Written by Essexgirl09 on 17 Apr, 2012
Petra by Night is a unique experience that happens three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) in Petra. We had just arrived here, so had not yet seen any of Petra by daylight but were keen to make the most of our visit…Read More
Petra by Night is a unique experience that happens three times a week (Monday, Wednesday and Thursday) in Petra. We had just arrived here, so had not yet seen any of Petra by daylight but were keen to make the most of our visit to this iconic, ancient site.Petra is an ancient city founded by the Nabataeans about 2,500 years ago and was carved into the pink toned rock. After it declined under the Romans and was subsequently abandoned after a 4th Century earthquake, it lay lost until it was re-discovered in 1812 by a Swiss traveller. The visit involves a walk by candlelight through the Siq to the Treasury which commences at 8.30pm from the visitor centre. From the ticket gate to the Treasury the walk is about 2km. The candle lit path starts from here – the candles are placed on the ground is a brown paper bag, so give a lantern like effect. The first part of the walk is fairly open, and you keep within the ‘path’ set out by the candles. As you get closer you reach the Siq itself. The siq is the narrow chasm or gorge by which you enter Petra and this part is about 1.2km. As it was dark we didn’t really get the feel for the height of the walls or the size of the chasm. The candle-light path did narrow at places and we did notice it wider in others but we kept between the candles until we came to the end. The walk was done mostly in silence apart from some low voiced chatting, and the mewing of some cats (lots of cats live in Petra, and an unusually high proportion are ginger or ginger and white) which may come out to say hello.The Treasury in Petra is probably its most photographed monument. At 43m high and carved straight out of the rose pink rock it is an impressive sight at any time, your first view of it will be partial, cut off by the sheer walls of the siq, as you emerge around the slight bend, you will see it all. With hundreds of candles in front of it, and the eerie shadows they have created, it became a very magical experience. Sadly I had to share that magical experience with several hundred other people. We arrived late for the 8.30pm kick off, so we walked through the Siq on our own, in the quiet with hardly anyone else around, I assume most people walked through previous to this. I am not sure entirely what we missed but there was some talking, some flute music and some singing followed by more talking. If you get there sooner you may find it easier to get a seat on one of the mats. Performance wise it wasn’t particularly gripping stuff, but for me, it was all about the atmosphere. I don’t think it is a long performance, as they list the finish time as 10pm and (I would assume) that it also factors in the walk back, but I couldn’t read my watch that well in the dark so am unsure of the exact time. We stood around for a bit admiring the building and trying to take photos (unsuccessfully mainly due to the light conditions), so that we could do the long walk back without hordes of other people. If you want to get a good photo then bring a tripod and use a camera with a long exposure time. The path is mostly flat, although there is a slight incline as you come out of the Siq to head back to the ticket office. There are some cobbles and loose stones in parts though. I recommend comfy shoes as it is still a long walk. Tickets need to be bought in advance and cost 12JD (£12). This is without doubt very expensive. If I ask myself honestly if it is worth the price than I can only say no, however you cannot put a price on the experience of the walk and the atmosphere: it was magical and I am glad I did it – but it is not something I feel the need to repeat. Close
Written by dangaroo on 20 Apr, 2009
The northern Israel-Jordan border crossing is probably as easy a route as you can get for the independent traveller. The Jordan-Israel border is fraught with inconveniences. The most common crossing is of course the King Hussein Bridge which connects Amman to Jerusalem, the problem is…Read More
The northern Israel-Jordan border crossing is probably as easy a route as you can get for the independent traveller. The Jordan-Israel border is fraught with inconveniences. The most common crossing is of course the King Hussein Bridge which connects Amman to Jerusalem, the problem is that you don't get an exit stamp when leaving Jordan as they don't recognise the West Bank as Israel. Doing the trip vice-versa from Israel incurs a higher exit tax as you are charged by both the Israelis and the Palestinains. The southern border is relatively straight-forward apart from the awaiting expensive taxi ride from the border to Aqaba, unless you are heading/coming to/from Egypt or visiting the expensive Red Sea destination of Eliat, there's little reason to do it. The exit tax is also a little higher there.Here's how I did the trip and why I think it's the best way. Get yourself to Be'et She'an, unless of course you are coming from Haifa, Nazareth or Tiberias in which case you only need to be dropped off at the Jordan River Crossing junction, from then on it is an easy 4km walk downhill to the border. Pass through the waiting taxis, in to