From 8 May until 14 June 1994 a friend and I made a 5-week journey through Syria and Jordan. Our main interest was to visit a number of historical sites, supplemented by some interesting bird areas. My friend wasn't a birdwatcher, but since I did all my birdwatching in sites that were scenically beautiful, he didn't mind. For Jordan I prepared myself with the 1990 birder's report by Eddie Messiah, which held good maps and a lot of useful information. I could't find anything on Syria though, so all I could do there was study the map and visit as many wet and desert areas as possible. Nowadays (1999) there is a good book on Jordan, by Ian Andrews, and there are regular reports on Syria in the Sandgrouse magazines by the Ornithological Society of the Middle East.
The cheapest way to get to Syria, if you have the time, is to fly to Istanbul (Turkey), and take the 15-hour bus to Aleppo (Syria). Our flight was about 300 US$, and the bus one-way Istanbul-Aleppo was about 20 US$ (to be paid in Turkish liras, of course). We mainly used public transport, but also hitch-hiked along the King's Highway and Baghdad road in Jordan, and along the Euphrates river in Syria. For birdwatching I brought a 10x25 binoculars, and I bought a 20x50 Russian telescope on a market in Damascus (Syria) for 15 US$. We stayed in the cheapest hotels and only camped at Wadi Dana, Wadi Rum and Aqaba (Jordan) and Erdek (Turkey). In some hotels it is possible to stay on the roof, which in most cases is cheaper and cooler, and it gives you a possibility to study Laughing Doves up close.
Total expenses in 37 days, including flight, vaccinations and 10 rolls of film were about 1100 $.
Left Amsterdam Schiphol Airport at 11 a.m., arriving at Istanbul 3.45 p.m. Took a taxi to Topkapi Bus Station, where a bus to Adana-Antakya-Aleppo left at 5.30 p.m. with Has Tours at pier 101. Travelled via Üsküdar, Ankara, Aksaray, Pozanti...
Pozanti (4.15), Adana (6.15), Iskenderun (8.30), Antakya (10.30). Due to a flat tyre, left Antakya three hrs later than planned at 2 p.m., so we got time to visit St. Peter's church.
Arrived in Aleppo (Syria) at 6.30 p.m. Checked in at Ebla Hotel, for 250 Sp (Syrian pounds) a night, which was about 6 US$.
Hired a taxi with driver and guide to visit Qualaat Jabr, Resafah and Halabiyyeh, interesting sites along the Euphrates river. Of these, Resafah is the only one you need a taxi for, since no public transport goes there, and it is about 35 km from the main road. This trip was 600 km, and cost us 40 US$ per person. This is of course too much, but bargaining is something we got better at with time passing.
Aleppo. Suqs, citadel, Omayyad Mosque and museum. At night took the Poulman-bus to Damascus (58 Sp per person = 1.5 US$). Last one leaves at 11.30 p.m.
Arrived at Damascus 4.30 a.m. Walked into the city centre, while enjoying the many Laughing Doves. Checked in at Qasr el-Shark Hotel opposite the citadel (150 Sp = 4 $).
Rest of the day spent in Damascus.
Made reservations for the bus to Amman (Jordan) the next day (5 $) at the Karnak bus station. In the morning visited several museums, and in the afternoon went to Ma'aloula (minibuses leave from the Abassid stadium).
7 a.m. bus to Amman, arrived there 11.40 a.m., crossed the city centre from the east bus station to the south bus station and left for Kerak about 1.30 p.m. Arrived at Kerak 3.15 p.m. and threw our sleeping-bags on the roof of the Castle Hotel, because everything else in the town was fully booked (at least the cheap ones). Hotel was 1.5 JD (Jordanian Dinar) a night = 2.5 $. Visited the castle in the afternoon.
