Our time in Jordan will probably go down as one of the shortest, yet sweetest stays of our trip. It will be memorable for three incredible sites we visited, some friendly people and a couple of mishaps.
With all our necessary visas either in the bag, in the pipeline or in our dreams and being in danger of actually being able to speak some Arabic, it was high time we left Cairo. The first leg of our journey took us on a night bus to the sleepy Red Sea resort of Nuweiba. Although a lot less developed than Dahab we didn’t think it was a patch on the rival resort we had visited a few weeks previously. This was largely due to having a dirty beach and nothing in the way of atmosphere.
From Nuweiba there are two daily ferries that ply the short route to the port of Aqaba in Jordan, one fast and one slow. On paper the slow ferry arrives in Jordan only an hour later than the fast one, so we decided to save ourselves $20 and take the more leisurely option, a decision we were soon to regret.
As instructed by our hotel
we arrived at the ferry terminal two hours prior to departure time, in order to purchase our tickets and clear immigration. Unfortunately the ferry was delayed by four hours and after six hours of waiting we finally boarded. This didn’t really pose much of a problem as we have become accustomed to transport delays and whiled away the time chatting with fellow travellers, that is until they all boarded the fast ferry that they had sensibly bought tickets for.
Having boarded the ferry we then frustratingly sat in the dock for seven hours before moving! This left us concerned that we would arrive in Aqaba in the middle of the night. However, this didn’t prove to be a problem, as for some reason the crossing took eight hours rather than the advertised three! With an hour disembarking, we spent a total of twenty-two hours in transit. Given that we had got little or no sleep lying under tables and chairs crammed in with hundreds of Egyptians we certainly regretted not spending the extra $20.
In light of the problems we have faced so far on this trip, Jordan immediately got in our good books by issuing us with
a free visa on arrival. We quickly became less impressed when we realised how expensive the country was in general. Especially arriving during a public holiday, we struggled to find any affordable accommodation and opted for the cheaper option of sleeping on a hotel roof. From Aqaba we planned to spend some time in the desert at nearby Wadi Rum and organised a taxi to take us there next morning.
Like most travellers we have something of a love hate relationship with Lonely Planet guide books. On one hand we feel vulnerable and alone if leave the hotel without one and on the other we take every opportunity to bemoan the inaccuracy of the information provided. We soon discovered that in their Middle East guide book they had surpassed even themselves when it comes to the provision of incorrect information.
Thd next morning we were awoken from our rooftop bed by an irate taxi driver claiming we were half an hour late. With some insistent watch pointing and shouting on our part we pointed out that he was in fact half an hour early. It transpired that surprise, surprise he was correct and we had had spent our
first day in Jordan an hour behind the rest of the population, thanks to believing the Lonely Planet when it said that Egypt and Jordan run on the same time!
Once the taxi driver had been placated and had taken us to Wadi Rum, we took a four wheel drive tour of this area of desert made famous by Laurence of Arabia. Our tour took in a few Laurence of Arabia based sights, but most spectacular was the landscape itself, some of the most beautiful scenery we have ever seen. We then spent the night in a Bedouin tent and were entertained by some slightly contrived fireside entertainment.
Our next stop in Jordan was the country’s number one tourist destination, Petra. Having thought that we may have had our fill of antiquities after Egypt, we were pleased to find it refreshingly different and absolutely stunning. An entire city hewn into a sandstone canyon, it was built around 2000 years ago by the Nabataeans, one off the more underrated ancient civilizations. Unlike many ancient wonders it is has possibly improved with age and the sandstone has weathered to leave beautiful patterns in the rock. The location is in itself
sufficiently beautiful for it to be an attraction it its own right, even if there were no ancient city. Another attraction of Petra is that it is sufficiently large for it to be possible to lose the coach loads of tourists. In fact at one point we managed to get so far off the beaten track (read lost!) that one cave-dwelling local asked us if we were looking for Petra!
From Petra we travelled to the Jordanian capital. Amman is an extremely modern city and although probably a pleasant place to live, in our opinion it lacked the charms of Cairo. However, it provided a useful base from which to visit the Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth. Which famously has such high levels of salinity that it is impossible not to float. In fact due to evaporation, all minerals are so highly concentrated and the water is noticeably oily and viscous. From a few accidental splashes in the mouth we can testify that it an extremely evil brew, which also took a good few showers to get rid of. The Dead Sea is somewhere Alex has wanted to visit since a young age, hence he reverted to
a small boy on arrival and was in his element posing for photographs with all available props!
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