Just call me Indiana Jones. ‘Cause Harrison Ford’s got nothing on me. Well, except for the whole Han Solo and being famous thing. But, you know, whatever, I’m working on that too.
This weekend was straight out of a movie. Actually, I think I’ve seen the movies. Indiana Jones, the Mummy, Aladdin, Lawrence of Arabia, and Hidalgo are some that I can think of off the top of my head. Beautiful red sand dunes and setting suns. Bedouin tents with decorated camels. Brilliantly blue sea meeting towering mountains. Ancient ruins with foreign etchings. This and so much more is Wadi Rum, Aqaba, and Petra.
WADI RUM: The Land of Red Sand
On Thursday, the students in my program and I had the distinct privilege to skip class and board buses headed to the south of Jordan. The first stretch was four hours long. Leaving the city felt glorious. I love Amman, but sometimes the constant noises and smells can be a little overwhelming. For hours of the drive, the dreary desert land stretched on. However, as we neared Wadi Rum, I started to get excited. Large, alien-shaped mountains stretched across the horizon. And the ground shifted from a cracked, coarse brown covering to a brilliant orange-red, soft sand. I turned to my bus-buddy, Rachel, and said “Well, now we know where they filmed Mission to Mars.”
When we arrived, the touring camp provided us a delicious lunch and loaded us onto jeeps. Off we went, kafia scarves and all. It was hard to believe it was real life at that moment. There I was, just trekking off in a massive desert on the back of a jeep. Dear National Geographic, I want to be your photographer. Or water-girl, if that’ll get me the job so I can do things like this always. Please and thank you, Grace. We stopped multiple times on our jeep trip to take pictures and run around in the sand. My shoes constantly were filling with the red stuff, but it was all worth it for the feeling of walking and sitting in such soft sand.
After these stops, the jeeps took us straight to a herd of camels that were waiting to take us to our camp for the night. Now, camels, they’re weird. They make loud, creepy noises and they never seem really happy. A Bedouin man saw me sizing up the camel in front of me and grabbed my arm and pushed me onto the very camel I had moments before been convinced was possessed. But there I was, atop a camel and clinging for dear life. Quickly, my friends joined me and we were off on an hour long camel ride. (Yes, my inner thighs are still crying out in pain.) I named my camel Fred. He was completely majnoon (crazy), but I loved him anyway. Before I knew it, the ride was already over and we watched the sun set over the Arab desert. It was beautiful.
That night we camped in a Bedouin luxury resort. You know me, I just loveto rough it. So, this luxury thing? Right up my alley. There were beds in the tents and the showers were warm. The Bedouins served their deliciously sugared tea all night long and they made this awesome bread I could probably eat for every meal until I die. When the stars came out, some friends and I journeyed up a sand dune to gaze at the sky. It was astounding. The sheer magnitude of stars can not even be described. I saw multiple shooting stars and was constantly overwhelmed by the beauty around me. It’s interesting though how foreign a night sky can be. The constellations I saw were none of the same ones I see back home, and I was reminded once again that I am far, far from home.
AQABA: The Land In-between
The next day, we left for Aqaba. It’s Jordan’s most southern city on the Red Sea. The most fantastic part about it? Israel has a border city next to it, Egypt is a couple miles down the coast, and Saudi Arabia is equally close on the other side. Simply by being there, I can now say, “I’ve seen Egypt, Saudi, and Israel. No big deal.” Yes, Mum, that counts.
Our program had rented yachts, and so we loaded up and spent the next five hours cruising the Red Sea, snorkeling if we chose to, and eating even more good food while enjoying the sun and sea. It was such a great break from school, Amman, and even (dare I say it?), Arabic. Our time out there ended all too shortly, and we unloaded the boats and piled onto the buses. Then it was time for Petra! On our way we got caught behind a wedding “parade”, for lack of a better way to explain it. (More on that in another blog post). Finally we arrived at “Little Petra”. This is where they allowed the caravans to come, since Petra was considered a holy city and they didn’t just let anyone in. Very exclusive. It was awesome to see, but the whole group was exhausted. So we weren’t very sad to peace out from Little Petra a half hour later.
The hotel our program put us up in was really nice, including gloriously warm showers. Dinner was served a short while after arriving and I was starving. I was told we were going to have the official meal of Jordan, Mansaf. I was ready, man, ready. I sat down and started getting really excited. My excitement only heightened when the waiter brought over a big plater of rice, chicken, and bread. Just as we were about to dig in, another waiter came by with a pitcher of a strangely familiar scent. He started pouring a white liquid all over the platter and said, “Enjoy.”
And then it hit me what the smell was. Fermented dairy. Oh, how well I know that smell. Fermented mare’s milk is a Mongolian constant. Now, I want to convey how good I am at not being picky. I have eaten all sorts of things and I am always willing to try something at least once. But smelling this alone made me want to gag. I’m not sure if it was a mix of the memories of eating/drinking it, or if the smell was just that bad. But there I was, faced with a dinner of Mansaf, which turns out to probably be the only Jordanian dish I don’t like. Houston, Andna Mooshkila. (Houston, We’ve got a problem) I tried my best, but I only got about five bites down and I was done for the night. E for Effort.
After dinner, the cops had blocked off our street so that we could have a party in front of the hotel. Yeah, we’re those Americans in the Jordanian countryside. We had our very own DJ, and people teaching us Bedouin dancing. Not a bad gig. However, after about an hour of dancing, I decided I was beat and headed to bed. Day two – check.
PETRA: The Land from Long Ago
Saturday morning we began the trek into Petra. I realized as I made the very hot walk into area, that I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The only thing I really knew about Petra is that famous picture everyone knows of. You know, the one that that let’s you see half of the treasury, because the canyons on either side are kind of covering it up? Yeah, I kinda thought that’s all Petra was. Turns out it’s this amazing hike through an ancient city, complete with treasury, houses, tombs, amphitheater, palace, temple, monastery, and markets. I get the whole it’s-one-of-the-seven-wonders-of-the-world now. Despite the heat, my friends and I even chose to take the 900 steps up to the monastery. Totally worth it. Especially because I got to see a bedouin climb up on top of the monastery and jump from column to column. It was so terrifyingly exhilarating. Haha.
Favorite part of the day though? Getting ice cream with some friends on our walk back to the bus. It was hot; I like ice cream. Perfection itself.
Well, there you have it. My incredible journey to the south of Jordan.
I highly suggest you visit the Middle East. There are so many incredible sights, and how much more intense do you look if you pick the Middle East over Europe?! ;]
Think it over.
Here’s a little Middle Eastern “Hey Girl/Boy” poster I made for the heck of it. Hahaha. Enjoy.