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Jordan:Desert,Rose City, Fabulous views,Unearthly landscapes.


Jun 15th, 2014, 05:21 AM
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Jordan:Desert,Rose City, Fabulous views,Unearthly landscapes.

For a more detailed picture+ post account, have a look here http://ashwinbahulkar.wordpress.com/...rip-to-jordan/

Initially I was not able to decide between Egypt and Jordan, at times I wanted both!! But then given the time limit and the situation in the Middle East, I opted for Jordan. Turns out, it was a great choice, well ofcourse. . I had a great trip in March, a very long pending trip report, and special thanks to all forum members and experts. Without you guys the trip wouldn't have been the same.

So why Jordan?

Jordan has one of the most dramatic sites in the world, one of the new Seven Wonders, Petra, then it has the beautiful desert of Wadi Rum, with all it's rocky mountains,sands and even plentiful pastures and greenery, then it has the Dead Sea. As if all of this wasn't enough for a relatively small country, you also have a beautiful, well preserved Roman city, Jerash, several crusader castles, at Shobak, Ajloun and Kerak, and several scattered ancient christian religious sites. All of this combined with the mountain + desert scenery makes Jordan an unbeatable destination. And most importantly, Jordan is among the few MENA countries which offer safety + excellent sites.

Now my itinerary:

I went to Jordan in March 2014 for about 9 days. Here’s my Jordan Itinerary: Amman: Half a day.

Jerash and Ajloun: A day trip from Amman using public bus.

Petra: 4 days including getting to Petra and a small trip to Shobak Castle. Spent time hiking around Petra.

Wadi Rum: 3 days Madaba: 1 day, with a small trip to Mukawir.

Since hiking and the desert was a priority this time, I missed going to the Dead Sea and Aqaba, I guess I'll have to make a separate trip for that, or maybe I'll see it from the Israel side in future.

Top Favorite things:

1. Petra ofcourse.

2. Hiking in Petra

3. Hiking in the Wadi Rum

4. Getting to Mukawir

5. The Petra-Wadi Rum road via the King's Highway.

6. Shobak Castle.

Things which weren't the best:

1. The costs ofcourse, bu then I was a little prepared, definitely more expensive than Turkey for example.

2. Not the very best experiences with visa officers(but then which visa officers are good?)

3. Food..honestly, I was expecting more, but not bad at all.

4. Taxi drivers, but that's not specific to Jordan. But again, not bad at all.

Visa officer experience: The first question how much money do you have? I said about 1000$.

And no. of days? I said 9.
Not enough. We can give only for a week.
I say " but my bookings are for 9 days". Then I open my wallet.
They say " just this much money"? I say, it is 1100$ !! I started counting the money. All 100$ notes,so just 11 of them, it is going to look less, do they want me to carry money in a suitcase?
He was ok with it, paid 20 JD, and got the passport stamped.
Not the best experience. So carry enough cash. 1000$ is ok if its for a week, for 10-12 days, you need more money.
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Jun 15th, 2014, 05:22 AM
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My page on Amman: http://ashwinbahulkar.wordpress.com/...-jordan/amman/

Amman isn’t the most interesting capital cities in the world, but spending a day in Amman is always a good idea before beginning your journey into Jordan. Despite being a new and modern city, it does offer some level of good atmosphere. You do feel you are in the Middle East.

Top Things To Do and Eat in Amman:

1. Visit Jebel Amman for it’s sweeping views over Amman City, go in the evening.

2. Go to Hashem Restaurant for a proper Arabic fastfood meal. Order the fatteh.

3. Go to Al-Quds to have Arabic sweets, especially the Kunefe.

4. Go to Pizza Roma Cafe near the Amphitheater for an Arabic breakfast.

5. Roam around the Amman souk, however, don’t expect something very exotic like the Bazars of Turkey or Morocco.

Accommodation: I stayed at the Cliff Hotel, a budget hotel in downtown Amman. I got a dorm bed for a mere 5 JD. The staff’s good, wifi’s decent, but the location and cost makes it a winner.

Getting into Amman : Visa & transfer to the city from Airport

As our flight neared Amman, the landscape suddenly changed, from the brown-brown deserts of Arabia to the green fields and plantations of the Levant(North Jordan, Syria, Israel) . Reached Amman at midday.

