November 20 and 21, 2022

We had an extra day after the formal end of our tour to spend in Amman before our flight the next day.  We went with some group members to the Jordan Museum.  It's a mix of history and culture exhibits, and they have a few of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  While we would typically just skip through the prehistory sections of a museum like this, they had some really interesting artifacts from between 6000 and 3000 BCE that we had never seen before.  The photos of the human figures that look like plaster are from between 5000 and 6000 BCE.  That was a really cool find.

Stephen went to the Jordan Art Museum after the Jordan Museum while Eli went back to the hotel to rest.  It had a contemporary art focus with lots of interesting pieces across two buildings.  It was definitely worth a stop.

We went to an early dinner at Sheen, a very similar spot to Sufra.  We ordered (overordered again) some mezes and enjoyed them all.  

We headed to the airport at 7am the next morning, ready to come home for a while and enjoy the company of family and friends, grateful for the time we've had so far and looking forward to picking up the adventure again in January.

November 19, 2022

Our last day of the tour, today we headed to Jerash and then to the Dead Sea. Jerash is the largest and best preserved Roman city in the world. It really is….. Trust us. You really get a sense of how the town would have functioned back in the day. It's got all the parts… hippodrome, theater (2 in fact), temples, fountains, forum, shops. For Stephen, it rivaled the Acropolis in Athens. We spent about 2 hours, but could have used at least a half hour more.

We then headed to a resort on the dead sea for an afternoon of rest and relaxation as the last organized moment of our trip. The Holiday Inn allows day passes, so that's where we went, although it's unclear if you need to be with a tour group or if you can do a day pass independently.  We spent about 30 minutes in the sea floating, then got ourselves covered in mud, let it dry, washed it off, and then headed to the pool for the remainder of our time. 

We had our last group dinner, and then said formal goodbyes to everyone, even though we knew we might see them again the following day. 7 of us had been together for all 19 days…it was all for one and one for all the whole time. We definitely have some people we'll see again when we get to their neck of the woods. Good people with an open attitude. That's what traveling is all about.

November 18, 2022

Our day today was a bunch of short stops on the way back to Amman. First was Shobek to see a fortress built by the Christian crusaders in the 11th century. It was nice to have a guided tour as our guide pointed out some of the features of the castle that were developed during the long barricade by Saladin who was trying to push the crusaders out (it took him 2 years of the blockade for them to finally surrender).  The Arabic writing on some of the towers was added at a later period. 

From there we headed to Mt. Nebo, the site where Moses ismsaid to have remained after the Israelites passed into the promised land. It opened up a whole discussion with the group and our leader about Muslim beliefs and their connection to the other monotheistic traditions before it. You could tell that he was very sensitive to perceptions, probably held by some tour group members over the years, of Islam being the stereotypical version we see in the West.  It was also interesting to connect our guide's reverence for Mt. Nebo to our Egyptian guide's interest in Joseph and the carvings on Luxor temple relating the story of Joseph as the dream interpreter for Pharaoh.  

From Nebo, we headed to Madaba, the hometown of our guide. It's about 45 minutes from central Amman, so you could definitely commute. It's got a cute town center and some nice souvenir shops. It's known for the Byzantine church where a mosaic map of the region was found. It was really cool to see.  Our guide mentioned that it was used at one point as evidence in a dispute between Egypt and Israel.

November 16 and 17, 2022

Today we were supposed to drive to see little Petra on our way to the town where our hotel is, and then see Petra tomorrow. We didn't have to leave the hotel in Aqaba until 11, but that totally felt like a wasted morning. We convinced our guide to have us leave earlier and to instead of going to little Petra, to get 2 day tickets to the main site and spend a little time there today and the regular full day tomorrow.

 The main sites are along a long  path, and there is only one way in and one way out. There are some hikes that radiate up the cliffs from the main path. We decided to go and hike up to the Monastery since it's the furthest in. Wrong decision. It took us longer than expected (about 50 minutes from the main gate) to get to where we start the climb to the Monastery, so we had to rush up the 600 steps to make it up and back in time before they were going to pick us up at the main entrance, all the while dodging donkey poop.  While we think it's still a good idea to split Petra across 2 days, we would recommend taking a full day on the first day with a guide to go through all the sites on the main line (which takes about 4 hours and leaves you close to the head of the stairs to the Monastery) and then hike up to the Monastery. On the second day, you can choose any  of the other secondary trails that you have time and energy for. We ended up spending a lot of time walking through the nobles tombs on the north side of the valley. 

The carvings are really beautiful, and the color of the sandstone gives it a great effect. The style  of the carvings is influenced by Roman architecture, but it was 100% done by the Nabbetean inhabitants of the valley. Only later, after the Roman invasion in 160 AD, did the Romans construct any actual buildings. You can tell those since they are constructed of stone blocks instead of carved out of the rock face. 

On Wednesday, we had dinner as a group at a local restaurant. They served us family style chicken maqluba, Wich is a single pot meal where they take chicken and put it on the bottom of the pot, then layer veggies over that, and then put rice over that and cook on the stovetop. When serving, they take the pot and flip it over onto a tray in one swift motion so the rice is on the bottom and the chicken is on top.

