For many years I dreamt of visiting the superb & the sensational Jordan. Finally on the 18th of January 2020 it was becoming reality.
I was filling with excitement and anticipation whilst enjoying a glass of red wine on the flight. In that moment I was convinced that the highlight will be the renowned ancient city of Petra. And whilst Petra did turn out to be absolutely magnificent, I was absolutley wrong. The highlight of our trip turned out to be the incredibly warm, welcoming and wonderful people of Jordan.
I was instantly impression by the first destination on the list; The port city of Aqaba. The city has a funky feel about it and cool vibes. Sandwiched between a backdrop of mountains and the Red Sea, it is also a pretty beautiful part of the world.
As we were exploring the city I was quickly becoming aware that I was in a country with extraordinarily hospitable human beings. Everybody was greeting us warm smilles and friendly genuine conversations. “You are very welcome in Jordan”, was a phrase that I would continue hearing on countless occasions for the duration of our trip.
We discovered the city streets throughout the afternoon and walked along a busy beach full of locals smoking shisha and having fun. The beach was lined with glass bottom boats ready and waiting to take tourists for a glimpse of the coral below. The boats also seemed to be trying to out do each other with the volume levels of traditional Jordanian music that they blasted out. This only added to awesome ambiance of the place, We really knew that We were in the Middle East.
Following a very enjoyable thirty minutes on one of the glass bottom boats, we went to find a restaurant to sample our first taste of Jordanain cuisine. We weren’t disappointed! For our entire trip the food was fantastic, kebabs kebabs and more kebabs! Wow they know how to make top notch kebebs in Jordan. We also tried other traditional Jordanian fish and meat dishes, and we were consistently impressed.
I was also pleasantly surprised to see beer on the menu whilst on the restaurant. The previous year during our exploration of Moroco finding beer was diffcult, very difficult. I had a preconceived idea that Jordan, as a fellow Arabic Country, may be the same. Fotunately, it was not, beer was readily available, and not only was it beer, it was Petra beer!
As we were digesting our meal with the help of local tea, we were reminicing over what had been a delightful day. It was however time to go back to the hotel to get some good rest, as the following day was the big one. It was the day where we would discover one of the most incredible ancient sites on this planet, good night Aqaba.
As the alarm rang before the sun had risen, there was not the usual battle to get out of bed on this occasion; and today was not going to be a usual day. The adventure really kicked off at 7 am. We met our guide who was also our driver to take us the 125 km to the town of Wadi Musa that is located within walking distance of Petra.
As I shook hands with our guide I immediately felt comfortable in his presence. He had perhaps a slightly rugged appearance on the outside, he was however charismatic. He had a great smile and it was clear that he had a good heart and soul on the inside. His name was Radad, and Radad is a proud Jordanian. Proud of his people, proud of his country and proud of what his country has to offer.
Throughout the morning Radad taught us a huge amount about Jordan. Including the culture, the people, the history, the food, the politics, the religion, the sports and the music, the whole shabang. He enlightened us with his knowledge not because he had to, but because he wanted to.
Radad also explained to us that as a European we did not need a Visa to enter Jordan via Aqaba airport unlike all other access points to Jordan. We were unaware of this before travelling and we therefore wasted money on a Jordan Pass that we ultimately did not need. Please keep this in mind if you do travel to Jordan via Aqaba airport.
I will be forever grateful for the time we spent with Radad, and forever remember him as a legend of a man. If you are in Jordan and would like to use his services, please contact him on +962 789 669 742.
Radad dropped us off at the entrance of Petra along with a backpack full of kebabs at around 11 am. We then had around six hours to explore as much of the site as we could until the sun began to set.
The Petra experience started in spectacular fashion. Shortly after the main entrance we encountered the start of The Siq; a 1.2 kilometre long narrow gorge that leads up to the ancient city; it was remarkable. My excitement was growing with every step that I was taking as we were walking along this beautiful natural corridor. This was because I knew that at the end of this passage was a sight that I have been desperate to see for more than a decade! And a sight that has literally been set in stone for more than a millenia. The most renowned site within Petra; The Treasury.
We caught our first glimpse of The Treasury between The Siqs imposing and opposing cliff faces ahead of us. What I was loving about this experience is that we were gradually seeing more and more of the Treasury as we were nearing the end and exiting The Siq. For me this was building up the anticipation and emotion, and as we finally saw The Treasury in all of its glory I felt overwhelmed.
The Treasury has a presence about it, you can feel it in the air, almost like it has a personality. It is truly outstanding how our ancestors were able to construct such a marvel two thousand years ago. It is truly outstanding to witness it in its magnificence today.
We took the time to soak it all in and then had to get moving as we had a long and steep trek ahead of us. In order to reach another of the unmissable sites within Petra; The Monastery.
Fortunately, the long walk was not arduous, it was eye opening. Our path was literally oozing with stunning ancient monuments, superb landscapes and Camels, lots and lots and lots of Camels.
When we arrived at The Monestary, I again felt Overwelmed. It was just as astonishing or perhaps even more astonishing than The Treasury. A beautiful historic site nestled within a beautiful landscape accompanied nearby by a Jordanian flag rustling proudly in the wind. It doesn’t get a lot better than this.
