Quite exotic middle east, still not so expensive, reputed for deserts and trekking, not too far from Europe, Lufthasa flies there (my friend works there), easy to get visa...
We did a lot of coordinating through Y!Messenger and lots of convincing our families and friends that this country is perfectly safe (of course they said: we're crazy...).
For your info at time of writing 1JD (or JOD) = 1000fils = ~10FRF = ~.3DEM
Before reading take a look at Lonely Planet page about Jordan for general info. Remember: we came here to do some trekking in a desert landscape and our plan is for people with good physical conditions. Also we knew that we wouldn't have time to buy trekking food on place so we brought everything with us (yeah water too but that was not really necessary :) )
So the plan was: 3 days Petra/trekking, 2 days Wadi Rum trekking and maybe some time Aquaba.
Our literature was:
"Trekking and Canyoning in Jordanian Dead Sea Rift" (Amazon link) and "Lonely Planet Jordan" (Amazon link)
Petra is empty of tourists
We arrived to Amman airport (AMM) on a fresh December night with Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt (awful rainy weather in FRA). The visa price was halved to 5JD. It is possible to exchange money before getting the visa and the bureau is open 24/24. Do not be bothered with taxi drivers who will say there is no bus etc. There IS a bus going to Amman (every hour at night) and it is cheap - 1.5JD (one taxi driver told me 50JD price!). It stops in front of the terminal.
The bus arrives to Abdali bus station where we took a taxi to Warhadat bus station (about 2JD, remember to ask for the price and for switching the meter on) where mini-buses to Petra leave.
It was COLD. In Europe we hesitated whether to take Gore-Tex but it was necessary: Amman, Petra and Wadi Rum are situated quite high and the wind is sometimes very cold. A thick polar fleece is a good idea.
Apparently minibuses start at 6AM but the one we found left at 5.30AM (the stop is in the upper left part of the station). I tried to compare the arabic name with those in the guide but it was hopeless :-).
We arrived to Wadi Musa, which is the city near Petra at about 9AM; the sun was already high (the sunrise is about 615AM in Dec). The driver suggested Cleopatra Hotel. Of course he gets a commission, but we had no time to search. The "staff" (Mahommed) was quite cool and the room ok. Price was 12JD/two with breakfast. We saw only four Germans in the hotel.
We had no problem with arranging the deposit and pick-up at the Petra entrance. We also got some 'benzin' for our stove (everybody seemed to see such a stove for the first time :-) ) for free, on the way to Petra (the petrol station is before the city). There is a lot of shops in the town and few internet cafés.
The entry was 13JD for 2 days (1st day visiting and 2nd going out on the trek). Petra city impressed us a lot and I found it unreal. You can see some nice photos of Petra in article "Petra: Ancient City of Stone." in National Geographic from Dec 1998 and of course in My Photo Gallery.
We made a big tour. I liked most The Treasury and the roman Amphitheatre surroundings. We have seen about 30 tourists. I even climbed on the top of The Monastery from which there was an excellent view on the monument, especially during sunset. We didn't have no problem with exiting the city after the sunset but the 'siq' was rather dark. Remember to bring water, a compass and lot of film :-)
We arranged the dinner for 3.5JD in the hotel because of a tiring day.
from Petra to theatre ruins
The hotel is in front of a mosque and the wakeup at 4.30AM was obligatory
We had excellent warm light in the 'siq' and on The Treasury so I did lots of nice shots. The trek starts near the column and goes near the Snake Monument.
The landscape is very deserted, nearly treeless and nothing like we ever trek. The temperature was just warm enough for trekking.
We took no guide and used a compass, a GPS and a description and maps
in "Trekking and Canyoning in Jordanian Dead Sea Rift" book.
But the description is not precise enough and the route is VERY difficult
to find. A precise map 1:50,000 from National Ressources Authority (8th
There are no signs on the road. The map in the book doesn't show the surrounding mountains well enough to use peaks to find the position. Michal tried to calibrate the map but he did not succeed. The method we used was creating waypoints bearing and distance from a known point and it worked ok.
On a saddle described in the book we entered the wrong 'wadi' (periodic stream) and found ourselves far from the Wadi Sabra. We slept near an orange plantation and luckily found some clean water in water pipes. The water in potholes is green and dirty (if you wanted to use it, take a water filter). We had 3l each for 2 days but the weather was cold and we didn't sweat a lot.
We met only 3 guides on donkeys.
through a labyrinth of siqs to Taybeh
We woke up early and tried to locate ourselves but in the end we got no clue where to go for sure. We climbed on the hills near the plantation but it was not helpful. We tried the relative waypoint method and went on the bearing, hoping it was good.
There was a path but it went nowhere, it was not reliable. In the end we descended into a 'wadi' near a spring. But is it really a good wadi? We met one ... with his goats. He had understood only "Wadi Sabri" and we knew we were on the trek! The next question was are we 'before' or 'after' the theatre ruins? We went according to the guide description and surprisingly found the theatre ruins.
