Jigsaw Earth

Petra, Jordan – A Visit from Israel

by Gaia on Mar.15, 2009, under Random

The following was an email I sent to friends and family about my trip to Jordan. Israel was meant to be the highlight of my 2 week trip, but in all honestly Jordan stole the show.  I share my experience in hopes you will make the trip to this remote area next time you are in the Middle East:

I don’t know where to begin.  Jordan is a VERY different country than Israel.  I found Israel to be quite similar to an eastern European country with hints of the middle east popping in, while Jordan was by far a 3rd world country immersed in the middle east.  It was incredible to see the vast differences in culture between the two tiny nations, which are literally next to each other.  From its strong Muslim influence, to their relegation of women, to their strong arab backgrounds (for example, wearing a red and white checkered turban is practically de rigueur and if you don’t drink 10 cups of Turkish coffee a day, love the local tea, and smoke a pack of cigarettes a day then you’re clearly not from Jordan [even the customs official stamping my passport to the armed guard watching him were literally blowing smoke in my face])  to how the cities were set up (for example, satellite dishes have replaced the solar paneled hot water boilers on rooftops in Jordan), the Jordanians presented a completely different view on what it’s like to live in the middle east… not to mention the FACT that everything except your hostel/hotel and the entrance price to Petra can be negotiated to 1 dirham (about $1.20) – from Shrwarma to a can of coke to a local taxi to an hour on the internet.  And before I forget, the food was soooooo delicious.  I had no idea what I was eating (all vegetables in different sauces) but I must have tried over 12 different dishes while there and everything tasted spectacular.

In addition, it was nice to see a different paradigm on the war between Israel and Hamas.  It was funny to note, that while crossing the border into Jordan, both the Israeli and Jordanian sides, upon hearing I was American, gave me a thumbs up and told me they liked Barack Obama (even though the Jordanians expressed many times how much they hate Israel for what they did in the Gaza strip – even taking already served coffee away from me because I looked like I could be from Israel).  Jordanians told me before the war, they were friends with all Israelis, but after the war started they now HATE them.  But you can’t blame them – their local news spends a solid 30 minutes showing Palestinian families crying, hugging each other, asking things like “why did they destroy my home, my life?!”  Going from the USA to Israel to Jordan, it was very interesting to see how the media portrayed what was going on from all sides of the war.

Jordan is also a beautiful beautiful beautiful country.  The topography is just outstanding if you’re into mountains.  The single lane highway that runs most of the country winds and weaves itself through canyons and cliffs and mountains that top anything I saw while making my way from Tel Aviv to Eilat.

Petra… I don’t even know where to begin here.  I like to think of myself as a well-traveled individual and Petra has to be one of the most amazing places I have ever been.  I was overwhelmed with excitement the entire time I was there.  I literally felt like the Kabala teacher in knowing why I get up every day: to visit places like this.  I spent 2 full days hiking around the site, a giant national park with over 800 monuments that have been carved straight out of walls by the Nabataeans.  Below is a photo I took of “The Treasury,” just one of the 800+ carvings, this one most notable for being in Indiana Jones.  Petra was just amazing and apparently this is the low tourist season – which worked out well as I was able to take 100s of photos without another tourist in site.

The Treasury - Petra

I have to admit, seeing something like the Western Wall in Jerusalem is amazing, but the more religious you are, in my opinion, the more amazing this wall is.  When we were there, I saw people kissing the wall, people crying, people so excited to see this wall extremely significant to not only Judaism, but other religions as well.  I did not have this reaction.  To me, in many aspects it was just a wall that was appreciated more by some individuals who felt closer to it based on their beliefs.  Petra, on the other hand was a site that had no real religious connotations and could be appreciated by ANYONE with an adventurous spirit.  Hell you don’t even need to hike like I did; there are ample Jordanians trying to rent their donkey or camel out to the less athletic individuals (again, they’ll ask for 3 dirham, but you can get one for 1).

Petra was just a magical place and I cannot wait to head back to Jordan and bring someone with me next time.  I stayed at a hostel this time and met some WONDERFUL people I spent both days hiking with.

Just to let you all know, I went into Jordan from Eilat (really easy – there is a 96 shekel exit tax you must pay), took a taxi from the border to Petra stopping at Wadi Rum along the way (they tried to charge me 70 dirham for this, but I got them down to 50 dirham, and later found out the “local” price was 30 dirham), toured Petra for 2 full days, then took a taxi north of the Dead Sea to the King Hussein bridge (60 dirham for a 3.5 hour scenic taxi ride bringing you along the Dead Sea on the Jordanian side) and crossed into the West Bank (this crossing is MISERABLE compared to the Eilat one) and took a taxi into Jerusalem.  It all worked out SOOOOOOO easily and there was absolutely nothing to be scared about; I encourage all of you to visit – and you can easily take busses if you have the time which cost practically nothing, I was just pressed for time and had to take taxis.

So I hope I’ve conveyed my new-found love for Jordan.  I took loads of photos and some great HD video (even got 2 gorgeous sunsets over Petra) but I’ve just been too busy to sit down and go over them.  Maybe sometime this weekend.

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