A Weekend in Jordan: The Dead Sea and Petra

A new friend invited me to celebrate her birthday with her on a weekend trip to Jordan. I, along with NINE!! other women, packed our bags and hopped on a 3 hour flight from Abu Dhabi to Amman. Most of the group were in town by Thursday morning, but I left after work with two other ladies on Thursday afternoon.

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Our driver picked us up and immediately offered us water. A very kind gesture considering it was Ramadan and he was fasting. Once the evening call to prayer was heard, he broke his fast and started offering us everything he had. Dates, peaches, mini cucumbers, coffee with cardamon. Since it’s rude to decline, we tried it all. Yum! We had an hour drive from Amman airport to our hotel, Jordan Valley Marriott, but he was kind enough to let us stop along the way for some quick snaps.

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We had a weekend chock full of sightseeing, so once I checked into the hotel and got some dinner in me I was done. When I woke up the next morning I learned that Jordan is an hour behind Abu Dhabi. My 6am alarm meant it was really 5am. Unable to go back to sleep, I went onto the balcony as the sun was rising. Imagine my joy when I stepped onto the rooftop deck and saw this.

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The Dead Sea! I couldn’t wait to get into the water. Those of us who arrived on Thursday night thought we would miss this opportunity since the group had already done it during the day on Thursday and we had a full day of touring for Friday. If you know me, then you know there was absolutely no way I could continue without figuring out how to at least dip my toes in the water. After all, this was a bucket list item for me.

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We asked the hotel staff how early we could go into the sea. The first guy told us 07:00, the next guy said 06:30, the last guy gave me the answer I wanted to hear. “It’s the sea. It’s always open. Who will stop you?!” So, three of us met up at 6:30am and took a golf cart ride from the hotel main building down to the sea.

The water is so salty that you float with ease. It’s a phenomenon that I understood scientifically, but didn’t fully grasp how amazing it was until I was floating in it myself. I barely sat down and got onto my back before the water had me bobbing along the surface.

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The mud from the sea is also supposed to contain many minerals that are good for your skin. I floated around a bit, then slathered on the mud.

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When I washed it off 5 minutes later, my skin was incredibly smooth. No idea what is in that mud exactly, but I’m glad I tried it.

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After our Dead Sea experience, we changed and prepared to meet the rest of the group for our trip to Petra.

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This was one of the best parts of my visit. Quirky tidbits about me: I enjoy visiting places where movies were filmed or locations that inspire the setting for movie sets. When I went to Tokyo, I visited the restaurant that inspired the set for the Crazy 8 fight scene in Kill Bill. I also enjoy visiting places that are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Petra meets both of these requirements. It has also been designated as one of the new 7 Wonders of the World. If any of you remember the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade you’ll know Petra by the picture below.

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This iconic building, called Al Khazneh (The Treasury), was used in the movie as the temple housing the Holy Grail. Pretty cool, right?

The history of Petra is still sort of a mystery to me. I would love to tell you that I learned lots from our tour guide, but I had trouble standing still in the heat and listening to him talk when there were so many interesting things to see.

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There were also a few times where I was too busy wandering off from the group to listen to his thorough explanations because I was exploring things on my own.

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No matter. Tourist brochures and Wikipedia have filled in the gaps. 🙂

Petra is an ancient city that was settled long ago by a group of Arabs called the Nabataeans some time around the 1st Century BC. The city has incredible architecture that was carved into the rocks and cliffs.

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Also of note, there are many conduits carved into the rocks that were created to control the flow of water.

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You can spend several hours there and not see everything. If you’re a nature lover and archaeology geek like me then this would be an experience you would love. Actually, even if you’re not into that stuff, it’s still pretty amazing!

I will warn you now that this is a trek! The blogs I have read recommend visiting over 2 days to see as much as possible. That we tried to do the trek in just 5 hours during the middle of the day in summer’s heat was crazy. From the visitor’s center to the main gate is about 1km (0.6 miles). You can opt to skip this distance and take a horse to the main gate.

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You can also opt to take a carriage through the narrow passageway, called the Siq, to Al Khazneh (The Treasury).

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But if you can walk, you’ll be able to pause and admire views like this. The distance is about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) through the Siq to the Treasury.

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Once you get to the clearing and into the canyon, your options from there are donkey, horse, camel, or walking. From there it’s about another 2- 3 kilometers (1.2 – 1.8 miles) or more to the Basin restaurant near the monastery path.

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That’s a roundtrip total of approximately 10 rocky, sandy kilometers (6.2 miles) if you don’t go off the path and stop at the restaurant before turning around. There were many people visiting when we went of all different ages, sizes, and apparent physical fitness levels.

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If you have water, sunglasses, great walking shoes, and a scarf to shield you from the blowing sand, you’ll be well prepared.

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Take your time and enjoy. When you get tired, take a rest in the shade. The place is open from dawn until dusk.

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Many of us opted to explore the area by foot and I’m glad we did. In addition to the historical and geological details, there was a buzz of juxtaposition here. This was a place where ancient ruins from 1st Century BC meet 21st Century modernity. There were guys trying to sell horse and donkey rides, young boys hawking silver bracelets, excavation sites from Brown University, tourists like me taking photos and video with a DSLR and GoPro, and other tourists with their mobiles perched on selfie sticks.

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Petra was easily the highlight of my visit to Jordan. I will definitely go back and explore on a longer trip since I didn’t have enough time to see all that I wanted to see with the group. Doing a group trip with a travel company was outside of my normal travel style as I usually enjoy solo travel and rarely use guides. That being said, I still had a blast with the ladies and enjoyed how the tour company took very good care of us.

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When you go to Petra, be sure to enjoy lazing about. Embrace the shway shway lifestyle – slowly take it all in without rushing to and fro.

The next and final day of the trip saw the 3 late arrivers getting up early to visit the Baptismal site before joining the group on a tour to Mt. Nebo. More on this day in an upcoming post.

If you’d like to see more photos from my Jordan trip, feel free to visit my Facebook page and go through the Jordan photo album.

1 thought on “A Weekend in Jordan: The Dead Sea and Petra

  1. So many people seem to be going to Jordan lately. I’ve really got to get in on that. It sounds like you had so much fun. I’d love to take a dip into the Dead Sea. I’m afraid of water (or more like, afraid of drowning) so I love the idea of just automatically floating. Great pics, hun. Love Indiana Jones too so, yes, Petra would be a must!

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