Something I may not have mentioned in any posts is the Islamic call to prayer which we heard 5 times per day throughout the Middle East and in some European countries. This call done by each mosque’s Imam, the person who fills a position similar to a priest, pastor, or rabbi. The call is a reminder to Muslims to pray. Where possible, Muslims are to stop what they are doing and pray this prayer while facing Mecca. The following YouTube video has the sound we heard along with an English translation of the Arabic words spoken.
If there’s one place to go to see in Jordan, it’s the ancient city of Petra. Guidebooks repeat this over and over.
Often referred to as the 8th ancient wonder of the world, Petra is an ancient city largely hewn from red sandstone walls in a narrow canyon. The most dramatic aspect of this city is the first glimpse you get of the city after walking nearly 2 kilometres through a winding natural chasm which is at times only a few metres wide.
As you emerge from the narrow slit in the rock, you see the magnificent columns of the mammoth building referred to as ‘the treasury’. It truly is breathtaking.
The pictures below are of the treasury, falsely named as such since legend had it that an Egyptian pharaoh had hid gold in this building. The building, like many others in the city, was built as a tomb. To get the scale of this building, take a look at it in comparison to Mary-Anna in the last picture. She wanted this picture taken since her middle name is Petronella, so claims this site as her namesake.
The sun set at about 6:30 p.m. A generator then supplied light in the tents until 10:00 p.m. During this time, we sat around the fire with the Bedouins, drinking tea and listening to them sing and play traditional music.
We then had our evening meal together. One evening, a meal was made by burying a metal container of food into the sand for about an hour. Under the sand, the container sat on hot coals.
Later in the evening, one of the Bedouins came to the main tent with a hedgehog which he had caught. These animals are indigenous here and are a welcome at the camp since they eat snakes and the like. I must admit that this hedgehog was most adorable. We all had great fun holding it and watching it run around the tent. After a bit of time, it was ‘shown the door’ and allowed to run back out into the night.
On our last morning, we had breakfast (typically included tea, flatbread, hummus, vegetables, halvah, boiled egg, and cream cheese) and then rode camels back to the village. Camels aren’t the most comfortable animals to ride. It was a great thing to do, however, and something that really added to the whole experience.
A Bedouin guide (pictured below) took us by truck to see some of the incredible sights of Wadi Rum. On this excursion, we visited several canyons where, on the rock walls, ancient inscriptions and pictographs had been carved. These date back several thousand years to a time when camel trains carried goods such as silk and spices from the far east to markets in the west. Wadi Rum was a natural thoroughfare through the mountains in this area.
We also visited several rock bridges and got to climb on them (a bit freaky!).
Along the way, we came across many interesting plants as well as desert creatures such as these lizards and gecko.
Our friendly guide made us lunch in the shade of a large mountain, out of the sun’s direct rays. The feast consisted of hummus, flat bread, goat cheese, tuna, tomatoes, cucumber, stew made over a fire, and hot, sweet tea. Delicious!
After lunch, we continued our spin around the desert. One of the stops was at the remains of a house (pictured below) which Lawrence of Arabia used when he was fighting in this area. The Hollywood movie called “Lawrence of Arabia” was filmed here. Apparently the mountain in the picture below which also includes two trucks, was the backdrop to some of the movie’s scenes.
The kids tried on some headdresses worn by Jordanians and Palestinians.
At day’s end, we were tired, hot, and dusty and had a fantastic time!
We took a taxi up to Wadi Rum in the Jordanian desert. In the village of Rum, we met the Bedouins in whose tents we would spend the next two nights. They gave us a ride into the desert to the camp in a rather tattered old 4-wheel drive truck. It needed to be hot-wired in order to start it. Turns out that pretty much all the vehicles here are like this.
The ride across the sand involved being jostled around as we swerved back and forth to avoid shrubs and particularly soft patches of sand. After at least 30 minutes of this, we arrived at the Bedouin camp (green tents in the picture below) which was tucked between a large sand dune and a vertical wall of rock about 300 metres in height.
Wadi Rum is a national park of sorts in the Jordanian desert. Although it’s a harsh desert environment, it has incredible natural beauty. The desert is interspersed with mountain plateaus. Wildlife here includes ibex, oryx, wolves, foxes, snakes, hedgehogs, lizards, and scorpions. The panoramic views are spectacular.
Anticipating our upcoming days in the desert, we went to purchase food at a market in Aqaba. Instead of going to a supermarket, we purchased fruit and breads from individual sellers in an open-air market area.
We spent 4 nights on the beach of the Gulf of Aqaba. The highlight here was snorkelling on the reef.
When snorkelling, we rented flippers and used the masks and snorkels we bought back in Greece. We went out in pairs, together with a local elderly man who showed us the reef and ‘called in’ a host of fish with bread crumbs he had brought in a plastic bag. I went out on my own with him and snorkelled more than a kilometre along the coral reef. At times, the coral was less than a metre under me while other times it would drop away to at least 4 metres below me.
We saw so many colours in the fish along the reef. It was like a liquid rainbow flowing and shimmering in and above the multi-hued coral. Our guide told us he would try to show us sharks as well. In a way, I’m not sad we didn’t see any. The possibility brought back memories of a close call I had near here years ago with a poisonous lion fish.
Just before we left the water, the guide picked up a large poisonous sea urchin and brought it to the beach. He says he eats a few of the spines each morning, claiming that it keeps him healthy. A group of Jordanians came to look at the urchin and told him of of a father and son who had each stepped on urchins and had spines broken off in their feet. We walked to a nearby tent where the two were sitting with their injured feet in a bucket of water. The son had perhaps a dozen spines in his foot whereas his father had at last a hundred! The father especially was in a lot of pain. The guide told me he frequently helps people with this kind of injury. His form of helping involved holding the foot and then slapping the bottom of it. The father nearly passed out when this was done. The excruciating pain was evident. The guide then told the man to walk on the foot in order to bring more blood to the injured area. After a while, he again took the foot and began to massage the spines out of the foot. I couldn’t believe the pain this caused. I didn’t stick around for the whole procedure but later on heard that all the spines had been removed. Note to self…do NOT step on a sea urchin, especially if this guide is around to ‘heal’ you!