshe

Yemin MosheA suburb or area within the newer part of Jerusalem is Yemin Moshe. It was the first settled area outside of the old city walls, it was established by the Montefiore Welfare Fund. It was created as a solution to overcrowding in the old city, but it took a long time to become populated.

These days it is a super cute, foot traffic only, area to walk through. Towards the end of it on the uphill side is a windmill. The windmill was built to allow the poor jews to be able to grind their own flour

If you head down the hill there is a really nice park with a fountain. An awesome spot to sit and relax in the sunshine.

The Old City

Ceiling above the Tomb of Jesus
Ceiling above the Tomb of Jesus

Any reference to the Old City of Jerusalem, is a reference to the walled city of Jerusalem into which you can enter from any one of seven gates. The old city is split into ‘quarters’ or regions; the most significant religiously is the Temple Mount area which has highly restricted access and is only open a few hours of every day. The other areas are the Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Armenian quarters. These areas are full of fabulous old architecture, and old cobblestone laneways in which you can easily get wonderfully lost.

Rather than wander the city and not know the significance of anything, I did a paid, 90NIS, four hour Holy City walking tour. The tour guide Emmanuel was absolutely brilliant. He shared an objective view of all the sights, while explaining their historical and religious significance . The tour included sights such as the Room of the Last Supper; the Tomb of King David; the Church of Dormition where Mary died; Mount Zion and Zion’s Gate; the path of Jesus from where he was given the crucifix to carry along where he fell, where he said goodbye to his mother to where he was crucified; the tomb of Jesus in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; the Western Wall; and the Temple Mount.

Dome of the Rock on the Temple Mount

The Temple Mount area is quite fascinating as it is so tightly regulated in terms of hours as well as who may enter. It is only open for a couple of hours in the morning and only one hour in the middle of the day. The Jews are not allowed to enter. The Temple Mount is an area, within which is the Dome of the Rock. This is essentially a shrine over the top of the Foundation Stone, more typically referred to as the Holy of Holies. It is believed to be the most sacred spot on the earth. Jewish history says this is where the Ark of the Covenant containing the Ten Commandments was kept in a temple.

Men praying at the Western WallOn the West side of the Temple Mount is the original Western Wall of the temple built by Herod. This is the closest public place that Jewish people can get to the Holy of Holies, and this is where they go to pray and talk to God. I have often heard it referred to as the Wailing Wall, but it is actually called the Western Wall. It’s fascinating do a tour in the Western Wall tunnels for 30NIS. In the tunnels is the closest you can get to the Holy of Holies.

On a Friday from sunset onwards until sunset on a Saturday, the Western Wall is particularly busy with Jews celebrating Shabbat. People will gather to sing, dance and pray.

Day trip to Masada, En Gedi & the Dead Sea

In order to see Masada and En Gedi I booked a day trip with Tourist Israel for US$69 (departing from Tel Aviv it costs US$79). The pickup was very early in the morning and we returned early afternoon.


Congratulating the Israeli soldiers on their graduationMasada was built by King Herod as a fortress. It was the last bastion of Jewish freedom fighters against the Romans. It is a plateau at the top of a mountain, overlooking the Dead Sea.

I did a sunrise hike up the Snake Path to the top of Masada. The tour bus arrived a little late so we had to rush as fast as we could to get to the summit. While we got there in full light, we did get to see the sun crest over the horizon.

In addition to the historical significance of Masada, it is the place where the Israeli military swear their oath of allegiance and hold other important graduation type ceremonies. While up Masada one such ceremony was taking place. There were a hundred or more soldiers receiving awards, clapping for their friends, chatting, taking pictures and singing the National Anthem. Conscription into the military is still a requirement for all Jewish Israelis. Men are required to serve for three years and women for two, I feel that this encourages views of equality between men and women and also forces young people to mature before choosing a career path. While I am not a huge fan of conscription, it seems to work well for Israel.

Sunrise from Masada

En Gedi

Davids Waterfall at En GediEn Gedi is a nature reserve, with beautiful scenery. It is a great spot for hiking and swimming in the springs, though I must say that compared to the nature reserves back home I found it a little underwhelming.

With limited time we walked up the valley along the river, lots of little waterfalls up to the larger falls David’s Falls. Along the way we saw some random oversized rat type creature which I later learned to be the Hyrax.

Dead Sea

The Dead SeaBetween the sites of En Gedi and Masada, we stopped at a resort to use their change rooms and showers in order to take a ‘dip’, read as ‘float’, in the Dead Sea.

Having already done it once I knew what to expect, and it was honestly just as fun the second time around. Body mud mask and all!

The Nitty Gritty


I travelled to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv twice, I caught the bus both times. Buses depart every 20 minutes or so, no matter what station you leave from. The ride takes approximately an hour and costs 16NIS. You buy the ticket on the bus.

The 605 Jerusalem Express departs regularly from the Super-Pharm Tel Aviv Central Bus Station.
The 480 departs regularly from the bus station on Arlozorov Street, just near the Tel Aviv Center – Savidor train station.

From the central bus station in Jerusalem to my hostel was approximately 25minutes walking or about 5 minutes on the tram. The tram runs along Jaffa Street and a single ride costs 5.90NIS.

