The Wonders of Wadi Rum

My 9-day adventure in Jordan was coming to an end. After 2 days of exploring Petra, it was time for me to move on further south of the country to experience the wonders of the desert – the wonders of Wadi Rum. Wadi Rum is often associated with the British officer T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) who spent a significant amount of time in this desert during the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire during 1917 to 1918. Fans of the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia will recognise the Wadi Rum landscape which is not so much sand dunes like the Sahara as it consists of mainly red sandstone, gorges, cliffs, arches, canyons and granite monoliths. The Wadi Rum area is predominantly inhospitable to settled life, and no real infrastructure except for the Bedouin nomads and their goat hair tents. The Bedouin tribes in Wadi Rum now work closely with climbers and trekkers, earning income from tourism. They also set up and manage desert camps, camel and 4WD safari across the desert for tourists. Similarly to Petra, tourism businesses set up in Wadi Rum have to be owned by Bedouins, ensuring incomes are earned within the community only. ***** I

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In Pictures: The Bedouins of Petra

Just as tourists are fascinated by the ancient Nabatean lost city, Petra, many are equally enchanted by its inhabitants – the Bedouins. The Bedouin tribes claimed to be the direct descendants of the Nabateans and that they had inherited Petra from their ancestors. Therefore it is presumed that the tribes have had been living in this area for over a hundred years or more. The Bedouins were once nomads, earning their livelihood from breeding goats, sheep and horses, and making and selling yogurt and cheese. After some time, they changed their nomadic habits for a more stable existence by living in caves in Petra. However, when UNESCO awarded Petra with world heritage status in 1985, the Jordanian government moved the tribe from the caves to a nearby village with proper built houses and amenities. Their sources of income also changed from breeding animals and selling produce, to tourism. The camel, mule or horse rides offered in Petra are managed by Bedouins. So are the cafes and side tents set up along the walking trails selling trinkets. Non-Bedouins are not allowed to set up businesses in Petra, hence incomes are earned within the community only which is a good thing. However,

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A Guide To Walking Trails in Petra

As soon as I returned from Jordan in May, the immediate questions that family and friends asked were not about my general experience travelling in Jordan but specifically about Petra. “Did you go to Petra, is it like in Indiana Jones?” “You went to Jordan? Oh my god, Petra!!” “How was Petra?”, “I hope you went to Petra!” People tend to associate Jordan with Petra only. It is not surprising because there is indeed something extraordinary about Petra. Each time I see images of Petra, it takes my breath away. However, the image that one often sees of Petra is just the facade of the Treasury which was filmed in the climactic final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Actors Harrison Ford and Sean Connery appear from The Siq on horseback and walk into the Treasury in search of the Holy Grail. I believe Petra was made more famous as a result of that scene in Indiana Jones so much so that tourists come to Petra for that obligatory photo in front of the Treasury but they move on very quickly to other tourist spots thereafter. ***** History Petra is a whole lot more than just the Treasury.

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King’s Highway Jordan: Wadi Mujib and Kerak Castle

To travel from Amman/Madaba to Petra, travellers have the option to drive on the Desert Highway or the King’s Highway in Jordan. I would recommend the King’s Highway because this scenic route follows a zigzag course that cuts through several deep valleys, offering scenic views of rugged terrains and steep canyons. The Desert Highway, on the other hand, is a straight dual highway which is a faster route to Petra but the journey can be monotonous. The journey on the King’s Highway takes a little longer time but, after driving past rolling arid fields and through winding roads up and down the highway, eventually, travellers would be rewarded with views like this: Wadi Mujib Viewpoint Dubbed as the Grand Canyon of Jordan, the deep vast valleys, mountain cliffs and gorges look glorious and spectacular from above. Many travellers often stop at this viewpoint to admire the breathtaking and majestic landscape. Dam Al-Mujib An oasis in the middle of the desert and gigantic mountains. The Wadi Mujib territory is part of the protected Mujib Biosphere Reserve where travellers can hike and abseil through the canyons. Kerak Castle Another stop en route to Petra is a city called Kerak known for its

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Madaba Day Trip to Mount Nebo, Bethany, Dead Sea

When I was in Madaba, I went for a half-day excursion to biblical sites close to town. Those sites are Mount Nebo, Bethany and the Dead Sea. Tourists can also go on a similar excursion from Amman but I preferred to go from Madaba as the distance to the biblical sites were closer and accommodation were actually cheaper than Amman. Mount Nebo Mount Nebo holds a great significance for the 3 major religions in the world: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Having led the Israelites from the wilderness after 40 years ago, it was here – at a vantage point – Moses was granted the view of the Promised Land by God but was forbidden to enter. This momentous event took place towards the end of Moses’ life. As stated in Deuteronomy 34:1-8, the Lord said to Moses, “This is the Land which I swore to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that I would give to their descendants. I have let you see this with your own eyes but you shall not cross over it”. Moses died at the age of 120 years old and is believed to be buried somewhere in the valleys of Mount Nebo but no one knows the exact

