The flight from Dubai to Jordan was, well odd or weird. Including the cabin crew, there were about 25 of us on the plane. I was sure the flight would be cancelled! The plane sat 100+ people! But no, fly we did. After the seat belt lights went off, we all choose an aisle each – every single passenger did and went to sleep! It was again an Emirates flight. 36 hours, 4 flights later from Auckland, we arrived Jordan.
It felt like a 100 hours of travel! The children were very good on the flights. They mostly slept or watched a movie. There was not one tantrum! All the air hostesses were very good with them too. Jordan airport was strangely quiet and empty. Not bustling at all. We meandered our way to immigration via the toilets as usual. We wanted a double entry visa because we were heading to Israel and then crossing back into Jordan plus there was no guarantee that we could get entry visas at the land border we wanted to cross at. The immigration website didn’t have clear information and we didn’t want to chance it. Either the immigration officials were being terribly obtuse (yes!) or Andrew and I’s explanations and gesticulations were not enough. Somehow, we ended up with single entry visas…which turned out to first be a good thing and then a bad thing. I know…story for later!
We cleared immigration and realised both phones were out of charge and the car hire person nowhere in sight. Andrew suggested we wait awhile as our flight arrived 20 minutes earlier than scheduled. I went off to find charging points and found some. Agaba then decided to run off somewhere! Grr – I left the phones charging, Andrew by the arrivals area with the girls and went off after him. He’d run out of the airport. This is where certain communities come into their own. A fella saw him charging off and had run after him as well. He brought him back and I have to say I lost it a bit with Agaba, after thanking the good Samaritan though! Back to the phones – they were still there, I called the car hire guy and he hadn’t even left his office! He turned up about 15 minutes later and we headed out of Amman in the general direction of the south of Jordan. Walking out of the airport was like walking into a a northern Nigerian city during the harmattan period. There was an instant blast of cold air and sand! We didn’t have a planned itinerary because we weren’t sure what Andrew’s pain levels would be. He was still needing the crutches, taking painkillers every 6 hours and daily steriods.
We hired the car from Monte Carlo Car Hire. It was an older car but completely serviceable! It cost us 60JD a day, 21JD a day for extra insurance, 15JD for the booster seats for the children. We also paid 5JD for a mobile dongle/ wi fi and an extra 5JD per day for a Sat Nav which we didn’t use as we had the internet. Despite the car hire company’s tardiness, he turned out to be quite nice! He gave some us tips and pointers, handed the car over to us and away we went!
We decided our first stop would be Madaba. It was about half an hour away from Amman and there were a few things to see there plus we could stop for lunch. We followed the signs – Jordan is very well sign posted for tourists – for the Mosaic church. It cost 1JD for entry and only for adults. Now these prices seems very low, however Jordan is an expensive country to visit. 1JD is equivalent to £1! So the car hire for example was the equivalent of £60 or $120 a day which is very, very expensive. It was also one of the cheaper car hire places. Imagine if we’d gone for one of the all singing, all dancing, all mod cons sedans…we’d still be in Jordan trying to pay off the cost of hire! Driving in Jordan has just one definition. Hairy! Andrew had abdicated his chauffeuring duties so I was driving and it’s a bit scary how it felt so familiar and chaotic at the same time. It was like driving to or from Kubwa at rush hour many moons ago in Abuja.
The Mosaic Church aka St George Church. It’s located right in the middle of Madaba which is a small bustling town. It houses the oldest map of the Holy Land.
A very friendly sentry who was taken and very much amused by the antics of the children struck up a conversation with us and through him we found the most quaint place to eat. The food was heavenly and prepared right there whilst we were waiting. The owner also kindly charged our phones. Now plugs and adaptors – Jordan uses a mishmash of them. None of the recommended ones we had fit! After a hearty lunch, we decided to follow the brown signs universally recognised by tourists everywhere. We still had no plans but it was just noon so we had a lot of time.