Took an aiport bus to the Tabarbour bus station. The bus journey through Amman’s suburbs and outskirts was quite interesting, first we had plenty of farms, olive plantations, many vendors selling fruit on the highway(very much like India), greenhouses giving way to the residential localities with it’s block like boring structures. But some houses were built really well using a different kind of stone.

I had to take a taxi from the bus station, I managed to bring down the fare from 10 Dinars to 4.25 dinars(altough maybe 3.5 would have been appropriate), giving me a reminder that I was no longer in hassle free countries I had traveled before ( like Europe, Turkey). I even had to request the taxi driver not to smoke in the taxi, much to his annoyance.

Reached my hotel, Cliff Hotel, a favorite among budget travelers, right in the middle of the downtown. Not a very likeable place, but was clean, had a good helpful,staff and the best part was that it was right infront of the famous Hashem Restaurant, Jordan-famous for it’s falafel, Hummus and such middle eastern fast food.

The City of Amman

I go my money exchanged at a Western Union place(708 Dinars for 1000 USD).Amman felt very much like the cities of South-East Turkey(Gaziantep, Sanliurfa) I had visited an year back. You can read about it here. Souks, albeit modern, neat streets, going up and down, scarf clad women, sweet shops, the wonderful smell of flavored Hookah(nargileh), very few tourists, a very local atmosphere, wedding dress shops and so on..I was expecting a chaotic city like Cairo(I haven’t been there, just heard of it), but was pleasantly surprised.

Reached the castle after a small hike up the road( a local showed me a shortcut), This pretty much the top of Amman( Jebel Amman) from where you get to see sweeping views of the city, the never ending blocks of houses, mosques, the beautiful Roman Amphitheater, modern skyscrapers. The Roman columns on the top were spectacular too, but the star site was the huge Jordan flags you could see from the top, I mean they were really really big.

Stayed there almost till sunset, met a Jordanian Bollywood fan(much to his disappointment I did not know too much about Bollywood), admired the Umayyad Palace, and finally walked down to the Roman Amphitheater. The Amphitheater was a breathaking site, but the evening lighting could have been done in a better way. However, the biggest draw was the sweetshop right infront of the Theater, I had a big plate of Kunefe (a sugar syrup-cheese-fried vermicelli dessert) for a mere 0.6 Dinars. The next stop was the Hashem Restaurant. A very,clean, lively Middle eastern place(I was expecting a canteen like place, since it’s so popular). The chef dishes ou large servings of hummus, drizzles them with loads of olive oil, then you have “fool” or “ful”, a red paste made of Fava beans, Fatteh, an aubergine-yoghurt based paste with several toppings and garnishing, olive oil and a green chilli sauce being the most important ones. And you have a falafel counter. I ordered a “ful” and a plate of falafel. All big portions, it came with bread and salad. The falafel was green from the inside and crisp. After a fulfilling meal, which cost me only 1.5 Dinars I came back to the hotel, had a talk a with a few guys out there and wen to bed straightaway. Afterall, there was some amount of jetlag.
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Jun 15th, 2014, 05:24 AM
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My page on Jerash and Ajloun:

I did a day trip to Jerash, a wonderfully preserved Roman city, popularly known as the “Pompeii of the East” , and Ajloun, a well preserved “Anti-Crusader” Islamic castle, situated among olive and pine groves and hills. Both of these are north of Amman.

Plan: Leave for Ajloun by public bus from Tabarbour bus stand(North bus stand) , arrive in Ajloun, take a taxi to the castle and back, get a bus to Jerash, explore the site for several hours, come back to Amman by shared taxi.

Woke up the next morning, the plan was to go to Jerash and Ajloun. I had initially planned to go to Umm Qais and Jerash, but that would have been a very long and I would have had to wake up really early. So I headed towards Amman Pasha Hotel, the owner had told me there are people whom I can I can share a taxi for the trip. Unfortunately there was no one, so I had to do it on my own.

I took a shared taxi(0.5 Dinar) to the Tabarbour station and then a bus to Ajloun(1.1 Dinar). The highway pretty interesting, pine forests and fields and rolling hills all along the way. Reached the town of Ajloun, took a taxi( 3 Dinars return) to the castle. The castle looks brilliant as you approach it, it’s like a crown on the top a biggish green hill. When you get there, it looks really small, but as you explore you realize it’s not really that small. The castle was an islamic one built to defend against crusaders. The castle’s corridors and stairs and rooms were very well preserved/restored. The color of the stones too was awesome, it would glow when sunlight would fall on it. The top of the castle had brilliant views of the countryside. The morning was a very pleasant one, blue skies, cool breeze, cirrus clouds, from the top you could see typical Mediterranean countryside, hills with pine forests and olive groves everywhere..and just then a big tour group arrived, actually they were students at an Arabic school in Amman, met a few interesting people there, so that was fun, but I was glad I got to see the entire castle without anyone being there.

