Travelling with a Teenager: Jordan
“It’s not safe to go there” were the comments I received when telling friends that my teenage daughter and I were heading to Jordan. It’s one of the biggest misconceptions about travelling to the Middle East – and particularly to Jordan as the people are very peaceful and respectful of one another.
As we both dislike travelling like a herd of cattle on organised trips, we arranged our holiday with flexibility in mind. I found Hisham online, who promised he would drive us to Petra and bring us back to Amman the following day, and following some Whatsapp conversations, all was arranged. As promised, he was waiting for us at the airport. The service we received from Hisham was absolutely outstanding. It began from the comfort of his new car – and all the little extras he had thought of for his clients, from wi-fi, to antiseptic handwash and water/drinks and food.
Following his suggestion, we rearranged the itinerary and headed off to Petra, but included stops at Madaba, known for its 6th century mosaic map of the Holy Land in the Greek Orthodox church of Ayios Georgios. This is where it was so good to have the #JordanPass – as entry was free to the Aracheological Park with artifacts from the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic eras. Incidentally, the #JordanPass also includes the visa to Jordan, so quite a saving from the outset. I highly recommend it, and thanks to the #VisitJordan team.
We continued northwest, to the biblical hill of Mt Nebo which overlooks the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea. March is a magical time to visit Jordan- the flowers are absolutely spectacular all over the valley with bright hues of blues and purples, mixed with yellows and whites.
Part of the luxury of having Hisham was that he was so willing and happy to stop en route, and even to take photos. There is something special about going off the beaten track and immersing oneself into the culture of another country and not only seeing the ‘tourist’ sights. The views of the Dead Sea provided some spectacular photos with the white salt shimmering in the bright light against the outcrop of rocks.
The quite renowned desert road to Petra is not the only route. We went around the mountains which was a paradise for a young and enthusiastic photographer to try out her new machine! Hisham, so obliging, even opened his rooftop so Sandra was able to snap away with fantastic results.
After relaxing overnight in Petra, instead of starting from the usual Tourist Centre, we were taken by jeep (again at the suggestion of Hisham) to walk to the Monastery. Somewhat alarmed at being left in the middle of nowhere, we were told, follow the path and you can’t get lost! In for the adventure, we started walking – it’s not really walking but rather climbing. If you don’t have stamina, don’t select this route as it’s quite tough, but the rugged beauty of the area was spectacular. The colours of the rocks were most impressive – and one can understand why they are used in the mosaics. We met some friendly bedouin women enroute, all friendly and offering us much welcomed bedouin tea, which is very flavourful.
We passed donkeys, goats, wild dogs and suddenly, there it was – the Monastery, carved into the rock. We had now reached civilisation, and continued the route throughout Petra. It’s quite far, and the pedometer measured over 30km to the exit. Comfortable hiking shoes are essential, as is a hat, sunscreen, sunglasses and a bottle of water. We had perfect weather conditions but I would not like to do this walk in July or August when temperatures reach over 40 degrees.
In the evening, one can chose to overnight in Wadi Rum – a very special and magical experience. One is taken in a jeep through the desert dunes, and because we were just the two of us, were able to go off the tourist path and so captured more magical moments of a baby camel (just a week old) with it’s mother. The quiet of the desert is perfect.
The following day, we headed to Amman and started off in the National Gallery of Fine Arts. A most impressive selection of contemporary Jordanian painting and sculptures as well as contemporary art from around the Middle East and the greater Muslim world. Renovated in 2005, it is in 2 parts – one opposite the road from the other, with the art on exhibition for sale.
The best way to travel around Amman is with Careem – the taxi app similar to Uber but with excellent prices, and safe service. Local taxi drivers complain that they undercut them, and that passengers are not safe in Careem, they don’t have insurance, but we found the service to be excellent and reliable. All the drivers were polite and respectful towards us.
When you have time constraints, make sure not to miss the Amman Citadel – a historical site known in Arabic as Jabal al-Qal’a, one of the seven jabals that originally made up Amman. There is a super little museum there, very nicely and clearly laid out with pottery from the Neolithic period right up to the Islamic period. The circular views of Amman are spectacular and there is a wonderful café en site with very reasonably priced coffee and warm snacks.
Jordan has a lot to offer its visitors – from the wealth of history to superb food and cuisine, to relaxation – whether at the sea or in the desert, to warm, friendly and hospitable people. We will definitely be returning soon!