Trip Report - Iran, Syria, and Jordan

May 11th, 2009, 01:30 PM
  #1  
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Trip Report - Iran, Syria, and Jordan

Just got back from a 6-week trip to the Mideast, which included 18 days in Iran with a friend, then another 12 days in Syria and 8 days in Jordan on my own as a single female. It was an amazing experience, very highly recommended and I can assure you that I felt very safe travelling solo. I used the Gasht Tour agency - www.gashttour.com - to arrange the Iran part (required for Americans) and then did Syria and Jordan independently. Although we had to use a tour agency we incorporated a lot of free time into our itinerary and in no way felt like we needed to have a "minder" 24/7.

Happy to answer any questions about hotels, logistics, costs, etc. since I didn't get into that level of detail in my blog. Enjoy!

- Jennifer

http://travelpod.com/travel-blog/jsmerkle/1/tpod.html

PS - Maxwell, if you're reading this, I read your trip report EXTENSIVELY while doing my trip planning and used it to carefully manage our time with Abbas in Iran. It was so useful, thanks again for taking the time to write it. Fortunately Abbas was only our guide for the Shiraz/Persepolis portion, but boy did he grate on our nerves after a while. I think Gasht Tours must have gotten a lot of similar feedback on him because he seemed quite OK leaving us on our own, which was already factored into our "program".
jsmerkle is offline  
May 11th, 2009, 03:34 PM
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Jennifer, I just read the whole report and looked at all your gorgeous photos. AMAZING!

I am so in awe of you for doing the majority of this incredible trip on your own. (I would like to think I could do it too if I didn't have my husband to be my traveling buddy!)

Someday I hope to see many of the things you saw...the architecture especially fascinates me, and ancient sites like Persepolis and Petra.

I LOVED the story of the Syria/Jordan border crossing and how you impressed your traveling companions with your carpet fib! I'm sure they'll tell that story to their friends as often as you'll tell it to yours!
bniemand is offline  
May 11th, 2009, 06:31 PM
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Jennifer –
What a great report!! I just devoured the entire thing – it brought back wonderful memories.

I’m really happy my report was of use to you. A few comments….I had to laugh at your headscarf comment, as I know what you mean. The women in Tehran completely knew how to rock the headscarf look, whereas I felt like I looked like little bo peep. I’m really sorry we didn’t get to meet the nomads like you. And I am dying laughing about your description of Abbas – such a kind man but, well, you can see where I was coming from in my report! "Persia Persia (Persia!" I’m so envious of all the free time you had – especially in Esfahan. It sounds like your experience with the Iranian people was just like ours.

I enjoyed reading your Syria/Jordan portion too – I also really enjoyed my visits there and found Syria to be – hands down – one of the easiest places for a woman to travel solo. It’s great to see another woman out there traveling alone! I’ll have to check out your photos tomorrow.
Thanks so much for posting this.

Linda
maxwell is offline  
May 12th, 2009, 09:23 AM
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Jennifer, thanks, very interesting report. I am leaving this Thursday, flying on Delta from JFK to Amman, then will visit Petra, then into Syria (Damascas, Palmyra, Aleppo, Krak de Chevaliers), and then will travel via Baalbek to Beirut. I also intend to used shared taxis.

Did you manage to find an interesting hotel in Damascus (I've booked the Baron in Aleppo).

Thanks, Michasel
thit_cho is offline  
May 12th, 2009, 01:18 PM
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Depends what you mean by "interesting"... The hotel I stayed at in Damascus was really a hostel, called Damascus Hostel (www.damascushostel.com), and it's located in the old city right near the gate called Bab Sharqi.

I actually had apprehensions about staying in a youth hostel, remembering what they were like years ago, but boy was I glad I stayed there. It's far from luxurious, very basic, nothing in the way of traditional "atmosphere" and in fact reminded me a little bit of a summer camp. BUT the owner Raymond and his crew more than make up for any amenities they lack. Especially when you're travelling on your own, I found them to be a warm, welcoming "family" to come home to every night. They attract a wide range of travellers - young singles, couples, retired folks, etc. - which makes it easy to meet people to have dinner with, share tours to the major sites, etc.