Got a bus back to Jerash, had a so-so buffet lunch(6 JD,vegetarian,just salads and bread) and entered the site. I knew I was back in a tourist area after seeing the shops selling souvenirs. The Hadrian’s Gate was gorgeous. Very quickly I realized Jerash was huge!! Very different and much bigger than the Graeco-Roman sites I had seen in Turkey, like Ephesus or Afrodisias. The theatre was brilliant. I was so glad I had rented a wide angle lens for the trip. The Oval Plaza, it’s view from the temple and the top of the theatre, the Colonnaded Street, the Baths, the Temples of Zeus and Artemis, all were fabulous. Firstly I loved the color of the stone, a very nice shade of brown, then the entire landscape, the whole place had become green and yellow(wildflowers) from the spring rains, and the long, colonnaded streets were absolutely first class. I met this local who offered to show me around, I tested his knowledge of the site, and it seems the Greeks were there 20,000 years back, and Romans 15,000 years back and they “did party at the Oval plaza” , gave him a tiny “tip” and moved on.

I stayed there for quite some time, almost until the site was about to close, 6 PM, or so, the site was simply amazing, I just couldn’t leave. But then I had to leave, only to realize there were no buses going back to Amman. I now had to take a service taxi, which I wasn’t terribly reliable, since they would wait for the taxi to fill up, and it was almost dark and they did not drop me at the bus station, as promised. And I didn;t want to spend 10-12 JD on a private taxi(but one should,dont go with these service taxis). So I had to get another taxi to come back to the downtown, whereas if I had been dropped at the bus station, I could have taken shared taxi back to the Downtown.

More coming up soon..
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Jun 15th, 2014, 08:06 AM
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Surprised to hear of your problem with the visa. Mine was purely a formality - but I came overland from Syria. The taxis had meters for round town then, too, although I bargained for longer trips. As best I remember I used ATMs, not money changers.
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Jun 16th, 2014, 07:23 AM
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Hi ashwinb,

Looking forward to hearing your report! I am thinking about a trip to Jordan in March 2015 (in conjunction with a trip "home" to Saudi Arabia), so your trip is good information for me!

I like that you stayed in Petra 4 days! I've been looking at many tours, but they only offer 1 night. I want to spend at least 3 nights there. Looking forward to your time there!

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Jun 16th, 2014, 08:48 AM
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Following with great interest.
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Jun 17th, 2014, 10:08 AM
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thursdaysd, I guess they need to scrutinize more when they see a non-European/American. I didn;t have to use ATM's, because I was carrying a lot of cash(a requirement for getting a visa,an absurd 1950's requirement, who carries 1500$?)

swandav2000, Petra is totally worth 4 days, or atleast 3 for many,it wasn't an overkill at all,it was just perfect.
Fra_Diavolo , thanks!!
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Jun 17th, 2014, 10:09 AM
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PETRA, the most awaited destination of all!! One of my life's top experiences.
The blog link: http://ashwinbahulkar.wordpress.com/...days-in-petra/

Petra was the stop after Amman and Jerash.

Things to Do & Highlights of Petra:

1. Petra By Night(get there before the crowds)

2. Umm Al Biyara Hike( go in the late afternoon)

3. Hike up the Al-Kutbha Trail(Go early in the morning)

4. The Monastery(stay till the sun has gone down quite a bit)

5. Byzantine Church

6. Walking through the Siq canyon(go early early in the morning)

7. Caves infront of the Theatre.

8. Visit Shobak Castle.

Accommodation: Valentine Inn. A good budget choice, merely 4 JD for an acceptable dorm bed, with a fantastic terrace(brilliant view), good breakfast(2.5 JD), a decent buffet dinner(5 JD), free transit everyday to Petra(7 AM and 8 AM) and Petra by night. However, it’s slightly uphill, and if you miss the shuttle, you need to get a taxi. So stay here only if you have a low budget, otherwise get a place close to site itself. And the packed lunch is not enough, you are better off getting food at the site.

My 3 Day Itinerary:

Day 0: Getting to Petra, taxi to Shobak Castle and back and Petra by Night.

