Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Jordan #2

Welcome back to part 2 of our holiday to Jordan. 

Christmas Eve found us at the Intercontinental Hotel in Aqaba on the Red Sea. We arrived in time for dinner, and although it seemed almost sacrilegious to opt for anything other than the delicious Jordanian food on offer, you can have too much of a good thing and L had found an excellent review of a Chinese restaurant nearby. The lure of tofu was too much and we hastily made our way towards 'Formosa'. It lived up to its reviews and lots of food and 2 pots of jasmine tea later, we were back in our room, settling down for the night.

Christmas Day was wonderful, if a little unconventional. After a breakfast of multiple 'immune boosting' glasses of fruit juice etc., we spent the rest of the day on sun loungers at the edge of the Red Sea. Mojitos and French fries on the beach were enjoyed by way of lunch! It was a lovely contrast to the preceding days of exploration and batteries were rapidly recharged. I had a little nap, collected some sea glass, read my book and did a bit of knitting before going for a swim and then hitting the jacuzzi. It was glorious.

The mojito with the kiwi fruit is apparently called a 'Royal mojito'.

We headed out for dinner to the local restaurant, 'Papaya'. The vegetable sambousek were delicious but, sadly, the rice dish tasted as if it was cooked in meat stock and we failed to finish it. In situations like that, we would normally give it a go rather than appearing rude, but it really did make us feel quite queasy.

We returned to the hotel for stollen (both L and I had smuggled one into our luggage thinking it would be a nice surprise!) and tea. Sadly, we couldn't find a channel broadcasting our customary evening viewing of the hajj rituals, so we plumped for what appeared to be an Arabic version of 'Pop Idol'!

The following day, suitable refreshed, we checked out of the hotel, breakfasted on falafel at 'Falafel  Bas W' (Excellent, since you ask!) and coffee/ hot chocolate from the V60 cafe, before heading for Wadi Rum; a protected desert wilderness not far from Aqaba.

Here, we planned to spend the day exploring before staying at the Hasan Zawaideh camp for the night:

There were 2 types of accommodation available: the tent type structures and a sort of martian bubble that looked a bit Eden Projecty. We had opted for the former.

Inside the tent - it was surprisingly cosy and I had the best night's sleep of the whole holiday.

We hired a jeep and driver and took a 3 hour jeep safari to explore the area:

We sat in the back and soon got used to the jolting around. The scenery was spectacular and, when we got out to climb the dunes, L was able to do a bit of sand-boarding. Her recent surfing course came in handy and she was surprisingly good.

The Mushroom Rock:

Little Bridge:
Um Fruth Rock Bridge. We scrambled to the top of this stone arch and took the obligatory Wadi Rum photo. It is quite wide at the top, so you do feel relatively safe but, even so, I was relieved to come down again!
We stopped for tea in a Bedouin tent. Even though it was obviously a contrived visit (our guide lived in the same village as our host), it was still memorable. The open fire made our eyes water but the cinnamon, clove and sage tea was delicious. 
He also played a rebab and sang for us. We bought a couple of items from his stall (tea and olive oil soap) and made our farewells.
Finally, we parked at a viewing point and watched as the sun sank down over the desert. It was quite a moment.

Back at the camp we enjoyed a buffet supper and then showed our complete lack of style and rhythm by attempting to join in with the dancing. It wasn't a pretty sight but it was great fun! We had a last mint tea around the fire before bed.
The following morning, we said a reluctant goodbye to our camp and made for our final hotel on the Dead Sea, stopping off on the way for yet another mint tea and coffee in a sweet, little cafe.
I can't say that I was overly-impressed with The Holiday Inn. It was far too expensive and up itself; checking guests on the way in to ensure that no food or drink was brought in from outside and leaving threatening notes in the bathroom in case anyone should think of removing any articles. Give me a Bedouin tent any day. We made the mistake of ordering drinks by the pool and R was charged 8 JD for a small can of beer. He choked it down! The hotel's only advantage was that it had a private beach which was handy for the obligatory mud smearing and floating in the Dead Sea. Here I am practising my synchronised swimming! :O)
I'm slightly eczema prone and the combination of mud and hypersalinity did me no favours. It was great fun though! We stayed by the water to watch the sunset and then returned to our room for baths and to complete the passenger locator forms for our return journey. Dinner was a lovely falafel sandwich and mint tea (!) at a roadside cafe and then we smuggled bags of crisps under our coats and returned to the hotel - just because! :O) We completed our pre-flight lateral flow tests (thankfully, all negative) and then ate crisps and watched a programme about dinosaurs before heading for bed.
Our penultimate day was my birthday. I had said that the holiday was enough of a present, but a few extra treats had been smuggled in the luggage. The owl card made me laugh as R is a complete grammar freak!
My birthday was spent exploring Jerash. Nicknamed 'The Pompeii of Asia', it is one of the best preserved sites of Roman architecture outside of Italy.
Hadrian's Arch, the gateway to Jerash. Built to honour the visiting emperor.
The Hippodrome, an ancient sports field once surrounded by seating for 15,000 spectators. Recent excavations have unearthed stables and pottery workshops, plus indications that the site was used for polo.
The Temple of Zeus:

