Jordan

Jordan: Patterns And Colours Of Petra's Sands

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When you invisage Petra, you will undoubtedly think of the enormous sandstone carvings of the Treasury and the Monastery, those huge structures that we have seen so many times in photographs as one of The World's 7 Wonders.  

Well for those of you that haven't been, Petra isn't just these two monuments.  It's a site the size of a city and is situated on one of the most fascinating geological sites I have ever been to.  It is expected that 20,000 - 30,000 people used to live there 2500 years ago, and the creators of the site had carefully selected this location based on the beautiful layered sandstone that makes up the rock.

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan sands 12.jpg
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

Incredibly, this rock was formed up to 540 million years ago by ancient river beds that transported the sand into these layers and patterns.  The colours vary so much due to the chemical break up of minerals in the sand, the reds containing iron and the others with manganese oxides and hydroxide minerals.  I was amazed to see the sands so colourful, the pictures I have seen previously of Petra are really just of tan coloured sand and not much else, so it was such a surprise to see these unique rock formations.  It was honestly like looking at a work of art; an abstract painting with expressive brushstrokes, marbled patterns and layered colours.  I was in my element, exploring the hundreds of caves that make up the site and discovering the natural artworks on nearly every wall.  I probably took about a zillion photos for 'inspiration' which I'm sure Mark wasn't too happy about!

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan sands 13.jpg
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

Some of the cave tombs use this patterned rock almost like a mural inside, a display of the richness of the land, it's natural beauty and an important marker for the dead.  These intricate wallpapers are something that have stood the test of time and have remained unchanged for the last 540 million years, or so.

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

I am looking at these sandscapes, to me they look like classic asian ink paintings, similar to the wave paintings that we see so much on Japanese scrolls.  The colours however are fierce, beautiful hues of blood red, apricot, mustard, aubergine, nude and then subtly contrasted with grey/blue.  It look so considered, and yet so organic in its form.

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

I can't help thinking this would be the perfect inspiration for our next design project.  Perhaps we can incorporate these beautiful patterns and shapes into our furniture somehow, maybe dying wood into these colours, trying to capture some of the organic shapes that make up these naturally-occurring patterns.  

Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern
Jordan, Petra - layered coloured sand pattern

If you do ever get to visit Petra, make sure you allocate enough time to explore the vast geological site and monuments within it.  The locals say that you could spend a week there and see something new every time.  We spent 3 days there in total, and trekked in from Little Petra Siq across the valleys and around the edge of the mountains which was a clear highlight.  The path between Little Petra Siq and Petra is actually part of the Jordan Trail, a trekking route that runs from one length of the country to the other, taking 40 days in total to walk it.  The hike from Little Petra Siq to Petra takes around 3-4 hours and is relatively straight forward, just make sure you take enough water and avoid walking if rain is forecast due to flash flooding.  

 

If you have any questions or need any help on your trip then just let us know and we would be happy to get back to you.

 

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Jordan - Patterns And Colour In Petra's Sands, by Studio Mali
 

 

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Video: Jordan - Amman, Mujib, Dead Sea, Dana, Petra & Wadi Rum

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Jordan has been one of the most surprising places of our trip. Forget what you might think, this place is jam-packed full of incredible sites, history, food and is totally safe. Not to mention, it has some of the friendliest people anywhere, it's hard to recount exactly how many cups of tea we had with local families!

We enjoyed some adventurous hiking in the desert in Mujib, some bobbing in the Dead Sea and were blown away by Petra and Wadi Rum, those sites are world class yet quiet and serene. We hope our Jordan travel video inspires you to come visit some day. Just 5 hours from Europe, it couldn't feel more different.

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All of the articles on our website are free but if you can support us by viewing, sharing or even purchasing from our travel-inspired shop, you'd make our day! Every share, like or sale gets us closer to our dream.....you guys rock.

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Jordan: The Backpackers Guide To Saving Money

Jordan is a country packed with outstanding natural beauty, some of the oldest and most wonderous sights on this planet, and not forgetting the friendliest people.  A visit to Petra will make you feel as though you’re discovering a forgotten city for the first time, and a trip to the Wadi Rum desert will make you want to live like a Bedouin local.  

As a backpacker, Jordan comes with a price tag and unless you have a healthy budget it’s very easy to overspend.  We spent 2 weeks in this incredible country, and came up with these money-saving tips to help you on your adventure....

