Here’s another one I drafted months ago and am only just getting around to posting!
As I think I mentioned in my previous posts, I’ve been working flat out here for a few months now, and so it crept up on me somehow that I was due for my RnR break (we get 5 days RnR, plus 2 days for travel every 3 months).
I also suddenly realised that March was an incredibly busy month, with the financial year-end, and a lot of activities planned and needing to be implemented (and money needing to be spent!) asap. So I realised on a Thursday that if I didn’t take my RnR immediately, I wouldn’t have a chance to go at all, so I planned a very hasty and last-minute trip to our designated RnR spot – Jordan and I was on a plane by Monday!
I’ve always wanted to see Petra, and so I planned a little trip, in which I was going to spend 2 nights in Petra, 1 night in a bedouin camp in Wadi Rum desert, 1 night at a posh resort at the Dead Sea and then a couple of nights in Amman.
I spent an absolute fortune on transport – taxis are hugely expensive there, and I was travelling alone so couldn’t share the cost with anyone, and it was generally a very expensive holiday, but it was totally worth it – Jordan is fantastic!
Petra was every bit as incredible as I thought it would be. Utterly Amazing.
I arrived on Monday, and drove straight to Petra, with only a slight detour to play with some snow still left on the hilltops, (yes, it was still that cold in the mountains in March!) and I managed to fit in a quick tour of Little Petra nearby before sunset. I checked into my hotel, and had time to grab a bite to eat before the Petra by night tour, which was magical, walking down through the canyons by moonlight.
On Tuesday I got up at the crack of dawn, took my packed breakfast bag that the hotel thoughtfully provided, and made it to the entrance gate by 6.15am. I was rewarded for my efforts by being the very first tourist to arrive at the Treasury, and the lovely overnight security guard shared his tea with me. I ate my breakfast quietly enjoying the view, and had the canyon all to myself until the first early-morning tour group arrived.
I walked around the site for hours – it’s really huge and there is so much to see! Around 9am I stopped for a cup of tea and found a nice guide to take me up one of the trails to the “high place” (there’s about 3 “high places” on the site) so that I could see the Treasury from above. My guide was a lovely older man called Mohammed, and he went at exactly the right pace for me – and needed to stop and catch his breath as often as I did, which made me feel better! Of course I found out later that he was 75, so he had a slightly better excuse for being out of breath than I did! However we climbed up an awful lot of stairs, and eventually made it to the top, where we had a dizzying view of the canyon and the treasury from above.
By the end of Tuesday I had walked about 15km, including hauling myself up some pretty big rocks, and I made it back to my hotel exhausted around 3pm. I have never felt more tired or more satisfied with a day’s sightseeing! It’s truly breathtaking, and everyone should see Petra once in their lives. I was worried it somehow wouldn’t live up to the hype, but the place is incredible, and breathtaking, and so, so special. Walking through the cool, narrow canyons, running your hand along the stone walls, worn smooth by hundreds of thousands of other hands that came before you, imagining what it must have been like as a bustling marketplace over 2,000 years ago. It’s Incredible. I stopped by the visitor’s centre on my way out, and learnt all sorts of fascinating things about the Nabateans, but I won’t bore you with my newfound historical knowledge – you’ll just have to look it up!
On Wednesday I headed over to Wadi Rum, where after a few hiccups on the booking front I managed to find a nice camp to stay at, and got a 4×4 desert tour. At first, having already seen Petra, I was sure I wouldn’t be all that impressed with the desert, and was kicking myself for doing the best things first, (should have saved Petra for the end of the week as the big finale!). However the desert was surprisingly beautiful and majestic. I climbed up a couple of red sand dunes, (barefoot, as my guide informed me it’s easier that way – and it was lovely feeling the sand squishing through your toes – although I suspect impossible to do that in the summer without burning your feet!).
I climbed up onto a rock bridge, and walked through sandy canyons, and played with some baby camels, and it was gorgeous, and very peaceful. Then at one of the bigger rock bridges, which I was far too scared to climb up, I bumped into a colleague from the Philippines! Such a small world! She has been working in Lebanon for the last 6 months, and was also in Jordan for some RnR before she left. Turns out we were staying in the same camp, and the evening sunset was fab. It got very cold in the desert, and extremely windy, but the moon was so bright I swear you could have gone hiking all night. It was completely still and quiet and equally breathtaking. I only wish the moon hadn’t been quite so full and bright, as we didn’t see as many stars as I’d have liked (Note to self – next time go when there’s no moon, to get the most of the desert stars!).
I slept surprisingly well given how chilly it was (the “tents” had camp beds and plenty of blankets, plus I brought my hot water bottle along!), and the morning views were just as lovely.
On Thursday morning I headed out towards the Dead Sea – a 4-hour drive along some pretty stunning mountain roads. The Dead Sea is 420m below sea level, and it was much warmer there compared to Petra and the Desert!
I had originally planned to stay for only one night, as the resort I was staying in was pretty expensive, however once I got there and started to enjoy all the swimming pools, spas and other facilities I decided to splurge and stay for an extra night! (Well, I was supposed to be on RnR after all!). It was very relaxing and indulgent, and I enjoyed bobbing about in the Dead Sea, slathering myself in mud, and lounging by the pool, drinking mojitos beside the jaccuzzi, and watching the sun set over the ocean.
It was all very blissful and relaxing! Once again, photos from the Dead Sea are here...
Then on Saturday I headed back to Amman, after a quick stop at Mount Nebu and Madaba, the Mosaic city, to see some really ancient mosaics, and the view that God apparently showed to Moses before he died. Once in Amman I had time for a quick trip to the Roman theatre and bazaar to pick up a few souvenirs for some friends, and one more night of holiday relaxation before heading off to the airport and back to Iraq on Sunday.
I packed a lot into my RnR trip, but I feel totally rested and relaxed, and it was fantastic to get to see and do so many wonderful things. I cannot recommend Jordan enough to anyone wanting an exciting and unique holiday – there’s so much to see and do, and it completly lives up to the hype and expectation. There’s a reason Petra is one of the seven Modern Wonders of the World, and Jordan has a lot to offer beyond just Petra.
Consider me utterly enthralled, people!