Sunday, May 29, 2011

Jordan Part I - Wadi Rum and Aqaba

Sorry it's been a few days, due to internet access as well as spending two days and one night in the middle of the desert. On Thursday I flew from Beirut to Amman in order to pass by Syria, which was only a 45 minute flight.

I flew Middle East Airlines, and the airport in Beirut was the most exciting I've seen... women everywhere in niqabs, and terminals all with such exotic destinations: Dubai, Cairo, Bahrain, Kuwait. The possibilities were wondrous.

When I arrived in Amman, I was greeted by airport staff who briskly walked us through customs, obtaining visas, and arranging a taxi to Aqaba (beach resort town in Southern Jordan, on the Red Sea). The people in Jordan are fantastic- all extremely accommodating, helpful and always exclaiming, "welcome, welcome, please enjoy Jordan, welcome!" They have gone out of their way to arrange every last detail to meet my needs, to the extent that you almost don't want to ask a question about something because you know someone will bend over backwards to have the item in front of you.

Aqaba is the most incredible area. You can easily see across the water to Eilat, Israel, and slightly further to the south where I stayed in Tala Bay you can see across to Taba, Egypt. The three triplet cities meet here on the beautiful Red Sea.

Early Friday morning my friend and I took a taxi to Wadi Rum (Wadi meaning valley), which is a protected reserve in the middle of the desert hosting some of the world's most outstanding desert landscapes. Indeed, this place was completely surreal; to me it looked as I imagine the surface of Mars. (Wow- I actually learned just now from Wikipedia that Wadi Rum has been used as the surface of Mars in the 2000 movie "Red Planet"... hmm!)

We were greeted at the visitors' center by our Bedouin guide, who took us around ALL day in a jeep, showing us the sights of his home.... Lawrence spring, different canyons, a few natural rock bridges, one which was possible to climb. I scrambled over boulders, hiked partway up mountains, and climbed huge sand dunes. It was an exhausting and spectacular day.

As evening drew we watched the sunset and set up camp around a fire. Although it's easily 100 degrees during the day, the Bedouins somehow spend their time building fires and drinking hot tea! For dinner, they cook meat, potatoes and vegetables on coals in a large pot which is buried under the sand.

We spent the evening having conversation with the Bedouins, listening to their views on politics (they are surprisingly informed) and learned that King Abdullah was also spending the night in the camp nearby! Apparently the King loves Wadi Rum and visits frequently with his wife and children, or friends... he seems to be a very kind and beloved King. Additionally, Prince William and Kate are expected to arrive in Wadi Rum soon, and preparations were being made though the Bedouins haven't been told exactly when.

I spent the night outside, in the middle of the desert, under a billion stars... the sky was so clear and I saw at least a dozen "shooting stars". Not bad for my first time camping!!

Yes, I actually climbed up to both of these places!!

In the morning, camels were waiting to take us back to the visitors' center, which took over 2 hours. As fun as it was, riding a camel is shockingly uncomfortable and 2 hours is a long time! I was rather glad to get off. :)
Camels are extremely strange and interesting creatures up close, but the best part to me was that my allergies did not overcome me, with just one Claritin!

Carlie: 1, Carlie's immune system: 49875230452345!

Words can't explain how incredible that desert trip was, but getting back to my resort and taking a loooong shower may have been even better! I spent a much need day Saturday relaxing by several pools.

Today we took a taxi (our same driver the whole time, Reziq, was a very interesting and informative man!) to the Jordanian side of the border, and crossed to Israel on foot.

Maybe not everyone would find this so interesting, but to me it was one of the most thrilling experiences I have ever had. There's an empty stretch of desert land between Jordan and Israel, with barbed wire fences to the sides and border stations on either end with huge proud flags. Unfortunately no pictures can be taken here.

The best I could do- Welcome to Israel!

We had little trouble crossing, with the usual security screening and just a few questions asked about our travel intentions. I'm now on a bus from Eilat and on my way to Jerusalem. It's only been one week but it will be extremely nice to settle in, do some laundry and actually unpack my luggage for the first time! Whew!


Jordan said...

Carlie. This is ridiculous. I can't believe you're actually having these amazing adventures!! To me, these places seem so fictitious and foreign, but you even have pictures to prove it! I think this is going to be the most memorable and amazing time of your life...Soak it all in! I specifically loved that photo of you on the rock bridge--you are such my sibling. :)

Jordan said...

ps. I'm so happy you're allergies aren't killing you! I was actually quite worried about that, since its a completely different atmosphere to what your body is used to. Also, the food looks dee-lish! Can I get a doggy bag?

Vicki said...

Carlie, looks like you are living your d -- i'm going to frame the camel photo opposite the one i took of you riding the circus elephant when you were 3 - it must have been the spark! love, mom