My trip to Jordan

Our Marketing Intern has recently returned from an action packed trip in Jordan. Below she describes what she got up to in this incredible country.

 

Introduction

I was so nervous as I made my way to the airport Sunday morning. This was only my second trip abroad on my own and I had a feeling a week in Jordan would be a bit different compared to a long weekend in Paris! When I got to the airport I was met by our UK FAM trip leader and a bit later all the other operators that would be on the trip with us. It was lovely to be with a group of such like-minded travel hungry people and I started to get excited. This was it – I was going to Jordan!

We arrived into Jordan’s international airport in Amman where we were helped through security and with our visa. After collecting our luggage we went to the Jordan Tourism Board desk where we met our lovely guide Ahmad. Our drivers for the week met us outside the airport and transferred us to our hotel for the evening. The enormous double bed was a very welcoming sight after a day of travelling.

 

Umm-Qais

Our first day was to take part in the north of Jordan at Umm Qais, an ancient but picturesque village perched on the very edge of the Transjordan plateau. The Romans ruled in Umm-Qais and the city saw large-scale public building works that can still be seen today. Literary sources describe that the city was of great cultural vitality, a centre of philosophy, poetry and the performing arts. Pleasure seeking Romans used to visit Umm Qais from all over the empire. We explored the enormous amphitheatre and the wide stone roads where you could see the marks from horse carriage wheels.

This village of remote Ottoman cottages was known as Hara Foga (“upper village”). After a while of exploring we saw just why it was known as this. We turned a corner to the most magnificent panoramic view of Jordan. From here we could see Jordan’s neighbouring countries; Lebanon, Syria and Israel. Though we were pretty close to the Syrian border I have not felt safer with fantastically friendly guides and locals.

 

Cycling

I was excited to be heading out on bikes and exploring more of this fantastic countryside from a different perspective. It was a rather hot day but thankfully our 25km bike ride was mainly downhill. Our cycle guides were great, stopping at check points with snacks and plenty of water to keep us going.

After the cycle we hopped back in the cars and heading to a local family in Umm-Qais who provided an incredible lunch display. They were super friendly and wanted to know all about us and why we had come to Jordan. This is a community based project lead by the Jordan Tourism Board to help spread tourism revenue to locals. Additionally, it was a fantastic opportunity to see and learn more about their culture and their traditions.

 

Dead Sea

We woke up at the crack of dawn so that we could swim (or rather float) in the Dead Sea before our day of adventures. I was surprised at how warm it was at 6am as we walked down in our cosies and bath robes. The sun was starting to rise and it was a very clear and beautiful day.

Due to the Dead Sea’s extremely high salt content, created from the acid in rain that breaks down rocks and combines Chloride and Sodium, the Dead Sea is unsinkable. Additionally, it is very oily- which took me by surprise. The water was actually quite difficult to stand up in as the salty water pushed your feet from underneath you. The water was lukewarm so fairly pleasant to float in as the sun started to rise.

Canyoning

After the Dead Sea, a quick shower and an even quicker breakfast we were transferred to our next activity; Canyoning. I had never been canyoning before and wasn’t sure what to expect, but it was so much fun! We walked down into the canyon then started making our way down clambering over the rocks, sliding into pools of water, stopping for water and dried fruit and finally abseiling at the end! There were 3 abseils; 3m, 23m, and 43m!! The last one was incredible! You were dandling right next to a beautiful waterfall with a view of the rest of the canyon as the sun was starting to set. Absolutely incredible!

The canyoning took a lot longer than expected and we didn’t actually finish until 5pm, when we were rush off for “lunch”. Lunch was with another local family and this feast was even bigger than the previous day. Additionally, we were allowed to go into the kitchen to meet the lovely women who had made our supper for us.

 

 

Shobak

Shobak castle is dramatically perched on the crest of a hill and was the first castle to be built by the Crusades in Transjordan. During the Crusade time, Shobak was originally named “Le Krak de Montreal” which means “Fortress of the Royal Mountain”. It was the last of the Crusaders possessions when Salah ad-Din joined forces with the Muslim community to oust the Crusaders from Transjordan.

Before our day of hiking we had a guided tour around the ruins of the castle. Shobak castle’s walls and towers are Mamluke, and all the towers which stand have beautifully carved external calligraphic inscriptions dating from rebuilding work in the 1290’s.

Hiking

After our guided tour of Shobak castle we were met by our hiking guide Eid and heading off to explore the area. The walk took us on a path alongside the Rift Valley that had breath-taking views. We truly saw the rural part of Jordan today with no civilisation for miles and miles. Half way through our walk Eid started a fire and got a pot of tea on the go. It was amazing to sit there with a cup of sweet tea in hand looking out over the astonishing views of the Jordanian landscape. I felt very lucky to be there.

After Eid showed us some traditional dances and songs we continued with our walk. The walk was fairly long and you really hand to concentrate on where you were putting your feet as there were a lot of loose rocks. However, it was all worth it for the fantastic views as well as the remoteness and peace.

We finished our walk with a traditionally cooked lunch and learnt how to make bread using only flour and water and baking it in the ash from a fire. The food was marvellous and it was nice to sit down for a bit!

