Petra Cave inside

Jordan: Friendly country, friendly people

By Nima Gupta

Exploring Jordan:

Thinking of history and relating to the era which was based on dream, wishes and public welfare, planning and concern of your own people with a patriotic approach towards your motherland, go to Mediterranean. Many people still believe that the Jordan is in Middle East and a part of GCC, which is not the fact. There are many countries in this area of the world which have amalgamation of European and Asian culture and as per my understanding, Jordan is one of these countries with rich history, background, flora and fauna resembling the rich heritage of being human and not machine. If you have emotions, care for others, smile for strangers, concern for mankind and nature, ease to approach and affectionate feeling, you have every reason to visit Jordan without any hesitation.

Nima and me never believed on the bookish things and always felt that lets go and see and tell people what’s the fact out there. Hence here we are sharing the information’s and pictures of the real experience of more than half of the Jordan areas with treks and balloon ride as special events. To be frank I developed interest in mysterious Nabateans who can be studied for any research work to go deep in their minds and conducts.

Nima always does the virtual reconnaissance of the area we want to visit and which was mainly planned for desert and historical places from middle to southern part of Jordan as Phase-1 of our exploration of the interesting nation. Phase -2 will be later which will cover wetland and wildlife regions.

Approach and Plan:

  1. Booking of Air-Ticket by Royal Jordanian Airlines as other airlines were taking too

    much time to commute to Jordan. Moreover we always feel its better to travel a national carrier rather than a cheaper option if you are going for the first time in any country.

  2. Enquiry for Visa and got it confirmed that for Indians, its on arrival and costing Jordanian Dinar 20 per person

  3. Nima finalized the places and contacted many individuals with our own plan and she connected a like-minded person who was flexible and practical with flexible approach and open view. He was Hani and a known person in Jordan for his activities related to human behavior, humane approach and concern for softer issues of life blended with concern for environment.

We finalized the plan with his consent and it came out to be as follows;

  • Historical Places like Karak and Petra
  • Trek in Petra for a full day for approximately 10 km with tea breaks
  • Petra by night (Being organized on certain days and we chose on
  • Wednesday)
  • Turkish bath at genuine spa run by locals and not by ‘professionals’
  • Understanding unique Wadi –Rum desert with night stay in private Bedouin
  • tents and trekking for a day
  • Ballooning over the majestic Wadi-Rum and observing the geological
  • wonders from 5000 feet above the ground level
  • Next day venturing near the lowest point on the earth and altimeter of my
  • watch recorded -400 meter below MSL near Dead Sea. All these can be termed as the life time experiences for us though we have travelled across the breadth and length of our great nation India.
  • In the last we planned to see the Amman in real sense venturing the old part of city and interacting with the people out on the street. There were common tourist places such as Citadel and Roman Amphitheatre make a point that Citadel closes at 1600 hrs. and Amphitheatre closes at 1700 hrs.

4. Hospitality at Amman cannot be expressed in words as we felt like home with affectionate family of Hani. Dinner was as memorable as the Amman and moreover being vegetarian we never felt that the dinner was prepared by a great lady with all her love and feelings for Indian guests. Warmth for India was unfolded by Hani’s uncle as he sang a Hindi song ‘Tere man Ki Ganga Aur Mere Man Ki Jamuna Ka, Bol Radhe Bol Sangam Hoga Ki Nahi’........

So we can now easily divide the salient points of the whole voyage we called Exploring Jordan.....

  • Area covered: this can be seen in not to scale route.

  • Currency: Jordanian Dinar is a costly currency and we converted little to pay the Visa Fees on arrival which was 20 JD per person

Accommodation

  • PETRA: Hotel Panorama
  • WADI-RUM: Bedouins tent o DEAD SEA: Dead Sea Spa
  • AMMAN: In car only

Vehicles 

  • ON-ROAD was Toyota Fortuner 4X4
  • OFF-ROAD was also Toyota which we used to see in Afghanistan and other desert areas. This vehicle was used in Wadi-Rum only

Food: vegetarian only but this place is good for all and mainly for non-vegetarian

