The good, the bad and the desert
To the desert we go!
After visiting Petra it was time to visit one of the most beautiful areas of Jordan: Wadi Rum! It’s also called ‘Valley of the Moon’. We first drive for a long while through more and more empty landscape until we arrive in Rum village. We have to register ourselves before we can actually start the tour. The tour you ask? Well, we are normally not really fan of tours but in Wadi Rum there is no other option if you want to explore the desert. Still, we have a car and driver of our own, so it’s alright. In the back of the 4×4 we sit with a little roof above our heads and really feel like tourists. Which we of course are but we rather not call ourselves that 😉
In the desert one comes across camels, sand and these kind of jeeps. It looks a bit silly but it’s really fun. The wind rushes through our hair (Yuri’s beard hair that be) which makes us feel not too hot and the shadow thanks to the silly roof keeps us from burning alive.
Alright, enough about our vehicle. More about the trip. Our driver is Suleyman, a Bedouin local from around. He’s born in the desert he says and wears a beautiful white djellaba. That makes for beautiful photos! But he also has his iPhone ready, so a Bedouin with a touch of technology. Totally understandable. He drives, we watch and take photos. Good deal!
Our first stop is at a spring which isn’t visible from where we stand. Thus, the original inhabitants of this region wrote on a rock, not sure exactly what but it must be something like “dear fellow traveller, you are in luck because here, near that tree on the left side behind this rock is a little spring where you can wash yourself, have a drink and take care of your animals. Take good care of the place. Leave nothing but footprints.” Ok, maybe the last part wasn’t truly written there but should’ve been, because even in the desert we see lots of plastic bottles which makes our hearts cry.
The next stop is a viewpoint. Nothing interesting but a nice view and when walking down we run down on a sand dune which is a lot of fun. Also quite hot under the feet. When we arrive at the bottom of the dune, we have a tea, of course. As soon as our tea is finished we’re going to our next spot. A canyon with more writings on the walls. We see animal drawings, men and feet (maybe we were right after all ‘leave nothing but footprints’) and some letters which probably meant something like “Lawrence of Arabia was here 1916”.
We continued the tour to watch a tiny arch, which apparently some tourists find interesting. Not us though. What we do find interesting is the incredible landscape. The red and yellow sand, the equally coloured rocky mountains and here and there a camel. Oh and not to forget the many camps scattered around. Truly! So many tourist camps here. Once this was the place for the Bedouin people who roamed the sandy hills of the desert. They are called ‘desert dwellers’ for a reason. Now there are only 15 families left who live like this, the rest of the area is occupied by travellers. About 30 camps can be found in this little part of the desert. It’s hard to really feel lost and alone when you see luxury round shaped tents. Also, at every stop we find many jeeps with tourists. When the tourists explore the attraction, the guides/drivers are chilling and drinking tea in a tent.
The tea drinking hasn’t changed. Bedouin people do not drink much else, except for camel milk. Which we didn’t try, this time. We did drink a lot of tea though.
Anyway, lunch we spend with a Bedouin family. Well, that was the plan but with all nomads they come and go whenever they want. So the father of the family wasn’t there. The women of the camp will not show themselves when there are men around not belonging to their family. So Yuri had to stay with the kids and Suleyman, while I had small talk with the women. The mother and daughter, both very beautiful, were drinking tea with me. Luckily for me the daughter spoke some English. She told me she learns it in school. I was happily surprised that she goes to school. She loves it actually and wants to become a doctor. And when she’s a doctor she wants to move to Aqaba. Her favourite city! And she’s been to all over Jordan. So why she couldn’t show herself here is a mystery to me but let’s say it’s a tradition that hopefully will change one day.
We do respect traditions, cultures and religions but one where men can do whatever they want (marry up to 4 women, be around tourists, go wherever and whenever they want to go) and women have to stay in a closed part of the camp where men can’t see them (even when they cover their hair) is something else to me. Especially because they have mobile phones, they do go to cities if they need a doctor and they do study. Let’s just hope it will change with this new generation. Cause this young lady (17 years old) was so bright, so smart, so beautiful and kind. It’s a sin to keep her stuck in the desert forever.
After lunch and tea we continued our trip to more tourist attractions. We visit more arches, a mushroom rock, some beautiful canyons and had a lot of fun with Suleyman. We wanted to see and photograph some camels so Suleyman cuddled one and even gave one a kiss. He’s the best guide, though also very traditional in some aspects. He thinks women should cover themselves fully, that women shouldn’t be as free as I am and that it’s alright to kill Jews because Israel kills Palestinians. Different worlds of course (also a bit more nuances than in this post). He even has a photo of Sadam Hussein in his car. But that’s maybe for a later story. Or not?