The Treasury, Petra

The Treasury, Petra

 

Get A Jordan Pass

Few travellers know of the Jordan Pass (we discovered it by reading a blog) but after finding out about this money saving tip we were feeling pretty smug.  The Jordan Pass works like this, you can choose to buy either 1, 2 or 3 day passes to Petra, along with free entry to 40 other attractions and the visa price included.  A Jordan Pass with 1 day entry to Petra will cost you 70 JD (£70), a 2 day pass is 75 JD (£75), and for the full 3 days in Petra the pass is 80 JD (£80).  Now that’s pretty good considering a day ticket to Petra is 50 JD (£50) and the visa costs 40 JD (£40), so you are saving at least 20 JD (£20) just by having one.  We had a few awkward conversations with other travellers that didn’t know about the pass and had paid 3 days entry to Petra and of course the visa.... ouch.  The pass also includes free entry to some of Jordans top sights, such as the Roman Amphitheatre and Citadel in Amman, the famous ruins of Jerash in the north and many castles scattered around the country.  If you want to get a pass then make sure you book it online before entering the country, otherwise you will be paying for a visa on arrival.  You can find all info on what it includes here….

www.jordanpass.jo

 

 

Bring Your Own Food To The Hotels & Camps

Places like Dana village and Wadi Rum are just tourist towns, and the lack of convenience stores, restaurants and public transport leaves you in the hands of the money-making hotel owners.  So unless you have a secret stash of hummus and flatbreads in your backpack, you will most probably have to splash out on 7-10 JD buffet dinners every night.  The food at these places is actually very good, most hotels and camps prepare a full spread of middle eastern dishes including slow cooked meats, fresh salads, dips, vegetables and breads, but eating at these hotels every night can blow the budget, so make sure you have a few dinners up your sleeve.  Breakfasts are mostly included in the room price, but check beforehand because some can be an extra 5 JD (£5) and lunch up to 10 JD (£10)! 

We always made sure we had supplies of flat breads from the local bakery, spreadable triangle cheese (the Jordanians love this and for some reason never keep it in the fridge), hummus in a can, fresh lemon to put on the dry hummus, tomatoes, apples & oranges, instant noodles and some overly sweet treats from the bakery.  That covered us for all meals of the day, and rarely did we need to buy any meals from the hotels.  I’m sure all the hotel owners hated us because we were the worst customers ever. Try to buy fruits from the local market, especially in Wadi Musa near Petra because the shop owners try to charge you 3 times the actual price.  As an example, you can get 6 oranges for 1 JD (£1) at the market, so when the shop owners try to charge you 3 JD (£3) for 6 you can confidently tell them where to go.

Stock up on cheap baked goods from the local bakery

Stock up on cheap baked goods from the local bakery

 

Purify The Tap Water

Rarely do we spend money on bottled water.  We have recently discovered aquatabs, or water purifying tablets, and use them every day to clean the water that we drink whilst travelling.  Aquatabs are only a couple of pounds for a pack of 50, and so you immediately save money by using them instead of buying bottled water.  If you have a bit more money to spend and are travelling for a long time, then you may want to invest in a fancier option such as a water filter flask for around £60 or a UV cleaning wand for around the same price.  The benefits of cleaning your own tap water means that you can fill up from anywhere, whether it be from the sink in the airport, or in a cafe in the city.  Also think of all the plastic bottles you are going to stop going into landfill, or being burnt for that matter!  Then you can really call yourself the environmentally aware traveller, well more aware then you were before anyway.  They say that it’s generally safe to drink the tap water in Jordan, but maybe best to purify it if you are on a short trip.  Buying bottled water in Petra can cost up to 2 JD (£2) for a 2 litre bottle, so get purifying to save some JD!

 

 

Hitch Hike & Bus It

Jordan is the first country that we’ve travelled to where people will go out of their way to offer you a ride.  Many times were we walking down the main roads, we prefer to walk where possible. Pretty much every time we have been offered a lift by a friendly local within minutes, people are keen to share their story and hear yours, making it the perfect way to learn about Jordan. What’s more, hitchhiking in Jordan is really safe, the drivers don’t drive like crazy people, the roads are in good condition and the people are friendly.  It’s worth confirming at the beginning of the ride whether the driver wants any money from you, sometimes they want a few JD and other times they just want your company.  Once you know the price you can then decide whether to go for it, or wait for the next offer.  We managed to hitchhike from the Dead Sea all the way back to Madaba for free, and from Dana Nature Reserve to Wadi Rum. 

