Thursday, June 30, 2011

jordan wrap up:

For a small country, Jordan certainly packs a punch. With sights such as Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea plus numerous Roman ruins such as Jerash (which we didn't get the chance to visit), there is a lot to see and do.
A good thing about Jordan is it's size. You can see so much in a small amount of time as it is very easy and quick to get from place to place. We spent six days all up in Jordan and saw most of the major attractions. Also, Jordanian hospitality is legendary, and we definitely experienced much warmth from all of the locals. We always felt safe.
Jordan is also a great country to visit if you are thinking of going to Egypt or Israel. It is all very close, with the border crossings are straight forward. So we definitely recommend doing a combination trip if you are in the area. The only thing to be aware of is that it isn't the cheapest country, with the Jordanian Dinar worth more than the Euro! 

Like I mentioned above, Jordan is small in area and easy to get around. We used a mixture of  mini buses and taxis to get around and it was extremely straight forward. We hired a taxi to get from Madaba to Wadi Musa (Petra) so that we could stop of at the Dead Sea on the way and various other sites. That cost about $90 which isn't that cheap when compared to the bus, but we had a driver for around six hours and we had the freedom of going where we liked.

The food we ate was very similar to that of what had previously experienced in Israel and Lebanon. However there are also Bedouin dishes available which are stew-like and come with rice. I was bit addicted to falafel, so ate copious amounts of this! GOOD falafel is amazing.

Even though Jordan is rather expensive, we still were able to find good budget accommodation options. In particular we really recommend Saba'a in Wadi Musa - basic, but clean and super friendly and helpful service.

camping in wadi rum

We didn't do much shopping in Jordan, however I did get some necklaces made by our new Bedouin friend, Abdullah (you can see in our Petra post). Petra is full of jewelry stalls, but they all have the same stuff. Abdullah had some if these same pieces, but also made many of his own pieces, something that I noticed many of the other stalls did not do or offer. We spent hours chatting to him, drinking tea and admiring his beautiful collection. So if you are visiting Petra, be sure to visit him (he's stall is white and on the right hand side - 15min walk around the corner from the Treasury, after the theatre). He's one of the most genuine people we met while in Jordan and extremely interesting talk to.

Due to the issues the Middle East is going through at the moment Jordan is extremely quiet. There was, it seemed, only a hand full of people at Petra which was pretty incredible for a wonder of the world! Sadly though, many of the Jordanians in the tourist industry are suffering financially  and it was heartbreaking to see such genuine, friendly people desperate for business. Jordan is extremely safe and an easy country to navigate. If you are thinking of going, I do urge you to. It's so quiet, you'll have most of the amazing sites to yourself! I'll share one story of the amazing hospitality we experienced. Andrew and I both got bitten by something while we were on the road (at different times). The bites were healing, however after spending the night in Wadi Rum we both woke up with bad infections - maybe the desert dust - not too sure what it was. So when we got to Aqaba (about an hour south and our last stop before heading off to Egypt), Andrew decided we should go to a hospital and get some antibiotics, which was a wise move. We called a taxi, where we were blessed with an amazingly helpful driver. He made sure we went to a hospital that wouldn't cost us a fortune (even though we do have insurance), came in with us, translated, waited, ran around making sure all the paper work was done and signed, waited some more, and  made sure we got the correct scripts and medication. You should have seen this guy running around the hospital for us! It blew us away. And that is just one example we experienced. The only downer was that we weren't allowed to swim for three days after that!

Next: the Red Sea, Egypt.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

wadi rum, jordan:

After exploring Petra, it was off to Wadi Rum - a two hour drive south of Wadi Musa.
Wadi Rum is the desert area flanked by sculptural pillars, made infamous by T.E. Lawrence - aka - Lawrence of Arabia. We spent the day four-wheel driving with our Bedouin guide, exploring all the different formations, and finishing off with an amazing sunset that illuminated the whole area. We then spent the night camping in the desert, star gazing and listening to our guide play and sing traditional Bedouin music. It was a pretty special experience and a must if you visit Jordan.

Next: our Jordan wrap up and then it's on to Egypt!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

petra, jordan:

Petra. One of the Seven Wonders of the world, and deservedly so.
We stayed in Wadi Musa, the town just outside of the infamous site for three nights to ensure we could see as much of Petra as possible. Petra is massive. After all, it was a ancient city built and inhabited by the Nabataeans around 6th century BC. So it's pretty old! What is most impressive about Petra, other than its size, is the fact that it is carved out of the existing natural formations. In particular, the Treasury (the most famous image of Petra) and the Monastery are incredible as you take in all of the detail, not to mention the giant scale of the facades.
What we loved was walking through the Siq (like a canyon) at the start - exciting when you get that first glimpse through the rocks on either side. We had so fun exploring and climbing around, trying to imagine Petra back in the day as a bustling city.
Sadly though, it was abandoned around 300-400AD due to a bad earthquake and flooding. You could see most of Petra in a day, but I would recommend two as it is huge like I said before. For example - from the ticket office to the Treasury, which is the start of Petra, is about a 45minute walk if you aren't in a rush. Keep walking to the Monastery (which is well worth it) and you're looking at another two hours.
Petra is amazing and has been a highlight so far. Do add it to your bucket list if you haven't already.

Next: Wadi Rum and then Egypt.

the treasury

our new friend Abdullah and myself - he made that necklace (and a few others) for me

very impressed by these hexagonal stone tiles

standing outside the monastery

Monday, June 27, 2011

where we're at:

Hello from Beijing, China! Arriving here marks the second half of our trip - the Silk Road. Tonight we will be catching train to Xian, home of the famed Terracotta Warriors, where we will continue to head west, on to Kashgar and into Kyrgyzstan. It's going to be so interesting to se how the landscape and cultures change as we travel, so we are very excited about this leg of the trip!
We have been in Beijing for five days now and have been having a blast. Things were off to a weird start however, when firstly, our hard drive in our Macbook died! It's only four months old, sow e weren't too impressed. Fortunately, everything was backed up and Beijing has a couple of Mac stores where we could get it all fixed. Our hard drive definitely picked the right place die - it would have terribly frustrating if it happened while on the Silk Road!
Secondly, and you may be aware of it, but China's media is highly censored and a lot of social websites such as Facebook and Twitter are banned. This also includes Blogger! So I have been having a hard time trying to get the blog to work, and working out ways to get through the 'great firewall of China'. Hence the reason for a lack of posts recently!
We will be trying our very best to get posts back up on a regular basis, so please continue to check back, but if we are quiet it'll be due to not being able to access the blog. We will definitely make up for this once we have proper access, and we are continuing to take lots of photos.
Jordan posts to follow.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

around + about, jordan:

So from Jerusalem, it was back to Jordan where we would spend a week exploring and experiencing what it had to offer. Our main reasons for visiting Jordan were to see Petra and camp a night in Wadi Rum. On our return, we opted to stay in the city of Madaba rather than the capital Amman, as it had a bit more character. From there we spent the day heading south to Wadi Musa - our base for Petra. On the way however, we made many stop off's including the Dead Sea, a real highlight! Hard to imagine the sea is over 1000ft above you! We then drove down the Kings Highway, through desert and beautiful landscapes which we had not experienced before. Even though the desert is dry and pretty much uninhabitable, it is extremely beautiful and unique.
The photos below are of our journey to Wadi Musa and what we saw along the way.

Next: Petra

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