At last, Peder and I were in Jordan and on our way to Petra, one of the highest items on both of our “must-see” lists. Now we just had to figure out how to get there from the border.
Because of our strict time limitations, city buses didn’t seem to be an option. We started by trying to convince one of the organized tour buses in the parking lot to allow us to hitch a ride, but a mess of passport control for the droves of tourists looked like that would take longer than it would be worth.
Taxi it is.
We hopped in and started off, realizing somewhere along the way that a much more efficient route would be to travel first to Wadi Rum, continuing to Petra that afternoon or the following morning. Wadi Rum is apparently one of Jordan’s other must-see destinations, holding “some of the most extraordinary desert scenery you’ll ever see.” It’s the area made famous by the Arab Revolt and TE Lawrence in the early 20th century, as well as the film Lawrence of Arabia (which I’ve yet to actually watch).
We arrived at the small gateway village in good time and joined forces with a couple of French tourists, hiring a jeep excursion into the desert. It started off through the paved roads until out of nowhere, the town just ended. One minute we were on asphalt with stone buildings on either side, and the next, a vast expanse of sand and rock.
My tailbone is still bruised from bumping up and down those dusty rocks and red sand dunes all afternoon.
Lonely Planet doesn’t lie. Some of Wadi Rum’s scenery was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We were a bit disappointed when we ended up in one of the only closed-top jeeps there, somewhat isolating us from our surroundings, but after a bit of hassling we convinced our driver (who looked to be about twelve years old) to let us proceed with the rear door dangling open.
The excursion took us all around the area, stopping at rock bridges,
Massive sand dunes,
And millennium-old rock carvings.
We saw nomadic Bedouin,
And massive red cliffs that looked like they’d been melted under the scorching hot sun.
Once the tour concluded, we were lucky to run into a British tourist willing to share a cab to Petra.
I spent most of the time in the front seat trying to remove the sand from every inch of my body. Out in the desert, rolling uncontrollably down a giant sand dune sounded like a good idea. It was fun. But pulling grains of sand out of my ears for the following week wasn’t.
We arrived in Wadi Musa, the town that popped up around Petra after its recent discovery in the early 19th century, and checked into a hotel recommended by our cab driver. Normally I’m reluctant to stay at places recommended by people who often deal with tourists; if someone is bringing us there, they’re clearly receiving a cut for it, and that cash has to come from somewhere. But the price quoted compared favorably to those published in Lonely Planet, so I figured why not.
One thing that I should mention about Jordan is that, like Israel, I’ve been quite shocked at how perfect everyone’s English has been. And I’m not just talking about ticket salesmen at tourist destinations; I’m talking cab drivers, supermarket clerks, and random citizens walking the streets.
Also like Isreal, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how amazingly friendly and hospitable the locals all seem. After years and years of seeing the Western news portray Muslim Arabs as evil terrorists, it’s sometimes difficult to keep your perceptions in check – but let me assure you, that image could not be further from the truth. Even the poorer people trying to peddle cheap souvenirs on the street are rarely if ever pushy, and I can’t recall a single moment when either Peder or I felt the slightest bit unsafe. I can’t remember ever feeling ripped off, either. Sure, bargaining is a standard part of the business transaction here – but this place was nothing like Brazil, where the locals would blatantly triple the prices for foreigners right after charging a normal amount for locals. Or worse, pin you into a corner where you HAVE to grossly overpay or else miss your ride/flight/appointment. Taxi drivers will always offer to help find a place to stay, and if you say no they don’t push it any further.
Just some food for thought.