Day 1: Treasury, Tombs, Monastery, Turkmaniya Road and dinner at a local home.

Day 2: Al-Kutbha Trail and Umm Al Biyara hike.

Day 3: High Place of Sacrifice and Royal Tombs, caves.

Getting to Petra

Visiting Petra was a dream since long, and wow..now I so close to Petra!! Had a good Arabic breakfast at the Amman Pasha Hotel . Amman Pasha Hotel’s owner had told me there were a couple of people going to Petra that day, and we could also see the Shobak castle on the way. But again, the plan did not materilize and I had to go by bus. The bus was a rip off, taken from the South Station. I had 2 pieces of luggage, and they could have been places anywhere, but the driver said I should buy 2 tickets and keep them on one seat. I had no choice, because another traveller had done the same( I did complain about it to the Tourism ministry later on, but the bus simply doesn’t have luggage storage facility. ALWAYS USE A JETT BUS TO GET TO PETRA.

Reached Petra after , I had booked a dorm bed with the Valentine Inn(4 JD per bed, that was such an amazing price) . The hotel van had come to pick me up. The hotel’s terrace has the most fabulous views of the area!! You can see all the HUGE mountains in and around Petra, the entire town of Wadi Musa just sitting from their terrace. I had a good lunch at the hotel, spicy rice, hummus, bread and salad, for 5 JD(I was simply too lazy to get down to the town to find something to eat).

Shobak Castle

Now my to-do list included the Shobak castle, a crusader castle (for an Anti Crusader castle, check, this) located about 25km from Petra. Took a taxi(30 JD return, against Valentine Inn’s 50 JD price). The taxi guy was a very interesting person and a good singer. The castle surpassed my expectations by a very large amount. Firstly, it’s location was top notch, it was in a completely deserted area with nicely eroded hills all around. And then there were tiny specks of greenery which brought in a lot of contrast.And the wind..wow, so that’s castle + wind + remote location. And no people. And the late afternoon light with a cloudiness too was superb. The entire area was like some signature picture of a more exotic country like Yemen or Oman(Jordan too is exotic enough). After spending a good 1 hour, I returned back to enjoy the sunset from my hotel’s terrace. Dinner was buffet at the hotel,several kinds of salads, falafel, bread, rice with meat, spaghetti. I found it really average, although everyone else at the hotel seemed to love it.

Petra by Night Experience:Walk fast, overtake crowds and stay back!!

The Petra by Night experience is a must!! You walk through the “Siq”,the 1,5 km long canyon, which is all subtly lit with candles. It definitely was one of my top experiences. You need to get there early, about an hour before the show starts, and walk past all the crowds into the Siq. The silence in the Siq is beautiful(you’ll get that only if there are no people!!). After a long long walk, you reach the Treasury, and wow!! I wasn’t prepared at all for anything like what I saw there!! The Treasury facade was lit, and there were thousands of candles infront of it, you can call this one of those “life changing experiences”. And I was among the first ones to reach there. Very quickly a lot of people arrived,and there was just noise after that. Nevertheless, the view doesn’t change. I grabbed a place from where I could easily click photographs. There really was nothing noteworthy about the show , just a little music and a little talking and a spiced tea, which was good, but a little more history telling would have been good. I waited back for most of the crowd to go back, took a lot of pictures and took the long long road back(it’s really that long), the Valentine Inn’s shuttle was about to leave, but I just got in time(yes, they do leave). On the whole, the experience was very evocative, especially walking through the Siq in the dark with just candles on the side and the first view of the Treasury.
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Jun 17th, 2014, 10:11 AM
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Day 2: Al-Kutbha Trail(aerial view of Treasury) and Umm Al Biyara(biggest mountain behind Petra)

So I woke up early, and went to Petra at 7 AM. The Siq looked even more majestic witout any people, except the occasional traveller or horse carriage. Headed straight to the Al-Kutbha trail, which is right opposite the Theatre. The theatre too is marvellous, looks very different from the marble Graeco Roman ones, mainly because of the color of the stone I guess.

The hike up was fairly moderate. You reach a point when you can see the theatre and the entire colonnaded street in Petra. It’s a sight to be seen, and the wind is gorgeous. After that there were a couple of confusing points, but you manage to get to the point from where you can see the Treasury from the top. The descent was obviously easy. But make sure you reach here fairly early in the morning, so that the sun shines on the Treasury, even at 9.30 AM there was no direct sunlight on the Treasury.