Getting around Jerusalem was easy, as everything is walking distance. The only time I caught a taxi was after watching sunset on Mount Olive, it cost me 25NIS to go from the top of Mount Olive to the New Gate in the Old City.


In Jerusalem I stayed at The Post Hostel for six nights in a 4-bed female dorm. It was quite pricey at around 150NIS per night.

The hostel itself was really clean and modern. It had a real urban feel to it. I was highly impressed with the facilities, including USB charging ports by each bed and by the bar. The breakfast every day was absolutely brilliant and the staff were incredibly helpful.

The location was absolutely brilliant and it was only a 5-10 minute walk to the Jaffa Gate entrance to the Old City.

The only thing that was a little disappointing, was that a towel is not included in the price and if you would like one it costs 20NIS. Overall, it was worth the expense.



Amman and Surrounds, Jordan

After departing Petra we headed northwards via Kerak Castle and the Dead Sea before making our way to Amman.

Kerak Castle

Well preserved arches at Kerak CastleKerak Castle was built around the 12th century AD and it’s history relates to the crusaders using it as a base point when trying to take back the holy cities of Bethlehem and Jerusalem.

At 900 metres above sea level and perched on a hilltop overlooking valleys, it had a good strategic position for defense. It is a reasonably large castle with a great deal of history. Parts of it remain in good condition.

It was fascinating to see, but I didn’t seem to retain much of the information about it.

Floating in the Dead SeaDead Sea

The Dead Sea is an absolutely fascinating place. We had anticipated a dark coloured sea and were surprised to find clear blue waters, with a white crystallized salt rim.

The Dead Sea is approximately 400 metres below sea level. It earned the name the “Dead Sea” due to the fact that it contains no life. The water has a very high percentage of salt in it. 290 grams of salt per litre of water, which is roughly a 34% saturation of salt. When you look through the water the salt content makes the water appear oily.

Oily appearance of the salty waterWhile I had heard that swimming in the Dead Sea is quite the experience as you are very buoyant, I really never could have anticipated exactly how it would feel. You float like a cork in the sea. You can stand vertically with your head and shoulders above the water, without your feet actually touching the ground.

Playing in the Dead Sea mudIn addition to all the salty buoyant water, the Dead Sea mud is fairly well known for it’s ‘health’ properties. Dead Sea mud contains 25 or more minerals and sells for a fortune in the form of body masks, face masks and well as various other creams.

We paid 3JOD (approx. $5) to spread the thick black mud all over ourselves. It was great for a laugh, but whether it improved my skin or not I can’t say.

Time spent at the Dead Sea was AWESOME!!!!

Amman Citadel & Roman Forum

Hercules' TempleIn the center of downtown Amman, on the hill between several valleys, is the Amman Citadel. In terms of fortification and safety, the location had a fantastic position and provides a view over Amman in all directions.

The site was built and rebuilt numerous times over the years by many different civilizations. Evidence of which can be found in the architecture and carvings.

Roman Forum in Downtown AmmanVery few structures within the citadel are in tact. The two best maintained/restored were Hercules’ Temple and the Desert Castle.

Looking down from the citadel into one of the valleys, the Roman Forum can be found. The Forum dates back to the 2nd century AD, in a time when Amman was known as Philadelphia. The Forum is a nice spot to visit but was absolutely overrun with people. It does however provde a nice view and has been fairly well restored.


Jerash TheatreJerash is approximately an hour drive north of Amman, close to the Syrian border. It is a Greco-Roman city dating back to around 2000BC. This ancient city boasts an unbroken chain of human occupation dating back more than 6,500 years.

While the site is enormous, not many of the original structures are intact. It was hidden beneath the sand for centuries, but has been undergoing excavation and restoration over the past 70 years.

The highlights of the site included Hadrian’s Arch, the Theatre, Zeus’ Temple, Temple of Artemis and the Cardo.

Amman Downtown

Eating like a local
A delicious local meal for 2 people, with 6 dishes, bread and two cups of tea cost 5JOD

The city of Amman is large and used to be referred to as having seven hills. Over time the city has grown and now covers more than seven of the hills in the area. It has a population of roughly 4 million people, some people claim that approximately 1 million of whom are refugees. Currently the city hosts a large number of Syrian refugees.

The Downtown area of Amman is busy, noisy and smelly but in a way that is reflective of the culture. Wandering around is a very pleasant experience.

It’s great to stop by local food places for a savoury treat, a tasty dessert or even just a cup of tea. You can easily eat a meal out for 2.5JOD or 25JOD. I would recommend heading to the places that have big queues of locals as the food is likely to be the best and most affordable.

If you head to the right areas, the Amman Downtown has some pretty awesome street art. I went on a little mission to find some and was not disappointed!

Amman Street Art

If you are keen for a treat, then I would highly recommend a visit to a Turkish Bath (Hamam). There are a few around, but I went to Al-Pasha and was very happy with the service there. Over the course of 1.5 – 2 hours I sweated in the steam room and sauna and I roasted some more in the Jacuzzi. I was also scrubbed from head to toe, washed with soapy bubbles and had a full body massage. All for 25JOD, the cheapest Hamam I have visited to date. For an extra 3JOD you could add in a facial.

For me this body scrub and pampering treatment was a great way to wash off the collective dirt of the desert and city, and relax at the end of a fantastic adventure through Jordan.