It’s been a while since I’ve posted regularly and that’s about to change! I’m making my New Year’s resolution early and it’s all about dedicating myself to travel and the promotion of travel. I want others to understand more about the world and what it has to offer. I’ve also been thinking more about how I can give back when I travel and how to become more efficient and eco-friendly traveller. Look for upcoming posts on that as well as packing for a variety of seasons and activities in one bag without breaking your back.
I’ve got a post nearly done about my most recent trip to the Maritimes, Canada’s East Coast. Upcoming are posts about Chile, Bolivia, and Edmonton and in the new year watch for Mexico, Ireland, Scotland and more.
My other goal for the remainder of 2015 and into 2016 is #30by30. It’s a big birthday for me next year and I hope to have visited at least 30 countries by August 25th. I’m close but not quite there yet!
At precisely 7:07 we departed from Saba’a with Dawson and Stefan for the gates of Petra. We had decided to tour together the second day, the more the merrier! By doing so, we effectively eliminated the unwanted male attention and offers for donkey rides, as well as having two more people to help figure out the route. However, the small children remained unaffected by a male presence and continued to bother all of us to buy postcards. These kids are meant to be in school, as there are regulations around this, however, as it was a weekend, they delighted in telling us ‘no school today!’ when we got after them for not being in school.
Petra first thing in the morning was great. Really no one there yet to obstruct photos or offer rides on any type of animal. We took a rest at the Treasury for about 45 minutes in order to see it sunlit, although we did not stay long enough to see it fully lit up. It truly is quite incredible. There was a rather cute kitten that spent the entire time we were there cuddling with us. Oh I wanted to bring it home with me! We also bore witness to possibly the strangest thing we’d seen during our trip (and that’s saying something): the enigma known as “green dress”.
While sitting at the Treasury, our attention was caught by a young (20’s) girl and a man with a camera. The girl was wearing this slinky, green silk dress cut down to there and slit up to here, with accompanying silky scarf and loosely waved hair. She proceeded to prance around barefoot in front of the Treasury, with every single male there oogling her, while her little photopgrapher friend snapped photos. Weird part being…no professional lighting, not even a light reflecting screen thingy, clearly not properly made up, and the photographers camera was not equipped to be a true professional quality camera. It was all very very peculiar and rather ludicrous.
Being quite over this debacle and not wanting to wait for the sun to fully creep over the Treasury, we moved on to hike up to the Place of High Sacrifice. This hike takes about 45 minutes or so going at a good pace and the view from the top is excellent. There’s not too much to see at the top otherwise and you can go down another direction but we came down the same way as it’s quicker and Stefan had to go in order to catch the bus to leave.
The remaining trio of us decided to do the Treasury overlook hike at this point. We were hiking right at high noon, which made it feel like foreverrr but I’m sure it is realistically also only about 45 minutes or so. It is a beautiful hike too with the rocks of the steps rippled with different colours and contours. There are also great views over the Roman theatre area.
At the top, we stopped at the wonderful Sameh’s camp. You wouldn’t believe who we met at the top – our dear friends Green Dress and her photographer. Luckily they seemed to be finished their photo session but we remained perplexed as to the purpose as her photo shoots and how she had hiked up in that green dress as there was no evidence of a costume change.
Anyhow! Sameh was lovely. He invited us to rest in his outdoor seating area, some carpets and pillows laid out on the rocks, covered by a tent, and chatted with us, giving us tea, and some cheese and pita. He also had some wee puppies, much to Dawson’s delight, called Whiskey and Vodka. Dawson spent a considerable amount of time having puppy snuggles, giving them treats and loves, to their delight. Sameh told us he could climb down the cliff in something like 7 minutes. He didn’t recommend we try the same! Lunch out of the way, we ended up taking an impromptu nap. Sameh thought this was pretty funny and when we woke up, offered to pick us up on his donkey later that afternoon when we were finished watching the sunset from the Monastery, seeing how sleepy we were! We agreed this would be great. In true Bedouin hospitality, as we departed, Sameh didn’t want to take any payment frorm us, though we insisted, and asked us to chose one memento each. We were truly touched.
The lure of a nap and a shower were great for Dawson, who abandoned us at that point. Lo and behold, all that attention we had succesfully avoided for the majority of the day came back instantly, as we were two girls alone again. Urgh! Regardless of this, we re-hydrated and set off up yet another steep set of stairs to the Monastery. This building is equally as beautiful as the Treasury, I think. AND, there are more cute baby animals located at the cafe there: a kitten and a baby goat, that Leah named Petri. Petri decided that he’d like to eat shoelaces, tshirt strings, and so forth, as opposed to any of the actual food we offered him. The kitten on the other hand, was really keen on the cucumber I had but not so much on the apple. Sadly, it was quite smoggy at the top so we didn’t get much of a sunset or view but we did get a ride home on Sameh’s 4-legged friend once we reached the bottom of the trail. Leah’s was a mule in fact, which apparently the Ferrari, whereas the donkey I got was much slower, “the diesel” as Sameh said. The total trip from the bottom of the Monastery to the entrance was 7JD each, not too bad!
1. If you’re planning to spend the day out in Petra, I’d highly recommend you take a packed lunch with you. It’s easy, reasonably priced, and not of sketchy quality. Our hotel offered this for 3.5JD and it was well worth it.
2. Do the Treasury Overlook hike first thing, a) because it is too stinkin hot later in the day and b) you will not be competing with all the other people milling around at the bottom for photos OR being bothered by children repeatedly. You’ll get the beautiful, fully sunlit view of the Treasury in peace!
