After a full week of traveling around Egypt, touring Cairo, Giza, and cruising up the Nile River, we returned to the airport to begin the second part of our adventure – exploring Jordan. Jordan is a landlocked country in the Middle East, bordered by Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Israel. It is known for being a stable place in a zone known for controversy and turbulence, with sizeable Christian and Muslim populations living together in peace, along with many communities of refugees from different countries and conflicts.
Jordan was a 5-day add-on to our Egypt travels, where we’d see the highlights of the country on a whirlwind tour. We flew from Cairo to Amman, met our lovely tour guide Ali, loaded into a bus and started trucking towards the first stop – Petra.
Petra is the most iconic place in Jordan, famous for Al-Khazneh, also known as the Treasury, an ancient building carved into the sandstone of the mountains once inhabited by Bedouins. The structure dates from the 1st century AD, and is thought to be the mausoleum of the Nabatean King Aretas IV.
Petra is considered to be one of the 7 Wonders of the New World and is the highlight of any trip to Jordan. We were able to walk to the site from our hotel, enjoying a leisurely walk down the canyon, admiring the massive rocks that surrounded us. We had a guided tour on the way to the Treasury, and after had hours to explore on our own, trying out different hikes to various caves and sites that Petra is famous for. Definitely wear good walking shoes and bring water, you could fill an entire day hiking around the caves and highlights of Petra.
After checking out the Treasury, you can continue on a longer hike, a trek upwards to the Monastery. It’s a long walk, but you can do it at a leisurely pace and stop at the many shops and vendors along the way. I did notice some people opted to take the donkeys up the mountain here, but every single person on a donkey looked like they deeply regretted their decision. It seemed a bit dangerous, as they walked close to the edge and it was a bumpy upward climb. I’d say skip the animal cruelty and get some exercise. Just bring some water with you for the trek.
Petra is definitely an interesting travel destination for anyone remotely interested in geology – the variation in colors of the sandstone were striking – all sorts of shades of reds and pinks.
Dinner in a Bedouin Home
A unique experience we got to have on this trip was to enjoy a meal in the home of a local Bedouin woman, the sister-in-law of Marguerite van Geldermalsen, the author of “Married to a Bedouin,” a book on her story of coming to Jordan from New Zealand and falling in love and moving to the country permanently. She prepared a lovely dish of chicken and rice with vegetables and fragrant spices and almonds, known as Maqluba. It was cool to see the home of a local and to ask all sorts of questions about their life in Petra.
I love desert tours, and Wadi Rum was a fantastic desert to experience in real life. It’s a must-see of Jordan, a gorgeous expanse of fine red sand, the filming location of Lawrence of Arabia.
We toured the desert on the back of pick-up trucks, enjoying a leisurely ride out to a Bedouin tent set-up, where we had tea and relaxed. On the way we stopped for some short hikes up sandy mountains to lovely views of the desert. Hiking in sand is hard – even if it seems like a short distance, you will feel it in your legs!
The Dead Sea
A major tourist destination for travelers visiting the Middle East is the Dead Sea. The salt lake sits on the border of Israel and Jordan, and it’s truly an incredible thing to tick off your travel bucket list. Known for high salinity and for being the lowest point of elevation on the planet (1,412 ft below sea level) the Dead Sea is a unique body of water to swim in. We stayed at a resort right on the Dead Sea, the Movenpick Hotel. It was a fantastic location, we could walk down to the beach and walk right in in the morning for a dip.
To be honest, you can’t really swim at all! The high levels of salt makes the water extremely viscous and thick, you moreso float at the surface, bobbing along with ease. You must be super careful to avoid getting any water in your eyes – the high salt level will burn and you’ll NEED to rinse with freshwater to alleviate the pain and clear your eyes. At our beach at the resort, a hose with freshwater was constantly running to fix this issue.
Dead Sea Travel Tips
Don’t panic if the air temperature seems cold, the water retains more heat than you’d think thanks to all the salt.
Water shoes are a good idea, but not essential.
Goggles are also a good idea to prevent salt splashing in your eyes.
Bring a magazine or newspaper to read for a cheesy photo!
The final days in Jordan were full of tours of different sites around Jerash and Amman, the capital city. We saw the Roman Theater, the Citadel, and several museums. We saw highlights of old and new Jordan, and enjoyed an amazing lunch of Jordanian food. It was a great end to a fantastic trip, I was reeling from all the sights we’d seen and all the things we had learned, not only in Jordan but also in Egypt.
Jordan was a lovely country to explore, and in just five days we saw a huge portion of the country. Our guide was fantastic, being invited to his home for tea and snacks on our final day was the icing on a wonderful cake. I’d highly recommend a trip to Jordan for anyone interested in learning about the Bedouin culture and history and for travelers looking to begin adventures in the Middle East. It invigorated an interest in me to explore more of this region of the world;I’d love to travel to Lebanon, Jerusalem, and Israel someday.