17-Jun-2008 -- An impromptu Confluence: At the time of this visit, I was driving from Yemen, where I worked for three years, to France, where my new job was located.
Having made it through Saudi Arabia without too much fuss, I'd been relaxing in Jordan for a while, and done some planning with regards to potential Confluence visits in Syria and Turkey. I know Jordan reasonably well, having lived there for a year previously. But I'd never had chance to get out to the so-called "Desert Castles" in the desert east of `Ammān. So, after a wonderfully nostalgic trip to the Dead Sea, I decided to take in this part of the country through a bit of a diversion on the way to Syria. I stayed at the excellent RSCN (Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature) lodge in Azraq, which had been converted from an old British army field hospital, complete with an antique Land Rover Defender in the lobby - a nice touch.
In truth, I had no plans whatsoever to visit a Confluence in Jordan, and had simply spent the afternoon looking at the castles, walking round the wetland park (or what's left of it, since most of the water from the Azraq oasis has now been drained to supply `Ammān's needs - an environmental tragedy). It was strange indeed to see water buffalo so far out into the desert. I'd also hoped to visit the Šawmāriyy wildlife reserve and see oryx and ostriches. But - according to the visitor centre - the "ostriches are closed for a year"... poor things; it must have all got to much for them...
So I spontaneously hit on the bright idea of seeing if there was a CP nearby, in order to kill a couple of hours before sunset. And to my great luck there was - just 25 km north of Azraq, and seemingly close to an asphalt road. Ten minutes later I was on my way.
I'm normally quite meticulous about preparing for CP visits, but this one was completely off the cuff. So I had no maps, no Google Earth printouts, or even the previous visitors' account. What one might call 'old-style' confluencing. But, in the end, the challenge wasn't too great. The main Azraq-Ṣafāwiyy road takes you to within 4 km of the target, and then a series of very (very) rough tracks, replete with large smooth black rocks, took me to around 300 m from the point. From there it was just a quick hop, skip, and a jump over the rocks to get to 32N 37E.
The terrain at the point is utterly typical of the basalt desert that one must transit to get from Azraq to Ṣafāwiyy. The views are mostly flat and featureless, although to the West one can see (although not in the photograph) the line of electricity pylons that runs parallel to the main road. At the point itself, there are a number of cairn-like structures, although the previous visitors to have placed a report on the DCP site made no mention of building one.
After doing the necessaries, I drove back to the main road (by a more sensible and direct route, as is always the case with these things), and decided to drop in at the nearest site of interest: Qaṣr Usaykhim. These ruins of a Roman fort lie just 7.5 km as the crow flies from 32N 37E, and were originally part of a chain of such forts that were intended to protect the Roman empire's (rather exposed) eastern frontier. Although not very high, the small hill on which the ruins lie affords the visitor astonishing views across much of the Jordanian eastern desert (or 'Badia' as it is known locally). A truly wonderful place to be at sunset.
The story continues at 34N 38E.