March 16 – 21, 2009
3/17/09 - 3/21/09 90 °F
Like most people, we originally planned Petra, Jordan as a side trip from Egypt, but it turned out to be one of our favorite countries. It's got incredible landscape, very traveler-friendly infrastructure, and the people are genuinely nice.
View of Jordan landscape from side of the road, near Petra:
On the other hand, going from Egypt to Jordan was not such a great experience. Due to cost and visa reasons, our only alternative was to take the “fast” ferry between Nuwiba, Egypt, and Aquaba, Jordan. The entire ferry experience was one of the most mismanaged and inefficient processes I've ever seen. There was such a huge delay that what should have taken 4 hours took over 10 hours so instead of getting to Petra and the comforts of the Marriott by 5pm, we arrived into Petra haggard and hungry at midnight at a hostel. The only good thing I can say about the experience is that we met some cool people to commiserate with:
Nevertheless, we still got up at the crack of dawn to beat the crowds (definitely worth it to have the place to ourselves). Petra was even more incredible than in the pictures and movies – as in Egypt, it's hard to capture the scale of the place in a photo. For me, it's the combination of the natural landscape and man-made structures that makes it so memorable. The rock formations, the deep gorges and canyons themselves would've been a top attraction in itself, but add to that an ancient city cut into the rocks about 2000 years ago and no wonder it's one of the new 7 Wonders of the World.
Al Siq, the pathway which is the entrance to the city, and to the famous Treasury:
Here's the shot everyone has of the Treasury, made more famous by the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, but of course I have to take one for myself:
The incredible rock-cut structures and the patterns of the rock formations:
We were so enthralled by Petra we walked through the site 3 times over 2 days (that's about 7 miles of walking each day!). On our last afternoon, we decided to ride mules up to the Monastery at the top of mountain (and with that, I think I'm done riding animals - horse, elephant, camel, mule....):
With all that walking and the ordeal to get to Jordan, it was a good thing we were staying at the Marriott (I cashed in some points). We've never been so happy to be in a Marriott... nice clean bathroom, and the oh so comfortable bed. There was even a theater where movies are shown every night. Not many people take advantage of it so Ashok and I had a private screening of Lawrence of Arabia (only the second half – part 1 was broken) to get us psyched for our day trip to Wadi Rum (the movie was shot there).
At first I thought Wadi Rum would be more of the same as Petra, but I was wrong. It was cool to ride through the open desert on the back of a "jeep" (Toyota Truck) and see the rock formations jutting out of nowhere:
The man on the camel in this picture gives a sense for how big they are:
It was while driving through Wadi Rum that it really hit me how glad I am we did this trip. If not I don't know when we'd ever get to see this.
We liked Jordan more because the people are so friendly and genuine. It was a refreshing change after Egypt, although initially we doubted everyone's sincerity. The Bedouins are known for their hospitality and we really experienced it. One guy offered for us to stay with them inside Petra for free (since the land belonged to the Bedouins, they are allowed to live inside the national park). Our driver at Wadi Rum stopped during the day to gather some sticks and we had a nice chat over tea at sunset:
Ashok was especially popular with the Bedouins. One girl actually stopped me as we were walking on a trail to tell me she “LOVED his coloring”. On the other hand, I was more popular in Egypt as Ashok was offered camels in exchange for me..... so I suppose he got the better end of this deal.
On our last day we drove past the Dead Sea on our way to Amman. Surprisingly, the Dead Sea is not that big – we drove from one end to the other in about 2 hours. It's weird to think that there's no aquatic life in all that water (due to the high saline content). One can, however, float on the water. On the northern end towards Amman, there are some nice resorts and public pools set up for people to enjoy a day on the beach. The idea of floating in the Dead Sea sounded good, but after putting my hands in and feeling the slimy water I decided it's one of those that sounds better in theory. Instead we just sat by the pool where Ashok enjoyed another sheesha and watched the sunset.
The surreal part is that the West Bank is right on the other side of the Dead Sea, basically the hills where the sun is setting in this picture.
Thus ended our 5 short days in Jordan, and on to Turkey.