Unfortunately, the public transport leaves a lot to be desired in Jordan.  There are very few buses that run to the key tourist attractions, for instance there is only one bus that runs daily to the Dead Sea from Amman and there isn’t a return bus.  The one daily bus we took from Amman to Dana Nature Reserve took 3 hours to fill up before leaving, and we had to make a change in Al-Tafilah because it didn’t even go the whole way.  JETT buses cover some of the main tourist sights, and are marketed more as luxury coaches for tourists and locals.  JETT buses can cost up to 9 JD (£9) per journey, whereas local buses should be no more than 4 JD (£4).  For short distances local buses only cost 1 JD (£1), so make sure the bus driver doesn’t try to rip you off.  Sometimes they charge you for ‘extra baggage’, just a made up fee to try and make more money.  This should never be more than 1 JD (£1) though.  Funnily enough, it’s still legal to smoke on the local buses so you’ll leave smelling like an ashtray.

Hitchhiking from the Dead Sea

Hitchhiking from the Dead Sea

 

Count Your Change

How many times did we hand over money and not get the right change, or any change for that matter.  A bus driver charged us 2 JD (£2), we gave him a 5 JD (£5) note and oh look, no change.  When we pulled him up on it, he rolled his eyes and drip fed us 1 JD (£1) at a time until we had the right change, it was a slow and annoying conversation.  This does tend to be the norm in Jordan, and so if your not on the ball then you will likely be a few JD out of pocket.  It’s also a good idea to confirm all prices of things before you buy them.  Even a dish that was priced on a menu in a nice restaurant magically increased by 2 JD (£2) when the bill came, and we had to argue that it was clearly printed on the menu in black and white.  It’s a funny game but make sure you stand your ground otherwise the deceptive vendors will be laughing.

 

Book Accommodation In Advance

In high season, so around April time, lots of the accommodation can be taken by other travellers and so it’s advisable to book at least a few days in advance to get a good deal.  Even though we were booking 3-4 days beforehand on booking.com, many of the cheaper rooms had already gone and so sometimes we were having to spend up to 25 JD (£25) on a room for 1 night!  This is not good for the budget traveller.  Dana, Wadi Musa and Wadi Rum are particularly expensive, and there aren’t many cheaper options available.  Even walking into the hotels and trying to negotiate cheaper prices didn’t seem to help, and in some cases the room prices were double that on booking.com. Amman however has many cheaper options starting from around 8 JD (£8) for a double room, and so you don’t necessarily need to book in advance.  Thinking of staying by the Dead Sea? Maybe think again as some of the resorts charge up to 600 JD (£600) per night!

 

Spend Less Time & Hire A Car

Jordan is a really small country to travel around, the public transport isn’t great and cars are cheap to hire.  After visiting for 2 weeks, we came to the conclusion that it would be better to spend less time there and just hire a car to get around (if you have a bit more budget that is).  For example, we spent 8 hours getting from Amman to Dana by public bus which is only a couple of hundred kilometres away!  That’s basically a whole day spent on the bus for 10 JD (£10) between us, and then another 20 JD (£20) for a nights accommodation, so really it might have just worked out cheaper to hire a car and have the rest of the day to do stuff.  We spoke to a traveller that had rented a car for a mere 21 JD (£21) a day, which is amazing value considering that most rentals cost around 40 JD (£40) per day.  If you spent a week in Jordan, you could cover most of the key sights and spend 150 JD (£150) on a car rental, maybe even splitting the cost with some other travellers.  The roads are in good nick, the drivers are respectful and safe, and the country really isn’t that big to drive around.  If you have the budget then we think renting a car is the way to go, and you will save some money by cutting down on the travel time.

 

Swim In The Dead Sea For Free

Most online blogs and guides will tell you that you need to pay to visit the Dead Sea, 25-30 JD (£25-30) to be precise, but after visiting for ourselves we found that you don’t really need to.  There are some open sections of fence where the locals visit around Herodus Spring and the waterfall on the north east side.  You can relax there along with a handful of Jordanians, and enjoy a peaceful bob in the salty waters.  The rest of the sea however is fenced off, or blocked by fancy resorts, so make sure you head to the open section to save some money.  If you go a bit south of Herodus Spring, even 1 km down the road, it is much quieter of tourists.  Remember to rub yourself in the oily mud from the bed of the sea, whilst you smirk at your mega saving!

