8 years of living in Dubai and the only place in the Middle East I had visited before was Damascus. Since January I have made up for this complete faux pas by travelling to Lebanon (great), Kuwait (awesome hotel shame about the boring city), Oman (lovely) and now to add to the list, Jordan.
My friend G and I decided to do the normal trail of Amman, Petra and 2 nights in the Dead Sea Resort driving around in a pathetic Citroen C4 (it really struggled to get up the big hills – and there were loads of them).
Here is our travel diary for the four days in Jordan
We hired our car from Thrifty/Dollar. They tried to screw us around with a car with no boot shelf to hide our suitcase. After several minutes of being difficult we were giving a suitable (bruised) car.
We stayed in the Four Seasons Amman. Yes it’s bling but we wanted to spoil ourselves for a night. The sheets, as G will tell anyone who will listen, were amazing. Must have been a few 100 on the cotton count J.
Due to Emirates and their impeccable service of departing and arriving late to all destinations we had less time to explore Amman. We went to Rainbow Street in Circle 1 and saw a continuous stream of cute men. Whatever anyone says about Amman can be discounted by just staring at the hawt men. We went to Reem Shawarma which is supposedly the best shawarma place in the world. I can confirm that it was one of the best I had ever had and really helpful guys working there. Sitting on Circle 2 (a massive roundabout) we ate our shawarma and admired the crazy arse driving (they don’t believe in lanes).
The hotel was not seen much but we sat in the bar for a few hours and chatted away as we do whenever we are on holiday together.
After a lovely breakfast in our hotel we made our way down the main highway to Petra. It takes about 2.5 hours to get to Petra from Amman. There are no speed cameras but police patrols with cameras and ready to stop people for any reason. We were stopped twice but the police apologized for stopping us each time.
At Petra, I had organized to have a private tour guide to take us around Petra for JD50. Turns out that this fee didn’t include the entrance fee. We didn’t know and I had asked him to confirm the costs of going to Petra several times for a few weeks. After the tour had ended and we had given him his tip, he came back to us and accused us of being criminals and purposefully not paying him properly. Long story short, as I am still so angry with him, he spoke to us so disrespectfully that I ended up exploding London stylee in front of loads of tourists at the entrance to Petra to the point that I was shaking with rage. If you ever go to Petra don’t use a young man called Abdullah. Not only was he nasty and abusive he also spoke too fast, got annoyed if we asked questions and took our cameras to take photos and this was before he started his rant about us not paying him properly. We also think he was stroppy with us as we wouldn’t take a donkey/horse/cart to go around Petra or buy the tacky jewellery. He must have been getting commission for it. The animals looked in terrible condition and it was heartbreaking seeing them.
He ruined a moment we had been waiting weeks to see, but we were still glad we saw Petra and sang the Indian Jones theme tune (had to be done!).
To be honest Petra is extortionate (JD 50 entrance fee is GBP50!!) and they have only dug out mainly tombs. It is a big area and we did go at a stupid hot time but I don’t think it was worth that money (plus the guide fee of additional JD50!). However when in Jordan you have to see it, so go and then you can cross it off your list.
Whilst I was exploding, G got directions from a lovely bellboy at the Movenpick Petra on how to get to the Dead Sea. It took 3 hours to get to the Dead Sea resort but we took a windy picturesque route through Jordanian villages, farms, mountains and eventually the Dead Sea. It was amazing and fun and calmed me right down after our time in Petra. You have to drive that road during the day otherwise it would be a nightmare, but it was awesome.
We stayed at the Kempinski Ishtar Dead Sea. Lovely resort but shame about the hair conditioner being sooo shite and no wifi in the rooms. There was wifi by the 6 pools, restaurants and beach side but in this day and age you need it in the room.
The Dead Sea is the weirdest thing ever. As soon as you get into the sea you float up. You really have to struggle to move your legs downwards. I can also confirm that if you get the salt in your eyes, it will burn you to the point that you might need to ask a kindly couple to help you out of the sea to wash your face (G was busy relaxing with ears covered by water :S).
We slathered on the Dead Sea mud twice during our stay. Loads of people didn’t follow the instructions on the slathering process so here is our guide to do the Dead Sea mud experience:
- Sit in the Dead Sea for 15-20 minutes
- Slather on the mud everywhere (except your hair – remember the hair conditioner in the hotel was shit; it took half an hour to brush our hair)
- Sit semi quietly admiring the muppets in the sea for 20 minutes
- Go into the sea and take off the mud making sure you don’t splash the sea water into your eyes and relax for a while in the sea water
- Go to the shower and take off the remaining mud and any salt water in your eyes.
Our plan was to do very little during our stay at the Dead Sea and we did that successfully. We ate, drank, tanned and swam a bit. After check out on the last day we went to the Baptism Site where John baptized Jesus. Once again we were hot but it was good. You get a free listening device to hear about the various points whilst you walk around. We went to the River Jordan (singing “By the Rivers of Babylon” – it amused us) and saw a massive group of American tourists on the other side (it had the Israel flag there) filling up bottles of the River Jordan (the water looked dirty) and baptizing babies and themselves (wearing special baptism t-shirts). It was rather surreal especially being so close to the other side of the bank. We didn’t expect the Jordanian baptism tour to be that well organized or within such a big area, but it was impressive. Bloody hot though as you are outside most of the time.
After that, we made the relatively short drive up to Queen Alia airport going through the non highway highway and not getting stopped by police once! . The airport is modern and clean and has decent shops so we quickly did our tourist souvenir shopping and ran for the plane. Two thumbs up for the airport. Much better than Kuwait and Muscat (Kuwait was beyond bad).
I’m glad I finally made it to Jordan and got to see a lot of it, which you may not see if you go with a tour group. It’s not somewhere I’d go back to in the near future, unless of course one of my lovely Jordanian friends got married there or something, but it is worth seeing. Just bear in mind that Jordan is relatively expensive so take more dollars than you would normally for your holiday.