the terminal and pay your exit tax at the exchange place (60 shekels as opposed to 90 (Eliat) or 120 (King Hussein)), try to keep 4 shekels before changing your money. You'll need it for later. Head to the immigration section with your passport and proof of paying the exit tax - the queues will likely be relatively short. Walk through duty free and wait at the bus stop, pay 4 shekels to board the ridiculously short bus journey over the bridge (they won't let you walk for some reason). Get off the bus, go into the Jordanian customs office and change money and fill in your immigration card, then get yourself in to the queue of impatient Israelis f(there's a good chance you'll be able to knock them about a bit with your backpack - always a good line of ammunition in a free for all queue), once you have your visa in yourpassport, get into the next queue for the border officer, smile, answer a few questions and you have your stamp. Then it's out and into the warehouse like building, put your metal and bags into the metal detecting machine just as you would the airport and be prepared to answer questions about medications and electronics (although they didn't consider my laptop enough of an object to probe, they seemed intrigued by some old American ladies stuff.)Now you and your things are into Jordan and you will be bombarded by hundreds of taxi drivers, they claim to have some system going with a guy writing down stuff on the pad. The prices they quote are ridiculous and they don't go particularly low when you barter hard with them. Most of them are downright liars and will tell you things like you can't walk further, it's not allowed and multiply the distances of the nearest city Irbid. They'll keep it up for the length of the road leading out of the border crossing with taxis cutting into you and beeping up to the main junction (probably about 1,5km). In reality, once you leave the border compound - the police at the top are most likely going to wave down the bus which regularly travels from villages in the area to the nearest town of Irbid. The price is a mere 500fils and not the ridiculous 20JD that the taxi drivers want. 30 minutes or so and you are in Irbid, take a taxi across the city for about 1JD to the main bus station and hop on a bus to Amman which varies from 1 to 3 JD depending on the service. People in Irbid are friendly and willing to help out, it's just getting past those initial gitty taxi drivers that puts most people off, overpaying for a mammoth taxi drive seems to put many a tourist in a miserable "I feel ripped off" mood whilst in Jordan and there's really no need.Close
Written by katiemustard on 09 Mar, 2005
My heart races as I encounter my first Jordanian at the customs office -- a line of wooden shacks with swinging doors that open like a Western movie set. I approach a sole man who emerges from a window. He looks like the Arab…Read More
My heart races as I encounter my first Jordanian at the customs office -- a line of wooden shacks with swinging doors that open like a Western movie set. I approach a sole man who emerges from a window. He looks like the Arab men I have seen on TV with dark skin, a thick moustache, and a gun at his side. I hand him my passport, and he examines it carefully. He notices that there is no Israeli stamp, and he asks me why. I am tense with my reply, "Well, I just wanted to avoid any trouble in other countries I might travel to..." He seems upset by this, and in an unyielding voice answers, "But Jordan is ally with Israel, there is no problem here!" "Yes, of course, but I may go to Syria or maybe..." I trail off unsure of what else to say. He looks at me for a moment, "Welcome to Jordan," he states matter-of-factly, stamping my passport. Just beyond the entrance gate, I notice a single car waiting in an otherwise vacant lot. I stand still, apprehensive of my next move. The customs agent nods his head at me, pointing to the vehicle, "Taxi , go, go." I tell the man in the car that, "I'd like to get a bus to Petra?" He informs me in good English that the bus to Petra has already left for the day. "I will take you there," he adds without hesitation.
The man drives me to another man in town, and I get into a different car. I know I am being ripped off when I agree to pay $50 for the trip, but there are some moments when traveling where I have to put my frugal character aside in order to keep moving safely. Mohamed is happy to have me as his American passenger, and I am happy to be traveling into a new land. In fact, I have to force myself from not smiling from ear to ear in order to conceal my childlike excitement of actually having arrived in Jordan by myself. Mohamed asks if I am married. I show him a picture of my high-school prom date, a precaution I had read about in an in-flight magazine. I point to the photo, "My fiancé." He nods in comprehension. We speak little the rest of the trip, and I try to act as calm as possible. We stop for 1 hour in the town of Wadi Rum, which has been made famous by the movie Lawrence of Arabia. It is my first chance to view the extraordinary desert scenery. Every direction is quiet and boundless. The few people we do pass call out to me frequently, "Welcome to Jordan." I feel a strong sense of peacefulness and start to slow down to the timeless rhythm of desert life. The passing landscape is exceedingly beautiful.
