Our adventures in the Middle East continued from the busy cities in Israel to the natural wonders of Jordan. Aside from the stunning landscapes, we had been looking forward to some specific experiences we were particularly excited about. By the end of our stay in Jordan, we were inspired, unguarded, and reminded of why we keep doing what we do – the thrill of new life experiences just never gets old.
The first Jordanian experience we were excited about? A desert adventure in Wadi Rum with Bedouins – nomadic Arabs who call this desert home. Unlike the deserts we’ve seen in India or Namibia or Morocco, Wadi Rum featured huge rocky mountains and canyons, seemingly rising from the sand out of nowhere. Instead of endless sand or dunes, these giant rocks provided ideal contrast and perspective to the landscape.
It could have been Mars. Sitting at the edge of the rock felt like sitting at the edge of the world. Trucks looked like ants. Driving lines looked like faint crisscrosses. There’s something about vast landscapes that opens our chests and expands our inner horizons. Like there is all the room in the world… both inside and outside our bodies.
The entire day in Wadi Rum was filled with incredible views, whether we were scrambling up the rocks, sitting on the desert floor, or just riding in the back of the truck. Everything reminded us of how small and insignificant we (and our problems) really were in the grand scheme of things: the impossibly tall mountains, the expansive sand, the relentlessness of both the sun and wind, alternately. In our usual modern cocoons, it’s easy to forget that humans inhabited seemingly uninhabitable (at least for modern standards) areas like this for thousands of years, as we saw in ancient rock inscriptions.
The day ended with a cloudy sunset, unexpectedly picturesque as rays shone through the clouds, highlighting the layers of landscapes below. How our guide Abdul managed to start a fire and make tea in the cold and wind we will never know. We’re just glad he did.
Since we still think back fondly on our night in the desert in India (despite the bugs and very little sleep), we couldn’t miss doing the same in Wadi Rum. Unlike India, it was very cold at night since it was the winter season (but at least there were no bugs!). Just like India, the highlight of the night was the chance to see the sky. So. Many. Stars. Feeling so connected to the galaxy and the whole universe in the silent darkness was magical.
A Wadi Rum night isn’t complete without a traditional Bedouin dinner. We loved the food cooked over burning embers in an underground pit – so cool! When else can we say that we literally dug out our dinner with a shovel?
The rest of the night was spent sitting by the fire and chatting, no TV or phone or internet. Just appreciation for shelter and warmth and good company. (Aren’t those the important things in life anyway?) A taste of how the nomadic Bedouins live and how the simple life can be just as fulfilling, if not more.
Thank you for a wonderful time, Wadi Rum Nomads!
On many travellers’ ultimate bucket lists, the “Rose City” is one of the New7Wonders of the World, and for good reason. Along an old trading route between the Dead Sea and the Red Sea, the Nabatean people mastered living and managing water in the desert mountains to build their prosperous kingdom. What remains today encompasses Petra Archeological Park – filled with ruins amidst canyons and mountains in the desert landscape.
There is nothing quite like the initial Petra reveal. As the entryway – known as Al Siq – narrowed, the anticipation only heightened. Each and every turn could be the one… yet it remained elusive. Then out of nowhere, the entire gap between the two sides of the canyon became filled with what looked like columns, and we were struck with wonder. Wow.
Of course we had seen pictures of the Petra Treasury many times, but to experience it in person – incredible. It was imposing in a beautiful way. The entire facade was carved out of one face of the mountain, impressive in a simple and elegant way. In fact, that pretty much describes everything in Petra. No flashy decorations or elaborate ornaments. Just carved stone, strong and sturdy and classic. Timeless.
We were lucky to have the Treasury mostly to ourselves, having gone early in the morning before any day tour groups arrived. It also helped to be traveling in low season, though the weather was less than ideal. Only the day before our visit, it was snowing! We had no idea it snowed at all in Jordan (locals told us it was the first snow in five years)! We were happy to brave the cold in exchange for fewer crowds, which continued through the Street of Facades, the Royal Tombs, the Roman Theatre, all the way into the Monastery.
The Petra Monastery was arguably as gorgeous as the Treasury, though it lacks the special reveal. What made it special, though, was that we had to work for it. After some 700+ steps up (yes, we counted!), we were the only ones in a large open area with the larger than expected Monastery. If only we could have this kind of one-on-one experience everywhere we go!
Our favorite experience in Petra by far was Petra By Night. Three nights a week, the park opens outside of regular hours for what can only be described as a magical evening. We were lucky enough to literally be the first ones to re-enter the park and once again walk down Al Siq. This time, it was lit only by candles on the ground and the stars in the sky. Hand-in-hand, we walked down the romantic path together.
The Treasury itself had rows upon rows of candles. Traditional Bedouin music serenaded us as we sat on carpets and sipped hot tea. Ahhh. The complete Petra experience.
What’s crazy is that archeologists believe what we see of Petra today is only a portion of the full site, with lots more yet to be uncovered. It would be so cool if years down the line, there were new but equally majestic monuments to be visited, that we can only dream of.
Unintentionally, Petra completes the New7Wonders of the World for us to visit, which we only realized once we checked the list afterwards. Fittingly, we’ve been to 6 out of the 7 together. 🙂
Our last Jordanian experience was also the most relaxing one – chillin at the Dead Sea! At more than 400 meters below sea level, it is the lowest land on Earth. Named for the lack of living organisms, the Dead Sea is very, very salty. Nonetheless very scenic. Calm, bluish waters extended to Israel on the opposite shore, so close yet so far.
We couldn’t wait to get in the water. Floating in the Dead Sea felt so odd! It was hard NOT to float. There was so much buoyancy, our bodies were not used to the physics of it, like defying gravity. We could also sense the increased salt and mineral content of the water; there was a filmy and slippery feel to it that was also visible. It was definitely the only place one could float and hold a newspaper in hand easily!
Another fun part of the Dead Sea were the famous mud baths! It felt like being a kid all over again as we picked up chunks of Dead Sea mud and smeared it everywhere on our bodies, head to toe. We looked so silly but it was so fun to purposefully get muddy and dirty, hehe. Our daily routine: soak in the Dead Sea for 10-15 minutes, apply mud, sunbathe until mud dries, wash off the mud in the Dead Sea. Besides being fun, Dead Sea mud has proven health benefits for skin and health. What a cool natural spa.
Besides that, it was a few days of rest and relaxation. Soaking in the heated pool. Watching the sun set behind palm trees. Curling up in a nice bed in a nice hotel. It felt like a “vacation” from our “vacation.” We didn’t want to leave… but we were pretty excited about where we were headed next – Egypt!