The next destination was Umm-Al-Biyara. It’s big mountain in Petra. It’s huge, it’s a plateau and has THE BEST VIEWS in Petra. You walk up and down a little, from the rear part of the Roman Temple and then somehow you’ve got to find the stairs leading up. It’s not so obvious, but your direction sense wil get you to it. I climbed up the easy stairs in about 45 minutes or so. The views just got better and better. You could see entire mountain ranges, all the tombs, the place of Sacrifice, absolutely everything. And surprisingly, there was quite a bit of greenery there. And a bunch of Archaeologists. This too turned out to be one of my top 10 Jordan experiences. It was almost sunset by the time I came back, took the long walk back to the entrance. Had dinner at the Suncity Restaurant, a big mezze plate and lentil soup for about 8 JD. The potato filled sambousik was particularly good.
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Jun 17th, 2014, 10:12 AM
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Petra Day 3: The High Place of Sacrifice, hike through Wadi Farasa and the Royal Tombs

Although it was the 4th time I was going through the Siq, it was really no less exciting. The guy at the ticket counter made sure the 3 day Pass I had bought was mine, not a reused one. He checked my ID, checked if I had photos of the site from the previous day, I guess people of my age, backpackers must be sharing tickets. So if any of you plan to do that, go with the big crowds, don’t go early in the morning.

The hike up the Place of Sacrifice was fairly easy, and views from the top again, were fabulous. It’s THE place for breakfast with a view. This was the first time I saw a few people on a hike in Petra. All my previous hikes, except the monastery were deserted, but don’t get deterred, it’s nowhere close to the crowds you see at the Treasury. The descent route through Wadi Farasa was very interesting. You get to see a carved lion(am I correct?), several holy places from the yesteryears and it was the Royal Procession route, I’m sure it must have been a very happening place at that time. I wish I had done this in the evening, when the light would have been less harsh, but still, it was a great walk.

Had lunch at the restaurant next to the Basin Restaurant, 10 JD for a decent buffet, salads, hummus, pasta, rice, lentil soup, desert, very refreshing after the long hike. I found a place to relax next to the museum and spent a lot of time watcing documentaries on the middle east and the Ottoman empire.

The rest of the evening was spent exploring the area around the Royal Tombs, here I had a few interesting encounters. While buying a souvenir, I was haggling a little, the seller says, “ Have mercy on me, I have 2 wives and 23 kids”..haha. Then another young bedouin asks me, “Indian?”, I say “Yes”, he asks, “Muslim?”, I say “No”, off goes the interest, and he vanishes. But otherwise Bedouins were great people. The Royal Tombs were spectacular, almost all of them, but it was a shame that they allowed a big souvenir stall right at the biggest Tomb. Walked my way back to the entrance, had a buffet dinner at the Petra Zaman Hotel, a fair buffet, plenty of dishes for 7 JD, with fruits and deserts. Not a bad end to a good day.

Next destination was Wadi Rum..coming up soon..
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Jun 17th, 2014, 10:17 AM
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Oh..I skipped day 1 here:

The First day: Siq, Treasury and Monastery, Turkmaniya Road, home cooked food and plus some hidden pockets.

Slept very well at night,so that meant I woke up late and missed the hotel’s early shuttle and had to go by the 8 AM one. The breakfast was fair enough, yoghurt, cucumber,bread, cheese, jam for 2.5 JD. I also took packed lunch, which turned out to be inadequate, I would rather spend a little more and get a good lunch than this. I bought the 60 JD 3 day pass for Petra and got moving. Now I got to see the Siq in broad daylight, every turn amazed me. The color and patterns on the rocks were constantly changing. It got narrow and then it got wide.And then you had horse carriages being driven across. I had reached a little late, there actually were quite a few people, so I was determined to come early the next day.

The first sight of the Treasury(in day light) was fantastic. The camels added to the ambience, though the tour groups reduced it. 8.30 AM is not too early, you should come at 6.30 AM to have it all for yourself. So I took the path to the Royal tombs and came across some amazing caves and views. To get the best out of Petra, you need to wander about and explore. Next was the Byzantine mosaics, which were brilliant, rather the whole setting was great. And then the Roman temple. The view of the Roman Temple from the Byzantine mosaics itself was brilliant. Had lunch at one of the outlets, 5 JD for an omlette,salad and bread, pricey. I guess it’s better to spend a little more and get a good buffet for 10 JD at the restaurant next to the Basin Restaurant.

