Off to Wadi Rum

This morning, I took the bus, which is so bizarre that the only bus to Wadi Rum starts at 6am. So I put my stuff together, didn’t get to have breakfast with the high priced hotel, and headed out on my way to Wadi Rum. The planning with this was really sketchy because basically you set up to spend the night at a Bedouin camp, and they have options for you for the whole day.

When I got on the bus, it was filled with other question filled westerners who had booked with various camps. Unfortunately, no one had booked with my camp, so when we pulled into the Visitors Center, we were told to buy a $5JD ticket for admission. When I walked up, they asked me what camp, and they said, you don’t pay. So weird.

So I got back onto the bus hoping this ‘ticket’ wouldn’t cause me any trouble, we dropped off people one by one at their various camp ‘offices’, which were hole in the wall shacks in this little village.

The engine turned off, and I asked if it was my stop, and the driver and guide said no, but they started closing all the curtains. My mind started racing as to what was going on, and what would I do if I needed to exit the vehicle. Finally, they started the van back up and were driving to let me off at my camp.

When we arrived, another couple was getting into the van and I asked them how their experience was. They couldn’t stop smiling saying it was so amazing. This made me really relieved, and I went into this shack where we sat and looked each other (other bedouins and myself) for a bit before the manager came in to ask me what I had planned for the day.

What did I plan for the day? Um, nothing, because when I emailed you guys telling you I was coming in the morning, the website says I would have a choice of various things to do. He said that since I was just one, and the others weren’t coming until evening, that they weren’t going to take just me out on a tour. I was getting annoyed at this point, especially since I had not been given any information when I asked, and now I was worried that I’d spend the whole day just sitting with nothing to do.

Fortunately, he agreed to send me to another camp that was going to do a camel ride through the desert, a jeep ride through the desert, sandboarding, lunch made by our guide, hiking, sunset tour, dinner, and dancing under the stars. Sign me up. So I got driven over to another office, and sat until more people arrived.

2 Chinese girls arrived and after talking with the American volunteer who is there studying Arabic about his life in the camp, we were off on camel back across the desert. It was very bright, and the Chinese girls were dousing themselves with sunscreen. After a good 45 minutes, we arrived at a spring which was used for various Bedouin camps to get water. You saw a trail of green from the hillside all the way down.


We then got in the back of a 30 year old Nissan truck ‘jeep’ and headed off into the sunny desertscape that had flat sand areas that we drove through, with huge clumps of rounded mountains towering all around us. We finally got to a huge hillside that other people had stopped at to ‘sandboard’, so I thought I’d give it a shot. I was a little nervous because everyone was falling as they went down. I dragged this stupid snowboard up an impossible hill, as the sand just sinks when you try to climb up it. The sand was red like rust and got all over my feet and legs and filled my shoes until I took them off to bring them up. After getting strapped into the snowboard, I pushed off and sat there. Everyone watched with baited breath as I bent low to keep my center of gravity. However, I wasn’t moving. So I hopped forward a bit more, bent low, and again, nothing. I literally hopped down this entire stupid sand dune to no sliding avail. I don’t know what it was, but it was disappointing, and I didn’t want to try it again.

After this, we were on our way for more of a tour around Wadi Rum and we arrived at Lawrence of Arabia’s house foundation. Here they had some refreshments like tea and shisha, and we rested for a little bit before going on our little hike.

Once we made it through a canyon to the other side, our driver was starting to prepare a fire for our meal. I had these amazing thoughts of lamb on a shishkebab firing away with vegetables and hummus. However, when he started cutting the tomatoes with his bare hands, and putting onions into the pan that looked well beyond used, I started having my doubts. After they simmered a while, he started to prep the hummus from a can, feta cheese, from a can, tuna, from a can, and we began our meal. Surprisingly, the food was good, but of course not having any meat to satiate my hunger of having hiked and been in the sun all morning, I was hopeful for more sustenance. Luckily, the Chinese girls broke out a chocolate bar at the end of the meal, so I forgot about eating only vegetables for lunch.


After we left, we had joined another group. These trucks have been run into the ground, and no pun intended, when we launched over a sanddune and into the valley, we got stuck. He rammed it into reverse, and I thought, oh this isn’t good, he’s going to back up right into the hillside, and sure enough he did. The next half hour was spent laughing with our other comrades as we tried to push the truck out of the sand. Luckily it worked, and we were then able to continue our exploration of the desert.