Mark floating in the Dead Sea

Mark floating in the Dead Sea

 

Make Sure The Taxi Is On The Meter

Jordanian taxi drivers can be a bit sneaky and some try to overcharge you for your journey.  The easiest way for them to do this is to negotiate a price in advance.  If you are travelling in and around Amman, then putting it on the meter will be the cheapest way to travel and should cost no more than 2-3 JD (£2-3), and that’s to go to the bus terminals on the edge of town.  Little journeys in central will cost around 1 JD (£1) or less, so make sure they put it on the meter at the beginning of the journey.  The taxi guys that hang around the bus terminals usually try to rip you off and give you silly prices, so it’s a good idea to step away and hail one from the main road.  The meter should read 0.25 JD by day, and 0.35 by night at the start of your trip, if it’s been put on the correct rate.  Good luck!

 

Make Sure The Taxi Is On The Meter

(Except Going To The Airport!)

There are always exceptions to the rule, and we found this out the hard way.  We were originally offered 20 JD (£20) to go to the airport from Amman city centre by one taxi driver and refused because we thought he was trying to rip us off.  Instead we insisted on travelling by a different cab on the meter thinking it would be cheaper.  28 JD (£28) later, we realised it was probably better to have gone with the fixed price after all!  Even better than that, it’s possible to get an Uber for around 15 JD (£15) from Amman to the airport.

 

Use Uber

Many drivers use Uber around Amman so it’s never hard to find a ride, and if you are looking for a fixed price before travelling then this is a good way to do it.  For a short distance, ie a few km, it would probably be cheaper to opt for a local cab on the meter, but anything over 6km we would say go for an Uber.  We got an Uber from Madaba to the Fort Of Macherus near the Dead Sea which was about 40km away, and were billed only 8 JD (£8)!  That’s so much cheaper than a local cab would have been.  If you don’t have internet on your phone, then it is possible to hail the Uber using wifi at your hotel/hostel and then complete the journey without internet.

 

Prepare For Friday Holiday

Friday is the Jordanian’s day off, and so across many parts of the country you can expect the locals to be resting and shops to be shut.  This includes many of the grocery stores and bakeries, so unless you have planned well you may be walking around for some time to find that hummus.  If options are limited then you may end up spending more in overpriced convenience stores.  It’s also worth noting that some of the restaurants had shut for the day outside of the capital.

Cheap eats in the capital, Amman

Cheap eats in the capital, Amman

 

We hope our tips will help you save money in Jordan, and if there is anything else we can help you with then let us know in the comments box below.

 

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Jordan - The Backpackers Guide To Saving Money, by Studio Mali
 

 

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Jordan: 8 Things To Do In Amman On A Budget

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Amman is a grand capital situated on historical, religious and empirical crossroads, and for the budget traveller there are plenty of tasty Jordanian eateries, art galleries and world-class historical sights so you can keep up with the culture without breaking the bank.  It’s the perfect introduction to middle eastern life; the city has a relaxed and local feel to it, the people are friendly, it’s traditional and attracts interesting open-minded travellers. 

Amman, Jordan

 

The sprawling expanse of the city can be seen as it rolls across the steep hillsides, just a visit to the Roman Amphitheatre will leave you feeling overwhelmed by the sheer scale and manpower of this ancient wonder.  Three days in Amman is plenty to make the most of the sights and culture, and we have put together a list of our favourite activities to help the budget traveller.  If you are into food, culture, the arts and a few of the must-see attractions, then take a look at our recommendations for travelling to Amman on a budget....

 

 

Be Engulfed By The Roman Amphitheatre

Sometimes these ‘must-visit’ sights aren’t quite what they’re hyped up to be, and overpriced for that matter, but this really isn’t the case for the Roman Amphitheatre in downtown Amman.  It’s impressive size and steep accent up the hillside can hold up to 6,000 people at any one time, and despite its crumbling edges, it’s probably the most solid thing you will ever lay your feet on.  It was build between 136-181 CE, that’s nearly 2000 years ago, and is in impeccable condition (minus a few well restored sections that are visible on the edges).  To sit at the top of this beautifully symmetrical structure is somewhat overwhelming.  Just the sheer scale, architectural achievement and view from the top is world class, and for only 2 JD (£2) entry, I can’t think of a better way to spend the price of a coffee.  Price also includes entry to the Folklore Museum, and Museum Of Popular Traditions.  Entry is free for those with a Jordan Pass.

