Hashemite Arab Kingdom of Jordan – Part II


Aqaba is a town at the very southern tip of Jordan. It is a seaport and is at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba, a gulf of the Red Sea. Famous historically for being raided by T.E. Lawrence during the Arab Revolt, the town is now a popular resort and diving location. We arrived in the city late evening, and checked into the lovely Golden Tulip. It is a three star hotel, comfortable with air-con and a pool – definitely a bit of a step up from the places we had been staying at! We rested after the drive from Petra and decided to walk around and look for some food. We stumbled upon a nice little pizzeria a few blocks away from the hotel and decided to get pizza, mint tea and Gelati for dessert. Dinner was delicious and great value. It was a warm, balmy night but we were pretty tired and decided to wander back to hotel, stopping by the bottle shop next door. Yup, the first bottle-o we’d come across in Jordan. Apparently, Aqaba is much more lenient with alcohol in comparison to the rest of the Kingdom. The shop had almost everything imaginable… but we decided we’d try the Jordan-brewed beer, Amstel (brewed with the assistance from the Netherlands company).

Red Sea

The following morning we decided we would do a bit of snorkelling in the Red Sea. After stopping by a local shopping centre to buy sunscreen and some sheets (for camping in Wadi Rum), we followed the Lonely Planet suggestions and went to a resort called Royal Diving Club on the southern coast, almost bordering on Saudi Arabia. On the way there, driving down the coast of Red Sea, it was hard not to notice how blue the Red Sea is. The deepest bluest sea I have every seen!

We reached the resort and the staff there promised excellent coral reefs nearby and vast marine life (within the Red Sea Marine Peace Park) – and they were right. We spent a good part of the day snorkelling and enjoying the beautiful underwater views. Travis had brought his underwater camera cover so we got a few underwater shots as well. It was a bit of an expensive exercise (entry fee to get into the resort – 15 JD each and another 15 JD each for equipment hire) but was definitely worth it! Whilst the resort was targeted for western tourists, and many girls wore bikinis, I did see an Arabic lady wearing a full body swimsuit which was a first for me!

On our way back to Aqaba we stopped for a bite at the Ali Baba Restaurant which offered a plentiful range of meze, we had some grilled fish, Baba Ghanoush, olive salad and chips.

Aqaba - Sonya getting readyAqaba - Coral reefAqaba - Coral reef
Aqaba - Travis underwaterAqaba - Sonya swimming awayAqaba - Sonya underwater


Wadi Rum

We decided to head back towards Wadi Rum for the afternoon and to spend the night there. After the entry ticket collector who advised standard accommodation rates were 25 JD per person for the night, including dinner and breakfast (the most we were to spend in Jordan!), we hired a 4WD (and driver) to get to the accommodation site. Wadi Rum is famous for being the dessert which T.E. Lawrence journeyed through during the revolt. It is the largest wadi (valley) in Jordan and travellers often go there for hiking, rock climbing or just to experience the nomadic life of the Bedouin and the beautiful vastness of the dessert. Given we were in Wadi Rum during the hottest part of summer, we planned we would be there from mid afternoon to the following morning. Our 4WD trip there was, well, scary. The 4WD was basically a two-seater in the enclosed area, and the ute-like back with two rows of seats on either edge, was where we were seated – unbelted and just holding on for dear life.

When we arrived at the camp it was already near sunset. We noticed many couples perched romantically on high rocks, clinging onto each others hands and waiting for the sun to set. The driver introduced us to the guys that run the camp, two Bedouin brothers who suggested we find a nice spot to watch the sunset… So we wandered around the camp area. Naturally, Travis wanted to climb the highest rock and I was quite happy with the mid-level cliffs. The desert was so quiet, not a building in site, just one or two Bedouin camps in the distant. Very vast, very orange. After the sunset it was still quite bright, we explored a little bit more before heading back to our tent to get ready for dinner. Our tent, by the way, was huge (not like our Nullarbor two-person tent!). It was about three metre’s high and we were in fact ‘sharing’ with a family of four, as the tent was partitioned in the middle. This meant we could hear their conversations (they were French, so we didn’t understand a word), and see their outlines on their side of the tent. Dinner was in a communal tent, decorated beautifully, Bedouin-style. There were about eight low tables (for each of the parties) and cushions around each tables decorated with Kilim-like cloths and candles. It was very cosy. While simple, the food was delicious, probably one of the nicest meals we had in Jordan… chicken, rice, salads.