Restaurants and stalls

  • Karak
  • Dana
  • Petra
  • Wadi-Rum
  • Dead sea
  • Amman

Places

  • Karak: Castle
  • Dana: Village
  • Petra: Petra, Turkish bath Spa
  • Wadi Rum: Desert and camps
  • Dead Sea
  • Amman: Citadel and Amphitheatre

Road conditions: Excellent with max speed 110 kmph

Activities

  • Trekking
  • Photography
  • Turkish Bath
  • Ballooning
  • Cross Country
  • Desert safari
  • Chariot Riding
  • Cooking in desert
  • Stay in Bedouin place and eating with them

Tickets: No ticket for camera anywhere o

  • Karak Castle =1 JD P.P
  • Petra Hidden City Entry ticket which includes one way horse ride=50 JD P.P.
  • Petra at Night entry ticket=12 JD P.P.
  • Wadi-Rum Entry Ticket
  • Balloon (Must be booked in advance, we were lucky that there were three absent person and we could sneaked in). Only one Balloon with 16 people per day per flight. They decide strictly on weather condition by a small test balloon and after sunrise only. It takes 2-3 hours for the whole process. =130 JD P.P.

Challenges

  • Vegetarian food : Not much options if you like oily and north Indian vege

food but no problem with non-veg.

  • Cost:1JD maybe equal to INR80 or so
  • Time for Petra: You must have 2 minimum days with knowledge of Petra at night days
  • Petra at Night on the same day: is a tiring affair
  • Hot water of Turkish bath: Be sure that you are comfortable with hot water if you are going for such bath. It’s quite different and soothing.

Vegetation : Country have green patches and grow vegetables and even export to neighboring countries

Geology: Amazing geology, mudflows, volcanic flows, desert, hills, undulated countryside, vast expanses of laterites and mineral deposits and many more.

  • People: Very friendly and good for the guests and tourists.
  • Wild-life: They have RSCN and focus on environment sustainability.
  • Memories: Permanent and very good image at first instance
    • Tea at all the place with desert herbs
    • Vegetarian dishes
    • Fresh and tasty local Olive oil
    • Olive trees and fruits such as Fig, apple and many more
    • Geography and country sites quite different and attracting o Exceptional geology
    • Water at dead sea was a study in itself
    • Desert of Wadi rum cannot be compared anywhere in the world o Train at Wadi-Rum railway station was a replica of Indian past

Suggestions

  • Minimum Two days at Petra
  • Turkish Bath after trek in Petra may be much soothing as there is lot to see and explore which make you exhausted to core

How it went...

We started from Kuwait and Reported to the RJ flight counter which opens just two hours before the departure and we had to wait in Queue. It was hassle free check-in and lady asked for the Visa on arrival option. We knew that the visa fees will be in JD so we already got some of the JD with us to avoid delay in immigration process at Amman. I informed Hani by SMS about boarding the plane. We asked for vegetarian refreshment on board and it was served to us. Plane landed on time and we were through the immigration within 30 minutes of arrival. Visa granted to us was for a week while our plan was for 5 days. They checked the return ticket and about our plan. Since we had a spare copy of itinerary, we showed to them and there was no question asked. A charming guy with ponytail was waiting outside with my name plate. He appeared confident and well informed about the activities to be undertaken by us. He was Hani, our host, friend, navigator and guide for the tour and honestly we liked him.

We started our Journey from Queen Alia International Airport, Amman to Karak with a request to have tea and snacks at any clean roadside facility. It was our first encounter with the surrounding of Jordan. The desert highway was quite good and nice landscape featuring the richness of soil and vast expanses of countryside. It never felt choking in the throat as there was an ease in the wind. Weather was like Bangalore and it was quite pleasant to drive in Toyota Fortuner with open windows. I never thought of driving without AC in this part of the world and in fact it was asked by my friend on board what will I prefer and preference with open windows was full of local soils smell and brought immediate picture in mind about the richness of moist soil expanding till horizon. After one hour drive we stopped at a place which was showing Petra and Wadi Rum Signboards. And there come surprise for us; the hardcore vegetarians who even don’t eat eggs. It was hummus (paste of sesame seeds, chick peas garnished with olive oil and roasted ground nuts), green salad, pickle like greens, Khobus (Roti/Bread) and nice tea with desert herbs inside. Tea drinker may refer here that the tea in this region is mainly without milk and brewed with herbs and tea leaves properly and neatly so that no bitter taste is remained in the liquor. First it was difficult to understand the paste type hummus and to eat but we developed that taste so much it became my staple food till the end of tour. Water was real costly @ 1JD per one liter bottle.

