Our little trip to Jordan is extended day by day as we really like being there. We end up spending a week in this timeless, rainless, treeless land. It feels like we are on the moon. I had no idea that there were so many different types of sand!
The first day we mainly drive in the mountains, more or less involuntarily, since it seems that everywhere we want to go is situated on a mountain top. Maybe we should have known when the first campsite was called Mountain Breeze, though… But we didn’t have that many options as we entered the country at 9pm and didn’t want to drive too far in the dark. Had we known we had to conquer an entire mountain, we probably would have tried to find a campsite in the valley though – we arrived there around midnight..! Luckily, after explaining our situation and looking like very lost tourists, we are let in although they had planned to close up, preparing for a big group the following day. We were so relieved and happily slept in one of their tents (in Jordan you don’t put up your own tent at a campsite, you rent one of the tents there). The following morning we have breakfast with a spectacular view and have already fallen in love with the country. For breakfast entertainment we have about 50 Jordanian teenagers playing paintball just below the campsite restaurant!
We continue up one mountain side and down another, the Landcruiser chugging along, weighing in at about four tons, at about 5 km/h in 20 degree inclination. On the way down the brakes get pretty hot. I’m not amused, but as long as Brian is calm I am.
Jordan truly has both both highs and lows, both expensive and cheap. One day we are on a mountain and see nothing but tops and valleys, the next we are floating around in the Dead Sea, about 300 meters below sea level. One day, we pay plenty of dinars for generally inexpensive services, the next day I ask for four tomatoes from a vendor on the street – I get 10 tomatoes and four apples and aren’t allowed to pay anything for them. The man says something in Arabic which I guess means he’s glad we’re there. Many have pointed out that tourism has died due to the Arab Spring and the situation in Syria.
- Shokran, I say.
Petra doesnt’t seem to lack tourists though. We warm up with a walk through Little Petra (a miniature version of Petra a few kilometers away), guided by 19-year-old bedouin Aywan. He has a well-rehearsed vocabulary about everything that has to do with Little Petra, but when we ask about something else, he looks a little lost. He has learned English by talking to tourists. It gets right most of the time but we can’t help but smile when he says “Sometimes, I like to catch tourists and take them to my cave”. He lives with his family in a tent nearby but also has his own cave. Nowadays, most bedouins are offered houses in the village, but his family declined. They prefer to live where their ancestors have always lived.
Both small and big Petra make a real impression on us. The area is much larger than we thought. It would take several days to see all of it.
- We can not even see all of the city today, much is still hidden by sand storms and earthquakes in earlier days, says Atif, who runs the bedouin camp where we spend the night.
We are lying in our sleeping bags around the campfire trying to sleep after too many glasses of hot, super sweet bedouin tea. The sky is clear and packed with stars, accompanied by small lamps on the tall rocks behind the camp. Every now and then we see a shooting star, but this does not mean that one should wish for something. Here, a shooting star means that angels have caught and killed a demon that has ventured out into the heavens.
The next day we decide to take the so called back way into into Petra to explore the parts we didn’t see the first day. The back way turns out to mean over an hour of hiking along steep mountain slopes in an area where we would have gotten lost in 15 minutes without a guide. The view is breathtaking and our whistling echoes through the valley. It feels a little naughty to climb into to the country’s most famous historic site, although we are far from the first ones to do so.
Tired from the mountain hiking and the heat, we are now only facing walking back all the way through Petra, including the 800 or so steps down from the Monastery.
- Taxi? a boy says. Ferrari, Mercedes, I have everything.
He points enthusiastically to the two donkeys and camels behind him. We smile at the sales pitch, but decline since those poor animals work far too hard already and are treated in a horrendous way, and walk all the way back to Wadi Musa, the town that grew up around Petra.
In southern Jordan there is the protected desert area of Wadi Rum. To our delight, we are allowed to drive in on our own in our own car, and say no thanks to having a guide with us. We don’t have space for another person in the car and we want to discover the desert on our own. When we a few hours later have failed bot to find our camp and the natural rock bridge nearby – and miss the sunset – we realize that it may have been a good idea with a guide after all.
That night we sleep in the car in a ravine next to a bedouin camp, after eating a traditional bedouin dinner; chicken that has been cooked slowly in a sand pit. The next morning we decide to try and follow one of the few other cars we see drive around in the desert. We walk up to one guide and he says “Where you want to go? Saudi Arabia is only 30 kms from here!” Uhm, no thanks, I think we’ll stay in Wadi Rum… With their help, we manage to find several of the desert’s unmarked sights, from sand dunes to jump in to Nabatheans petroglyphs.
After several days surrounded by sand, we long for water. It’s also about time we start moving south. We drive to Aqaba where we are reunited with the awesome Scottish couple that we spent some time with in Petra and we join them at the dive center they’re staying at. With no time for diving we just jump in the ice cold swimming pool at dusk but it’s still fantastic after so many days in the desert. We buy tickets to the ferry and watch a big group of dolphins guide us over the Gulf of Aqaba in the sunset before we arrive in Egypt. We are in Africa, finally.