Date of stay: Feb 2012
Where you stayed: Abassi Palace Hotel
Tour or pre planned: Pre Planned
I was finally here in Jordan, a place that as soon as I knew what it had on offer, was on the top of my list for places to visit. After a 4 hour flight I was greeted at the airport by the cold and a guy called Tiger who worked at the Hotel I was staying at who had arranged an airport transfer. I couldn't believe how cold it was, I knew that it was colder than the UAE, but when I arrived to the hotel my phone kindly told me that Amman was 2degrees. I was shown my room at Abassi Palace Hotel, and given a tea with mint. Something I would drink a lot of over my stay here. Since I wasn't completely tired, I heard people talking so I went in search for them, ending up in a group of men that spoke mainly Arabic, with one guy translating questions and my replies to the rest of the group. I eventually retired back to my room, which I am sure had non-existent windows. The room was freezing, and you could hear every noise on the street, but for 6jd a night (1jd = 1.3 australian dollars) there wasn't really much to complain about. I awoke after what felt like no sleep through the whole night and made my way to the bathroom. I had read reviews that there can be problems with the hot water, and after a freezing night and not sleeping, I was lucky enough to have that problem. Nothing wakes you up better after a bad sleep than an icy cold shower.
Breakfast was supplied by the hotel, and at first I thought it was a random combination (tea, falafel, cucumber, Arabic bread, boiled egg, banana, cheese and apricot jam). Now I actually miss it. The hotel offered tours, so after making sure that there was no one going to the Dead Sea or Petra for the day I decided that I would just walk around Amman. The guy on reception (Alaa, which I kept pronouncing like Allah, the Islamic God) talked me in to waiting for him to finish work so that he could show me around. I eventually agreed and met up with him at 10am. The main sight that I wanted to see in Amman was the Roman Amphitheatre, which is over 2,000 years old and could hold more that 5,000 people. There is also the Citadel which has some more Roman ruins on it. The thought of going up the hill it was on was a deal breaker for me (let's blame it on the poor nights sleep). From there we ventured around the streets of downtown Amman, and Alaa took me to try the most amazing dish of Kanafeh which is a middle eastern warm dessert with a layer of cheese on the bottom and then coated with a crunchy top. It was very delicious! We kept strolling around the streets, stopping to watch some magic tricks and browsing at all of the jewellery, and then made our way up to Rainbow Street - which is one of the main area's for cafes and restaurants. We found a nice cafe and sat in the sun and I felt like I was finally warm for the first time since I had arrived in Jordan.
Being exhausted still, I went back to the hotel and put on as many layers of clothes as I could and had a little nap (well tried to with the cold and the noise coming through the window). I woke up starving and took a little time to study the downtown map to decide where I would venture to for something to eat. Walking around the streets at night was completely different to the day. I had already noticed during the day that there weren't a lot of females around, fast forward to night time and there are even less. Combine this with me now being on my own, almost every guy stared at me or tried to coax me into their shop. One guy even called out "heeellllooo white girl". I had decided on a falafel shop that was mentioned in the LP. I walked down the street that I thought it was on, but every sign was in Arabic. I decided to walk around a bit and see if there was anything in English. No such luck. I walked around the block weaving up and down the streets, and then decided to head back to where I thought the falafel shop was. Every restaurant had about half a dozen guys standing around it and that was very intimidating to say the least! I decided on one to try and lined up behind the counter. You could see the look in the guys eyes behind the counter saying "oh no, a tourist" and he quickly disappeared onto the street. While he had disappeared I took a good look in the window. There were assorted meats, none of them which looked too familiar - the only one that stood out was what looked like sheep's brains. The guy returned with a man in tow, who turned out to be able to speak English. I asked him what the meats were, which he wouldn't reply with a direct answer, just saying that they were very nice, and halal. I looked down into his hands and he had a bag of falafels. What a saviour. I asked him where he had gotten them from and he pointed me to the shop next door. Mission accomplished, I got my delicious falafel sandwich (very yummy!). There was a BBQ stall at the end of the street as well, so I grabbed a lamb and tomato kebab wrapped in Arabic bread, and I had a little feast. I arrived back at the hotel, and Tiger let me know that there were people keen to go to the Dead Sea the following day, so I went back to my room to take the rest of the blankets off the spare beds and pulled out all of my thermals to sleep in, put my headphones in to listen to my Hamish and Andy pod casts (Australian radio hosts) and had a better sleep than the previous night. There was also hot water in the morning, so things were on the up.
