So last April on yet another short break, I decided to travel. Typical! And since I only had 5 days, it had to be somewhere close and visa-hassle free and I decided on a nearby country that I have always wanted to visit; Jordan. I was finally going to see Petra, hurray!!
Now 5 days don't do Jordan justice but they were all I had and I needed to make full use of them. I searched here and there and got everything settled, I even bought myself a Jordan Pass just to discover later that I didn't actually need one since I'm an Egyptian. So yes Egyptians, and Arabs as well I was told, are entitled for a free of charge 30 days entry, just head straight to the Jordanian section of passport control at the airport (if you are an Arab holding a foreign passport you will need to pay for the visa). Another cool thing that I also discovered later is that while sightseeing, I get to pay as a Jordanian. I ended up paying so little at all sights and the one day ticket to Petra cost me 1 JD instead of 50. Sorry folks! Well yeah I saved those 50 dinars but ended up paying them for a certified guide, ha ha, was totally worth it though.
The Dead Sea
Now, for such a short break, I shouldn’t be needing much luggage I thought. Consequently I replaced my suitcase with a backpack. I have never backpacked before and the idea seemed so appealing at the time that I totally went for it. It was inevitable anyway, I would have to do it sooner or later so why not now. I went shopping for one and got the biggest backpack I found at the shop (90 L), thinking the bigger size the better, right? Thank God I did (woo hoo). I do pack light don’t get me wrong but being veiled doesn’t make packing any easier since everything tends to take more space. And though I really did pack light, taking only the necessary stuff, the 15 k-backpack looked gigantic. People would give me looks of sympathy at the sight of it hanging over my back and would ask me what I have inside! That incident reminded me of Wild, the book/movie, when Cheryl used to call her backpack monster. You can say that mine was monster’s baby sister.
Was it an epic fail?!
When I arrived in Amman early morning I had few hours till check in time at the hotel and I used those hours to take a quick trip to the Dead Sea which is about two hours away from the capital. The Dead Sea is simply remarkable, it’s earth’s lowest elevation, the deepest and saltiest waterbody in the world, and absolutely worth the visit. The floating experience, if you haven’t done it before, is something to look for. And of course you must treat yourself with one of those mud masks to relish in their medicinal benefits.
The Castle in Amman
I only had that day for Amman so once I checked in, I went straight out to walk around the downtown area where I was staying. My starting point was the Roman Theatre which was just across the street from the hotel. The presence of this antique in the midst of modern-day buildings and paved streets is significant. You walk inside, climb a step or two, and you surpass the daily hustle and bustle into history. What a feeling! For the few remaining hours I had till sunset, I took myself to the castle which is another great place to visit. The remains of it lay on a high point in town and the views of the city from up there with those Roman columns decorating them are extraordinary. After all that walking, I treated myself to an oven hot konafa from Habibah, the thought of it now leaves me drawling (yummy).
The Roman Theater in Amman
The highlight of that trip was actually visiting Petra, I had it on my bucket list for quite a very long time and I was so happy to be finally there. The site is just huge, you can’t cover it all in one visit and there is actually a 3-days ticket to the Rose City. Petra was the capital of the Nabatean Kingdom and can be accessed via walking through a canyon called Al Siq. The entire city was carved into rose colored sandstone cliffs hence the name; Rose City. It’s so impressive how those huge and beautifully designed temples and tombs were carved so precisely at times where only primitive techniques and tools were used. The first sight of the treasury nearly to the end of the Siq took my breath away, I was so mesmerized by its presence that I was left in awe.
The treasury of Petra
I started my visit around noon with approximately 6 to 7 hours before the site closes at sunset and have decided to go for the most visited, main trail. I thought I would do the main trail, which took me through the Siq to the treasury and ended up at the Girl’s Palace, then try to do something else if time allowed it afterwards. This time, I had my mind set on hiring a certified guide (learning from a mistake I did few years back in Pompeii). It was my first time to go on a somehow guided tour for a historic sight but it was totally worth it. I was lucky enough to have a native, an actual Nabatean, as my guide who was so informative and made my visit so enjoyable. I had few hours left until sunset by the time I was finished with the main trail and for those remaining hours I went up to the monastery or Ad Deir following the suggestion of the guide and the Visit Petra people, who by the way were very helpful with their prompt replies/recommendations. Ad Deir is the smaller version of the treasury façade/size-wise but it wasn’t less impressive. And the “climb” up there was scenic. Yes climb because you would actually need to go over a couple of hundred steps to reach the place.
If you made it all the way up to Ad Deir, just go a little further up the hill to the "best view" point and you will be rewarded by this view.
I was really tired by the time I started wrapping my visit up but nonetheless, I walked myself through the Colonnaded Street and paid the church a visit before finally leaving the premises. The main church in Petra has those marvelous well preserved mosaic floors that can’t be missed. When I reached the treasury on my way back to the visitor center, the spot was quieter and the sun wasn’t shining from the back of the façade unlike in the afternoon when I first laid my eyes on it and with those colors, the treasury felt more captivating. So I sat on a bench, resting, and at the same time staring at it while marveling at its beauty and greatness.
