Here’a a very small description of my Jordan trip, which I did in March-end of 2014.
The glorious ruins of Petra, one of the New Seven wonders, the mountainous deserts of Wadi Rum, the well preserved Roman city of Jerash, the Dead sea in which one can float, crusader castles, awe-inspiring landscapes all make Jordan a compelling place to visit. Plus it’s safe to visit in an otherwise turbulent region , offers an insight into Arabic life and is a friendly country to visit.
I visited Jordan in March this year. Spring was in full swing, and as you fly into Jordan all of a sudden the landscape changes from the brown deserts of Arabia to the greenery of the Mediterranean region. I landed into the city of Amman, which is the capital of Jordan. Amman is a large city, but a very organised one. My hotel was located in Amman downtown, which was a good base for exploring the old town. The souk(or bazaar), the sheesha(hookah) cafes, sweet shops, people dressed in traditional attire all had created a nice middle eastern atmosphere which nevertheless which still had a touch of modernity. The chief attraction in Amman was the “Jebel Amman” or the top of Amman where I got see some Roman and Islamic remains of old Amman. However, the best part of this excursion was the sweeping views of Amman.
I took a day trip to Jerash,a fantastic well preserved Roman city and Ajloun, a crusader castle perched on the top of a mountain. The castle was a very typical one, towers, big corridors, secret pathways, dungeons, view points. The top of the castle had great views of the countryside, hills, pine forests, farms, olive groves and so on. Jerash was a big site, it would have been a mojor Roman city in it’s heyday. It was marked by huge public spaces, markets, temples, amhitheatres, colonnaded streets, wine storage facilities. And all of this was between beds of seasonal spring flowers. The Roman architecture and it’s natural setting made this site a winner.
Now was the time for the big destination, Petra, one of the Seven Wonders. Petra dates to the 2nd century BC when the Nabatean tribes living in this part of Jordan became rich as a result of trading and constructed this magnificent city. What makes Petra even more special is it’s location it completely surrounded by huge mountains, which come in all colors, red, orange, yellow, all kinds of features, like canyons and caves, Petra is aptly called “The Rose City” because of the color of the stone. Petra’s entrance itself is dramatic, a 1.5 km long canyon, called as the Siq, leads you trough some interesting rock formations and tall mountains on both your sides and then suddenly you see the big entrance of the Khazaneh, or Treasury of Petra. The site overwhelms you. And it’s even better when you go there at night, when everything is lit.
So how did I spend my 3 days in Petra? Petra abounds with small hikes, all leading to beautiful view points and mysterious structures, like a monastery or a place for sacrifice. The best hike was upto the Monastery. The monastery too is a big structure carved inside rocks and since it faces the West side, the sun’s rays at sundown make the whole structure glow. It’s a one of a kind experience. I used to do a hike in the morning, take a break, have lunch, relax in the shade, and then do another one in the afternoon. And in the early morning and evening, you get the site all to yourself, so touring in the morning and evening and taking a break in the afternoon is a good strategy. The Al-Qutbha trail which goes up the mountains gives you amazing aerial views of the entire site. The Turkmaniya road hike takes you through some greenery, a rarity in the desert. Umm Al Biyara is the 2nd tallest mountain, is also an easy hike. When you get there you actually feel you are on the top of the world.
The hiking used to leave me tired by evening, and the big buffets serving were always there serving excellent local food. I even got a chance to chance to have dinner at a local home. The next destination was Wadi Rum, supposedly the most beautiful desert in the world. The road to Wadi Rum was along the “King’s Highway”, a road through high mountains and valleys with jaw dropping views. As you enter Wadi Rum, you know you are in a different place. Although most of Jordan is desert, Wadi Rum is unique, it’s landscape is closer to the moon than to other deserts on the earth.
I had planned to stay in Wadi Rum for 3 days at a camp located deep inside the Wadi Rum. I think this was one of the best part of my trip. Wadi Rum’ s landscape takes over you, you simply can;t get enough of it. The mountains have very dramatic shapes, the skies are as blue as they can be, the spring flowers are abundant(even though it’s a desert), sunsets are marvelous..I had a private guide with me throughout my trip. I took jeep tour on the first day, visiting various sand dunes, arches, canyons, inscriptions, arches,even a spring. The other two days were spent hiking the tallest mountains in the Arabian peninsula. One of them was an easy climb, Jebel Al Hash with several green pastures as we went up. The other, Jebel Burdah involved little scrambling on the rocks, but was fun. The nights were beautiful, plenty plenty of stars, since there’s no electricity in Wadi Rum. We also visited my host’s family, they lived in makeshift tents and herded their goats. And food was a delight in Wadi Rum, the most interesting dish was “Zarb”, or vegetables cooked underground with herbs.
So after 3 amazing days in Wadi Rum with dramatic landscapes and good company, I went to a place close to Amman, Madaba, an Arab christian town(surprise). The town is famous for it’s mosaic work. However, the most attractive place here was a spot called Mukawir, a mountain with fabulous views of the Dead Sea. Since it was my last day, I stocked up plenty of Arabic sweets to take back home. Thus ended my trip, a good 10 days of an active holiday with mind blowing landscapes and people.