Karak

We started our Journey forward to Karak on desert highway and reached there after witnessing the simplicity of the region. There was a nice calm everywhere and no irritating behavior. Town started a bit earlier and we were lost in small town’s traffic but it was not noisy with honking horns and restlessness. We had a feeling that people around have comfortable life style and not rushing for anything. We reached the Castle and it was not the big deal for any Indian like me who has seen many gorgeous forts back in India. But there was a history here and that cannot be denied. Since it was just over the mid-day light, obliviously not suitable for monument shooting but we manipulated the light as much as we could. There was interesting road view from the castle and many caving to use them as frames for the background scene. These passages were cool and quite comfortable which I thought would be suffocating. There were many tourists but we remember one central school teacher from London who was there with his British companion matching and noting all the minute details about the castle and verifying the same with the notes available with them. Later we met the same couple near Monastery in Petra and we found them again ticking the list with them.

After feeling the history in Castle we preferred to see the local market and people around and we preferred to walk on street while vehicle started following us. There was a person using old style knitting yarns and looked quite relaxed sitting with the colorful thread balls. It was surprising for us that the people were so friendly as they even greeted us and showed all the shops by switching on even power without worrying about anything. Best thing what I observed that they never had any suspicion or sense of casual approach towards people like us. People even posed for the photos for Nima also and there were young people around sitting near the main squire and just relaxing.

Dana

Now we moved towards Petra and planned to see en route one of the oldest village Dana and even wished to have tea and snacks at that old place. The village Dana was supported by UN agencies for heritage purposes and projects were running there, however there were not many people residing there as the village was not livable from our point of view. We went to small hotel type arrangement....Tower Hotel...and again enjoyed the same menu as in the morning. The best thing was that the availability of mobile signal anywhere and

This village was situated at a lower altitude than the highway and we descended a lot to reach there.

Petra

Now it was time for Petra and even before reaching Petra, Nima started preparing for Turkish bath at the place meant for authentic gestures. Feel of city of Petra was quite different with nicest roads and clean approach. This is a Bangalore type undulated city but with small population and calmness in the air, it was soothing and relaxing even before designated bath. We checked-in our Hotel Panorama, and within Ten minutes we were ready for the bath. The place Solomon Turkish bath was not much far and we reached there in 10 minutes. It is a family work and all the male members of family were engaged in the whole affair.

On arrival they offered a safety box with designated key for putting all the important things inside and placing the bangle type key on individual wrist. We were taken to a common room where we were asked to wear our own shorts (for me) or costumes (for Nima). Though we knew that but we did not want to wet ours and then there was provision for body towel for female and shorts for males. Mind it after changing the cloths all have to be in same room and there were many girls with bikini or swimsuits which never felt bad at all. I put-on the short of my size (Cleaned and properly placed) and Nima wrapped the towel and we were taken to the room with steam around and having visibility of 60%. Don’t say that its common in and high end sauna, this is incomparable. Temperature at the top level was of the order of 850C with a 10 degree lower grading towards floor. Initially I felt uncomfortable as I am habitual of having bath with cold throughout the year, but later there was no problem. Please note that we were only two Indians in whole lot of people while rests of them were either European or other westerners. The whole experience cannot be described but experienced and we recommend enjoying this experience without fail. Cost per person for the whole activity is 24 JD which is worth as it cleans even unwanted thoughts from your mind. The whole process of heating, cooling, annihilation, massage and final bath takes around 90 minutes and later they offer good herbal tea which is refreshing and soothing. Family is quite humorous and knowledgeable and they never did any shortcut for any process. I can say it was an overall divine experience for us. It was time for dinner and we went to a rooftop restaurant and for our utter surprise he greeted us with ‘Kaise Hain, Sab Thik Hai Na’ and I guessed he knew that line only but was really connecting. There were different Salads, hummus, Rice, Potato and support items and we only demanded one thing that it has to be vegetarian. It was good day and even better relaxed night for us. Tomorrow we have to trek around 12 Km exploring each possible details in less than a day and even night till 2300 hrs.

