Adventure Travel is one of my favorite types of travel. They are usually a little less expensive as they can be relatively budget in design, provide a bit of physical activity along with opportunities to interact with the locals in the destination. Petra has been on my bucket list ever since it was chosen as one of the modern wonders of the world. Plus I love the Middle East with its deeply historic yet almost romantic atmosphere, even though it has been a somewhat volatile destination in recent years. My friend and I were in need of an adventure so we booked a tour called from Petra to the Pyramids with The Imaginative Traveller and off to Jordan we went.
We arrived into Amman very late at night so our main priority was to find our hotel and get some much needed sleep. Kara, our tour guide was at the hotel to greet us when we checked in, which was a welcome relief for two gals arriving in a foreign country.
It is often difficult to get a good night’s sleep in a new place, especially when one is over-tired and a startlingly loud call to prayer at 5:00 a.m. didn’t help. And another at 5:30 and again at 6:00 a.m. OK I am up! Today we were off on a walking tour of Amman. Right away we were struggling up some very steep stairs to the Citadel. The young ones in our group skipped up and the rest of us showed silent determination that yes we could make it plus it was already quite warm. The Citadel was the site of an ancient ruin first built by the Greeks and they have uncovered three different layers of history here. There was a temple to Hercules built by the Romans and our guide told us Amman was called Philadelphia back in these times. We toured the little museum there too and they had some of the Dead Sea Scrolls on display which was quite impressive.
It was starting to get hot now as we continued our walk down to the Roman Amphitheatre which was a beautiful ancient site, right in the middle of Amman. We continued a brief walk along some of the modern streets which were bustling with activity. Amman is a big modern city with over 2 million people. Some of us stopped at “Hamus” for lunch. It was a little fast food place that served pita bread, hummus and some little veggie balls that I don’t remember the name of. We were all hungry and the food was good and very cheap. We paid 2 JDs each which was less than $3.00 for us. Now back up a long, long flight of stairs to our hotel. I had come to the conclusion that all Jordanians need to be very fit to live in Amman as there are stairs and steep hills everywhere. The city started out with seven hills and has now spread to twenty-two, I believe. In the afternoon we took a taxi to Jerash. It was almost 50 kilometers north of Amman and is a great Greco-Roman city ruin. Jerash is considered to be one of the best preserved Roman ruins in the Eastern World and well worth a visit.
We were on our way to the Dead Sea and were excited to see what lay ahead. The Dead Sea is 33% salt and a very pale blue hue. We were really there in the Holy Land where prophets walked and so much history evolved. Awesome! The road sign pointing the opposite way from where we turned off said it took one to the spot where Jesus was baptised by John. Unfortunately, it was not on our itinerary. We drove into the parking area of a 5-star resort – The Dead Sea Spa Hotel and Medical Centre and we would be able to use the facilities here for the morning. It was fairly quiet but apparently it is teaming with people on the weekends. The cost for our morning was 28 JD to enter and use the facilities and another 9 JD (Jordanian Dinars) for the buffet lunch. The sea water was warm, a little rocky underfoot and we were warned to not get the water in our eyes or in little cuts as the salt can be wicked. The water was amazingly buoyant and we spent a good time floating about. Some of the group tried covering themselves with the mud, which was supposed to be very therapeutic. It costs another 2-3 JDs but we decided the salt was enough for our little bodies. The Dead Sea Hotel had three pools that we could make use of so we headed back and found a couple of nice lounge chairs in the shade. A quick dip in the pool and a lovely buffet lunch and we were on the road again.
This was the highlight day of our trip for me. We were going to see Petra!! Up at 5:30 a.m. and on the coach by 7:00 a.m. so we could get there early ahead of the crowds. I was so pumped! The walk through the Siq was magical. It is the ancient main entrance into Petra, an impressive 1200 meter long deep and narrow gorge. The rock formations were colorful and stunning to see. Horse-drawn carts kept going past us taking those not able to walk into the site. Our guide pointed out various rock formations and places where the Nabataeans had carved into the rock or dammed up a spot to divert the water. Kara told us to go to the left side of the path and look straight ahead. There through a slim sliver of light we saw the first glimpse of the Treasury. Beyond my wildest dream! It was spectacular and as we walked on it opened up until we were standing right in front of the Al-Khazneh.
