Desert and marine life

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May 28th 2017
Published: April 18th 2018
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Greetings fellow wanderers - I believe I have a recommendation for you....! Well, actually, this is probably going to sound achingly familiar, but for a trip to Jordan, as compact a nation as it is, splitting a week-long trip between northern and southern Jordan seems like a perfect strategy, right? Whatever the case might be, in terms of your perceptions, this trip kicked off in Aqaba, a coastal town, Jordan's one and only, signified the first leg of the tour, and a chance to see one or two treasures of the region. The period being Ramadan, an eerie sense of tranquility pervaded to the extent of this being something of a ghost town, at least compared to the vibrant buzz of Aqaba at its busiest. A couple of attractions lined the way, namely the majesty of Sharif Bin Ali Hussein mosque, Aqaba castle, the folk museum, and a variety of shops dotted throughout town, worth a look-in, but not as satisfying as the 'China Town' enclave of Chinese owned and run stores located a short ride out of the centre. Whilst you are in Aqaba, an excursion on a local scale is a diving or snorkeling tour to one of the numerous dive sites located just offshore, proving that a boat ride and full day trip needn't be worked into the mix in order to sample some of the Red Sea's spectacular marine life. In particular, shipwreck dives are a popular pick, and the sunken army tank located just offshore is a prime example of the jewels of the sea bed and every reason why a diver would be in their element here. Adding to the list of the must-sees would be, of course, an excursion to the world-famous heritage site of Petra, and setting aside anything less than a 1-day trip to see the place would be a wasted opportunity. The visitors' centre, replete with Jordan's priciest eateries and shopping options, is what you'll first encounter, and it felt like no great loss skipping the adjoining museum in favour of a wander down the route known as the Siq to reach the Treasury, Petra's most iconic image, and not without reason. The Siq though is utterly captivating, and in some ways, I could liken the effects of walking through it to a visitor's first stroll through Manhattan, where towering buildings either side almost appear to close in on you, such is their omnipresence and overawing allure. The Siq's cavernous walls are detailed and rocky, sublime and surreal, and it is here where you can feel the Petra magic work its way into the soul, as you step aside to avoid horses and carts surging through the narrow passageway at speed and at frequent intervals. Upon reaching the Treasury, photo opportunities abound, and picking up the 'follow the route' baton once more, you'll reach a far more open expanse of rocky, crafted awesomeness which allows you to sample the delights of the outdoor theatre and the monastery, amongst other treats. Sorry to sound as if I work for Petra's tourist board, but trust me, this entire place is most definitely not overrated, and if anything, actually deserves more accolades than are heaped upon it! A companion piece to Petra, and a place not so far afield is the desertscape wonder that is Wadi Rum, another must-see node on any Jordanian itinerary, and a chance to follow the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia who revelled in the place's splendour. From the visitor centre, the 'Seven Pillars of Wisdom' will lead the 7-kilometre route to Rum village, and this is essentially a flat deserted area flanked by rocky stone formations so majestic that they can even detract from the potentially-crushing desert heat. Rum village is the area's only settlement where development has taken place, and the rest house is a spot from which you'll be able to book Rum excursions, enjoy a meal and even stay overnight, especially if Bedouin tent-style accommodation fails to appeal. Jeep tours are commonplace, as are camel rides, and whichever way you choose to assist you in your desert trek, you can rest assured that the uniqueness of the area will make the entire visit seem wholly worthwhile.


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