Petra city

Petra is that part of history which reflects the genius of mankind and their understanding of life and its interaction with the surroundings. Using nature for such sustainability level needed great Vision and planning and involvement of people from their inner consciousness and spirit.

We planned to start our journey just after 0830 hrs after purchasing the Ticket for 50JD each. Please note that cost of this ticket also include onside horse ride from gate to the horse resting point near entry to Petra city which we were not in mood of enjoying. Do not forget to take small map and description available with the ticket as it is quite helpful in moving without guide. You can also use the Horse Chariot by paying 20 JD if do not wish to do horse riding or trek. All the arrangements are well planned and executed. They verify the ticket at the gate and make sure you should be ahead of any big group as they bore you while getting briefs from their guide and flocking the monuments or ‘Golden City of Past Glory’ to be precise. I cannot describe Petra but can explain through the photographs we took with our cameras and I will recommend universal lenses (18-105, 18-200) for SLR if you are not in mood of carrying bulky stuffs though I carried all the combinations like 17-35, 85, 70-300,200-400, 50, 18-55, 18-105 as we had two Nikon SLR with common lenses and in that case I have to carry the stuff being senior.

I carried two HD Movie cameras and a pair of compacts also for our own photos through common public. I was quite sure we will be burning more than 20 GB during this trek only and that was the reality as there is so much to shoot you cannot imagine. Petra gives pose at every moment with such a great detailing which mesmerized us. We moved ahead while observing the man-made caves and natural mudstones sculptures are different from any of the historical places and gave me a different concept of Geology and Geography as a whole. I knew the presence of high current flowing in this region and can see the chemical veining

everywhere with sedimentation of many minerals and clay deposits and destruction by water and flash flood or even seismic activities. Flow of water seemed to be so high it eliminated many of that time constructions and structures which was clearly visible from many expressions of remains and natural tears. After a traverse in open area with muddy sculptures and caves and carvings, we entered into the real exciting areas of fissure, fractured and naturally split formation with excellently made sit-outs and habitat areas inside them. It seemed such a plan that you can eliminate whole army with some of yours soldiers and little efforts as the control over the path is quite simple with vertical hilly walls and narrow natural alleys made by meandering river stream of that time. This was a fairly cooler place and quite attractive too from photographic point of view and we took our time to do so. Suddenly, a different scene appeared between the narrow paths of two vertical hills. This was Treasury area and a marvel of architectural design of that time. We were amazed to see that and even there were three levels visible but from that angle only two could be shot as the third one is underground and isolated from public but visible.

After spending around 30 minutes and shooting all around we moved forward towards the lost city areas which was a herculean task for tired Nima, but we again sipped light tea and moved ahead. If you see the related photos you can very well understand the quality of life these great Nabateans lived in fully ventilated and lighted caves and living places with all arrangement for community sit-outs and meetings.

There are many places to stop and shoot and history is scattered before you inviting to soak in the time when it would have been at the best and still reflect the rich past............
’Ruins are speaking the beauty of the past’........ We reached the Amphitheatre and it was another marvel of architecture. I don’t know I have not seen things like this in my life. A full city below the history and with such great and vast planning and housekeeping which speak out the vision of those people who really thought of each and every comfort of life right from the water management, market places, worships, township management, entertainment, community work and public addressing etc. Moving ahead we witnessed the river and the main city which is having a city centre with marble road and temple to the left side and river to the right. Main road enters the approach towards the city area and one road branching out for a Church located at a bit higher place. We shot too many photos at this place as it was the centre of the ancient city and from this point you can look everywhere. After taking tea at this place we moved toward the high hills.

