Last year we had an amazing 5 day trip to Jordan. The trip was a surprise birthday present from my wonderful girlfriend Naomi and my amazing family and they managed to keep it a secret until the day of my birthday – and what a wonderful surprise. I had such a great time that I wanted to share my experience with all of you out there, that have either been or are thinking of going. So I encourage you to leave comments and recommendations, so that this can become a 1 stop shop for information on the wonderful country of Jordan.
As you will have read, I live in Dubai, there is another section of this site dedicated to anyone travelling or thinking of travelling to Dubai, so Jordan amongst other Middle Eastern countries is only a 2 hour flight away. I flew out of Sharjah with Air Arabia into Queen Alia Airport in Jordan, a hassle free trip I might add.
Our itinerary started at Queen Alia Airport where our hire car guy from payless car rental was waiting with a board to take us straight to the car which was waiting just outside the arrival terminal. A quick inspection later and a swipe of the credit card (through a manual machine!) and we were let loose on the roads of Jordan, to make our way down to Petra. There are a number of routes to choose from, the easiest to get to from the airport, being the desert highway which you get on almost immediately. This you can follow all the way until you see a sign for Petra, at which point you turn right and follow, after around 2 hours, depending on how you drive, you will arrive in Petra. The other alternatives are the Kings Highway and the Dead Sea Highway, depending on how much time you have in Jordan, the Kings highway is a recommended route, for those with a longer stay in mind, you can spend an entire day getting from Amman further South if you use the Kings highway and stop at the various ruins and castles along the way. We chose to go down the Desert highway and on our way up to the Dead Sea (2nd 2 days in Jordan) we took the Dead Sea Highway. The Kings Highway and Aqaba (great diving) are for the next trip.
The drive down on the desert highway is a wonderful drive, as you get to experience the changing landscape as you drive. The road is a pretty good one, but it is isn’t a smooth highway as you might expect it, there are some big potholes to watch out for and ripples in the road where the tarmac has melted under the hot sun and then trucks and cars have rolled over it or braked hard and caused it to ripple. As you move further south though, be sure to keep an eye out for just how much the landscape changes around you.
When we arrived in Petra, we drove to the Movenpick Petra Resort where we were staying. This time of year, July, is actually their off season and when we checked in, we were advised of ongoing maintenance between 9-5pm. Not a great start we thought, but we were shown up to our room, as we entered the pneumatic drill upstairs started up and sounded like it was going to come straight through the ceiling. It was so loud that we couldn’t hear the concierge on the other end of the phone, when we contacted him to explain the issue. Needless to say, we asked to move and to the hotel’s credit, they moved us to a bigger room a floor down, a little further away from the almighty din! Unfortunately though, as it was low season, the hotel was doing all of it’s annual maintenance, so one of the lifts wasn’t working and the main restaurant at poolside was also closed. The scale of the maintenance would suggest that this was a ‘big’ overhaul, but when considering when to visit Jordan, definitely take this into consideration. As we were coming from Dubai, the 35 degree heat and low humidity was a welcome decrease for us, but for many travelling from Europe or further afield, this time of year will be too warm to be out trekking around the ruins and so forth. Having said this, I was actually quite cold in shorts and t-shirt on the roof garden having Shisha one evening.
Petra by night
As we had arrived mid afternoon, we decided to settle into the hotel and then go on the ‘Petra at night’ tour which runs three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) The concierge had tickets and advised us that we should be outside the visitor centre at 8.20pm that evening. I was very excited to say the least as I had been reading my lonely planet guide on the plane! We got to the visitor centre and milled around for 10 minutes as more and more people arrived. Eventually, the group was probably about 50 people now; we were herded together and advised on how to proceed. One of the main instructions given, which unfortunately some people just seemed unable to follow, was to make the trip in silence in order to absorb the atmosphere of the historic site and be at one with the ‘Djinn’ spirits that occupy the site. We were lead through the entrance and started down the dirt path, illuminated all the way by small candles on top of a mound of dirt surrounded by a paper bag. Apart from the incessant talking of some of the party, it was quite a mystical, spiritual walk into the unknown for us. Luckily our local guide got the message across to the whole group that silence was mandatory and the remainder of the trip was quite magical – the culmination being as you pop out of the ‘Siq’ in front of the Treasury,
it’s immense glory bathed in candlelight. Here you are invited to listen to two traditional musical pieces and partake in some sweet Arabic tea. The seating after the walk is just a mat on the floor and for anyone of any significant size ( I am 6ft 2inches tall and 17 stone) it can be a little uncomfortable to say the least, however, the setting and the lighting and the traditional music is something to be experienced, rather than described in prose.
After the music you are then free to take pictures with flash and explore the area in front of the Treasury, having said this, once everyone stands up and flash bulbs are popping everywhere the mystique and wonder dissipates very quickly. We decided to make an exit at this point, not least of which to get back out of the site before all the candles burnt out.
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- Voluntourism in Jordan (vivanista.com)