Mohamed tells me that every hostel around Petra has closed due to the lack of tourism, so he takes me to his friend’s hotel. Once again, I have to accept what is presented to me, as at this point, I know I am fairly helpless on my own. When we pull up to Hotel Rosa, I spot a young European-looking backpacker relaxed under a canopy, writing in his journal. I am almost out of my skin with delight to discover another backpacker, and I have to force myself to settle into my dorm-style room before racing outside to bombard him with questions.
As the sun begins to melt into the desert canyon, a few more backpackers trickle into the hotel. Chris (who turns out to be British) tells me the food at the hotel is worth the visit to Petra alone, and for a mere 2 Jordanian dinar ($3), they serve an extensive buffet-style dinner outside under black tents. I gawk at the chef as he carries out dish after dish of soups, salads, vegetables, meats, and fruits. I am stuffed and feeling elated when I meet Craig, an Australian plumber who has taken the year off to travel the world. We make a plan to hike the ancient ruins together the next day.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is sadly all I really knew about Petra before I arrived. (It is the place where Indiana goes to find the cup of eternal life). So, I would like to take a moment here to share with you its unusual history, as Petra is perhaps the most astounding ancient city left in the modern world. For more than 700 years, Petra was lost (literally hidden behind towering mountain cliffs), and only the members of the nomadic Bedouin tribe lived there, guarding their treasures in enormous tombs and caves. Of course, eventually some European heard about the legend of the Lost City and had to come discover it, steal all the treasures, and kill all the indigenous people. Nonetheless, the city has miraculously stayed intact as much as anything could that was built in the 8th millennium BC!
Petra is approached through an incredible narrow crevice in a mountain that runs 1.2km long, and it is known as the Siq. Just after dawn, Craig and I walk quietly and gently through it, as if entering a majestic church. The sound of the wind whistles its way through the tunnel-like passage to create an eerie carol. I look up to view towering sculptures peeking out from the 10m high rock walls fashioned by human hands into impossibly delicate structures. I find the walk through the natural division of earth appropriate upon entering the Lost City, as it provokes a tangible sense of traveling back in time. The warmth of the sun splashes down upon me as I exit the Siq and come face to face with an Arab world of the past. My eyes are graced with an angelic ancient catacomb called the Treasury (or the Al-Khaznen), which is carved out of solid iron-laden sandstone to serve as a tomb. The elegant pillars, alcoves, and plinths are masterpieces. I am humbled by its greatness.
I am in a photographer’s paradise; I cannot stop capturing the images that surround me. There is a little girl with a runny nose selling rocks to tourists (snap). I spot a man seeking refuge from the sun, rolling a handmade cigarette (snap). There are men on camels carting baskets of souvenirs (snap). Several Bedouin people are walking around: they are desert dwellers and live off the earth in square tents made from black goat hair. They have fascinating faces full of history, and I am lucky enough to catch a smile from an old Bedouin woman (snap). These images become ingrained in my film and in my memory, remaining forever lost in time.
Written by wanderluster on 07 Apr, 2002
Although the hydrofoil whisks you across the Red Sea from Sinai to Jordan in 50 minutes, plan on several hours total travel time. We left our hotel in Nuweiba at 1:00 pm and arrived at our Aqaba hotel at 6:45 pm. Why?…Read More
Although the hydrofoil whisks you across the Red Sea from Sinai to Jordan in 50 minutes, plan on several hours total travel time. We left our hotel in Nuweiba at 1:00 pm and arrived at our Aqaba hotel at 6:45 pm. Why? Because a long wait is required at both ends.
In the Nuweiba port, we waited a very long two hours for what I thought was a delayed departure (being harassed the entire time by an guide who guilted us into forking over a substantially larger tip than we'd paid him in the Sinai desert and lectured us about Egyptian propaganda). But I learned that passengers must be present with tickets in hand two hours prior to departure time. This is required for both the ferry and hydrofoil (fast boat).
The ferry terminal in Nuweiba was filthy and crowded with mostly locals. There were a series of confusing lines we were led through for customs, immigration and check-in procedures. Our guide advanced us to the beginning of each long line "because we were tourists." It made me highly uncomfortable cutting in front of staring strangers, and I don't think we gained anything by it, as the wait in the terminal was lengthy anyway. We stood on the concrete loading dock with our guide for over an hour and a half.
