Travels in Jordan

Today is my last day in Jordan. It’s 7am, 28c in the shade, and I’m looking at an oasis of resort swimming pools before the West Bank of Palestine hugs the expanse of the Dead Sea. It’s been a magical week and I’m going to miss this country and the beautiful people who inhabit it.

It was a laborious route from Edinburgh to Amman. I knew it would be, but reality is more realistic than theory. Edinburgh airport is chaos – domestic and international, arrivals and departures, all gathering at the front door. Anxiety sky high after I inadvertently threw our plane tickets away. We traveled 13 hours from Edinburgh to Amman, arriving at 5am looking like walking zombies. It was bliss to see a delightful man holding a sign with our neatly printed names. We breezed through customs and headed straight to our hotel thanks to his efficiency.

We opted for organised tours in Jordan and Turkey as political unrest made us wonder about safety. Other travelers must have wondered the same, as all but three of us canceled. We spent a delicious week touring Jordan with our new friend, a Brazilian woman, beautiful inside and out. Locals joyously shout, Welcome to Jordan! everywhere we go. I guess red hair, lily white skin, aussie akubra hat, and cameras dangling around our necks, mark us as tourists.

We visited Jerash and the Amman Citadel before driving to Petra. I had no idea what to expect in Jerash – maybe a couple of ruins before heading to one of Jordan’s treasures. But it’s a lot more than a couple of ruins – it’s a Greco-Roman city full of exquisite ruins and fascinating facts. An intact amphitheater, replete with Jordanian bagpiper and drummers, reveals the genius of ancient acoustic engineering. Put your ear to one circular niche and chat to your buddy on the opposite side of the arena. Totally audible despite the bagpiper, and distant repeats of Fur Elise piped not from an ice cream van, but the man selling gas bottles door to door in modern Jerash.

We arrive in Petra in time for dinner – a traditional Jordanian feast, served in a Bedouin tent, watching the sunset over the gorge. Magical really doesn’t do the scene justice. The only thing I can say is, go to Petra. Stay at the Marriott and experience it yourself. You won’t regret it.

The next day we visit the infamous locale from Indiana Jones & the Last Crusade. It’s incredible. Unbelievable. Inconceivable. Awe-inspiring. Not enough adjectives. A UNESCO world heritage site – one of the new7wonders of the world. We meander through close-walled pink sandstone canyons with our guide pointing out fascinating facts. We stop and hold hands in a carved niche while looking at the ancient scripture facing us – as newlyweds in the Nabatean Kingdom would have done. Emerging from a narrow gap we see the Treasury in all its glory. Spectacular. Awash with the melody of camels and donkeys, vendors and tourists, horses and chariots. The hot July temperatures mean it’s low season – quiet enough to stand alone in front of the ancient tomb for a few moments.

The trek to the basin has no shade and every step’s a little warmer as we pass royal tombs, kids whipping donkeys, cats aplenty, and tourists on camels. The basin is at the foot of 850 steps to the Monastery. No big deal – I’ve climbed more than that. (Not in 40c heat.) We trek up the steep path, admiring emerging views behind us while dodging tourist-laden donkeys fearlessly hugging the narrow edges. Shortly before I meet my favourite vendor Turquoise, I’m more cold than hot – little chills shivering through me. I lean back into the nearest rock, sitting to stop my spinning head. My husband takes the backpack and I down more water. We’re halfway – not turning back now.

Arriving at the Monastery is beautiful. Few tourists and the ancient princely tomb just as impressive as the Treasury on the canyon floor. A short climb to “the best view in the whole world”, where we pass numerous signs with arrows pointing in every direction to “the best view in the whole world”. It really is a stunning view – I highly recommend it. And the sense of accomplishment is pretty special too.

We’d meandered nearly four hours to get from the visitor center to the summit, leisurely enjoying sites and history. It’s about 90 minutes without stopping. We chat to Turquoise and her four cats on the way back, buying trinkets and donating sunscreen to a worthy cause. Midway down, my husband’s gone ahead when a guy asks my friend and I if we’ll take his photo. Sure! We do it all the time. I grab the camera, he asks my beautiful Brazilian friend to join him. Okay. He wants a photo with the Australian girl. Okay. He puts his arm around me and I feel uncomfortable, but say nothing. Then he drapes himself around my neck like a lover, reaching for my breasts, and my friend shouts, No! Stop! And we leave with his apologies ringing in our ears, an angry Brazilian calling back what a bad man he is.

We meet my husband who’s not impressed then continue to the basin before venturing into the seering afternoon heat back to the Treasury – no shade now. (I’m really not great with heat.) We’ve had at least six bottles of water and a gatorade between two of us, but no food since breakfast eight hours earlier. By the time I see shade in the distance it’s clear I’m struggling – lurching around like a drunkard. I’ll be fine. I’m relieved of everything I’m carrying and keep lurching towards the shade. When I get there I can’t stand and unceremoniously slump to the dust. That’s too exhausting so I lie down to sleep. I’ll be fine. Just give me a moment. I hear my husband talking then cool water is poured over me. I’m lying in the red dust wearing a long sleeved white top which is now saturated. I’m too old for a wet t-shirt competition but I feel well enough to sit up. No. I don’t need an ambulance. Someone hands me an electrolyte sweet, someone else hands me an orange, and the policeman asks if I need an ambulance or a donkey. No. I’m fine. No idea how long I’m on the ground before I walk the two minutes to the police cabin at the Treasury and sit in a comfy chair for goodness knows how long, feeling spectacularly stupid, then return to the visitor center – only just making it. Our 90 minute walk took four hours. Long day. My shirt needs a good wash.

Another sunset bedouin feast then the next day we return to Amman, visiting more biblical and historic sites along the way. Our final three nights have been at the Dead Sea. After visiting the Baptism Site on the way, we’ve done nothing but lounge about on banana lounges in air-conditioned spa facilities. Periodically leaving luxury to eat and sleep. I feel utterly, utterly rested. And spoiled rotten. I’ve never subjected myself to such decadence, and may never again. Tomorrow we head to Turkey for new wall to wall adventures. I’m gonna miss Jordan.

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