Two weeks ago, we went to Jordan for our holiday. Something we had planned to do a couple of years ago, but was postponed a couple of times due to the events (Arab Spring) in the Middle-East. Something that turned out to be completely unnecessary.
Jordan is a stable (semi) democratic Middle-Eastern kingdom surrounded by some of the most dangerous countries in the region. Especially with the rise of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq which share a border with Jordan on the north/east, things COULD turn ugly relatively fast... But then again, were are you 100% safe?
You can also be shot from the skies over the Ukraine while going on holiday (MH17), or your train can be blown up in a train station in Madrid, or spotting planes on the World Trade Centre (Twin Towers) can result in death and mayhem. While staying at home is also not without risks. How many people die in the bathroom by slipping over a couple of drops of water?
So more than enough reasons not to stay at home and taste the culture of Jordan during an 8 day trip.
Items on the 8 day agenda were:
- Amman (mosque and citadel visit)
- Jerash (old Roman archaeology site)
- Jordan Grand Canyon (supposed to be bigger than the American edition)
- Petra (including a visit to Little Petra)
- Wadi Rum (a night in the desert)
- Aqaba (diving and dining)
- Dead Sea (floating, mud baths, etc.)
During our visit, our tour guide explained that during the years leading to the Arab Spring (2010) up till now, tourism decreasing year after years. The estimates for this year (2014) is that tourism is decreased about 90% over less than a decade.
This is devastating for all the people working in the tourist sector, but it also has an upside for the tourists visiting; you get all the attention you want (and need). Also, the bigger tourist attractions (like Petra) are not crowded, so you have all the time and space you need to wander around. And you may actually get some iconic photos without any tourists popping up in them. The biggest groups we encountered were (local) school excursions. These groups tend to stay relatively short on the tourist sites.
The days leading up to Petra
Our stay in Jordan began with two nights (effectively 1 whole day) in Amman where we visited a mosque, the Citadel and Jerash. The citadel is located on a hill which gives you a nice view of the city.
Jerash is a city that has a large archaeological site with a numerous columns, theaters and squares.
Day three was a travel day (with some small stops to visit various sights) to Petra. One of the stops was Mount Nebo, and a Greek church with very old mosaics on the floor.
Our Jordan trip schedule included visits to Little Petra and (regular?!) Petra, but if you want to enjoy both sites, you should visit Little Petra BEFORE (regular) Petra. If you do it the other way around it might be a tremendous disillusion, and a possible waste of time.
On day 4 we went to Petra, the highlight of our trip. We had an entire day to absorb all the beauty. If you're just going for the Treasury (the main event) you need just a couple of hours (especially if you're going to use horse and carriage to get there. But if you want to see more of the city (e.g. the Monastery) you need more time. E.g. a 'walk' to the Monastery takes at least an hour (and an hour back).
The Petra Monastery is not to be mistaken with the Treasury. The Treasury is easily accessible and located at the (relative) beginning of the site. Visiting the Monastery required some good shoes and approximately 1000 (uneven) steps upward into the mountains, which takes at least 1 hour of walking up (and another hour down).
The following photos of the Monastery were shot 5 minutes apart. In the first photo are some tourists, but 5 minutes later; no one there. One benefit of 90% less tourists.
The top also includes to nice view points where you can see the Grand Canyon and the mountains that hide Petra.
And to show that there's more than just a Monastery and a Treasury:
If you're still fit after a walk to the Monastery (and back) you can also walk an additional 600+ steps to a sacrifice site in Petra. We passed on that :-)
The next day, on our way to the Wadi Rum, we stopped for a (panoramic) view of the Petra mountains.
The Wadi Rum is a large desert with reddish sands and rocks. We stayed there for one night in tents and enjoyed a Jeep Safari with a sunset in the desert.
The night was cold clear, so we were able to see the Milky Way. Something new for most of us, since we tend to live in areas with much light pollution. Thankfully, I had my tripod with me (especially for the occasion we were granted clear skies), so a 25-30 second exposure should be that hard...
After a sunset and clear skies showing the stars, the only thing missing was the sunset. So I set my alarm early for capturing the sunrise.
Even though the night was rough (mosquitoes and barking dogs in the desert), the morning greeted us with a nice sunrise.
I can be relatively short about Aqaba; If you're not a diver you shouldn't stay that long. The city is mainly targeting businesses (Jordan's only sea port), and tourism is minimal. There is/was a lot of development going on, but it seems that those activities are suspended due to the 90% decrease in tourists. Hotels are nice (we stayed a Hilton-powered DoubleTree Hotel), but that is all. If you would like to prolong your stay, you should do it either at the Dead Sea in a resort or back at Amman, where there's much more to see and do.
The Dead Sea
The last day included a trip to the Dead Sea where we could experience the floating characteristics of the Dead Sea including a mud bath. As with most sites we visited during our holiday; little to no tourists.
Jordan is a beautiful, safe country with extremely nice and friendly people. There's no need to stay at home because of the problems in the Middle-East. Just go on holiday to Jordan. They need (and deserve) the tourists.
Finally, I would like to thank our, more than, enthusiastic guide Karim (and his colleagues) for showing us around in his beautiful country.
More photos of this trip can be found @ my photo website: http://photos.redelijkheid.com/keyword/Jordan