I have decided in advance to spend that night in Petra, which happens to be the name of the town as well, because for one, I wanted to go to Petra at night and for two, I wanted to go to Wadi Rum which is much closer to Petra than to Amman. And although I was worn out after all the walking and the 5 hours bus trip in the morning from Amman to Petra, I had to overcome the tiredness to walk myself back to my night’s accommodation for dinner before compelling myself to walk all the way through the Siq again in order to witness the treasury when being lit by over 1500 candles. One word, spectacular!
Saying good bye to my host before heading to Wadi Rum - Petra
The accommodation I had in Petra was recommended to me by the agency I contacted to organize the Wadi Rum visit and it was just fantastic. The place is actually a villa turned into a B&B that is run by a Dutch lady named Jolanda who happens to be very hospitable and an excellent cook. My room had views of Wadi Musa from its balcony and was spacious and very comfortable. The dinner I had that night was super delicious, one of the best meals I have ever had and Jolanda was kind enough to arrange for a taxi to take me back to Petra for the night show since I was already walking funny after I came back from the morning visit. I was heading to Wadi Rum early next morning and she made sure that I have breakfast before the bus takes me to the wadi to meet with my guide. It was such a nice short stay, it felt like staying at a friend or a relative and as always, I wished I had the time to stay longer!
Wadi Rum in the early morning
I came across the agency I hired for the Wadi Rum tour through TripAdvisor, they came highly recommended and they lived up to it. I had a funny incident with those guys while booking the tour because since I was traveling solo, I didn’t want to end up being on my own with the guide camping in the desert. It would have been so awkward and inconvenient I have to admit! So I asked to join a group and they told me that there was only this family who signed up to the same trip at the same day but they will need to check with them first if they won’t mind having me on board. And so I joined the family for the day and the night camp with no expectations on how they will be and they turned out to be such a cool and fun family. Thank God (hahahaha), just kidding, I know you will be reading this guys. I just had a blast with those fellas and literally laughed my heart out over their jokes. It was such a pleasure to get to know them. My future family must be as cool as that one is.
With the gorgeous family and our very nice and kind guide Habis - Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum was unreal, the reddish sands and hills were incredible; no wonder The Martian was filmed there. The vastness of the wadi with the unusual sand colors and scattered greenery were imaginary. It somehow reminded me of South Sinai but only through a different palette of colors. I have not realized how much I have missed camping until that night, the Bedouin food and tea under a sky full of stars. Simply and utterly wonderful.
After an amazing night camp and a peaceful morning, I had to say good bye to those lovely people as I was driven to Aqaba to catch the bus back to Amman. I was dead tired by the time I arrived at the hotel in Amman, the same one where I spent my first night. I was in a bad need of a shower and a good rest but I also needed to get some food into my system so I forced myself to postpone sleeping for few hours till I get something to eat and Rainbow street was a good choice with a wide selection of cafes and restaurants.
Um Qais is a town in north Jordan, it offers panoramic views of the Sea of Galilee and the Golan Heights. It was cloudy when we visited unfortunately but it was quite enjoyable nonetheless.
For the last day before leaving Jordan, I signed up for a day tour to Um Qais, Ajloun Castle, and Jerash with the hotel I was staying at, most hotels organize such trips for their guests in case you are wondering. I was joined by Lux from Argentina and Allan from Indonesia for the day, more company to enjoy. I must give it up to Allan here, he has such a big appetite for life and he is a living proof that it’s never too late and one is never too old to start doing what one loves or to even enjoy life. So please, don’t bother about the number that is your age and just live. It was great spending the day with the two of them, it’s always fun to get to know new people while traveling and in that trip, I came to know more people than I thought I will.
Ajloun Castle which is built on a hilltop of Jabal Ajloun offers stunning views of the surrounding area but unlucky us, it wasn't the perfect weather for such view - Ajloun
The best part of that tour was Jerash I have to admit so if you don’t have the time for the 3 of them just go straight there. It was so gloomy and a little rainy all through the day unfortunately which made the views from Um Qais and up the castle in Ajloun not that perfect but the sun finally welcomed us by the time we were at Jerash. Jerash was just mesmerizing, the architecture was stunning and the views of the modern city as seen from inside the historical sight made such an interesting mixture between the old and the new; it’s truly “Pompeii of the East”.
That tour was the wrap up to my short trip to beautiful Jordan, I just had to go for one last konafa before leaving Amman though. My second solo traveling experience turned out to be richer than I thought it would be. I was hardly on my own throughout the trip unlike my first solo encounter where I was completely enjoying my solitude. I got to know lots of awesome people during those days I spent in Jordan and I had such great times with them.
They were people to learn from, people who enabled me to experience more of myself, what I’m and what I want to be. Some of the most interesting encounters I had with locals while traveling were during that trip as Jordanians were quite curious about me, a Middle Eastern female who is veiled and travels solo. I was always approached and asked where I’m from and most of the times, talked to in English because for some reason they didn’t think of me as Middle Eastern and the best encounters were the ones I had in Petra with the Bedouins, who spoke perfect English by the way. I went on that trip last April but it feels like it was yesterday. Jordan was one of the top countries on my list, I’m glad I was able to finally pay it a visit but I can’t really say it got crossed off my list as I’m definitely sure that I will be visiting again. Till next time Jordan.
At the top of one of the Roman Theaters in Jerash
For more of my travel stories and photography, have a look at my blog. Keep on traveling folks (wink)!
Published by Marwa El Agroudy