Travelogue : Jaunt to Jordan
The land of the Nabateans
Last minute plans have worked for me most of the time! It’s not just about dreaming, but to keep working on possible travel itineraries. Yup! I’m kinda obsessed with it.
Things fell into place at the last minute and we were off to Jordan right after the Eid prayer. Being the traveller that I’m, the first place to come off the itinerary was Amman city, due to time constraints. The itinerary was plain and simple; experience Dead Sea, explore Petra and escape to Wadi Rum.
Landed in Amman around 5 pm, rented a ‘cute’ car from Queen Alia Intl Airport and headed out to Holiday Inn at Dead Sea. Purposefully avoided the major highways and took the route through the town of Madaba. I would recommend the Jordan valley highway / Route 65 for its country side views and winding scenic mountain roads.
After a few photo stops on the way, it took about two and a half hours to reach the resort. We chose Holiday Inn for the private beach access at Dead Sea, so it was very clean and not crowded.
Experience Dead Sea: By 6 am we were at the beach and I must say the experience of floating effortlessly in Dead Sea was something out of the ordinary. The salinity can be seen around my legs. The deeper you go into the water, the more lift you would feel. At one point, I almost lost balance due to the lift, while trying to extend my legs to reach the bottom. Dead Sea is the lowest waterbody on the surface of earth, by about 400 meters below sea level. It has a lot to offer to most of the subjects that I had yawned off in my school days; History, Geography, Biology, Zoology and Chemistry! From what I’ve read, Dead Sea is the sixth most saline waterbody with 33.7% salinity compared to 3.5% salinity that our oceans have. The buoyancy factor is the most desirable feature of Dead Sea for tourists. It’s been said that you can’t drown in the Dead Sea. If by any chance you flip or turnover while floating on your back and fall on your face it will be difficult to put your leg down to lift your face up. A few gulps of the highly concentrated saline water would be very poisonous to human body.
After a quick shower and a sumptuous breakfast, we started off to the land of lost city – Petra. The drive through the shore of Dead Sea is a great way to visualize the vastness of the lake. On the way we stopped at Wadi Mujib, a great place for an adventure hike. With my little angel being too young, we kept it for our next visit.
The route through Tafilah has some of the stunning views, but the steep climbs make you feel that ‘cute’ ness is a far cry to drive around Jordan. I would definitely recommend a powerful engine to pull you through those amazing mountain routes safely. Still, we made it all the way in our ‘cute’ saloon.
I must say, looking at the landscape it feels as if it had gone through a lot!
Explore Petra: We reached Wadi Musa by around 3 pm. Checked in at the hotel Marriot with Petra valley view. Being the only day in our itinerary which offers ‘Petra by the night’, I decided not to miss it. ‘Petra by night’ is an opportunity to experience Siq and Treasury plaza at night, lit up by thousands of candles.
After an early dinner, I drove down to Petra visitor centre. Petra by the night is not covered in Jordan Pass, so I had to get it from the ticket office at the visitor centre. The Ticket office was pretty much deserted to much of my amazement. After the check-in counter, the pathway is lit by candles on both sides. It was mesmerizing. Obviously I was slow to move forward with numerous photo stops. The first one mile walk to reach the Siq itself took about 30 minutes. To walk through that Siq at night all alone under the flickering flames of the candles were truly magical. The candlelit walk through the Siq to the Treasury plaza and the first sight of the iconic Treasury plaza through the cramped walls of Siq was really a ‘moment’. The moment that I’ve experienced in my dreams a few times. In reality, its even better.
I’ve read a few travel blogs saying Petra by the night is not worth it and so on. For me it was amazing! Its true that you are not allowed to walk around and disturb the performances or the mood of the event. There is always enough time to take your photos after the performances are finished. If you ask me, for 17 JOD is it really worth it? If you are in Jordan to see Petra, then it is a must!
Was totally famished by the time I reached the hotel after a frenzy outing to experience Petra by the night.
Petra is one of the new seven wonders of the world. From what I’ve learned, Petra was the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom, which was both rich and powerful. This ancient rose city (from the color of the rock formations) that spread across hundreds of sq miles has temples, tombs, theatre, monasteries and various other building with carved facades on to the mountains. Opportunities to wonder ‘how’ and ‘why’ while exploring this wonderland are plenty.
To explore Petra completely, it takes ages. While visiting for a day, there are a few options which the visitors could consider. Walking around is the best option, but you need to be fit to walk 4-12 kilometers and hike up 900 steps to the monastery. Traveling as a family, you may opt for horse carriages, though it is available only till Treasury. You can hire a camel, horse, donkey or mule to go further. I even saw an electric (golf) cart kinda vehicle taking some Chinese tourists through the Siq, but not sure how to avail them.
After getting sun-dried for about 6-7 hrs, it was time to return to the coziness of our hotel room. It was a much needed breather.
Escape to Wadi Rum: Later that afternoon, we felt there is still time left that day and decided to explore Wadi Rum, located over 100kms away from Wadi Musa, towards Aqaba. I really kicked the cuteness out of the car on that trip to cover the distance in 70 minutes.
Our Hotel at Petra arranged the jeep tour at Wadi Rum. The jeep and the guide was waiting for us by the time we reached the Visitor centre. Then it was just a wonderful ride through this amazing red-planet.
Wadi Rum is a strikingly scenic desert wilderness situated far south of Jordan, also known as ‘Wadi Al Qamar’ – Valley of the Moon, covering around 720 sq kms. Presence of iron oxide makes this rocky landscape the red-rock planet; with flat planes and sandy dunes surrounded by towering rock formations. The movie ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ brought out the beauty of Wadi rum in 1962. Various inscriptions, petroglyphs and archeological remains found in the area testify the presence of human interaction in this environment for about 12,000 years.
Our guide, a local bedouin, showed us a plant found in the desert called ‘Ajram’; used traditionally by Bedouins for washing hands as it has the qualities of disinfectant and releases substance similar to the foam of a soap. We just had to crush a bunch with a stone initially and then rub it between our palms with a few drops of water, that’s it! Magic. Natural soap 🙂
It was time for a tea break, he took us to a bedouin camp to have their local tea. The atmosphere was wonderful with lots of jeeps and tourists. In a few minutes it was time for us to head out for Sunset view.
By sundown the weather changed dramatically and we experienced a bit of sand storm for a brief period. Later we headed to one of the camp recommended by our tour guide for dinner. The meat and vegetables were prepared in an oven buried underground. It was not filled with too many spices, but then the meat literally fell off the bone and melted in my mouth!! Delicious!
In Wadi Rum, there are a few options which you can look into. Jeep tours are available for hourly rates. Wadi Rum is the best place in Jordan for astro photography and star gazing, spending a night in one of the camps would be a nice experience.
After dinner it was a beautiful drive through the Kings way to Wadi Musa. The next day we spent some time around Petra and were off to the airport to catch our return flight.
Things I would have done differently!!
Yes, this trip was a last minute run!! A few things that I may have considered if it was possible;
- Add a few more days to the itinerary.
- A day and a night in Amman city to explore Jerash, Ajloun Medieval Castle and Umm Qais.
- Give two days and nights to explore in and around Petra, including ‘Petra by the night’.
- Drive to Mount Nebo enroute Dead Sea.
- Hike up Wadi Mujib.
- Drive through Fifa Nature Reserve in Karak Governorate.
- A day and night at Wadi rum.