The original plan was to travel through both Israel and Jordan. But folks familiar with that part of the World strongly suggested that it will be a bit too much in 5 days of overall time budget. The advice made sense and I stuck with Jordan in this trip. I can hopefully visit Israel sometime in the future.
I took a mix of Qatar Airways and Royal Jordanian for my trip into and out of Amman. Random thoughts from my 5 days in Jordan:
- Hiring a cab: If you are more adventurous and can manage the language barrier, maybe you can try the public transport. But considering the condition of the buses and also their frequency, I decided to rent a cab during my entire stay. Yusuf, a person of Palestinian origin, spoke English and was very helpful throughout. He even helped me with some language translations. If anyone is interested in using his services while in Jordan, feel free to ping me and I can put you in touch with him. His rates were also very nominal.
- Queen Alia International Airport in Amman is pretty modern (especially the Departure area)
- The chill was shocking. Well, I am that fool who walked into Amman wearing Bermudas. In my defense, how was I to know that Middle-East in December would be freezing? The fact that Middle-East experienced one of the worst snow-storms in 100 years was to blame, I guess. My fingers turned numb many a times and I rued the fact that I did not carry gloves. (More on my Petra adventure later)
- I loved Mansaf. It is like Indian Biryani and can be had in Lamb or Chicken. I tried both and liked the Lamb version better. I actually had it in a popular place teeming with locals (Thanks to Yusuf) and it was marvelous
- The ancient city of Jerash was beautiful and had lots of ancient monuments to see. I spent a good 4 hours in Jerash exploring the various nooks and corners of the ancient city and tried to imagine “If I lived in that Era” scenarios
- Amman is a sprawling city and I must say that most of the building looked similar (White or Off-White in color). The roads were pretty decent
- Souvenirs: Definitely one of the most expensive places (to buy souvenirs) that I have come across as yet. All the purchases definitely punched a significant hole in my pocket. But I just couldn’t resist the Mosaic Paintings, Dead Sea Souvenirs Etc.
- The coffee was fantastic … It was very aromatic and helped ease the chill a bit
- There were only 10 people in the Royal Jordanian flight from Amman to Doha, but the flight from Doha to Amman was almost full. Must be the time/day of my travel, I guess …
- Mount Nebo: The views were amazing and luckily for me, it was a clear (but chilly!) day … Took photos galore
- Walked through the old town of Madaba and even had some Falafel at one of the eateries
- Ajloun Castle has a great location and can be viewed from a far distance. Once you climb to the very top, owing to the fact that the Castle is already on top of a hill, the views are amazing and you can have varying views of the town of Ajloun
- Petra: One of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World. Expensive to get into, but well worth it. We started at 5.30AM from Amman and arrived at Petra at around 8AM. During my 8 hours in Petra, I walked at least 6 Miles and climbed at least 2000 steps. The highlights were, of course, The Treasury and The Monastery. The Monastery does take some effort. But my expertise in stair-climbing helped a lot and I am quite confident I must have set some kind of record in Petra with my pace of climbing :-). One also has to consider that the temperature was definitely in 30s (sub-Zero-Celsius) and it was raining pretty heavily. Not so easy conditions, wouldn’t you say? A severe Snow-Storm (which hit Amman the next day) actually started in Petra towards the tail end of my visit, I believe. On my way back, the heavy rains started a flood in the Siq (which slopes from the Ticket Counter area down to The Treasury) and I had to literally wade my way up through ice-cold water, in a fully drenched state. I can safely say that not many would have had such an “Adventure” in Petra.
- I loved the drive through the desert from Amman to Petra and the sunrise was beautiful to see
- As with many other places in the World, one has to be vigilant and be wary of folks trying to swindle you. For example, a guy came up to me at Jerash and claimed that he is a “Photography Expert” can be take beautiful pictures using my Nikon. Another time, a boy of approximately 11 years of age came up to me all crying (I could see it was fake tears, cause the moment I walked away, the crying mysteriously stopped :-)) and claiming that his family is struggling with hunger and they needed help
My experiences in Jordan were unique and truly a revelation. Onward …