Seven days at the beginning of November exploring the Wild Jordan and its desert landscapes.
This time I was travelling with a new friend, Erica, traveler and photographer.
Early morning flight from Italy to Amman the Jordanian capital.
We flew over many breathtaking landscapes, from Greece to Turkey, to end up above the West Bank before landing to Amman.
Arrived in the early morning at the Queen Alia International Airport (AMM) in Amman, temperature 25°.
The airport is very new and it reminds me of the designs in Star Wars. It has nothing worse than any western airport.
We have been kindly welcomed by a lady from the JTB (Jordan Tourism Board), the official Jordan tourism agency we were collaborating with.
Mohmmad, a sweet man with a long beard and beanie was waiting for us. He soon became our best friend.
Our Adventure begins.
Our first stop was Amman, W hotel where we would stay one night, two days.
After 20-30 mins driving we get to the Hotel in Amman City. The traffic to get into the city and around the main junctions is hectic but somehow you are always moving.
Keep in mind that Jordan is surrounded on all its borders by war zones or unstable countries.
To be precise Jordan is bordered on the North by Syria, to the East by Iraq, and by Saudi Arabia on the East and South. To the west is Israel and Palestine.
For the internal security of its people and the many tourists that visit Jordan, the majority of the buildings and areas of interests, like museums, shopping malls and hotels are strictly checked by full body metal detector and baggage screening.
At the access gates, a general check of the vehicle is often carried out.
You will get used to it very quickly, don't worry.
The W Hotel Stuff warmly welcomed us. The Hotel located in a skyscraper dominating the whole city of Amman, is placed in a very modern area.
Time to relax after a long day, take a shower and take stock of the situation.
As planned we decided to go to Down Town Amman and to start visiting the city and its Roman ruins. Before that we couldn't resist to have a first taste of the original falafel at Hashem Restaurant Down Town.
After a first exploration of the old city of Amman we decided we needed food to recharge. We basically ate nothing since breakfast and skipped lunch.
We asked Mohmmad, Italianate Giovanni from us, where we could taste a nice local dinner, so He took us to a very good restaurant called Zohor Al Shafa Butchery & Grills.
After eating no stop tons of food the bill: 27 JD which is about 30 €. Cheap!
Time to finally head to the hotel for a long rest.
Second day, after an amazing breakfast at our W Hotel, we decided to go visit the Citadel
The Amman Citadel is an historical site at the center of downtown Amman, elevated on a promontory.
Evidence of occupation since the pottery Neolithic period has been found, gaining also a place among the the world's oldest continuously inhabited places.
This site is definitely worth the visit; thanks to its position it's possible to admire the whole city and its extension while hearing the prayers that echo throughout the city from the mosques. Flocks of white and black birds dancing in the air and carrying our gaze over the roofs of the city. Magical.
After a long tour, taking photos and enjoying the view, was time to leave for Petra, our next destination.
Unfortunately at the time we left was getting dark and we weren't able see what we were passing by.
If you ever decide to drive to the next destination make sure to leave on time.
The sun in November in Jordan set at about 4.45 pm to end at 5.20 pm being completely dark.
After about 5 hours driving on the Highway 15, also known as the Desert Highway, we arrive to Petra.
Completely exhausted we head up to Petra entrance to see it by night with its special ticket.
We walked an hour like snakes under the stars entering one of the most popular and well-known valley, Wadi Musa.
At the end of this beautiful tortuous path we were there, in front of Al Khazneh ("The Treasury"), one of the most elaborate temples in the ancient Arab Nabatean Kingdom city of Petra. Breathtaking!
After walking back from Wadi Musa, we went straight to the Hotel, 15 mins away from the site.
Fast Check in at Taybet Zaman Hotel at night and straight to sleep.
After waking up in front of an extraordinary view on the desert from our room, it was time to leave.
It was a very early morning for us on the 3rd day of our trip to go hiking in Petra.
Arrived at the site, a bit too late, we found a massive queue in front of the security check, and huge groups of tourists coming from nowhere with any sort of transportation. Many with big coaches.
After a long discussion about queuing or not we decided It wasn't worth it to live such a beautiful place that way. That day 9000 visitors were walking into the site of Petra.
As you may know I'm not a big fan of overcrowded touristic places, and even worse when these look like amusement parks.
We then decided wasn't the experience we were looking for in Petra, and we promised ourselves we would come back in a better time.
Instead we went to explore the surrounding of Petra and admire the beauty of the landscape towards our next destination, Wadi Rum.
The Desert Highway, despite being a big road, gives you the opportunity to see the desert well.
While driving on this beautiful road, I spot a Bedouin walking with his camel far away in the desert.
I asked Giovanni if He could stop.
With a super stunt He managed to take us to the opposite side of the roadway safe and sound.
