I have a dream…to travel the world
Petra (translated from Latin as “stone”) is a historical place of Jordan and also one of the 7th wonders of the world. Dating to around 300 B.C it hides fascinating places such as monasteries and tombs carved in the desert stones and it was chosen by numerous publication as a “must see” before you die. Well, bad luck, it seems that I am going to die without seeing it…but I can’t say that I haven’t try.
Together with my friend, Georgiana, we planned since long time a trip to the ancient world of Nabatean but we never find the right time for putting it in practice. When finally managed to arrange every detail of our holiday, we contacted some travel agencies trying to find the best offer. Once in the plane, only 3 hours where taking us apart to transform our dream in reality.
One of the travel agency employees is waiting for our arrival, carrying a small placard with our names “Miss Mihaela & Georgiana”.
After we complete all the visa formalities and claim our baggage, we are going towards the parking where the driver is waiting for us.
A jordanian entertainment group welcome the tourists on the arrival hall with traditional music and invite everyone to dance. We stop for a while enjoying the good atmosphere and we have no doubt that our short holiday is going to be amazing.
We meet our driver which introduce himself as “Ala” a shortcut from “Aladdin”, name that he seems to dislike and after we pay 800$ to the agency guy, he is handing us few brochures, wish us a good time in Jordan and then disappear.
Aladdin is informing us that is going to stop somewhere in the middle of the 4 hours trip to have lunch and refresh ourselves and then he drive quiet on the desert road. We respect his silence, in a muslim country where interaction between different sex is more formal, trying to not break any rule of conduit.
After few hours he finds a “restaurant” next by the road and recommand us to try the traditional jordanian food…rice, boiled lamb and a white sauce which seems to be yoghurt. We prefer the poor options of the buffet and without any assistance from the waiters, which their only job is to stare at the female tourists, we are trying to find out what we can eat and drink in this foreign place of the world. Disappointed, we realize that the warm welcome in the airport was just a “mirage” of the desert and the locals are not that kind how we were expecting. Not even our driver who supposed to guide us during our stay is not very communicative and we have the preamature feeling that all this trip is a totally mistake.
Petra closed due to Bedouin riots
After few more kilometers drive, a police officer is stoping each and every car asking everyone where they are up to. The man in the uniform is having a small chat with Aladdin in arabic which seems to make our driver agitated. He makes some phone calls which seems to take an eternity, informing us that Petra is closed at this time and we will have to change the whole itinerary. Two more cars full of men are stopping next to us, and I am already in panic thinking that everything is a diversion and we will end up raped and killed in the desert. It was the moment when I realized how dangerous this kind of countries are and I blamed myself for being so fool, planning a girls holiday in a place like Jordan.
Luckily my worries where only jokes of my scared imagination and the other cars made their way back same as we did. In a broken english the driver explained us that bedouins are having a fight which involves the use of guns and harassing of the tourists in Wadi Musa and the authorities decided to close the road to avoid any injuries.
The oficial statement, we find out later on, is that hundred locals where trowing stones at passing vehicles and pour oil on the streets trying to lit the tyres claiming their money lost on a failed investment last year.
The main touristic attraction, Petra, was closed from our first day of arrival until our departure and we decided that faith was responsible for our bad luck. When something is not meant to be there is no human power which can change the course of the events. We had difficulties in booking the tickets and completing the check in for the flight and I was hit by a terrible flu just before the holiday, carrying with me a big bag of medicine including antibiotics. Denying all the divine signs we choose to confront the destiny and now we are dealing with the consequences.
Aladdin is giving us two options: spending the night in the Wadi Rum desert or driving to Aqaba, the neighbour city. The choice was hard to make but we decided though to experience the difficult Bedouin life style for one day.
An off road car is picking us from the main road, driving through the dunes until we reach the camp. Its almost sunset time, my favorite moment of the day and the sand is colored in a warm orange. Coming from a desert country we are not impressed by the view and we feel regretful for the big amount of money spent for this worthless trip.
Spending an authentic Bedouin night in the tent
We are invited to drink tea while our “VIP” tent is prepared by the only two Egyptians workers. It is more than I expected, at least we have beds not only mattress on the floor and its also equipped with a bathroom. The electricity is available until 10:30 pm, after this time the only source of light is a small lamp hanged on the wall.
Totally unprepared for the cold of the desert we are putting on some inadequate clothes for this weather and rush out to catch the last minutes of the sunset. After the first dune, Georgy gives up, leaving me to climb alone. The stones of the desert are inclined and slippery and I am using my last energy to reach the top. I fell weak because of my flu and the numerous medicine intake but I cant give up in the middle of the way. I am a fighter, an adventurous person with all the characteristic of my zodiacal sign, Capricorn, in love with stones and high climbing.
