A Trip to Jordan: Petra and Wadi Rum

I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams... 
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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If you ever have the opportunity to travel to the Middle East I highly recommend you visit Jordan to check out the dreamy ancient Nabataen - The Lost City of Petra and Wadi Rum also known as Valley of the Moon. 

Nestled between Israel, Syria the West Bank, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Jordan is home to one of the seven ancient wonders of the world.  The city is not as lost as its name suggests. There is an energy and vibrancy, and without doubt, the city is steady thriving as Jordan is one of the more advanced countries in that region.

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From Jerusalem, Israel I booked a two days guided tour to Petra and Wadi Rum. The trip started with a 5:00am pick-up from the Mamilla Hotel and we drove along the stunning Negev desert towards the Israel -Jordan Border - Yitzhak Rabin.

 Israel -Jordan Border - Yitzhak Rabin.

Israel -Jordan Border - Yitzhak Rabin.

I was traveling for the first time on my U.S passport and my biggest fear was getting my passport stamped at the border crossing. Unfortunately, quite a few countries could possibly deny you a visa if there is proof of entry to Israel in your passport. But, let me tell you about the power of asking. At the Jordanian border just before it was my turn to see a border officer, I jokingly asked my guide whether I really had to get the stamp. He simply said yes, but about one minute later he gave me a separate form to fill out. Long story short,  I paid $125 in visa and border tax without getting a stamp on my passport while everyone else did. Can I tell you, when the officer handed me my passport without a stamp, I wanted to run for the hills and never look back. For months I was worried about getting my new passport stamped. I never imagined the process would be as seamless as it was. The moral of this? Don’t assume you know the outcome if you don’t have a direct answer from the source. There is power in your ASK.

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From the border, it was a two hours drive to Petra. Our first stop was at a souvenir shop and then we had authentic Jordanian style lunch at a local restaurant before exploring the rose red city of Petra.

   Interesting Fact:    Jordan is one of the few countries that has an open border policy for Syrian refugees. Over 680,000 registered Syrian refugees currently live in Jordan.

Interesting Fact: Jordan is one of the few countries that has an open border policy for Syrian refugees. Over 680,000 registered Syrian refugees currently live in Jordan.

Jordan has not always been widely popular for travelers, especially given that it borders warn torn countries like Syria. However, Petra in particular became increasingly popular over the years after the movie Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade was filmed there. The country is not as cheap as some imagine. 1 USD is equivalent to 0.70 JOD and I am still mourning the seven dollars I paid for a small glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.

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As I entered the city I noticed the majestic sandstone and granite rock formation. I arrived there just after mid-afternoon, the peak of day when the sun showed no mercy. I was marveled by the sun rays against the neatly carved rocks and was greeted by camels, horses, donkeys and of course, all the Johnny Depp looking men who will sweet-talk you into paying for their souvenirs and services. Traveller be aware, nothing is free in Petra… that silver bracelet you’re being offered as a gift will cost you. The rides will cost you and you are expected to tip always.  Jordanian men are very friendly and easy on the eyes, but stay wide eyed, they are the Bedouins and hustling is their sole agenda. If traveling has taught me anything, I’ve learned the art of negotiating. I think it started at the Maasai Market in Kenya.. ha!

   Interesting Fact:  Education is free and compulsory in Jordan.  The country literacy rate is appx. 90 percent.

Interesting Fact: Education is free and compulsory in Jordan.  The country literacy rate is appx. 90 percent.

Traveling solo does not mean you’re traveling alone because new strangers on other paths await. My goal always, is to travel awakened, be kind, graceful, friendly and ready to learn. Not surprising, there were some incredible people I met along the trip and we were basically rolling together during the last half of the trip. 

We spent two hours in Petra and saw the Siq, Obelisk Tomb, Calligraphy, Treasury, Jabal Madbach (sacrificial palace), Tombs, Theater, Mountaintop Tombs. We did not climb the 900 steps to the Monastery because time was not on our side. If you’re thinking about visiting Petra, be sure to at least spend a full day to get the most of your trip.

  Ever wondered who is taking my pictures, it’s either my self-timer or the new friends I meet along the way :)

Ever wondered who is taking my pictures, it’s either my self-timer or the new friends I meet along the way :)

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Just before sunset, we left the rose red city for our campsite at Wadi Rum. On the way, the bus stopped so we could capture the glorious sunset.

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It was a holiday weekend in Jordan and at the campsite, some local Jordanians were partying while others stood on the sidelines. I was surprised to see women at the center of the dance circles. Of course I joined in the fun. 

   Interesting Fact:  Jordan has one of the highest divorce rates in the world, but women’s social position has strengthened and they’ve made significant strides in various spheres like education and medicine.

Interesting Fact: Jordan has one of the highest divorce rates in the world, but women’s social position has strengthened and they’ve made significant strides in various spheres like education and medicine.

Early the next morning, we woke up at 5:45am to see the sun rise over the Wadi campsite and it did not disappoint. It was the perfect start to our last day in Jordan.

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By 8:00am, we left the campsite for a two hours 4x4 jeep tour.

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I must admit, I am very obsessed with desert landscapes, so the entire time I was wide eyed wonder and my heart was very happy. I was staring in amazement, taking lots pictures and thanking God for the great time spent in this region, all while trying to savor the moments.

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  Running up the sand dune is not as easy and it looks.

Running up the sand dune is not as easy and it looks.

At the sand dunes, we stopped by a Bedouin camp and were served with tea. 

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Later, we visited the port city of Aqaba. There we had a delicious lunch before crossing the border back to Israel. I did not do much exploring in Aqaba because as you can imagine I was super tired and the sun was scorching hot.

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Our last stop was by the Red Sea in Eilat. We spent 3 hours just hanging out at the Northern Beach before departing for our 4 hours trip to Tel-Aviv

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Given all that the media has shoved down our throats about the Middle East, has traveling changed your perception about the region? Did this post dispel some of the widely held stereotypes? Comment below.