 

Little Petra

After lunch we jumped into the cars which took us to Little Petra. Little Petra was amazing! We arrived there just as the sun was setting and the tourists were leaving. We walked through the carved canyon and took in the amazing architecture that has stood here for centuries, until someone in our group saw a sign for “The best view in Jordan”. I wasn’t expecting much as the sign was written on an old bit of cardboard. But we climbed up the many steps and scrambled up this tiny canyon to arrive at an incredible view!

We couldn’t have timed it better. We had the whole viewing area to ourselves and the lovely shop man offered us a cup of sweet tea. It was wonderful and definitely one of my highlights.

As it got darker we needed to head back to meet up with the rest of the group and head to our Bedouin camp for the night.

Petra

Day 4 was spent walking to Petra. We chose to take the back trail, which is more off-the-beaten-track and avoids most of the crowds of tourists travelling to see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Our Bedouin camp from the night before was right next to Little Petra where the back trail to Petra starts. The walk was another beautiful one along a well-trodden path taking us up and down the canyon edges. We stopped at a trinket shop on the way and sat drinking tea and looking at all the beautiful hand-crafted jewellery.

Our first sighting of Petra was the building called the treasury. It was enormous!! We then carried onto a fairly narrow path that descended down into a remote valley basin, passing lots of stalls and donkeys on the way.

We made it into the main section of Petra and stopped for lunch. There were a lot of tourists here and after being in such secluded areas it felt very strange to have so many people around. However, this did not take anything away from the impressive Rose-Red City, home to architecture, history and imagination. We wondered around the city, until we came to the final building, the Treasury. This is the biggest and most famous facade in the whole of Petra. Its columns and astonishing detail calved in the red pink sandstone rock face will simply take your breath away.

We made our way to the main entrance of Petra through the tall and echoing Siq that slithers its way through the carved canyon. We met with our drivers and made our way to the Wadi Rum where we would camp for the night.

 

Wadi rum

Wadi Rum was unimaginable! I am not surprised that films like The Martian were filmed here because it is exactly what I imagine Mars to be like. I’ve never seen so much red!

There are no roads in the desert so we jumped into 4×4’s at the local town ‘Rum’ and drove through the desert to a place where we could  see the sun set. Within minutes we had lost sight of Rum and I was completely lost. You definitely need to be with a guide when travelling in this area. We were joined by other 4×4’s and tourists from local camps.

The sunset was beautiful and everything was so still and peaceful. After a busy day of tourists it was nice to have calm.

Afterwards we drove to our Bedouin Camp, the Milkway Camp. After a nice hot shower we sat in the shared seating areas next to a nice big fire. We spent the evening playing cards and eating delicious food before retiring for bed.

We got up in the dark at 4-am and made our way to 5 enormous camels!! Camels are big. I mean really big!! I was helped onto my camel whilst it was sat down, and held on very tightly as she got up. We set off into the darkness appreciating the brightly lit moon and stars, but realising how cold it gets at night. We stopped at a great sunrise spot and sat in the sand with our cups of tea to watch the sun come over the horizon. It was an unbelievable experience- another highlight.

Scrambling

Following the camel ride and our breakfast back at the camp we had a day of scrambling in the desert. We met our guide and went off to discover the Burdah Rock Bridge. It was actually a very enjoyable day in the desert sun climbing over boulders and up rock faces. And the view at the Burdah Rock Bridge at the end was a great ending.

We scrambled and abseiled back down the rock formations and met the other half of the group who went on a 4×4 safari. After another fantastic lunch we were transferred back to Rum where we enjoyed a nice cold lager before meeting up with our drivers again and transferring to our last destination- Aqaba.

 

Aqaba

We arrived in Aqaba mid-afternoon and checked into our hotel rooms for a much needed rest before our walking city tour. We met in the hotel lobby where we were introduced to Thelma who works for Tourism Product Development in Aqaba. She took us round the city and the markets, including this fantastic market called ‘Souk by the Sea’. It’s a community organised project that allows local craftsmen to sell their products to help spread tourism revenue to locals. It’s definitely worth a visit.

We had dinner at a seafood restaurant before heading off to a pub to celebrate our last night in Jordan.

 

Snorkelling

It may have been our last night, but our last day was action packed with a day of snorkelling in the Red Sea. We headed down to the bay where we boarded a boat that took us further into the Red Sea.

We put on our snorkel gear and jumped from the boat into the surprisingly warm water. There was a keen snorkeler on the boat who wanted to show us all the best areas. So we followed him to some beautiful corals that had swarms of fish around them.

After our first dip we went back on board for a fantastic BBQ. Of course this is when the heavens opened and completely soaked us after we had just started drying off. There was a tiny inside area where people flooded into, however the mad people in our group, including myself, decided to sit it out under the tiny canopy on the upper deck.

We all managed to make fun of the situation- and after the storm had finished I really appreciated the calm of the Red Sea as we stood at the boat railings looking out to sea in the warm sun. We even spotted a Green Turtle! Another incredible highlight.

 

Departing Jordan

I didn’t want to leave Jordan. I was blown away by the amount it had to offer. From the incredibly welcoming Jordanian people and their delicious food, to the astonishing scenery and huge range of adventurous activities- Jordan is definitely a country you should add to the bucket list.

I have come back truly inspired to start creating trips here and I generally hope I make a return trip to Jordan in the future.

 

 

Extraordinary Sights

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