In spring 2016 I got married. The most difficult decision was where we would spend our Honeymoon. We love to travel and wanted to explore a country together, that we each hadn’t seen yet. It was to be our first vacation together as well. After jumping from one location to the next, we found http://www.jouwjordaniereis.nl/ and got more excited with every sentence we read and every picture we saw. It was to be Jordan and even though André usually never books a planned tour, but just explores a country on his own, he booked the 12 day tour:
Day 1: flight to Amman, travel to Madaba
Day 2: Madaba
Day 3: Dead Sea
Day 4: Wadi Mujib and Dana
Day 5: Dana, Little Petra, Petra
Day 6: Petra
Day 7: Petra and Wadi Musa
Day 8: Wadi Rum
Day 9: Aqaba
Day 10: Amman
Day 11: Jerash and Ajloon, back to Amman
Day 12: Amman
Day 13: Amman
Day 14: Flight back
But because we were in the country for 13 days, we added more days to our stay in Amman – a very good decision after the adventurous trip, because we really needed the rest.
After a 4 hour long flight with stop in Vienna airport we reached Jordan. We were picked up by a kind driver, who was well equipped with water, because the temperature was already quite high and not seldomly at 30°. We drove directly to the hotel in Madaba, where we could get comfortable. Then we started exploring the city that night and went for dinner. The next day we made a trip of Madaba. We had all the essential information with the great tourist guide book from Lonely Planet: restaurants, sightseeing and routes were made easy to find.
After breakfast we directly went exploring and visited the two archeological parks with antique mosaics and buildings. Already here you could feel the difference to Europe, where everything would be separated. You could literally touch the stone, nothing is guarded. At the St. George’s Map Church we saw the huge mosaic in the floor (picture left). Afterwards we visited the shrine of the beheaded Jon the baptist.
In the Madaba Museum we could see cultural history and were shown around by a lady guide. This museum is lead and maintained by women. The lady we spoke with was wearing a hijab, which did not prevent her from cheeky jokes. You will learn that very quickly in Jordan, that it’s people have a peculiar and endearing humour. It is a mixture of sarcasm and tongue in cheek know-it-alls. It makes this country that much more enjoyable, but you have to be able to take a joke and not take yourself too seriously.
We also visited the church of the apostle and the souq market. In the afternoon we enjoyed our first cardamom coffee and went for a swim in the hotel. For dinner we went to the half open air Haret Jdouna restaurant. You are sitting in a kind of back yard, with plants growing up the stone walls and sitting under the crown of a huge tree (see picture right). It is a wonderfoully romantic atmosphere and an absolute must-go for Madaba!
The Dead Sea
On the way to the Dead Sea we stopped at Mt. Nebo, a religious site for jews, christians and moslems. The Prophet Moses apparently had a stay here. How seriously you want to take the religious sites in Jordan is entirely up to you. Jordan and it’s citizens have embraced the tourism around them and the drivers will gladly show you around those sites and explain them to you, if you wish. That is the case also for the salt statue of Prophet Lot’s wife, who became a salt pillar for looking back at the city which was to be destroyed by god’s wrath. I couldn’t recognize anything resembling a human being, not even with a lot of fantasy, but everyone may believe what they wish.
We had intentionally added the stay at the Dead Sea to the standard roundtrip. The Dead Sea Chalets are small stone houses with one bedroom, bathroom and a small beautiful terasse overlooking the Dead Sea. You can eat in the Common Room or bring the food to your Chalet (it’s not included in the price). When we reached the Chalets we had to try out swimming in the Dead Sea. So we put on our swim suits and bathing shoes (very important!) and went a few meters down to the stony beach. It is an incredible feeling to walk past the razor sharp salt pieces, almost like walking on clouds. At one point you just slide into the water and – float. The high amount of salt prevents any life form to exist (hence the name Dead Sea) and makes you float. You kann swim in a certain direction but never dive or go under.
Be careful though, because the salt stings horribly in the eyes, nose and other sensitive areas (for example cuts). So be careful not to swim naked here. Sweet water showers are placed outside, so you can wash the salt off your body when you come out.
There was the possibillity to go hiking in the Canyon Wadi Mujib, right next to the Chalets. Don’t get cheated by the description: There is an incredibly high current river flowing through Wadi Mujib. I was sometimes dipped under water and I am 1,72m. My husband with his 1,90m was down to his neck in water. Glasses and jewellry should stay home, because you wonät see them again. Knot long hair back securely and wear waterproof clothes and shoes. I wore a jumpsuit and hiking shoes, that worked well.
You will get a safety west from the registry, please keep it on at all times. You can also book a guide, they assist you at times (the guys are so well trained that they walk in barefoot, even though there are sharp stones in the water).