Monastery: This was the toughest part of our trek as it was through the narrow passages between the high hills and we were not aware of the exact distance. Many people were using horses and ponies. They were usually charging 10-20 JD per person for a ride of 30-40 minutes. As we started reaching at higher points, different formations with deep gorges were visible and at places you can see the small plains. There were many stalls selling local things though it is a UNESCO heritage site and these activities are generally banned at such places , but it is the human character which never cares for the cause but for its own survival first. Slowly but steadily we reached the Monastery and it was again a marvel of history which was properly maintained and there was canteen nearby serving tea and snacks for the visitors and it was quite soothing to sit and admire this place. We were now thinking of going back after seeing the highest point from where whole area can be seen but it was a bit misty and hazy around. We started descending and again travelling through same narrow passes and knee pressuring hills, we reached the temple area. We reached the treasury area and decided to take tea again. It was nearly 5 pm in the evening and Petra closes after sunset. We were ready with our trekking headlamps but there was no requirement as we made it in time. While coming back to the main gate we enjoyed small ride on Horse Chariot and again walked back to the main entrance of Petra. Nima was really tired and irritated but both of us were satisfied for what we achieved on this day. A walk in the history though this was never in my plan of things. I never thought of visiting Petra but it happened for us. I contacted Hani and we went to hotel for relaxing and readying for Petra by Night adventure where we have to again walk till Treasury area in Candle light only.

Petra by Night

Petra by Night programme is not a daily affair and happens on certain days of the week and it was Wednesday when we went for it. We advance purchased the Petra by night tickets through Hani for JD 12 per person and after having dinner we again reached Petra by 8.30pm. We were having our headlamps for emergency and cameras. Nima was tired mentally as she knew the distance to walk and reach the treasury. It was a moonlit night and Candle covered with the paper lanterns were placed on both sides of the road and we were walking in between. It was different experience and we were told that it takes 90 minutes to finish the whole episode. We reached treasury area which was fully lit with the candles and people were sitting on ground witnessing magical treasury building and shimmering candles.

Organizers have arranged the mats for sitting and there were many people to see this. None was aware about the programme. Suddenly surrounding became peacefully dark and a song started floating in the air, magical voice with deep effect and soothing node. Musical instrument was adding divine effect and what you can hear in addition to this was the shutter noises. Flute was the second instrument played by the local artist and in no way it can be compared with a normal flute player. This was different and coming from deep inside. There was English commentary about the whole activity and later tea was served to us which made us feel better and a bit chilly surrounding. It was a night to remember when synchronized photographs were taken through camera flash lighting and I shot the episode with enhanced bracketing as there was very less light. Slowly we walked back to the main entrance and returned to hotel for taking rest and preparing for Wadi Rum tomorrow.

Petra to Wadi-Rum

Nima was very excited about the Wadi-Rum but since she was very tired for the day, she decided that we will move after 0900 hrs. with full relaxing night. Ultimately we could start from Petra by 0945 and went to some panoramic point trying to see Petra again from city. That was the mystery of Petra, if you are not aware of the Petra, you cannot imagine that such a huge city is present behind these hills. This is the hidden city and planned by those wise people who cared for safety, security and welfare of their own people. Bye-bye Petra and we hit the road again for Wadi-Rum.

Road to Wadi –Rum was similar except at places you can have panoramic view which was indicating the variable surface geology and it looks like that nature have sprinkled the color as per her mood. Suddenly we started spotting the sudden changes in the topography and small weathered hills appeared in the view. To our utter surprise we saw a rail line and followed the same till a cute and tiny railway station. It was Wadi-Rum station. We were told that there was regular train service in the past but now only goods service is running. It was a clean steam engine standing with its all charm and beauty and we could see the meter gauge steam engine in Jordan. One bird uses to sit over the exhaust of the engine and was enjoying the daily routine as there was no effect of human presence and we were not disturbing at all.

We further moved towards the place where we bought the ticket and moved in the Wadi Rum area. After criss-crossing the road and desert area we reached a small town where we found our host, a Bedouin family waiting for us. We had tea and little breakfast and took a real desert Toyota for our journey into the real Wadi Rum area. We planned to have lunch inside the desert after cooking there only.