A one way fare on the regular ferry costs $35 US and takes three hours or longer, while the hydrofoil costs $45 US and spits you across the sea in less than an hour. Considering the long wait time at either end, ten bucks is nothing to shave off a couple hours. Tickets for the hydrofoil have to be purchased at either the Arab Bridge Maritime Company Office near the port, or from one of the ticket agents along the waterfront.
The hydrofoil provided a smooth ride by skimming across the water. We sat in unassigned seats toward the back of the enclosed vehicle, after tossing our luggage into a storage bin. Sodas and snacks were available for purchase. Other than women brazenly spraying strong perfume into the air or removing nail polish, it was an enjoyable ride looking out the windows at the Red Sea and distant shores of Saudi Arabia.
Once we reached the Jordanian port in Aqaba, we claimed our luggage which was simply thrown onto the ground, and carried it into the terminal following the crowd. There an official collected passports from all passengers and left to process them. We sat in the lounge area like everyone else, and waited an hour before they called our name. Finally, we were able to leave the port. Exiting, we walked through a gated fence where Arab officials gruffly blocked our path. It was a rather rude, unsettling entry into the otherwise friendly and hospitable country of Jordan. A mob of black taxis were waiting for business outside the fence, and it was easy to grab a ride into town for JD 5.
Written by Ben the Grate on 19 Feb, 2002
Petra has become an extremely popular tourist spot, rivalling the Pyramids in Egypt with annual visitors. On a typical blazingly hot summer day, thousands of people will tromp through The Siq and into the heart of Petra.
But before they do that, they'll…Read More
Petra has become an extremely popular tourist spot, rivalling the Pyramids in Egypt with annual visitors. On a typical blazingly hot summer day, thousands of people will tromp through The Siq and into the heart of Petra.
But before they do that, they'll fork over $20JD (about $25US) for a day pass to get in!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, that's $25 a day. You can buy 2 or 3 day passes at a discount, but no matter how you look at it, you're forking over $25 to visit Petra. Expensive for a park entry fee, no?
Plus, the hotel rates in Wadi Mousa will be inflated IF you get a hotel room at all.
If you simply must visit Petra during high season (March-October), try to visit during the week.
Ideally, though, arrange your visit in the dead of winter. Say, the first few weeks of January.
There's a reason people don't visit during this time.
And it's RAINY!
But you will be treated to a near-deserted Petra under weather that actually heightens the dramatic effect of the city. Moody, damp weather brings out the brilliant color in the rocks, and nothing beats clambering your way up to a High Place of Sacrifice, and standing at the top of a mountain gazine down over the valley of Petra with the wind gusting droplets of moisture in your face! It is exhilerating in a most extreme way.
That's the real treat of visiting in the winter, but an added benefit is that EVERYTHING is half price! Park admission, hotels, restaurants...
So, come in the winter, bring a jacket, a scarf, a hat, and some gloves. Chances are, you won't need them. Usually it's a utterly gorgeous 50 sunny degrees in the day.
But occasionally (as it did when we were there) you'll have a day of blustery dreary weather when you'll love that scarf. It even snowed on us the last night we were there! It rarely rains for a week here, so if you take a nice 3 day trip to Petra (I wouldn't do it in less), you'll have at least one day of glorious weather.
There are two primary ways to visit Petra. The most user friendly is via Amman, the capital city of Jordan. Simply take a service taxi from the city center down to Wadi Mousa. This should be no more than about $20JD ($28US)…Read More
There are two primary ways to visit Petra. The most user friendly is via Amman, the capital city of Jordan. Simply take a service taxi from the city center down to Wadi Mousa. This should be no more than about $20JD ($28US) and the ride takes about 3 hours over excellent roads. This works, though, only if you're arrived in Amman by air or bus from another country.
The way WE did it was as an excursion from the Sinai peninsula on our trip to Egypt. If you are in Egypt, you are TOO close to Petra to find an excuse NOT to visit here. It is simply a life-changing experience, if done properly.
With that in mind, find your way to the Egyptian Red Sea port city of Nuweiba. It is easily and cheaply accessed by bus via Cairo or Sharm el Sheik or Dahab. Or if you have a rental car (brave, brave soul) just drive there and park at the port.
IMPORTANT: You need to do a few things before entering the port.
1. Visit the bank in Nuweiba and purchase an Egyptian visa stamp ($15US), but don't stick it in your passport! Keep it safe somewhere else.