Next was the hike to the Monastery, an 800 steps “hike” which was very easy actually, but locals seem to be getting good business from riding people up on donkeys. The monastery facade was brilliant!! And then you walk towards the “Top of the World” view points, and wow.. the monastery looks even more surreal. It’s perfectly embedded inside the mountains surrounding it. The view of the entire mountain range around Petra was overwhelming. That’s where I met a local guide, who was also a tea-stall owner. He offered to take me up the monastery, a tiny hike, but not someting to be attempted on your own, because there’s a bit of rock climbing.

We then started off to his(guide’s) home in the village near Petra, a slightly long walk through the Turkmaniya Road. This walk was one of my favorite experiences in Petra. Partly because of the greenery in “wadi”, and the beautiful evening light, and good company. The guide’s home wasa fairly simple one, and his sister cooked tomato galaya, fried vegetables and fried egg for us. The tomato galaya was like our Gujarati sev tameta dish(Indian dish), without the sev. And the local bread was really awesome, thin and soft. I wish they could have that in Wadi Musa, or in any of the restaurants I ate in Jordan. So ended the first day, long and tiresome, yet very rewarding.
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Jun 20th, 2014, 11:29 PM
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Blog link: http://ashwinbahulkar.wordpress.com/...rum-in-3-days/

Wadi Rum was after Petra.

Top Things to do/ Highlights of Wadi Rum..too many things!!

1. The entire Desert!!

2. Red Sand Dune

3. Mushroom Rock

4. Hiking up Jebel Al-Hash, have a look at the fossils and the biodiversity.

5. Climbing up the small mountains here and there

6. Looking at the massive mountains and sunsets

7. Star Gazing at night.

8. Drinking sage Tea

9. Wondering how the beautiful arches have been formed.

10. Having “zarb”, an underground oven cooked Bedouin specialty.

Accommodation: I organized my tour with Wild Wadi Rum. http://wildwadirum.com/

Day 1: Wadi Rum via Kings Highway and an introduction to Wadi Rum

I always find deserts very exciting, Wadi Rum had managed to sell itself completely to me, and it lived upto the expectations. It’s a very unique desert, along with the red sand come big mountain ranges, a very lunar landscape, canyons, gorges, arches. But what surprised was the amount of vegetation in a few corners. The spring rains had just ended and the desert actually was blooming, and the weather couldn’t have been better.
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Jun 20th, 2014, 11:30 PM
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Off To Wadi Rum

The journey to Wadi Rum was quite interesting. I had booked the 7 JD bus to Wadi Rum, which was supposed to pick me up at 6.30 AM. I woke up at 5.30 only to find the daylight saving had started it was 6.30, not 5.30. How irresponsible of Valentine Inn not to inform me. But anyway, they waited for me, and the bus ride was great. We passed through the Kings Highway, which was terribly beautiful. Jaw dropping views all along and then suddenly you see a big sandy desert. Also note the train and the train station that you come across before Wadi Rum Wish they could have trains like that everywhere in Jordan.

I had booked my stay with Wild Wadi Rum(http://wildwadirum.com/), 190 JD for 3 days, with 2 hikes, accommodation and meals. Their guide, Salman came to pick me up and we proceeded towards his residence in the village. The mountains around around the village were HUGE, and jagged and sharp and the contrast with sky was great. I did a small trek to the Shalala springs which were an easy hike away. When you get close to the springs you forget you’re in a desert. It’s that cool and green.

We soon set out for our journey into the desert. We first visited Lawrence’s house, the rocks behind it were really awesome for a small hike. Next was the star attraction in Wadi Rum, the Red Sand dune. It was the first time I was seeing a real sand dune, and it was overwhelming. The color of the sanddune was brilliant. Walking up the sanddune was obviously an arduous task but well worth it. Then we(me and guide) got some shade, he made some sage tea for me, then we had lunch and then a well deserved nap. We also walked through a canyon, a very interesting one wit inscriptions and trees and sand. The entire area was surreal, big mountains shaped very aesthetically by erosion, sanddunes, blue blue skies.

