From time to time, I like to revisit places that I travelled to in the past to reminisce over wonderful sights seen through old photos. Particularly good experiences deserve to be documented and displayed for posterity, which brings me to this throwback destination, Jordan.
I backpacked through Jordan in the middle of December 2010. This was a time before the Arab spring, when Jordan was considered fairly safe. It was the perfect destination for what I was looking for at that time, a good mix of mystery, adventure and exoticism, whilst being a destination that was just under the radar with tourists.
This was also the trip that first got me interested in photography, which led to me buying my first camera that wasn’t a point-and-shoot (I wanted to capture Petra in all its reddish magnificence). It was a Panasonic GF-1, a beauty of a camera and a brand-range that I remain faithful to, to this day. My photos may not have been amazing, but they have served their purpose as a memory aid, allowing me to remember the wonderful 12 days I spent in Jordan.
Here is a brief commentary (written in short form, extracted from my travel notebook) which I hope will serve as a useful base for anyone planning to visit Jordan.
Day 1: Arrive in Amman
Flight delayed leaving from Heathrow. Arrived in the Queen Alia International Airport before getting a cab (price: JD 19) to our hotel to arrive at 11.30pm. Quick read before heading to bed.
Day 2: Amman
Late start due to jet lag. Got ripped off by a cab driver who took us to The Citadel (a national historic site on top of a hill containing ruins from the Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods). Stopped along the way to buy “breakfast” – a box of cookies filled with dates paste and a cup of sickly sweet tea. Walked up the hill and did a tour of the ruins. Headed back down once again, getting lost in the small streets, vegetable and fruit souks.
Passed by the Roman Theatre but decided not to enter. Missed the gold souk as it was closing time when I got there. Had dinner at the locally famous Hashem’s Place which was super cheap – pitta bread, hummus, falafel, onion and mint leaf salad and tea for 2 people = c.£2. Cabbed it over to Tche Tche Cafe in the more sophisticated part of Amman and had an apple pie with vanilla ice cream, washed down with unsweetened tea. The cafe was filled with posh women smoking shisha, as it was one of the few cafes in town which allows local women to be seen without a male companion.
Day 3: Amman-Jerash-Madaba
I unfortunately fell ill, which was very unpleasant when coupled with the dirty and dusty Amman air. Blagged a free breakfast at the hotel. Headed to Abdali bus station in order to get a minibus to Jerash, only to be told that Abdali no longer works and I need to head on to Talabour station instead. Finally got to Jerash. Bus fare was c.£1.50 for two people. Paid the JD 8 entrance fee into the ruins which was well worth it (recommend!).
Took a minibus back to Amman, then cab to hotel to pick up bags, then onto the south bus station. Upon arrival, it turned out there were no buses going to Madaba. Thanks Lonely Planet! Negotiated a cab to Madaba for JD 10 (after two local cab drivers started fighting over who had seen the gullible tourists first).
Weather had dropped significantly in temperature compared to yesterday. Had a quick dinner of Madaba chicken and fries before trying out some ultra sweet middle eastern desserts from some road side shops. Got lost walking back to hotel from the city centre, but some nice locals pointed us in the right direction. The streets are a lot quieter and darker compared to Amman, but I’m glad to be out of the city and on the way to the King’s Highway.
Day 4: Madaba-Dead Sea region
We hired a car and drove to Mount Nebo, the site where Moses first saw the Forbidden Land and where he was allegedly buried. Next stop was Bethany-Outside-Of-Jordan, where we were taken on a 1 hour tour which included Jordan River and the site where Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist.
We snuck off as the guide tried to bring us to the souvenir stalls and legged it to the Dead Sea as we wanted to get there while the sun was still up. It was quite an extraordinary sensation to bob up and down in the sea so effortlessly. We obviously had to take the obligatory photo of us floating on the water, reading a book! Free Dead Sea mud was provided, making your skin super soft post application. We didn’t stay too long as the sun was setting and the wind was picking up.
We quickly made our way back to Madaba, stopping on the highway in between the canyons to take some panoramic shots of the sunset.
Dinner was a quick and oily affair at a cheap kebab restaurant. We were back at the hotel for an early night in preparation for an early start tomorrow.
Day 5: Madaba-King’s Highway-Karak-Petra
Early start straight into St. George’s Cathedral to take in the famous mosaic map, said to be the oldest Palestinian map in existence. Back into the car after for a drive down the King’s Highway which was a lovely scenic drive amongst canyons and sand dunes, dotted with small settlements here and there.
Short detour to Karak, in order to check out the crusader castle, Karak Castle. We didn’t linger too long as I was still sick and felt quite chilly up on the mountain. We also wanted to make it in time for sunset whilst driving back down the King’s Highway towards Petra. Arrived at around 5pm, some 5-6 hours after leaving Madaba. Dinner was quite expensive in a traditional Bedouin restaurant, in Wadi Musa. It was another early start the next day as I wanted to beat the tour groups to the ancient city of Petra.
Day 6: Petra
Woke at 6 to arrive at the Ancient City at 7.15am. We beat the tourist crowds for some great people-free shots of the Siq and Khazneh.
We did the moderate hike up to the Monastery and a little beyond. The 2 viewpoints are well worth it. It was a tough walk up consisting of over 800 steps but the views are really something else. All in all, our return trip took us 8 hours of walking. Donkey rides were available but we decided not to opt for one and thus spent a lot of time looking at the ground dodging donkey poop.
Wadi Musa itself is nice, but as a whole, the town is extremely expensive (due to there being so many visitors). It was JD 50 (c.£50) to enter Petra. Internet costs JD 2.50 for 30 minutes. A 100 meter taxi ride costs JD 2. Petra was however, the highlight of our trip, so we were happy to pay the price!
Day 7: Petra-Wadi Rum
Another 6am start in order to catch the 2 hour minibus to the Wadi Rum desert at 6.30am. Annoyingly, a Bono-lookalike kept chatting continuously throughout the trip… Anyway, we got to our destination and decided to hook up with a solo South Korean traveller in order to share the cost of a 4WD trek of the desert. We were approached by Selim, one of the Bedouin guides, and though he was not offering us the pure Bedouin experience, there did not seem to be a lot of other choices so we took him up on it.
The tour was amazing. We saw all the famous sights of the Wadi Rum desert with an English speaking guide, with only 3 people in the group and no time limit. This was a great deal compared to some of the other groups of tourists we came across.
Dinner was a group affair in a large tent with the other campers around a wood fire. There was obviously no electricity in the desert. We slept in our own tent which contained two dirty single mattresses with a dirty duvet. Perhaps it was a good thing that there weren’t any lights as I really didn’t want to know what I was sleeping on/with. It got pretty cold at night, and a dog kept barking at its own echo throughout the night so I barely got any sleep, but it was an unforgettable experience that I will always treasure! 🙂
Day 8: Wadi Rum-Aqaba
Yet another 6am start, this time to catch the minibus to the seaside town of Aqaba. After solely staying in budget accommodation thus far, we decided to treat ourselves to a decent hotel for the next 4 nights. There wasn’t much to see in this town so we spent the next few days relaxing by the beach and pool having a chilled out time. It was winter, but temperatures here do not fall below 20°C.
Day 9-11: Aqaba
Chilling, reading, eating, sleeping and not much else.
Day 12: Aqaba-Amman
4.5 hour trip back to Amman by bus.
Day 13: Amman-London
5.45am wake up call. Taxi to airport back to London.