In the start you walk down a metall ladder into the valley, where the river flows through. You will be ankle, later knee deep in the water. You then have to walk through the water, at all times you will be at least ankle deep in water and there is a very high current. Several times you have to change sides in the canyon to keep going. Often you will have to prove you hikin and climbing skills to be able to continue. At some point the center put ropes to assist the ascend.
Still you will need to work together to be able to make it. In one of the climbing adventures I slipped and was hanging in the water, holding on to the rope with all my strenght. My husband tried to tell me to let go and the current would take me safely to the next bolder. But because of the water running into my face and next to my ears, I couldn’t hear him. Because of the panic I was holding onto the rope with all my strenght. My husband was worried I would drown there and scared to pry my fingers off the rope. I looked behind me and saw another couple coming to the rescue. The man signed to me to let go, he would catch me. I just had to trust the complete stranger and let go. André told me later that I stopped his heart that moment.
Many scratches and blue spots later – and some unwanted swimming adventures – we had come a long way. Kind of tired and wet, we sat down a while to rest on a little sand island. We watched the group in front of us climbing up a 3 meter high waterfall. A man was just trying to pull hiself up the rope, his foot slipped and he cracked his head at the stone. I looked to André and that’s when we started back.
Later we realized that we had almost made it to the end – damn! The way back was harder, because we were tired and had to fight against the current, so we wouldn’t be pulled away. Even here I dipped into the water several times, but then I just let myself be carried to the next bolder.
Wadi Mujib is an activity I would recommend for families with adult children, friends or your partner. If you need something to boost your team spirit, there is nothing better than this climbing adventure.And if I can do it with my pudding muscles and maximum unathlecity, everyone can! And when we reached the Chalets 15 minutes after leaving Wadi Mujib, we were dry again.
The same day we travelled on to Dana. On the way we came by the cave of Prphet Lot, a small tempel/church in the mountain with a museum at it’s feet. On the way we were able to see the jordanians digging salt out of the Dead Sea to sell it.
Then we continued further to Dana, a beautiful untouched mountain landscape full of green. There you can spend a night in a tent, share some tea and a meal with the other campers and enjoy a hike on the different routes.
The views are so incredibly beautiful, you cannot stop taking pictures. For one or more Moment you have to put down the camera and just take in the view and the moment. The air, the impression needs to be absorbed to realy appreciate the peace and sweet quiet of the uncivilized area, as far as you can see. It is a place to charge your soul, a place that can only be understood by visiting. A place that could easily inspire poetry. And suddenly I could understand why the philosophers path in Heidelberg had such an impact on it’s admirers.
After just one night under the stars we went on to Little Petra and then to Wadi Musa and Petra itself. The ancient city is the cultural heritage and heart of Jordan. Little Petra is so to say the suburb of Petra and gives a taste of what is to come. It is less crowded and there are more shadows in Little Petra – but it is also a lot smaller. You may walk or be carried on a mule or camel.
I would recommend Petra by Night, an opportunity to see Petra by moon and candle light. You walk together with other visitor’s and with hushed voices down to the treasury. Suddenly you walk past a bend in the canyon and come accross the huge impressive treasury, which is carved into the stone itself. Itäs the sight that everybody has in mind when you say “Petra”. The treasury is lit by a hundert candles and colourful spotlights. You get a carpet to sit upon and listen to beuine music while drinking a coup of herbal tea. The atmopshere is unique and worth the midnight stroll through the long canyon.
The next morning we revisited Petra in daylight, this time we walked past the treasury and entered the actual city of Petra. The beduines had carved their city into the stone with homes, graves and holy places sitting right next to each other. Several “floors” of carved rooms are accessible. When you walk into one of them you will immediately understand why they were built this way – even in the incredible heat you come into a shady cool room.
The city is huge and every time you think you reached the end, it stretches farther on. Some of the building remind you of romans others have a primitve vibe. You can directly touch everything, the camels are shitting on the street and people are climbing up and down the mountains. There is no seal, no rope, no separation- So you wander in the boiling heat in the sand and admire this ancient city.
At the restaurant you can walk up to a museum – even though that was closed, we walked around it to find a secluded, but breath taing view. There in the shadows you could see the endless curve of the mountain and Petras true yize became accessible. The city is so incredibly huge that even scientists have not checked all of it yet. A little treasure for anyone who always wanted to be an archeologist.
After wandering in Petra you do need to charge up in one of the restaurants before you make your way back. In the hotel we were so exhausted that we fell asleep. Places for dinner are ample in Wadi Musa, so there was no worry there.
The next day we spent relaxing and visited the modern city next to Petra, Wadi Musa. There you find the place where the prophet Moses allegedly created a spring by hitting the floor. A mosque has been build around the place, the floor of it is open, so you can see the water flowing. The the small town you can shop a little and have a tea or ice cream on one of the terasses. In the evening we went to have dinner with a jordanian family, an initiative by A piece of Jordan,that allows you to meet real Jordanians and spend an evening at their house.