About 7 a.m. took a minibus to Ariha (N), from where we walked toward and into Wadi Mujib. We followed the stream upwards and ended at a waterfall, after which there was no time left to go to the N side of Wadi Mujib. According to E. Messiah, birds at the N side include Arabian Babbler, Little Swift and Bonelli's Eagle. On our way back to Kerak we stopped at the Roman temple of Ar-Rabba, and at the hospital compound in Kerak to get our permits for access into the Araba valley.
There should have been a bus from Kerak to Aqaba through the Wadi Araba valley, but since all the info given by the Kerak villagers was contradictory, we decided to take a shared taxi to Wadi Fidan, at 7 a.m. Arrived at the start of the wadi at 8.15 a.m. We showed our permits to the military at the checkpoint, and I tried to explain that I was there only to birdwatch. They failed to pass on this information to other military in the area however. I walked along the road, some 50 m from the road, and was able to find a small number of birds, among which some Dunn's Larks. At the end of the morning we were spotted by two Bedus that thought we were Israelis: one of them watched us while the other drove off to get help: we were arrested and brought to the checkpoint, and after a lot of laughs and several cups of tea we were placed back in the desert in the same spot where we had been arrested. We walked on, and after a while we saw some beautiful big acacias, some 5 km up into the wadi. Unfortunately, there was also a big military camp there, and we were arrested again. This time we were not allowed to go back - according to the Messiah report, birds there should have included Arabian Babbler, Little Green Bee-eater and Arabian Warbler. A Palestinian who spoke very good English saved us from the military and took us back towards Kerak. After having had dinner at his place in a small village he arranged for a truck to take us back to Kerak, at 10 p.m.
Left Kerak at 11.30 a.m. and hopped along the King's Highway using microbuses, to Tafileh and Al-Quasiyyeh. We headed for Wadi Musa (the town near Petra), but got off at Wadi Dana, for we were taken by the view of this deep and well-vegetated wadi, completely different from all other places we had seen on our trip. We asked (by using sign language) a family sitting outside whether we could sleep on their porch, and left our gear there while walking and birding in the afternoon.
Got up at 7 a.m. and walked into the wadi until the small waterfall. Back at the road, tried for the "somewhere between 2 and 3 p.m."-bus, but fortunately we were able to hitch a ride with two Dutch tourists with a rented car. Stayed at the Moussa Spring Hotel in Wadi Musa for 7 JD for two (about 5 $).
Entered Petra 7 a.m. and paid 5 JD per person. Prices seem to have risen five-fold since, but since this is the site of the Middle East, most tourists will pay this much no matter what. Entered through the Siq, and visited El-Khazneh, the High place of sacrifice, the Garden and Roman Soldier Tomb, the Roman area and the museum. Slept in a cave at the hot noon, and walked to the Monastery (great scenery) in the afternoon.
Hitch-hiked to Beidha, some 8 kilometers N of Petra, and climbed and walked our way back to Petra, thereby avoiding the entrance fee and the tourists of the central area.
Entered Petra trough a small wadi N of the Petra Forum Hotel, again avoiding the entrance fee. In the evening stayed behing while all the tourists were summoned to get out - nowadays it is forbidden to spend the night inside Petra. I knew it was the wrong time of year, but I wanted to have a go at Hume's Tawny Owl anyway: we tried the Palace Tomb and the Theatre, but no owls were calling. Walking back trough the moonlit Siq was quite an experience, though.
At 6 a.m. took the bus from Wadi Musa towards Aqaba, and got off at the turn-off to Wadi Rum, from where we hitch-hiked. Arrived at Wadi Rum about 8.45 a.m. and put up the tent behind the Government Rest House (for free). We then checked the spring above the camp-site, and walked to Lawrence's well in the afternoon. Throughout the day, it was very hot.
Got up at 6.30. Walked to the Jebel (= mountain) Khazali and its small siq, through the desert. Since it was very hot we stayed there all day, and slept in the shade for most of the time. I did some birding, and in the late afternoon we walked back to the camp-site. The fact that it was very hot and my companion wasn't a birdwatcher made it impossible for me to stay at Rum and try for Verreaux' Eagle. A pair of this species stays in the area, and will probably be seen eventually if one stays around long enough.