Though I have training on desert driving but the real challenges are faced by these Bedouins who know each and every part of this amazing desert and can negotiate any turn and sand without even feeling of getting stuck within it. First we went to see our camp and night stay which was a combination of tent and cave shelter at a place near the desert path road. To our utter surprise, we were provided with a toilet and water supply which was not a part of our deal and also a double bed in our tent. It was a different experience as we are used to the tent life while doing many treks and everywhere we sleep on ground with padding of tarpaulins and blankets, but this was different and they have taken too much pain to arrange the same. We just inspected the place and moved inside the Wadi rum area and it was a fascinating experience. I have never seen any such place in my Geoscientific career of more than twenty years across the India and many international treks. I was getting a feel of Lava flow, lost river and mighty floods which may have created these features. But as a poet, I can see that the nature has used fine chisel to carve such features which we human can never imagine. You can find all the shapes like temple, masjid, gurudwara and church here and a great harmony among them. There are many sand dunes dotted with little places seem to be wet zones and water accumulation areas and we witness one water hole coming from seepages of mighty formations and cracks. We stopped our vehicle and started our journey of a life time in majestic desert of Wadi-Rum. I cannot explain the scenes and request you to refer the photos and soak in such natural wonder.

We witnessed many well organized camp and places which are commercially planned for tourists and looked permanent for trekking and other related activities such as Camel safari, horse riding and motor sports in desert. After 2-3 hours we planned to eat something and we found that our host has roasted carrot, potato, onion, ladies finger and many other local vegetables and provided us with salt and pepper. We found a different taste in it though we are habitual of eating these things back in Indian villages but as we use to say that the difference in taste is related to soil and water of the area and which is absolutely true. Call it the taste of nature but , it was different.

We moved ahead to see some of the mural arts present over the rocks in desert and you can see the same in picture. Looks to us a small story which depicts the caravan and people on move and they stopped and some of them sketched the figures. I don’t understand how it remained intact without weathering in open desert. I liked the temperature around which was 220C as per my watch, may be that can be reason and also the surrounding from the high hilly features. I was never fascinated by the camel ride and horse ride in desert as I prefer to walk to observe the local vegetation. There were many common features in Indian desert and here in Jordan and one of them was the herbs present around. But In India I have never drunk the tea with desert herb but people frequently use these wild herbs in tea in Wadi Rum and I feel it clears the throat. I love tea of any color and aroma and this was too good to resist. Nima also started enjoying the tea, the least preferred drink for her.

Now I started planning for the sun set as I love to shoot sunrise and sunset in all its glory. But I was not sure of getting the real sunset here in Wadi rum as I don’t find any place where I can see the horizon bypassing the hilly terrain, so we climbed a hill and eliminated many lower hills but could not get the clear horizon , but scene from that hill was majestic which you can also see. It was a good and colorful sunset and we started moving toward our camp.

It was a moonlit night and we had tea and snacks again and planned for the dinner to be cooked by me and Nima only as we wanted to enjoy the self-cooked vegetarian food. We planned to use dry wood for our cooking and it was arranged. She prepared Rajashthani Bati and I made vegetable with olive oil and little salt. There were fresh vegetable for great salad and we shared with three to four person including Hani who already ate lots of non-veg stuff and told us it was his third dinner. Other were preparing for the Id-ul-Adha to be celebrated tomorrow. It was a calm night and there was no wild life around but I can hear wind whispering. There was no insect around and it was quite strange for me. I have seen wildlife in Indian desert including reptiles, ants, lizards, deer etc but nothing here as I felt there were not much shrubs around to feed them. I could only locate some of the falcons, crow and other birds but could shoot bird only. It was time to sleep as we had to try our luck tomorrow morning for the balloon ride over Wadi-Rum. There was no confirmed place for both of us as they only have one trip for 16 people per day. Let us see what happens tomorrow morning.

I woke up at 0300 hrs in early morning and saw moon ready to set behind the hills and it was magical scene. I shot some of the night faces but it was difficult to shoot without stand and I was not in mood of using at this hour. Slipped in sleeping mode and woke-up again at 0500 hrs. and we moved to the place where we were supposed to be picked up by the balloons crew.