2. Go to either the Hilton Nuweiba (ask anyone for directions) or go on the road that heads south of the port to the boat company's office to buy your ticket. Make sure you purchase your ticket on the FAST BOAT. Trust me, you don't want to take the slow boat, and it's only a few dollars cheaper.
This ticket is expensive by Egyptian standards. It is $45US ONE WAY and can ONLY be paid in US dollars (go figure!) so make sure you have US currency available. If not, you'll have to change money at the bank in Nuweiba.
Once you have ticket and visa secured, head to the port and enter the chaos.
The ferry departs Nuweiba at 3pm, but you MUST BE AT THE PORT to check in by 1pm or you'll simply never make it.
There's no way I can guide you through all the steps of getting checked in. Just ask any uniformed man and they will escort you to the front of each line (unfair to the locals, but they understand what your money means for the country) as you go through customs, immigration, and checkin. Then, find a place to sit or stand amongst the masses of sleeping men, crying children, and women holding 12 chickens inside the main port barn.
Eventually, the guards will shout several things in Arabic and people will start to line up and get on buses. Usually they load the slow boat first, and usually (since Westerners always take the speed boat) they announce boarding for the catamaran as "FAST BOAT" or "SPEED BOAT" in English as well as Arabic. You'll be herded onto a bus and taken to the catamaran where you'll form a single file line to board the boat.
The boat is clean and comfortable, and you can change currency on board, as well as buy snacks. The ride from Nuwieba to the Jordanian port of Aqaba takes an hour.
Upon arrival in Aqaba, you'll exit the boat and endure the unnerving experience of handing your passport over to a smiling immigration officer who tosses it into a bag with everyone else's. Then you'll walk up into the arrival lounge and wait.
Your name will be called, likely before the Arabic people, and you'll go up to the counter to pay for your visa (less than $10US paid in dollars or dinars, and you can head past immigration and change money if you need to). They will place the large immigration stamp in your passport and you head through the terminal and through customs (a breeze if you're a Westerner) and into the open at the mercy of the cab drivers.
Don't leave your bargaining skills behind in Egypt. These drivers will ask you for $50JD to take you to Petra. The going rate in 2002 was actually $30JD, lower if you're a hard bargainer, so don't get ripped off.
The journey takes an hour and half, and will be in the dark if you came in on the ferry. The roads are excellent, though they get a bit scary when you enter the mountains near Petra.
The driver will likely want to take you to a hotel where he recieves a commission. DON'T LET HIM! Tell him you want to go STRAIGHT to Valentine's (if he doesn't know Valentine's, call it Twaissi and he'll know the place) and he'll take you there. Valentine doesn't pay commission but they do treat cabbies well and usually feed them dinner. Don't forget to tip him a few JD as well.
If Valentine's is full, ask her for a recommendation and your cabbie will take you there at no extra charge.
To return to Aqaba, there is a much cheaper alternative. Shuttle buses depart RIGHT from Valentine's front door early each morning and cost only $2JD per person. The only reason you can't take one of these cheapies from Aqaba TO Petra is that the ferry arrives long after they leave. Just make sure to tell Valentine the night before that you'll need the bus and she'll make sure it's there for you. Also check with here on the time the ferry departs. It's usually around 10am.
The bus drops you off at a central station in Aqaba, and from there you can grab a cab for $3-$5JD to take you for a spot of breakfast, to the boat ticket office to get your tickets, and then to the port.
If you forgot to buy your visa stamp back in Nuweiba before you left, have your cabbie take you to the Egyptian embassy, as well, and buy your visa stamp. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL YOU GET TO NUWIEBA or you'll be in trouble.
Your ferry ticket back to Nuweiba is cheaper on this side! More like $20US instead of the $45 you shelled out to get here. Also, you can pay for your tickets in dinars, you don't have to have U.S. dollars. You'll also pay a modest departure tax (about $5US).
After arrival in Nuweiba, the typical Egyptian chaos takes over, thrusting your heavenly memories of civilized Jordan back into your skull somewhere dark. If you don't have a visa stamp to put in your passport, you'll endure UTTER HELL trying to secure one. I'll spare you the details, but take it from firsthand experience...spend the extra 5 minutes and get it before you leave.
After immigration, you'll be buses to the arrival barn, where you'll grab your bags (if you checked them, but don't), they'll be x-rayed, and then you'll be searched for customs. As long as you don't have a video camera or a laptop, you're fine. Otherwise you'll be charged a hefty import tax.