They couldn't have been more helpful when I had issues with my ATM card and couldn't get any money the first few days (tip: if you have problems, use the ATMs at Bank Audi, a 15 min. taxi ride from the old city. It's a Lebanese bank that has a more reliable connection to the int'l bank networks like Cirrus, Star, Plus, etc.). Raymond lent me money to tide me over, let me use his cell phone to call my bank to sort things out, etc. It's about $50/night and was definitely my "home away from home."

However, if you want something a little nicer I've heard good things about Dar Al Yasmin which is also in the old city. More expensive ($130/night or so) but it's worth checking into.

I stopped by the Baron in Aleppo for a drink and Walid, the owner, has worked there for 40 years and is as charming and gracious a host as you'll find anywhere. Other guests I met at the bar told me that if you arrange day trips from Aleppo with him that he (or his son) take you in a vintage studebaker which is a pretty unique way to get around. I didn't see the rooms but I don't think they have been modernized though I'm sure they are perfectly fine and clean. I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
jsmerkle is offline  
May 12th, 2009, 01:35 PM
  #6  
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Glad you enjoyed it! By the way Linda, you really didn't miss out much on the nomad experience. The pictures make it look better than it actually was. We had expected to be seeing the traditional black tents but instead were taken to a village of small huts made out of stones. The funny thing was that the village was very close to Bishapur which I didn't realize, and when I ever saw the road sign indicating we had just entered Bishapur I had to laugh. I remembered only too well your story about the "unfortunate day trip to Bishapur" and was berating myself for not finding out exactly where the nomads were that we would be seeing. Needless to say we ended up spending the majority of the day getting to/from the Bishapur area, and only had about an hour with the nomads themselves.
jsmerkle is offline  
May 12th, 2009, 02:26 PM
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Jennifer, I guess all roads lead to Bishapur!
too funny. Still need to look at your photos when my internet connection is cooperating.

Michael - Have a wonderful trip - I hope you will pop in and report how it's going along the way to keep those of us stuck stateside entertained.

Linda
maxwell is offline  
May 27th, 2009, 01:09 PM
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Just read through your blog - thanks for all the detail! I'm considering a trip to the same area in the fall, and have some questions.

Do you think you could have had the same, female, guide for the whole tour?

Do women have to cover their arms to the wrist?

Where did you buy the manteau? Do you think a Pakistani shalwar kameez plus scarf would be an allowed substitute? (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:In_my_salwar_suit.jpg)

How far in advance did you start the visa process? (I'm assuming you applied in Washington? By mail?)

Thanks!
thursdaysd is offline  
May 27th, 2009, 01:30 PM
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Jennifer, I agree on Walid -- I met him at the Baron. I also did a day trip with his son, Mohammed, but we had a regular car, not the Studebaker. I did drive around Aleppo in a 1975 Dodge Dart with him, though -- I was surprised that he was able to navigate a long car around very narrow streets and tight turns.
thit_cho is offline  
Sep 29th, 2009, 12:05 AM
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In these countries is always like this. You can have great surprises but also not so great ones. That's why is best to try and have something organized from home, at least in major lines like for instance: the accommodation, make sure it always what it appears to be in the pictures. As for Jordan, don't leave apart Wadi Rum, an exciting place part of the Hachemite bio.
chikvacaciones is offline  
May 29th, 2010, 11:15 PM
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Loved your blog. I cannot wait to travel to Jordan in September
MissGreen is offline  
Aug 4th, 2010, 04:10 AM
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Very informative! thanks for sharing. I'm travelling to Jordan as well with my family and want to do it on our own.I'm just starting to organize our trip. Where did you stay at Wadi Rum? I saw your pic at Dead Sea,is it possible to do a day tour from Petra to Dead sea? thanks. Tates
tates is offline  
Aug 4th, 2010, 12:23 PM
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Great blog and I'm very excited to be visiting Jordan, Syria and Oman next month!
moremiles is offline  
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