The arabian dream
Escaping the winter for a bit seemed so compelling so Leš and I started to look for plane tickets to Cambodia. I always wanted to go and he's just seen a friend who lived there for a few months so he was pretty convinced too. While I was searching for cheaper tickets, one city suddenly popped on a kiwi.com flight map with a price tag 36$ and from all the places in the world it was Eilat, Israel. It was a great price so I googled the weather there and realised it is also very sunny and warm during the European winter, therefore our decision was made rather easy. Even though it's a whole lot different part of the world than previously planned and the thought of visiting it this soon never crossed our minds, we decided to go to Eilat and then cross the border to Aqaba, Jordan (which is 5 kilometres away) and start our journey from there.
Our first Jordanian experience was magical Wadi Rum desert and also it was our first ever experience of that kind! While I was still at home, I booked 2 nights in the Bedouin Desert Camp (huge recommendation) for us, so our host Khalid came to pick us up in his 4x4 at the entrance (first photo) to the desert (the 'entrance' is considered a boundary that separates deep sand for which you need a four wheel drive from shallow sand or ground existing in pre-desert landscapes). The ride to the camp was quite a surreal moment; just being there was out of this world, but also, it was this late and very hot afternoon, sky jewelled only with peculiarly enlarged sun, sand dunes marking the 360 degree horizon and our car kept going so fast through the desert we both needed to hold our bags so they won't fall out. The best thing about that moment was the fact that we didn't even know this was going to be the absolute highlight of our trip here.
After about half an hour we reached our camp! Khalid showed us everything we needed to know and we soon left our things in the tent and rushed outside to catch the sunrise. He showed us a spot above the camp where we had the most magnificent view!
We decided to take a walk during sunset so we climbed down and took some more photos in the desert before the Bedouin dinner.
The Bedouin dinner (barbecue), called Zarp, has been prepared for centuries in these parts of the world and it is still a big part of Bedouin culture. We were introduced to it in a very mystified way which was exciting because it was that element of surprise that made learning about it more fun. Khalid gathered everybody in the circle around one particular spot in the sand, asked if we are up for searching for the food around the desert just like in the old days. Naturally everyone laughed but he stayed serious to mess with us even more. Few moments later he put a big satisfied smile on his face and without a word started removing the sand from that spot around which we stood. He uncovered a barbecue panel and a minute or two later pulled out the racks with food which has been deep in the ground for 5-6 hours, magically baked by the sun heat during the day. We went to the dinner tent and tried it. There was nothing softer in the world than that sun baked food right there in that moment, I promise you. Unfortunately, I didn't even try to take photos from all that awe I was in. If you want to know more about this impressive technique, here's the link.
The next day we decided to wake up early to catch the sunrise and after that we arranged the half day jeep tour around the desert with Khalid and our new friends we met over dinner - Yahia from Egypt and Reiki from Denmark who has been living in the camp volunteering in exchange for food and accommodation. We drove all around the desert, met the camels, saw the big arch that has been made by wind moving the sand particles over the centuries, ran barefoot over the highest dunes and learned that all this area was once completely underwater. How amazing!
On the top of the arch. Reiki showing Leš her sand drawing skills :)
When the jeep tour ended we went back to our camp and took another walk before the sunset. It was our last night here so we seized the day. The next day we headed to Petra. Khalid, being the greatest host we could ask for, arranged the mini bus that picked us up in front of the entrance to the desert and left us near the Petra Palace hotel, our accommodation. Here are some pictures from our last day in Wadi Rum :)
Our next chapter was visiting the most famous location in Jordan - Petra, a beautiful ancient sand city, now a part of the seven World Wonders.
We stayed in the hotel called Petra Palace which was really not expensive considering others and the best thing about it that it is located 5 minutes away from the entrance to Petra. When we arrived to hotel it was too late to visit Petra so we stayed in, ordered pizza and just enjoyed the rest of the day preparing for tomorrow. Early in the morning, around 5 am, we woke up, went to hotel breakfast which was included in the price (a big plus) and around 6 am we were amongst first few people at the entrance. TIP: do not fall for the horse riding guys. They will tell you the ride is included in the price but it isn't so if you are not ready to pay take a walk through The Siq (canyon), it is very easy and not that long.
The canyon itself is immensely impressive so we took loads of pictures of course! We didn't know how long the path actually is so we hoped to see The Treasury after each corner until one moment when we knew that this was it. I was so excited! We started walking a bit faster and then the canyon opened up. It was the most beautiful view and I loved the fact it was so mystic and reserved and not plainly just there but you needed to work your way through it. TIP: Girls, even though it is very very hot during the day, try to dress properly. Don't show legs if you don't need to and try not to be vulgar. Respect the culture of the country you're in and respect their views and beliefs even thought they differ from yours.
When we reached The Treasury I felt so many things at once I can't describe it. I won't even try to because it is something you need to experience on your own. If you ever think about visiting, don't think twice! Petra itself is a good enough reason and I don't even need to mention the others. We spent the rest of our day in Petra, just sightseeing, taking pictures, walking, climbing even! TIP: Make sure to bring your own food. You have so many little food stores around hotel, so if you're on budget you can easily save money by not eating in Petra. It's not that expensive, but it is way cheaper to have your own food. Bring some fruits and looots of water. You will need it!
