Istanbul / Jordan Trip Days 6, 7 and 8 (Wadi Rum & Aqaba)

This trip took place all the way back in April, and I made posts for the first five days and then left off for a while. I feel the itch to complete what I started, even though it’s now November. Part of what drives me to complete is that I really enjoyed my visit to Jordan. The sights were beautiful and almost everyone was really friendly to us there. Jordanian culture highly values hospitality, and we were the happy recipients of that hospitality on multiple occasions.

Links to the earlier posts are located at the end of this entry, but I left off with a description of our visit to Mt. Nebo and the Dead Sea. The day after that trip, my sister, my friend Jen and I drove our rented car down the bleak Desert Highway to Wadi Rum.

The bleak Desert Highway was dominated by trucks and potholes.

The bleak Desert Highway was dominated by trucks and potholes.

Wadi Rum is a protected area full of wondrous sandstone formations. Only three particular bedouin tribes are allowed to operate tours out of Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum looks very similar to some of the American West landscapes, and was a favorite place of T.E. Lawrence’s.

We had booked an overnight tour of Wadi Rum. When we arrived at the village of Rum, we enjoyed some tea in a reception tent before setting off on a jeep tour of Wadi Rum. What the “jeep tour” actually meant was a ride in the bed of a pick-up truck, which had been fixed up with bench seats and a canopy. It was a bumpy ride, but spectacular scenery. Our guide was the tour operator’s nephew and he had us try surfing down a sand dune on a board. (Climbing back up the sand dune after surfing down was extremely tiring and I finally understood the exhaustion of desert travelers in movies, where they are depicted as slogging through the sand.)

Other activities involved scrambling up to some natural rock bridges. My sister was like a mountain goat and did most of the climbing in her bare feet. I was the one hanging back from the more precarious spots. On our tour, we also saw some cool petroglyphs of people and camels – a few were located in this lovely shaded ravine, a spot I particularly enjoyed, maybe because it didn’t involve heights!

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Standing in front of the Wadi Rum landscape.

Our jeep tour deposited us at our camp for the night. The three of us would be sharing a tent room; each of us had a sturdy cot and plenty of blankets. We enjoyed some tea again, and then scattered ourselves among the neighboring rock formations to watch the sun set over the desert. Dinner was plentiful and delicious, prepared by the guide’s wife who we had had the privilege of meeting earlier. We were joined at dinner by other tourists: a British couple and their adult son as well as a Jordanian man, his German wife, their son and her parents.

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Sunset in Wadi Rum, with a couple of trucks speeding along in the foreground.

After dinner, my sister, Jen and I went out to the rock formations again to look at the stars over the desert. My sister and I come from a musical family and Jen is also a singer, so we felt moved to sing songs out into that big space. I particularly remember that Jen sang Sara Bareilles’ “Once Upon Another Time” and it sounded very pretty and haunting; I was also impressed by Jen’s memory as she sang the whole thing. I count this time under the stars in Wadi Rum as one of the best experiences in my life.

The next morning, we took a long camel ride back to the village of Rum, with a guide who walked the whole way back next to the camels. My camel was the lead camel. The other two camels wanted to run, but mine was more interested in eating plants out of the ground and I wasn’t enough of a disciplinarian to stop her. We did let the camels run a couple of times but it was a bit too much jostling for my taste.

Picture taken by my sister.

Picture taken by my sister.

Our visit to Wadi Rum ended on a somewhat distressing note when the three of us accidentally witnessed an unpleasant interaction while returning from the camel paddock. So we were contemplative and sad when we left Wadi Rum.

We arrived late in the afternoon in Aqaba and stayed with an American family that my sister knew. It was very warm as we walked by the Red Sea. We stopped by an outdoor market called the Souk by the Sea, which had been decorated with lighted paper stars. We lingered to hear some live music and all in all, had a pleasant evening.

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Unfortunately, early the next morning, I woke up feeling sick to my stomach. Jen also felt unwell. My sister fortunately felt fine. Since we had all ordered the very same thing at the restaurant the night before, we did not think it was food poisoning. We had planned to go out on the Red Sea in a glass-bottomed boat, but we scrapped all of our Aqaba plans and just lay about our rooms feeling miserable. My sister played nursemaid. I craved applesauce (the one food I can tolerate when I’m nauseated) to the point of fixation, but managed to get down some oatmeal.

While my body was inert, my mind was frantic with the idea that the next day (day 9) was our day in Petra, and I did not know how to make myself feel well. Jen seemed to be coping somewhat better than I, though I don’t think she was any less sick.  In the late afternoon of day 8 (which I now think of as the Lost Day), we drove to our hostel outside of Petra. The several hour drive felt tortuous as I tried to curl up in the backseat over sometimes bumpy roads. The hostel owner was very nice and chatty and I wished I could respond with more than baleful looks from the lobby armchair where I had dropped myself.

Later, while I was cocooned underneath blankets in our hostel room, my sister made a little pile of gently bland crackers and tea biscuits on my nightstand, which she had scavenged from a nearby convenience store. She watched Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief on the television set in our room. I woke up several times and began to feel less terrible each time. The next morning, Jen and I, while not at 100%, proclaimed ourselves fit enough to take on Petra, which I will post about next time.

In case you’re curious, here are the links to the other trip posts:

Istanbul (Day 1): Grand Bazaar, Süleymaniye Mosque, Spice Market

Istanbul (Day 2): Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque

Istanbul (Day 3): Bosphorus Cruise

Istanbul (Day 4): Hagia Sophia, Istiklal Street, Taksim Square

Jordan (Day 5): Mount Nebo, the Dead Sea, camels

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Istanbul / Jordan Trip Days 6, 7 and 8 (Wadi Rum & Aqaba)

  1. piningforthewest

    Thanks for the beautiful photos, it sounds like it was quite an experience but I’m glad that I’m just an armchair traveller.

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