Wow! I couldn’t believe I was standing there looking up at this famous work of art! Pinch, pinch! There were lots of people, camels, and horses… a whole menagerie of sights and sounds and emotions. It was a lot to take in but I loved every second!
Our guide told us a bit of the history and how they were continuing to dig down under the Treasury and had found chambers. The Treasury or Al-Khazneh is 30 meters wide and 43 meters high and was inspired by the Greeks, Alexander the Great. It was carved by an important Nabataean king as a tomb. I knew from a little of my own research that they had carved it from the top down, which was not only an unusual way to execute such a feat but was also a brilliant method. We then walked through the Petra site with a two-hour guided tour. It was amazing and there was so much to see. We ended at the foot of the monastery where we stop for a very substantial bagged lunch.
We had the afternoon free to go up the steps to the monastery or re-visit any of the places we have seen. If it was cooler I would have hiked up the steps but I knew my limits in the heat so we ambled back towards the Treasury and just took it all in. There were a few shops set up along the way so we visited them too. We were looking at some jewellery on one little ledge and chatted with the young fellow there. He had a book called “Married to a Bedouin”, which I was looking at and he told me his mother had written it. I was impressed and then he said she was right there and introduced us to her. So, long story short, I had to buy the book so I could learn her story. She autographed it for me too. As we walked along we were marvelling at how so many of the young Bedouin men looked just like Johnny Depp did in “Pirates of the Caribbean.” They had the head scarves and put kohl on their eyes. It was all entertaining to observe and they seemed a very fun-loving group of people. We sat in front of the Treasury for a while and enjoyed two cups of mint tea before walking back through the Siq.
Part of our entry fee to Petra included a horse ride the short distance from the entrance to the Siq back up to the Visitors Centre. I got a tall white horse and enjoyed my ride to complete my Petra experience.
We were back on the bus and headed to the Bedouin Camp for our night in the desert. It was another two hour drive and we arrived in the dark. It was quite touristy and there were other groups of people already there. The tents were long rows of cubicles, two cots each. There was a common area where we gathered for our meal and entertainment. They did have flush-toilets which were much appreciated. The meal was quite good, partly because I was starving as usual, but also it was lamb cooked under the sand in a pit. They had an assortment of salads and rice. I tucked in and it was delicious. It had been a long very fulfilling day and I was exhausted. I had brought my own little blankets to spread on the cot as I kind of have a thing about sleeping in places where the bedding may not get washed daily. It was quite warm so I was not too worried about getting cold. We discovered there were mosquitoes sharing our space so I was thankful that I had remembered to bring insect spray with me.
No call to prayer out there in the desert BUT the camels were disgruntled over something and made a lot of racket. I think they were right outside our tent! We had our standard flat bread for breakfast and met the camels at 7:30 a.m. The camel ride was hilarious, I loved it. My poor camel had a bit of barbed wire around the back of his head though which was terrible and his partner behind us was continually trying to bite me. Nasty fellow but he wasn’t getting any of my leg! The ride lasted about an hour and was great fun. After our camel ride we got into little pick-up trucks with seats in the back, which they called jeeps and we headed out into the desert. Over a few sand dunes and it was absolutely beautiful. There were just miles and miles of sand with rocks jutting up and the odd camel resting. We even came upon a Bedouin snuggled up in his sleeping bag. I don’t think he really appreciated us waking him. We stopped for tea at a little outpost and then headed back to our camp. The scenery was breathtaking and very enjoyable.
We continued our journey on to the port city of Aqaba, where we would cross the Red Sea into Egypt, climb Mt. Sinai and eventually arrive in Cairo. The Imaginative Traveller provides fantastic itineraries as do several companies offering Adventure Travel. If you love the outdoors and walking, hiking or cycling, you will definitely enjoy these types of travel. Check your bucket lists and call me today for information on your next great adventure!