Our bus to Aqaba did a round through the village before finally stopping at the Government Rest House - and then it was full. People staying at the Rest House could get in, because the owner talked to the bus driver. Get on the bus somewhere in the village, or act like you're angry (or be angry, like I was) otherwise the bus will leave without you and you have to wait for another - on another day. The bus actually goes to the crossroads, where one has to change to a bus going towards Aqaba. We had breakfast at the Aqaba bus station, and then took a taxi to the National Tourist Camp, at that time the only camp-site in Aqaba. It is situated some 12 km outside Aqaba, toward the Saudi border. The camp-site was very cheap, but there was no shade, nothing that a European would call a toilet, and most importantly, there was no restaurant nearby. Throughout our stay in Aqaba it was very hot.
Since there was a Jordanian holiday when we visited, all buses to Amman were fully booked (we tried to get tickets in advance, at the JETT bus station). Had dinner at Aqaba, and played chess and drank tea at the great tea terrace along the palm-fringed beach.
Early morning walk from the camp-site to the Royal Diving Center, where one can rent snorkels and find shade. The beach in-between should be great for resting gulls and terns, but since there was a holiday, the beach was filled with tents. Dinner at Aqaba.
Hitched to Aqaba at 7 a.m. and took a microbus to Ma'an. From there we took a taxi to the outskirts of town, for we wanted to hitch-hike from Ma'an to Azraq through Al-Jafr. We got a ride there over a completely empty road, but there was no traffic beyond Al-Jafr, so we had to get back to Ma'an. Then a shared-taxi to Amman (3 JD a person), arriving at the S bus station. Walked to the E bus station, from where we took a bus to Zerqa and on to Azraq, arriving at 8.20 p.m. Rather 'expensive' but clean and quiet Al-Zoubi Hotel was the only one in town, for 5 $ a night. Great kebab joints in the main street - although there didn't seem to be much else than a main street.
Left the hotel at 7.30 a.m. First went to Azraq fishponds, then the 'wetland reserve' - almost completely dried out - next we hitched to the Qasr el-Kharaneh and the Qasr Amra. Although I knew of a spot for Red-rumped Wheatear and Thick-billed Lark nearby, walking some 10 km through the heat at mid-day for two species I had seen before in Morocco didn't appeal to me. In the afternoon we visited the Shaumari reserve, then the Qasr el-Azraq and finally the dried-up 'qa'.
Hitched to Zerqa and Irbid, also using microbuses. Visited Gadara (the ancient Umm Qeis) in the afternoon. Stayed at Hotel Abu Bakr at Irbid, for 4 $ a night.
Until 11 a.m. we visited the ruins at Jerash. At noon we took a service-taxi to Damascus for 4 JD (6 $). When leaving Jordan, we had to pay 4 JD a person. Arrived at Damascus at 3.30 p.m. The more or less luxury Karnak and Poulman-buses didn't leave for Palmyra anymore this day, but a bus at the nearby "Beirut bus station" did. Left there at 5 p.m. and arrived at Palmyra (in Arabic called Tadmor) at 8.15 p.m. Seen my first Cream-coloured Coursers from the bus. In Tadmor stayed at the New Tourist Hotel for 150 Syrian pounds (6 $).
While my friend was feeling ill and slept all day, I visited some of the ruins, especially the funerary towers. Although it was hot, here it was bearable, and apart from a bus twice a day, there were no tourists in this spectacular place. At dusk the both of us walked to the Arab fortress overlooking the ruins, and on my own I walked back through the part of the ruins where the funerary towers were: as far as I know, this is not a known site for the Hume's Tawny Owl, but I had a try anyway. Lots of bats and wild dogs, though.