The tour group for the day included Julia, an Australian lady and Igal and Carine, they had met during their travels and were from Chile and Brazil. We headed to Madaba to go and see a mosaic map which dates back to the 6th century showing the Middle East and the holy land. From there we went to Mount Nebo, which in biblical times is where Jesus sent Moses to see the Promised Land before he died. The site was visited by Pope John Paul II in 2000, and Pope Benedict XVI in 2009 as it is one of the most important Christian sites in Jordan. From there being 817m above sea level, we went down the mountain to 423m below sea level to the Dead Sea - Earth's lowest elevation on land. What makes the Dead Sea what it is, is that it has 33.7% salinity, making it 8.6 times saltier than the ocean meaning that animals can’t live in there, hence its name. Because the sea has so much density, you float in it. Such an amazing feeling. Even though it was a freezing cold day, we were brave and got in to our swimmers (a little intimidating as there were about a dozen local men just sitting on the bank watching) and floated about. The water temperature wasn't too bad and I think that we managed to stay in the water for around an hour, before the cold got the best of us. To our extreme disappointment the showers in the changing rooms were cold, so a quick splash of water over the bodies was all we could manage. Driving back from the Dead Sea to Amman there were car loads of families lined up along the roads, having BBQ's, riding horses and smoking shisha, making the most of their weekend. I got back to the hotel and confirmed how to get to the bus station to catch the Jett Bus to Petra the following morning, set my alarm for 5am then met up with Igal and Carine as they were heading out for a few drinks that night and invited me along. We went up to Amigo Bar near 1st Circle, where we shared travel stories and had a few drinks. Somehow shot's appeared and after a couple of them I decided that I had to not give in to peer pressure otherwise there was a big chance I would miss my bus the next day. I got back to the hotel quite drunk, asked Alaa to make sure that I was up by 5.15am and after talking to Mum on skype for a while, decided that I really needed to go to bed since it was 3.30am.
I woke up fine when my alarm went off and when Alaa knocked on my door, but then I was all of a sudden looking at my clock and it was 6.09am - the bus was due to leave at 7am, and I had no idea how far away it was. I ran out to Alaa and asked if I would still make the bus and he said I would be fine - luckily Tiger had allowed me plenty of time to get there and I just made the bus to Petra. The bus cost 16JD return, and took three and a half hours each way. By the time we arrived I had managed to catch up on a bit of sleep and was ready to face taking on Petra in 1 day - most people spread it over a couple of days. As I walked off the bus a German guy (Bernard) started to walk with me, so we ended up walking Petra the whole day together. Some people say that the cost of Petra (50JD for one day, 55JD for two days) is quite expensive, but it is well worth it. Like the mosaics, Petra dates back to the sixth century and is famous for its rock cut architecture and water conduit system, as well as being featured in films such as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Arabian Nights, Mortal Kombat and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. You walk down the siq which takes about 20 minutes and then you are welcomed by one of Petra's most famous sights - The Treasury. From there we decided to go up a hill, not really too sure where we were going. After about an hour and a half of hill and stairs, we reached the High Place of Sacrifice, which had an amazing view looking out down to Petra city. From there we were told it would take about 2 hours to get to The Monastery and then another 2 hours to get back to the entrance. Since the bus was leaving at 4pm, we decided to head towards it and see how far we got before we had to turn around back for the bus. All through Petra you are offered everything from horse and carriages at the entrance, through to camels, donkeys and horses all throughout Petra. As we had been walking around for 4 hours already and had conquered one hill, we decided to see how much a donkey would be to take us up to Monastery. I had told myself that I wouldn't do this the whole day, as you see some of the kids kicking the donkeys and just being cruel, but I had to weigh up getting to see Monastery or not. We bartered on a price of 8JD for both of us, and became lazy tourists as the poor donkey's marched us up the 800 stairs. We both agreed that this was the best idea that we'd had all day as we reached the top of the stairs in 20 minutes. After taking some photo's and walking up to one of the other high points, we decided to allow an hour and a half to get back to the bus. This was not an easy task, after almost a full day of walking, plus adding walking on sand, it made the hour and a half walk very very undesirable. If I was to do it again I definitely would have gotten a horse and carriage back to the entrance. Igal and Carine invited me out again that night, but all I could manage was bed! Petra is truly amazing and I can't recommend it enough, it’s definitely something to add to your bucket list.
On my final day in Jordan, I had arranged to go on the desert castle tour with Julia. We went to 3 castles set out in the tour, the first two were not that impressive and certainly not what comes to mind when you think of a castle. The third castle was Al Azraq, whose claim to fame was that Lawrence of Arabia hid out there for a couple of weeks during the Arab Revolt. We then got taken to another castle since we had a bit of extra time which was being renovated, but was very impressive to see. It wasn't a big castle but a lot more impressive than the first 2 we had seen. I went back to the hotel and said goodbye to Tiger and the lady who owned the hotel, they had made me feel like family over my stay here and off I went to the airport. I was flying with Easyjet - the base flight was $55AUD, but I had purchased check in baggage plus an extra 6kgs so that made it a cost a lot more. To my delight when I checked in, the friendly chap (insert sarcasm here) informed me that my suitcase was overweight. I said no, I had purchased extra weight. He then told me I only had 20kgs and I would have to pay extra. I argued this point again, and said I had purchased the 20kgs, plus 3 kgs (which he said again I hadn't) and then another 3kgs the previous day. He finally said that the first 3kgs were there, but my bag was still too heavy. Starting to lose my temper, I asked him if he wanted me to get out my receipt which shows all of the additional weight purchases, which must have made something pop up on his computer, as all of a sudden he could see the additional weight I had purchased. Combine this with the rude staff on the plane, extremely uncomfortable chairs that didn't even have a button to recline, plus you don't even get seat numbers allocated to you. Cheaper flights, is it really worth it? That’s the big question.
Jordan is truly magical, there's so much history and the other traveller’s you meet tell you about trips to Palestine and Israel. They certainly have convinced me that they are places I want to go to next (great - more to add to the list!).
Even though the hotel was cold and hot water wasn't always present, I would definitely stay there again.
Would you recommend this destination: Yes
Overall rating destination: 5 out of 5