Friday, November 19, 2010


Jordan is a country that I was for most part ignorant about before we started our trip. I had obviously heard of it and knew where it was on a map but the only real thing I knew about it was that Petra was there and the Jordan River/Dead Sea divided it from Israel. I read more about Jordan along the way and quite a bit while we were in Israel during some of our down time thanks to some info Alethea had forwarded to me. As I mentioned in the Israel post we intended to stay 8 nights here in Jordan but had to shorten it by two nights primarily due to Alethea being sick in Israel.

First of all we decided to drive through Jordan versus taking public transportation. Jordan doesn't have a developed modern transport network so renting a car made the most sense. Also, Jordan is not that big of a country from north to south. I believe it just takes 4 hours to drive it which is what we sort of did. We didn't start at the far northern Syrian border but ended up driving from the capital in Amman all the way down to Aqaba on the Red Sea.

We did some pretty interesting things in the time we spent in Jordan. We spent the first day traveling from Israel to Amman to pick up our rental car. It took longer than expected. We didn't get to our intended destination of the Dead Sea until after nightfall. We had a full day of driving the next day. We started at our hotel though by floating in the Dead Sea for a few minutes. It is a weird feeling floating in the Dead Sea. It takes no effort whatsoever to float and in case you taste it the water is nasty. After the Dead Sea we drove about 14 km to Bethany Beyond the Jordan to the site of Jesus's baptism. Ironically, we saw a documentary on the site on our flight from Hong Kong to Amman a month earlier. The evidence seems pretty strong on this one. The site is just beside the Jordan River which is a military area that separates Israel and Jordan. There were armed soldiers on each side. We then drove to the town of Madaba but on the way we stopped at Mt. Nebo. Mt. Nebo for old testament scholars is the place where Moses saw the promise land and then passed away. We then got on the Kings's Highway to drive what we thought was going to be 3 hours to Wadi Musa where we were spending the night. It took a little over 5 and was not that scenic in my opinion as we were led to believe. We also lost our way in the city of Karak. What made the trip a little more adventuresome was that there was an election recently and they posted election banners of the candidates everywhere including on the road signs which made it difficult to find our turn off points. I plan discussing this with the King if I ever get the opportunity.

Alethea reading the sports section in the Dead Sea 

We eventually made it to Wadi Musa. Wadi Musa is where Petra is located. We spent three nights in Wadi Musa. It took two days of hiking to see Petra. It is much larger than what I realize it was. We hiked through the narrow Siq and to the spot where the final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed. I actually thought these were the only things to see at Petra but found out there is much more. On the first day we hiked up to the place of High Sacrifice which was a pretty good hike. The next day we hiked all the way out to Ad-Dayr which is over 2,000 years old and just as impressive as the Indiana Jones portion. It took over 2 hours hiking to it one way. 

Indiana Jones spot @ Petra

Our next stop after Petra was a quick hour drive over to the Wadi Rum. We spent a night in a tent at a Bedouin camp out in the Jordanian desert. I really enjoyed it and not because it was my birthday either. We went on a 2 and a half hour ride through the desert in the afternoon and enjoyed a scenic sunset. After dinner Alethea surprised me by arranging for a birthday cake. The people we were staying with at the camp with sang happy birthday and the workers sang happy birthday in Arabic. I never thought I would spend a birthday in the Jordanian desert next to Iraq and Saudi Arabia. 

enjoying a sunset @ Wadi Rum

The final stop on our Jordan tour was the city of Aqaba. We left our camp in Wadi Run around 8:30 and drove for about 35 minutes south to Aqaba. Aqaba is on the Red Sea and is the 2nd largest city in Jordan. We checked into our hotel around 9:30 and walked across the street to stick our toes into the Red Sea. We decided not to snorkel since it was a little windy and cool or at least it was for me. We spent the rest of the day doing laundry by hand and sitting outside in our swimming trunks reading and taking it easy by the pool. We wanted to rest up some before our all day plus of travel coming up on Saturday to Kenya. On a side note our hotel in Aqaba had a sign in the lobby that said we were only 10 kilometers from the Saudi Arabia border. We didn't try to go in because you have to have an hard to get visa and we have Israeli stamps in our passports which causes problems in some countries like Saudi Arabia.

I pretty much summarized our time in Jordan. Jordan is a pretty good place to visit. It has plenty of sights and some unique scenery that we hadn't yet seen so far on our trip. It isn't as modern as I was led to believe from some of the research that I had done. It is probably more modern in some ways than other Middle Eastern countries we've been in but some of the towns and things we saw almost reminded me of Egypt which is not always a good thing. It is a little easier to get around because more people speak English plus ATMs are more common as well as having the ability pay for things with a Visa or MasterCard. I would recommend visiting Jordan if you were in the region but I am not sure I would recommend that you go out of your way to visit it either. It was still interesting and am glad we ended the Middle East portion of our trip before we start our safari in Africa.