I started taking some photos from far away to be able to capture the essence of that particular moment.
The Bedouin started coming towards me so I say Hey with my hand and He answer coming closer and closer.
I'm sure you are questioning yourself about these photos above and below.
Many photos you will see on internet are completely retouched with Photoshop and wont show you the reality.
Many areas of the desert, especially the vast ones close to the roads, are beds of pollution and wastes.
These photo don't want to denounce the Jordanian people nor its institutions.
Wastes and pollution is brought to the desert by the many air currents that cross the valleys and I presume also by the many tourists visiting the area.
The world isn't perfect like the photos you see everywhere, the world and us human beings, need to improve and evolve everyday, making sure that the actions we take daily are good for us now and our kids tomorrow.
When I travel I wanna show the beauties but also things we cannot avoid showing.
After the beautiful encounter with the Bedouin we took the road to Wadi Rum, on the left. The sunset welcome us with this frames:
A soon as the sun went down we started entering the core of Wadi Rum desert.
We checked in at night at the Mazayen Rum Camp, after meeting Mahmoud our local desert guide, to arrange the 4x4 tour for the day after.
After a nice shower we went straight to dinner all together, to finish the day dancing with the chefs.
Our fourth day we felt like we landed overnight on the martian surface.
We woke up to this view we went to breakfast and then left to meet Mahmoud at his camp, the Hasan Zawaideh Camp.
If you want to book your 4x4 desert adventure or stay at Hasan Zawaideh Camp email here, and tell them about me.
Mahmoud was waiting for us with his pickup ready to go, the whole day free for us.
Time to adventure the beauties of Wadi Rum desert!
The desert presents you different scenarios, different colors, different grounds, and the final result is impressive.
In the late morning, during our ride in the desert Erica lost her phone, and we spent hours trying to track the route where she could have lost it, but no luck. We gave up.
After our lunch break and 4 hours after the lost, Mahmoud and his cousin came to us with a surprise! His cousin found the phone in the sand somewhere in the desert, and we couldn't believe what just happened. Definitely a story to tell.
The day ended with a stunning sunset on the desert at the arch, that I climbed.
We were very stunned by the absolute silence that heavily dominated the valley. We didn't have a sound level meter to check the actual level of noise but I'm sure was close to 0.
The total absence of noise and external interferences caused to our body, in particular to our auditory apparatus a kind of compression, a silence as peaceful as distressful.
Fifth day is desert day again.
An early morning to go climb a rock formation behind our Martian Camp and snap some amazing photos.
With our hike done, it was time to have breakfast and get ready for the camel tour. Again at Mahmoud's camp.
We weren't expecting much from riding the camels, but as we had never done it before it was nice to experience it at least once.
They usually go very slow but if you want they can trot. Men be careful down there if you don't want scrambled eggs!
After spending the whole morning in the desert was time for lunch before leaving Wadi Rum.
Full and filled with energies we left for Aqaba, our next stop.
On the way to the main highway I spotted on the right the only train station left abandoned in the desert.
I quickly took the decision to stop, when Giovanni was skeptical about it thinking it was a off limits zone.
The situation was so surreal and cinematic that I couldn't t resist taking a quick photo shoot, you can fully see it here.
Back on the main road to Aqaba the landscapes started changing.
The promontories started to tighten on our sides becoming rocks formations as impressive as mountains.
A big Police Check Point will stop you and check your details and welcome you to the southern part of Jordan.
The weather started changing as soon as we started driving down from the mountainous area.
After a long time and much to our surprise, we started to see some green trees.
The valley opened up and we started seeing on the horizon the sea reflecting the strong hot sun of the almost never ending summer.
The long shining boulevard taking us to Aqaba was a pleasure for our eyes. 30° at our arrive. Summer time!
We went straight to the InterContinental Hotel, where the spa was waiting for us. Absolutely needed.
After a long trip in the desert we needed a relaxing stay and a retreat for our bodies. After 1 hour SPA, we went for an hour massage that made all our knots and tension dissolve.
With no energies left we went to dinner. Pizza! The most reviewed Pizzeria in Aqaba is actually run by Egyptians that have never been in Italy; too Funny! Anyway wasn't bad at all.
After dinner I didn't feel well so we all went to rest and sleep before another important day on the road. Direction Dead Sea.
Sixth day we woke up for a very rich breakfast at the InterContinental Hotel in Aqaba and went straight to the beach to swim and enjoy the sun.
The big cargo ships moor near the coast and makes the view of Aqaba's surroundings evocative scenarios.
Due to our very tight schedule we unfortunately didn't manage to tour the reef and the beauties of the sea of Aqaba. We will be back for that.
Tanned and happy was time to leave for the Dead Sea. So the adventure began.