We then were off to do more hiking, and got to the tall bridge. We were wondering how we could get up this huge rock mountain that had a natural bridge going across it. Before we knew it, our drivers had taken off their shoes and were running up the rocks barefoot, so we followed suit and clung to the rocks like monkeys on our way up. The view from the top was beautiful and we took in a wonderful 360 view of the desert surrounding us. The Chinese girls wanted to try out sand boarding, and while I waited at the bottom, I lavished in some of the softest sand barefoot ever. It reminded me of the awesome sand of the Whitsundays in Australia, not as fluffy, but still quite soft…and of course not white.


After this, we headed to check into our camp for a little rest before we headed out for the sunset. I was starving at this point and was hopeful that the sunset would hurry along trying to be patient. As we drove out with the other trucks from our camp, we soon lost them to various lookouts, and our driver apparently took us to a lone hill where no one was. We sat on the sanddune looking westward at the setting sun and watched the colors of the sky fade from blue to orange. On our way, camels were roaming off in the distance as silhouettes that accompanied the Arab music our driver was blaring out of the Nissan. He also brought his shisha and lit it up at the bottom of the hill while we watched the sunset.

After about an hour, we were  back in the truck and the air started to get cooler. We made our way back to camp, and luckily food had been underground cooking in a fire pit where chicken, potatoes, and other vegetables were plunged from this hole in the ground. It was a fun way to start the buffet dinner, and I was excited to finally be eating some meat :)


During dinner, I spoke with some Australians and we talked about the trip in Jordan and such. They were a nice couple. It was interesting, the camp was represented by Americans–who no one talked to one another, French, Russians, Australians, Italians, and Jordanians. It was a league of nations, but everyone was coupled off, so it was a little odd for the interaction. I was expecting a more relaxed atmosphere like a hostel, but this was like a couples retreat that everyone seemed to have barely any interest in speaking, except for the nice Aussies.

The night was bright with a half moon, and I was looking forward to seeing the stars, so as we finished dinner and went outside for some traditional music, and a forced ice breaking dance of a duck duck goose type rule, I was ready to be off on my own and watch the stars. I was exhausted from the day, and after chatting more with the Aussies, I decided it might be time for me to get some sleep in my little tent.

I did wake up in the middle of the night, and after the moon set, the stars were really beautiful. You could see the Milky Way and all the stars peering back at you, lighting my way to the toilet :)

Trip to Petra

The day began very early with having to go to the bus station early to catch the 6 am bus down to Petra. It was easy to wake up because I’d just been woken up by the prayer call at 4am :) Walking into the bus station I got my ticket and sat. While sitting, in came Deborah, the archeologist I had just met at the Dead Sea the day prior. I then got in board, and in the seat next to me sat down a woman and behind us, her two daughters. The woman looked local, but not. She was shorter, in her 50s, with curly brown hair, but not too curly, cropped near her neck. She had glasses and a sweet grandma like face that smiled at me when she sat. Her daughters spoke with a North American accent and they were talking about the border crossing into Israel. My ears perked up to hear their story as I’ll be trying out the border crossing in the next couple of days. Just after that, the woman sitting next to me and turned to begin a conversation. She had brought her daughters to visit her mother in Palestine for the first time.

Throughout our conversation, I learned that she was a Fulbright scholar who had left there to go to the US and study. She’s a scientist working with biomedical type things. She detailed about her childhood how they would play in Jerusalem, and now things have gotten so bad for them that it’s like a prison within each city. She feels like it’s gotten so much worse that she’s thankful she was able to leave when she had the opportunity so her children wouldn’t grow up in that type of environment. She continued to talk about her life as she met her Moroccan husband, worked in Saudi Arabia for 2 years as a woman, and the challenges that that presented. Simple things such as her being chased and harassed by men because she had a little piece of hair coming out of her hijab (head covering).

She applied for a green card in the US after her studies because she had a relative that already lived in the states, in Tennessee funnily enough. She said that since they never came back with information on her green card, that she had to end up somewhere, and there was an opportunity to become a resident of Canada, so her and her husband chose there to start their family. Fast forward 20 years, and she now has a US greencard that finally was approved just 15 years after her application. It was incredible to think that they even process an application that old, because obviously, you would have to decide to create a life somewhere else. I really enjoyed speaking with her, learning more about Palestine, the environment that lies just over the river, and am even more interested in visiting to see for myself what life is like there. It was a great way to pass the 4 hour ride down to Petra, and I’m lucky she sat next to me so she could share.

