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Digging into the treasures of Jordan

Below one of our fellow Explorers shares her experience on discovering Jordan.
Written by Aimee White who interviewed Sian
Date Published: 14 May 2024
 
Our Treasures of Jordan tour sees you journey through the country's rich history in authentic comfort. We caught up with Sian to find out more about her Explore trip. From exploring rock-carved Petra and camping in the Wadi Rum desert to snorkelling in the Red Sea, read on to discover her take on Jordan... 

How would you sum up Jordan in one word?

Variety. One minute you're taking in the rock-carved city of Petra; the next you're tasting fresh almond fruit in Amman; and the next you're snorkelling in the Red Sea. I hadn't expected Jordan to be so varied, so I was very pleasantly surprised.

What was your top highlight of the trip?

Our tour leader, Abdallah, guided us around Petra on day four of the tour. He showed us towering canyons, a sprawling ancient amphitheatre and the iconic Treasury, with its imposing façade carved into the rock. The next day, we had a free day to explore Petra for ourselves, so I got up at 7am and walked down to Petra. 

Everywhere was so quiet and I saw everything in a different light; even the colours of the Treasury looked darker. I've seen loads of photographs of Petra's famous structures, but seeing it for myself and without anyone else there was simply mesmerising.

Did you learn any new skills or try a new activity on this trip?

One night, we camped in the Wadi Rum desert and in the morning, we went on a camel ride across the dunes. This desert landscape covers a whopping 74,000 acres, and going at sunrise made everything look so serene - it was the perfect way to start the day.

We also went snorkelling in the Red Sea, which was an amazing experience. I'm not a confident swimmer, but they had life jackets and people in the water with you, so I felt very safe. 

How did you find your tour leader?

My tour leader, Abdallah, was amazing. There was no question he couldn't answer! His knowledge and passion shone through wherever we went. He leads these tours every week with passion, and it's like we're with him discovering everything we're seeing for the first time.

He really went out of his way to look after us, from stopping at pharmacies to recommending places to eat. It felt like we experienced the 'real' Jordan. I found the area wasn't too crowded with tourists, which seemed a shame. Abdallah showed us how we could help the locals, whether it was dining at authentic restaurants or buying from local vendors.

What’s something you wish you knew before you went?

I didn't know very much about Jordan before I went on this trip. I wish I'd read up on the basics beforehand, so I could appreciate it more in person. Still, I learned so much from Abdallah - especially in terms of the country's history - so I felt like I understood Jordan better by the end.

Can you give us a fun fact?

 

"You can't really see it in photographs, but on the façade of the Treasury, there are loads of bullet holes."
 


According to Abdallah, many people once thought there was real gold inside one of the urns (which sit inside the Treasury) and tried shooting at it to try and get their hands on the treasure. 

And another fun fact: I learned that camels can run faster than horses over shorter distances - up to 40mph, in fact!

What were your fellow Explorers like?

Our small group tour consisted of nine people, with ages ranging from 20s to late 70s. I think our group summed up the beauty of group travel, because you never know who you're going to be on a trip with, but listening to everyone's stories about what inspired them to travel was fascinating. 

They came from all walks of life, but what connected everyone was how these small group tours are ideal for them now. I would say there was a balanced mix of spending time together as well as seeing and doing things separately. We mostly ate meals together, but did our own thing when it came to the optional activities.

What was like getting around the destination?

We had one minibus that we used for the whole trip, so we didn't need to use any public transport, and meant we could leave items onboard.
 
There was a water tank on the minibus so we could refill our water bottles for free. Abdallah showed us where they cleaned and refilled the tanks with fresh, filtered water (you can't drink the tap water in Jordan) so this was a sustainable way of staying hydrated.

What would you recommend packing for this trip?

I would recommend packing water shoes for the Dead Sea, because the salt rocks in the water are tough on your feet. You can buy them while you're out there, though. On the same theme, pack supportive sandals or trainers for walking around. I also wore a light scarf as it protected my face in the desert. 

What extras did you have to pay for?

Any optional activities you want to do, that aren't included in the trip price. I chose to see Petra by night, which I would definitely recommend. Others in the group said their favourite optional activity was seeing Little Petra, a small village around 14km north of the Treasury. It's a smaller version of its famous neighbour, with rock-cut tombs, caves and vendors selling souvenirs.

We essentially paid for anything we wanted to do in our free time, as well as paying for most of our own meals. For this, I'd recommend bringing enough cash with you. 

Would this tour suit solo travellers?

Absolutely. It was my first ever solo travel trip. As soon as I arrived at Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, there's already someone standing there with an Explore sign, waiting to sort out your visas. "You're completely looked after from the moment you get there." 

You spend so much time with your group that you get to know everyone. Even outside of the group I made friends; on my free day in Petra, I got chatting with a woman who was travelling by herself. She wanted someone to walk with, so we walked about an hour together to the Treasury. 

There’s no information signs, though, so going with a tour leader makes such a difference. In fact, I found myself giving her my own little tour, based on what Abdallah had said! That's the good thing about group travel - you're constantly learning as you explore. 

What was your most memorable moment?

My most memorable moment was in Wadi Rum. You're in this vast desert and it feels like you're on Mars; you're surrounded by desert so although there's not much there physically, there's still so much to take in. It's difficult to describe. 

It's very quiet there, too, which added to the other-worldliness of it all. As I stood there, feeling the wind tickling my face, I thought to myself, "how am I here right now?". We were there for around four hours, and we also travelled by 4WD vehicle. 

Where to next?
I really want to go on our Highlights of Sri Lanka tour next. I've never been to Asia before, and I'm keen to check out the wildlife, beaches and culture.
Take me to Sian's Jordan trip

Sian's top things to do in Jordan

1. Kerak
Along the King's Highway between Amman and Petra lies Kerak. The city is best-known for Kerak Castle, a famous Crusader castle that was built for the Holy War against Islam in the 12th century. I loved learning about its history and exploring the passageways.

2. Mosaic workshop
We went to a mosaic workshop in Madaba, called Nebo’s Pearl, and watched the employees create incredibly intricate designs. The tesserae tiles are so small that the finished product looks more like a painting!

3. Snorkelling in the Red Sea
Go snorkelling in the Red Sea, just off the beach in Aqaba. It's a playground of underwater fun - we even saw clownfish and pufferfish!

4. Wadi Rum
The vast desert of Wadi Rum has the most incredible colours. You can take in the dunes by camel ride or 4WD vehicle - both exhilarating experiences. We stayed overnight at a traditional Bedouin camp, where we stargazed around the central fire pit. 

5. Petra by night
Seeing Petra by night added such a magical touch to this trip. Follow the candelit Siq trail to see all the ancient structures and natural features in a completely different light. Then, you finally reach the Treasury, which is lit up by night, and enjoy sipping local tea and listening to locals playing traditional music..