The next stop on our middle east itinerary was Jordan. Both Donna and George had family ties to Jordan but I was sadly under informed about this magnificent country. We decided to spend 2 days in Jordan and we narrowed our search to Wadi Rum and Petra.
There was lots of conflicting detail online about how to cross the border from Israel to Jordan and if you needed to procure a tourist visa in advance. We opted to cross the border at the southernmost part of Israel, near Eilat. The process itself was not too cumbersome – you pay an exit fee in Israel, get your passport reviewed at a couple of booths and next thing you know, you’re walking the short distance between borders to Jordan. The process on the Jordan side was just as simple – a quick review of the passport, a tourist visa slip provided, a security screening for bags, and we walked right out to the taxi we prearranged.
For anyone traveling from the Israel border to Jordan, I would definitely recommend arranging a taxi service in advance. There are plenty of taxis waiting once you cross, but it’s well documented that they will take advantage of travelers who don’t do their research and charge more than is reasonable. The hotel in Wadi Rum we booked recommended our driver, Nael, and he kept in touch with us during the border crossing process and was very patient with us since we were running over an hour behind schedule.
It took about an hour or so to get from the border to the Wadi Rum visitor center. Wadi Rum is an amazing place! It’s the largest wadi (arabic for valley) in Jordan. Wadi Rum has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It is the home to the Zalabia Bedouin people. They have made the area a haven for eco-tourism and it has become one of Jordan’s most popular tourist destinations.
Nael dropped us off since only the bedouins drive in the protected desert areas. We met up with a representative of the Memories Aicha Luxury Camp (who we booked with). We scheduled a jeep tour and camel rides (Donna and George only) and we then climbed in the back of the pick up to head towards the camp.
The next day, Donna and George rode their camel while I finished getting my stuff together and then we headed back to the visitors center to meet up with Nael again. The drive to Petra took about 2 and a half hours.
Petra is a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan. Petra lies on the slope of Jabal Al-Madbah in a basin among the mountains which form the eastern flank of Arabah valley that run from the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba. Petra is believed to have been settled as early as 9,000 BC, and it was possibly established in the 4th century BC as the capital city of the Nabataean Kingdom. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who invested in Petra’s proximity to the trade routes by establishing it as a major regional trading hub.
The city is accessed through a 1.2 kilometer long gorge called the Siq, which leads directly to the Treasury. Petra is also called the Rose City due to the color of the stone out of which it is carved. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1985. UNESCO has described it as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage”. In 2007, Al-Khazneh (the Treasury) was voted in as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. Petra is a symbol of Jordan, as well as Jordan’s most-visited tourist attraction.
We spent the night in Petra in town and the next day we headed back to Israel. I have to say I loved every minute of our experience in Jordan! The country is beautiful and all of the people we encountered were so warm and welcoming! I would definitely go back to Jordan for another vacation – maybe to explore the northern portion of the country and the Dead Sea.
Stayed tuned for the next blog entry as our middle eastern adventures were far from over!