3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! And wear a hat! We met a guy at the Monastery who was suffering from what sounded like heat stroke and clearly had not drank enough that day. We advised him to down an entire Gatorade tout suite and follow that up with like a litre of water and another Gatorade and he should be fine. We saw him about 10 minutes later, first bottle of Gatorade half completed, refusing to take a donkey back down to the bottom, yet still saying he might need an ambulance. You cray, dude, you cray.
4. If you’re going to stay for sunset, be aware that washroom facilities close somewhere around 5pm and a bumpy donkey ride back to the gate does not make a full bladder feel happy. Either prepare to squat behind a rock or hold it!
5. Be firm but kind. We so enjoyed our time with Sameh and if we’d automatically assumed he was just trying to make a buck, we would’ve missed out on that. Conversely, he was also not very pushy or obnoxious. Just classic Bedouin chill. Thanks Sameh!
Today we had signed up for a desert safari, courtesy of Groupon.
I definitely cannot say that I would do this again but here’s a breakdown of the activities and the pros and cons. Our tour cost 169AED and I wouldn’t pay a cent more.
-pick up in town and transfer to desert camp (drive takes about 1.5hrs)
-dune bashing (about 20 minutes long)
-small henna tattoo (bigger or different design is extra)
-horse and camel ride
-short film about UAE
-very kind and helpful staff
-horses (and camels?) unkempt and not well cared for. One horse literally shied from my touch and both could’ve used extra weight. I don’t know what constitutes a healthy camel but I sure felt guilty as can be getting on that thing.
-dinner: not very fresh, less than tasty
-ATVs not worth the extra money for the simple loop laid out and short time allowed. I guess if you’re not from a country where every other person has one you could go on in a beautiful wilderness setting maybe it’s fun?
-dune bashing too short!
-overall cost vs worthwhile activities
-STYROFOAM PLATES AND CUPS!!!!!
I think this kind of thing could be quite cool in a smaller group arrangement with higher standards but this just came off as the Wal-Mart of tours: tacky, en masse, cutting corners for profit. Overall, save your money and put it towards a more socially and environmentally conscious activity.
Also, please note, you will never see the photo of us in “traditional dress”. It is hugely unflattering and I could feel my feminist side getting ready to rage as I muted my very existence in the drab, black garments.
Also, I know I still have two posts to finish for Jordan. Because I was feeling sick, I couldn’t type on the bus and plane like I usually can and my other excuse is our crappy internet and power connection for a few days in Jordan. I will get to it!
An uneventful travel day. All our bags safely made it to Abu Dhabi, the Bahrain airport has amazing coffee shop selection, teenage boys continue to be a pain in the ass (who gave them cell phones and cologne anyway?!), Gulf Air also has amazing leg room, and Leah’s friend Sarah is just a spectacular human being. The end.
April 1st: Abu Dhabi
Took it rather easy today. We went to Cafe Arabia for lunch, which was delicious. Hello mutabal (my new fave, a mix of baba ghanoush and hummus kind of), fattoush, and saj! We took in the new souq where we had a very SATC moment in shopping for beaded flats and then popped over to the adjacent mall for some window shopping. For dinner we headed to The Yacht Club, where there is free champagne for ladies on certain nights of the week and had some delicious eats as well.
April 2nd: We were meant to go to Al Ain today but we woke up to a massive sandstorm which effectively rendered us into jammies wearing couch potatoes for the day. This was just as well seeing as I was still fighting some strange GI thing I’d picked up in the desert and the thought of being in the car for an extended time was a little nauseating.
April 3rd: Our big exciting plan for today was to attend one of the staples of Abu Dhabi expat life: the posh brunch. This one was held at 18 Degrees, which is located on the 18th floor of the “bendy building” (apparently more descriptive than the actual name of the building).
We got all dolled up and dined in style with bubbly. The food and service were terrific and the desserts were all Easter themed. Divine!
Posh brunch a great success, we briefly stopped in to see Sarah’s boyfriend Humaid at another pub (The Captains Arms, which I’m told has the best fish and chips in Abu Dhabi) before heading home to bed. My tummy was still quite angry with me, and especially more so after all the posh food and bubbly so still hoping this lets up soon!
Today we made our way back from Wadi Rum to Amman. It was a bit sad to leave the quiet and beauty of the desert, but we were both ready to rinse the sand from our hair and move on. We really enjoyed our desert time and overall would certainly recommend Mehedi and his Bedouin Directions camp for a laid back, unique desert experience.
Aqaba is just about a 30 or 40 minute drive from the desert so we decided to go and see if it would be worth a snorkel. Getting there requires passing through a customs stop (?!) in both directions which was really just an annoyance and the town itself is nothing special. The sea looks quite nice, but as we walked up to the litter – strewn beach/water and were leered at for the 57,964th time, we decided snorkeling here was not going to be worth our while, got some ice cream and peaced.
The drive back to Amman was uneventful, or as uneventful as driving amongst the wild Jordanian drivers can be. We took the King’s Highway, which, for the record, is a hot mess of uneven paving and endless beige desert interspersed with towns. We both remembered someone having told us that the Kings Highway was scenic but I can assure you that’s not the case!
Having successfully completed our final navigation into Amman and dropped off the rental car, we rolled home to Hawa Guest House. It truly did feel like coming home, as we let ourselves in, grabbed a drink and a slice of the “cake of the day” (delicious!!), and received some welcome home snuggles from the kitties. How nice to end our journey with this. We were able to have a reunion with Avery, Muath, and Eefje, meet new friends Kelly and Marijke, and find out how Patty had made out trying to move on in her travels. Overall it just had such a whole feeling at the end.
We ate at Jafra that night. Cannot say I enjoyed the environment because I find it really hard to be around that much smoke at any time, let alone indoors (thank you Canadian smoking regulations!!!) but the food was good.