After dinner, Travis and I decided to have a bit of a walk. The whole area was lit up with stars. It was completely beautiful. We walked, talked. it was such a surreal feeling, being in the middle of this beautiful, ancient desert. Would have been nice to sleep outside!

The next morning, we were woken up by the giggles of the French children in the tent… so we woke up and had breakfast with everyone else. We were the only travellers from an English speaking country it seemed as everyone was chattering away in their own languages, French, Italian, Spanish, German, Arabic.

At about 8am we hopped on the 4WD back to the Wadi Rum village, back to our Citroen and headed towards the Dead Sea Hwy.

Wadi Rum - On the way to Wadi RumWadi Rum - Amazing rock formationsWadi Rum - Weathered rocks
Wadi Rum - Red rocksWadi Rum - Sonya and TravisWadi Rum - Sonya and Travis
Wadi Rum - SonyaWadi Rum - Bedouin tentsWadi Rum - Wadi Rum direction sign

Wadi Araba and Lot’s Cave

Along the Dead Sea Highway we noticed the arid landscape that is Wadi Araba. While not as famous as Wadi Rum, it seemed very vast and uninhabited. but who knows! It was a long drive with very few towns along the way. We stopped at a rest house for some Turkish coffee where I remember getting inquisitively stared at by some local kids.

As we drove on we eventually saw a vast expanse of light blue which was our first sighting of the famous salty Dead Sea.

Our first real destination along the Dead Sea Highway was Lot’s Cave. As a little girl I remember learning about the bizarre stories of Lot, his wife and his daughters and so was excited about checking out this biblical site (seduction, incest, what else could invoke such curiosity?!). Our GPS took us around in circles for a while through a small town but we eventually found it with the help of the LP. There was a half-finished museum at the foot of a hill which we understood to be for the purposes of Lot’s Cave (or Prophet Lut’s Cave as the sign indicated). We drove around and eventually we found a man who introduced himself as the caretaker/guide to Lot’s Cave. He told us to drive up the steep hill to the parking area and advised us that he’d meet us there. He got there about three seconds after us and took us up the steps of the hill. Yep, more steps. Lots of them. It was superbly hot and right in the middle of the day. There appeared to be no other tourists or people around which made us realised how unexplored a lot of these sites are, despite their biblical significance… We confirmed with the guide, that we were in fact the only people that had visited so far that day. At the top of the hill we found the cave. A big cave about three metres deep. More interesting to me was that during the Byzantine area a church was built directly around the cave so around the site were remnants of stones from the church. Our guide also showed us that under the sandy surface we were standing on were metres and metres of mosaics which had not yet been uncovered (due to the heat). The plan is to build a covering around the cave before removing the surface to expose the 5th to 8th Century artwork. Not sure how long that will take by the looks of things! From the cave was a great few of the Dead Sea, fields of bright red tomatoes, aubergines, date trees, potatoes and banana trees and a nearby Potash industry. We gratefully tipped the guide (managed to get rid of the 5 USD the little Bedouin boy in Petra gave us!) and continued on.


Much to a lot of people’s surprise, the official site where Jesus Christ was baptised is in Jordan. Bethany-Beyond-the-Jordan was sanctified by Pope John Paul II in 2000 as where John the Baptist preached. The site is on the border of Israel and Jordan, where the Jordan River divides the two countries. Back then though, there was no Jordan.

The site was populated with a handful of tourists with whom we were to tour with. Some Singaporeans, a British family, a couple of Irish teachers and a Syrian Travel TV group who were filming a program of travelling around Jordan. So during our tour we had a film crew capturing our every “ooh and ahh” moment. The Baptism Site is quite large. Interestingly, there are about 11 different churches from various denominations built around the site. We saw the site where Jesus was to have been baptised and then got to dip our fingers into the very unimpressive (and dirty) Jordan River. The interesting sight was the Israeli flag only a few metres away across the ditch and a mirroring area on the other side for tourists in Israel to do the same.