On your way in, you will get a brochure from where you can easily follow different paths and know where to go depending on what you want to see. We saw The Treasury, Royal Tombs (make sure to climb all the way up, the view is pretty awesome), the Theatre, Colonnaded Street and of course we climbed extra 2,5 hours to get to The Monastery. It was not that hard but it takes a lot of time so people usually get tired. The locals will offer you to take a donkey on the way up but please don't do it. I cried and got very frustrated when I saw the way they are treating animals (donkeys, dogs, horses and camels), beating them, exploit them to carry overweight people and huge amounts of water all the way up. I even had a conversation with one of the local boys and he sad that they are taught (!!) to treat the animals like that from a very early age. It's just something we can't stop right now but I would like to spread the awareness and urge you to not take part in any of that. At the same time I hope that in the future there will be some ways to control this kind of behaviour and a punishment for all those people who treat animals badly like these people do.
TIP: If you want to see The Treasury from above, ask one of the local guys to show you the way. It is not something you could find on your own and the path is not shown on the map because it is kind of dangerous and you need someone to take you there. The boys here are very young and they earn money by doing this so don't hesitate to give them some cash. As I mentioned before, we had a really nice conversation with the boy who took us up there and in those 20 minutes I learned more about their culture than during our whole stay in Jordan. Their lives are rather hard; they are cave people literally living inside the caves and they are denied basic education just because it's really expensive and they struggle to make their own way in the world. When Petra became the World Wonder in 2007, the number of tourists became much higher and hence it was only naturally they stay there and try to earn money in their own backyard. The boy we talked with learned english just by talking to tourists from when he was 5 years old! Also, he said that he never hit an animal and that he is disgusted by that so it really is just a personal choice rather than behaviour that derived from the conditions they live in.
We took the time to hang out with the camels when we climbed down from The Monastery. I just sat on one camel for the photo, I didn't want to ride it because I felt horrible even sitting on one for a minute.
The day almost came to an end so we went back to The Treasury and then went up for that view from above with the local boy. I still remember the chills I had up there because it was so high and unprotected from falling so naturally I was scared to death. I would do it again a million times! After that we saw that almost all people went home so we took the opportunity of having The Treasury for ourselves and of course took many photos.
We had a 2 day entrance to Petra so we did go the next day as well! It felt more relaxed and we enjoyed it more since I didn't need to take photos at all. The reason we had a two day ticket is because we bought it with Jordan pass. TIP: If you plan to visit Jordan, Jordan pass is the best and cheapest way to get visa, tickets to Petra, Amman citadel and so on. For more info check their website. We went back to the hotel a bit earlier than the day before and got ready for Petra by night. It happens only 3 times a week so make sure you find yourselves there in the time of the event. It is not included in the regular ticket to Petra but it's worth it! It is really an amazing way to experience this World Wonder with more opportunity to learn about its history and so unforgettable you will cherish these memories forever.
We really tried to take a good photograph but it was so hard without a tripod and the crowd made it even more difficult. Leš was sooooo patient I cannot describe it right now but he did manage to find a spot on the wall where he could hold the camera steady for 30 seconds so he in fact captured this tremendous moment.
It was the time to say goodbye to Petra and head to the Dead Sea. Since we didn't rent the car we needed to arrange the taxi! It was so expensive but it was the only way because there were no busses on that day towards the Dead Sea. We messaged Khalid and he sent his friend to pick us up. He was the most kind and beautiful human, earning money so his daughter can go to college and become a doctor. He also learned english by speaking with his clients. My heart broke several times during our ride hearing his stories and I instantly felt privileged just living in Europe and having free education and I won't even mention all the other things. On our way to the Dead Sea, we chose a scenic route rather than highway so we took some nice photos in the mountains as well.
Our time by the sea was really nice but we weren't lucky with the weather. It was really windy so we didn't quite had the best experience of floating and enjoying it like we would otherwise. Also, there were so many flies out there I was so nervous haha! We couldn't eat without 3 or 4 flies (at least) enjoying our food as well. We stayed at the Mujib Chalets (airbnb) and I recommend it big time!
Refreshed and sun fed we were ready for our last stop in Jordan - the capital Amman. Once again we had to take a taxi to the city because again no busses! TIP: If you can, rent a car! You will save a lot of time, money, nerves and you will have the maximum freedom while exploring this beautiful country.
During our short stay in Amman we only got to explore The citadel. It's a must, especially if you are able to go in time of sunset or sunrise. We also took a walk in the downtown but we were 'rewarded' with too many strange looks so we didn't stay long. I suppose it's because of piercings and tattoos and they are not really used to seeing it, especially on a girl. I was covered but still it showed I guess. Nevertheless, I still think it is very safe to be here and to travel around Jordan. You just have to respect the culture like I mentioned before. Later on, we found an amazing restaurant but I can't remember the name unfortunately! The food was to die for! TIP: Jordan is mostly a cash country. Make sure you have it! There aren't much ATM's and the fee for a different currency is big so the easy way is to arrive prepared! Sadly, this was our last night in Jordan. We were so happy and fulfilled. Such an unforgettable experience we will cherish forever in our hearts. I really do hope I can inspire some of you to visit as well, you won't regret it I promise!
Stay adventurous and I wish you happy travels! :)
Also, here’s our video from Jordan :)