For a long time I was intimidated by the thought of traveling around the Middle East. Dubai felt like a safe enough place to live, but the heavy Western influence there gave me a sense of security that, although false, was still enough to help me adjust without any culture shock. But Jordan was high on my bucket list, so I finally took the plunge and booked a trip.
Though it's always wise to think about personal safety, my fears now seem silly in hindsight - I never once felt unsafe the entire time I was there. And once I finally decided to take the trip, I fell completely in love with Jordan's beautiful scenery and amazing people, and it's now on my bucket list as one of the places I'd most like to return to.
I booked a private tour with a colleague via one of our company's social media groups and we met for the first time in a taxi on the way to the airport. To my relief, she was a great travel buddy - laid back, friendly and down-to-earth. We landed in Amman around 10am and didn't wait too long getting through immigration. The entry visa for Jordan cost about $50 USD for each of us.
Once we were through customs, we met our guide in the Starbucks downstairs, then headed out to the Dead Sea. From the airport, it took about an hour and a half to get to the Dead Sea Spa Hotel, through which our tour guide had secured us beach access and lunch.
One thing that I hadn't fully realized was how fast the Dead Sea is shrinking. Signposts along the pathway to the beach showed us where the shores had been over the past 20 years. And the water level still goes down over a meter every year, with experts predicting that it could be gone by the year 2050. If you want to see it, see it soon. The shore is also the lowest accessible point of dry land on earth, measured at around 420m below sea level.
Another thing that surprised me was how still the water seemed. The whole place in fact, had an almost eerie sense of calm, making it easy to forget about the political unrest on the shores directly across the water from us.
We watched the other tourists slapping handfuls of mud on their skin, and followed suit. Then we awkwardly made our way into the salty water. Staying afloat in the Dead Sea was easy, but keeping our balance while getting in and out of the water proved to be quite difficult. I floated for a while, as the water washed the mud off my skin. Not all of it came off though, even after a bit of scrubbing, and my skin remained slightly stained for another day or two.
Eventually we got back into the car and continued up the winding highway into the mountains. Since our time in Jordan was fairly short, our plan was to spend the first night in the town of Petra, and visit the ancient site the following day.
I'm not sure how long we drove, but the sun was starting to set when we pulled in front of a tiny building in a place that even now I can't locate on the map.
Beside the building was a patio of sorts - a few tables & chairs facing a cliffside that gave a view across the country, all the way to Israel. Our guide purchased us each a cold can of coke and while we gazed out at the breathtaking scenery around us, one of the locals (perhaps even the owner of the shop) jumped down to a ledge below where we were sitting and began to play a song on his flute.
When we finally got to Petra, our tour guide checked us into the La Maison Hotel, which was about a 5-minute walk from the Petra visitor's center. The hotel wasn't fancy, but it was close to where we wanted to go, and a fairly comfortable (and affordable) place to spend one night before heading off to explore one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
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