By the way: the "spring" didn't have too much water! The spring is 'after' the ruins so we began to retrace our way and the theatre was in fact not so far.
Further the trek descends in the wadi but in at some point it is necessary to leave the wadi through an "obvious camel path" which is not so obvious :) especially on the descent!
The "path" goes back to the wadi and, through a narrow siq enters a labyrinth of wadis. Here, only the description and a compass are useful. GPS doesn't get the satellites except in some points where we had to climb the rocks to get it.
In the end we missed the exit from the canyon and went on compass through very tough yellow rock rumble straight on the road to Taybeh.
There is one hotel in Taybeh but forget about using it, we had "promotional" price of 90JD :) So we camped near the village, on a hill with formidable view on mountains.
lost in Wadi Rum
In Taybeh there's a small shop and mini-buses from Petra to Wadi Rum, Amman and Aquaba stop there around 6AM. We took the one that went to the crossing near Wadi Rum village (~2JD) and then another that went to Wadi Rum (~700fils).
The tourist part of the village was as deserted by tourist as the surrounding areas :) We prepared our breakfast near the wall but the restaurant owner invited us later to eat it in his restaurant. There is running water and showers just on the other side of the tourist center. No internet :)
Made a plan, calibrated the waypoints according to the map in LP and went to the desert! But we had a small surprise because...
...the Wadi Rum map in LP guide has a wrong scale! It is NOT 1cm=0.5km but rather 1cm=2km.
It was quite frustrating for us because we had planned our trekking according to this map: the 13km trek (easy one day) turned to be 50km (hard 2 days)!
Mainly we followed jeep tracks. First we wanted to go to Quatar Spring but it was too far. So we switched the sides of the valley, went into rock fissure to see the rock inscriptions and finally stopped by the Wadak rock bridge. This arch can be easily climbed.
It was raining during the night.
it's raining again!
We left our backpacks in another rock fissure and went across the valley to another arch, which is "80m above the ground". We enjoyed beautiful views and dry sand :) The arch turned to be really 80m above the ground :) but it was small and seemed quite hard to climb because there was no obvious path leading to it through the rocks.
In some parts the sand was hard but often it was soft and we walked very slow.
There is lot of rubbish everywhere we counted about 20 lost sandals :)
There was a little bit of jeep traffic in the valleys but and was not disturbing.
On our way back to the village we were cough by heavy rain (sic!) and
we really appreciated our waterproof jackets. It was still raining when
we reached the camping so we decided to sleep in their tissue tent (3JD).
At least we enjoyed really HOT water :)
we are on holidays
A mini-bus to Aquaba leaves at 7AM so there is no need to wake up early but chicks sing quite loud in the morning :). The price is ~1.5JD.
The highway goes through a valley with nice views on deserted mountains on both sides.
The climate in Aquaba is completely different, is very pleasant and not too hot. During the lunch we met a couple of backpackers and went togethe rto "Aquaba Int Dive Center". We got the rental price 15JD/dive with equipment rental which was a good deal. We dived at Black Rock (lot of living coral, fish and even one turtle!), at the Wreck Ship (first dive on a wreck for me). We saw the sea horses -- which don't look like those on photography :)
An internet café is in the same block (1JD/30min). The bakery on one of the main streets makes excellent unleaved bread called khobz.
We ate together and slept in the same Al-Khuli hotel (12JD/2 people),
with view on mountains and Ramadan feast market.
back to the real world
The German/Australian couple decided to go to Karak and we attempted one more dive, on "Japanese Garden". We had excellent visibility and saw very nice coral columns. It was the best dive in my life, with this formidable "zero gravity" sensation!
The Trust company bus office is just by the diving company and we went directly from diving to the bus to Amman (4JD) at 2 PM (what was confusing is that the tickets had to be stamped in the office again, just before the departure). The bus goes first through an enormous desert valley and than along the Dead Sea.
In Amman it was rainy and cold. The office where it stops is rather apart so we had to take taxi (2JD). We wanted to see the amphitheatre and the city center which revealed to be nothing exciting, especially at night. Amman seemed rather like a 3rd world city, comparing to Aquaba, which is like a small Mediterranean tourist city. I think the sensation was amplified by the fact that we were the only tourists in the streets! Again taxi to Abdali station (1.5JD, there is a big mosque just nearby) and an airport bus (1.5JD) at 9PM.
The funny thing about airport is that 2 terminals are very similar inside and when we exited at the wrong one we had a lot of fun and déjà-vu sensation after going to the Terminal 2.
The Jordan exit fee is halved and is 5JD. The tea costs 250fils before
the border and 1JD after :)
15 in Petra/Wadi Rum
20 in Aquaba