JORDAN AND SYRIA TRIP REPORT.
A year ago we traveled to India and spent a” perfect’ month in that amazing country…after it was over we realized that we owed that “perfect trip” to Mr. Singh at Legends & Palaces for his outstanding planning and concern for our well-being.
“Nothing will top that experience” we commented after it was all over…and, how wrong we were…
Well, a year later we decided to travel to Jordan and Syria… We knew we needed to find a good agency. My husband and I love to travel on our own, but with the aid of an agency in the place of our destination.
Two weeks ago we came back from our 10 days trip to Jordan and Syria, and we were stunned and delighted to realized that it was another “perfect” trip…so, it is time for me to write my report and share some of my experience with you..
First thing in our planning?! Yeah, it was to search for an agency…what better way it is to find an agency than to go to Fodor’s and use your valuable experience for guidance?! As you all know, agencies can make or break a trip, no matter how young or old you are.
I read several of the postings and came across Fluffnfold and Elizabeth, who mentioned “Desert Horizon” and Mr. Mohammed in Jordan. Their experience with them was outstanding and this helped us to make up our mind and go with them.
Elizabeth happened to have a very good impression about a driver named Bashar, to the point that I wanted to have him as our driver. When the time came, I asked We Mr. Mohammed if it would be possible to assign him to us; he wrote back that he will try his best but cannot promise; to our surprise, Bashar was introduced to us as our driver upon our arrival to the Desert Horizon office in Amman and I was thrilled and happy about it. He was everything and more that I was hoping for. Among his many qualities, he was kind, friendly, with a great sense of humor and always ready to surprise us with something wonderful during the tours. His remarkable hospitality will always be remembered.
The crossing of the ancient King’s Highway, which cuts across the inhospitable desert, became less tedious just listening to his stories and the sound of his contagious laugh.
Also, I would be remiss if I did not mention the reports by Thursdaysd and ‘Always On The Road’. They were invaluable in my search.
We started our search 6 months in advance with Fodor’s and Lonely Planet, decided on the sites and started our correspondence with Mr. Mohammed to see how much we can cram into 10 days. We were pleasantly surprised with his prompt responses and suggestions, and we were back and forth until we were comfortable with both the itinerary and hotels. After all the correspondence, it was a real pleasure to meet him in person in his Amman office; and like in his e-mails, he was the same friendly and engaging person, with a big smile and willing to accommodate our last minute changes.
Our itinerary included the following places:
Jordan: Amman, Jerash, Kerek, Petra, Wadi Rum, Mount Nebo, Madaba, Deset castles and palaces build by the Umayyad Caliphs in the Jordanian desert and the Roman Amphitheater.
Syria: Damascus, Saidnaya, Maalula, Krak des Chevalliers, Hama (where we saw and heard the ancient wooden norias-water wheels- groaning), Aleppo and the stunning Palmyra ruins-
We have traveled intensely over the years and never, ever, would compare one place with another; maybe this is the reason why we appreciate, to the maximum, all the beauties that the country, in which we are guests, offers to us.
I can say, without a doubt, that all the sights in Jordan and Syria, took my breath away.
Damascus, the new part, was a lovely surprise with the beautiful fountains, well kept and manicured parks, and many streets with nice displays of flowers and also lined by many trees.
I wasn’t surprised to find it congested as most large cities are.
I found the people in both countries charming, very curious and ready to ask all kinds of questions when they engaged me in conversation, I was happy to ask some question as well. Many nice teen-agers were eager to practice their English…good for them!!!
All of the above made our experience extra special, full of inspiring moments and unforgettable memories.
I do want to stress the importance, like Thrusdaysd suggested in her report, that you need two full days in Petra. We only had a day and a half, and it was not enough!! We wanted to see most of everything… and this lead us to do both the Monastery and the High Place of Sacrifice one after the other, resting only when we have lunch.
