We departed Egypt on the very expensive "fast ferry" to Jordan. As it turns out, the ferry is much faster, but not really subject to any schedule. So, it left a few hours later than expected, but only took an hour and a half to cross the Red Sea. The "slow ferry" is only slightly cheaper and takes somewhere between four and eight hours.We were lucky enough to meet a Dutch couple on the ferry who had a car rental arranged in Jordan and who were going to the same place as us. They kindly agreed to take us along to Wadi Rum, a town in the desert of southern Jordan famous as much for Lawrence of Arabia as for beautiful landscapes. This is the Seven Pillars of Wisdom rock formation. Unclear why this one is so special since lots of them in the area look like this. Given the popularity of Lawrence of Arabia in these parts, it is probably because T.E. Lawrence once looked at it in a loving way.
On our hike around the Seven Pillars (which resulted in us getting rather lost), we found two good living things. The first was this lizard. The second was a Bedouin who was stranded until a mechanic came to fix his Jeep. He had been there for a week. We talked to him for a long time and he gave us amazing tea. Glass after glass. He showed us how he catches birds to eat under a pan and then showed us some birds he had caught. No pictures of him, though.
We took a Jeep tour of the Wadi Rum area to see the highlights. The first stop was "Lawrence Springs" some springs where Lawrence of Arabia once drank! So, I hiked up a sizable rock avalanche to see this. Pathetic. Maybe it is because I have never seen Lawrence of Arabia (yeah, yeah, I know--it was a book, too, but I haven't read the book, either), but they kept taking us to these sites associated with Lawrence of Arabia and all these old people would look on excitedly while I laughed at how ridiculous they were.
Wadi Rum has a long canyon that is very nice. Unfortunately, we only had time to walk to the part that gets difficult and then we had to turn back to see more things. Seemed like a great place for a combination hike and climb. The colors in much of the sandstone were really spectacular.
Wadi Rum feels a bit like the American Southwest, and even has some arches. Unlike Arches National Park, you are allowed to climb on the arches in Jordan. Here is Tara on the little one.
And me on a much bigger one. Based on the skills of some of the other people going to the top of this one, I completely understand why the US national parks don't let people climb arches.
Tara took this one of me coming down. I am not sure if the look on my face is concentration or concern that the old woman I just passed being helped up by a guide looked like she would have a hard time walking on the ground, let alone climbing rocks.
Our driver didn't speak much English, so it was unclear whether he thought these nice camel inscriptions were important because a.) they are really old; b.) Lawrence of Arabia is somehow depicted; or c.) his kid drew them. We took a picture like good tourists, though.
While visiting this nice red sand dune tucked snuggly against a small mountain, Tara and I decided to race up the sand dune. I let her slowly climb half way up and then we raced to the top with me starting at the bottom. She won by a couple of seconds, but was so exhausted that she laid down to rest while I climbed the rest of the small mountain/hill. She appears in this picture as a small bluish dot just inside the shadow.
Our guide and another guide making tea in the desert at sunset. No, I did not wear, nor do I ever plan to wear, a red and white checker board cloth on my head.
Sunset at Wadi Rum. I realize that sunsets are boring, so I selected only one. You can thank me later.
Tara is drinking her ninth glass of tea of the day in this picture. That explains her smile.
From Wadi Rum, we proceeded to Petra, the most famous place in Jordan. Petra was a huge city about 2000 years ago. They built especially ornate tombs carved into the rocks of the valley where they lived. Due to massive earthquakes, all that really remains is these tombs (and some more recently excavated temples). This is one of the earlier ones, but I like it because it has tombs on the top level and a big dining room on the bottom level so that you can come eat with the dead.
The Siq is a canyon leading the the main part of Petra. A great natural protection and also a nice natural setting. Through the crack in the canyon, you can see "The Treasury", probably the most photographed building in Petra. The building never had anything to do with money, but stories proliferated that the rock urn on top of the facade was filled with treasure. Not true.
Here is the full treasury with a bonus camel. The urn at the top is filled with bullet holes from people trying to shoot it down for the treasure. Unfortunately, I left my gun back at the hotel, so I didn't get a shot.
The next most famous building is the monastery. Not a monastery at all, but, surprise, surprise, a tomb. It is about 160 feet tall. Inside is one, small, disappointing, rectangular room.
Some of the sandstone of Petra is filled with a rainbow of colors. Not sure how this will look on your screen (the screen I am using is probably from the 1940s), but in real life it is filled with color.
Behind Petra are large, colorful mountains. If we had it to do over again, I would have made Tara hike over these mountains like a Hobbit rather than pay the $70 entry fee to Petra.
This facade is rather eroded, but you can see the vibrant colors even better.
The most ornate inside also has one of the best ceilings. This one was originally a king's tomb, but was later used as a church. I think the Christians made the inside a bit more ornate.
Tara found these giant grasshoppers that were hatching. This one wants to know why I was disturbing him.
This one just wants to eat something. Or kill someone.
The "Life Could Be Better" Pharmacy. What a great name.
Amman has a massive Roman amphitheater, but before we found it, we found this tiny theater next door that we thought was it. We sat there eating some pastries for a long time, wondering why there were no other tourists. Then we walked out and saw the massive theater next door.
This is the huge Roman theater. Looks like they still use it for performances. Also like they are building some huge building right in front of it.
The Dead Sea is the lowest land on Earth, and so salty you supposedly can't drown (a stupid bit of folklore since you could easily float with your face down). Here I am walking in.
A view of the surprisingly blue dead sea with the West Bank on the opposite side.
Me floating. Yes, it looks like I'm sitting on the bottom, but I really am floating here. You almost feel like you can sit up. I wanted to go under and our guide first advised that I lick my finger. I did and my tongue immediately burned like I had poured acid on it. That didn't stop me from later going under. For anyone curious, the incredibly high salt concentration burns your mouth, your nose, and your eyes. A lot.
Here we are with some Dead Sea mud ready to go to war. Our skin was surprisingly soft afterward, though our guide was insistent that we wash it all off really well or face a bad rash later from it drying out our skin so much.
Jordan is a much more developed country than I anticipated. The people here have been very friendly and the infrastructure is good. Petra is very expensive, and the rest of the country is not cheap, but it has been worth a few days in the country.