We meandered our way towards Mt Nebo. God showed Moses the promised land on Mt Nebo… It’s quite high up and you can see for miles and miles and miles. Apparently on a very clear day, one can see all the way to Egypt, Jerusalem, Lebanon, Saudi Arabi and the dead sea. We saw nothing like that. Just lots and lots and lots of vast dry land. It was very hazy, maybe the harmattan… We saw a sign for Moses Spring and set off in search of it.
The very windy and meandering road to Moses Spring. We didn’t find it. No, we gave up after deciding the road was too much of an unknown for us! You can just about see the road we traveled on trailing off in the distance.
Entrance to the monastry at Mt Nebo. Out of excitement, tiredness or maybe both, Agaba ran down and out of the monastry and straight into a white van parked solidly across the path. No one could have missed it except Agaba. Ok, maybe Onyaidu too would. He sported a shiner on his cheek for several days and took immense pleasure in telling everyone we met that he’d smacked into a ‘big, giant, white van!’
As it was just gone past 2pm, we decided to drive towards the Dead Sea and camp – not literally, I hate camping! – there for the night. After a leisurely hour’s drive with about 4 photo stops, we saw our first glimpse of the Dead Sea. It looked so, so calm.
We had run out of nappies. I didn’t pack any from Auckland and bought just 3 in Singapore which we used the only night we spent in a bed. We drove towards what looked like the Dead Sea settlement. Only it wasn’t. It was a purpose built tourist pitstop. There was a shopping mall and lots of hotels built on the banks of the sea. We couldn’t find parking at the mall. There was only valet parking which we had to pay for. That annoyed me greatly for some reason and I drove off. We decided the hotels there were too glitzy and we’ll follow the sea and see how far we get. Thanks to the mobile Wi Fi, we knew there was accommodation towards the end of the Dead Sea with availability. Another 40 minutes of driving took us to Mujib Nature Reserve. We couldn’t find the accommodation initially. Then it dawned on us…we were looking at it! With some reservations, Andrew went to enquire about accommodation. They had a triple room. Yay! I asked about washing facilities – remember Genevieve spewed everywhere for a few hours on the flight and those clothes were just rinsed plus we’d had 3 changes of clothes so far. I was met with a blank stare and told it was too late to do any washing. It was just 4pm! I was very tempted to drive back to tourist land an hour away! Andrew prevailed with common sense. We paid for the room and ‘checked’ in. It was basic accommodations. Mattresses and sheets what I would consider threadbare but clean. There were no tea facilities! Waah! We also paid for dinner. I got the vibe the owners were annoyed at me for asking so many questions…so I respected myself and we stayed in the room for a while. I took the opportunity to wash all our dirty clothes by hand. In the words of Agaba, ‘Oh man’! It was such a chore and a painful process and I clearly remembered why I hated it so much in the past. The pads of my thumbs were throbbing painfully when I was done! Andrew was in some pain too. We were in the last chalet. The path was broken stones and gravel so his foot was not very happy.
Dinner was a typical middle eastern fare. Simple but hearty. I didn’t eat any as all I wanted was tea which I finally got after some grumbling. There were other guests there, 2 couple and a group of 4 ladies. Everyone kept to themselves which was a big shame and no one deigned to reply to me or the children’s hellos. Onyaidu also threw the mother of all tantrums just before dinner was served which probably didn’t enamour us to them… I hefted her back to the room and she fell asleep before she hit the bed. She was completely shattered. Now back to the nappy situation. We had only 2, so C and G got one and Agaba had none. I mentally reminded myself to wake him to pee at least twice in the night. I forgot and slept the sleep of the just as did all the rest. The end!
First glimpse of Mujib Chalets where we spent 1 night
We had hammocks!
Breakfast room. The room came with breakfast which was served communally.
The chalets were lovely. But my slumming days are well behind me now so nope. There’s no internet but there was air-conditioning which dripped throughout the night and left a nice puddle for us to wake too.
9am we had breakfast and checked out. The owners seemed much nicer and were even playing with the children. Maybe they were glad to see us go! Haha
Day 2 in Jordan, we woke bright and earlyish – it was the only early start we had in Jordan so it’s notable! We checked out, had breakfast and drove towards Dana Biosphere through the mountains. Oh my! What absolutely breath taking scenery. The pictures don’t do it any justice. The colours, the undulation of the land, the shimmer of the heat…it is stunning! It was a short 1.5 hour drive but we always veered off amd followed any brown signs we saw.
