The following guide to Jordan Day Trips is brought to you by
Ms. Gracie Barrie, check her out on Instagram: @standbyflygirl
We had one more big event planned for our time in Jordan and that was a visit to the Southern part of the country, to Petra and Wadi Rum. Petra is an ancient city built into the red rock faces of the desert. It is hailed as one of the wonders of archaeology and had been hidden to the outside world until 1812. The drive to Petra from Amman took about 3.5 hours. We didn’t have as much time as the visit deserves so we took a donkey carriage from the entrance to the treasury, the first major site of the city. I would love to one day walk the trail (instead of ride a carriage) as one of the most beautiful elements of the site is the cavernous walls that border the path to the city. It feels like you’re approaching something out of an Indiana Jones movie, suddenly you round a corner and the treasury peeks through the rocks. The city is huge. If you’re adventurous you’ll want to take the hike up to the monastery (and allow extra time, the way up takes about 40 minutes), but others will get just as much of a kick from walking through ancient tombs and amongst old houses. The Bedouin people used to control Petra but were moved by the government in the 80s. They still live nearby and control pretty much all tourist amenities inside the site including camel rides, coffee stands, and tours. Since it was the off season and we were with Zara they often stopped asking if we wanted a “Bedouin Taxi” or camel ride after one or two tries and then just hung out with us while we explored. One man, Eagle of the Desert, as he introduced himself to us, showed us how Bedouin women used to wear makeup from the walls of the rocks and waxed poetic on the beauties of the desert and Bedouin tea. He was an exceptional part of our visit to Petra.
When the sun started to go down we got back to our car and made our way to Wadi Rum, the expansive desert in the southern part of the country. Wadi Rum has long been the subject of literature and artists, most recently it was featured as the landscape for Mars in the movie The Martian. The drive to our camp from Petra was about 2 hours long so we arrived well past dark. It was like driving through outer space, every once in a while being able to make out the outline of a massive rock formation in the moonlight. Bedouins live throughout Wadi Rum and run camps for tourists to stay in. These range from luxurious, queen-sized bed and indoor plumbing, to rugged, sleeping on the floor and outdoor toilets. Upon arrival we ate an absurd amount of food once again and retired to bed early after some incredible star-gazing as we had planned a sunrise adventure into the desert.
At 5am we met our tour guide, a local Bedouin man with kind eyes and a calm demeanor. We hopped in the back of his pick-up truck and he drove us to the perfect place to watch the sunrise over the alien landscape. It was like nothing I had ever seen in my life. That morning was one of my favorite moments of the trip. It was peaceful and endless. The eye never had the chance to rest, always taking in more and more different spectacles. Our guide drove us from secret site to site, from friend’s camps to the place where the famed Lawrence of Arabia had once sat. Also if you’re looking to ride a camel, Wadi Rum is the place to do it. The Bedouins are expert camel owners so you can rest easy knowing these animals probably have a pretty good life out there. It’s about 5 dinar for a 2 minute ride which may seem steep but to be honest that is probably the maximum amount of time you want to spend on a camel. They are not the most comfortable beast. We had tea at two different Bedouin camps, the most delicious, sweet tea made even better the fact that it was positively freezing in the back of that truck.
If you go anytime that isn’t the middle of July, be sure to bring warm, warm clothes to wear. Bring more than you think. Desert cold is bone rattling. And be sure to bring some sort of lotion and sunscreen, by the end our wind-chapped faces where pink and dry, but very smiley. It was one of the most incredible mornings of my life full of exploration, wonder, and humility. Meeting the Bedouins who call the desert home reminds you of what is most beautiful about this life and this earth. They hold the utmost respect for their home, our guide spoke often about how much love he held in his heart for the desert. He knew how to read the sand and the sky and understood what the land was telling him. He was so considerate he seemed almost otherworldly. He wanted to help us see what was most beautiful about his home and why we needed to protect it. Every Bedouin I met was kind and engaging regardless of a language barrier. The tour of the desert took half the day, we arrived back at the camp at noon, had some lunch and returned to Amman, a 4 hour drive.
To read more about Gracie’s travels in Jordan, click here and here.