We both visited the ruins again, and at the Baal-temple we were offered by the warden to be taken to the Qasr el- Hair es-Sharqi the next morning. Not many people go there and I figured that it would be good birding, taking a 70 km-drive through the desert. It cost us 2,000 Syrian pounds (about 20 $ each).
Left Tadmor at 6 a.m. and arrived at the Qasr at 9.10 (the 35 km through the desert takes an hour). The main gate of the qasr was locked, but the ruins were interesting enough, and so were the Coursers and Temmick's Horned Larks, and the varana. At 11 a.m. we were back on the main road, and at 11.45 we got a ride from a bus belonging to some oil company. In Der ez-Zur, situated next to the euphrates river, we checked in at the Hotel Damas (3.5 $ each). We walked towards the river, about 1 km from the hotel, and crossed the footbridge to the N side. There we took a Poulman-bus going towards Muhaymidah. In Tadmor I had found a map of Syria (I had looked for one everywhere), and on that I had seen a big island in the Euphrates, somewhere near Muhaymidah. We never got to see the island, for the wet grasslands next to and inside the village kept me busy all afternoon. While my friend Sten was drinking tea at the local police station, I was birding my ass off and found, among others, White-tailed Plover, Citrine Wagtail, Cattle Egret, Marbled Teal, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater and many more.
Hitch-hiking back to Der ez-Zur, we got a ride from a Kuweiti (not many Syrians own a car, all traffic are either trucks, buses or private pick-ups) who didn't speak English but gave us the tourist detour, including dinner at his place. Along the way we saw many small wetlands as the one at Muhaymidah, so there is definitely potential for the White-tailed Plover in this area.
Early morning walk to the Poulman bus station, about 2 km from the hotel. There we took a bus to Salihiye (the ancient Doura Europos), but because of the inevitable invite for tea (from three beautiful unveiled Syrian female teachers) didn't arrive there until 11 a.m. As everywhere along the Euphrates, it was very hot. After visiting the ruins (citadel looking out over the river, and not another tourist in sight!) took a bus to Abu Kemal, a village border-post with Iraq. In between Salihiye and Abu Kemal are the ruins of Mari, but since there is not much left but rubble, we decided to skip this one. At Abu Kemal crossed the river to the E side, with some difficulties at the military checkpoint on the bridge. Already 3 p.m. it was hard getting a lift (always between 1 and 4 p.m.), but we managed to get to Der ez-Zur eventually, using several microbuses. We didn't see the entire E bank of the river, because the microbus crossed the river by a bridge (that wasn't on the map) near the village of Al-Ashara. Near that village, at the E side of the river some 10 km S of the bridge, I did some birding at a small marsh (called al-Ashara in this report) and found breeding Ferruginous Duck, as well as Marbled Teal.
Because of getting up late, we missed the early buses going to Aleppo. We didn't want to wait for the 2 p.m. bus, and so we tried hitch-hiking. Eventually we got a ride from a truck at Shumaytiyah village, going all the way to Aleppo. Because we stopped several times (for example to get a cool dive in one of the fast-flowing channels irrigating the crops), and the truck was very slow, we didn't arrive at Aleppo until 6.20 p.m., an hour after being overtaken by the 2 p.m. bus from Der ez-Zur! Left Aleppo at 7.15 p.m. for Hama, arrived there at 9 p.m. According to the Travel Survival Kit, Hotel Cairo is the place to be in Hama, and we didn't complain. In retrospect, if one wants to go to Hama from Der ez-Zur, it's probably less time-consuming taking the bus to Tadmor, and then go to Hama through Homs.
Visited the crusader's castle (Qasr) of Marqab, by taking a bus to Baniyas through Masyaf and Qadmus. Took a bus back at 5 p.m. from Baniyas to Masyaf, which was rather late because there is no more public transport after 6 p.m. So at Masyaf we had to walk to the main road and hitch-hike back to Hama, which was very difficult.
