Since Syria is kind of off-limits at the moment, I had to fly from Beirut to Amman. The plane took off west, over the Mediterranean, nearly over Cyprus, and then turned south, to fly over Israel and Palestine to land in Amman. The airport was pretty far from the city center, so I took a bus through rush-hour traffic to arrive in a cold, desert town 750m above sea level.
Amman looked like a typical middle eastern city, but it’s currently undergoing some kind of renaissance of creativity and liberalism. Artists from around the Arabic world are making a home of Amman, and international organizations like the Global Shapers community and the British Film society have active projects and participants in Jordan. I couchsurfed with a house of entrepreneurs and film-makers in a place called the Rainbow house, and nearby was a cafe/book shop popular with LGBT’s.
I tasted some Jordanian rum and wine and went tango dancing with a girl from Tunisia before taking a taxi to the Dead sea, more than 400m below sea level. There it was warm and sunny, and we floated around in our bikinis like inflatable toys in the slimy, salty blue water. We had to wait for a conservative Muslim Yemenite family to leave before we felt comfortable bearing so much skin, but it was all worth it when you could cover yourself in black dead-sea mud for a luxurious, spa-treatment feeling.
Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by mountains and deserts, but nothing I’ve ever seen can compare to Wadi Rum and Wadi Musa, the valley where the old city of Petra, carved into the mountains, sits. Wadi Rum is the valley of the moon, but sadly I was there the 3 days when the moon never rose, so instead we saw a sky full of so many stars it was even hard to pick out the Milky Way. We slept in 2 different Bedouin camps, both a collection of tents and campfires and 4×4 driving Bedouins who made our stay ultra-cozy. We ate food cooked in the ground while sitting together on the floor of the buffet tent, and took a jeep tour to visit Lawerence of Arabia’s stomping ground.
Petra was definitely the highlight, after hiking more than 10 km around an entire city of extravagant buildings carved into the mountains. We visited the Treasury and the Monastery, along with hundreds of other awe-struck tourists, and switched it up between camels, donkeys, horses and our own two feet to navigate the huge, ancient city. We were lucky enough to camp one night in one of those caves, along with some Bedouins and yet another camp fire, and hiking out of the valley through a little village the next day was just as spectacular as the first day, seeing even more caves and archaeological sites that no-one else walking through the Siq mainway sees.
I left Jordan through the little Red Sea port town of Aqaba, a place where you can see 4 countries at once – Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel and Jordan. I had seen Palestine on the other side of the Dead Sea, so after crossing into Elat in Israel and being questioned for 2 and a half hours about my travel history and intentions, it was finally time to explore some more of the Holy Land in the West Bank.