Colin’s cards wouldn’t work at an ATM so we spent some time getting a Visa cash advance, then filled the car and hit the road. Big 3-lanes (ish!) in each direction to Amman; we’re only going 1/3 of the way – till the turn-off to Wadi Rum. The biggest hazards are the speed bumps which can come as quite a surprise if you’re not paying attention! Otherwise the roads are really quite empty and so far it’s very easy driving.
Reached the Wadi Rum Visitors’ Centre around 10:30; paid our 15 JD entry fee and called Mohammed our tour operator to tell him we were here. He gave us directions to drive to the village (about 6 km further – on paved road), where we were met and led to his garage. We parked, had tea and eventually transferred our overnight bags to our tour Land Cruiser (which had certainly seen better days!). Our young guide/driver’s English was very rudimentary, but his driving (except when we were outside exploring dunes and he was making doughnuts!) was fine. He took us on the pre-arranged tour of Wadi Rum: a great desert plain with fabulous rock formations all around. TE is the local hero and many features are called “Lawrence this” and “Lawrence that”. Much of Lawrence of Arabia was filmed here and we thought we recognized some of them! We reached the Bedouin Camp around 5:30, but don’t think goats and other livestock. These are pure tourist camps, and there aren’t many tourists (not sure if it’s due to low season or Middle East troubles…). Our camp had the main eating tent and lots of small sleeping tents; ours had foam mattresses, unnecessary quilts and pillows for 4. There was also a nice toilet/shower block. The tents themselves are black/brown/white striped heavy woven wool, presumably authentic. The “host” was a German woman called Barbara who was volunteering for a number of weeks to learn more about Bedouins and Wadi Rum. She was the general camp cleaner, and she did a good job! We sat and waited for sunset, and a 2nd vehicle disgorged 3 American flight attendants seeing the Middle East in 8 days! One had just worked 1st class from LA to Heathrow and said Peter O’Toole was there (she didn’t recognize him; we thought he’d died a couple of years ago!). Anyway, he had his foot in the aisle and someone trod on it and he yelled “You just trod on m @!&#% foot!” She apologized to the woman accompanying him, who told her he was O’Toole!
Dinner cooked by a Sudanese man (we noticed in Aqaba that a lot of the hotel staff looked to be Pakistani: right religion, will work for lower wages?), and was nice but not the feast I was somewhat hoping for! Perhaps if a whole party books the camp they will cook accordingly. The night was beautifully clear. We didn’t feel the need to sleep outside, and I for one slept really well tucked in my sheet bag…
Next morning we had breakfast and our camels were waiting for us before 8 am. Unlike my Bactrian camel rides, these (single-humped) dromedaries have fancy saddles, and the 4 camels were tethered together (Colin got the tallest and he led the pack). We plodded and sat between the front and rear pommels, with our legs bent over the neck – quite comfortable actually. (In Mongolia there’s no saddle just a thin blanket covering the very bony back and stirrups, and my guide made me jog; I refused to gallop!) It was a 2 hour ride back to town. Back in Mohammed’s house we were served tea, and likely could have spent the rest of the day there, but we wanted to get moving, so we paid and left.
Back in the car we drove towards Wadi Musa, the town where Petra is located. We searched for our hotel, only to find that it is still undergoing renovations (I confirmed our reservation a few weeks ago; we heard that someone called to book 3 days before arriving!!!) Anyway, keen to find a hotel we went for broke and checked into the extremely fancy Movenpick hotel which is right at the entrance to Petra (nice to have working Visas!!!). The hotel is designed in a Jordanian theme and has antiques and beautiful rooms. We washed, washed clothes and went to explorePetra.
One day tickets are 50 JD each and 2-day tickets just 5 JD more, so we went for 2-day ones (no discount for students, but we met a really nice American mother and her 2 daughters, one of whom is studying in Amman and has a resident’s card, and she got in for 1 JD (x 1.4 = US$)).
We took the “free” horse ride down to the start of the Siq, then walked slowly down through the canyon, admiring every turn in the way…then suddenly, there was the “Treasury” (actually a funerary temple), and benches to sit and admire it and catch your breath. We walked slowly marveling at the temples and other buildings hewn out of the rock, and the later Roman additions (amphitheatre, colonnade, etc.). We felt walked-out around 6 pm and slowly made our way back out and back to our hotel. Here we met the American family, and walked back with them. Once at the hotel we stopped off at the bar (a beautiful Arabic room); Anna and I had wonderful lemon juice and mint slushies and Colin downed a beer. Too tired/lazy to venture out, we ate in the very fancy restaurant: buffet everything from grilled quail and seafood pasta to sesame dessert (delicious; rather like liquid halva!). Anna was wearing her long green tunic and black pants, and was complimented by one of the extremely gracious staff (turned out to be the Food and Beverage Manager); Colin commented to him that she only needed something red and white and she’d be wearing the Jordanian flag. He returned a few minutes later bearing a red apple and a glass of white wine!!! We had a nice chat with him about tourism in Jordan; apparently the tours that “do” Egypt, Jordan and Syria have cancelled, but those that just do Jordan have not; so tourism is down but not disastrously as in Egypt!!!
Explore Petra yourself through Petra, Jordan, a 2007 DVD available through theCalgary Public Library:
Gerry will be sharing her travels through Egypt and Jordan in a multimedia presentation as part of our 2011 Travel Day. Check out our upcoming programs on our homepage or through our program guide.