Tuesday, 10 May 2016

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

I've been slack at blogging over the past year (and more honestly). While we've been kept busy by Harriet over the past year, blogging about mine or O'Hara's baby leave would have been dull. Unless you find Netflix and napping interesting.

Something fun did happen in April however. We went on a holiday to the UAE and Jordan. I'm feeling motivated to write about the Jordan trip, partially because it was really cool, and partially because I feel bad for the country's tourism being decimated by the current situations in the Middle East. Also I wanted to share more photos without just doing the humble brag on Facebook. This is the humble humble brag.

In answer to the question that we were asked before we left, Jordan is safe. While they have land borders with Israel, Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, they've managed to keep themselves fairly removed from the conflicts. Our tour guide gave two reasons for this, a) they have no oil (well apparently it's there but they choose not to use it) and b) they like their King.

We chose to do a 5 night guided tour, as no one was interested in braving the roads. We went through Jordan Tours - Travel & Tourism and the total cost ended up being just over $1,000 CAD each (in a 6 person group). This included all travel once we arrived in Jordan including airport pickup and drop off, visas, hotels, a full time guide, one dinner and breakfast at Wadi Rum and entrance fees to all the sites we visited. Our guide, Ahmad Atwah, was super knowledgeable and available to us 24h should we need him. We all thought the tour was amazing and felt like it was good value. While smoking is still allowed in hotel rooms so that made it a little gross, all the rooms were very clean and we were able to get a cot for Harriet to sleep in. We would recommend the the tour company if you were visiting Jordan 100%.

Why wouldn't you visit here?
Just sharing the space with a donkey
We flew into Amman on the first night, and were whisked through customs with a guide who got our visas all sorted for us. The next morning we were picked up from the hotel and taken straight to the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea shore is the lowest land point on earth, and because it's lower than sea level (over 400m below sea level) there's no drainage into the sea meaning salts accumulate. The salinity is over 34%, so the buoyancy is incredible. It was way more buoyant than you would expect, it's almost impossible to get your legs under as they just keep floating up. It also tastes worse than you would think. There are signs everywhere telling you to keep the water out of your mouth, but with 3 engineers in the group we weren't satisfied until we'd tasted it. It burns, and takes a good 15min for the bitterness to go away! It was not like eating a mouthful of salt. The Dead Sea was probably the highlight of the trip for me. It's hard to explain just how much you float, but I promise you'll be impressed. Harriet wasn't overly impressed with the Dead Sea, when she first went in she thought it was a giant bath and proceeded to splash herself in the face. She clearly didn't listen to Ahmad when he told us to keep it out of our eyes.
Swimming and reading
Dead Sea spa at the source
We then travelled up to Mt Nebo, which is a proposed location of where Moses died and was buried. It provides great views of the Holy Land and looks over many historically significant areas. We also visited Madaba, the City of Mosaics and saw what is thought to be one of the oldest maps in the world.
Mt Nebo
Black Iris - Jordan's National Flower
Our second day was spent entirely in Petra, a city which is build directly into the rock. A historically significant moment was when Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was filmed there!! *jokes*. It is here that you can really see how the conflicts have ruined the tourism industry in Jordan. You can visit one of the 7 Wonders of the World and be free of crowds. We were getting annoyed that single tourists wouldn't move out of our photos. Harriet met her first ever anti-fan, while we were waiting in the shade for everyone to come back from the monastery, some guy sitting behind us said "who brings a baby to Petra?". He was Australian, so obviously a dick. In response to his rude comments, anyone who wants to. Surprisingly people live there any have managed to raise children to adulthood.

Spirit Fingers at the Treasury
Princess H

It was cool when we left, as it was late in the afternoon and so the sun had changed positions on the Treasury. This meant that rather than a bright gold, it was rose coloured. Second highlight for me was the moment you walk through a ravine and see the Treasury for the first time. It truly takes your breath away. I had a similar feeling when I first saw the Colosseum, which really makes me want to check more of the 7 Wonders off my list.
We found Indy
The third day we visited Little Petra, which is another site about 20 minutes from Petra. We were literally the only other people there, aside from a Redbull Formula One car which was obviously filming some sort of ad or promo material. It was amazing to us to be in such a location, with literally no other tourists around.
Harriet has her people
A local at Little Petra making yarn with camel hair
From there we travelled further south to Wadi Rum, where we spent the night in a Bedouin Camp. This was technically "glamping" as our tents had double beds and bathrooms, and it was a beautiful night in the desert. We were cooked a traditional meal, which is similar to the hāngi in NZ. The meats and vegetable are cooked in the ground surrounded by hot coals. It was obviously delicious! The next morning we were up at 5am to see the sun rise after a short camel ride. I'm still unsure about camel riding, and how kind it is, but these guys weren't whipped or beaten and they were generally left to roam free when they weren't being used. This was the only time on the trip where H didn't have her own cot, but we managed to get her to sleep boxed in with suitcases. I think by this point she could pretty much sleep anywhere.
Desert tea is the best tea
Our tent on the inside
Watching the moon rise with Lex in the desert
After the sunset in Wadi Rum
Sunrise camel ride
After Wadi Rum we travelled to Aqaba, and had a quick snorkel in the Red Sea. We were told it's some of the best in the world and weren't disappointed. Another nice part of the lack of tourists, is the water was quite clean. You didn't come out with a layer of oil on your skin which was pleasant. While we were there, a group of school girls were also visiting. According to our guide they were from a small town in Jordan and had clearly not met tourists before. We were considered extremely interesting, likely partly because of our skin and partly our choice of swimwear. I told O'Hara to take some tips from the girls who stood in the change room staring at me get changed saying "I love you" over an over. They were all really sweet, and even with the significant language barrier, we kept them entertained. Harriet and I got to have a sing-a-long with around 8 girls while the rest were snorkeling, which was another highlights for us. After visiting some markets at Aqaba and stocking up on dates (obviously) we made the long drive back to Amman watching the sunset over Jerusalem where we spent the night before flying out the following morning.

This was after I said I was Australian. They went mental splashing me
We had a fabulous time, and would honestly recommend the country and the tour company. Travelling with Harriet was also ok. She was exhausted by the time we got back as she was forced to have her naps in the car (not her favourite) and we were often in bed late, but she managed with no ill effects. She also struggled a little with the food, as there isn't a lot of vegetables. One day I think she only ate Hobnobs... but since being back she's been eating normally, so we didn't ruin her temperamental toddler pallet! 

Update from Alexis: "I would like to make a slight amendment to your blog..."Travelling with Harriet was also ok"...ummm H is a legend!!! She rolled with the punches, she received an obscene about of attention from the locals (it was like she had her own paparazzi), we were all deprived of vegetables and I think she complained the least about it, and given the broken nap times she cried less than I have while in the midst of studying for my exams. Also you and O'Hara are incredibly calm parents, so I would like to give you, O'Hara and H more credit than "it was ok"... it was AWESOME!"

So Alexis is obviously amazing, and this is why H loves her so.


  1. amazing..review your article was very nice and interesting, good work

  2. Hi Emily 😊
    I'm sujud from Jordan.. Always,Welcome to you in Jordan..In the next time,visit us in (At-Tafilla to see Dana Nature Reserve.. It's very wonderful and we will enjoying to see you 😊 😘)

  3. Hi Emily 😊
    I'm sujud from Jordan.. Always,Welcome to you in Jordan..In the next time,visit us in (At-Tafilla to see Dana Nature Reserve.. It's very wonderful and we will enjoying to see you 😊 😘)

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