Trip Start Apr 27, 2010
Trip End Apr 13, 2011

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Flag of Jordan  , Ma’an,
Sunday, May 9, 2010

I'm writing this after my first experience of smoking a sheesha and drinking some of the local 8% beer, so forgive me if there is even more rubbish than usual! Anyway, I'm in Jordan now, which despite being next door is a whole world away from Egypt. It is way more Westernised -the drivers actually obey the rules of the road, and the infrastructure is well maintained.

If you were in any doubt which country you are in when you cross the border, then this is dispelled as soon as you walk down the street. Every single shop and restaurant has a large picture of King Abdullah in the window, dressed as an army general, a sheikh, an businessman, an astronaut... he has more guises than Mr Ben.

The first attraction on the Jordan itinerary was the spectacular desert scenery of Wadi Rum (Moon Valley in English). This is Lawrence of Arabia territory, where he helped the Bedoiuns defeat the Turks. The landscape has vast rocky outcrops rearing up from a flat desert plain. The rocks are all eroded into bizarre shapes and have primitive carvings on them dating back 10,000 years. We had an afternoon seeing the sights here - I decided to climb up a large natural rock-arch with the local guide - all very well going up, but rather precarious on the way down! The area is home to the local Bedouin tribe, and we stayed the night at one of their camps. I slept outside under the crystal clear desert sky watching shooting stars and satellites track by.

The highlight of the trip so far is undoubtedly Petra. I didnt know too much about it other than the classic shot of the 'Treasury' (the building at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade) but it is a vast, sprawling site and it would take a week to see it all. Luckily, most of the tourists only see the Treasury too, waddling down from the entrance to the Treasury, and then taking a donkey ride back. This left most of the rest of the site relatively tourist free. 

The scenery and geology alone are impressive enough, rocky gorges and vast cliffs of multicoloured red and yellow rock, with spectacular views over to Israel and the West Bank. However, the site is littered with ancient temples and tombs which were carved out of the solid rock face about 2,000 years ago. To see most of it you need to hike up and down small mountains. I spent my two days here clambering all over the place like a demented mountain goat, hiking about 8 miles per day and taking hundreds of photos. In some of the more remote places there wasnt another soul in sight, and I felt like I was discovering the place myself.

The only people allowed to work there are the locals who are from a different Bedouin tribe. They used to live on the site before they were turfed out by the government in 1985 to open it up to tourists and perform excavations. They are some of the most friendly and hospitable people I have ever met, offering tea, offering to share their lunch, very eager to open conversation and discuss their way of life, and unlike Egypt, without the agenda of getting your money by the end of the encounter. They are very striking looking, with long back hair and lots of eye liner (even the men) - they look like Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean. Some of them have tattoos all over their faces, including one toothless old lady! 

After 2 days in Petra, my feet are covered in blisters and I am totally exhausted. The rest of my group spent the two days relaxing! Today we went to the Dead Sea. It is very weird just floating there with no effort required, feeling like a crouton in a vast bowl of human soup. There are some sights to be seen though, primarly the number of obese tourists, whose tiny thongs get smaller the bigger the belly is. I felt quite out of place in my swimming shorts. The novelty last for 5 minutes then it is time to wash the salt off. 

I'm really liking Jordan, but only have one more day here before heading to Syria on Monday. The trip has been great so far, but the pace is quite fast and there isnt much time to linger anywhere, I will be utterly exhausted by the end of it!
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amyleah on

the photos of the Treasury are amazing...makes me really, really want to go there!

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