Jordan was incredible, wonderful and so many other positive superlatives that I don’t need to write. I arrived just one week after the attack in Karak so we were unable to make that scheduled stop. Instead, we saw Little Petra.
But before we get to Little Petra, the trip began on Christmas Eve. Having booked the trip with G Adventures several months earlier, everything was pre-arranged and in order. Our group, which consisted mostly of solo travelers, was 15 people from all around the globe. The US, Japan, Indonesia, Canada, Korea, Lithuania, Australia and Poland were all represented. Everyone but me was on holiday break and chose to spend it in a foreign country rather than at home.
Christmas Day dawned with an early wake up to begin our tour. That first day we saw Jarash – a city built by the Greeks, destroyed by the Romans and then rebuilt by them on the Greek’s foundations. It was an absolutely freezing day. There was light rain off and on and it was so much colder than predicted in the weather report. Despite all of that, the ancient city was fascinating. Our next stop that day was the Dead Sea – thank goodness it was much warmer there and those who wanted to were able to take a dip. The stories are right – it is VERY salty. After our salty float we headed back to Amman for the evening and a local dinner.
Monday was another early morning – there is a theme here. This was by no means a leisurely tour but no one was complaining. We visited the supposed place of Moses’ residence where a temple and some mosaics are preserved. On our way to lunch we stopped at another well-known temple in Madaba where a mosaic of the ancient Middle East was preserved. By the time the sun began to set, we made it to Little Petra where we agreed would do since we were unable to see the Karak Castle. True to its name, Little Petra resembled Petra in that it was a small city built into the rock face. This is the place that VIP guests would come to rest a couple of days before continuing to Petra. And continue to Petra we did.
We spent the night in Wadi Musa, very near the entrance gate, and planned for a 5am wake up in order to be at the gate when it opened at 6am sharp. Although the wake up hour was not pleasant, it was quite nice to be the first ones through the gate and have zero crowds as we approached the famous Treasury just after exiting the gorge. It was another rainy day but thankfully not as cold as Jarash. However, the rain did sink into my clothes and shoes after about 8 hours of walking around and doing some hiking through Petra. Given that the wet clothes made me even colder, I opted out of finishing the tour with two more hikes that took 3 more hours.
The day after Petra, we were allowed to sleep in until 9am!! It was like a vacation! We made our way to the Wadi Rum desert that morning, lunched at a Bedouin Camp and then road on the back of Jeeps through the desert to watch the sun set. I do like a good sunset but this night was especially cold. The wind from sitting in the back of a jeep forced us all to add layers and bundle up. By the time the sun actually set I was wearing two pair of pants, three sweaters, my jacket, gloves and had my hood up. That night we were camping in a traditional Bedouin Camp with very thick blankets. In fact, as soon as we arrived everyone collected one more blanket just for good measure. We ate a traditional meal cooked in the ground and then took a night walk into the desert where we collected sticks, built a fire and drank mint tea. I think that was one of my favorite parts. We were all huddled around the fire, finally warm, just chatting amongst ourselves, telling stories and relaying our favorite parts of the trip so far. The next day would be our last on this tour.
The camp was actually quite comfortable and enjoyable and I remained warm all night – under a pile of very thick blankets. We drove to Aqaba the next morning – located on the Red Sea. After showering, we hopped on a boat and headed out for snorkeling and scuba diving (for me). I got to see a sting ray, two lion fish, a puffer fish and the biggest open-mouthed clam I had ever encountered. It was fantastic!
We could see the shores of Egypt, Saudi, Israel and Jordan from our boat. It was a lovely afternoon.
Friday marked the end of our trip and a 5 hour drive back to Amman. When we began, it seemed like such a long time to spend with a bunch of strangers but when we all said goodbye it was a little sad. Several of my travel companions were so lovely and I enjoyed their company so much. I do hope to run into them again.
My flight left to Istanbul early Saturday morning so I was scheduled to depart to the airport late Friday night. At the last-minute, my friend whom I was to stay with in Istanbul, informed me that he was not able to get back in time due to some business matters. I quickly changed my plans, got ahold of a friend in Athens and got off the plane there on my first stopover. If I hadn’t made those friends or gone to Greece at all, I probably would have spent New Years Eve alone in Istanbul but I am so so glad to call those wonderful Greeks my friends and to have spent New Years Eve in Athens.