Thursday to heal our aching muscles, our group leader helped 11 of the 12 of us book a service at a local hammam. It would be the first time at a hammam for a few of the group. It took a little convincing for 2 of the guys in the group, but after they had the scrub down, they decided they would definitely do it again. In fact, Bob, who is going on to Turkey next is already planning on finding one wherever he is next week.  And we needed it, definitely. The dead skin came off us in rolls, practically. The guy rubbing down Eli made some quip about it.  

The place where we went was pretty no frills. Apparently the women's side was quite a bit larger, but the men's side had a small steam room for about 6 people and then 3 marble tables for services. They don't provide towels or disposable suits to wear, so you have to bring your own. There wasn't much design to the place, it was mostly just functional. But for 35 bucks for an hour in the steam room plus a scrub down, it was the right price.

November 15, 2022

We woke up early to try and catch the sunrise. This time the clouds cooperated. We had breakfast and then headed back onto the jeeps to meet our van. Our next stop is Aqaba on the Red Sea. We enjoyed our night in Wadi Rum, but definitely thought we would have enjoyed another full day to maybe do some light hiking in the area.

We arrived in Aqaba around noonish and were able to check in to the hotel. The Red Sea is known to have some of the best coral reefs in the world. In Aqaba there are a few areas where you can snorkel to from shore and see some nice fish. Our guide arranged for us to have a snorkel guide for about 2 hours in the afternoon. It was about 30 bucks per person. It was a nice diversion as otherwise there really isn't much to do in Aqaba (the beaches here are just so so and women have challenges at the public beaches). We felt (similar to how we felt about Alexandria) that we could have skipped Aqaba entirely and not missed much. 

The one bright spot again was the food. We all went out to a restaurant suggested by our guide. Both of us had Mansaf as our main. It's a traditional rice, lamb, and yogurt dish. The lamb is cooked in the yogurt and then the yogurt is used to create a sauce as it's thinned out with stock. You pour that over the rice and it's so creamy and delicious and rich. It's almost like a savory rice pudding (but not as thick) or like an avgolemono but not as thin (and minus the lemon flavor).

November 14, 2022

Luckily it wasn't too early of a morning. The ride to Wadi Rum is about 3.5 hours and we made two pit stops along the way. We arrived in the town just outside the valley around 2pm and transferred to jeeps to finish the ride. We took a tour through the desert on the way to our camp, stopping in a gorge where they found carvings from about 2000 years ago. When we arrived at our camp, we were pleasantly surprised. It was more glamping than camping, although we had communal restrooms. 

We headed out again to a lookout point to watch the sunset, but the clouds didn't cooperate with us. We headed back to camp, but the clouds did create quite a color show once the sun was down. We hung out for a while around the campfire while the Bedouin hosts got the main tent ready for dinner. They cooked the food in the ground in a steel drum. We ate buffet style, and it was really flavorful.  After dinner we sat by the fire again for a while. One of the camp hosts was playing a stringed instrument and singing a bit. We laid back for a while and watched the stars.

November 13, 2022

We have another travel day today as we're heading to start the Jordan portion of our tour. We left at 9:30 for a 2pm flight. That's because Cairo traffic and security time can be variable. We had about 2 hours before takeoff so we headed to the lounge available for our Priority Pass membership. The food was honestly better than many of the meals we had in our 2 weeks in Egypt. 

The flight was uneventful, and we were greeted by an Intrepid representative and shepherded through passport again. Our bags were waiting for us, except for one member of our group. Our transfer agent listed a bunch of things and asked if he might have any in his bag. Binoculars was the one. His bag was taken by security, and it took an hour and quite a bit of back and forth to finally get the bag. We are very glad we degayified our luggage before we started this section of our trip.

On the ride in, Jordan ses far more organized that Egypt. There is not the chaos in traffic. The buildings here are mostly painted white, which gives a cleaner look while Cairo's we're mostly brown which made everything look dusty. Eli looked it up and the per capita GDP of both counties is about the same. It just feels like Jordan has done so much more with what they have. Maybe it's just easier because there are fewer total people here. It feels to us more like Thessaloniki than Cairo here.  Other random observation: lots of hybrid and electric cars here.

We arrived at the hotel after 6:30 and the welcome meeting was supposed to be at 6. We didn't see anyone around so we texted our new guide. He didn't answer so we just decided to meet in the lobby in 20 minutes and find a restaurant ourselves. We checked the Lonely Planet and came up with Sufra. It was about a 20 minute Uber ride and we were there. It's the kind of place you need a reservation for, but we lucked out that they had a table for 6 available (as long as we could finish our meal by 9pm). We obliged because we didn't really have any other options. 

The food was spectacular. It was everything we were hoping to find in Egypt but never did. We did mostly mezes at the table, and Eli and I ordered a main they suggested (Saj).  Everything was flavorful and all the dishes had a little bit of heat without it being overwhelming.  It did come at a cost, though. We spent about 60 bucks for the two of us. Jordan is not as cheap as Egypt; in fact it's comparable to the US as they peg the Jordanian Dinar to the US dollar.

Eventually our Jordan group leader did get back to us and told us we'd go over everything on the bus the next day on our way to Wadi Rum.

Trying to sort out the luggage issue.