Travel Diary: Jordan! - Nouchaline

Friday, April 7, 2017

Travel Diary: Jordan!

Jordan had been on my list of countries to visit for a while, even though it's less than two hours away (formerly 50 minutes) from Beirut, I never got around to visiting it until now. It's one of the few visa-free access countries for Lebanese passport holders, so it was relatively easy to plan. The main reason for my visit to Jordan was the "From the Lowest Point to the Highest Me" Conference hosted by JCI Jordan at the Dead Sea. I had planned to go to this conference last year, but it didn't work out so I made sure that I could make it this year. I don't know what I was expecting from Jordan, but it exceeded my expectations. 

Day 1: Amman

After an hour of interrogation at the airport due to a name mix-up with one of my friends in the group, we finally made our way out of Queen Alia International Airport. The streets were super clean, apparently due to the fact that the Arab League Summit was held in the country (Yo Lebanon, can we host one of those too?). People were following traffic laws, a practice that is not always respected in Lebanon. Amman gave me "2009 pre-war Damascus meets early 2000s Dubai" vibes, the city is well planned out and structured but it hasn't completely developed into a modern city, yet. While driving by I saw a bunch of international restaurant chains that we don't have back in Beirut (like IHOP and Papa Johns). We didn't spend too much time in the capital as we had to head to the Dead Sea the next day, but we did manage to visit the Amman Citadel and have lunch at a restaurant called Cafe Social (HIGHLY recommended if you're in the area). 

Day 2 to 4: Dead Sea

The following day we got on the Dead Sea highway and headed south to the famous sea. We stayed at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel (where the conference was being held), which apparently is the oldest resort at the Dead Sea (according to somewhere at the conference, didn't double check though). I had an enjoyable three days there where I met some really awesome people who I'm happy to call my new friends. 

The highlight of the Dead Sea was actually going into the Dead Sea. For some reason, I thought I could (almost) walk on water like Jesus, but apparently, it's not dense enough for that so I was just floating around like a potato that's about to get fried. The water is indeed VERY salty and of course, it went in my eyes...because that's just my life. After 16 minutes of blindness and not being able to open my eyes, I got my vision back. As for the water itself, it kind of tastes and smells like what I imagine car oil to taste and smell like, and when you get out it feels weird on your body. Thankfully, you get distracted by the mud and get to cover yourself up with the mixture. Since we got a little too carried away with the mud application process, it was a bit of a bitch to get off. Sidenote: if you ever do find yourself covered in mud at the dead sea, wash off the mud from your swimsuit ASAP because it will stain (this was a tip from Tamoorah, and I'm very glad I listened to her). 

While at the Dead Sea I also got my first professional massage. It wasn't just any massage either, my friends and I had a #YOLO moment and decided to get a fancy package which included a mud wrap, sea salt body scrub, facial, and full body massage. It's safe to say that I will be booking more massages in the future! 

Although there's not much else to do at the Dead Sea, we did manage to drive to the Jordan River to visit the Baptism Site of Jesus Christ. This was a very interesting experience, not just because of the religious reasons but because the river divides The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the State of Israel and while at the site you can literally see "Israel" and their high tech security set up. On the river there are two ropes (like the ones they have at the beach to warn swimmers not go in too deep) on one side it's Jordan - a place that I'm allowed to be in- and on the other side is "Israel" - a place where I'm not allowed to ever visit. It was a surreal experience as a Lebanese honestly. Isn't it funny how man-made borders work? This is mine and this is yours. Anyway, let's move on before this gets too political. 

Day 5: Wadi Rum

On Day 4, we were supposed to head to Petra in the morning before driving to Wadi Rum, but unfortunately, the plan did not work out. I was kinda annoyed and sad, but I guess now I have a reason to visit Jordan again. Instead, we went to Amman and then drove to Wadi Rum. It was a looong ride on a highway full of speed bumps. Did you know highways could have speed bumps? Deathly potholes, yes, radars, yes, suicidal people crossing from one side to the other because there are no pedestrian crossing bridges, yes, but speed bumps? Nope, I did not know that. After a three + hour drive, we finally made it to Wadi Rum and checked in to Beit Ali where we slept in a tent. At night, we had dinner and watched the stars in the sky. We had a 5:30 AM wake up call in order to go on a sunrise safari ride through the desert. It was freezing, like "I was wearing 4 layers of clothing and had a blanket" freezing, but it was worth it because we got to see the red sand and take some awesome shots of the desert in which films like The Martian, Lawrence of Arabia and The Red Planet were filmed in. After a decent breakfast, we headed back to Amman (more concussion causing speed bumps) and had lunch at Rainbow Street (which is so not filled with rainbows... should be renamed Grey Street) before heading back to the airport to fly home. 

photo by Rami Rahbani 
In conclusion, I enjoyed Jordan and would definitely go back. It's a bit (ehem, really) expensive especially when it comes to food and alcohol, but it's alright if you're there for only a couple of days with friends! 

 Ps. All photos were taken on iPhone 7 plus, except for the one mentioned. 

Jordanian lingo:
Esh: what?
Esh Malak: How are you?/What wrong with you? :P
Zaki: delicious
Mamhoun: horny (unlike in Lebanese which usually translates to super spoiled)
Azma: traffic (unlike in Lebanese which translates to a crisis, such a dramatic way to describe traffic)

Have you been to Jordan??

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