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Unforgettable Jordan, a bucket-list destination

Follow my blog with Bloglovin. Since living in the Middle East (Doha, Qatar), we really have tried to visit the surrounding countries on short, weekend trips. We try to make the most of our time here and see as much as we can, as we could move at any time. Contract work really is “The Life in Limbo”!

We only had three days to visit Jordan and expected to fit in a lot. A work colleague from Jordan, gave us the email of a driver. It was the best thing that could have happened to us. Our driver’s name was Shadi, from Abu Rashad Taxi ([email protected]) and he worked out a jam-packed itenery for us! He was super nice and helpful and we can never thank him enough. On our own, we would not have been able to see and do as much as we did.

Our 3 day itinerary:

  1. Airport pickup, Jerash, Ajloun Castle, the Dead Sea.
  2. The Baptism site, Madaba, Mount Nebo and Karak Castle
  3. Visit to Petra and return to Amman International Airport

When planning your trip, the official Jordan Tourism Board has a very comprehensive and informative website.

After Shadi picked us up at the Amman International Airport, our morning started off by heading North. Surprisingly, the scenery reminded me a lot of my birth country, South Africa. Jordan has a very diverse landscape ranging from arrid semi-desert, to Rocky Mountains and farming lands where they grow tomatoes and olives.

Our first stop was the ruins of an old Crusader Castle, Ajlun Castle (also known as Qal’at (Castle) Ar-Rabad). Unfortunately, we were swamped by bus loads of high school boys who were very loud and rather rude. One asked to take a photo with me and then the rest just took liberty and went wild photographing us. We had to leave to get rid of them. It was very unpleasant., I’m sure this must be what it’s like to be harassed by paparazzi!

A highlight of this day was definitely the Ruins of the ancient Graeco-Roman city of Jerash. They ruins were amazing – they are equally as impressive as the ruins in Athens and Rome, I’ve been to both. Do not skip a visit to Jerash, as I’m 100% certain you will regret it! It was boiling hot though and I thought I was going to melt.

Shadi took us for a lovely local buffet lunch, with freshly baked Arabian bread on site.

Me and Shadi at the bakery by the restaurant where we had lunch.

It was already getting dark by the time we reached our destination for the night – the magnificent Kempinski Ishtar by the Dead Sea.

Fun fact, the Dead Sea is the lowest point on earth!

After check in, we only just had enough time to change and go for a quick swim in the Dead Sea, since it is not allowed after 6pm. It surely was a strange experience, and if I’m honest, I did not love it. I really felt like I had no control, you float around so much! And of coarse I got some of the saltiest water in the world in my eyes! Yeah, that was fun.

What I did enjoy was the mud! Unlike I believed, you do not scoop it up from the bottom of the Dead Sea. It is brought in from deeper in the sea and placed in big buckets, where you can go and slather yourself. You then need to let it dry. Since we did not have heaps of time, I washed mine off after 15 minutes.

Dinner was not traditionally Middle Eastern, but Asian at The Codes Pan Asian restaurant, and the curries were delicious.

Shadi picked us up again after breakfast the next morning and we headed of to the Biblical Baptism site where Jesus was baptised by John , close to the border with Israel. Since this was a bit out of season, we had to wait until they had enough people to fill the bus that would take us to the river. We decided against waiting, and left as we still had a lot to see and do that day. Shadi took the King’s Highway and we drove through beautiful hills to the city Madaba, “the City of Mosaics.” – See more here. There we visited a beautiful handicraft and mosaic shop and I bought some salt scrub and bath salts made from Dead Sea salt and minerals. It also makes for great gifts from Jordan!

We also visited Mount Nebo, with a magnificent view of “the promised land (Israel).” This is also where the prophet Mousa (Moses from the Bible) is said to be buried.

Karak Castle was our next stop. My heart goes out to everyone affected by last year’s shooting. This was an isolated incident and I truly hope Jordan will recover from it. Tourism is vitally important to them. This castle has many halls and passageways, with part of it underground. At all the sites you can hire a guide, but we found their English to be very poor. Best to read up about each location online.

We also had a late buffet lunch, just outside the castle in a small local restaurant, it was modest but we enjoyed it very much.

Our road trip for the day finished as we checked into the Marriot Petra Hotel for the night. The Hotel has a stunning location overlooking the Valley. It was clean and neat, but the decor is a bit old.

Shadi invited us for dinner to a local Bedouin camp The Seven Wonders, where he was staying. This was another first for me and although this camp was very much geared towards tourists, it was a great experience. The Bedouin people were friendly and entertaining. We had a buffet dinner and local tea around the fire pit. We ended the night with them singing, dancing and playing local music for us.

The next morning we visited the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra, this was the main event for us! It is truly magical to walk through the gorge, between the cliffs, leading to the Treasury. This site featured in the movie Indiana Jones and the last crusade!

The sheer scale of the carvings, stones and columns is just breathtaking. I don’t think my words can do it justice and you’ll simply have to go and experience it for yourself!

A few tips for visiting Petra:

  • Wear comfortable, sturdy walking shoes. It is extremely rocky and on the stone steps, it is sandy and slippery.
  • People think short sleeves are best for hot weather, it is not. Learn a lesson from locals and cover up! Be sure to wear sun screen as well. And a hat!
  • We saw many people with small children, just note that this may not be an easy trip for them as you do have to walk, a lot. I don’t believe the terrain is suitable for prams etc, so be prepared to carry your kids. Kids can also not be left unattended as there are Bedouins speeding along in horse carriages and they can easily run someone over.
  • Take your own water. There are some places to buy water and ice cream, but they are few and far apart.

We had an absolutely amazing, but exhausting time. We headed back to Amman and had yet another buffet lunch on the way there. We’ve come to realise that this is standard tourist fare, but it is traditional food and not bad at all, so I am not complaining!

This time round we did not take the Kings Highway, but the quicker Highway 15. This highway was in a terrible condition and it is very unsafe, with potholes everywhere. For this reason alone I would again recommend getting a driver who knows what he is doing, rather than renting a car. We saw at least four accidents on our way between Petra and Amman.

This Jordan trip is one I will be talking about for years to come and I plan to go back and visit the Wadi Rum (hopefully for a balloon ride!). I do hope you get to see it too!

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Unforgettable Jordan, a bucket-list destination


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