Exploring Aqaba

A taxi was waiting for us in Wadi Rum village when we arrived on our camels, ready to drive us onwards to our final destination in Jordan, the seaside town of Aqaba. It was a balmy 23c when we arrive and although we were very early for check-in our room was ready. Oh my I had the longest hottest of hot shower and oh my it was heaven. We even had a kettle in the room and we were on our third tea before we’d even started showering! Our balcony looked out to sea but for a few hours all we did was lay on the bed and rest our tired bones.

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Wadi Rum | Our Days in the Desert

Let me start by saying two things… one) WOW! We had the most amazing few days in the desert…two) I’ve never felt so cold!

We left Petra at first light, sharing a taxi with Lotte from Denmark who was going to be our travelling companion for the next few days. There had been a change in weather at Petra and our third day of adventures was lost to the weather. Sadly we never got to hike to Little Petra, nor the Monastery nor Aaron’s tomb; I guess it will have to wait for our next visit! The bright sunshine of the previous day had been replaced with ice, high winds and snow! All night the wind howled and we wondered if the roof of the hotel may actually blow off! As we left on the second morning of the storm we really hoped that the wind would be gone by the time we reached Wadi Rum.

En route in our taxi we swapped stories with Lottie of our adventures so far. We told her about our ‘speed bump’ incident on the Dead Sea highway and our taxi driver was laughing out loud as we explained what happened. He said he hears this so many times, everyone who drives in Jordan gets caught out at some point… at least it’s not just us!

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The High Place of Sacrifice

O. M. G. What a day we had. We had been told there was a nice easy hike to The High Place of Sacrifice. We were told it was only about 5km long and quite easy. We were told that we’d get back to the Visitors Centre easily in time for lunch. And we were told it would be a gentle 18c today and perfect hiking weather. Well… that never happened!

It was our second day at Petra and we had already decided that we would hike. I’d read a few blogs about the hike to the High Place of Sacrifice and it seems perfect for us. We wandered down to the entrance and back through the gauntlet of donkeys, camels and horses. The Bedouins desperately tried to sell us their services but we’d been told in advance to say no. No thank you, we don’t want a guide… no thank you, we don’t want a donkey ride… no thank you, we don’t want postcards. Jolanda in the hotel had told us to never say maybe or later… because they will remember 😁 So on we walked with many many firm but polite no thank yous. I want to stress though that this is never high pressured, it’s more of a game and very light hearted. But we made it to the start of the trail.

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Exploring Petra

We’d pre-arranged for transport from Feynan to Petra. After breakfast we said farewell to our amazing Bedouin hosts and were directed towards our transport, 4 x 4 truck which would take us out of Feynan and back onto the main highway. It was an interesting journey that took us out of the valley and way up into the mountains and we learned why so many folks drive these great big vehicles; It was a bit of a bone shaking journey!

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Exploring Feynan

Our walk yesterday from the Dana Biosphere Reserve and to Feynan Lodge forms part of the Rift Valley Trail. The mountains were formed when African plates and Arabian plates collided. Originally we had wanted to walk this entire section from Dana to Little Petra through the Shobak Heights but rescheduling because of COVID made it impossible for us this time (but maybe one day!) The section that we hiked yesterday was truly breath-taking and the photos just don’t do it justice and the vastness of the landscape dwarfed us and we felt so lost amongst the hills.

We came here to hike, and this morning we choose to go with a guide high up into the herding paths in the surrounding mountains, following the shepherds to the higher grazing.

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Dana to Feynan

I honestly don’t know what to write about today to convey the day that we had. In short we walked. But in between the walk … well… my pilgrim buddy Theresa said recently that outside of your comfort zone is where the magic lies… she’s not wrong!

This morning before moving on we returned to the village shop. We enjoyed his coffee yesterday and so overnight he went to the supermarket for us and bought the best brand so that we could enjoy his coffee at home. We returned before breakfast for the coffee and, as yesterday morning although today armed with more freshly brewed hot coffee, we tucked into another breakfast with eggs and hummus and jams and creams and spice and flat breads and copious amounts of hot sweet tea.

Today we said goodbye to Dana Tower Guesthouse and it felt like leaving old friends. We booked this little hotel with a fair amount of trepidation; we reassured ourselves that it would only be 2 days and that we were there for the hiking. The hotel may not be luxurious like the Dead Sea Resorts but oh my, the heart and soul of Jordan live in Dana. Our room may have been chilly but the bed was so comfortable and the extra big blankets kept us warm. The bathroom may have been a little rustic but it was super clean and the water was piping hot. The community area was warm and cosy and the meals were genuinely some of the best food we’ve eaten. I can’t eat gluten or any kind of milk or milk product and they made sure that everything I ate was safe.

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Exploring Dana

Last night we eventually pulled ourselves away from our blankets in our cold room and headed off into the cold night in search of our dinner. Honestly we were not expecting it to be quite this cold! We left the cold of our room last night… I had a vest, a thermal base layer, a lightweight sweatshirt, my scarf, buff, hat and gloves and my coat, and two pairs of double layer socks. I was still cold. We expected a chilly supper but wow we could not have been more wrong. The roof terrace was glazed and covered, Bedouin style, with lots of rugs, there was a heater in the middle making it toasty warm and we had comfy seating around the sides. Our host, Habiba and the cooks brought in dish after fabulous dish of Jordanian fayre.. Honestly, what a feast we all had. And what a glorious place to eat and enjoy the company of others.

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Going to Dana

Today we said goodbye to our resort hotel and set off on our long drive south. We’re heading for the tiny hillside village of Dana in the Feynan area of central-western Jordan. The village is perched high on a hill overlooking Wadi Dana, a large natural canyon, with views over Wadi Araba; it now forms part of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, one of Jordan’s first nature reserves.

Our drive took us along the length of the Dead Sea, and once we’d left the resort hotels behind the landscape rarely changed over the hour or so of our drive along the Dead Sea Highway. It’s a landscape dotted with factories and power pylons with the road nestled between the mountains and the sea, interspersed by the odd small town or fields of courgettes and tomatoes.

We were stopped at a checkpoint, like before they took a cursory glance at our passport and waved us on but we decided to take the opportunity to park up and have a look at the dead sea salt, forming in white crystals along the edge of the sea and the shore. Apparently, due to over irrigation, the water level now drops a staggering 1 metre a year and that drop is clearly evident along the shoreline. I checked the altitude on my app, a sign says that we are at the lowest place on earth at 439m below sea level.

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We had more exploring today and our first stop was the small town of Madaba, a typical East Bank town which has one major surprise; underneath almost every house lies a fine Byzantine mosaic. Many have been excavated and are on display in the town’s many museums but it is estimated that many more lie hidden.

Madaba’s chief attraction, in the contemporary Greek Orthodox church of St. George, is a 6th-century Byzantine mosaic map showing the entire region from Jordan and Palestine in the north, to Egypt in the south. What was most striking to us was the depiction of the Jordan River, with boats sailing into the Dead Sea and bridges crossing from the East and West banks and large fish jumping out of the river; so very different from what we saw yesterday. The church was, like the Russian Orthodox Church yesterday, brightly painted with many murals of St George.

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