As soon as we reached the place where all have to gather for further moving to the place for balloon ride, my anxiety level started increasing. I met the captain of balloon and he told me that there is no vacancy but wait till last minute cancellation.
We started observing the balloon size, which was wrapped and placed on the back of small MUV. There was a big basket which would carry all of us in the sky, and there were big gas cylinders too for heating the air inside balloon for lifting up. Suddenly captained came to us and told that we are lucky as there people could not make to the point and we are moving ahead for the place to be ready for balloon lifting. It took 20 minutes and we reached at the open place where we were supposed to witness one of the adventurous activities of our life. There was no sunrise yet and captain released a small balloon for observation purpose and wind direction. Captain was satisfied with the weather condition and he decided to prepare for the activity. It was a great sequence as every step needed precision and checking and cross checking to avoid any midair mishap. I shot complete sequence with my movie camera and was thrilled when we were called for a ride. There were four compartments for sixteen people (4 in one cell) and a centre one for captain and cylinders for heating and cooling purposes in order to lift the balloon and also to bring down the same by cooling the air. Captain briefed us for safety features and we were ready to see how it feels. Suddenly I realized that I am already in the air as cars below became small. It was so smooth that you cannot feel anything and there was no motion or thrust except the warmth of flares for heating the air inside the balloon. We went up and up till 5000 feet and had a circle of the area in early sunlight. This is a totally different experience and I thought I would recommend to all to do this activity as it changes your perspective of seeing the things.

Many people still feel that it’s a dangerous activity but I can assure them there is no danger if you are doing through professionals like the captain who was doing it since last 20 years around the globe. We were in the air for more than 90 minutes and he brought us down and took back in the air to have a feel of whole activity.

We could see our cars, and people from top and I shot many of the geological features which I earlier saw only from same level or even below and this was the first time I could see them in complete sense. We started coming town and touched the ground without even a slightest jerk.

Captain offered us tea and snacks and chat with us. I asked for the payment and he told that the same can be given to the drivers dropping us to the nearest pickup point as must have discussed with Hani. He charged us 130 JD per person which was quite reasonable for the experience we got.

We shared this with Hani and asked him to tell fellow travellers to go and experience the same. I would like to mention here that we were only two Indians among them and rests were from western countries.

Wadi-Rum to dead sea

It was time to wish the host Eid Mubaraq and move towards the Dead Sea for another life time experience. We went to meet and greet the local host Abu-Yosef and moved forward after taking tea and planning enroute eating experience. Back to road and asked Hani to stop at different place to eat. We took tea at road side restaurant and moved to Madaba to see the Mosaic artwork. It was a co-operative shop supported by the Jordan Government and there were artist present and working with perseverance and dedication as each of their work was a masterpiece for rest of the people. It was Nima’s area and she took interest in the complete process and came to know that they also prepare the artwork as per user’s design too. We had a plan in our mind to use this in Nima’s Mural work and for use in India. It was like the inlay work in Karnataka and Saharanpur where artists use wood and brass inlay for making their masterpiece.

We moved forward and stopped on a nice restaurant and ordered many vegetarian things with fresh lime-mint preparations. I stress on a point now to take care of yours food order as the starter itself is quite filling and this was our first experience that we had to cancel our main course order as we were filled with starter itself. This starter includes the Roti or Khobus and many varieties of salad and preparations which are so tempting that you can not avoid. I found that the olive oil used in Jordan is local and very tasteful which enhances the taste to such extent that you will forget the fried Indian stuff.

I will make a point here that Nima prepared the Poori with salt and masala in Gujarati style but we did not eat even one piece till now and that also in place not known for the vegetarian dishes. So we ate lot there and were quite excited to reach the Dead Sea area.

I started checking the Altimeter of my watch which started showing decreasing level to zero level and to my surprise in negative direction also. I had a wired feeling of the area may be because of salinity and pressure at a level of 400 m below sea level as my watch was showing -400 m mark.

Dead Sea

We checked-in the hotel Dead Sea Spa and within five minute were out near Dead Sea for sunset. It was a different experience for me but Nima was eager to have a bath in that colloidal solution of salt and mineral. Personally, I did not like the very feeling of that grey mud and saturated salt water on which many people were floating and reading books. She postponed the mud bath for tomorrow and we shot some of the rarest of the rare sunset at Dead Sea facing the Israel. I saw big salt crystals resembling quartz and touched the water which was very difficult to clean off my hand and it was irritating experience for a photographer like me. We came back to our room and planned for the dinner in the hotel itself as I was not feeling well in that place. My watch was showing a pressure of 1100 mm of mercury and an elevation of -400 meter. We went for the dinner and there was a crowd around with music and many celebrations going on with the happy hours as Jordan is not a dry state. This was a day when we went up in the air up to 5000 feet and also 1400 feet below sea level. This was strangest experience for us and hard to explain to you.

