Explore Product Manager for the Middle East and Africa, Daniela Pontis, recently had the chance to make a long-awaited return to Jordan, here she shares her experience.
"I had been lucky enough to visit Jordan briefly years ago and ever since then I've longed to revisit this enchanting country.
My first visit made me instantly fall in love with the mosaic of colours of the Wadi Rum desert, the beauty of the carved tombs in Petra and the atmospheric city of Amman. However, I knew that if I wanted my next visit to have depth, it was only worth travelling ‘Explore style’. It allowed me to delve under the skin of the country and to truly connect with its remarkable landscapes, people and history.
While in Jordan, I experienced for myself the many reasons our tour, Lawrence's Arabia, is one of the most popular trips in the brochure. Discover some with me!
Petra needs no introduction. The ‘Rose Red City half as old as time’ is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as one of the new wonders of the world. Often named as one of the places that you should see before you die, this ancient city carved in the rocks has retained its grandeur throughout the centuries.
The famous Treasury, miraculously well preserved, is accessed through a narrow and dark gorge, called the siq, which makes your first glimpse of it even more spectacular. Accompanied by my knowledgeable guide Mohamed, I was fascinated thinking that it had been kept secret for centuries by the locals and only revealed to the west by a Swiss explorer in 1812. It’s not hard to understand why the locals wanted to keep it for themselves. The Nabateans had developed a sophisticated system to make the most of the perennial stream, as well as the water coming from flash floods, through cisterns, canals and dams, a real oasis in the middle of an inhospitable desert.
I pictured how the city must have looked when the Nabatean Empire chose it for its strategic position. It’s not hard to imagine caravans loaded with frankincense, spices and textiles making their way through the siq. A thunderstorm that initially seemed a nuisance turned into a highlight for me, as most visitors decide to leave the site. I had Petra all for myself and was able to observe how the rain water is collected by this advanced water distribution system.
It would be a crime to only spend a day in this unbelievable place. People tend to think that Petra is ‘only’ about the Treasury and they are absolutely blown away (as I was!) when they discover the temple, theatre and myriad of tombs that wait to be explored. From the comfortable Explore hotel, just a few steps away from the action, I came back to make the most of my two days in this fabled city.
Considered one of the most spectacular deserts in the world and occupies a region of 74,000 hectares. Eroding the friable sandstone, the wind has produced a striking landscape characterised by narrow gorges, natural bridges, towering cliffs, caves and of course, sand dunes. Reflecting the sunlight, multi-layered rocks reward the visitor with the most unbelievable palette of colours: ochre, orange, pink and red, depending on the time of the day. It’s a photographers dream and a timeless jewel.
The Bedouins learnt to live with this hostile environment over 3000 years ago, choosing the partnership of camels for their survival. They understood the importance of keeping on the move and interpreting the elements, in order to find food and water.
Travelling Explore style means truly embracing the desert experience in its authenticity and to have the once in a lifetime opportunity to live the lifestyle that the nomadic people have been following for millennia. Unlike many tour operators, which transfer by bus on the main road, we started our exploration of the desert travelling off-road on a jeep from Petra to Wadi Rum. This was not only a great opportunity to make the most of our driving time, but it also gave us a unique chance to focus on the most spectacular and untouched part of Wadi Rum - the Northern area. The drive was exhilarating, through incredible rock formations, natural bridges and enormous sand dunes.
After sunset, the temperature plummeted, and it was time for a camp fire. This is the land of One Thousand and One Nights, where story-telling, while sipping mint and sage tea, is the best way to entertain. After a camel ride and the most incredible sunset, I was hypnotised by the sound of the Bedouin language around the fire. They were preparing a traditional zarb for me, which usually consists of a chicken or goat meal cooked under the desert sand. I was lucky enough to try both, as well as a yummy selection of mezze. The meat was moist, with a subtle barbecue flavour and so tender it fell off the bone. I am still savouring this magic moment!
At this time of the year it is still a bit too cold to sleep under the stars and the traditional Bedouin tent is a simple but cosy refuge against the elements. I felt safe and in harmony with the peaceful surroundings. The campsite, exclusive to Explore groups, was surrounded by the most incredible rock formations and provided fantastic views, being away from the touristy area. It was intimate and no lights can be seen or noises can be heard. I felt privileged and I understood why Explore customers rave about this place. I was sad to leave but my journey had to carry on…
Dead Sea and Amman
…to the lowest point on earth! It was time for a swim, or I should say a float, on the extremely saline waters of the Dead Sea. I took the opportunity for a quick natural beauty treatment on the private beach we use on our trips, (followed by a very necessary shower!) and I was ready to discover the vibrant Jordanian capital city.
In Amman, ancient and modern buildings, tradition and innovation meet, giving the city a distinct identity. I wondered in the antique shops, visited the best baklava patisserie and the oldest knafeh shop, before I finished my time in Jordan by enjoying a traditional Turkish bath. Another hard day in the office but someone has to do it!"
Find out more about our adventure holidays in Jordan.