Baptism Site of Jesus - Baptism Site mapBaptism Site of Jesus - Travis with the baptism site in the backgroundBaptism Site of Jesus - Sonya touching the Jordan River
Baptism Site of Jesus - Israel flag on the opposite sideBaptism Site of Jesus - Travis and a Jordanian GuardBaptism Site of Jesus - Travis and a date tree

Floating in the Dead Sea

After leaving the site, we considered taking a dip in the Dead Sea. However, it was still so hot so we thought we’d have lunch instead. The Dead Sea Panorama is a bit of a drive up but provided a lookout point over the Dead Sea. It has a restaurant and museum which we wandered through. We decided to eat at the restaurant, it was empty except for an American couple. We ate grilled meats of lamb, chicken and kebabs, shanklish (local blue cheese with tomatoes, onions and parsley), a walnut dip and bread. It was simply delicious and the service equally great. The restaurant is supposed to be popular with locals on the weekends.

After eating we decided to brave the Dead Sea. We had the option to go to the resort, pay a fee of 20 JD where we could comfortably walk into the sea, take a few snaps and have refreshing fresh water showers after. However, there was the alternative option of parking on the side of the cliff, climbing down to the bay and having our own private swimming area. Of course, we went for the latter. It was still extremely, unbelievably hot even though it was about 5pm in the afternoon by then. Travis went in first. I went in. It’s such a funny feeling having that buoyancy in the water, you can barely swim and the best approach seemed to be just to float on your back. We took the obligatory photos and headed back to the car covered in salt. The sand on the banks of the bay was salty, and there were salt formations growing on the rocks in the area. Quite amazing.

Tired and salty we decided to find a hotel. We decided to give the pricey resorts in the Dead Sea area a miss and head back to Madaba. I was craving the kebabs we had in the local coffee shop a few days earlier! We stayed at the nicest little hotel called Marian Hotel. It had a balcony with a beautiful view of the pool and the city below.

Dead Sea - Distances from the Dead Sea Lookout (Dead Sea Panoramic Complex)Dead Sea - Travis with the Dead Sea in the backgroundDead Sea - Traditional dishes served at the Dead Sea Panoramic Complex Restaurant
Dead Sea - Travis reading the Lonely Planet in the Dead SeaDead Sea - Sonya floating in the Dead SeaDead Sea - Sonya reading the Jordan Lonely Planet in the Dead Sea


Israel border

We had this idea that it would be easy to cross the Israel border and spend a day or two visiting Jerusalem, Nazareth, Bethlehem and Jericho. So we thought we’d give it a go the following day. It was so close! We drove to the first crossing – King Hussein Bridge. Unfortunately, it appeared cars weren’t allowed to cross the border only buses and taxis. So we drove another thirty kilometres north to the Sheikh Hussein Bridge. This is where it got interesting and a little confusing. We drove to the Jordanian gate firstly. A bunch of handsome, young officers looked at us and at our car. After showing them our passports, our car registration and utilising hand signals we managed to communicate (or so we thought) that we wanted to drive our car across to Israel for a day). They seemed fine with it and encouraged us to drive down to the Israeli gate, so we did. At the Israel gate we faced further communication issues. The officers there looked at our passports and car registration but we quickly came to understand they wouldn’t let us through with the car. We couldn’t figure out why. We drove back to the Jordan gate and a few of the officers came to our car, looking to assist us. About ten minutes later we had conjured up a crowd of about six or seven Jordanian policemen all keen to help us. We used our Arabic guide book and managed to figure out that we needed our car registration translated from Arabic into English (or Hebrew perhaps?), however the closest place to do that was about 20km away in a town called North Shauna. And the place closed in thirty minutes. We (or should I say Travis) decided to give it a shot. Imagine trying to find a specific car-registration translation place in a town. It was tough, but we found it! Alas, it was too late. We literally got there about five minutes after it had closed. What an experience!