Then you'll have the joy of sitting at the locked port gate until each passenger on the list has been manually checked against a blacklist of terrorists and criminals, and about 3 hours after your boat arrives you'll FINALLY be free of the port.
To save lots of bureacracy, it is ideal to arrange your Petra visit at the END of your Egypt visit, and have your airline ticket to fly out from Amman, instead of subjecting yourself to the torture of returning to Egypt. Or you can continue from Wadi Mousa to Isreal, via Amman. It's practically pennies by bus.
Written by DrMaximus on 07 Jun, 2002
There are two crossings available – on the fast craft (65 minutes) and on the slow ferry (up to 200 minutes). The former costs USD15 while the latter about USD10. The departure point is NOT at the Aqaba Port but at the Passenger terminal…Read More
There are two crossings available – on the fast craft (65 minutes) and on the slow ferry (up to 200 minutes). The former costs USD15 while the latter about USD10. The departure point is NOT at the Aqaba Port but at the Passenger terminal further south. There are local buses that go down south as far as the Passenger Terminal and the Royal Diving Centre, but I would recommend taking a taxi (JD1,500). The taxi ride from downtown takes about 15 minutes, depending on traffic.
The fast craft leaves Aqaba at between midday and 1pm. You should arrive at least 90 minutes prior to the departure to secure tickets. The Terminal does have huge signs indicating where to purchase your fasts craft tickets from, but through experience I know that they often go unnoticed! The booth is on the second floor of the Terminal and you can pay in either USD or JD. When you purchase your ticket, they will issue you a receipt. With that receipt, you must proceed to one of the four bank booths directly opposite, to pay the fare in cash. There are at least four bank branches, so take your pick – the fare remains the same whichever you choose! Make sure they initial on your receipt for payment received. Then, you will see a table where pink immigration forms are available. Fill out one of these and join the line to clear customs. I joined one of the three long lines, but before long, seeing that I was a fairly ‘exotic looking’ tourist, one of the police guys came and motioned me to go to the head of the queue. The rest in line, mostly of Middle Eastern origin, were visually unhappy, but I am not about to complain! With the receipt paid, and customs cleared, turn back to the ticket booth and exchange all these documents for your boat ticket. You will be told to leave the building and wait at an open-air shed along with numerous other locals. A bus, which probably should have been scrapped a decade ago, will arrive about 30 minutes prior to departure to ferry passengers to the embarkation point. Just squeeze your way up the buses… they get impossibly crowded and we all know that queues do not work in this region. The buses will return to ferry more passengers. If possible, do not leave your luggage with the loaders. Bring them along with you as you board the craft, and leave them by the side. They are safer this way, and far more convenient.
Snacks are available on board, as is a foreign exchange booth offering terrible rates. Wait till you get to Nuweiba where there are several booths around the bus terminal providing better rates. Be sure to use the bathroom on the fast craft before disembarking because the facilities at Nuweiba port are revolting. Immigration clearance and customs inspection at Nuweiba is also absurd, so expect long lines. Leave your civility behind. Try to be first off board and first in line. For further information, proceed to the Egypt journal.