Getting from Hama to Homs was easy, and from there we took a bus to the Qalaat al-Hosn, better known as the crusader castle, in French "Crac des Chavaliers". Overlooking the snow-tipped mountains of N Lebanon, the view from this enormous castle is great. After the Crac we took a bus to Tartus, and from its harbour small boats leave for the small island of Arwad, a former fortress. Getting back to Hama from Tartus was easy, it took us three hours.
Visited the Roman ruins at Apameia (now called Afarnia), one of the highlights of our trip. In the late afternoon walked through Hama and saw the famous Noria's (old and big wooden waterwheels).
Bad kebab the previous night, so Sten had to stay in bed, presumably food poisoning. We had been to the W, N and S, so I took a bus to the E, and ended up in the village of Salamiye, with its Qalaat Simemis.
The bus from Hama to Lattakeia took a long time, and on top of that the Afameia Hotel in Lattakeia was the worst place we stayed in the whole trip (2.5 $ each). Lattakeia made a pleasant impression, with its pubs, a pizza parlour, a boulevard with beautiful girls, but by now we were tired and wanted to ease down in Turkey, so we bought tickets for a bus to Turkey the next day.
Left for Kassab at 8 a.m. This borderpost was very quiet and beautiful, situated in wooded mountains, a rare sight in Syria - probably a good place to observe bird of prey migration in spring and autumn. At noon arrived at Antakya, and then Adana at 4.30 p.m., which can be done a lot faster. Took the 6 p.m. bus to Erdek (a village at the Sea of Marmora coast, that I knew had a nice campsite, good restaurants and a good birding site nearby). Adana - Erdek cost us 10 $ each.
Arrived at Erdek at 9.30 a.m. Camping Ant is rather expensive but quiet and clean (4 $). Slept all day, had dinner in Erdek. Booked a bus to Istanbul for Mon 13-6.
Visited Kus Cennetti Milli Parki with its Dalmatian Pelicans, Pygmy Cormorants, Glossy Ibises and egrets. It hadn't changed a bit since my last visit in 1988, although I couldn't remember this great fish restaurant just outside the entrance to the park.
Stayed at the campsite, in the afternoon walked to the village ‚eltikçi.
Our 9.15 a.m. bus stopped in front of the campsite. Arrived at the Topkapi Otogar (= bus station) in Istanbul at 3.40 p.m.Service-bus to Yesilköy, taxi to Atatürk Havaalani (= airport), arrived there 5.30 p.m.
Left Istanbul at 7 a.m., arriving back at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol at 8.45 a.m. local time.
Qalaat Jabr - Arab fortress, now situated in the man-made Lake Assad.
Resafah - Ruins of an old Byzantine city, situated in the desert some 25 km S of Al Mansurah. A rental car or taxi is required to get here. It is quite impressive, and the very few bushes inside its walls could be interesting during migration.
Halabiyyeh - The former Byzantine city "Zenobia". Impressive walls, no noticeable birds here apart from Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, which is common along the Euphrates river in summer.
Aleppo - This is a very interesting city, mainly known for its suqs, but it also has a great citadel overlooking the city. I was surprised by the migrants I found within its walls - a Red-backed Shrike and Ortolan Buntings for example.
Damascus - The capital of Syria, with a beautiful Omayyad mosque and a lot of Laughing Doves.
Ma'aloula - A small catholic village some 30 km N of Damascus, built against a cliff. Birds of notice here were my only Black Redstart of the trip, Alpine Swifts (remarkably rare) and two probable Desert Finches.
Palmyra - The biggest and most beautiful ruins in Syria, of Queen Zenobia who dared to provoke the Romans. The ruins itself are pretty birdless, apart from Little Owl, Desert Lark and Mourning Wheatear. The nearby oasis, with the village Tadmor should be great during migration and may even hold White-cheeked Bulbul. One evening we hitch-hiked into the desert because I was hoping to see Cream-coloured Coursers, but we weren't lucky (then).