One of such led us to this museum which touts itself as the Lowest Point on Earth Museum located in Safi. It is 1300f below sea level. It feel normal being there. We didn’t start floating, or ballooning up or grinning stupidly… It is also a 10 minute drive or so from Lot’s cave. Lot’s cave is where Oga Lot and his daughters sought refuge after the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – we didn’t find his wife salt pillar, probably melted into the dead sea now.
We then continued towards Dana. Our plan was to spend the night in Dana so there was no hurry. However, we got to Dana and found this quaint, lovely, sort of backwater place and the first thought in my head was, ‘I’m not bloody washing anymore clothes by hand!’ Dana is a the place to go if you want to see how the Jordanians traditionally live. All the houses are built with mud and stone, lots of donkeys roaming around, buildings looking as if the smallest touch would topple them over and lined with accommodation and cafes/ restaurants – well eating houses and terraces more like and very, very friendly people. Again completely reminded me of my village Ajegbe before brick built buildings and electricity took over. The cobbled streets of course were no good at all for Andrew. These hikes last from a couple of hours to 5 day long hikes. It also gives an idea of the sheer number of tourists that pass through the area. At the back of my mind, I wonder if the town is purpose built. It does give that vibe. There are no children except ours even though it was towards late afternoon. Every other house seemed to be offering accommodation and hikes. There was a plethora of signs advertising accommodation, hikes and tours of the biosphere. Someone called out a greeting to us from above, we chatted a bit about where we were from etc and we decide to go eat at his terrace.
We have lunch and decide to press on to Petra. Andrew wouldn’t be able to do even the smallest hike and so there was no need to stay at Dana. Plus Petra was just another 45 minute drive on
Petra is the name of the gorge where the Roman buildings etc are. Wadi Musa – Musa is Arabic for Moses – is the name of the town in which Petra is located. Which came first? I dunno. Wadi Musa (Valley of Moses) is where Moses historically struck a rock to provide fresh water for the grumbling Israelites as they journeyed from Egypt to the promised land. Quite a few of the Jordanian towns are located in valleys. This makes sense as it gets very hot in the summer which lasts for about 7 months or so of the year and even in the winter, the middle of the day does get quite hot. The surrounding hills and mountains cast a shade over the villages and gives reprieve from the fierce sun. Conversely, it gets very cold in the mornings and evenings.
We roll into Wadi Musa and as we had not made any accommodation plans, we drove the streets – it was not busy at all – scouting for what looked like suitable sleeping quarters. Andrew would go in and try to negotiate a price and we’d head somewhere else to compare. The town is small enough that this took only about half an hour. We settled on Petra Sela Hotel. A 4* hotel with a restaurant below as well as opposite and a well appointed family room. The room rates were 140JOD. Andrew bargained to 110JOD. When we came in to pay, I convinced them to knock off another 10JOD per night if we spent an extra night! Dinner for the children is free and we adults will pay 15JOD each. We were asked if we wanted continental meals or Jordanian fare. We opted for local meals. All breakfast included. Oh a big bonus – they have tea making facilities! 😁💕 plus they had a laundry! The shower room was huge as was the room itself. The staff made us very welcome immediately as they started playing with the children and hiding and seeking. I like that each child had their own bed and we had a very large one to ourselves too. Each bed had a dimmer light that shone towards the bed alone and left the rest of the room in shadows. It was communal sleeping at it’s finest!
One of the many disadvantages of travel is that children were asleep at 6pm. We were sat waiting for dinner – it was 3 course meals – C & G fell asleep after the starter! I had to lug them across the road and take them to bed. Thank god the children’s meals were free! The manager was so nice – he packed us a doggy bag with enough food to feed 3 people! This came in handy when the children proceeded to wake at 4am! We all had some hot tea, cold rice and chicken. It was yummy! Reminded me of my university and youth service days. I ate so much cold food then!
