There is an extraordinary feeling of freedom to walk into an airport ready to purchase a ticket anywhere in the world. When we stood inside the airport in Israel looking at the flights leaving within the next 4 hours, the choices were Moscow Russia, Johannesburg South Africa, and next door Amman Jordan. We decided to stay in the Middle East and give Jordan a few days travel. El Al Israel Airline claims it�s the safest airline in the world. I would agree. First you are interviewed for 20 minutes by a trained expert in suspicious behavior and responses. Then you get to go through security where every single thing is inspected for traces of explosives. Finally, when the plane takes off, it climbs off the runway and the maximum possible angle until its high enough to not be threatened by surface to air missiles!
Waterfront in Aqaba
Sunset over the Red Sea in Aqaba
Slot canyons at entrance to Petra
In the main bedouin camp tent cooking dinner in the fire and being entertained
Evening light in WADI RUM as we left camp to go see the sunset on a hill
Our tent in Wadi Rum Camp
More arches in Wadi Rum
The Treasury, made famous by Indiana Jones
One of many arches in Wadi Rum
Hiking upper Petra
The Theatre could hold up to 7000 people
800 stairs cut into the rock lead to The Monastery
Sitting at the top of the Petra
Citadel Hill in Amman
The city of Ammon from Citadel Hill
Lucky for us, we arrived in Amman Jordan safe but without a guidebook or any info on what to do or where to go. At the airport, we just asked the taxi driver to take us downtown. Taxi prices are listed at the airport so that was a relief, I had no idea what the exchange rate was. On the way to town, sighs pointed to the next big city Baghdad, only 500 miles away. Downtown, the taxi driver pointed at a hotel he claimed was a good price and he was correct so we stayed there. We just started walking around looking for attractions as it was the historic old town of Jordan. We seemed to be the only tourists and I'm sure the only Americans walking the streets. Depending who was asking, we said we were Australian, Canadian, sometimes American with the children.
Built by the Roman Empire (170 A.D.), this theatre built into the hillside can fit 6,000 people. It is still used today for concerts.
Jabal al-Qal�a or Citadel Hill
We worked our way up to the top and found a great view of the city. The Roman ruins are a bit boring for us but learning this area has been continuously inhabited since the end of the Stone Age was interesting.
Evening in Amman
The evening activities in Amman were slim�a pretty conservative place, so we found something that looked like food and called it a night. Early the next morning, we walked to a bus station and off we were to Petra.
Ok, so I first saw this place watching Indian Jones and the Last Crusade but later I learned more in a National Geographic article. This place was only discovered by westerners in 1812! More than just one or two sites, this city was packed full of things to see and explore (800 individual monuments). I loved that you entered this city by a mile hike through narrow canyons. Once in, the place opens up to dozens of facades carved into the rock. As you hike up the valley, there are walkways and stairs carved into the rocks to access high perches and structures. At the very end of the city, you are on the rugged mountain crest, looking down precarious cliffs out to the Dead Sea. As a World Heritage Site and one of the New 7 Wonders of the World, it really did blow me away with its originality.
While in Amman, we set up an overnight camping trip in Wadi Rum with some local Bedouins. The Bedouin are mostly Arabs that were once nomadic throughout the region.
This small local adventure tourism business takes you out into a desert camp, takes you out on a Jeep tour for several hours, provides a dinner in the camp, then entertainment. You sleep in a goat-hair tent with sheepskin blankets, then a nice breakfast in the morning. It�s a pretty cool gig they have going, a real change from their traditional ways of making money. They even had cell phones and one guide kept getting calls �from his second wife�. We did stop to visit some tribal members out in the desert herding camels and other animals, so old ways still exist some. The Jeep tour was amazing as this is one of the more scenic areas on earth. The amazing rock formations rising out of the desert sand were surreal. I could only compare it to jeeping in Yosemite, assuming there were no environmental laws there! They kept serving us tea but fearing the water source, we dumped it in the sand when the coast was clear. We saw the condition of a local well on the Jeep tour, no thanks.
Located on the Red Sea, with mountains on three sides, this little city was a great sight after the Desert Highway drive from inland Jordan. The city looked much larger because half of what you see is actually Eilat Israel. The city of Aqaba has a public walkway along the shore but nothing too exciting too look at. The beaches were a bit messy and you�ll be bothered by people so we didn�t spend much time there. We left Aqaba and Jordan on foot, crossing at the Wadi Araba crossing, only one of 3 crossings between the two countries. The crossing was one of the more memorable experiences I�ve had traveling. After checking out of Jordan, you have to walk with your stuff about 100 yards outdoors in a fenced walkway to the Israeli solders in Israel. There, inside a building, you are interrogated for 20 minutes with questions like �How long have you been married, where did you meet� �what were you doing in Jordan� and �of all the places, why are you vacationing in Israel? It went on and on but they figured we were safe and let us pass.
Morning in Wadi Rum, shot just behind our tent
Here is one of our bus tickets...like this helped me figure out when we were leaving? I did learn Arabic numerals 1-10 on the trip.
Ancient Nabatean Petroglyphs on rock
View to Elat Israel from hotel room in Aqaba