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Jordan, Middle East, Travel

Tips for Driving in Jordan

December 16, 2014

When I started researching my trip to Jordan, I thought I would rent and car and do everything by myself. Because I live so close to Jordan, I have a few Jordanian friends that live in Qatar and they advised against it.  Now that I have been, I would drive it myself.  But there are a few things I noticed in Jordan that I will share with you.

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  • Signaling and passing –  in the US, most people use their turns signals to indicate they are changing lanes or turning. In Jordan, I noticed that the right side of many roads were rough and many drivers didn’t want to drive on them. They would give in the left lane and stay there no matter how much wanted to pass them.  They would turn on their right turn signal to indicate to you to pass them on the right! *this is what my guide told me and seemed to be pretty common.
  • Flashing lights – in Jordan, people flash their lights at you when they want you to get over because they are usually speeding and don’t want to slow down.  This is pretty common practice all over the Middle East. Unless you have experience with this, I suggest you get over as soon as you are able and if you can’t turn on your turn signal to indicate you will when you are able.
  • Lanes- I also noticed that lane markers were missing in many places in Jordan and people drift all over the roads.  Just be alert.
  • Signage and lighting – there is signage for major stops and turn offs, but they often seemed to appear right when you need to turn. I suggest driving slow when you think you are nearing your turn.  Also, in parts of the country I didn’t see lots of lighting, so you might avoid driving at night.
  • Mountains – the most scary thing while driving in Jordan was the mountain driving (well for me because I am afraid of heights!) Drive slow. At one point the road had fallen away! There was a detour, but if you had come on it too fast you might have driven past the small orange cone. Another reason to drive during the day only!

I certainly plan on renting a car the next time I go to Jordan. I feel more comfortable now that I have seen it. It also means I can stop where I want to along the way. Oh, and I will rent a 4×4 vehicle.

Jordan, Middle East, Travel

Pretending to be Indiana Jones – Jordan, Part 2

December 11, 2014

Ever since I saw Indian Jones and The Last Crusade as a kid, I have wanted to go to Petra. I am not sure if when I saw it the first time, I knew it was real though. But as I began to study history, I knew it was a place I wanted to go. It was on my list for when I first arrived in Qatar in 2013, but I was advised security wise it wasn’t a good time to go. This year, I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.

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After leaving the Dead Sea, my guide and I took a long and winding road through the mountains towards Wadi Musa. Wadi Musa is the town outside Petra where all the hotels are located.  My hotel wasn’t fancy, but it was clean and had hot water. The next time I go, I will stay at one of the nicer hotels because I ached so much when I got back and needed a better bed! The guide told me to meet him at the Petra gate at 8 am and he would introduce me to the tour guide for Petra. The guide would be with me for 2-3 hours. I am really glad I did this because there isn’t much signage inside Petra and he explained things better than the guide-book would have. Petra was built by the Nabateans and they settled here in the 6th century and began to build Petra. They were traders and you can see the reflections of other cultures from their travels in the architecture of Petra. I didn’t realize how large Petra is! Most people only know about the Treasury that you see in Indiana Jones, but it is huge and you need more than a day to see it all.  Just walking to the Treasure took 30 minutes. My advice would be to spend at least two days, if not more.   There are several places to see up in the mountains, like the Monastery, and it takes time to climb up the mountains to get there. You can take a donkey up to the Monastery, but it looked scary and I trusted my own two feet better.  Luckily, I met a nice woman on the way up and we kept each other motivated to keep going. We also took lots of rest breaks on the way up.  Getting to see the Monastery and the view from the top was worth all the aches and blisters I got.

I had brought snacks in with me because I had read food was limited inside. It isn’t necessarily true, there is food. It is expensive though. Before climbing to the Monastery, I stopped at the Crowne Plaza restaurant. It is the one located outside the museum. My guide had told me that while it was more expensive than the other ones, it was the one he recommends. It was a traditional Arabic buffet, but I was glad to have real food before I started climbing.  On the way back down my new friend and I had a beer there to celebrate making it up and down and not dying!