Umm Qais

So, we decided to instead visit Umm Qais, a remote historical town in the north of Jordan (very near to where we already were). We followed the Israel-Jordan border which meant there was hardly any traffic, but we had to stop at countless checkpoints along the way. Most border guards were professionally friendly “Where are you from? Australia? Welcome to Jordan!” however one was suspiciously over-friendly. First he checked our luggage (which none of the others did) and then, offered to give us a tour of the area showing us how the Israeli occupied Golan Heights was just below us. He wanted photos with us, which we took with him and left the checkpoint ASAP.

Umm Qais, also known as Gadara, is one of the ancient roman cities. It is less explored by tourists due to its remote location and was one of the ten cities of the Decapolis. It is also, according to the Bible, where Jesus performed one of his miracles of casting demons from two men into a herd of pigs. From the ruins you can see the Sea of Galilee across the Jordan Valley.

Umm Qais - Ruined Hellenistic-Roman city of GadaraUmm Qais - Sonya at the ruined Byzantine ChurchJerash - Lebanese House Restaurant



After Umm Qais, we headed towards Jerash (another more famous ancient Roman city, another of the Decapolis). Passing through Irbid, the drive was quite hilly and scenic. Jerash was a bustling city and much of the town revolves around the ancient ruins. We decided to visit the following day as it was getting late. So, we headed to Lebanese House for some dinner. A bit of a fancy place, where actor Richard Gere, King Hussein, Queen Nour and other famous Jordanians, Syrians etc have dined, we felt slightly under dressed in our travel-wear. We ate a yummy meal of Meze and headed to Hadrian Gate Hotel for the night.

The following morning we had breakfast at the hotel and then walked down the Jerash ruins. The site has been very well preserved/restored and we could see why this was one of the most popular Roman ruin site in Jordan. Jerash ruins is consistent of two large amphitheatres, the famous Oval Plaza which use to be a bustling Roman market place, cathedrals, theatres, a hippodrome (ancient sports field for chariot races) and baths. We wandered through for a few hours.

Jerash - HippodromeJerash - Hadrian's ArchJerash - Zeus Temple model
Jerash - Sonya and the Oval ForumJerash - Travis with the Zeus Temple ruins in the backgroundJerash - Sonya and the Oval Forum and Cardo
Jerash - Jordanian BagpipersJerash - Oval Forum and the CardoJerash - North Theatre
Jerash - Sonya and the North DecumanusJerash - Intricate stone carvingsJerash - Travis on the steps leading to the North Theatre

Desert Castles

After Jerash we headed towards the East (against advice of the hotel caretaker who told us it was too hot!) to the Desert Castle region. After a long drive we reached Qusayr Amra, my favourite castle. It is a Unesco World Heritage site and use to serve as a bathhouse and lodge to the Umayyad people. As soon as you walk into the castle you notice some of the risqué murals painted around the wall. Very unexpected. Like all the ruins in Jordan, the castle is believed to have been occupied during the various periods. Constructed in 705AD it was then occupied by a Muslim Prophet, Walid, then the Umayyads..

Qasr Amra Castle - UNESCO World Heritage SiteQasr Amra Castle - Sonya outside the remaining country cabinQasr Amra Castle - Fresco
Qasr Amra Castle - Sonya and the frescosQasr Amra Castle - Fresco with naked womanQasr Amra Castle - Iraq and Saudi direction signs


We continued east to Azraq. This town has a bit of a sad story. It used to be an oasis and an important source of water for Jordan but in the 1990’s the water was reduced significantly and the oasis and surrounding wetlands eventually depleted. Much of this attributable to the surge in population when Palestinian refugees fled to Jordan in the 60’s. At Azraq we decided to find accommodation and have a late lunch. We had some kebabs, and walked around, stumbling across a store filled with copious amounts of freshly made Turkish delights and other Arabian candies.

The following day headed to Qasr Al-Azrag a huge grey stone fort where T.E. Lawrence and Sharif Hussein bin Ali stayed during the Arab Revolt against the Turks. Quite an impressively huge fort with huge big stone doors which had a brilliantly-engineered hinge and keystone archways. We had a guide walk us through the place, including the room where Lawrence would have lived during the winter of 1917.

