The Magical Desert

Trip Start Sep 09, 2012
Trip End Sep 20, 2012

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Sept 16

Jerusalem Masada Eilat Aqaba Petra

Our guide picked us up at the King David and we were so sad to go!  But the trip down the Dead Sea and on to Aqaba was fun and interesting.

We drove out of Jerusalem and quickly saw the lush, greens give way to dry desert and bar mountains.  Our guide took us on a couple of side trips, one up to one of the high points from where we could get a new perspective on the Dead Sea.  The other was to the shores of the Dead Sea where we took a dip in the water (and Paul got mud smeared all over him) while the guide got a massage. 

We then drove to Masada where we had hoped for an interesting visit to the site.  The guide didn't call ahead and wasn’t aware that it was Jewish New Year’s eve and that the site closed 3 hours before their normal closing.  After much effort, they let us go up on the last tram, but we’d have to come down with the last group.  That gave us only about 20 minutes on Masada.  The fact is that I was not too disappointed given that it was unbearably hot!  (Little did I know that it would be just as hot when we got to Petra.)  So we had a quick view of Masada and the continued our way to the southern tip of Israel where we would cross the border to Jordan.  I traveled that same route many years ago, but have to admit that like most of my trip, I did not recognize the way down.  We made it down to just north of Eilat and the tour company we were traveling with had arranged everything to make our crossing the border as smooth as possible.  I don’t know if it was my name or my looks, but I ended up spending a lot more time than Paul when talking to personnel during our crossing (both on the Jordanian and Israeli sides).  Going into Jordan they took something I had bought in Jerusalem and had to have it "tested" to make sure it wasn’t some ridiculously expensive artifact (it was a souvenir that cost me $10!).  Our guide and the border guards yelled at each other for a bit then everything was OK. 

We were then transported to our hotel in Aqaba.  I was feeling a bit hesitant about walking about given the things that were happening during our time there so we ate at the hotel and it left much to be desired.  It was kind of dark and dumpy.  Of course we had been spoiled for 4 days in Jerusalem.

The next morning our guide showed up to drive us to Petra.  He wasn’t a guide, but just our driver.  Once we helped him remove the duct tape, we put our luggage in the trunk and replaced the duct tape and we were on our way.  He was a nice guy who spoke very little English (and we spoke no Arabic) so much of our trip was in silence (which we enjoyed as the drive and landscape was interesting).

Upon our arrival to Petra we met our guide, Mohammad.  He was GREAT!  Not only did he have much information for us, but he kept us moving quickly (we got our exercise that day).  We covered a lot of ground and had a great day.  We walked miles, climbed some very steep areas to get great views, rode a donkey for a few miles, visited a pretty fantastic medieval castle and even stopped at the guide’s house for fresh apple juice from apples growing in his garden.  We had a very long day with much exciting sites and history.

To our delight, Petra Moon hotel was an upgrade from the hotel in Aqaba.  The next morning, our new guide (Mohammad) picked us up in his 4 wheel drive vehicle to give us a tour of Wadi Rum.  He is a Bedouin from the area who was interesting and fun and provided us with a wonderful experience.  We climbed a bit, saw camels running wild in the desert, and traveled at fast speeds across silky sand and up/down sand dunes.  We pretended to be comrades of Lawrence of Arabia in a hot 2011 4-wheel drive car.  At the very least we were like teenagers going wild with reckless abandon!  (Or so it felt like in my mind…)  After a few stops, Mohammad took us to a spot for lunch.  It was in the shadow of a huge red cliff on a slightly high spot.  The wind blowing across the desert was just enough to cool us down.  We had a good view of the desert.  In minutes we were in our own world and a calming silence enveloped us.  He put down a large mat that suddenly transformed that sandy, desert spot into a dining, reclining area.  He quickly walked about and gathered wood for a fire.  Once he got the fire started he pulled out chicken that had been marinating in his cooler and he skewered them ready to be cooked.  (He slaughtered the chicken early that morning from his own flock.)  He then made 3 different types of salads—again, from his own garden.  The flavors were exotic and delicious:  mint, arugula, tehina.  He skewered tomatoes, hot green peppers and small onions along with the chicken.  His mother send along home made pita and sweets for desert.  It was quite the experience to share this meal with Mohammad.  And at the end of the meal he played some very upbeat Jordanian music and we danced kicking up desert sand to our hearts content.

This is the image I want to end this blog with.  Later that evening we crossed the border back to Israel in time to take a late night flight back to Tel Aviv.  We were two tired puppies by the time we got to our hotel—but we were two quite content people.  We saw wonderful sights, met kind, interesting people and I hope represented good Americans abroad.

Tomorrow we head back home.  It will be nice to get back to our home.
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wascoe on

I want to see video of you guys dancing after your amazing meal created by your guide. Your guide and adventure sounded fantastic!

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