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The Jewels of Jordan

Added 12 Nov 2013
The Jewels of Jordan

Explore's Michelle Laverick spent the October half-term in Jordan with her family. Here she shares her tales of escaping the British autumn for a week of Middle-eastern discovery.

"After a busy week at work, there was nothing I was looking forward to more than a relaxing week’s adventure to Jordan with the family. Personally, I was looking forward to swimming in the Dead Sea and spending the night camping in the desert. My husband was really looking forward to visiting Petra again (after his first visit 18 years ago) and the girls, well Ruby couldn’t wait to ride a camel and for Lily it was swimming in the Red Sea.

Escaping from the UK in October is a great way to extend the summer and even packing for warmer climes when it is raining outside gives me a buzz. And after only a short flight we arrived in Amman in the middle of the night, although I was a little shocked about how chilly it was – I was delighted that I’d packed fleeces for us all. Amman was our first port of call, where we would be spending a couple of nights before heading towards Petra and then sleeping under the stars in Wadi Rum before our final stop in Aqaba.

The start of the tour took in a visit to Jerash, which is a beautifully preserved Roman city. We had an easy guided tour around the city and the tour leader (Mo) ensured that the level of detail was just perfect for the kids. He even organised some name games to help the kids bond early on – we needed a similar game to help the adults remember each others names too! We also had some free time to wander around the ruins ourselves which the kids loved as it is like a big playground.

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The next day was my day, with a visit to the Dead Sea and it didn’t disappoint. The sea was a little cooler than I thought it would be and, though all the kids rushed straight in, it wasn’t long until they ran back out and could be seen sat on the beach! The stinging that you experience with even the slightest cut was too much for some and they looked on whilst we relaxed and floated… I was told that you can’t actually swim in the Dead Sea (it is not easy to keep your feet under the water), although this turned out to not be quite true.
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After the water, it was time to smother ourselves in mud! This was an amazing experience – although only a couple of kids joined the mums' and dads' mud smothering session. The mud was so smooth and it was so easy to cover yourself from head to toe. As it dried, it cracked and although it is meant to make your look 10 years younger, at times I looked 10 years older! After another soak in the sea to wash off the mud, it was time to let the kids have their time at the freshwater swimming pool. This gave us a couple of hours to relax in the sun, not something I’m used to on an Explore tour – but it was fantastic.

Next was Petra. I didn’t know a great deal about Petra and I was a little concerned about how long we were going to stay here - would there be enough to do? Based on a picture of the Treasury that is hanging on the wall in my living room (taken during my husband's last visit 18 years ago), I thought this was all there was to the site. How wrong I was to worry; the scale of it blew me away. It is a massive city and the Treasury really is just one of many amazing sites to see. The walk to the Treasury is around three kilometres and as you walk through the Siq with the walls towering high above, the colours and the shapes are truly amazing. As you exit the Siq you are met with the truly impressive sight of the Treasury.
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It was beautiful, but I think my highlight was on the second day when we took the 635 steps up to the High Place of Sacrifice. The views were amazing over the whole site and you really felt that you were off the beaten track, discovering new ruins for yourself. I also loved having to chase the kids up the steps as they raced each other to get to the top and listening to their laughter as they ran in and out of the tombs – calling out to each other and listening to the echoes of their voices. One of the best ways to describe Petra, from a kid’s point of view, is that it is a massive playground, where no one is telling you 'don’t do this and don’t do that'! Although I had doubts about how much time we were spending there, two days was perfect. It gave us time on the first day to explore the main sites (and the kids could have a mule ride when their legs were tired) and the second day we could explore more off the beaten track. I loved the few days that we spent in Petra, and although I climbed Kilimanjaro a few months ago, my legs hurt more after walking around Petra for two days!

Our journey into the desert was by Jeep and the laughter (and screams) were deafening as we traversed over the sand dunes. We stopped to climb several dunes and then race down which we all loved; it is amazing how competitive everyone can be. The scenery was amazing and our journey ended at our camp for the night, which consisted of one huge tent where we would all sleep – unless you wanted to brave the chilly evening and sleep outside. After some exploring it was time to ride across the desert like Lawrence of Arabia on camel back. This was truly a memorable experience as camels do tend to have a mind of their own and the experience of getting on and off can be quite daunting. It was great fun and once again the laughter heard across the group was infectious.
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After sunset and dinner, we gazed at the stars in the sky before returning to sit around the camp fire telling stories and learning about Bedouin traditions. After a while everyone drifted off to bed, with only a couple opting to sleep under the stars.

After breakfast we were off to Aqaba. Here we had the opportunity to go snorkelling in the Red Sea and also explore Aqaba on our own. My true memory from Aqaba and Jordan in general, has been the hospitality of the locals. It was incredible. Every shop owner invited us in for tea and there was no pressure to buy their local wares. We were even invited into the local bakery to see how pitta is made – which was an amazing experience for the kids – the cakes were pretty good too.

Our break in Jordan was fantastic, the weather was perfect, the tour leader was great and the tour had so much variety that there really is something for all the family. The hospitality was impressive and the people were massively friendly too. There was also no hassle from the locals and ‘no’ did mean no. The kids had a great time, although I have now been told that we are not allowed to go on a one-week tour anymore as it is too short and when they were having so much fun together they had to go home!"

Michelle travelled on The Lost City of Petra (FJD) tour.