Jordan Diaries – A Cultural Extravaganza

All you wannabe Indiana Jones, this Summer you can follow in the footsteps of the famous crusader and enter the magical world of Jordan where history will be brought to life by the super talented guides across the country. This is a perfect location for a family trip or a break from your monotonous life to travel with your wanderlust friends. Pack your hiking boots and explore this part of the world to marvel on some of world’s well maintained ruins.

Country of Visit: Jordan 
Starting Point: Amman
Ending Point: Dead Sea
Group Size: 5 of my wanderlust travel buddies plus me
Fitness Level: Moderate
Currency: Jordanian Dinar
Best Season: Summer and Winter (I feel this is a personal choice and cannot be generalized as each of us have a different body settings for various seasons. Eg: I prefer to avoid summers as my heat tolerance is poor and prefer to holiday during autumns and winter).
Airlines: Air Arabia with a stop over in Sharjah.
Clothing: Certain level of modesty needs to be maintained. As it was winter we carried warm clothes.
Travel: Minimum 2-4 hours on days when we travelled from one city to another.

Jordan, a country in middle east and the Nabatean Capital around 300 BC is a culturally and historically rich country. I would call it a middle eastern odyssey that is speckled with ancient monuments, natural reserves, sea rich in salt contents and home to an archeological wonders and your travel to this country will certainly be an adventure of your life time.

My Jordan diaries is a two part blog delving into the highlights of my journey and hopefully help you to plan your next invigorating adventure. I will not be sharing facts about the places as everyone knows to google and there’s plethora of information available. I will rather share snippets of my adventure and my personal experiences here.
Marhaba !! Welcome to Amman, capital of Jordan both during the ancient and modern Times. It’s a city that is cosmopolitan and you will hardly see women wear Burka here. We began the day with an hearty breakfast in Al-Osrah. Rode down the lively streets and we were taken to high point in the city to enjoy a panoramic view that was breathtaking. Later we visited the Blue Mosque, Roman theatre and Citadel.

The next day was an active day that needed us to walk 4-5 kms. We visited Jerash the greatest Greco-Roman ruins and a city that coexisted in peace with 4 varied religions. It was city ruled by the emperor Hadrian and is famous for the 2nd-century Hadrian’s Arch, the Corinthian columns of the Temple of Artemis, the huge Forum’s oval colonnade and 15 churches and 2 mosques. If you are a history buff like me I strongly suggest you to set aside a day to marvel at this settlement. Do not forget to see the fountain that was dedicated to the Empress Domna, the tetropillion here leads you to 4 different countries and make sure to ask your guide about the same and lastly play a guessing game and identity the nature of shops in the agora based on the ruins. Later we proceeded to Ajloun castle which stands on the ruins of a monastery.  It is one of the very few Muslim fortresses built by the Ayyubids. Be in awe of the preserved mosaic floor anddon’t forget to visit the museum with interesting artifacts from the various time periods of the region.

Tipping is compulsory here, though its a unwritten rule. The guides are pretty friendly and you need to hire them on a hourly basis. The guides expect around 3-5 USD per person. The currency is strong and conversion rate is 1 JOD equivalent to 101 INR. I would also caution my fellow travelers to beware of the localities in tourist spots who are quiet enthusiastic to click pictures and in turn expect tips for the services rendered. I strongly advise you to carry a selfie stick instead or your guide will be more than happy to click few pictures for you.

The next day was an another day of learning of history and culture. We began the day by visiting Mount Nebo. It is in this place that Prophet Moses was said to have seen the Promised land. Within the campus is 4th century church with well preserved Mosaics. Walk further to take in the landscape and see the oldest olive tree. The next stop was a small historic town called Madaba. It is home for the 6th Century mosaic map of Jerusalem which is inside the St. George’s Church. The last pit stop before we reached the city of Petra was to see the world’s smallest hotel and a short visit to Shawbak castle.

Part 2 of Jordan diaries is an exclusive blog dedicated to the city of Petra and hence will not talk about this Rose city here.