Written by thetravelgoose on 03 Oct, 2006
We left Israel from the Yitzhak Rabin terminal. This is open on weekdays from Sunday through Thursday, from 6:30am until 10pm, and Friday and Saturdays between 8am and 8pm. We drove down from Tel Aviv to the terminal near Eilat, and parked the car in…Read More
We left Israel from the Yitzhak Rabin terminal. This is open on weekdays from Sunday through Thursday, from 6:30am until 10pm, and Friday and Saturdays between 8am and 8pm. We drove down from Tel Aviv to the terminal near Eilat, and parked the car in the parking lot alongside the terminal. We asked someone who worked there if this would be alright, and he replied with, "It’s up to you." We took our chances, and luckily the car was still there when we returned, apparently we seemed to be the only people who were taking the chance. A fee of $15 is charged in the Israeli terminal to outgoing tourists. This is followed by 5 JD in the Jordanian terminal. Make sure that your passport is valid for at least 3 months or you will come across some problems. When the people that work there let you know how much time it will take to process the paper work, don’t let them spit out any old number. If they say 30 minutes, ask if it can be 15, chances are they’re just sitting around smoking cigarettes and chatting—really friendly guys, not super speedy. It was a really hot day in July when we were there, and sitting around waiting in the heat was uncomfortable. After everything was cleared up at the terminal, we had to walk over to Jordan. It is a short walk, and you can see the Jordanian flag in the distance. This is where we met up with our driver, Fares Mashaleh. He was a super nice guy, who acted as our first tour guide, and even ended up picking us up at the end of our trip. His number is 00962.777.550254. On our way up to Petra, about a 2-hour drive, we stopped along the way at a few lookout points—one of them including some great side-of-the-road shopping. I bought an adorable little vase here, and some of my friends found some nice jewelry.Fares Mashaleh, the driver, was trying to convince us to sign up for a tour on the following day. It actually sounded like it would be a lot of fun, and we had to explain to him that we would only be around for one day, and had already made our plans. If I had more time, or if I make it out there again, I would definitely take him up on it. He described heading over to a great spot to watch the sunset, which sounded great, but we had to get back to Israel in time to meet up with our other friends. With all of the border crossing and taxi fees, along with the tour guides, this trip can add up to be a bit pricey. It was definitely worth every penny!Close
Written by Roger Bruton on 12 Aug, 2004
After an amazingly tortuous final approach through Jordanian air space, the British Airways Tristar finally landed safely at Amman airport, and there I was, in the Middle East for the first time. As I was actually on my way to Baghdad, I then queued at…Read More
After an amazingly tortuous final approach through Jordanian air space, the British Airways Tristar finally landed safely at Amman airport, and there I was, in the Middle East for the first time. As I was actually on my way to Baghdad, I then queued at the "Transit" desk.
When I finally reached the front of the queue and had my ticket and passport examined, I received a perfunctory "No!"
It transpired that my excess baggage charge had not been paid for the Amman to Baghdad leg of the journey. He waved me away with "You will have to go to the office!" I then had to almost beg him to tell me where this was.
It involved passing through several "checkpoints" manned by armed troops. Being in a pinstripe suit, however, I just wandered through. I was a little concerned that the return journey might not be so easy!
I also had to pass through several - shall we say - lounges, full of thick choking smoke, emanating from Arab cigarettes. The smoke was being exhaled by hordes of people that would have looked at home "falling" on a Turkish train with Lawrence. They were even wearing the right "uniform". The noise and smell was agricultural and astonishing.
A huge Jordanian policeman took pity on me and appointed himself my escort, but the worrying part of this was that he then proceeded to beat anyone who inadvertently got in his way, on the back, with his stick! For a moment I had an insight into the last thoughts of Gordon at Khartoum.
When finally I reached "the office", the man there made a note on my ticket and waved me away to "Mr. Haleed, downstairs".
Mr. Haleed stared into space, formulating his instruction, before waving me away with, "Excess fares desk".
The excess fares official required six Jordanian Dinars. Which was exactly what I did not have. And of course the money changer was ... on the other side of the cigarette smokers!
The exchange desk could not have been more like bedlam. One bellowing official was being shouted down by 50 Arabs -- and the man in the pinstripe suit.
By the time I finally paid the excess fare charge, the "smokers" were greeting me like an old friend and a great shout went up every time I traversed the lounges.
I was now, after an hour of to-ing and fro-ing, given my boarding pass at the original desk.
Timidly I enquired what to do next. "Departure Lounge" waved the official.
"Hello!" roared the smokers!
Now, while staring at and trying to decipher the departures board, it suddenly dawned on me that, an hour and a half previously, I had left the carrier bag containing my Heathrow duty-free purchases and camera at the first desk. Horror!
I dashed back, fearing the worst, through loud cheers and applause from the smokers, only to find that I had sparked a security alert, and the whole area was cordoned off by troops, guarding my belongings.
More loud cheers and applause from the smokers.
With some relief I sat down with a "coke", but then noticed that my flight was not on the departures board.
I joined a couple of UN officials and an engineer from Wigan and discovered that "they never show that flight ---- for security reasons".
But a rumour spread through the lounge some thirty minutes later that the flight was leaving.
The aircraft was surrounded by armed guards and wire fences. The passengers were told to identify their baggage and board the plane. Wonder of wonders - there was mine. All of it.
I boarded, took a window seat, strapped myself in, and avoided eye-to-eye contact until we were airborne. Two East Africans who fell afoul of the Iraqi Airways policy of 'keep selling tickets until they stop buying them', were shown off the plane by armed guards, as there were not enough seats left.
After the 'meal', the air filled with cigarette smoke, and I came very close to re-enjoying the humus.
