28th September 2015
WF MD Jonny visited Jordan last week and looks back at the final day of a fantastic trip below...
I woke up yesterday with the most magnificent view. From the comfortable double bed in a very smart tent, I could see out across the desert sands to the towering sandstone rocks that were glowing red from the rising sun. I walked out and breathed it in, enjoying the moment of peace, knowing another packed day was about to begin.
After breakfast our old Bedu guide, Majid, took us around some of Wadi Rum's better known locations. Majid’s father worked as a fixer on Lawrence of Arabia, so he could show us the exact spots where David Lean placed his cameras to capture some of those epic shots. Looking down the spectacular valley, girdled by the dramatic cliffs, it was easy to imagine Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif charging by.
From here we headed down to Aqaba on the Red Sea Coast. Although now more an important port than anything most Western tourists would want to experience, it does have its place in history. It was here in 1917 that TE Lawrence inspired a great victory with the Arab tribes, during what became known as the Arab Revolt. Convinced any attack on the town would come from the sea, the Ottomans had positioned their guns accordingly, and were therefore totally unprepared when Lawrence directed his rag-tag force through the mountains behind and into the town from the rear. Lawrence took the town with barely a shot being fired. This paved the way for the Arab force to make a clear run on Damascus where they again defeated the Turks and thus drove the Ottoman Empire from the Levant.
From here we started our journey north again, stopping for the night at the award-winning Feynan Eco Resort. Sitting on the eastern edge of the Dana Biosphere Reserve, the region is known for its ancient copper mines, pits that some say are the mythical mines that belonged to King Solomon. Sitting at 175 metres below sea level, it was a warm night but also an enjoyable one as Suleiman, a bright lad from the nearby village, gave us a wonderful talk about the stars, showing us, with the aid of the hotel’s powerful telescope, a great view of the moon and Saturn from the roof of the hotel.
This morning we travelled to the Dead Sea, where we had a dutiful ‘float’. Did you know that the Dead Sea is 37% salt, while the normal sea is only 3% salt? Did you also know that it is slowly disappearing and within another 60 years probably won’t exist at all? What surprised me about what is really a large inland lake was the current… within seconds of lying on my back I was 20 metres along the shore from where I got in.
In Amman this afternoon we had a fascinating time, wandering around the downtown area, visiting the local vegetable market, having a delicious coffee and smoking a shisha at the town’s oldest café, visiting the old Roman theatre and the citadel, home to the impressive temple of Hercules. To round off our trip we had dinner at what was reputed to be the best restaurant in town, Fakhr El-Din.
Although we have only been here five days, we have had a thoroughly enjoyable time. We’ve taken in some incredible sites of antiquity, done some wonderful walking, feasted our eyes on amazing natural wonders and met some lovely people. Everywhere we’ve been we’ve been made to feel welcome, and haven’t for a moment felt any ill will.
As our charming guide Osama put it, "Jordan is a quiet country, surrounded by noisy neighbours". Seeing the tourist industry here on its knees is sad, because as far as I am concerned it is entirely unnecessary. And I for one will now be promoting it as much as I can.