Jack's travelblog

More than Petra

Saturday 29 February. Yesterday evening I arrived in the capital of Jordan, Amman. After passing the lighted coast of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem we’re landing. Buy a visa by card, take a cab to the hotel and meet roommate Oli from Cambridge, UK.

At 9 am we take off by minivan to the north. The first city, for a short break, is Jerash. Take some pictures of a Roman site. Huge site with two amphitheatres, the North Gate, the Temple of Zeus and the Temple of Artemis. A bit further the driver takes us into the clouds while we stop at Ajloun Forest Reserve. Nice place with cool cabins. The local guide takes us along the fields and through some woods. It’s mainly downhill through almond and olive trees, poppy flowers, cyclamens and more flowers. A challenge for the knees, but after 2,5 h we’re at the lunch spot in Irjan.

Sunday, after a cold shower we leave at 7 am for the Dead Sea. Get our breakfast bag with us and on the road we get a Turkish coffee. Nice and hot. Have breakfast in the van and after 1,5 hours we arrive at the Dead Sea. At the other side it’s the West Bank. Impossible to go. Guide Zuhair explains about Jordan having 9,5 million people. 3,5 million are Jordanians, the rest refugees. Mostly Palestinians and Syrians. We see a Palestine refugee camp, that’s actually a big stone city now. This morning we descent to the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea, -400 m. Before a lot of plastic greenhouses. Most food of Jordan is produced here. Then the salty sea, drive further and stop at the Wabi Mujib Canyon. It’s not possible to do the gorge in wintertime, because of the floods. Instead we do a hike, first steep climbing and later on mildly. More up the views are amazing. The landscape with the strange formations of sandstone are astounding. Ramada Resort at the Dead Sea has a nice pool, but first to the sea and have a very easy float. Actually it’s hard not to float. Have a mud bath and back in the sea again.

Monday, a drive along the Dead Sea to the south. See the winning of salt. Huge plains with water and some with the white stuff. Apparently the Dead Sea is lowering with 1 m a year. That’s fast. A bit further we leave the highway and go into the mountains at Al Mamura. The road meanders through the mountains and the views are again amazing. Further on the King’s Highway, more amazing views and then we arrive in Dana. Get a local guide and drive to the starting point of the hike. We take the Shaq Al Reesh Trail in the Dana Biosphere Reserve. Unbelievable beautiful strangely formed rock formations. The guide leads through the rocks into the valley. Sadly no hyena or wolf shows up, but the landscape is amazing. Having tea and take our bus further on the highway. Near Albyda we visit Little Petra. A small gorge with carved graves in the cliffs. It’s at the end of the day and almost all merchandisers are gone already. All their gear and touristic stuff is still here. Apparently it’s safe enough here because no one is guarding. A few minutes after leaving the gorge we witness the sunset. Cool. It’s getting dark now and after a small hour we’re in Petra. Get the tickets for tonight’s show and drive to the Seven Wonder Hotel. Have the flipped dinner and leave for the 20:00 h Petra by Night show. We walk into the gorge lit by real candles in paper bags. The gorge is gorgeous, the stars twinkle at the clear dark sky and we see some constellations, like the Big Dipper. Two kilometres of “darkness” and then the magic moment. We spot the lighted facade of the Treasury. So cool. More pics and then sit down for the show. The show starts half an hour too late and well…. it’s not that great. After the flute and another instrument the Treasury is lit and we’re heading back for the entrance.

 

Tuesday. A very early start, 4:30 am the alarm wakes us and at 5 am we have breakfast. An hour later we’re at the entrance of Petra. The machine of the ticket office is broken, so we have to wait a bit. Then the 2 kilometres walk through the gorge again. A totally different sensation. We see so much more carvings in the cliffs and our guide tells the stories of them. The old aqueduct or water system they made 2000 years ago is still visible. Different ornaments of Greek, Roman and Egyptian design adorn the cliffs. Nice mixture the Nubians made. See the remains of the camel traders carved in the rocks. More grave monuments and then again the Treasury. Impressive and so good to have pictures with it, without people. Now the whole site is ours. In the meantime, three puppies took my day backpack as their sleeping spot. So cute. But I have to get them off. Climb a small staircase in the rocks to have an even better view on the Treasury. Walk through a gorge to see another part of Petra. The Roman Theatre is mixed with the Nubian tombs in the cliff. Next to it, the lady who married a Bedouin lived here and Melissa told us about her book. Her son is here to talk with while we’re having coffee or tea. Walk along the Great (Roman) Temple and the columns along the Roman road. Along Qasr al-Bint to start the climb into the mountains. 800 stairs and then at last the reward. The Monastery. Similar to the Treasury, but a bit bigger. Beautiful. We go even a bit higher to enjoy the view on the monastery and the dessert at the other side of the mountain. Here more cats welcome us. Down in the valley we see the remains of the Temple of the Winged Lions and the floor mosaic of the Byzantine church. A lady tries to sell me ancient coins (Roman, Byzantine and Nubian ones). Starting at 50 JOD a coin and ending with 30 JOD for 5 coins. We walk further to the Royal Tombs. The Urn Tomb is restyled by all people and was a Royal Tomb, a Roman temple and a Byzantine church… Inside the ceiling has amazing colours. After the Petra Museum is back to the hotel. For dinner I try the camel kebab. Besides the meat, rice and vegetables are nicely cooked as well.

Wednesday. A drive to the south and have some coffee breaks on the road before we arrive at Wadi Rum. At Zawaideh Desert Camp we have lunch and have an instruction on how to use the scarfs. With the sun on the head they’re very useful. In the back of the trucks we drive through the desert with amazing views and good fun. We take some dunes, but mostly flat desert. Stop at Bedouin tents and have a tea break. Further on we climb the sandstone arches. Quite beautiful. Collect some dry wood and make a fire to enjoy tea at the sunset in the desert. A Bedouin camp, in the middle of nowhere, is situated against a big rock and the cabins have the feeling of a tent. The flush toilets are outside and we have dinner out of the ground. Very nice food. Tonight we enjoy the stars and some marshmallows on the wood fire. It’s so quiet here. Perfect.

Thursday. Early rise and before 6 am we leave the campsite. Climbing the dune next to the camp and on the other side the camels are waiting for their customers. The owners tell us, through the guide, how to ride a camel. It’s easy, but starting and stopping is the challenge. A camel is huge and if it goes up from sitting you have to hold tied. Riding the camel is easy going on the other hand. Sometimes the camels like to stay very close to each other and we are squeezed. Seeing the sunrise from the camel is good fun and after an hour we get off to step on the pickup again. In the back of the pickup it’s quite windy and cold. At the base camp in town we have breakfast and enjoy the sun to warm up. Leave by bus and go further south to see the Red Sea at Aqaba. Then up north to the Dead Sea. At Al Mazra we have tea and the local guide lead us on the mountain bikes. We bike through the farmland and see how they grow food. See the sinkholes near the Dead Sea as well. Due to the lowering water level the salt underneath the ground is washed away and the land is going down. The farmers are too poor to move, so they have to deal with it. We end the bike tour at some farmhouse and the lady made us a lot of beautiful food. After lunch, we see how they grow it. Around 17 pm we arrive at our hotel in Amman. I decide to walk to the citadel and see a glimpse of it. It’s already closed, but I can see part of it and enjoy the view of the city. Have dinner at the restaurant across the street. Mostly a restaurant for locals. Strangely here the locals are mainly women. Before we saw more men. Have the pottery meal, where they smash the pot at the table and the food inside is again very tasty. Tonight I share the taxi with Barbara and Oli at 3 am to take my flight to Cairo at 6:45 am.

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