So, Monday we’ll set off on our latest family adventure abroad. I am happy to say that we are not ever as bad as the Griswold family. However, getting everything organised and the lists of “things to no forget”, “things to take”, “things to leave for the house sitter” seem to ever grow. Somehow it will all get done, or not. Somehow we’ll leave without something, but we’ll pick something else up in our travels. Somehow we’ll make it all work and it will be a good trip.
This year we’re heading off to a locale chosen by mum. Over 5 years ago she had the joy of working in Jordan on a project that allowed her sometime to visit the wonders of the country, but she saved a few bits in hopes that she’d be abel to bring her family with her at some point. Now is the time! The nice part is that she’ll have the chance to see some of the people she worked with and see how far they have come since the fledgling days of mum’s involvement. That will be wonderful.
We decided to work with a travel agency to plan the trip since we knew we had little time and there was much we wanted to fit into the time allowed – read here, the amount of vacation time allowed by my place of employment. We worked with Audley Travel, an agency we found through a great travel blog, The Quirky Traveller. As we were planning and thinking about travelling to Jordan this summer, Zoë Dawes, the Quirky Traveller herself was exploring the wonders of Jordan. Seeing her pictures and reading her descriptions of her journey were inspiring. (I highly recommend following her if you like travel blogs.) Audley was great in helping us make the most of our time and trying to get in as much as possible as well as making the visits to the sites interesting and thoughtful. They work with local partners and are always trying to give an experience with the most local colour they can without breaking one’s budget. The person we worked with was wonderful, helpful, and did all she could to try to create a package that would do what we wanted for our time. We have 10 days and are they FULL! We’ll need a vacation from our vacation, but it will be worth it!
We get to start our time in Amman where mum will get to reconnect with former colleagues and we’ll get to go out and explore Jerash. I thought I’d share what we’re up to since I am not taking my laptop. I’m going “old school” and leaving most of the tech behind, except for the camera and the phone in case of emergency and so the girl can chat with her father if she wants. So, Jerash first!
Jerash hosts Greco-Roman ruins of an impressive quality. When you’re not in Rome and you’re not seeing temple after temple I suppose one can enjoy it a bit more. However, we’ll get to explore the temple ruins and the museum. It will be a nice way to start the combat against jet-lag!
From Amman we’ll travel to Petra. On the way we’ll get to stop off at Madaba and see the mosaics there. One of the mosaics is a map of Madaba during the 6th century. From Madaba we’ll travel to Mount Nebo where Moses, of Old Testament/Pentateuch fame, got his first glimpse of the Holy Land. The final stop before Petra will be Kerak (or Karak) Castle. Which was started in 1140 during the time of the Crusades. The location was perfect for controlling Bedouin herders as well as trade from Damascus, Egypt and Mecca.
Petra! Already you’re having visions of “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”, aren’t you? At least those of you familiar with western action films. It’s probably where most of the West knows of the “Red City”. Apparently there’s quite a business set up around the film for tourists – you can replace Harrison Ford in pictures, etc. We’ll probably not be exploring the High Place of Sacrifice since our girl is rather sensitive, as am I come to think of it! She’s fine with battle scenes so long as they involve critters and not humans. She’s an avid fan of Brian Jacques’ Redwall series, but not keen on seeing the rest of Harry Potter past the first film since they are people, even if they are wizards and actors at that! We’ll have two days at Petra. The first day will be with a guide and then the next we’ll be free to explore on our own. Mum has visions of donkey rides up to explore some of the other tomb sites. A. has visions of a camel ride. We’ll see who wins.
Following Petra we’ll head down the road to Wadi Rum (The Valley of the Moon) – used as a major film location site for “Lawrence of Arabia” with Peter O’Toole. If you haven’t seen it – do it! On the way there we’ll stop off and visit the Shawbak Castle, also dating back to the ear of the Crusades. It was built by Baldwin I, the first Crusader ruler of Jerusalem in 1115. The crusades has never been a favourite period of history from me. Somehow stories of going to battle to force the “heathen” to surrender the Christ just doesn’t set well with me. Well, any battle in the name of God/Allah doesn’t really set well with me, so I get the idea that the Crusades isn’t seen in the same “glamorous” light as perhaps it is in the West. While we’re at Wadi Rum we’ll get a jeep tour of the area and some parts with archaeological interest. For the night we’ll get to stay in Bedouin-ish style tents. It’s as close to camping out as you will find me. Please don’t think that I’m above pitching a tent and cooking over an open fire. I’m not. I just have yet to go out on a camping trip that didn’t find me soaking wet and miserable. If you can promise me sunny skies, dry kit and a fire that’s not smoking because the wood is wet I’ll be there. Otherwise, I think I’ll pass. So, as they say in the UK, we’ll be “glamping” – glamorous camping – in large tents with en suite bathrooms. I totally approve, and having been looking at the website of the campsite, so does my girl! It’s only one night, but we’ll still have miles before we’ve done with Jordan this time around.
Next up we head off towards the Dana Nature Reserve where we’ll stay at the Feynan Lodge and enjoy a glimpse at Bedouin life. We thought the girl would particularly enjoy this part of the trip as we’ll visit a family and learn a bit about life as a Bedouin, make coffee strong enough to grown hair on your chest and make traditional bread, and to make kohl to protect our eyes from the desert sun. The reserve is run by the Jordanian government and was started to tray and help create an industry that would help financially support the Bedouin peoples of the region and to be ecologically responsible. The Feynan Lodge is made of traditional brick and solar powered. There’s no air-con, they rely on air passing through the open spaces of the lodge. At night everything is lit by oil lamp and candle lit at night. The roof top is open for star-gazing. I guess we’ll get to see just how many descendants Abraham was promised in Genesis. The star gazing is the next major highlight of the trip!
The next morning finds us head out and off to the Dead Sea, with a stop off at Lot’s Caves, where Lot and his daughters (no wife, we know what happened to her) lived after fleeing Sodom and Gomorrah, along the way. A. is especially looking forward to taking a dip in the Dead Sea to know what it’s like to be in water where you can’t sink, you can’t really swim in it either, but she’ll learn that the experiential way since she imagines she’ll be able to swim. During our time at the Dead Sea we’ll also get to have an excursion out to Bethany on the Jordan. It’s an active archeological site as well as the place that most archeologist agree is most likely the site of John the Baptist’s preaching and baptising. There’s no real way of knowing exactly where, but they think that since the water is pooled and not swift moving like it is on the Israeli side that it’s the most likely spot. Either way, I’m looking forward to seeing the site and exploring the area.
Then it’s back home. It’s gonna be a whirlwind, but what an adventure!