We stayed two nights in Madaba, one night on our way to Petra and one night on our way back to the airport. The main attraction is St. George-church, and in the church it is an old mosaic map over the Middle East. It was really hard to get good pictures ofiit inside the church. It was too big.
As I often do, I said hello to a mother with a boy. I did not expect an answer as she was dressed i a black dress covering hair, throat, ancles, wrists, and my experience with women dressed like that is that they refuse all contact with me. But she was different so we had a nice but short conversation. She even let me take her picture, and that is even more rare.
We had a short stop at a beach resort at The Dead Sea and those who wanted could try to bathe. It was a nice place with a great view.
The clientell was a mix of tourists in bikinis and Muslims in fully covering bathing suits, all ages and shapes. That created some interesting photo situations.
Ajlun is a castle built by a nephew of Saladin and should be a stronghold against the crusaders. It has a commanding place on top of a hill, and has a great view over three valleys. It was also a central for pigeons used for sending messages between the strongholes.
What I remember best from Ajlun are the steps. We met an Englishman coming out and he said “Welcome to the building with 5000 steps” and I think it was only slightly exaggerated.
It was a small museum where artifacts found in the castle were shown and the small glass items were most impressive to me.
I met a group from Indonesia taking a selfie, and they were very surprised when I used the 5 Indonesian words I remember.
We visited a family that had horses as their main animal. They were called nomads, but in my opinion they were not traditional nomads that moved around all the time.They were stationary on the plains during the summer and I think they lived in a village during winter.
They had a herd of horses, some with foals.
I had heard of fermented horse milk to be a special drink in Mongolia. The wife showed us how she milked a horse. It had of course a mare with a foal. They first let the foal suck for a few seconds and the foal was very close all the time. Then she could milk.
Then the milk was fermented in cow skin that was never cleaned to maintain the right bacteria. We tasted it in her best silver together with some sort of cheese. It tasted a bit sour and was surprisingly light.
The father and one son were also busy with the horses.
We visited a buddhist temple in Gorkhi Terelj National park, that is I waited at the bottom of the stairs to watch, talk to and take pictures of people. The temple is on a hillside with 109 steps up (109 is a holy number) and budhist symbols were paiten on rocks on the hill.
I enjoyed sitting there watching peopl, trying to talk to them with no common language. A smile and hello go a long way, and the smiles and hellos I got back made my day. To some it seemed that being taken pictures of is a serious matter, but there were always smiles, giggles and laughter when they saw the pictures.
The Gandan monastery in Ulaanbaatar is an impotant religious place for the buddhists and Dalai Lama visits regularly.. It is a central temple and several houses around the temple.
The interior was not particularly interesting, but the people on the temple square caught my attention. Newly married couples came to the temple to be blessed by monks. They were married the day before but wanted a blessing as well. They were all dressed in western style clothes so I asked why they did not use their traditional clothes as they are spectacular. The answer was hat they wanted their wedding to be special, and their traditional clothing s were not special enough. Some brought their children as weddings were expensive so they had to save many years, and in the meantime things happened.
It was very different people coming to the temple.
We visited one of the other houses were monks were sitting to give people advice about any problem. They did not want pictures to be taken, but I took one anyway.
Mongolia was part of the atheistic Soviet Union for many years and temples and monasteries were torn down. But after their independence the Mongolians come to the temples and the religious buildings are rebuilt. So again the power and form of religion puzzle me.
We spent 2 nights in Ulanbataar, the first and the last in Mongolia and roughly a day and a half.
The firrst day we visited the National Museum and what impressed me the most was the traditional costumes in silk with so detailed embroderies.
It was a folklore festival at the soccer stadium and that was spectacular with traditional dancing in incredible costumes.
I hoped to see traditional Mongolian wrestling and that was part of the program. It was mostly pushing so how they decided who won is a mystery to me. A few times it was easy when one was thrown to the ground.
Not all were interested in what went on, it seems I was more interesting.
After the performance I took pictures and talked with a couple of monks. One spoke very good English and answered my question about traditions, clothes and the festival.