The sun is already hiding behind the cliff, warming the Earth with his last source of energy and the whole landscape seems to be a snap from Mars.
We are going to bed early, but not before of having the worst shisha ever followed by a modest dinner. Another place, same opinion…people have no idea about hospitality and tourism and they just stare shameless at two lonely girls.
During the night I wake up constantly, having nightmares about a Bedouin attack in our tent and i make Georgy sleepless with all my agitation. Scared like a child I am calling my mother in my dream, with the certitude that she is the only one who will rescue us because there is no power in the world stronger than the love of a mother.
Next day we wake up tired but happy that we are leaving the desert and one thing is clear to me…I dont want to be a Bedouin anymore. The quiet life style that I envied until now is definitively not for me and I cant wait to be in contact with the civilized world again.
Pissed off already, we would give everything to put an end to this story sooner as possible and we swear to never come back to this country again.
We point out the brochures, asking the driver what else we can do in Jordan but he laugh in our face saying that pictures from the magazine are not real and there is not much to see in his country.
Tracing the waters of the Jordan river
We ask him to drive us to Jordan river, the place where Jesus was baptized and he agrees informing us that we have to pay our entrance tickets. After we were ripped off for a trip which doesnt worth a penny we dont really care about 12 dinars extra but again we are dissapointed by the rudeness of the request.
Everything is overcharged in this place, the prices can easly compete with the glamorous cities of the world but offering nothing in return. We crossed the country twice, from north to south and from south to north but the only view that we could get was a dry desert colored by few bushes here and there, with rare buildings and low signs of civilization.
Jordan is a tiny river which separate the country with same name from Israel and its one of the most important places for christians seeking for spirituality. Surprisingly, tourists all over the world are coming here to be baptized once again with the holy water of the river but they end up transforming the whole process in a masquerade. Couples wearing white dresses printed with Jesus face, jumping in the water while a photographer is trying to catch their best kiss…gives me the feeling that I am attending a rock concert more than a religious ceremony.
On the other side of the river though, a group of Asian are singing verses from the Bible and they seem to have a better understanding of what’s all about. It’s such a shame that an old religious landmark was transformed in a commercial place, a profitable business for locals and an entertainment area for tourists.
Dead Sea, an amazing SPA in the nature
Leaving the Jordan river behind we are heading to our last destination…a luxurious hotel near by the Dead Sea. Finally we say goodbye to Aladdin but not before communicating him the hour of the pick up for the airport. “Inshallah I will be here on time”, he answer and then he turn his back walking towards the car.
After a quick shower we are rushing to the pool but we give up fast to our tanning session, bothered by the insistent look of the waiters which are gathering too close to us. Incredible, the men in this country really likes to stare and I can understand why some women prefer to be covered from down to the top.
The shuttle bus is transporting the hotel guests to the Dead Sea every half an hour and we are running to catch the last one, annoyed by the whole situation.
The water of the Dead Sea is unique in the world and very well known for the healing properties. With a high concentration of salt and minerals is it a harmful place for living creatures and its name is given by the absence of any fish or sea vegetation. Being even saltier than the ocean, you can float fearless in each and every positions.
We are on the lowest point of the world, in the weird sea used by the Egyptians for the mummification process and for the most expensive Spa treatment in our days.
Ayesh, the bus driver had worked all his life in a Spa and now he is helping the tourists to place the mud correctly on the skin giving them professional advices. He seems kind and carrying, the only nice person that we met during our stay and we change some words with him, happy to end our holiday in a good mood. Some Indonesian tourists approach us for pictures and the covered ladies are curious to know how the mud feels on the body. I suggest them to apply some at home, being so close to the Dead Sea this is an experience that can’t be missed.
A beautiful mosaic made of different colored stones is covering the base of the sea giving it a pulse of life.
We return to the sea side next day after the breakfast for a short “spa” session before our flight. We follow Ayesh recommendation and after we apply the mud we scrub the skin with soft sand and clean it with salty water, returning home rejuvenate with a soft baby skin.
On the way to the airport we have a panoramic view of another sacred place mentioned in the holy books, the Mount Nebo, where Moses saw for the first time the “Promised land”, the mountain which became later on the place of his death.
Trying to take everything in a positive manner we leave Jordan with no regrets but also with no desire of coming back.
One week passed since the trip is over but my memory still recall the bad experience. I m traveling the world as part of my job and also as my biggest hobby but I never came back from a trip so disappointed.
However, my personal experience is just a particular case which should not affect any traveler in search of their dream holiday and it also not meant to offend any Jordanian individual.