1. Ok, kids.
I know most of the Middle East does not seem like a relaxing place to visit right now, particularly a country bordered by Palestine, Syria and Iraq, but Jordan is currently a safe and stable country and the nation has a generous heart. They have welcomed over 1.4 million Syrian refugees, plus 49 years ago they took in 2 million Palestinians. This represents a large proportion of their population. Their economy is buckling under the weight of this generosity and they are have had to reign it in. I witnessed the kindness of the locals first hand when our rental car broke down and we had to wait for 6 hours for Avis to get their act together. Khaled and his family insisted on letting us wait at the house and fed us a delicious lunch followed by fantastic Turkish coffee. You should spend your money here; doing so could literally help support the stability of an entire region. Go.
2. The food!
Fresh Baklava oozing honey and butter, still hot from the oven; more hummus than you can shake a big stick at; falafel, flatbreads, shawarma kebabs, grilled aubergine, tabbouleh; and local dishes like mansaf and fatteh; the list goes on and on and on and omnomnomnomnom.
3. Everybody should have their Dead Sea moment.
And by that I do not mean the experience I had when I thought, at a pretty secluded spot, that I could sneak into the water in my swimsuit without being hassled: within 5 minutes, the jackals had circled around our stuff, perving out either on our cameras and bags or on my hot bowdaaaay, I’m still not totally sure which. Rookie mistake and I should have known better.
However, those 5 minutes in the water were amazing. The Dead Sea is at the lowest point on earth and has the highest concentration of salt of any water mass. It is so salty that you cannot even stand up in the water. It’s like you are floating in zero gravity. The guidebooks warn you not to swim on your stomach as it can be difficult to turn over and you risk drowning, face flat in the water, like a real dumbass. They didn’t call it the Dead Sea for nothing! (Actually, it’s called that because nothing can live in it as it is too salty, quite reassuring for those of us capable of imagining all sorts of scary sea monsters when we are swimming wild).
So, instead of trying to doggie paddle, you just float around, like an otter on your back. You can take a book in to read. With the air temperature at a stifling 41 degrees Centigrade, the water was as hot as a freshly drawn bath. I couldn’t stop giggling, which may have given me away as a white female with a racey western dress sense.
Because of the vultures cawing around our bags and my bootay, we left pronto, unable to take more than two pictures. We had planned to return to do Mission “Flash Float” where I was going to wear my leggings, long sleeved top and my black nightie over it all, but the aforementioned car troubles on our last day ate into our time so much that we had to skip it. Sad face.
You too can be just like Indiana Jones.
It is a bit of a magical place. Cut into the rock face by the Nabateans around 2,000 years ago, the complex is more than just the famous Treasury from the Last Cusade. There are hundreds of smaller caves and facades cut into the rocks, as well as an amphitheatre and other free standing temples and buildings. To get to there, you have to walk through the Siq, which is a long path along the bottom of a thin canyon. It is fresh and cool in the shade (we had another day of 40 degree heat). The carved facade of th Treasury peeps out between the rocks as you twist and turn your way towards it, making sure not to tread on the donkey, horse and camel dung.
It’s a rip off for tourists – locals pay a smooth 1 Dinar (about £1) while foreigners pay about £60. But it was totally worth this rare extravagance. What is more, the place was almost empty. The tourism industry has taken a nose dive because of the instability in the region. When we hiked up to the Monastery – a gruelling but fulfilling hour and a half of steps and dust and unrelenting sun – we had the place to ourselves. We came back to our hotel tired, hot, dusty and happy. And then we got take out falafel and hummus and watched Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. We chose wisely.
We opted for a tour of the desert with dinner and a night in a tent.
Due to the aforementioned fact that the tourism industry is really struggling and that we were visiting in the low season (most people prefer not to have the real desert experience with the heat), we ended up having a private tour and a private dinner and the campsite all to ourselves.
Our guide, Khaled, was friendly, discrete, good fun and full of stories. He was born and bred in Wadi Rum and revelled in the place.He took us round for the the day in his Lawrence Jeep, a relic from the ’60s that still ran beautifully, eating up the sandy tracks through the desert. After a delicious lunch in the shade (and a tasty little nap listening to the silence of the mid afternoon), he let us sit on the roof of the jeep. Best seats in the house.
We did so much I can only really write snapshots otherwise I fear I would bore you to death. We hiked up to a spring in the morning, disturbing butterflies in the grasses and the scent of fresh desert mint in the air. We saw two thousand year old carvings in a small gorge, made by the Nabateans (the same clever folk who carved Petra out of the rock face). We saw one thousand year old graffiti by a man who had been on the Hajj, stopping off in the same gorge for shelter on his way to Mecca, carving out passages of the Qur’an. Alhamdulehla. We stopped for little glasses of delicious sweet tea in tents scattered across the desert. We climbed up a giant, deep red sand dune, dropped my new camera in the fine sand and broke the shutter. Thankfully, still able to take pictures. We picked fresh figs from a tree in one of the gorges we hiked through. We watched the sunset from the top of one of the rocky red hills that litter this lunar landscape.
After sunset, we sat round a fire and were served the most freaking delicious chicken and rice dish by our chef Said, who had cooked it in an oven that had been dug into the sand, with the chicken being cooked on the level above the rice so that it dripped delicious juice and stock down into the second layer. I couldn’t believe we were the only ones there. It was like we had paid a million pounds for some private tour.
I do not have a camera good enough to take a picture of the stars but you can imagine they were all out showing off in the sky. The moon was high and we went for a walk to look for scorpions with Khaled’s new infrared torch. This was a bit freaky as it was pitch dark and there is a surprising amount of shrubbery in the desert that can easily be mistaken for a scorpion running across your toes. Thankfully, all we found was a grumbly hedgehog, with a long snout, beady eyes and big pointy ears. I cooed at him along with 3 full grown men; “Aaaaaaw look at his silly earrrrs!” He ran like the wind when Said put him down. Surprisingly long legs for a prickly ball. We went back to the campfire for more hot sweet black tea and I quickly regretted asking Khaled whether he could tell us stories of spooky things he had experienced in the desert at night. As we walked over to our little tent, I tried not to listen in case I heard my name being called from the mountains.
This was by far, the best day of the trip so far. It was amazing. And at £55 each, it was a steal. Look up JordanTracks if you are thinking of going.
I ❤️ Jordan 👌😎 🐪