The Jordan Trail
Duha Fayyad is inviting energetic sorts to trod over terrain that has hosted the likes of Roman Legions, Biblical figures and even Indiana Jones. Fayyad is the vice-president of the Jordan Trail, a 675-kilometre walkway that links northernmost Jordan with the Red Sea-fronting resort destination of Aqaba, with those who hike it in its entirety seeing some dramatic Jordanian tourist attractions. “It is a completely different experience. You miss out on so much when you take a vehicle,” says hiking enthusiast Fayyad of the non-mainstream manner of touring her homeland.
The Jordan Trail officially opened in 2017 and covers eight regions that Fayyad reports differ noticeably. Northern Jordan, for instance, has a lot of greenery, while desert awaits those who head to the trail’s southern part. Trail officials rate day-long hikes by degree of difficulty, with the scale ranging from Moderate to Challenging.
Among trail highlights are Petra—the ancient Nabatean city carved from rock faces and part of which was showcased in the blockbuster movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Wadi Rum, the desert retreat associated with Lawrence of Arabia and the Arab revolt. Those who opt for the entire marked trail can do it at their own pace, perhaps taking more than six weeks to complete it, at times staying in homes in villages along the way, eating local dishes with the “super hospitable” occupants of those houses. Camping is another option, including in areas with few people.
“It forces you to connect with nature and the land,” Fayyad says. Participants may spot both domestic and wild animals, with the latter possibly including the likes of foxes, birds and different reptiles. Fayyad says those who complete the trail—overseen by NGO Jordan Trail Association—will see parts of the country that are steeped in history, with the trail’s mid-section built along Roman trade routes. More information can be found at jordantrail.org.
Visiting Jordan’s Wadi Rum region can be uplifting in a literal sense for energetic sorts. And perhaps a little tiring as well. Wadi Rum is best known for serving as a hideout for Lawrence of Arabia and other participants in the Arab Revolt and today attracts tourists eager to see an intriguing landscape of sand, dunes and rock outcroppings.
Those exploring it on a four-wheel drive desert safari are welcome to climb a steep, lengthy, sandy slope that leads them to a level area bordering towering rock faces, with tour guide Ahmad “Ace” Malhas cautioning those eager to trek upwards that the gradient won’t be the only challenge. “They think it will be easy but when they try it they say, ‘Oh my God! It’s so long,'” he reports, adding the sand surface makes planting your feet somewhat tricky.
Would-be trekkers are advised that the upward jaunt will be easier barefôot than with shoes, thanks to the sand. After descending, climbers can have traditional Bedouin tea. Meanwhile, Malhas says those who top the massive dune will be rewarded by looking down on the type of landscapes Lawrence called “vast, echoing and God-like.”
Jordanian tour company employee Tamer Nassar will happily introduce tourists to some Bedouin-style baking and brewing. Among locales Nassar—with Kawar Tours, which sends people throughout Jordan—can take visitors to is Ammarin Camp, a Bedouin encampment near the interior Jordan setting of Bediah, with the encampment found in the type of desert-like setting that Bedouins have long called home.
Those visiting Ammarin Camp can enjoy such traditional foods as hummus while sitting on low cushions, eating in a traditional Bedouin manner. The food itself is placed on a table in a recess in a dramatic rockface. Guests can stay in the camp, or overnight in the Bedouin tents and enjoy meals cooked and eaten amongst local residents, too. Those visitors can also watch a local woman bake Bedouin bread and another area residents produce traditional coffee in a manner that might seem laborious to Western coffee drinkers.
Nassar says coffee is very much part of Jordanian culture. “Wherever you go, they will offer you coffee,” adding such useful pointers that those visiting Bedouins should limit themselves to three cups of coffee as requesting a fourth is considered disrespectful in their culture. More information on the encampment can be found at bedouincamp.net/. More information on Jordan tours can be found at kawartours.com
Petra beneath the stars
Night time can be the right time to view Petra’s most dramatic feature. The Nabatean archeological site hosts Petra By Night three times a week, with those attending finding the famed gorge leading to The Treasury illuminated by candles, while the area before the towering, beautifully carved structure is also lit by a huge number of candles.
Visitors will hear Bedouin flute music and a narration tells of Petra’s storied past. Those who oversee Petra want people to realize that Petra By Night isn’t a modern sound-and-light show.
“Walking through a canyon, which is illuminated just by candlelight, is a unique experience,” the Petra Development & Tourism Region Authority says. “Once you have reached The Treasury, enjoy the magic atmosphere: listen to a Bedouin playing his flute and reciting an old tale of the Nabatean times. You will enjoy an organic sound and light exaltation of the innate talent of the Nabateans, who so magnificently enhanced the natural beauty of their capital.”
Those interested in learning how to cook up a storm Bedouin-style should consider taking a class at Petra Kitchen, which is found close to the archeological site of Petra and offers classes that can teach people how to make such Jordanian staples as lentil soup, tahini, baba ganoush and other dishes in a spotlessly clean kitchen.
Among those offering tourists pointers is Ahmad Daana, who sports a chef’s jacket and learned to cook from his mother. “They do a very good job,” he says of his students. Those students have included New Yorker David Yaw Anokye, who learned to appreciate cooking during his many travels and says Petra Kitchen inspired him. “I’ll keep practicing,” he says of Jordanian cuisine. His sister, Love, also took a class and says she was more than pleased with what she helped create. “I’m proud to help cook the food and have it taste so good,” she says, adding she was pleased to see vegan-friendly dishes available for guests to prepare.
There’s no question that those who vacation in Jordan may return home feeling a little star-struck. The country offers many great locales for stargazing, including Wadi Rum, where stars help light up the night. Wadi Rum is considered ideal for viewing the heavens after dark, thanks to a combination of factors, among them few people living there, meaning light pollution doesn’t affect views of what’s shining overhead after sundown. The desert environment also leads to clear skies.
There are many accommodation options for visitors, among them Bedouin tents for those wanting to experience a Bedouin lifestyle. Those wanting to look to the stars will also find geodesic domes to overnight in. The dwellings enable people to look directly skyward after deciding to hit the hay.