For such a small country — roughly about the same size of Austria or Portugal — Jordan is a country of many different landscapes and offers a multitude of things to do and see. From floating in the Dead Sea to camping out in the Wadi Rum desert, there’s no shortage of unique and authentic experiences for travelers of all interests. Here are a few of my favorites:
Seeing Petra by Night…and Day
The lost Nabatean city of Petra certainly lives up to its title as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The gorgeous, rose-red rock cliffs and the amazingly intricate structures carved within them are absolutely beautiful. While rounding the bend toward the Treasury of Petra, my heart literally skipped a beat. Clients can visit Petra both at night (only on certain days of the week) and during the day, and I highly suggest doing both. Though clients can see every little architectural detail in daylight, it doesn’t compare to the experience of seeing Petra at night. For Petra by Night, workers light thousands of candles that line the path to the Treasury, guiding the way for visitors as they walk toward the Treasury in single file. At the monument, a Bedouin musical performance commences, and guests are treated to steaming cups of sweet tea, surrounded by the cliffs and the stars above.
Petra Archaeological Park
Reliving “Lawrence of Arabia” in the Wadi Rum Desert
The Wadi Rum desert is exactly as T.E. Lawrence (a.k.a. Lawrence of Arabia) described it in his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom
: “vast, echoing and God-like.” This largest of all deserts in Jordan is truly spectacular, not only for its amazing vistas but also for the hospitality of the local people who inhabit it. My own Wadi Rum experience included a rollicking jeep ride across the desert and an overnight stay at Captain’s Desert Camp, where I ate and danced the night away with local Bedouins. Not even a rare sandstorm in the middle of the night could dampen my spirits, either. If your clients don’t mind roughing it a bit, you should definitely suggest they consider spending an unforgettable night or two in Wadi Rum.
Captain’s Desert Camp
Having an Out-of-Body Experience in the Dead Sea
The Dead Sea is the perfect body of water for an out-of-shape swimmer like myself — I simply could not sink! No matter how hard I tried, I always rose straight to the top. (Makes me wonder why they still have a lifeguard on duty.) Not only that, the Dead Sea is thought to possess healing and therapeutic properties, especially when you slather yourself in its nutrient-rich mud. The only caveat about the Dead Sea? The salt-encrusted rocks that line the shore are extremely sharp; be sure to tell clients they might want to keep their flip-flops or aqua shoes on before treading into the water. Any minor cuts could be extremely painful when you’re soaking in such salty waters.The Dead Sea, Jordanwww.visitjordan.comGiving a Helping Hand
One of the most memorable experiences I had in Jordan was at the Al-Hussein Society for the Rehabilitation of the Physically Challenged as a volunteer. The society operates a school for physically challenged children in Amman, Jordan’s capital city, and allows tourists to volunteer for a day or half-day, helping children learn how to use computers, assisting in physical therapy sessions or playing along in music classes. For me, just watching the teachers and therapists work with the students was the kind of “feel-good” travel experience I’ve always longed for. To find out more about voluntourism programs in Jordan, visit the Jordan Tourism Board North America’s Web site at www.na.visitjordan.com
Cooking (and Eating) up a Storm at Petra Kitchen
While all the food I had in Jordan was delicious, none tasted quite as sweet as the dishes my fellow travelers and I made for ourselves at Petra Kitchen, located in Wadi Musa, just outside Petra Archaeological Park. While some of us had more arduous culinary tasks than others — chopping up the ingredients needed for tabbouleh (a salad made with bulgur and finely chopped parsley, mint, tomato, scallion and other herbs) is hard work — we all savored in the fruits of our labors by dinner time, when we feasted on an elaborate multi-course meal. Lucky for us, we were guided by local women and chefs throughout the entire process so that, by the end of the night, we all felt like Julia Child or Thomas Keller in our own right.