And then we came back to the camp..wow,what a place it was. Entire mountain ranges right infront with a huge portion of the desert in between. And many mountains just behind the camp. As you go up the view get better and better. The sunset was excellent, you could see all kinds of colors in the sky, and the desert reflected off even better colors. The dinner at the camp was brilliant, “zarb”, or underground oven baked vegetables and meat, liberally spiced too. With bread, humus, salads, beans,rice. Very well done. And the night sky? Amazing, completely star studded, and then there was the cold wind that started. It felt so good to have a tent all for myself, especially after roughing it out in dorms.
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Jun 20th, 2014, 11:30 PM
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Wadi Rum day 2: Jebel burdah hike, Al-Khazali canyon and the Little Arch.

The night was cold, I woke up with a sore throat, you need to keep yourself very warm in the desert, at night. The breakfast at the camp was great. Good bread, zatar(arabic spice mix) with olive oil, labneh(tick curd,spiced),hummus, ful(fava bean paste) and a sesame desert(halwa). Today’s agenda was to climb the Jebel Burdah. Salman’s cousin was my guide for the day. Jebel Burdah was no easy game I had expected. It involved a little rock climbing and some scrambling too, which wasn’t terribly easy. But the views from the top were phenomenal. We didn;t climb the arch because I found it a little difficult, but a little more motivation and maybe I could have. But the views made up for everything else. Maybe it’s easier when you are with more people.

Next was the al-Khazali canyon, a narrow long canyon set deep inside tall mountains. One of my favorite sites in Wadi Rum. Another excellent site was the Little Arch. It had gorgeous views of the Jebel Rum and the entire mountain range close to it. Later we returned to the village. The mountains along the village were the most spectacular of all I realized. I met a few members of the Eid family, mostly kids, had a good dinner,spiced rice(With meat pieces removed), and went to sleep early at their home. But the flies didn’t really let me sleep for quite sometime.
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Jun 20th, 2014, 11:31 PM
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Day 3: Jebel Al Hash, one of the tallest Arabian peaks + meeting bedoiun families

This is one of my most favorite days, not that any other day was bad. My guide for the day was Salman’s older brother, Ali, who was also the best guide(the other 2 were good too, but I expect a guide to be very talkative). We began our journey through the desert again. Our first stop was where the Eid family was temporarily stationed at. It was quite higher than the rest of the desert . The area was surprisingly very green, so rich in pastures. After a small talk, we proceeded towards Jebel Al Hash, the wind was cold even at mid day.

Jebel Al Hash was an easy hike, climbing on a gradual ascent. We reached the top in an hour and a half I guess, or maybe even less. Now my guide did a very good job here. I got to see fossils, some varieties of scented plants, some sweet tasting edible roots, some herbs to cure my congested throat and so on. And the view from the top was fabulous, literally on the top of Arabia. And the mountains which looked big in Wadi Rum looked tiny from top. The vast emptiness of the desert could be understood from here. We couldn’t stay for too long since it was really windy and cold despite the sun. But we still managed to find some shelter to have our lunch. Then we had many interesting discussions anging from politics to vegetarianism to life of bedouins.

Descent was even easier, unlike Burdah where the descent was a little scary at times. Again we met he Eid family, had tea with them, enjoyed the mild late afternoon sunshine and headed towards the camp. Ali took me to several of his favorite view points, and we met some of his maternal family on the way. They were “proper bedouins”, very interesting people who were travelling with their entire extended family to new pastures, and this was their way of life, semi settled. And then we reached the camp, had a good sunset, a good dinner and a good sleep, and then a great breakfast. Now was time to go back. My next destination was Madaba.
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Jun 21st, 2014, 09:35 AM
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Good, vivid writing!
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Jun 28th, 2014, 11:00 PM
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Thanks!! Here comes more..

Blog page: http://ashwinbahulkar.wordpress.com/...a-and-mukawir/

Madaba, an ideal stop close to the Airport. I arrived in Madaba from Wadi Rum. Good Byzantine churches, a vibrant Arab Christian community, well located to explore the Dead Sea region. Mukawir is about 45 minutes away from Madaba. A beautiful drive and a beautiful place, and good views of the Dead Sea, best done early in the morning.

Top Things to Do/ Highlights of Madaba:

1. Church of St John the Baptist and the views from the top of the Bell Tower, go in the evening.

2. Haret Jdouna Restaurant for it’s excellent Middle Eastern fare, but slightly costly.

3. Buying Dead Sea cosmetics..LOL.

4. The rural areas around Madaba, especially towards Mukawir, beautiful views and you see a nice way of rural life.

5. And the Jerusalem mosaic Map.

Accommodation: I stayed at the Queen Ayola Homestay place, contact: [email protected].

