Adventures take you by surprise, challenge you, inspire you and teach you something about yourself and the world. I love this aspect of travelling; I love that each day shows me something new and exciting.
I am dizzy thinking back at the the adventures I’ve had in the past week. From the Syria-Jordan border, I have travelled by bus, jeep, horse and on foot, visiting Amman, Mt Nebo, Bethany,Madabar, the Dead Sea, Wadi Musa, Petra, Wadi Rum and Aqaba. I have climbed mountains, scrambled up sand dunes and scaled sandstone cliffs. I have encountered new cultures, heard about old conflicts and seen landscape so stunning it made me gasp.
There is so much to tell…
Home to about two million of Jordan’s six million citizens, the capital city is a hilly scape of beige Lego-like concrete houses. Although the city is large in area, the scrappy streets feel more like those of a small town, with warm welcomes, local shops and mid-road markets.
Within hours of arriving in Amman I realised there was not much of a tourist scene in the city itself. A pleasant walk to the remains of the hill-top Citadel satisfied as a tour of the city sights and provided a stunning view of the urban sprawl.
After travelling Syria, a country that seems to be defined by it’s people and history and traditions, Jordan provided a surprising cultural contrast. Observations from the street presented Jordan as a country looking to the future through education, infrastructure and business development; a society keen to integrate the ways of the west but unsure how to do so without forsaking long-held traditions and community ties. As a traveller, I have found myself attempting to package each country I visit based on my impressions (while;e keeping in mind that there is always more to a place than can be fit under a label), but I left Jordan feeling confused about what Jordan was or wants to be. That said, the country has some seriously amazing sights.
The Dead Sea
Bobbing in the Dead Sea like a drunk beach ball was definitely a trip highlight for me. I remember watching a documentary about the Dead Sea in primary school and thinking, ‘I am going to go there one day’. (Fulfil lifelong ambition… check).
Trying to swim in water with 30% salt is a truly bizarre experience. Your legs don’t want to go down, and if you do force them, you find your top half plunging forward towards the eye-burning water. The novelty seemed to bring out the cheeky child in everyone, with grown men swimming around like synchronised swimmers, legs near ears, arms waving wildly in the attempt to maintain balance. Hilarious.
I was astounded to find the ancient sandstone city of Petra is more magnificent than I had imagined. I clearly remember watching Indiana Jones as a child and thinking, ‘how cool would it be if that place were real’. It was much later that I realised it was, and this week I confirmed it with my own eyes: it is so vividly, colourfully, amazingly real.
Before reaching the famous treasury facade, we walked a couple of kilometres through the Siq; the long narrow entrance to the central city that winds through cliff faces. Carved tributes to pagan deities and ancient drainage systems lined the entrance and led us down into the sandstone mountain range, revealing Petra as a remarkably intact example of a very clever ancient civilisation.
On day one in Petra I wandered through colourful caves and up hundreds of steps to explore tombs, houses, temples, storage sheds. Emerging at a lookout on the far side of the city, I realised the entire wondrous place can hardly be seen from the outside; no wonder it was largely unknown by the outside world until 1985!
Day two, I joined a small group on an early morning hike to a cliff-top overlooking the famous treasury building. Scrambling over rocks and into cavernous passageways, I felt as though I could be a hours from the outside world. At the top it was just the wind, echoes and eagles overlooking deep canyons and intimidating cliffs. What a way to spend Sunday morning!
Spending a night under the stars in the middle of a Jordanian desert was another highlight. After a three hour jeep safari into the desert we arrived at a Bedouin style camp, complete with camel-hair tents, coal-cooked vegetables and Bedouin folk songs sung by firelight.
The desert was a stretch of red and orange dotted with granite and sandstone pillars. Sand dunes ten metres high threatened to end my tried legs and steep rocky climbs to stunning views tested my fear of heights but it was all worth it. I would believe the concept of peace was conceived in a desert like this.
Across the Red Sea to Egypt
Now, I find myself on a lounge by the Red Sea after a day of snorkelling. Egypt has been exciting so far!
I arrived yesterday (fresh off the overnight ferry) and spent the day wandering the coastal town of Dahab. It is a strange place, with resort after resort lining the sea but only a handful of tourists in sight. But, by the time I took a camel ride into the sunset and had a few too many vodka lime drinks, I decided that this is a place worth chilling in for a while.
Sadly, I leave tonight, but I am buzzing with the anticipation of my night Mt Sinai climb…sunrise over Egypt, here I come.