The Desert, The Red, And The Dead
I love wide open spaces. It was on a cross country drive a number of years ago that I realized how much I love wide open spaces. The Canadian prairies are, for some, monotonous and boring but I loved the days of driving over rolling hills through wheat fields and grassland because I could see forever.
Jordan is fabulous for being able to see forever. The drive down the King’s Highway was a stunning display of desert scenery interrupted only by massive canyons that I did not know could exist in a desert landscape. Some people see this area on a cycling holiday; it would be amazing to move through this scenery by my own power, but not this time.
Wadi Rum is the most famous desert landscape in Jordan. It is here that Lawrence of Arabia came into being – the man, the book, and the film, and it is here that we explored the desert by camel, by jeep and on foot.
Yes, by camel! For the first part of the tour we climbed up onto camels to be led into the desert. Although large and tall, camels are very gentle and riding one was much smoother than riding a horse. They just plod along, their enormous feet barely making a mark in the soft sand. It was fun but I’m glad it was only 1/2 hour or so…the pace was a little on the slow side for me.
The ‘jeep’ was an ancient LandCruiser type vehicle with no wipers or window handles and our driver, Ali, kept poking his head out the window to look back at something…we checked later to realize that the rear wheel was missing a couple of bolts…I guess he was checking to see if the wheel was still on!!
The jeep tour was the antithesis of the camel tour. The camels may have been slow and plodding but the jeep was anything but. Ali knew Wadi Rum like the back of his hand and we raced over the sand and around the imposing rock formations to see all the sites.
I’m sure there are important historical, religious and cultural sites within Wadi Rum but, for me, the highlights were climbing up a great red, red, red sand dune…and then running down in great, giant leaps, scrambling up to the top of the rock ‘bridges’, and making lunch over a small fire in the middle of the desert.
It was a great day of touring, topped off by a night in a desert Bedouin camp. The weather did not cooperate though and the starry, starry sky I had been wanting was masked by the clouds of an impending storm. It was fun though to sit around the campfire and chat with the Bedouins and other travelers.
From Wadi Rum we headed south to Aqaba on the Red Sea, where Jordan meets up with Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
Here, again, are many important religious sites…but we came for the snorkeling – it is supposed to be some of the best snorkeling in the world here…and it didn’t disappoint. It was like being in a giant aquarium, or the ‘Finding Nemo’ movie. The water was a fabulous aquamarine color, visibility was amazing and there were fish everywhere.
Blue fish, green fish, yellow fish, blue and green fish, yellow and red fish, big fish, small fish, fat fish, thin fish…an amazing variety of shapes, sizes and brilliant colors set in a backdrop of colorful coral in water so shallow that it would be possible to touch everything. It was amazing and we spent hours floating and watching.
Our next stop was the Dead Sea. It is the lowest point on earth (418M below sea level) and one of the saltiest pieces of water on earth. There isn’t much there except for some potash industry and a string of luxury spa hotels, but we couldn’t miss the chance to bob around in the water like a cork.
The water felt a little slimy with all the salt. A teeny tiny splash got into my mouth…it was disgusting and almost felt a little like a chemical burn. But boy is it floaty…sticking arms and legs out of the water was easy…swimming was not – I kept flipping over when I tried.
It was a short, 10 day, visit to Jordan…but it’s a small country and we saw everything we wanted to. I’m glad we added it to our itinerary – it would have been a shame to miss the amazing sites and stunning scenery.