Once I arrived, I checked into the hotel which was perfectly located at the main gate of Petra. The reviews were right when they said you couldn’t be any closer. So I dropped my stuff, had a quick lunch, and headed into the park for my first experience of visiting Petra. On my way down the hill I met an American couple that had quit their jobs and were traveling around the world for an indefinite time. They were from Oklahoma, and really nice letting me know their thoughts of Petra thusfar. I decided to go against the recommendation for my first day which was to not try to go all the way to the monastery, but I decided since I didn’t have a full day, I should go ahead and see the monastery, so I could focus on the other places for the full day tomorrow. I’m glad I did.

Going through the park was really tiring, as you head down the paths in between huge beautiful rock creations that are painted red, maroon, rust, all in stripes showing their ages and wear. The views were beautiful, and sounds of horse shoes hitting the rock floor as carriages flew by haphazardly speeding with usually heavyset tourists who couldn’t make the walk themselves. The end of the path brings you to the grand entrance, the treasury, and this is a sight to behold. It peeks through the curved walls of the towering rocks where you catch a glimpse, you are stunned by it’s smooth immaculate beauty of craftsmanship. What’s even more amazing, is that it was carved completely from the rock on the hillside, from the top down. The amount of mathematics, precision, architecture and design that went into this structure was awe inspinring, and was a beautiful experience.

I then continued down the path through various structures of tombs, wall carvings and the like, and hiked all the way to the Monastery which offered yet another beautiful view of these amazing structures. The view from the top of the mountain overlooking the Monastery was incredible, and though it was a strenuous hike for about 3 hours, I’m glad I went all the way. I decided to ride a camel back which was fun, and very tourist-like, but fun none the less. After my ride back up to the Treasury for just $5JD, I was relieved to be heading back to the hotel to shower and get some food for the night. I slept like a ton of bricks in a fabulous, clean, soft bed that night.

The next morning, I had a great breakfast at the hotel and started my day off with a full belly and went down to do round two. This time, I wanted to do the ‘Indiana Jones’ trail which takes you above the valley by hiking on the mountains by horseback. After settling on a deal from the horse guys, I was set off with a guide, which turned out to be horrible, to go along the trails at the top of the mountains. This is when traveling alone can become frustrating, because despite his inability to communicate in English, he knew the words for pay me big tip, it’s hot, no water, I need big tip. This is the fastest way to not get a tip, and after about an hour of his babbling

Full day in Amman

Today I rested well to wake up naturally and plan the rest of my stay in Jordan. I went out with my new Dutch friend to the Roman amphitheater to walk around. A couple of Muslim girls stopped us so they could have a picture with us. We then headed up the mountain to the citadel to see the Roman ruins of the fortress that looks over the city.

We then found a cab to take us to lunch, then to the blue mosque. The mosque was surprisingly dull inside with just a huge room. I’d expected a pretty ornate interior but it was just a huge carpeted room.

After the mosque we went back and I started to organize my next days at Petra, wadi rum, and decided to add Jerusalem and Bethlehem to my itinerary since I’m so close to them being here.



Jesus’ Baptism, Moses’ Hill, and the bizarre Dead Sea

Well, today I continued running around Jordan with another full day of touring various sites.

Our first stop was the city if madaba, the home of mosaics. There was a church in the city center that had a huge mosaic that is a very accurate depiction of distances of the places in the Jordan river valley. This was an important find to see place names and an understanding of place distances. It was cool to see. We then went around the city for a bit looking at some shops. I found some cool crafts that I really liked, along with meeting a store owner that has done a lot of work of helping other woman create mosaics in a micro entrepreneur fashion. She even did work at the thunderbird institute in the US and gained accolades from the king and queen of Jordan for her work. Quite impressive!

We then went to some biblical sites in Jordan that included a trip to mount Nebo, the place of Moses’ death. Here we had a great view of the valley below and could see how the Jordan river separates Jordan from Israel/Palestine. Both pope john II and pope Benedict XVI have made pilgrimages to this holy site.

After this we went to the baptism site of Jesus by John. Here we boarded a bus that took us around the grounds which were so desolate. It was pretty cool to see because there was literally nothing around but desert like grounds and some churches spread around. We weaved through the hot piercing sun to the river and saw the original place of the baptism. Since then the water has moved a bit and now you can baptize yourself in the waters.

This was my first view of Israel from Jordan. The river is sacred to both, and they both have marked pools in this river where you can get in. Across the way, Israel touts its flags, nice building, ropes in the water, and nice stairs up out if the river, while Jordan’s side was more plain-just planks of wood creating a covered deck and some stairs leading in. This was the first time I started to understand the conflict between Israel and Jordan/Arab nations.

After this we were very hungry and we continued on to the Dead Sea. We opted to go to a resort that have us a buffet lunch as well as access to the Dead Sea below, along with nice fresh water showers, pool, and changing rooms.