The magnificent Forum. This lies in the heart of the city linking the main thoroughfare (Cardo Maximus) with the Temple of Zeus. Surrounded by 56 unfluted, Ionic columns, with limestone slabs radiating from the centre, this unusually shaped oval plaza was breathtakingly beautiful.

The South theatre, where I had my most surreal experience in Jordan. We had climbed to the top to listen to the Jordanian Scottish Bagpipe Band (yes, you read that correctly!) who were demonstrating the acoustics. It had the same bouncing back effect as the amphitheatre in Amman. I was fine climbing up because I had the steps in front of me. Coming down though, I had to take it slowly, with R walking in front so that the only thing I could see was his back. On reaching the bottom, the main bagpiper called me over and they proceeded to play 'Happy Birthday' to me. L had skipped down first and requested it. Well, you've never lived until you have had Happy Birthday played to you by the Jordanian Scottish Bagpipe Band in a Roman amphitheatre. I feel I have peaked birthday-wise!

The Courtyard of the Fountain:
The staircase leading to the Cathedral:
The Nymphaeum - the main ornamental fountain of Jerash:

The Temple of Artemis:
The smaller North Theatre. Sadly, no bagpipes!

The Cardo Maximus - the main street which still bears the marks of chariot wheels on the original flagstones:
We bought a Jordanian coffee pot and a small camel mosaic from the stalls near the exit. Also a gift for our neighbours for house and bunny sitting in our absence. Jerash had been a perfect birthday treat. We added to the excitement when we had a close encounter with the border on the way back to the hotel. The phone tried to take us across a junction that the border guard clearly didn't want us to cross. We had to reverse and do a bit of extra navigating before we found a safe place we could turn.
Not wanting another falafel sandwich for our final night, we made the mistake of choosing a restaurant at a local shopping mall. 'Elite' provided us with a Mexican salad, a quinoa and pomegranate salad, baba ganoush and fattoush but it was all overly citrusy and a disappointing final meal. We should have stuck with the roadside falafel.

On our final morning, we drove Polly to the airport, stopping very briefly to admire the view from Mount Nebo where, according to the Bible, Moses was granted a view of the Promised Land.

Our flight home was uneventful, if a little bumpy, and owing to Bank Holidays and postal delays, we spent a week confined to the house awaiting our post-flight PCR results. 
Despite this and despite the weeks of stress and uncertainty beforehand, I am so glad that we got to see this beautiful country, full of some of the loveliest people you could ever wish to meet. It was an adventure and one for which, especially in these uncertain times, I am truly grateful.

Toodle pip for now. x


  1. What an amazing trip! It seems you had some amazing experiences. By the way, the roadside falafel are ALWAYS the best ones! I am just a bit sad that you were so very near to me and yet so far! Next time you fancy a non-Christian country for Christmas, please come here!

  2. It sounds like an absolutely fantastic trip and the best Christmas day imaginable, just love it. I am especially proud of you for the crisp smuggling. I hope you left the packets in the bin :) Glad you had such a good time. CJ xx

  3. What a fabulous holiday, so many amazing experiences. Thank you for taking us along with you! xx

  4. What a perfect way to spend Christmas and your birthday. Belated wishes by the way. Love the idea of a night under canvas and swimming in the Dead Sea. As for happy birthday on bagpipes I agree you’ve certainly peeked. 2022 has a lot to live up to after that start. B x

  5. What a fantastic birthday! Happy birthday to you. Oh, what to say? I got utterly lost in these posts and read them several times. Lucky, lucky you, it was an absolute pleasure sharing your amazing trip! Thank you.xxx

  6. How very exciting! I absolutely loved the photographs. The mojito looks fab.