This is the Middle East

Leaving Turkey was hard. We both loved being there so much but we thought Jordan would surprise us just as much as Turkey did.

When we arrived in Amman we thought we were super prepared. I had the cash on me that we were to exchange for Jordanian Dinar and Mark was going to investigate the Visa situation. The exchange rates at the airport were terrible. We were going to lose so much money by exchanging it there so we went to the ATM to withdraw as much cash as we could. This worked out better for us and we were a bit annoyed that we couldn’t exchange our cash but it all worked out – we would just exchange the cash once we got into the city. Just before we had left for Jordan we had read about a Jordan Pass which got us entry into the country and entry into tourists sites but Mark couldn’t see any mention of it at the airport so we paid the equivalent of $80 each for a visa and about half an hour later were finally getting our bags and searching for a bus to take us to town. We flew Royal Jordanian Airlines who have a shuttle bus for passengers which takes them from the airport to 7th Circle in the city. We couldn’t find their bus so jumped on another airport link bus and told them to take us to 7th Circle. An hour later we were being kicked off the bus right on a main road and were being told to get a taxi. We tried to explain to the driver that we were at the wrong spot and wanted to go further into the city. At this point he didn’t speak English which was odd considering he could tell us in very good English that we had to get off the bus and get a taxi from there to our hotel. A lady who spoke Arabic & English eventually helped us get a taxi but by this stage we were just doing what we were told.

The next 2 days we spent in Amman walking the city, seeing some of the cites and relaxing in our room which was quite big compared to some places we had stayed in. We were also hanging out with a guy from Yemen who was in Amman trying to get a study visa for Canada. We invited him to join us on our road trip to Petra. He accepted and we drove later one afternoon to Petra. It was an interesting experience having an Arabic person with us. For one, he helped us save money by always getting Arabic prices for us. He was charged JOD0.85 for a bottle of water and 2 cokes whereas we were charged JOD3. He kindly asked us to stop going into stores with him and just telling him what we wanted as he said that as soon as the shopkeepers saw that we were with him they bumped up the Arabic prices. At one point he told us we would have paid 10x what he had paid simply because we were foreigners and the shopkeeper tried to get more money out of everyone. It’s simple things like this that can make travelling difficult, especially when we don’t speak the language.

There was definitely a lot more foreigners in Wadi Musa, the town Petra is in but we didn’t have time to socialise. We got in late, were tired, hungry and had to get up early in the morning. We were completely unprepared for what Petra had to offer. Of course we did our research like we normally do but we usually find that people suggest we allow a lot more time than we actually need to visit any type of monument/attraction so when people online said you need days we thought “narh, we’ll get it done in a couple of hours”. Mark was so happy he put on his Nikes instead of Vans because 7 hours later we were completely exhausted. The monuments there were incredible and we were so glad we took the hardest routes through the site – they offered us some amazing views – but it was hard work. We had a bit of a joke going on which helped us (me) get through some of the hardest parts. Mark would ask “How you going?” in an extremely cheerful voice and I would simply look at him with the most exhausted face I could manage and then we would laugh and move on. It probably doesn’t sound funny to anyone reading this but it worked, surprisingly. It’s now something Mark continues to do when he thinks I’m tired.

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Petra was unlike anything we had ever seen before but we were really looking forward to going so that we could get to the Dead Sea to relax and sit by the pool. Mark and I are both beach people and as amazing as Petra was, for me it was trumped by the Dead Sea. When we first arrived our hotel upgraded us to a suite room where we had a view of the water. The water was so still and looking at it calmed me immediately. I don’t know if I am able to put into words what it looked like… I’ll try though. The Dead Sea isn’t actually a sea but a huge lake, half in Israel and half in Jordan. The water is this cloudy blue-white colour that at some points blends so well with the sky that you can’t see where the water ends and the sky begins. It was surreal for us standing on one side of the lake in Jordan and looking across to see all of the lights on at night in Israel.

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The view of the Dead Sea from our pool.

Besides being famous for all of the minerals in the water and surrounding ground, the Dead Sea is of course famous for being so salty that you can float without doing anything. The water has what I can only describe as a thicker feeling than normal water and it makes your skin feel slimy while in the water. Being so salty means that the water searches and very quickly finds every tiny little cut or scratch you have on your body. I think I must have looked like a kid in the water. Mark went in before me and was just there floating that I couldn’t stop smiling. Once I got in there I just couldn’t stop giggling (I’m not usually a giggling type of girl). It was so weird being in the water and just floating on our backs. Floating on your stomach is a lot harder as your constantly trying to keep your head out of the water. I had read that you shouldn’t put your face under the water because when the water gets in your eyes it will feel like someone is scratching them out. We didn’t stay in for very long as everything starts to sting after a while. It’s as if tiny little cuts that didn’t hurt at first start to eventually let the salt in and start to sting. We couldn’t help ourselves though. We had to go back in the next day. I’m so glad we did because we also covered ourselves in the mud of the Dead Sea which is said to be full of minerals. We sat in a mud bath and covered ourselves as best we could. A local told us we should we 30 minutes before going to wash it off. We couldn’t wait that long – the mud started to seep into our skin and burn and sting just like the water. Ohh what we do for beauty. Washing the mud off in the salty water was a lot harder than putting it on. Mark got the tiniest bit of water in his eyes and said it was like “someone stabbing [his] eyes”. I could imagine what he meant because while I was washing the mud off my face I got the water on my lips and it made them so dry and then made them burn. It also tasted foul.

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The mud was starting to sting at this stage which resulted in our awkward smiles…

On our last day at the Dead Sea we thought we would try the resort spa, after all it was one of the largest spa in the Middle East. You would think being a part of a huge resort that there would be at least a few people in there. Nope, we were the only ones, so we swam around in the pool like 2 kids being told by their mum that we had 30 minutes before we had to leave. Being the only people in the spa though meant that the lifeguard followed us around and he did catch me splashing water into Mark’s face just as he was coming up out of the water – got a few laughs from the lifeguard.

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The most amazing sunset from our last night on the Dead Sea

Driving through Jordan was a good opportunity for us to see a lot of the country. At some points we would look around and say “Yep, this is definitely the Middle East”. But Mark simply described Jordan as one big $2 store. Everywhere we went people would try to sell us things for “1 Dinar only” which is $2 for us so we started calling it the $2 store of the Middle East.

I’m writing this post as we sit on a bus in the middle on no-mans land between Jordan and Israel. The next time you hear from us will be, hopefully, from Israel!

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5 Replies to “This is the Middle East”

  1. Thanks Bianca, love reading your posts. Stay safe and continue on your wonderful journey. Pa and Nanna. (Eales)

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