We had a pretty good lunch while looking out over the Dead Sea below. It was so still, and mirror like. After our lunch we were like kids on Christmas Day changing into our swim suits and heading down the stairs to the sea. Ok well maybe it was just me that was a kid :). Jane got in first and immediately I started cackling because if how funny it looked for her to be floating so high off the water.

The water looked oily as if there were gasoline swirls in it, but it’s actually just from the salt content. As I got in, the water felt silky smooth on my skin as if I was putting baby oil on, but not as heavy. It felt like water but not. It was really bizarre. Once I got in and began to float I immediately wanted to try to go under water. After dunking my face in, it felt as though gasoline had been poured on my face. My lips felt like they had been singed, and my face was sore. It was so uncomfortable! I quickly got out and ran to the showers at the shore to wash off. Round two was ok, but at this point I started to feel the salts way into various skin openings from my snorkeling trip.

After about 10 minutes, I really couldn’t stand anymore and got rinsed off at the shore. I then found the mud bucket where these guys were rubbing mud all over you to get your skin completely covered. I got painted up and told to stand dry to get the full benefits before running it off in the sea again one last time.

After my last time in, I did not want to go back in because of the stinging sensation I had which I’m sure was helping anything heal. We then went up to the infinity pool and enjoyed a cool dip looking out at the sunset falling in front of us. It was a beautiful day for sure.

Khalid then drove us back to the hotel and we thanked him for how much fun we’d had the whole day together.


Jarash, Um Qais and the Ajloun

After my flight overnight from Bangkok, I barely got any sleep from the excitement of how nice business class was (although still no lie flat), but the food and service was spot on. To top it off, there were only 6 of us for 24 seats, so it was really private and nice. Arriving in Amman was nice as walking out through the jetways, I got my first glimpse of Arabic advertisements, different dress, and really felt the sense of the grandeur entrance to Jordan as the airport provides. It was a very modern and beautiful building. I headed for the line to get some cash from the ATM, and was just second in line to buy my visa into the kingdom.

I came out of immigration and customs and looked for my name to be on a sign. My heart sank a little when I didn’t see a sign, and I felt like an orphan scanning all the onlookers trying to see was someone there to take me home. Alas, I walked out to see how much a taxi would be, and decided to give a few more minutes before I left. Luckily, in came a shorter heavier set man and he was rushing in with a sign, and I got a glimpse of ‘JAMIN’, so I went over and saw his sign to feel a sense of relief knowing someone was there to get me!

After being welcomed into Jordan, we watched an incredible sunrise as we drove through the streets leading from the airport to downtown. The landscape was beautiful as well as all the buildings perched on the hills like stacked sugarcubes, white from limestone, and covering the hillsides. We made our way to downtown, and I was able to get checked into the hostel.

A man came hobbling down the stairs with glasses that made his eyes look like an owl, except one was either damaged or lazy. He walked with a hunch, and as he led me up the stairs to ‘Tower Hotel’, I couldn’t help but think of him as poor Quasimodo. Only later would I find out that he had lived in Atlanta for 8 years before.

As I set my stuff down, Haz let me put myself in a share room downstairs and to take a little rest before a tour was heading out at 8am. He said since it was low season the tours aren’t going as often, and it would be good to join. Since it was a tour I had planned to take, I figured I should push on to get a head start on seeing the sights. I was pleased that I did, as the day went fantastically.

As we headed for Jarash in northern Jordan, we passed the Baqaa Refugee camp, the first camp that was set up in the 40’s for all the Palestinians. Now of course it’s a proper city/town. Again, the scenery was stunning and we continued our way to the north to Um Qais also known as Gadara, mentioned in the bible dating back to the 7th centure BC. This city was destroyed by earthquakes, but the colonnaded street, mausoleum, commercial center and the church all have their structures standing as ruins. The views here looked out over the mountains where the valley below could be seen.

After Um Qais, we went to Ajloun Castle which was built in 1184 and stood at the top of a hill looking down to the valley below. Inside there were great large rooms that had small windows that let light peek inside. After viewing from the top lookout, we headed back down to our van and continued our way to get some lunch.

We pulled over at a corner that had a couple of food stalls which looked like holes in the wall, with prices to match. We got a various things, but I had some falafel, beef/lamb shawerma with fries. All for $2JD. It was nice and cheap, and amazingly delicious!

After eating, we finally arrived to Jaresh where the city is really impressive with all the ruins. Column lined streets, huge temples, everything reminds me of what Greece would look like with all the Roman architecture, arches, columns, and statues. There were great views, and at this point, I was running on empty, so I was glad to have a nice ride back to the hostel.