Qasr Azraq Castle - Travis closing the stone doorQasr Azraq Castle - The stablesQasr Azraq Castle - Interior of the castle



With Iraq only another few hundred km’s east we thought we’d head back west to Amman, our destination being the Royal Automobile Museum which houses the King of Jordan’s massive car collection. Whilst not a huge car buff in any way the museum was definitely far more impressive than the local WA car expo we once went to.

Royal Automobile Museum - Sonya in awe of the military vehiclesRoyal Automobile Museum - Rolls-RoyceRoyal Automobile Museum - Sonya and a car painting
Royal Automobile Museum - FerrariRoyal Automobile Museum - A red carRoyal Automobile Museum - Porsche
Royal Automobile Museum - Two FerrariRoyal Automobile Museum - Travis and the FerrarisRoyal Automobile Museum - Outside the Royal Automobile Museum

We headed back to downtown Amman to look for accommodation for the night. City Palace was fully booked so we continued walking down King Fasiel St looking for somewhere to stay. After visiting some very questionable and extremely unappealing places, we found a nice little backpackers, Cliff Hotel (which coincidentally was in the LP). The place didn’t have private bath facilities but as far as we were concerned it was far more tourist -friendly than some of the other places we had seen, so we settled for a room there. We’d heard something about a jazz show at the Amman Citadel that night, so went to a mall to buy some tickets. The mall was very westernised, having various American stores like TopShop, Mango, Body Shop etc. And people, including women were dressed ‘western’ (as opposed to those in the downtown area) – the girls were beautiful with their long dark curly hair and olive skin. We went back to our favourite Hashem Restaurant, just across the road for some falafels and mint tea before heading to the Citadel. The show was amazing. We appeared to be the only tourists, so it was predominantly local Jordanians in their 20’s and 30’s. If it weren’t for the Arabic words we would have thought were in Australia or the States. The show was great! Arabic-Jazz Fusion music in the heart of Amman, held within a historical site which had been lit up in brilliant coloured lights. I really liked the first band. Sounded like an Arabic Muse, very emotive music. The second band had a great pianist and played some famous jazz tunes. The third band was led by a pretty Arabic woman in a sparkly top who had a strong sultry voice. The language never sounded so good!

So that concluded our last night in Jordan. The next morning we headed out of downtown Amman towards the airport back to Doha. Thanks Jordan, what a great country!

Amman - Amman at nightAmman - Concert next to the CitadelAmman - Roman Theatre at night

Welcome to Jordan

Whilst in the Middle East visiting Travis, who is working in Qatar, we decided to spend a week in Jordan. Nestled between Israel and Palestine to the west, Syria to the north, Iraq to the east and Saudi Arabia to the south, the country is regarded as one of the most beautiful, historical and safest of the countries within the Arab/Gulf region.


We arrived in Amman firstly, after a short transit at Dubai. Upon arriving at the airport, I found it to be similar to the other ME countries I’d visited – Dubai and Doha – language and dress wise. We had decided to rent a car as a lot of the main attractions are out of the capital Amman. We ended up getting a little Citroën

The drive to our hotel in downtown Amman was interesting. Whilst Travis was getting aquainted with driving a manual again, I was clicking away on my camera – the view was amazing! Amman is such a hilly city and looked a lot older (what I had pictured the ME to look like) in comparison to the cities of Dubai and Doha. Our hotel was literally in the middle of the hustle and bustle of downtown Amman. Parking was hard to find and we had to roll our luggage (adding more to the potential for stares from locals) to the hotel. With our standard budget-accom approach to travel, the hostel (City Palace) was exactly what we wanted – clean, basic and a great location. After a quick unpack we wandered down to the city streets. The trusty Lonely Planet provided us with a suggested walking tour which we tried to follow. In the end we ended up walking up to the Amman Citadel – an archeological site located ontop a hill in downtown Amman. The Jabal al-Qal’a, as it is known in Arabic, is over 7000 years old and is considered one of the oldest continually inhabited places. Whilst we had missed the oppportunity to enter the site as by then it had closed, we could view the Temple of Hercules from the adjacent park which also had wonderful views of Amman city. On our way back through the streets, past the busy markets we passed the Grand Husseini Mosque. We had dinner at a popular local restaurant, Hashem, which specialises in falafels, bread and hommus and some yummy mint tea for only 1JD per person (about $1.6 AUD). After, we went to a sweets shop and bought an array of middle eastern sweets such as pistachio baklava, kunafa, ballorieh, besma.