A few other tips about visiting Petra before I leave you with some more pictures of the stunning city. First, as I said before spend several days there. You also might want to give yourself a rest day between days, especially if you aren’t used to walking and climbing. The first day, my FitBit told me I walked almost 10 miles and much of that was vertical.  The second day, I was only in Petra for four hours and I walked 7 miles. Next tip, is to not take the donkeys or camel rides offered to you by the locals. You miss so much by riding fast through the Siq.  This is especially true if you are a solo woman traveller. Not all of them have good intentions and I was advised this by both my guide and the hotel staff.  Last tip, go early in the morning one day. The light is very different early in the morning. Plus you get to experience Petra with a lot fewer people.  The second day I was there, I was at the entrance at 7. The park opens at 6.  Next time I go, I will go when they are doing Petra at night where they light candles.  I will be going back and will spend a few days there again and then go to Wadi Rum and camp with the Bedouins.


Jordan, Middle East, Travel

Walking in the Holy Land – Jordan, Part 1

December 9, 2014

Edited-Watermarked-07631When I was planning my trip to Jordan, I had no idea that the baptism site of Jesus Christ was on the Jordanian side of the River Jordan. So, the day before I was to leave, I booked a tour of the site. I had booked it so last-minute, I had a private driver and tour guide. I felt very well-to-do! It made me laugh to myself as I felt a bit silly. The drive from my hotel in Amman to the Baptism Site is probably about 30 minutes, but the tour guide was showing me things along the way and it took about 45 minutes.  Once we arrived, there were very few people at the site and there was no one on the Israeli side at all, not even any staff. Jordanian tourism has suffered from the wars in Syria and Israel. I never saw any signs of bombs or attacks and I never felt unsafe while I was there.

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There are many things to look at on the walk out to the actual baptism site and much of the way is covered, however, even in October it was hot. You can see my red face in my picture in front of the River Jordan! There are several beautiful mosaics along the way and many of these are modern additions to the site.  Then you get to the actual site, which isn’t on the River Jordan anymore because the river has been reduced to a small creek from the water being diverted for farming.  There are several ruins of churches on the site. In the pictures below you see a set of stairs leading down to a lower area and that is the baptism site of Jesus Christ.  If you go to the website, you can see it filled with water. You can then head down to the river and actual be baptized in the River Jordan. I think you have to get permission and bring your own clergy though.  The river looked a bit gross though as I could see mosquitoes in the water. I did put my hand in it though and it was cold! The river flows down from the mountains and is still cold at this point.  Several denominations of Christians have built churches at the site. The one I went into was the Greek Orthodox church and there is a picture below of the outside. It was beautiful both outside and in. There was beautiful mosaic tile work on the floor.




The next day, I met up with the next tour guide and headed to Madaba, Mt. Nebo and the Dead Sea. In Madaba, I went to see the oldest known map of the Holy Land. Not only is it the oldest, it is also a mosaic! The map is the floor of a church built in the 6th century.  It was rediscovered in 1884.  The mosaic is impressive as it is large and very detailed.  They are doing their best to preserve what is left of the map.  It is located in the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George.

Edited-Watermarked-07661Next, I headed to Mt. Nebo. This is the place the Moses saw the Promised Land for the first time. On a clear day you can see Jerusalem. It was not a clear day and I could not see it.  You could see parts of the Dead Sea and the Jordan River Valley. It was inspiring to be there and to see what I have been hearing about since I was a baby.  Since the River Jordan was more freely flowing, I am assuming it would have been more green and much more beautiful than it was the day I was there.  On the way up the mountain, to the right hand side, my guide pointed out a small house structure with a tree.  My guide says this is where Moses got water from a rock and the spring still flows.  I don’t think this is confirmed and there was no signage, but it does look like an oasis in the land of sand.

Edited-Watermarked-07684Edited-Watermarked-07677We were now going to drive to the Dead Sea. I didn’t take too many pictures as I was afraid the salt might get into the camera. I have to say, I wasn’t impressed with the Dead Sea. It could have been that I was at the public beach and not at one of the resorts. I was glad that I didn’t spend lots of time there.  When I got in, it stung! I have very sensitive skin and if you have any scratches or wounds it will hurt like the dickens! They do have showers up on the hill to rinse of with and further up the hill there are restrooms will better showers and changing areas. Keep that in mind when you getting in. I would say that if you are staying in a resort, it might be nicer, but basically it was a big salty lake!