The ancient Roman Amphitheatre 

The ancient Roman Amphitheatre 

 

Try Sweet Cheese Pudding At Habibah

This place has a queue of hungry sweet-toothed diners at pretty much any time of day and it’s clear to see why.  Locals and tourists alike fall in love with the traditional Palestinian kunafa served here, it’s an unusual dish of cheese pastry (similar tasting to halloumi or mozzarella) served warm with a crunchy and sweet syrupy semolina topping.  Eating this fatty, sweet and calorific pudding is intense and incredible, it’s so more-ish and sickly at the same time.  In 8 months of travelling it’s probably one of the most memorable things I have eaten.  At Habibah, they make huge trays of the stuff, and it’s all being heated up from underneath to keep the cheese gooey and the topping as crunchy as dried noodles.  A small plate costs 0.80 JD (80p) and a large which is double the size costs 1.40 JD (£1.40).  You can choose between fine or course kunafa, the fine one is even sweeter.

Yum yum yum! The gooey cheesy and sweet kunafa

Yum yum yum! The gooey cheesy and sweet kunafa

 

 

Visit The King Abdullah Mosque

It’s not very often you get to see inside a mosque, unless you are a practicing Muslim that is, so visiting the King Abdullah Mosque is worth a trip when in Amman.  This is the only mosque you can visit in the area as a non-Muslim.  The enormous blue central dome is a clear highlight, and is decorated inside with a symmetrical gold star-shaped design, which is illuminated by a halo of bulbs. There is some really beautiful marble insets on the surrounding walls in Islamic patterns, and chunky wooden doors with star shaped engravings.  Tourists are allowed to visit outside of prayer times, so unfortunately you will be visiting when the space is empty.  A whopping 7,000 worshippers can fit into the carpeted space with a further 3,000 outside in the courtyard.  Women are provided with a full length black hooded cloak (abayas) to wear, and men are asked to wear full length trousers.  Everyone is to remove their shoes before entering.  Entry is 2 JD (£2) per person.

The King Abdullah Mosque

The King Abdullah Mosque

 

 

Eat All You Like At Hashem

This open air restaurant in downtown Amman is a favourite with both tourists and locals.  It’s sandwiched in between two buildings, in a wide alleyway, and diners are invited to take a seat and wait for the onslaught of Jordanian food.  There’s no menu as such, just a feast of vege dishes that get delivered by some very chatty waiters.  We were fed flat breads, hummus, falafel, the most deliciously smokey moutabel (similar to aubergine baba-ganoush), salad, french fries and local tea, all fresh, plentiful and tasty.  On our first visit we were charged 3 JD (£3) per person, but on our second trip the owner recognised us and charged only 1.5 JD (£1.50) per person. That’s not bad for a half-price price cut!  It’s also possible to pick up a falafel wrap for the bargain price of 0.5 JD (50p).  For a cheap eat, you will leave very full and happy inside.

The spread at Hashem

The spread at Hashem

 

 

Explore The Bustling Local Markets

Get a taste of local life by taking a wonder down the market streets of bukhariyeh in downtown Amman.  Whether your interested in flashy electronics, middle eastern herbs & spices, cuddly toys, fresh fruit & veg, or speciality coffee beans, it’s all here for you to explore, at any time of day and night.  The locals are really friendly, and not pushy for you to buy their produce.  There are several grocery stores that you can stock up on long-life food goods, which is pretty handy considering there aren’t many supermarkets in downtown.  This market is the perfect place to people watch, find some traditional foods, and do a bit of cheeky haggling.  The location is right next to the Grand Husseini Mosque.

The colourful market produce

The colourful market produce

 

 

Touch Two Thousand Year Old Ruins At The Citadel

On the highest hill in Amman stands the crumbling remains of the Roman Citadel.  Built between AD 161-80, what’s left of this ancient structure can be seen from all across the city.  Two enormous pillars at the Temple of Hercules are the only standing remains that give you an indication of the scale of this thing, just standing underneath it makes your head go dizzy!  The site holds the Umayyad Palace, which is a building of stone remains with a beautifully reconstructed wooden dome roof.  It’s definitely worth a look inside to see the intricate construction of the wooden structure, and the ancient carvings on the surrounding stonework walls.  One of the most impressive parts of the citadel though is the site in which it sits on.  All around you is a 360 degree view of the city of Amman, and the flat roofed boxy buildings that climb up the steep hillsides.  There is a viewing platform that you can enjoy or just take a walk around the sight to make the most of the cityscape.  Entry is 2 JD (£2) or free with a Jordan Pass. 

