The view from Masada in Israel takes some beating. The 400-metre-high rock fortress located at the edge of the Judean desert not only has spectacular views over the Dead Sea but the incredible history of the fortress really captivates. You can still see the 8 Roman forts and interconnecting walls & assault escarpment that besieged the fortress and finally persuaded the Judean Rebels to commit suicide rather than fall into slavery.
This veritable feast was provided at one of Amman’s best restaurant’s Fakhir El-Din for Iftar, at the breaking of the fast during Ramadan.
BEST NIGHT’S ACCOMMODATION
In Bethlehem is the wonderful Hosh Al-Syrian Guesthouse. Set a mere 100m from Nativity Square amongst the beautiful cobbled backstreets, Hosh Al-Syrian is a 400-year-old converted house with only 10 rooms, is stunningly renovated and incredibly charismatic. The staff are lovely, the courtyard is lit with candles and incense at night, making it a wonderful place to sit and enjoy a glass of Palestinian wine in the evening listening to the call to prayer echo down the streets.
The owner Fadi is a French trained chef with an absolute passion for food. If he’s at the property he will offer a 4 course dinner. There is no menu - he goes into the local market that day and creates a meal around what is fresh and in season and takes his fancy. He will then create a sumptuous modern take on Palestinian food that wouldn’t look or taste out of place in a high end restaurant in London or Paris. Just don’t ask for your meat well done or he may kick you out… seriously. Fantastic meal in a wonderful setting.
The backdoor walk into Petra was amazing. You start in Little Petra and walk through Bedouin camps, farm land, through the mountains and finally arrive at the back entrance to Petra at the Monastery. You can then walk down the 800 steps to the Siq and join the traditional route of Petra. It was fascinating; I got to meet the local Bedouin, pick wild sage, avoid Palestinian vipers, enjoy stunning views and there were no other tourists. Quite an incredible feat at one of the world’s most popular sites.
An unexpected moment when visiting the Crusader Castle at Shobak in Jordan. The castle is set in a rocky hill surrounded by valleys and mountains and has an incredible history of resistance against Saladin in the 11th Century. We arrived too late to get into the castle, but my guide asked if I wanted to see something interesting. We drove to the back of the castle and he explained that during the 3 year siege of the castle the crusaders built a secret tunnel through the hill and down to a stream. You can still walk these steps. At the back of the hill is what can only be described as a manhole, in which a steel ladder leads down 20 feet into pitch darkness. When you get to the bottom you can hear and see the stream and as we pointed our phone torches (very prepared) up the underground stairs you could see the 256 steps leading through the hill. We only walked about half way up as it was closed at the top (and it was hard going!) I couldn’t help but be captivated by this little nook of history and the largely untouched and un-sanitized experience it offers.
The two best souvenirs I got were both during the back door walk to Petra. I picked some wild sage for my mum to put in her tea & I bought a hand carved camel embossed with copper from a local Bedouin for my son.
Not having longer in Israel/Palestine. There is such an overload of history/politics/religion/beauty I just couldn’t do it justice in the time I had. Very keen to return for a longer time on my next visit!
TIPS FOR TRAVELLERS?
Do some background reading before you go. The guides are excellent both in Jordan and Israel but the sheer range of topics that can be discussed is mind blowing and you’ll enjoy the experience a lot more if you swat up on both general history and contemporary politics beforehand.
View our tours to Israel & Palestine