I have to give a big thank you to the guys over at Departures, without them and their amazing show I would have never guessed to visit Jordan. Admittedly, I don’t even think I knew where it was on a map. For those you haven’t seen their show, fair warning, it’s amazing and will make you want to drop everything and travel. They were certainly a motivating factor for me.
Yet another trip that I booked a one way flight, into Amman, and arrived at the airport to take the shuttle to the bus station into the city. It was night time, but driving out of the airport and onto the highway, it seemed as if everything was glowing, which seems hard to imagine because it was the dessert. Cars pulled off to the side of the road with families gathered around a fire, groups of men standing on the road trying to hitch rides home from work. It wasn’t until the next morning when I would tour around some of the desert castles that I would realize exactly where I am in the world from a very innocent road sign.
Just after seeing this sign, our driver stopped outside of a Syrian refugee camp. We stood at the gates and watched masses of people going in and out, military tanks checking documents and speaking to media crews. It’s a sad sight but also slightly comforting knowing that the government of Jordan provided the grounds, tents, water, medicine, food and security for them in their time of war. Our driver then told us that in any direction in less than 3 hours you can reach Iraq, Saudi Arabia, West Bank, Israel and almost Egypt. I remember not too long ago reading newspapers and headlines about war and conflict in all these countries. At the time of writing this Israel and Palestine are currently pretty much at war. I was actually set to go overland from Jordan to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem but something pulled me to save it for another time. I’m very appreciative of my gut feelings lately.
Our first stop is Mount Nebo where it’s to be rumoured that Moses was buried, and then to a mosaic studio where I would run into a woman I had met during the pre-opening of a hotel I worked at, which proves truth to the saying “the more you travel, the smaller the world is.” We would finish off with a few more castles, one of which being the strong hold for Lawrence of Arabia and then the Dead Sea.
The Dead Sea is kind of like a carnival ride, people tell you about it and how you must visit it, and rightfully so because it is the only place in the world where you find this type of natural phenomenon, but you don’t understand it until you try it and are floating effortlessly. I actually started laughing almost uncontrollably because of this odd and entertaining feeling. The Irish couple I was hanging out with probably thought I was nuts, and so what if I am?
The Dead Sea has 29% salt content, where the other oceans and seas of the world have roughly 4%. In about sixty years its size has almost shrank in half, and in the next couple of hundred years it will be almost gone. As much as it was an experience, it was actually one of the most uncomfortable experiences of my life.
I have very sensitive skin, and that amount of salt really doesn’t do it any good after about 2 min in the water. I would get out and partake in the “mud scrub” where mineral rich mud from the dead sea is smeared all over you and you bake in the sun before scrubbing it off for skin that looks 10 years younger. Well with this black mud on me and salt and minerals searing into my body from the hot sun, it was one of the most painful experiences ever. It could also be that I’m a big baby, which could be in the realm of possibilities.
We would head back to Amman where I would consume the most delicious and borderline climax inducing falafel sandwich from Hashmi restaurant. Hashmi is the king of Jordan’s favourite food spot, and the king knows his falafels!
Now for the real reason for coming to Jordan…Petra! Myself and a very willing and like minded guy from Holland that I met sharing a ride to Petra would arrive late and head into the park the next day. It would prove to be some very long, hot, and a tad strenuous days of hiking around Petra. Most know about the Treasury (where the third Indiana Jones was filmed) and the Monastery, but there are numerous amounts of paths and hikes that take you to tombs and vistas that can at times almost overshadow the magnificent ruins of the Monastery and Treasury. The high place of Sacrifice and the Oasis hike were just as rewarding, and the best part is that not a lot of people actually take these routes, so sometimes it’s just you and the desert and mountains…and occasional local trying to sell you something. We would save the Monastery for the second day, we were glad we did, because it was a pretty decent hike straight up to get there.
When up at the Monastery, take a break, have a drink and then go find the view points, they are also worth the effort and quite amazing! After Petra, myself and the man from Amsterdam would team up with a french couple and tackle Wadi-Rum, which felt like going to Mars.
Here is a tip for Wadi-Rum: DON’T go to a “camp” surrounded by other camps. They play loud music, stay up late and drink like crazy. Now I’m all up for this sort of thing usually, but not here. We were not lucky and our camp was like the one I just suggested not to stay at. The owner then said that he had another one, but it’s just two tents and nothing else. We all agreed to take a look and glad that we did. It was just the four of us in the desert, eating dinner under flashlights and then sitting underneath the stars. Everyone is a fan of 5 star hotels, but how about a million star hotel?
We would spend the next two days with a legit Bedouin, who has two wives, ten kids, and never left the Wadi-Rum desert. Not a lot of English but we would bomb around the sand in his truck and he would sing Arabic songs and show us great stops for the sunrise and sunsets. He would pull over and light a fire, cook us tea with toasted bread, hummus and yogurt. Every now and then he would disappear for a moment and then we realized that he would take a moment to go pray.
Sitting on top of these huge rocks, watching camels wander past, feeling the breeze with a bit of sand hitting your face made another one of these “defibrillator” moments. It shocks the life right into you. The amount of sand in my shoes would also be ridiculous, it’s been over two weeks and it’s still coming out of everywhere.
Myself and my new found friends would leave the desert and sand and make our way to a place with a little less sand and some much needed ocean. Aqaba is a nice little resort town, head to South Beach to get out of the city and relax. I was so relaxed that I barely took any photos. I would spend a few days loosing my open water scuba virginity, and this is where I would experience another “defibrillator” moment.
Glowing fish, coral moving like trees in a breeze, a huge ship wreck and this bad boy…a Russian tank on the ocean floor. Thank god for a dive buddy with a waterproof camera. Note to self: purchase waterproof camera.
I would hitch a ride with the french couple and we would say our goodbyes. It’s sad meeting people and experiencing something wonderful and knowing that it might be a one time deal with them. Thank god for Facebook, but a new experience with new friends go hand in hand. I would spend my last night at a fancy Marriott in Amman, eating sliders and watching college football before leaving for another adventure. Jordan isn’t the cheapest place to travel, but worth the cost. It was much different than any place I have visited in terms of landscape and culture, but it makes you search for other things that are more unique and different, pushing your boundaries for travel.
You know there’s more photos….HERE!