Qasr el-Hair es-Sharqi - A big desert castle situated some 35 km N of the road between Palmyra and Der ez-Zur. It can only be visited with a taxi or rental car with guide. Birds here included Cream-coloured Coursers, Temminck's Horned Larks and Pin-tailed Sandgrouse.
Doura Europos - A former Roman/Hellenistic city, with nowadays impressive walls and a citadel, overlooking the river Euphrates.
Hama - A very pleasant town, and a good basis to visit the sites in W Syria. The old wooden waterwheels are a fantastic sight, and their grinding noise can be heard throughout the night.
Qalaat Marqab - This crusader castle has great views over the Mediterranean. The vegetation both in- and outside of the castle accounts for the many Graceful and Sardinian Warblers.
Crac des Chevaliers - In Arab this is called Qalaat el-Hosn. One big and impressive castle this is: it should not be missed when visiting Syria.
Apameia - This is a 2 km-long colonnaded street, situated amongst the wheatfields and thistles. The nearby village of Afarnia is built within the walls of the former castle Qalaat al-Mudiq. Inside an old kervansaray nearby is the museum, with mosaics of the lions, tigers and deer that were hunted in the area 2,000 years ago.
Qalaat Simemis - Visible from the road between Hama and Salamiyeh this ruin looks great, but inside nothing remains.
Kerak - A crusader castle, disappointing if compared with the Syrian castles, but one of the nicer ones in Jordan. Birds include Rock Sparrow, Pale Crag Martin and Blue Rock Thrush.
Wadi Mujib - This deep wadi has both beautiful scenery as well as interesting birds. The N edge (that we didn't visit) apparently holds Bonelli's Eagle. The singing Long-billed Pipit that I found on a rock just before starting the descent into the wadi from the S side is apparently an easy one, since it was found in the exact same spot by others three years later. Other birds include Fan-tailed Raven, Tristram's Grackle, Sand Partridge, Blackstart, Sqacco Heron and Spectacled and Marsh Warbler (probably on migration).
Wadi Fidan - This wadi is actually the W part of Wadi Dana. It is best entered from the W side, by taking the Wadi Araba road either S from Kerak, or N from Aqaba. Between this Wadi Araba road and the foothills of the mountains lies a very sandy desert, of about 5 km wide. Birds encountered here included Dunn's Lark, Spotted Sandgrouse, Bar-tailed Desert Lark and Great Grey Shrike. Birds that should also be there are Cream-coloured Courser, Hoopoe Lark, Arabian Babbler, Arabian Warbler and Little Green Bee-eater (the last three in the acacia stands next to the mountains). In 1994, access to the Wadi Araba road was difficult, and only granted for one day at a time. This seems to be one of the few places in the Western Palearctic where Dunn's Lark regularly breeds.
Masmora - A small village along the Wadi Araba road, where our Palestinian friend, who saved us from the military at Wadi Fidan, brought us. As a agricultural engineer he had to inspect some farmers there, and we walked through a small wadi with reeds and rose-red rocks as we would later see in Petra.
Wadi Dana - Since this is a well-vegetated wadi, it holds good breeding numbers of a number of species, including the Middle East endemic Syrian Serin. The village of 'Dana' is signposted from the King's Highway, and nowadays there's a campground nearby. Apparently, the birds of prey migration can be impressive here, and Hume's Tawny Owl should also be found here. Birds I encountered were Syrian Serin, Pale Rock Sparrow (breeding, probably not regularly), Upcher's and Spectacled Warbler, Cretschmar's Bunting, Woodchat Shrike and Tristram's Grackle, among others.
Petra - Absolutely the number-1 site in the Middle East. Incredible Nabatean rock-carved tombs is what one can find here, along with pleasant birding. As it will be teeming with tourists nowadays, birding is probably best be done in the more remote smaller wadis, and at Little Petra and Beidha. Birds encountered were Sinai Rosefinch (quite common), Tristram's Grackle (hard to find), Fan-tailed Raven, Palestine Sunbird and the only Spanish Sparrows I saw in Jordan.