Taxi to Mukawir and further to the airport cost me 40 JD, just to Mukawir and back would be 25 JD

After Wadi Rum, the next stop was Madaba. I should have taken the morning bus to Aqaba, but then it would have been difficult with the luggage, plus getting up early in the morning. So I decided to go to Petra by the Petra bus, and then take a bus to Amman and then Madaba. The journey to Petra was gorgeous, most of it along the King’s Highway. The views were phenomenal. I wish I had taken a car for this journey so that I could click pictures on the way. Next was the bus to Amman, who again charged me an extra seat because of my luggage( how do I complain, there was a family of 4 who was paying for 7 seats because of their luggage). The bus stopped at a place where I had a good falafel roll. I reached the Madaba intersection from where I took a taxi which charged me 7 JD, again I was helpless, if I would have gone to Amman and then got a bus to madaba, it would have taken too much of time, and the attractions in Madaba would have closed by then. So 28 JD for the not-so-long Wadi Rum- Madaba journey.
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Jun 28th, 2014, 11:00 PM
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I stayed at the Queen Ayola Homestay place, got a dorm bed for just 5.5 JD. The owner Mr.Fadi(contact: [email protected]) was a great host, very friendly and he quickly oriented me with Madaba and it’s attractions, and I was all set to go. Actually I didn’t know too much about Madaba before, just that it has a small arab christian community and there are a few churches to be visited. And here I was baffled by an Orthodox christian school, plenty of living churches, and a strong Arab christian community. The mosaic map of Jersusalem was amazing, so was the Archaeological Park, with all the mosaics. The touristy streets were actually fun after being in desolate lands for a week. The shops, activity, street vendors, all of it was quite refreshing. The Church of St John the Baptist was a big surprise. Some of the regulars at the church were enthusiastic about the place, and they told me quite a bit of history of the place and showed me around the church. The underground area was quite interesting. And the balcony of the Bell Tower had sweeping views of the town and the fields that surround it. And the church itself was beautiful, the color of the stone + the light coming through the green panes created a magical effect.

Now atleast some shopping had to be done. I bought plenty of Dead Sea cosmetics for folks(soaps, creams, masks,what-not) from one of the shops in the area for a reasonable price, maybe 3 JD for a soap, 4 for a facewash. Mr.Fadi took me to one of his favorite sweet shops, Al-Anbatawi sweets, and I packed a lot of sweets to take home, all of them turned out to be great. I think the cost was around 9 JD for a 750gm-1kg pack. Dinner was at Haret Jdouna, one of my most expensive meals in the trip. The food and ambiance was fabulous. I ordered a cheese filled sambousik which was brilliant, a muhammara with bread, and I just thought it would be a good idea to break my vegetrarianism for a meal and enjoy some local specialties. So I got a chicken sadayet, which turned out to be excellent, except that I don’t really enjoy the taste of meat. The total bill was almost like 15 Dinars, but quite, if not totally worth it.

At the hotel I met a few Russian guys who were studying atthe mosaic school and were stying in a tent in the hotel’s terrace, while the temperature dropped quite a bit at nigh
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Jun 28th, 2014, 11:01 PM
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Mukawir / Machaerus

I had booked a taxi rough my hotel, 40 JD for Mukawir and a drop-off at th airport. The road upto Mukawir was beautiful, high mountains, cold winds, farms and villages everywhere. We had a falafel roll at one of the villages, and it was one of the best I ad in Jordan. And then suddenly you see the Hilltop fortress of Mukawir with a wonderful view of the Dead Sea. Dead Sea wasn’t very high on my priority list, since I didn’t want to go there all alone, but the view of the Dead Sea early in the morning was gorgeous.

The hilltop of Mukawir was brilliant, a small hike leads you to a totally windswept place, where you some ruins of the Hellenistic era still exist, you see only a few columns, flooring and mosaics. Nevertheless, the place is very evocative, since I had seen the TV series “Masada” which shows the Roman siege of the Masada fortress. The mountains + the Dead Sea made the place special. You can see the mountains on the Israel/Palestine side right infront of you. On the top you see only a few archaeologists excavating. It was also a little like Mount Nemrut I’ve been to, in Turkey, ofcourse without the statues. By the time I left, people ad started coming in bus loads, mostly foreigners I guess. And the haze too was settling on the Dead Sea,so I was glad I came this early(8 AM).
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Jul 18th, 2014, 10:07 PM
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