Day 26: Want to ride a Bedouin Ferrari?

Dead Sea to Petra

What a wonderful day we had today! We reluctantly left the DSSH after having a spectacular  breakfast buffet and a final toe dip in the Dead Sea.

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Our drive to Petra was to be via the Dead Sea road past Wadi Mujib, Dana Biosphere Reserve, and Shobak Castle (which is Anglicized  roughly 12 different ways on any given combo of road signs and maps – just adds to the fun of navigation!). The road along the sea is really nice, as far as views that it, and the road winding up through the mountains is equally lovely with exceptional views over towards Israel and south to Aqaba. Let me briefly clarify however that in referring to drives as lovely, I am always, without fail, speaking of the scenery and never the quality of the actual road and how it drives as this, without fail, is always rather crap!

There was a lot of haze and possibly sand in the air so there really wasn’t much visibility over Dana unfortunately. Time was also marching on so we opted to maximize our time at Shubak and Petra.

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Shewbuk was amazing. It’s perched high on a hill overlooking the valley and commands attention even from a distance. It was free to go in for us (not sure that this is always the case) and it’s a short but steep walk from the parking lot up to the entrance. There were two guys dressed up in traditional soldier gear hanging out, one of whom was really keen on dressing us up in the helmet, shield, and sword. We evaded him for most of our visit but couldn’t turn him down in the end. He also pointed us to the tunnel that disappears into the darkened belly of the castle,  a purported 365 steps in all, emerging somewhere down the hillside, but for the sake of pressing on to Petra we chose to forego it.

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All dressed up and nowhere to go
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Leah and our new friend at the top of the tunnel

We arrived to Petra around 2:30 and purchased our 2 day ticket (JD55). Passport is needed for this as they charge up to 90JD for visitors who’ve been in the country less than 1 or 2 days I think it is. Highway robbery,  if you ask me. Anyhow, pretty much as soon as we set out for the entrance from the ticket booth we were consistently harassed: “Would you like to ride my Ferrari?” “Do you need a guide?” “Looking is free – please look at these souvenirs!” “Hey,  take a picture with me!”

In case you were wondering,  a Ferrari is a donkey or mule and they are everywhere around Petra being used to haul weary tourists around the expansive site. As two young, female travelers unaccompanied by males, Leah and I might as well have had targets on our banks and flashing neon lights surrounding us drawing every tout and teenage schoolboy in the place to us like magnets. Combined with the heat, dust, and garbage all over, it’s really a bit of an experience ruiner to be honest and by about 5:15 PM,  with the light leaving us we decided to call it quits for the day with rather a sour taste in our mouths. I mean, when you’re cooking up plots to escape from the 8th huddle of teenage boys conspiring ways to take a photo with you, you know it’s bad.

We had walked from the front entrance to the base of the Monastery trail and seen the sights along that trail including the famous treasury, Roman theatre and the tombs, and I will say, people and garbage aside, the actual site itself is rather stunning.

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On our way out, a beautiful sunset blooming behind us, we noticed two guys coming down from a hill and asked them if it was worth the climb for a sunset pic or two. They said it was so up we scrambled. It was refreshing to get above the madness and the view was worth it.

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Our hotel, Saba’a, was a short 5 minute drive from Petra and we were most happy to arrive to a warm welcome (and tea!) from Gail, the owner, and as it turned out, one of the guys we received directions to the sunset from, Dawson.

After such a long and taxing day, a dinner invitation to a buffet with Dawson, from California, and Stefan, from Germany, was just the ticket. Can’t say that I’d go to that buffet again, but the company was lovely, the conversation enjoyable, and it really helped to offset the scuzzier males of the day – thanks guys! 😉

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Day 20: Welcome to Jordan – are there birds in that bag?!

Day 20: Amman, Jordan

As you may have read on Facebook, I was up bright and early this morning for really no good reason. On the bright side, this meant that I could finally wrap up all Turkey – related articles and move into our Jordanian adventure.

Eefje and Muath put on a great breakfast spread to start the day, which was rather grim looking at first, definitely threatening rain. We met Chris, a photographer/journalist/videographer from Atlanta, Georgia and also met up with Avery, of a similar profession from Seattle, who we had met the night before as she’d been on the same planes as us from Istanbul. We decided to set out together from the hostel as Chris had already been in Amman for a month and knew his way around.

We started off going to the new skatepark that had just been built a few months back. There was some super cool graffiti there and the boys skateboarding seemed to be having a blast. No helmets or wrist guards, unlike Canada however and there is tons of trash lying around the park and the adjacent playground. This completely blows my mind as litter is so much less common in Canada and people would never allow a children’s area to look like that. Really fascinating.

From there we moseyed on to the souq and one of the mosques where it truly became a little busier and more like some of the big, busy cities we’d been to before. They were just starting prayers and all the streets nearby were cordoned off to cars, Chris said to minimize the chance of terrorist attacks during prayers. 😦

We worked our way quite quickly through the souq which was composed of the usual market stalls: clothes, fruits and veggies, shoes, household goods and so forth and ended up at the end where there is a very unique street. As we turned on to it, I noticed a car with its trunk open…there were birds in it!! This street is apparently famous for its bird sales. Pigeons, turkeys, doves…all sorts! And the mode of transportation once purchased? You guessed it, a paper bag.

Not appreciating all the creepy leering, invitations to touch turkeys, and whatnot we parted ways with the rest of the group and headed for the Citadel.

On our way up, we happened to notice that the Roman Amphitheater was to our right. Having seen a few amphitheatres in recent days, we decided just seeing it was enough and carried on upwards.

We had seen a sign pointing the way to the Citadel and began to follow the road up. We got most of the way up and could see steps leading upwards towards the Citadel so we decided to take them. The steps stopped and a trail continued before ending in a wall, which being small, was easy to scramble up and over. From there we picked our way around some ruins and skirted the fence….indicating that we’d probably come up come up quite the wrong way! As we entered the ruins, one of the guards kindly reminded us to please buy a ticket and don’t climb up the Citadel again as it “could be dangerous” (it was at no point that way) hah!

We took an enjoyable hour or so perusing around the ruins and the small museum there. To make up for missing the Basilica Cistern, there was even a cistern. Although it was garbage filled (I see a theme here) and contained no Medusa heads so that was a bit anticlimactic.

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Citadel Cistern

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Garbage filled. >(

Once we were done at the Citadel, we decided to try and check out Rainbow Street. No one had informed us just how hilly Amman is and our journey to Rainbow St involved a hike down a huge hill and then back up another huge hill in addition to several sets of stairs. We figured we had earned our lunch time snack. Sadly, Rainbow St looks like it has some cute restaurants but many were closed because it was Friday today. We did stop for a quick bevy tho in a restaurant of very questionable cleanliness called F.R.I.E.N.D.S. @cafe.

From there we headed back down the hill and headed for Weibdeh hill where our hostel is for a quick falafel sandwich. It was delicious and cost just 2 JD for both of us including tea! Nom nom. We got ourselves some tasty treats from a bakery just down from the falafel shop and boy were they pleasantly good!

We returned back to Hawa to the exciting return of Leah’s bag! Since then, we’ve just been hanging out, relaxing and chatting with our wonderful hosts Eefje and Muath and their cats. Chris got us a cake to celebrate Iranian new years tonight. Yay!

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Malcolm just chillin