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Backpacking in the Middle East part 2

The Jordan part of the adventure backpacking trip

sunny 19 °C

Amman, Jordan

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Transportation: Our lovely hostess at St Elias Guesthouse in Bethlehem managed to get us a taxi to drive us all the way to the bridge to Jordan. Perfect! This way we didn't have to go back to Jerusalem, find another bus to Amman and cross the bridge anyway. So to save time and struggle we accepted the offer of 150NIS (£30). Since the taxi had green number plates from Palestine they were not allowed to cross the bridge. So we had to wait for an Israeli taxi to drive us the short distance to the Israeli border on the bridge for 50NIS. Very annoying. Then at the Israeli border we had to pay tax of 344 NIS (£70) for the two of us and then the bus from the Israeli border to Jordan border cost 3JD (£3) per person with one bag. And while over in Jordan we didn't even get a stamp. That's odd! How do they know how we entered the country? Then everyone wanted to fool us and said there was no bus to Amman from the border. That is a lie! It was just located in another terminal. The bus was 3JD (£3) pp and it dropped us off in the business quarters of Amman, but they said it was Downtown. Wankers. Anyhow, since we didn't manage to find a bus to downtown of Amman a taxi drove us for 1,5JD. That's cheap! Finally something good!

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Accommodation: We had no reservation for Amman since we didn't even planned to get there, but while here we walked in the downtown and found a cheap and shabby hotel for 10JD (£10) for a triple room. At Beirut Hotel the beds were probably stuffed with stones, the sheets had nasty sheets and the blankets were so dusty and disgusting we hardly wanted to touch them with our toes. Jürgen had his travel sheets with him, but I slept with all my clothes on. It was freezing and we caught colds both of us. Mine was terrible! Started to sneeze 100 times per day for the rest of the holiday. But it was cheap. We left as soon as possible. We couldn't sleep because of the loud noise from the cars.

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To do: To be honest, there is nothing to see in Amman. It's the worst shithole on Earth. I'd even prefer Kolkata to Amman.

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Don't do: Don't visit Amman! If your flight is to Amman, just go away anywhere as soon as you can. The air pollution is so bad I had a constant headache during my time in Amman. And when we fled inside to a restaurant they were smoking so much my headache got even worse. SHITHOLE! I hated it from the first time I put my dirty shoe on the ground. Flee when you can!

Madaba, Jordan

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Transportation: The first thing in the morning we tried to find an Internet café to check where we could flee before our reservation by the Dead Sea the day after. We didn't find an Internet café but a restaurant with WiFi and decided to go to Madaba. A tiny town hopefully without air pollution like Amman. Unfortunately the information online was wrong and the buses didn't go to Madaba from the bus station we walked to and people in Amman in general doesn't speak as good English as the Israeli and Palestinians. So we had no idea where to go when a man reached us and said he could help us. He gave us a good offer with taxi to Madaba for 10 dinar and we accepted. He also gave us a tips of a nice hotel and we agreed to that too. The ride to Madaba from Amman was about 40 minutes by taxi.

Accommodation: Madaba Hotel was really nice, clean and newly restored. A bit cold though, but we kinda get used to that by now. Very close to St George's church, freezing but nice rooftop terrace and breakfast is included in the price of 20 dinar per night.

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To do: There is not much to do in the Mosaic city of Madaba than St George's Church where the church floor is a map made of mosaic of the Holy Land. It's one of the oldest maps of the Holy Land ever found. Beautiful! Other than that there is just to walk around and enjoy the atmosphere of a small town in Jordan. We loved it!

Don't do: Don't go back to Amman whatever you do! Madaba is nice and cosy. :)

Dead Sea, Jordan

Transportation: We shared a taxi with two Londoners to the Dead Sea for 20JD, or was it 10.. Hmm. Anyway, it was a comfortable ride.

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Accommodation: When Jürgen and I planned the trip we decided to stay one night at a nice expensive hotel, and booked Holiday Inn Dead Sea Resort. It was utterly expensive, paid £90 for one night. So not worth it. I don't enjoy 4 star establishments, and definitely not while I'm backpacking. Feeling out of place. But it was the first night we didn't freeze! For £90 we didn't even get a balcony with sea view. And the buffet was £21 JD pp! We totally blew our budget by the Dead Sea. Ah well.

