Archive for the ‘Jordan’ Category

Petra and Wadi Rum

I was around ten or eleven when I first watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  One of my favorite scenes was when Harrison Ford and Sean Connery rode up to an ancient building carved out of the mountainside to find the Holy Grail.  I can vividly remember thinking ‘Wow! I want to go there!’  Of course I didn’t know at the time that ‘there’ was the Treasury building located in an ancient Nabatean city in the Jordanian desert called Petra that I would visit 20 years later on an around the world trip.

To reach the city itself, you enter through the ‘Siq’ – a narrow gorge that winds through towering cliffs of rust, brown, red, and rose colored sandstone cliffs.   The colors of the rock are incredible!  As you approach the end of the Siq, you catch your first glimpse of the Treasury – a intricate facade carved into sheer rockface, which I had been told is one of the greatest ‘reveals’ on the planet.  I was not disappointed; seeing the magnificent Treasury (which is actually a tomb for a Nabatean king) up close and personal was a childhood dream come true for me. 

A glimpse of the Treasury walking through the Siq


The Treasury

The rest of the city was equally if not more impressive. Vast tombs, a theatre, churches, and a towering monastary all carved into the sides of mountains; this place is truly spectacular and I could have easily spent several days exploring all that it had to offer.   This is one of the bummers about doing an organized tour…if you like a place and want to spend more time checking it out, you’re screwed.   Overall, it was one hot, sweaty, and facinating day!

The Monastary
 Walking up to some tombs carved into the mountains

At one of the mountain viewpoints of Petra

The following morning we continued down the King’s Hwy and into the Wadi Rum desert – 720 square kilometer preserve of desert wilderness and mountains.   I was super pumped for our ‘desert jeep safari’ and spending the night in a Bedouin camp under millions of desert stars.   Of course, Kelly and I have had nothing but great luck with the weather on this trip, so the day that we were set to spend in Wadi Rum, there was a fricken SAND STORM.   We still had our jeep safari, speeding over sand dunes, dodging camels (yes, there were a ton of camels just chillin’ in the desert), and attempted to watch the sunset, but didn’t have much luck with the views (or photos for that matter) as the sand in the air created a hazy cloud across the whole area.   It was a bit of a let down, but what can you do?

Sandy Jeep Safari






Making a fire to boil tea

We didn’t see any desert stars that night either, but we did eat a delicious Bedouin meal of lamb and chicken, cooked with hot coals and buried underground.   I shared a bottle of wine with Ian from England (on the down-low…no alcohol allowed in the camps) and despite the fact that I had my own tent, slept outside next to the fire.   As a result of the strong winds, I woke up covered in black ash, which was awesome.   After packing up our things, the group hit the road again to the Red Sea resort town of Aqaba.

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Our group awoke early the next morning and piled into our sweet minibus to begin the long drive on the King’s Highway to Petra, stopping at various sites along the way.  We first visited Mt. Nebo, the place where Moses was given a view of the Promised Land from God to the Israelites.  It is said that God buried Moses here, although no one knows where his actual grave is.  The views were absolutely stunning and supposedly you can see Jerusalem on a really clear day.
View from Mount Nebo


What you're lookin' at

On the drive


We also stopped at various old churches, ruins, and a cheesy mosaic factory.  I have to admit that after Turkey, I was ‘churched out’ and didn’t pay much attention to our guide’s history lecture.  I like getting the basics, but dates, names, and other minute details don’t really register with me.  If someone begins a sentence with ‘During the year 100 B.C…’ my eyes glaze over and I immediately start thinking of what I want to eat for lunch.

Our last stop was the Kerak Castle, located in the predominately Christian town of Kerak in the biblical kingdom of Moab.  The castle dates back to the 12th century and is one of the best preserved Crusader castles in the region.  We spent a couple of hours wandering through the vast passageways and exploring the cavernous rooms and chambers.


Walking up to Kerak Castle


View from the top

After a long day of driving, we arrived in the town of Wadi Musa, the gateway to Petra.  The next day would be a long one in the sun and heat, so I had a couple of ridiculously expensive beers ($7 EACH!!) and called it an early night.


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Going Solo

I made the decision to go to Jordan about six months into the trip.  I figured that if I was ever going to visit the middle east, this was the time to go…I’d be a $350 plane ticket away in Turkey v.s. a $3,000 plane ticket from the States.  Jordan’s a pretty expensive country, so Kelly decided it wasn’t in her budget and headed off to Prague to meet up with an old friend.  Since I would be traveling alone in a region I knew very little about (and to ease my boyfriend and parents’ worries) I decided to do an organized tour through GAP Adventures instead making the trek solo.  It would be nice to not have to worry about planning where to sleep, where to eat, and how to get from Point A to Point B myself…I was happy to pay someone else to do it for a change.  I’ll discuss the specifics and compare an organized tour to traveling independently in my Jordan wrap up, so I’ll skip over those details for now. 
I arrived in the capital city of Amman and caught a taxi to my hotel, checked in, and headed downstairs to meet the other members of my group, which consisted of 1 Brit, 2 Americans, 4 Belgians, 2 Irish, and 5 Canadians (most of them married couples…yay).  Our guide, Haymen, was a half Jordanian, half Croatian guy in his forties who smiled, laughed, and smoked A LOT of cigarrettes.  Our first full day, we traveled to check out the ruins of Jerash, one of the best preserved Roman cities in the Near East. 

Arch of Hadrian - One of the main gates to the city

The Forum

The Temple of Artemis

We then made the hour or so drive to the Dead Sea, one of the saltiest bodies of water in the world that lies between Jordan and Israel.  It’s so salty, that no life can thrive in it (thus, the name) AND this makes the water so buoyant, you literally float on top of the water.  Seriously, you’d have to try REALLY hard to drown in it…I tried diving down to touch the bottom with no luck.  Ladies, a word of advice:  DO NOT shave the night before/morning of your visit…the salt will make your skin burn like hell. 
We spent hours floating around, taking photos, and lounging on the beach.  Several of us also rubbed the black sand all over our bodies for a spa-like treatment, which felt nice, but was a pain in the ass to wash off.  Overall, a very cool day.


The Dead Sea



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