DAY TRIP to WADI MUJIB, KARAK, DANA, and SHOBAK: We took this trip on our way to Petra from Amman during our stay in Jordan in February, 2013. Our guide took King’s Way for this trip instead of regular highway although this takes little bit longer time. King’s Way is a beautiful scenic route that runs from Amman all the way near Petra. This long stretch of road crawls thru green fields, rugged terrains, majestic mountains, vast deserts, deep valleys, and steep canyons. You get to see many small villages up close and personal when driving thru local busy markets or neighborhoods. King’s Way is like U.S. Route 101 or Route 66, some portions are like fast high-ways while some are congested bustling streets.
People usually take this as a day-trip and include Petra along with it and go back to Amman the same day. But since it would be too much on the kids and we wanted to do it in a relaxed way, we paid more than double the price and did it in 2 days. We paid 120 JD for this trip and our driver showed us these 4 small towns, then left us in our hotel in Petra. The plan was to take all the time next day to visit Petra leisurely and go back to Amman via Wadi Rum on our last day in Jordan.
OUR HOTEL: After leaving our hotel in Amman and getting on with the journey, we reached Movenpick Resort in Petra around 6 pm. Of course this is a 5-star hotel, so everything is perfect here, you can say. Although Wi-Fi is not free, the breakfast is included in the room-fare. The location was great too, since it’s just outside the visitor center of Petra.
EATING and SHOPPING: We started the day a bit late (my girls were sick and we were exhausted from previous day-trips) and were rushing thru the day to be able to see everything before the closing times. We ended up having lunch around 4:30 in a street-side kebab place in Shobak. You can say that was our dinner too.
For shopping, I really didn’t come across any souvenir shops in this trip, other than single individual Bedouins selling stuff right outside the 2 castles we’ve visited.
PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We left Amman around 10 am and were done with everything by 6 pm. This was a bit tight schedule since we barely made it to our last destination right before closing. May be leaving at 9 am would have given us some extra time. But unfortunately my kids and I fell sick after we reached Jordan, it’s a not that easy waking your toddlers who are suffering from fever and sore throat at 8 am and get them ready for a long day of journey. Anyways, good part is that we got to see everything we wanted to see and more and reached Petra safely at the end of the day. I think we all slept like babies that night, I know I did.
1) WADI MUJIB VIEWPOINT: After driving through some gigantic mountains and zigzagging roads of King’s Way we reached the viewpoint of Wadi Mujib. This is about 95 km from Amman. Although we didn’t go down to the valley, Mujib Nature Reserve is the lowest nature reserve in the world. The immense beauty from this point of Wadi Mujib is unforgettable. The deep valley looks breathtaking from up above. Dam Al-Mujib with its body of water surrounding looks like an oasis in the middle of the desert and stony mountains. The cliffs and the gorges of monstrous mountains and Bedouin settlements tucked away in the wadis make this place a picture perfect sight too. By the way, don’t forget to breathe fresh mountain air while you are up there…very refreshing.
2) KARAK CASTLE in KARAK: Karak is rather a big town and is about 65 km from Wadi Mujib on King’s Way. The castle reached its present form very gradually. The two main building phases were made by the Crusaders from 1142 – 1188 AD (later was occupied by Salahdin) and Mamluk from 1263 – 1517 AD. You can see typical Crusaders’ masonry here characterized by the use of large, roughly cut blocks of hard, dark limestone. On the other hand Mamluk builders used a soft limestone, neatly cut into rectangular blocks, but with a rough or rusticated outer face. Built on a ridge, the massive outer defense wall raises from the steep valleys of Karak isolating from the town and from nearby hills.
This is a humongous castle, I mean the whole perimeter is very big and open. This is one of the three largest castles in the region, the other two being in Syria. Standing by the outer walls gives a grand view of the whole town and afar. One of the adventurous parts is to walk inside the medieval cluster phobic tunnels and explore small bedrooms (some prisons). The main outer wall remains fairly intact but the buildings inside the boundary are somewhat in ruins.
Entrance to the castle is only 1 JD per person and it took us little more than hour and half to walk around its big open space on the hill. Visitors can spend more time exploring all the levels of this castle, walk thru the dark passages, and going inside its many small and big rooms.
3) DANA VIEWPOINT: Our 3rd stop Dana was simply a short break with some great views of Dana Village at the foothill of giant mountains. It’s about 120 km from Karak. The adjacent canyon in between two hills is also dangerously beautiful. We stopped here only for 10 minutes, took some pictures, ran fast towards Shobak before the castle closes at 4 pm.
4) SHOBAK CASTLE in SHOBAK: City of Shobak/Shawbak/Shoubak is about 60 km from Dana and about 40 km away from Petra. This is a much smaller castle than the one in Karak. This was our last destination of the day before reaching Petra. We made it to the Shobak Castle only 5 minutes before the closing time but the guard allowed us in and let us spend 15 minutes to walk around. There is no charge to enter the castle.
Shobak Castle, built by the Crusaders in 1115 AD, is located up on a high steep mountain…I was kind of scared when our car was going thru that narrow road by the cliff to the main entrance. There are many caves on the body of the mountains where some Bedouins still reside. Our driver was saying, there is one particular cave which is linked to the castle and can be hiked for 30 minutes to go on top of it. The only thing left of Shobak Castle is the dull skeleton of it. We walked by the old walls and some small rooms and tunnels made with sandstone. Ruins of its tower with Arabic calligraphy is visible from outside the castle. Looking out to the rocky and conical mountains was very appealing and glamorous.