02-2009
Jordan is advertised in all the brochures as the biblical land. It was on my Athens to Sinai route so I paid a visit there. After crossing maybe the easiest borders I have ever crossed, I was into Jordan. I headed to a string of castles and outposts in the Jordanian desert. My first stop was in the oasis city of Azraq. That is what the guide mentioned. In reality it’s a bunch of houses spread out on the highway. It looks more like a pit stop on the highway with taverns right and left, advertising the sheep they kill for the grill by hanging their coats from a rope, a rather nasty sight. From there I took the road to the capital Amman. On the way I stopped in Qusayr Amra, Qasar Kharaneh and two more places but I cannot remember their names. They were all fortified caravanserais where in the old days travellers could find a place to sleep and drink water, while their animals were protected on the ground floor. On my way to Amman I had a police officer waving me down not for a check but for hitching a ride with me into the capital. Amman is built amphitheatrically on a number of hills. It’s a truly middle-eastern, Arabic city with the mosques popping out from everywhere. On one side of the city the Palestinian caps and on the other side the rich neighbourhoods of the international community that calls Amman home. As a whole I wasn’t thrilled with the sights. Among them, an ancient Roman amphitheatre right in the heart of the city. So I decided to move on to Madaba, the main gateway to almost all of the biblical sights. I explored Jebel Nebo where Moses supposedly saw the promise land and the thermal oasis of Hammamat before descending to the Dead Sea. I spent a night right on the shore after I had taken the classical picture of me reading my newspaper while floating on the Dead Sea. Although it’s a place where people come to swim, there was no flesh exposed. The women went into the water fully clothed and the men wore long pants and T-shirts. It was quite an experience. At night I slept in my tent in a quiet parking lot (or so I thought) next to the water, just to wake up an hour later by cars full of boys that came from Madaba to smoke chisa and grill meat. That’s partying in Jordanian standards. Of course I was invited to join them and with their bad English they explained the situation in the nearby Palestine. The borders that Israel shares with Jordan are open because King Abdullah is making an effort to keep a low profile in the crisis. In general I only heard good things about the king from Jordanians and foreigners alike. Further down I stopped in Karak and its castle almost untouched by time. I managed to convince the local police to let me sleep right outside of it actually. Before I retired to my tent and since the fog had covered half the castle, I felt like I was participating in a movie.
That was the introduction to what was going to happen next. The village of Wadi Musa with the world heritage site of Petra, the secret Navathinian city and the temple sculptured directly on the free standing rock. If you only have time to see one thing in the Middle East that’s definitely Petra. Small passages curved into the rocks that lead to these free standing miracles of architecture. The site is so big that the entrance pass is valid from two to five days. I picked up a 3-day pass and still feel like I missed a lot. The main route that leads to three of the most impressive temples is full of tourists since they even sell day tours for Petra from the nearby Israel. But if you start early in the morning as I did you have them almost to yourself. And when the groups arrive you are already in the ones that are harder to reach and not on the top of the list that tourist buses have for the elderly. On the route I chose to do on the second day, I encountered only four other travellers. The main site has become a flee market of course where they sell everything, from camel rides to cold drinks. For the third day I left the hardest but the best thing as well, the monastery. It was a steep climb up a rocky, slippery hill. It’s pretty scary but at the end and out of nowhere the monastery is revealed, one of the finest temples from where you can see all the way to Jerusalem. The sand rocks in which the temples are curved have about seven different shades of red, from almost grey on the outside until fire red. The afternoon sun leaves a remarkable memory in everyone’s mind.
After leaving Petra behind me, I thought I had seen the highlight of Jordan. But about 300 km further down in the desert of Wadi Rum, I was astonished by the pure desert with rock formations in the same colours of red but this time untouched by the human hand. This national park is still on the top of my list. According to the info I had, I passed by the park gate and stopped in the village to load up Voukefalas with water supplies and food for four days. And then I drove into the great unknown. I spent four days in complete isolation with my camp close to one of the rocks to protect me from the sand storms. In the morning I experienced the true meaning of quietness as I could even hear the sound of every bird in range. At night the stars and the sky were my companions. Those were the greatest four days of my trip. On my way back, I decided to stay another four days in the Wadi Rum village and hang out with the desert Bedouins and Dominic. He was a German lunatic like me who had the passion of free climbing, for which Wadi Rum is a world class location as he told me. We had camped next to each other. With the fire and his sitar, Wadi Rum gave me even more things to remember. After all that the costal, liberal city of Aqaba was just another nice place. I did manage to explore its underwater wonders though, something that kept me busy until it was time to leave for Egypt.
I cannot say that Jordan was spectacular but I can definitely say that for Wadi Rum and Petra I could go back again and again. They are places worth to keep so that the future generations can admire what I saw and admired.
Moments to remember: Every single minute from my visit to Wadi Rum, the time with Dominic and the Bedouins and my long walks in Petra getting to know its history.

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