Amman Day One - Sonya with the Roman Theatre behindAmman Day One - Amman at dawn with the Jordan flagAmman Day One - Temple of Hercules
Amman Day One - Roman Theatre at nightAmman Day One - Hashem restaurantAmman Day One - Middle eastern sweets such as pistachio baklava, kunafa, ballorieh, besma

On the morning of our 2nd day we decided to check out the Citadel and Roman Ampitheatre in daylight. Upon arriving outside the Ampitheatre a friendly local man in an icecream van came up to us and frantically advised us not park there as he said we would get fined (parking signs are not clear at all in Amman). He pointed out where to park, to which we headed. Upon arriving at the carpark we found him waiting for us!! He kindly said goodbye and left us his card and contact details! An unexpected friendly start to the trip…

Amman Day Two - Amman CitadelAmman Day Two - Temple of Hercules ruinsAmman Day Two - Sonya and the Temple of Hercules
Amman Day Two - Sonya and Travis at Temple of HerculesAmman Day Two - Travis and the CitadelAmman Day Two - Amman and the Jordan flag
Amman Day Two - Sonya reading the Lonely PlanetAmman Day Two - Amman Citadel HillAmman Day Two - Sonya and Travis at Temple of Hercules
Amman Day Two - Sonya in the Roman TheatreAmman Day Two - Travis sitting in the Roman TheatreAmman Day Two - Citadel Hill from the Roman Theatre

Mt Nebo and Madaba

We continued our trip leaving downtown Amman and headed towards Mount Nebo. After a very scenic, windy route (thanks to the GPS) and being flagged by another car (with non-english speaking local tourists) looking for the same site, we reached the place. It was very quiet, not many people at all. Mount Nebo is where Moses was shown the Promised Land. From the moutain (800m high) you can vaguely make out the Dead Sea, and on a clear day Jericho and Jerusalem as well (we couldn’t quite see that far on the sunny day we were there). All the holy cities of Bethleham, Jerusalem, Jericho are only within a 40 km radius from where we were standing.

We stopped by Madaba after Mount Nebo. The infamous Madaba map was our first destination. Located in the Greek Orthodox Church there is a section of the church floor covered in mosaics. The mosaic depicts a detailed map of the Holy Land and is thought to be the oldest map of Palestine (6AD) from the Byzantine period.

Mount Nebo Madaba - Memorial of MosesMount Nebo Madaba - Sonya with the Holy Land behindMount Nebo Madaba - Pope visit 2009
Mount Nebo Madaba - Map of the Holy LandMount Nebo Madaba - Madaba Mosaic MapMount Nebo Madaba - Byzantine church of Saint George

Kerak Castle and Dana Reserve

After seeing pictures online of Dana Reserve I was convinced it was a Jordan-must see. Only about 30km or 40km from Madaba, we thought it wouldn’t take too long. But, alas we were wrong. We had decided to take the scenic Kings Hwy south, which passes through the beautiful Wadi Mujib (“Grand Canyon of the East”). Having visited the Grand Canyon earlier this year, I was more impressed by Wadi Mujib, perhaps by the history of the gorge (known in the Bible as Arnon River) or it’s unexpected vastness… Anyway, the drive took a lot longer than expected due to the steep hills and narrow, windy roads.

Passed through the Kerak Castle, a Crusader castle inhabitated since the Iron Age. A gentle elderly Jordanian Bedouin man introduced him as our guide – took a while for us to accept his request to show us around , but we were glad he did as he was very thorough in his explanations and brought us to many underground rooms which we probably would not have visited ourselves.