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To do: Who need a pool area when there is the Dead Sea a bit further down? Float and try out how weird feeling it is. Also try out to cover your body with mud. Should be good for the skin, they say. It's a weird feeling. It feels like you have an extra layer of skin over your skin.

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Don't do: Really, don't stay overnight. Only overpriced resorts by the Dead Sea. Rather take a day trip to the public beach. And if you stay at the hotel, don't eat the buffet, it's not worth the fortune they charge. We did another mistake, we didn't fix with transportation from the resort to Petra so we had to pay £100 JD to rent a car with driver from Hertz to drive us there. The drive was 3 hours. 60 dinar would be a more reasonable price.

Petra, Jordan

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Transportation: As mentioned above, get a taxi from Madaba to drive you to Petra for 60JD and don't leave it to Hertz. Our driver was really nice and talkative but he said he was angry with Hertz since they only pay him 200JD per month and he works 12-16h per day. We tipped him a 10 dinar note because we felt awful.

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Accommodation: All the hotels are in Wadi Mousa and so was our, on the hill. We stayed at Petra Gate Hostel for two nights and it was brilliant! Amazingly helpful staff in the reception and in the kitchen. We had a great buffet for 6JD pp at the hostel and it was so worth it! Great food! Loved this place, very homely and there was even heating on for a few hours during the evening and night. Stay there! Only 20JD per night!

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To do: Well you can't visit Jordan and miss out of Petra. It's one of the new seven wonders of the world and it's an amazing experience! It's a huge city and you can get around by foot, by donkey, by horse or by camel. Different routes with different animals. A donkey ride should cost around 5JD per donkey. The entrance fee to Petra is 90JD (£90) if you are a day visitor, 50JD if you are an over night visitor and for each extra day you stay it's 5 extra dinar. We stayed for two days and paid 55JD. Worth every dinar! A horse ride to the Siq is included in the ticket price, but be sure that you're aware that they expect 2 dinar tips afterwards. When we walked through the long Siq we suddenly reached The Treasury! Wow! Incredible! It's actually 2200 years old and looks like it's built yesterday! Fantastic! Don't miss out of the monastery, it's a tough walk up there but so worth it! We also went up all the stairs to the Altar of Sacrifice and had a cup of tea with a bedouin on the way up. Beautiful view from up there. After each day we were so tired we almost collapsed. The second day we actually did collapse back at the hotel. Zzzzz.

Buy: Sand art. Beautiful pieces of art in flasks. Jewellery from the bedouins.

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Don't: MISS OUT OF PETRA! Everone should visit Petra once in their lives.

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Aqaba, Jordan

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Transportation: There is an early morning bus to Aqaba from Petra without a timetable which leave when it's full, but often around 7AM. When we checked out at 7:20AM the receptionist tells us the bus already left. He managed to call the driver and asked him to wait for us, while he drove us in his car to the bus! Absolutely brilliant service! The price for the bus to Aqaba was 5JD pp, tourist price.

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Accommodation: We found Al-Nahr Al-Khaled Hotel on the street and asked for the prices. It was 10JD for a great hotel room with a dirty but splendid balcony where we spent most of our time playing cards in the afternoon sun. The owner was extremely friendly and helpful so we decided to come back to his hotel after our visit to Wadi Rum. We stayed in total 3 nights here and I loved it! We were located next to a mosque and it was a terrible sound and every time there were time for Allah Akbar yelling we heard the praying three times, which means 15 times a day. But still great action with the shops downstairs. On New Years Eve I played football games with the locals and they gave us whisky. Great fun!

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To do: Not much really. It's a tiny town, but quite charming. There is the North beach which is for the 5 star hotel resort, there is the beach which offers Glass boat tours and there is the South beach which is located 15km south of Aqaba which is more of a public beach. It's huge and very nice. Many hostels and hotels are located by the South beach. There are a couple of excavations and a castle which doesn't look like a castle. South of the glass boat beach there is a huge flag and it said in the Aqaba advertisement that you should salute the flag, to honor the great Arab revolution.