Ok in short. In Jordan you’ll find many cars with a bumper sticker of Sadam Hussein. The person we know as a leader of Iraq and in the same time dictator, murderer, torturer. So we asked some people why they support Sadam Hussein. Some do because he fought against Israel, helping his Muslim brothers and sisters of Palestina. Then there is the reason that immigrants and Iraqis were treated the same way. And also because Jordanian students were able to study cheap in Iraq which was good for the students and the country. Some know that Sadam did bad things but they focus on the good. “I know he did bad things, but 95% of what he did was good”. Others probably know but don’t want to know, they point fingers at Western leaders doing bad; Bush, Trump, Obama. They are right about the later though.
We finally end the day at the sunset spot. With other, but not too many, tourists we sit on a rock watching the sun set behind the incredible scenery of Wadi Rum. Totally understandable that they filmed Star Wars, the Martian and Dunes here. Also, Lawrence of Arabia lived here! Fun fact 😁
After the sunset we went to our camp, had some nice talks with the other drivers and owner of the company, delicious diner, campfire, almost full moon and silence! Beautiful.
At 6 o’clock in the morning, while everyone was still asleep, we woke up to visit the Bedouin family of which we didn’t get to meet the father. You can imagine we were a bit disappointed, thus we went back. The sun was rising while we sat across the man of the family drinking tea and something they call Bedouin coffee. Which is more like a strong tea. We got to photograph him and ask some questions. The light was amazing, the family so kind, the tea and dates delicious. We were so happy that we went back to this place.
After one hour and a half we returned to the camp where breakfast was served. The other people just woke up while we felt like we’ve already passed half a day.
Anyway, we had breakfast, woke Suleyman and left the desert behind. A pity because we could spend more time here but we’ll leave it for a next time.
Time for a dive!
In one hour we drove to Aqaba, the Red Sea. The road wasn’t that great, neither was the Red Sea. Well, yeah it’s a sea, has some nice beaches and beautiful coral but the surroundings were horrible. Anyway, we came here so Yuri could dive. Diving is not for me so I enjoyed my time in the airco of the apartment editing some photos. Yuri on the other hand went for two dives. One near some old military vehicles; a helicopter, car and tank! He also saw many fish like his favourite the puffer fish. But also clown fish and a snake eel. The military vehicles were placed here btw.
In the evening we went to a restaurant in Aqaba city. A recommendation by the dive instructor and wow was it good! Traditional food with a modern twist. Yum! No photos of course cause we eat faster than our camera’s click.
The way back
A week flies by. We are already on our way back to the airport and with that to Armenia. But on the way back we scheduled some stops. The first one is Dana. A nice old village where several hikes through the gorges are offered. We heard they are nice but didn’t have the time to hike ourselves, also it’s very very hot!
The next day we would drive the famous Kings Highway. Everyone told us it’s a beautiful road and a must drive when in Jordan. You can read our disappointment. The road wasn’t that great at all and there was garbage everywhere. Truly! It was hard to watch the beauty of the scenery through the garbage that lies everywhere. Insane and quite sad. Also, the road itself isn’t interesting. It’s just a road going through a very dry area, not much to see so we won’t recommend it.
The last night we stay in Madaba, known for its mosaic. We had our PCR test done here and ate at a very nice restaurant. The meze was quite good, not as good as in Lebanon or Turkey but the Jordan food so far was a tiny bit of a disappointment, so this was a welcoming end to our trip.
We were tested negative (hurray!) and headed out to check the mosaic in the St George church. The mosaic is the first known map of the Middle East and especially detailed about Jerusalem. It’s on the ground and quite big, pretty could to see. It dates back to the 6th century!
After the visit we drove a very nice road from Madaba to the Dead Sea. Half way we visited a hot spring with a cool waterfall. However, it being almost 40 degrees outside we found it way too hot to chill in the even hotter water. We then continued to have lunch at the Dead Sea for one last time and afterwards headed to the airport.
That was it. Our trip to Jordan came to an end. We enjoyed it, had a lot of fun but were also disappointed. Disappointed about the amount of trash we saw everywhere, of the roads that weren’t as beautiful as people told us and the amount of tourists and tourist focused shops and prices. Petra is one big open air souvenir market, in the desert the Bedouin sell soap made in Pakistan and visiting a gorge costs 25 Euros per person.
But let’s focus on the good. Petra was amazing, Wadi Rum spectacular and the people very kind and friendly.
Love, Milene & Yuri