Your visit to Jordan is not one of relaxing kind, it will be a active holiday and you will be required to walk around 4-6 kms everyday and more so in Petra. Having said that you can relax your limbs and have a massage or two in Dead Sea. It was one of the reasons we designed our itinerary to accommodate all places that needed us to be active in the beginning and slowly wind it down to a more relaxed one as the days passed.
Generally the people of Jordan are very friendly and helpful. But, don’t let down your caution down with the local guides, they are crafty and will milk you for Tips. We did not have a very pleasant experience in Petra. 

After an exhilarating adventure the previous day we were ready to give our limbs the much needed rest. Wadi Rum desert and exploring the city of Aqaba was on the list. Hire a 4x jeep operated by the local Bedouin and gaze at the eroded gouts of rock and run through the small mounds of sand. I would say let your hair down and taste the wind on your face but it would be ill advised for winter season. If you have an extra day I would advise you to stay in one the luxury tents for a night of star gazing and fall asleep under an unpolluted and clear expanse of a starry lit night.
As a thumb rule we carry pre prepped food whenever we travel and I recommend it strongly if you are a vegetarian. You can only eat so much of Hummus, Pita bread and salad. Even if you find restaurants serving vegetarian food it will end up being quiet an expensive meal. A decent meal can set you back anywhere between 20-25 JOD ( INR 2080-2600/- per person, per meal). Don’t forget to try their Turkish coffee which was the second best coffee that I ever had.

We saved the best for the last. Dead sea is the lowest point on earth and has up to 33% of salt content in its water. It is this salt content and the density of the water that allows you to float through the water effortlessly. It is aptly named dead sea or sea of lot because for lack of life in it. By the end of the trip we all were supper tanned and made the most of it by soaking and covering our body head to toe with nutrient rich dead sea minerals.
The convenient location of the hotel and its private access to the sea along with comfort of not having to carry your essentials made the entire experience memorable.

Most people Shop for Dry Fruits, Sage Tea, Ajloun Olive Oil, traditional Keffiyehs (scarves), hand painted ceramics, Spices and Dead Sea Mud Pack. Don’t forget to visit Taj and Mecca mall, City center and Abdali Boulevard in Amman if you want to shop some famous international brands. If you are using the local taxis request them to turn the meters on else you will end up spending more.

Details of Accommodations in Amman, Petra and Dead Sea

Al Qasr Metropole in Amman. Located strategically and has an amazing breakfast spread. However the rooms were quiet small and the showers were not that great. Courteous staff and service was good

Guest House in Petra is located just next to the visitors center and saves you bit of walk. We got upgraded to a higher grade rooms and they were large and spacious. However the house keeping staff need to pay attention and cleaning of the room can certainly be improved. We had opted for Breakfast and dinner at this hotel and I must say the spread for vegetarians is limited to salads and baked potatoes/tomatoes and rice. Limited number of staff spoke English and hence communication was a bit difficult. 

Kempinski in Dead Sea was the Highlight of our Journey and I insist that you stay here. Impeccable service, well informed staff and view of the dead sea is to die for. Kempinski has its private access to dead sea which makes it very convenient for the guests. The Italian restaurant is a must try. The hotel also has an infinity pool and few more smaller pools. The infinity pool is temperature controlled and don’t forget to enjoy a sun set soaking in it. The Chef’s in the restaurant are quiet enthusiastic and will be more than willing to customize a vegetarian meal on request.

I would like to end this post with a story our driver shared with us. I have borrowed the below content from https://www.deadsea.com/articles-tips/history/dead-sea-mystery-special-dead/

A very well-known Biblical story which took place in the vicinity of the Dead Sea is the story of Lot’s wife. Lot, nephew of Abraham, chose to settle in a stretch of land near the kingdom of Sodom, just north of the Dead Sea. Sodom and neighboring kingdom Gomorrah were notorious for being places of wickedness and vice. Over the years, Lot became a respectable member of Sodom, married a Sodomite and was appointed mayor of the city; his daughters, too, married men of Sodom.  However, God was angry with the people of Sodom, and, wishing to destroy this place of sin, sent Lot two angels to warn him of his plan. Lot and his family planned to flee and were cautioned by the angels not to look back on the city. However, Lot’s wife couldn’t resist and cast back one last look – upon which she was turned into a pillar of salt. To this day, a tall pillar standing near the Mount of Sodom is known as “Lot’s Wife”.

Cya for now and signing of as Yours Truly Ms Su 

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