Then the sun was setting quickly, and our GPS couldn’t quite locate Dana Village (where we were hoping to stay that night). Eventually, we found the village, located on a elevated plateau in a valley of large mountains (see photo) . By the time we reached, it was pitch black. The village is quite small and has a handful of hotels. On our way, we had rung to arrange accommodation with one of the hotels there. We arrived late and had a quick dinner of hummus, flat bread, a tomato and meatball dish, eggplant dish and mint tea – quite delicious! We talked briefly with the hotel keeper about Dana Reserve hikes, and decided we would do our own hike the following morning. That night, we watched the rest of Lawrence of Arabia on Travis’ laptop (great movie!). In the morning we headed to Dana Reserve for the hike. Arriving at the entrance of the Reserve, we found that we needed to walk about 2km down a steep hill to reach the camp, in order to speak to a camp guide who would instruct us on the trail locations. It was hot. We reached the camp and decided on the “Cave Trail” (someone thought there was a geocache reading on the GPS, hmph!) . We did not see any caves, in fact to this day I think we ended up making our own trail, but we got some nice photos anyway! I think Dana Reserve is meant to be rich in birdlife and plant species but it was just way too hot (for me) to do any proper hiking.

Kerak Castle - Wadi Mujib gorgesKerak Castle - Wadi Mujib damKerak Castle - Tapestry at a rest area
Kerak Castle - Travis at the information boardKerak Castle - Outside of the castleKerak Castle - One of the hallways
Kerak Castle - Travis down some stairsKerak Castle - Sonya outside the castleKerak Castle - Sonya sitting on a weapon hole
Dana Reserve - Sonya with the reserve in the backgroundDana Reserve - Walking towards the campsiteDana Reserve - The Dana Reserve campsite
Dana Reserve - Travis sitting on the edge of some rocksDana Reserve - Sonya at the edge of a mountainDana Reserve - Shoubak Castle Entry
Dana Reserve - Sonya at the top of Shoubak CastleDana Reserve - Many of the Shoubak Castle corridorsDana Reserve - Random camels on the site of the road



We decided to continue on to the infamous Petra. First, we stopped at Little Petra, passing some wild camels on the way. Although wild, they seemed quite used to humans/tourists and seemed happy for me to snap their photo while they chewed on the dry grass on the side of the road. Little Petra was our introduction to the Nabatean rock carvings so famous in the region. Whilst Little Petra was, well, small, it was quiet and less touristy and made for some nice photos.

We arrived in Wadi Musa (the small touristy town next to Petra), and decided to grab some food. After having some issues parking up a steep hill in our manual car, we decided to check out one of the Lonely Planet suggestions. A little restaurant in the heart of the town, there we ate a shish kebab each whilst contemplating on whether to start on our Petra exploration or wait until the following day. We thought we still had some time (by then it was about 4pm), found a nearby inn, dropped our stuff off and headed towards the ancient city.

We decided on a two-day pass which meant we could go back the following day for a full day. At 4pm it was still extremely hot. Now, my parents had visited Petra the following year and told me how huge it was but I didn’t realise just how big until we reached the Siq (al-Siq). And that’s just the beginning of the main entrance! No wonder they offered horse rides from the Wadi Musa entrance to the Siq. The Siq is a narrow gorge which acts as a pathway for over a kilometre, then reaching Al Khazneh (The Treasury), a ruin widely known for its appearing in Indiana Jones Last Crusade. The Siq is a natural, geologic formation and was used in ancient times as the caravan entrance to Petra. It was one of my favourite parts of Petra, with its high rocks that changed colour as the sun moves over.

Upon arriving at the Treasury, one of the more touristy parts of the city, we were inundated by Bedouins trying to earn their keep for the day. “Would you like to ride a camel Sir? Mam, take a donkey up to the Monastery?” We walked around for a while, probably looking completely in awe and somewhat lost. One of the young boys trying to sell us a donkey ride followed us for about half an hour, telling us the Monastery was most beautiful this time of day. I consulted my LP, which also stated something similar – Monastery being very impressive and much larger than the Treasury. However the Monastery was something like 900 steps to the top! My energy was faltering greatly, as we’d spent the morning hiking in Dana Reserve so I came up with the brilliant idea of taking the donkey up to the Monastery! The poor donkey. And Travis, who followed us closely behind. Fifteen dinar later we were close to the top, absorbing breath-taking views of Petra city from above, as well as glimpses of Wadi Aruba – one of the vast desserts of Jordan, and far less explored than Wadi Rum. The boy advised the poor donkey wasn’t able to make it to the top (although we suspect the guy made an excuse as we saw donkey droppings much further up), but I was rather relieved, he did seem quite tired. Upon reaching the Monastery, we rested whilst admiring the magnitude of the ruin. It just looked so big and brilliantly orange carved into the rock face. We decided to explore further, following signs that promised to take us to places which had the ‘best view in Petra’. After a few, we decided they we all offering about the same deal! We were tired and decided to head back down. It was getting late, we thought we’d visit the rest of the city tomorrow.