Beidha and Little Petra - These are situated about 8 km N of Petra. Beidha is a Neolithic village dating from about 7,000 BC, and the nearby Little Petra has the same rock-carved tombs as Petra, only less and smaller. Because it is less visited by tourists however, birds are found here in bigger numbers than they are at Petra itself. Noticeably Tristram's Grackle, but also Fan-tailed Raven and Sinai Rosefinch were easily seen here. We walked back to Petra over the plateau, thus avoiding the entrance fee to Petra.
Wadi Rum - The scenery is really overwhelming, as can be the heat. This is the place-to-be for the Verreaux' Eagle - its only well-known nesting site in the Western Palearctic is found here. So every birder visiting Jordan should go here: birds we saw here were Sinai Rosefinch (quite common), our only Jordanian House Bunting, Barbary Falcon, White-crowned and Mourning Wheatear, Bar-tailed Desert Lark, Brown-necked Raven, Tristram's Grackle and Masked Shrike (probably migration).
Aqaba - Overlooking the Red Sea, this is a pleasant town to stay for a couple of days, and the snorkelling is great. Birds here should include everything that is possible in nearby Eilat, Israel, and as everybody knows just about anything is possible there. I saw White-eyed Gull, Caspian Tern and House Crow.
Azraq - Once a famous oasis, with many migrating and wintering waders and wildfowl in the 1960's, the Azraq oasis has now dried up completely. In early spring there seems to be some water sometimes, but nothing is left in summer. The 'qa', the big pool, was devoid of water around the time of our visit, and so was the 'wetland reserve'. The only good sites now are Wadi Butm, a small vegetated wadi along the Qasr Amra (migration, occasional Striated Scops Owl); the limestone desert near the Qasr el-Kharaneh with Red-rumped Wheatear and Thick-billed Lark; and the fish ponds, where we saw Greater Sand Plover, Pin-tailed Sandgrouse and Great Grey Shrike.
Shaumari reserve - This well-vegetated reserve is meant for the release of species like Ostrich and Arabian Oryx into the Jordanian desert. It is very good for all kinds of birds during migration.
Qasr Amra - Situated near Azraq, this old bath house has got beautiful frescoes inside.
Qasr el-Kharaneh - This apparently is a desert castle, interesting for those who know their way with Islamic architecture. Nearby is the limestone desert with interesting birds like several wheatears and larks (see at Azraq).
Qasr el-Azraq - A must for those who have read the books of T.E. Lawrence (better known as Lawrence of Arabia). It is made of the black basalt rock that is found in the E desert (with its endemic 'black morph' Mourning Wheatear and annae Desert Lark), and very near the 'qa' (or what's left of it).
Umm Qeis (Gadara) - A former Decapolis (Roman) city, nicely situated amongst olive trees and thistles, and with a beautiful view over the Sea of Galilea. Nearby are some fish ponds that might be worth investigating, but since it is near the Israeli border, there are roadchecks.
Jerash (Gerasa) - A far bigger ruined city than Umm Qeis, and the best preserved Roman site in Jordan.
Ostrich - Struthio camelus
27-5 3 males, 5 females Shaumari reserve, Azraq (J)
1 eagle spec. seen from a pick-up between Petra and Beidha, was possibly a Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaeetos.
From a moving bus, 2 flying Sandgrouse spec. were seen between Dmeir and Palmyra (S), that showed characteristics of Crowned Sandgrouse Pterocles coronatus, i.e. black wing-tips, short tail and sandy-coloured body.
In addition, at least two Gecko spec. and several Agama spec. were seen at most rocky areas and ruins, and also several other Lacerta spec. We also saw several funny fluorescent blue Agamas that made push-ups every time they stopped running, mainly at Petra and Wadi Rum (J).
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