Morning was not very clear because of mist and Nima was ready to take historical bath in Dead Sea water. We went to sea and I shot many pictures inside the sea showing layering of salt and other minerals. Nima was in mud and at one place she was stuck inside the marshy formation. There were many visitors taking bath and floating in the salt saturated water which I personally felt uncomfortable. It was a feeling cannot be defined and I thought of witnessing the funeral of a water body and felt helpless as I can’t rejuvenate it myself. This is nature and we human enjoy every such death of nature. I never think about the nature cure from the Dead Sea elements as we human are quite selfish in saving and enhancing our life expectancy and beauty without even giving such thought which were strangely coming to my mind.

It was nice bath for her and she explained to me that it is really a miracle as she got rid of all of her leg pains and stress. That’s what we recommend that if you are coming here take bath in Dead Sea and get a different experience.
Now it was time to move to Amman for city visit and catching the flight. We planned in such a way to avoid stay in Amman and cut the cost as we were sure that there were not enough places of our interest but many people decide in reverse way to stay first in Amman and move from there. It’s up to individual and their own choice. We shot some of the panorama shots of Dead Sea and it was looking Blue and quite living and not Dead.

Amman

Hani was busy in many works and we started nearly during mid of the day and we requested to have lunch at happening place in Amman. He took us to very nice restaurant and it was full of people with confident looks and smiling faces. Again we ordered some of the local salads and all the preparation from vegetarian side. This was one of the best eating experience and we had to cancel our main course order again as starter itself was very satisfying and filling.

Amman, like other historical city of the world also has two faces, modern and old, but in general it was quite clean and orderly. First we decided to see the Citadel and then to the Roman Amphitheater.

We started exploring the local market in Amman and found many places quite similar to Indian cities. There were Bata shops in Amman and also roadside tea shops. We walked in streets with open cameras but there was no problem around and people were posing for photos as in India. I was fascinated by the street light design and Blue color of light on top which was very pleasing. There was no chaos at all and everyone was looking comfortable and in good mood.

I asked Hani for having lunch before our flight and then he told that her mother in law has made arrangement for our dinner and we were really speechless for the hospitality of my Jordanian friend. We visited the place and it was a grand house covered with greenery and many plants and flowers and all the family members were so friendly and like our own.

Hani’s uncle was very fond of Hindi songs of Rajkapoor era and sung a song.. “Teri Man Ki Ganga Aur Mere Man Ki Jamuna Ka, Bol Radha Bol Sangam Hoga Ki Nahi”......the way he was reciting, was so innocent and cute we cannot describe. Lady of the house had prepared lots of varieties of vegetarian dishes for just two of us and all of them also ate vegetarian with us. She was so nice to see and humble and we were really touched by their simplicity and affection.

I never thought that I can feel and have this type of hospitality in this part of globe and that is the experience one can have if travelling with open mind. There were many relatives present in the house and we felt that they were there to receive us.

They were well aware of India and discussed about the city having monkeys and in fact they were referring to a show on TV channel which use to present one Rajasthan city repeatedly inundated by the menace of monkeys. I thought that the media can simply make the different in making or marring the image through presentation and felt that the incredible India show should be screened around the world with actual picture of our great nation.

Time had come to depart and Hani’s mother in law presented a Shawl to Nima as we do in India for guest. It was a gesture not forgettable for life either for me or Nima and we had strong friendship in Jordan now which can be nourished and pampered as its very difficult to find a friend, and if so, more difficult to keep this relationship alive in present day business.

In the last we recommend all our friends certainly to visit Jordan for Trekking in Wadi Rum, Red Sea Voyage, Petra experience and many more experiences in India friendly country with no hassle in getting visa on arrival.

For any related information you can also refer to the Jordan govt. website and contact us or Hani directly for any clarification and understanding of the Jordan as a whole.

HANI - AL – ABADI
TJA – Travel Jordan Agency
Mob: +962-7853-11117
www.traveljordanagency.com |  info@traveljordanagency.com