At the Iraqi border, all the plane’s lights were extinguished and the window blinds lowered, and the plane descended to treetop height. "So we didn't get shot down". I incurred the wrath of an Arab harridan in stewardess uniform when I tried to peep under a blind. A very eerie landing followed. I'm sure the pilot was fighting the combined will power of 150 passengers straining to keep the plane airborne.
Thankfully, once in the terminal building, I was through customs and immigration in a flash and on my way to the city.
I am not sure exactly how I am going to get to Amman, a city that lies 4 hours north of Petra and across sparse, uninhabited lands. But travel is always full of serendipitous opportunities, and I am not surprised when, on my third…Read More
I am not sure exactly how I am going to get to Amman, a city that lies 4 hours north of Petra and across sparse, uninhabited lands. But travel is always full of serendipitous opportunities, and I am not surprised when, on my third evening indulging in the tasty Middle Eastern buffet, I meet Daniel, a Swiss banker. He happens to be traveling to Amman the next day with three Australian girls, and he suggests we all split the cab fare and travel at our leisure to the capital city. "Perfect!" When the three girls come down stairs the next morning, I bite my lip with a bit of disappointment. I had noticed the girls when they first arrived at the hotel, and I had already concluded that they were annoying and cranky. Unlike most Australians, they did not look like they were having fun, and they certainly weren’t funny. With unhappy faces, they pile into the back of the small car. I watch the colors of the earth change from grey to red to brown as we zigzag our way through the rocky desert that rolls on similar countryside as far as the eye can see. We stop at several splendid castles that were built at the time of the Crusades and at Mount Nebo, the death place of Moses. I am overwhelmed with a sense of history. We also make the necessary detour to the Red Sea, where I float like a boat in the salty, stingy water - I am amazed by how entertained I am when I pretend to be a giant cork.
The modern Arab world is soon upon us, and the last stop we make is at a metal factory just outside of Amman. I feel uncomfortable when we are ushered around the women’s daily workspace as gawking tourists. I take only one photo, with great respect, of a woman skillfully burning designs into a small piece of jewelry using a hot blowtorch. I see a similarly cut bracelet later in a corner market; it’s priced at $0.40. The Australian girls are grumpy (to no one’s surprise) when we check in to Hotel Sydney in Amman. They all want their own room, so Daniel and I share one. The room is filthy: there is a hole in the floor in lieu of a toilet, no toilet paper, a tin can of cold water, and no hot water. On the streets, hundreds of pedestrians crowd the sidewalks and even more fill the congested roads. Amman is typical of any third-world major city: dirty, loud, crowded, and smelly. I do not stay long enough to find its pleasant spots or unique features, although I am apprehensive if it has any at all.
I leave on an overloaded bus for the Allenby Bridge border crossing early the following day. I observe a Jordanian draped in a long dress and a headscarf riding a motorcycle along the scorched highway. I am struck by how my outlook has been altered from one week of travel in Jordan. The man on the motorcycle no longer appears so outlandishly dressed, nor does the desert seem so incredibly bleak. Instead, I see a man (a father and a husband) trying to make his way home surrounded by the beauty of a sun-kissed landscape. The border patrol room is practically empty when I arrive, and yet, it takes several hours for me to get my passport stamped and pay an exit tax. Unexplained and unnecessary hours of waiting are just something I’ve come to expect when dealing with any third-world "customer service." Finally, I am informed that I am allowed to board a bus that will take me across the border to what the Jordanians call Palestine and to what the Israeli’s call The West Bank. Of course, I must wait an hour more on the bus for it to fill up with more people. A soldier with a gun slung over his shoulder paces the aisle. In his hand are all of our passports lumped together with a rubber band. He puts mine on top, and I wonder why? The soldier never smiles. He never interacts with anyone. He just walks up and down the aisle looking straight ahead, our identities clutched in his hand. I wait on the shabby bus with sweaty people burdened with heavy bags piled on their laps. I become engrossed with the interactions of a large Indian family. The mother and father sit next to each other quietly conversing while their four kids scatter around in adjoining seats. I make eye contact more than once with the husband, but he pretends not to notice. In the oddest twist of circumstance, I see this family 5 days later on a crowded street in Jerusalem. It is the father who recognizes me, and we hold each other’s gaze for a split second. We do not smile at each other, but there is an undeniable connection felt, the kind only experienced by two strangers from opposite worlds linked together as foreigners in someone else’s land.