By the time we’d descended it was already getting very dark – almost 8pm. By the time we had reached the Treasury the sun had set completely. Our walk back through the Siq was in almost pitch black and I could hear footsteps behind me. If Travis hadn’t been there I’m sure I would have freaked out. When we reached the entrance of the Siq I found out the footsteps belonged to a friendly older Australian man (not a serial killer) as we continued the rest of the way we all chatted and he told us he had been backpacking for over two months catching public transport everywhere! Amazing.

Dinner that night was well-deserved. We were simply starving and tired. We ate at a local restaurant near our hotel, picked up some sweets from a bakery and settled in for the night.

Petra Day One - Little PetraPetra Day One - Stairs carved into the rock at Little PetraPetra Day One - Goats on the side of the road
Petra Day One - The Siq entrance the PetraPetra Day One - Sonya with red SiqPetra Day One - The Treasury, Al Khazneh
Petra Day One - The Street of FacadesPetra Day One - Sonya reading the Lonely PlanetPetra Day One - Sonya outside the stalls
Petra Day One - Sonya on a DonkeyPetra Day One - Travis outside the MonasteryPetra Day One - The Monastery carved in the side of a mountain
Petra Day One - Sonya and Travis at the MonasteryPetra Day One - The Monastery from belowPetra Day One - The Monastery


The following day by 9am it was already hot. We had our Petra-itinerary planned – first the High Place of Sacrifice, some 800 stairs high. To prove to Travis I wasn’t a weakling I skipped the donkey this time (embarrassed as I remembered my mother saying she did the High Place AND Monastery by foot) as we walked up. It was actually a relatively a pleasant climb and as we reached the top, I was distracted by some shop stalls selling handmade jewellery and other goods. At the High Place we came across a young boy (or should I say astute business man) around 7 years old – he cleverly managed to sell us (or me) a couple of necklaces (“one for your sister, one for your mum”) as Travis looked over us in dismay. Anyway, he pointed us the route up to the best views (of course) and on the way back, a different track to other sites/ruins. By this point it was midday and indescribably hot. From the High Place we saw the Royal Tombs, Colonnaded Street and realised just how much there was to see in Petra.

We headed down… and took a different route out. No one seemed to be around (don’t blame them, it was so hot), only the occasional Bedouin local trying to sell tea, postcards, jewellery. We explored the area for the next few hours – a bit of random Geocache-seeking by Travis, attempts to take artistic photos at the ruins etc. Some points in the hike didn’t look like it was a proper track, but we managed to find our way back to the main Street. Took our last obligatory photos and decided we’d had enough. Our legs were sore, we were hot and tired (and I was suffering from initial realisation of severe sunburn). We snapped our last photos, said our goodbyes to Petra and headed back to Wadi Musa. It was late afternoon, and we had planned to go to Wadi Rum for the night. A night without a hot shower in the desert sounded a little too painful to me so I suggested we travel to Aqaba first, spend a night and day there and then do Wadi Rum after. Travis willingly agreed, and we continued on our journey south.

Petra Day Two - Sonya at the SiqPetra Day Two - The Siq with the Treasury visiblePetra Day Two - Camels
Petra Day Two - The High PlacePetra Day Two - A Bedouin boy pointing me in the right direction at High Place of SacrificePetra Day Two - Sonya and some stacked stones
Petra Day Two - Travis giving stray cats waterPetra Day Two - Garden TombPetra Day Two - Roman Soldier Tomb
Petra Day Two - Broken Pediment TombPetra Day Two - Sonya and Travis on pillarsPetra Day Two - Sonya and a camel
Petra Day Two - Sonya Colonnaded StreetPetra Day Two - Camels with the Urn Tomb in backgroundPetra Day Two - Sonya at the Siq