The first Middle Eastern country I wanted to explore once I had settled into my new life in Dubai was Jordan. I made the trip alone and with so much to see and only a relatively short period of time to travel, I arranged a car and driver through Al Arabi Travel in Dubai, in order to get me around quicker and easier (and to make me feel a bit more secure). My top six Jordanian experiences are listed below:
1. The reminder of an empire at Jerash
I didn’t stop in Amman, heading straight to the beautifully preserved Roman city of Jerash, we had a lovely drive through olive groves and rolling countryside to reach the ruins. I had an amazing guide who must have been nearly 90, his English wasn’t great and I was worried he might keel over on some of the long walks and climbs, but he was such a character – it was definitely worth the half day trip from Amman.
2. Belly up at the Dead Sea
From Jerash we spent the afternoon driving through more stunning countryside to reach the Dead Sea. We reached there only a couple of hours before sunset but it was enough time to check in to the Jordan Valley Marriott Resort and then head down to the water for a float! The Dead Sea is at the lowest point on Earth and because of all the evaporation, the water has high salinity meaning that the water feels oily and swimming is impossible, you just float on top! It also means that any broken or sensitive skin will hurt when in contact! The hotels that line the shore scoop the mineral-rich mud into open vats for people to coat themselves in while they bake.
3. Picture perfect Petra
The drive from the Dead Sea to Petra was in stark contrast to the other car journeys I had taken in Jordan, the cliffs/hills circling the Dead Sea were crusted in white salt and my guide was keen to point out the point where God had supposedly turned Lot to salt. Petra itself was yet another awe-inspiring sight, I had a local guide for the tour – we approached the entrance on horses – a little cheesy but I didn’t really get a choice! The initial walk down the Siq is incredible – a 1.2km unbelievably narrow winding corridor through the rocks, which eventually opens out onto the stunning and well-known site of Al Khazneh (The Treasury). It was a long day in Petra but well worth it, taking in all of the sites and heading up to the High Places to check out the monastery and tombs. The only down-side was how overrun with tourists the place was, all scrambling onto overworked camels and donkeys. If I’d had more time and not been alone I would have taken two days at the site, and also done the tour at night by candlelight.
As a keen diver, I couldn’t travel so close to the Red Sea without dipping my toe in the water! Aqaba is a lovely town to use as a departure point for Dead Sea diving, and not as crowded as some of the towns in Egypt. The guys at Dive Aqaba were so friendly and we had a great day diving, although the dive sites weren’t quite what I had expected, I think this was more due to the instructor that led that particular dive and the person I was buddying with, rather than the actual place. The dive centre did us a fab BBQ that night though, with liquid refreshment from the bottle shop next door – it was a lovely relaxed day after so much travelling around.
5. In Lawrence’s footsteps at Wadi Rum
You might think I would have not been so keen to see more desert landscapes coming from the UAE, but it is certainly not the case that when you’ve seen one desert landscape, you’ve seen them all! Wadi Rum, or The Valley of the Moon, was one of the most impressive deserts I’ve seen, there was something to take in on every turn. I made the most of it with an overnight 4WD trip, which started at Jebel Rum visitor centre, and headed to the Nabatean temple at Jebel Rum and Lawrence’s Spring, to the rock carvings done for Lawrence of Arabia, some beautiful and dramatic canyons, valleys and red sand dunes, stopping at Bedouin camps for tea. The overnight camp allowed more time to relax and enjoy the desert sunset and listen to Bedouin folklore tales and songs.
6. Moses‘ mountain and mosaics
Heading back to Amman to fly home, we took a different route along the Desert Highway to enable us to stop in at the Christian centre of Madaba to take a look at the gorgeous Byzantine mosaics, including the unbelievable Mosaic Map at St George’s Church, which was constructed in AED 560 and depicts all the major biblical sites from Lebanon to Egypt.
We also headed up nearby Mount Nebo, from where Moses beheld the Promised Land, died and was buried – although no one is sure where exactly. The Moses Memorial Church had some interesting facts, but mostly it was the view that was the most impressive, with the lookout reaching across to the Dead Sea, Jericho, all across Jordan to Jerusalem even.