Both are very demanding trails, and take 40 + minutes each way; at the end ,we were exhausted!!.. We started out climb to the Monastery at 7am. And the other at 2pm, and believe me, we are not that young any more.
Once we reached our destination at the Monastery, I was enchanted by the beauty of this majestic monument and I felt, really on top of the word…what a view!!!.
At the end of the day we were very proud of our achievements!!!
If you want to have some fun and at the same time a place where you will feel alone with heavens and God, don’t miss the magnificent Wadi Rum with those mysterious, hospitable and wonderful Bedouin people.
There was no better tea than what the Bedouin driver made for us somewhere in the middle of the desert.
A glorious and unforgettable sight? A sunrise over the elegant Palmyra colonnades…
One of our big headaches during our trip planning was to find the right hotels. The information about them were very complex and contradictory, I was stressing out so much that in desperation, I had to ask the “Fodorites” for help. We took into account the many suggestions, and after going back and forth with Mr. Mohammed, we settled on the hotels below, that we felt would meet our requirements and also fit into our budget. It turned out that they were all beyond our expectations, and now that we are back, we would like to make them available to other future travelers who might be in similar situation that we were.
Amman: Hisham Hotel – located in the Embassy district. We had a spacious and comfortable room. Breakfast buffet was great and so was the dinner.
Petra: Petra Palace – only 500 meters from the entrance to the ruins. A very friendly and helpful staff and very good breakfast.
Wadi Rum: Jabal Rum Camp – a very happy environment and friendly people. Excellent Badouin style food (cooking the meat for 12 hours in containers under sand), and great entertainment during the evening. The tents were spacious; they also have what we called, “Royal Tents” which surprisingly had hot and cold shower and toilet attached to them.
Damascus: Cham Palace – we were upgraded to a spacious Suit with a view of the city. It is a beautiful hotel, and what called most my attention was the mother of pearl inlaid furniture and reception area. A fantastic and huge buffet breakfast…great memories..
Aleppo: Riga Palace – all in all a very good hotel in a busy part of the city. We had a good medium size room, and fine breakfast.
Palmyra: Zenobia Cham Oasis – a beautiful location, as you walk out of the hotel, you are right front of the magnificent ruins. A splendid view from the dining room and great breakfast… Our room was small, but very clean and well appointed.
All the breakfasts were good or really good; another treat for me and totally unexpected. I read, in many comments, how awful they could be… considering breakfast the most important meal of the day, I could not have been happier.
Since we did not have dinner at any of the hotels, we cannot make any recommendations.
One restaurant that stayed in my mind… When visiting the spectacular castle Krak des Chevalliers, we stopped for lunch in the Panorama Castle Restaurant, which at that time was completely empty, where we were treated to a delicious 11 course lunch!!! I guess we were there at the right time.
Bashar introduced us to a wonderful night at the Lebanese Café in Wadi Musa, excellent food, and the musicians were phenomenal!!
No matter how hard I try, I cannot find anything negative to say about this trip.
In Syria, we were extremely lucky with our guide and driver; it was a “homerun” all the way.
Ahmad, our guide, was a walking encyclopedia and more. He is an extremely well educated young man, who constantly engaged us in all kinds of stimulated conversations, beside the routine history of all the places we visited. Very personable, very curious and open minded.
Nabil, our driver was a quiet, shy but very sweet and helpful person and I was touch by his kindness.
All of them made a huge difference in the way we saw both countries and made us understand their culture a tiny bit more.
Thanks to the superb organization, we did not have to move a finger when crossing the borders either.
Most of the sites were not very crowded because many tours were cancelled due to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano ( We travel on April 17) that forced the cancellation of all European flights for a week. We were lucky because we flew direct from New York to Amman. Lady luck struck again!!!!
In retrospect, if I could change anything I would take 3 extra days and include Bosra in our itinerary.
I would like to thank all of you who helped me to put my trip together,
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JORDAN AND SYRIA TRIP REPORT.