Giovanni came to pick us up, we stopped at a little perfumes shop on the street were we found Oud scent and bought some oils, essences and stones.
Oud scent or agarwood is one of the most popular scents on the market today.
It's said to be the most expensive wood in the world; Oud oil’s value is estimated to be 1.5 times the value of gold, and it is sometimes referred to as Liquid Gold.
After the quick shopping time we grabbed a take away lunch and left for the Dead Sea.
DEAD SEA HIGHWAY
The days before, updating on the various stops of the trip, we were strongly discouraged and confirmed the denied access to Highway 65, also known as the Dead Sea Highway, due flooding and heavy rains.
That day weather was clear and there was no reason not to keep our journey the way I planned it to be.
I double checked with Giovanni, who double checked with his boss. Again denied the possibility to drive on that side.
In these cases my journalistic side/adventurer spirit erupts inside me and I get in assault mode.
I said Giovanni we were going to be ok, and I would take responsibility for anything could happened.
We finally got on the Highway 65, after not even 500 mt we were stopped at the Police check point.
The officer denied us the access to the highway and the possibility to continue on that road.
With my tenacity, and thanks to the help of Giovanni, we managed to unlock the situation and let us pass.
The policeman made us pass on trust, but forced us to divert as soon as we arrived in Kerak, absolutely denying further prosecution on that road.
Finally we left. We were back on the road listening to a mix of Arabic and western music. and the wonders accompanying us seemed like constantly changing dreamy cinematic choreographs from Charlie Chaplin's films.
We crossed another flat desert area and other more rocky with dusted trees.
The darkness came down halfway from our final destination.
Driving up to the Dead Sea we met in total 6 police check points discouraging us to continue further.
The road was clear and everything was in good conditions, and some vehicles driving in both directions.
Last check point we had to wait 15 mins before crossing a bridge considered dangerous and unsafe, everything went smoothly.
A wide and long illuminated road was finally welcoming us to the Dead Sea area. On our left the Dead Sea silently laying in this great basin dividing Palestine and Jordan.
Finally the time to check in arrived. The gates of our Hotel opened and welcomed us.
A temple was waiting for us: the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea.
After a fast check in and have been given us the key for our deluxe suit with terrace and a view on the Dead Sea, we are ready to go.
A Man with a golf cart took us to our apartment, touring us throw the whole residential village.
After a relaxing shower in our very stylish apartment we went to dinner, where we could find literally anything we wanted. Except Pizza.
But a variety of amazing local food.
Tired from the long journey we went to bed to be able to wake up at the sunrise and go relax on the Dead Sea. Literally on it.
On the seventh day of our "about to end" trip, our alarm went of at sunrise.
After a full breakfast we went immediatelly to the floating sea beach.
The climate on the Dead Sea is hot nearly year round. It can reach almost 50° Celsius in full summer and average 24° around winter time.
During our stay we found a mild climate, perfect for enjoying the place without suffer too much.
The Dead Sea is a salt lake bordered by Jordan to the east and Israel and the West Bank to the west.
Its surface and shores are 430.5 metres (1,412 ft) below sea level. Earth's lowest elevation on land.
The Dead Sea is 304 m (997 ft) deep, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world.
With a salinity of 342 g/kg, or 34.2%, (in 2011), it is 9.6 times as salty as the ocean and one of the world's saltiest bodies of water.
This salinity makes for a harsh environment in which plants and animals cannot flourish, hence its name.
Dead Sea mud is very well known to treat health conditions ranging from psoriasis to back pain. A great deal of research backs up claims that Dead Sea mud can relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and more.
We couldn't of course avoid a good full body mud cover.
Floating on water was a total surprise. A weird funny feeling hard to find it somewhere else. I couldn't stop laughing.
The very salty water will make any little cut, wound and rush on your skin burn as hell. So be prepared for it.
But absolutely worth it as it is a magical cure-all to fight any skin problem. Remember, you cannot put your head underwater, specially your eyes unless you wanna suffer a lot.
The crystallization of the salt and its striated effect on the seabed is visible from outside.
We spent about 2 hours there, we wished we could stay longer. Even though time was short we decided that the heated infinity edge pool also deserved a visit.
After the morning treatment we checked out the Kempinski Hotel Ishtar Dead Sea to go take some photos of the Dead Sea from the surrounding mountains.
On our way back to Amman, which is 40 to 60 min away from the Dead Sea, depending on traffic, the temperature started dropping reaching 17° Celsius.
We arrived again at the W Hotel in Amman after a quick late lunch and spent the rest of the day there.
Seventh Day with sadness we had to say goodbye to our brother Mohmmad, also called Giovanni, who took us safe and on time to the airport for our late morning departure.
Photo credits: Erica Angeli – Giulio Aprin