Whilst at the Monestary we took some time out to enjoy our cold and yet delicious kebabs that we had carried with us followed by a tasty traditional Jordanian coffee. It was then time to make our long decent back towards Wadi Musa to rest our feet in the hotel for a few hours, before heading to a restaurant highly recommended to us by Radad.
The restaurant is named My Mom’s Recipe Restaurant, our experience there was fantastic. It is beautifully decorated in traditional and colourful Jordanian fashion. A local musician added to the ambience by filling the room with wonderful sounds and the Jordanian dishes served up were just exquisit.
Radad then joined us for several hours following our meal. We drank together and engaged in more facinating conversations about life and the world both where he is from and where we are from. He then dropped us off at the hotel where we said our goodbyes. It was great to meet Radad, like almost every other Jordanian that we met during our trip. He has such a warm, kind and genuine character. He started the day as our driver and finished the day as our friend. We hope to see him again one day in the future.
Whilst in Wadi Musa we stayed in the The Petra Moon Hotel and it deserves a special mention. It is perfectly located for access to Petra, it is reasonably priced, the service was great, the rooms are enormous. And to top it all off I was told when checking in that everything in the minibar was free of charge. I had to double check with the receptionist that I understood him correctly, indeed I did, the contents of the minibar was ours free of charge. The pleasent surprises continued as we checked out when we were provided with a free lunch box containing tasty treats to supply us for the day ahead. Thank you and well done Petra Moon Hotel, well done.
The day ahead was planned to be a busy one. We hired another driver to take us on a 700 km loop around Jordan in order to explore more of this amazing country. Before our scheduled flight to return home the following day.
Our driver, Mr Sam, was another fine Jordanian gentleman. The first leg of our journey took us North from Wadi Musa to the town of Madaba via a landscape of desert plains. Madaba is a town steeped in history. We meandered through the winding streets and visited some notable and beautiful religious sites. We did not have a long time to spend in Madaba, it was however long enough to leave me with a lasting and positive impression.
The next stop was Mount Nebo; most famous for being the purported location in which Moses died. Standing at 710 metres, on a clear day the views are outstanding, unfortunately however for us the skies were far from clear. Despite this we could see enough to know that we were in stunning and compelling location. Bethlehem, Jerusalem and Jericho are all not far away, we were in the Holy land.
Soon after leaving the summit of Mount Nebo we spiralled our way down a winding mountain road surrounded by green rolling hills. As we lowered in elevation the clouds began to clear which allowed me to suddenly see in the distance. The location of our next destination; The Dead Sea. It was a special moment, the view was simply sublime and this region has an other-worldly feel.
The Dead Sea is a phenomenon that has long intrigued me. It contains so much salt that whilst bathing inside you literally float. Furthermore at 430 metres below sea level its surface and shores are at the lowest land elevation on Earth. We found floating in the Dead Sea to be a fun and quite bizarre experience. As we laid back into the water we could clealy feel the buoyancy. It is as if the water is animate and attempting to gently push you up into the air above, the experience is a must for any visit to Jordan.
As our final full day in Jordan started coming to an end, it was time to return to Aqaba where our adventure began. This last leg of what had been an awe-inspiring day saw us navigate along the entire length of the Eastern side of the dead sea. As we travelled along the coastal road the sun was setting behind the mountains of Palestine and Israel. On the opposite side of this facinating body of water, the scenery on show during the drive was outstanding.
It was late in the evening when we were arriving in Aqaba and we needed to return to this gem of a city. As our return flight home was departing from there the following afternoon. It was good to be back. After saying our goodbyes to Mr Sam we headed out for some more delicious Jordanian cuisine and our last taste of Jordan at night.
The following morning I was greeted with an impressive view of Aqaba and its backdrop of mountains as I woke up in Aqaba’s Hilton hotel. It was too dark to see this when we checked in the evening before. And I just love waking up to a beautiful view, it is the perfect way to start a day.
Our flight was scheduled to leave at around 14:00 hr and we were determined to make our morning as enjoyable and action packed as the previous three days.
Following breakfast we jumped in a taxi and headed for Aqaba Castle. It is a pleasant site to see nestled next to the coastline and it merits a visit. We then wondered along the busy streets via some very vibrant steps in the direction of the city centre. Aqaba had a good energy about it, as did the rest of Jordan.
It was time to satisfy our stomachs ahead of our flight home as our adventure was coming to an end. We spontaneously decided to eat in the Memories Castle Cafe & Restaurant and it turned out to be a spontaneous choice well made. The Jordanian cuisine and service was yet again excellent. We decided to follow our meal with one last very popular local pastime; an apple flavoured shisha. To be honest I was a novice in this field. However with the advice of our very helpful waiter we mastered the shisha smoking technique. And it was a great and albeit light-headed way to end what was a monumental travelling experience.
When I look back on our time in Jordan I can’t help but smile. It has without a doubt become one of the Countries closest to my heart. I fell in love with the place.
The superb & sensational Jordan offers a huge amount in terms of incredible things to do and see. However what I remember the most fondly are the incredible Jordanian people. Their kindness and genuineness astounded us. Following almost every interaction that we had we simply could not believe how nice and hospitable the Jordanian people were. It was simply a pleasure to be in their Country and a pleasure to be in their presence.