Link to photo album:

Daily Log

Sunday November 14th
Departed bus at Jordan border.
Went into building to be processed. Cannot take luggage inside so you have to leave it sitting outside. Fortunately there were only about 10 people around & it wasn't hot or raining.
Each got Jordanian visa which cost 10 Jordanian Dinars or $14 USD. They only take cash and there is no ATM. I had exchanged my last Israeli Shekels for Dinars at the border crossing to pay for Alethea's visa. She had to get into her back pack to get a $20 & exchange it for Dinars to pay for mine.
Met a young man from NYC and split a taxi with him to Amman. He is a Palestinian American who speak Arabic, Hebrew, & English. He negotiated a rate with the taxi driver and we think we got a good deal. On the way to Amman we got stuck in a small town because there was a town lunch going on, actually it was just over with. The local politician who won the recent election had a luncheon for everyone. We had to navigate around the traffic jam.
Rental car person picked us up from the circle that the taxi person dropped us off from.
Left Amman in rental car. Made it out of the city but got lost outside of the city because there was some construction and we had to take a detour off the main highway and didn't see how to get back on. Made it back on the main rode and drove to our hotel (Dead Sea Spa Hotel).
Had dinner at hotel. Screwed up my order and service was slow.

Monday November 15th
Swam in Dead Sea
Ate buffet breakfast at hotel
Went to Bethany Beyond the Jordan – believed to be spot where Jesus was baptized.
Went to Mount Nebo – where Moses saw the promise land and also died. Saw mosaics from 6th century.
Drove the Kings Highway from Mudaba to Wadi Musa. Supposed to take 3 hours. Took about 5 hours. Got lost in Karak. Wasn't scenic or pretty. Pretty much a wasted. I was not in favor of doing this. It was not an enjoyable experience.

Tuesday November 16th
Visited Petra. Bought a two day pass for 55 dinar (1 day cost 50 dinar). It is a very big place. Takes 3 hires to hike across it one way. We didn't arrive until about 11:30 am. We slept in due to the all day driving plus there were multiple loud calls to prayer around 4:30 am. We hiked to the famous spot from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade plus hike around different area including up a high hill where you can look out into a valley and where they performed sacrifices. The buildings and structures carved into the hill are amazing. Took a lot of skill and time. We got back to car around 4 pm.

Wednesday November 17th
Arrived at Petra around 9:35 am. We hiked out all the way to As-Dier (Monastery). It took a little over 2 hours. It was sunny today versus yesterday which was overcast and rainy. It was up hill once we got to the base. As-Dier is just as impressive as the Indiana Jones spots. We also hike to what the tourist signs described as the end of the world. I believe it was another sacrifice place. We stopped and had snacks by As-Dier and then started the walk back which took another 2 hours. We arrived back to our car around 2 pm. We stopped at a bar at a hotel which is one of the few places that serves alcohol in Petra and both had some beers which was our first alcohol in a few days. We then retreated to our hotel and waited for a restaurant to open for dinner since we didn't have lunch. We did snack on some bananas and apples in our hotel room.

Thursday November 18th
Drove from Wadi Musa to Wadi Rum. Took about a hour.
Met Obeidi who took us to our camp at the visitor's center. We camped at a Bedouin camp in the Jordanian desert. Our camp had about 12 people in it plus the helpers. We arrived around 1:30 pm. We went on a 2.5 hour ride through the desert in a 4 wheel drive Toyota truck. The scenery was pretty. We stopped at some old Nabatean inscriptions, Lawrence of Arabia's house, and a rock face. We also stopped at a tourist stop to see some carvings in a rock before going to a sunset point before heading back to camp. We then drank some tea around the camp fire and ate dinner. After dinner I got a surprise. Alethea had informed them that it was my birthday and they delivered a cake and sang happy birthday to me in English and in Arabic. We stayed around the camp fire before going to bed. Our tent was kind of off by itself. Not sure why, maybe it was for Americans? Our tent was plenty big. I could stand up in it and you could easily sleep 6-8 adults. The mattres was small. My feet hung off the end. It didn't sleep all that well. The moon was bright but we saw plenty of stars. I woke up around 4:45 to use the bathroom. By then the moon has set and you could see nothing but start. Been a long time since I've seen that many stars.

Friday November 19th
Woke up @ 6:45 am with the alarm for our 7 am breakfast. Left the camp around 8:15 am.
Drover for about 35 minutes to Aqaba. Called for directions to our hotel (Bedouin Garden Village). Our hotel is only 10 km from the Saudi Arabia border which we cannot cross.
Checked into hotel around 9:30 am.
Walked to Red Sea which was across the street. Decided not to swim there. It was a little windy.
Swam in hotel pool for a few minutes but the water was cold.
Drove into town and bought 20 dinars of gas and a 6 pack of beer which is not always easy to come by in Jordan.
Spent a hour washing clothes by hand so everything would be clean for Africa.
Spent a couple hours finishing the book I picked up in Luxor called The Hunt for Pablo.
Worked on pictures and blog for the rest of the night.

Saturday November 20th
Plan is to leave around 11 am and reach Amman around 2 pm.
Our flight to Cairo departs @ 5:30 pm.