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Reviewed: Moab Land Hotel

I stayed at the Moab Land Hotel, a hostel situated literally across the road from the Greek Orthodox Basilica of St George, or simply, St. George Church. The word ‘hotel’ is rather misleading for the prices they charge but it’s actually a hostel consisting of private double rooms and mixed dormitories. There are not many accommodations available in Madaba because the town is rather small with population of only 60,000. Majority of the accommodations are family-run and the most luxurious hotel that you can find is a 4-star Best Western hotel. In addition, there are travellers’ accommodations run by the Franciscans as 10% of the residents are Catholics and Greek Orthodox. The entrance of the hostel is a little confusing. Although there is a large signage of ‘Moab Land Hotel’ on the building, the entrance of the hostel is not on the ground floor. Instead there’s a pizza shop and a gift shop on the ground floor and in between the two shops is a path leading up the stairs. There is another signage indicating that the hostel is upstairs but as I climbed up to the second and third floor, I came across only rooms, no one was in

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Mosaics of Madaba

Imagine living in a town where your backyard is now part of an Archaeological Park, a museum of mosaics unearthed from an early Byzantine church buried underneath rubbles, rocks and sand? Pretty cool, huh? The town is called Madaba – a laid-back town of 60,000 people – and is best known for its Byzantine mosaics preserved in churches and museums. Many tourists come to Madaba for a fleeting visit to see the mosaic map of the Holy Land but I wanted to experience something more from this town. I wanted to walk along the narrow streets and wander around the old quarter, and perhaps to stumble across fine mosaics in old stone houses. Hence, rather than visiting Madaba on a day trip from Amman, I chose to stay here for 2 nights. ***** Right across the road from my accommodation is the 19th century Greek Orthodox Basilica of St George, and inside the church is a 6th century treasure of early Christianity – a mosaic map of the Holy Land. Previously containing 2 million pieces of coloured stones, the mosaic map represents all the major biblical sites from Egypt to Palestine in Greek. The map is no longer complete – only

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Ancient Cities of Jerash and Amman Citadel

The day after I explored the modern and contemporary art of Amman, I went back in time to explore the historical ruins of Amman – Jerash and the Amman Citadel. Jerash is located 48km north of Amman and is now the second-most popular tourist attraction in Jordan, after Petra, due to its ancient sites as one of the best-preserved Greco-Roman cities of eastern Mediterranean. Based on archaeological evidence, Jerash was inhabited since the Paleolithic and Neolithic times (that’s 18,000 years ago!) but this fertile valley attracted settlement in 3rd century BC and was declared as one of the Decapolis cities (“ten cities” in Greek) in 4th century BC by Alexander the Great. During 1st century BC, Jerash continued to thrive when its geographical location became strategic on the incense and spice trade route from the Arabian Peninsula to Syria and the Mediterranean region, and was a favourite city of Emperor Hadrian when the city’s prosperity reached its peak in AD 130. Jerash started to decline during 190 when Rome was experiencing civil disorder, increase in taxation, high inflation, all of which impacted trade with Jerash (hmm, sounds like modern 21st century too!). Jerash became a Christian city under the Byzantine rule in

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Reviewed: Toledo Hotel, Amman

It can be disconcerting when arriving in a city or country never visited before to find your airport pick-up from the hotel did not arrive on time. I have had my share of such experiences. Thankfully, that didn’t happen when I arrived in Amman. The moment I exit from the airport, I was grateful to see my name on the placard held by the driver sent by Toledo Hotel – nothing is ever more reassuring than that. The arrival experience continued to be pleasant the instant I stepped into Toledo Hotel, the hotel that I stayed for two nights in Amman. I walked into the lobby ornately decorated in a Moorish style with keyhole arches and marble flooring. Check-in was smooth, just what I needed after being on flight and transit for 10 hours from Malaysia. The front desk staff was courteous and helpful with my enquiries about maps, locations of sights and WiFi access (yes, available and free!) My room was located on the 7th floor, an air-conditioned room fitted with twin beds, TV, desk, tea & coffee facilities, bar fridge, closet and a private safe box. I found no faults with the room (including the attached bathroom) as it

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Artsy Amman

An interesting observation of the questions asked of me when I returned from Jordan. Apart from “Is Jordan safe?”, the ones I found amusing were “Did you go to Petra, is it like in Indiana Jones?” , “You went to Jordan? Oh my god, Petra!!”, “How was Petra?”, “I hope you went to Petra!”. Of course I went to Petra, it would be a travesty if I didn’t! I appreciate your questions and am more than happy to share with you about my thoughts on Jordan…and Petra. But nobody has asked me about things to see and do in the capital city, Amman 🙂 Well, the reality is majority of visitors fly into the capital city and immediately they are whisked off to the main attractions of Jordan. Over a period of a few days, tourists visit the ancient architecture of the Citadel in Amman or make day trips to Jerash or to Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea. Tourists also opt to make a 4-hour journey from Amman to Petra, take the obligatory photo at The Treasury, have a short walkabout in Petra, and return to Amman on the same day. Subsequently, they move on to other destinations in

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