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Eat: Ali Baba restaurant is a bit expensive but excellent fish on the menu! Recommend the fish fillet with rice which is grilled with a saffron and lemon sauce. Outstanding. The Dunes Restaurant by the beach offers really cheap meals and great service. They gave as soup and tea for no charge when I tried Mansaf, the national dish of Jordan. Mansaf is really nice, different taste. Rice and lamb in yoghurt and herb sauce.

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Wadi Rum, Jordan

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I'm weak for deserts. Desserts I don't really mind either, but deserts is something special to me. I love the star heaven at night, the calm ride on a camel back in the early morning, talking around the fire in a bedouin camp and I feel free. I think my mind already decided for visiting a desert land since I was thinking between Mali or the Middle East.

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Transportation: There are two buses daily from Aqaba to Wadi Rum, one early in the morning, around 6.30AM and one at 1PM. We caught the 1 o'clock bus and it was really slow, but the price was 3JD per tourist. We had booked a taxi to take us there for 25JD but our hotelier asked us why we didn't went by bus instead and we said we didn't know there was a bus to Wadi Rum. Then in the morning our hotelier told our taxi driver that we wanted to go by bus instead and he said: "Who told them about the bus?" The Hotelier: "Oh I don't know.." Awesome! :D Since Aqaba is a tax free zone the people on the bus were smuggling in cigarettes to Wadi Rum, without getting caught. The bus dropped us off at the village and we had no idea where to go. There we met Mohammed, a bedouin who helped us out. He gave us an offer to go on a Jeep tour to the Spring, the canyon carvings and sand dunes and then he would drive us to our camp in Disa. We accepted.

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Accommodation: There is nothing better than staying in a bedouin camp in the desert, trust me! We had a reservation at Bedouin Gate Camp but due to some misunderstanding with the camp the camp owner who thought we were not coming, Mohammed arranged for us to to stay at his father, Mzied, in his camp. Yeah sure, perfect! We arrived just in time for supper and it was an amazing meal with meat stew with rice and vegetables! Jürgen and myself were extremely hungry after a long day and it was the best. It was only us and an English family staying at the camp at the time and it was the best time just to sit down by the fireplace and talk about everything and nothing. Jürgen and myself slept in a tent in the big tent, and covered with two lovely, warm and big blankets I didn't freeze. Woke up early in the morning and just enjoyed the calm and cold desert morning and had breakfast at my star spotting place.

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To do: There is a lot to do in the desert! What I love the most is the nights, to look at the stars. There are never as many stars as in the desert. Wadi Rum organises Jeep tours, hiking, camel tours and camping in the bedouin camps. Our budget were screwed already in Petra, so we couldn't afford to do everything, but we did a short jeep tour and had a great camel ride in the morning. Never visit a desert without riding a camel! It's definitely the best! I just love it, to go slowly, slowly through the desert on the back of those strange creatures. I want a camel! I want to live in the desert! I want to learn Arabic! If you need a guide for Wadi Rum, contact Mzied or his son Mohammed to guide you. Really nice bedouins! I want to go back. I'm still stuck in a desert mode. It's hard to change the life back to the hectic London life. I guess that's why I feel depressed.

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Conclusion

Jordan was really interesting. Since it's part of the Holy Land there are holy spots everywhere. We missed out of loads of course, Mount Nebo would be great to climb for example. I'd love to explore the northern parts of Jordan and also return for a longer time to the desert of Wadi Rum. Extraordinary beauty in the that desert. Petra is a must as well of course, one of the most fascinating places I've ever visited. Jordan was my 41st country to visit in the world. Many more to go! I'd hope to return! I love the Middle East and I am very interested of there culture.

Posted by aggro 06.01.2012 08:20 Archived in Jordan Tagged sea desert city floating dead tour rose jordan camel petra amman jeep wadi aqaba rum masada deadsea wadirum rosecity

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