After that lovely pre-breakfast, we decided to go watch the sun rise over Petra! We got lost a bit, because Andrew still won’t accept I am better at remembering roads than he is!It was cold! We also left the mobile WiFi in the hotel room!
It was cold and absolutely stunning! Plus a bit cloudy so we didn’t quite get to see the sun rise but who cares?! The travel blankets have really come into their own! Here’s to reaching every country on those blankets!
We returned, had breakfast and drove off for Petra. It was all a bit underwhelming. Sorry!!! I think I’d hyped it up too much in my head but Andrew reports he thought it was just a bit disappointing too. Great British understatement as always! The pedestrian access from the car park is non existent. Be prepared to be hounded, literally with people trying to sell everything as well as sell donkey rides, trinkets, scarves, books, everything! They also do not take no for an answer and will follow you. We kept being told it was not fair we were making the children walk and that we should take a ride. Errm…they have legs?! There is no cash point in the complex so cash out money before heading in if you need to. The passed security, bought tickets, made the obligatory toilet visits and we were off! We spent about 3 hours in total there and it’s easy to spend the whole day exploring. Although it does become samey after a while. To thoroughly explore the complex, I reckon one would need a good 3 days. We bought a 2 day ticket but didn’t return the next day as we felt we’d seen enough.
We decided to skip day 2 in Petra and head to Wadi Rum instead. We’re quite glad to have chosen one place as a base rather than packing up to drive to Wadi Rum. We again chose to follow the brown signs to Wadi Rum and joined the motorway. The road was so, so bumpy! The camber was all wrong! It was the most uncomfortable 1 hour drive ever. The drivers…the less said, the better. When driving in Jordan, keep well below the speed limit and watch out for pedestrians and animal especially camels and donkeys. They walk everywhere and would just walk into the road. Even the motorway! Wadi Rum is a protected area. The Bedouins have done a good job of keeping it from being completely over run and keep a tight-ish control of who goes in and out. Again we were cornered by a young lad just before we got to the visitor centre. He offered us a price and I was almost going to negotiate the realised he’d charged us the official price. I know he was expecting us to negotiate but I would have happiy paid the official price so why not pay him that?! Just before we climbed into the open backed truck, I heard the inevitable, ‘Mama, poo poo’. I looked round, it was all open land, no bushes, no trees, no hedges. Damn children! They always pick their moments! I quickly told the young lad what the issue was and he ushered me towards one of the low bushes that I hadn’t noticed before. There, we did our business, buried it in the sand and drove off. Phew! It was a bit chilly sat in the back of the truck, so we all suited up. We booked a 2 hour drive as I didn’t want to take the chance of the children falling asleep. What a nightmare that would be! It was a leisurely 2 hour drive across a vast expanse of nothingness. Even the mountains and rocks looked puny sat on the land. It was completely bare and very much unlike the Sahara desert. The hues were richer. Deep reds, golds and all the shades in between those two colours. I give kudos to those who camp there. My camping days are well and truly behind me.
These sand dune was just calling out to be climbed. I settled with a drink and let the children at it. Andrew was a bit helicopter parent ish and kept trying to go after them. The sand defeated him and he came to sit beside me.
We took the scenic route back to Petra but did not manage to avoid that diabolical motorway! Our next stop was Aqaba where we will hand back the car and cross the border to Israel.
We only spent half a day in Aqaba. In hindsight, we should have spent 1 night there and explored a bit more. Aqaba is a lot nicer than Eliat. Eliat and Aqaba are border and coastal town which sit on the Red Sea between Israel and Jordan. The Jordanian side has lovely resorts, nice hotels and a Mediterranean feel to it. It was a lovely town. We went walkabout, had some lunch and then handed in car. There are a few things to see like the oldest church in the world, the fortress (which was closed for repairs and more Roman ruins) but more than anything, it’s the home of water sports in Jordan and these were advertised everywhere. You can’t take Jordanian cars into Israel and vise versa. The driver dropped us off at the border. It was about a 10 minute drive from the centre of Aqaba. We walked up, handed in our passports, paid 10JD for exit fees and our passports got stamped! Oh well, means we can never go to Saudi Arabia! We walked across to Israel.