Next we went to Wadi Rum, the dessert of Jordan. There we had booked a Jeep Tour and visited different stone formations with our almost silent tour guide. Even though we like to go to places by ourselves, in this case it is not possible wander alone in the dessert, you will get lost in 5 minutes. The Martian was filmed in this dessert, so if you ask nicely your guide might show you the places. The red sand and otherworldly stone formations really do look like you just landed on mars. You will have to wander and climb on the burning hot sand a little to get a fantastic view over the landscape. In the middle of the desset you can find several Oasis’ with small greenerie and even trees, all thanks to small springs that flow throught he mini Canyons.
You will also have lunch with the tour guide, which he will prepare for you on site over a fire. The drive through the desser can become quite exhausting in the burning heat. In the end you are transported to the camp site and can relax with the other visitors at dinner. We skipped dinner and just watched the stars sparkling without any noise or light pollution dulling their beauty.
Aqaba is a simple busy city. For deep divers the red sea will be a spot to visit, some hotels offer diving lessons in a 3m deep pool. We were also told that diving here is not as exciting as in other places, but if you enjoy it do try it out. A nice beach along the red sea is available for an outing but other than that there is not much to do in Aqaba. The one night we spent here was enough for us.
We had barely seen the capital when we arrived as we immediately left for Madaba. The city is built on hills which means you will be reminded of spain when you walk in the streets. The building give shelter from the sun and you will feel the difference in attitude that you expect from a big city.
The Sara Sea Food restaurant is one of the best places to eat. The first impression will be completely forgotten when you take your first bite. The entrance of the restaurant is opposite a fresh fish stall, where a guy in a filthy sleeveless shirt is selling stinking fish. But once you are up the dingy staircase you enter a beautiful terrace. The food here is superb, so do visit the place! There is also an indian restaurant (hidden in an alleyway that looks like you won’t return alive) which is a real secret tip in the tour guide. I would recommend both places anytime.
We stayed at the Art Hotel, which is a central and very well serviced place to stay. You will get all you need and any assistant if required. This place is perfekt to relax after the roundtrip. The inner city is a bit disappointing for shopping fanatics but you will come across Jordan’s unique cuisine. So if you want to take the chance and try boiled goat’s head or a camel burger – this is your chance. We played it safe with delicious lamb meat dishes, that will make you want to lick your fingers. Jordanians are wonderful cooks and prepare the meat just right without burning your tongue off with spices (yes, I am looking at you south asians).
Jerash und Ajloon
In a day trip we visited both of these places. The romans (Jerash) and crusaders (Ajloon) left their footprints here. Jerash obviously reminds much of Rome, so much so you almost feel like you’ve been transported there. It is a strange thing to find signs of the roman empire and roman gods so far from europe. The contrast to the adjoining modern city is especially significant.
In one of the southern theaters we came across jordanian traditional musicians that were performing with something akin to a bagpipe. While they were playing a group of jordanian school girl sprang up and started dancing in a circle. It was such a joyful and impressive moment, to see these girls in their Hijabs dancing and clapping to the music.
In Ajloon the crusaders left behind a castle which you can visit. The stone ruin quite big and interesting, but nothing out of the ordinary for visitors from europe (in germany you can’t throw a stone without hitting a castle). It is still worth a visit, even just for the view or to see again how many cultural influences came together on this land.
It makes it clear to anyone that harmony between religions is not an unachievable ideal, because Jordan reached it and is living it. Even though they are direct neighbors to Palestine/Isreal, they treat all religions equal. In Wadi Rum we met Jews, in other cities christians. All our guides told us that they offer religios tours for all three world religions.
Jordan is a country to fall in love with. To have to leave this place almost breaks your heart. For every kind of traveler, this place holds treasures. From different cutlures, history, rites and sites, mountains, seas, dessert and forests.
If you are athletic you may swim or dive in the red sea, go hiking and climbing, wade through rivers in canyons.
If you like to take photos, be prepared with a spare batterie, SD-cards and a camera per head – because your fingers will stop burning before you get tired of clicking photos.
If you like to experience a country by their cuisine, you will not be disappointed here. From sweet to savoury, these peple know how to eat.
You like culture and history? Almost any time of the human civilisation can be experienced in the ruins they left behind on this fertile land.
And the Jordanians themselves will surely reach the top 10 of world’s friendliest hosts.
I cannot imagine anyone being disappointed in a trip to Jordan. A honeymoon here is totally recommended – the experiences you make here will become fond memories for your whole life. It is also a fantastic place to visitt with your whole family.
Stop thinking about it and book it – you will not regret it!