The stunning reconstructed roof on Umayyad Palace

The stunning reconstructed roof on Umayyad Palace

 

 

Munch Down Middle Eastern Meat

You can’t come to Jordan and not sample a kebab, well maybe if you’re a vegetarian!  We found a place tucked away in the alleyway opposite the favourite Hashem, and for 4 JD (£4) per person including an extra side salad with pickles, you can get a taste of authentic Jordanian kebab with a selection of lamb shish, chicken shish, lamb kofte, a salad garnish and flat breads.  It’s the perfect portion for a hungry diner.  The meat is well cooked and seasoned, and the salad is fresh and crispy.  The staff are really friendly here, and you can see them cooking the dishes in outdoor ovens in the alleyway.  This is a real taste of local life down here, no tourists in sight, just some old men drinking tea and playing cards in the cafe next door.  It’s a shabby alleyway, no thrills and a bit grubby round the edges, but if you like going to the local places then you will be at home here.  The restaurant is called Abu Hatem Grills and the restaurant is at the end of the alley before the staircase.

Meat feast at Abu Hatem Grills

Meat feast at Abu Hatem Grills

 

 

Enjoy Some Peace In the Jordan National Gallery Of Fine Arts

This is the perfect place to take some time out of city life and ponder the middle eastern and Islamic art world.  The two-part building boasts a large collection of high quality contemporary works in an enjoyable light and airy space over several floors.  Only a handful of visitors were there when we visited, which makes a nice change from other busy galleries that you might visit.  Even though the works were contemporary in style, I would say that they weren’t particularly provocative and the ones that were more thought provoking were named ‘untitled’.  Was this on purpose? We may never know, but it would have been helpful to have some sort of name or description on the pieces at times, otherwise there was a lot to be left to the imagination.  Having said that, it’s still worth visiting and you could easily spend a couple of hours there if you were taking your time.   There’s a nice cafe up on the top floor if you’re looking for a quiet place to work and can afford to splash out on a coffee.  Entry is 5 JD (£5) but well priced for the amount of work that’s there.

Contemporary artworks in the Jordan National Gallery Of Fine Arts

Contemporary artworks in the Jordan National Gallery Of Fine Arts

 

We hope our recommendations help you if you’re backpacking on a budget. There are also plenty of other cheap things to do around Amman such as free walking tours and visiting other art spaces like the Khalid Shoman Foundation and Darat al Funun galleries.  If you have any other suggestions then we would love to hear them in the below comments box!

 

Friends...

All of the articles on our website are free but if you can support us by viewing, sharing or even purchasing from our travel-inspired shop, you'd make our day! Every share, like or sale gets us closer to our dream.....you guys rock.

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Jordan: Trekking Through The Mujib Nature Reserve To The Dead Sea

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Mujib to the Dead sea

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Wow - Jordan...

... you are a beautiful, relaxing and mystical place. It’s seriously civilised too making it the perfect place to adjust to middle eastern living. Although, we were very surprised just how costly our Jordan trip would become, we rarely do any detailed research before arriving in a new country.  In the case of Jordan, researching beforehand would have been useful. It’s a vibrant country to visit, but one aimed firmly at the medium to high end visitor, not the scruffy £30-a-day travellers that we are.  As such, it has been a bit of an adventure trying to get deals, get around and visit the countries top attractions. 

 

Arriving in Madaba, about 40 minutes south of Amman, we were struck by just how expensive the local attractions were. To drive up to Mount Nebo and the Dead Sea and back would cost £/JD 40 (£/JD 10 more than our daily budget!), to walk the aqua water trek of Wadi Mujib was £/JD 26 just to get in, not including transport. Most of the accessible parts of the Dead Sea are run by private hotels, which had rooms starting at £/JD 400 a night!  We were worried, how would we get to these places on our tiny budget? 

 

Well, we researched into a lesser known trekking route that passes through the Mujib Nature Reserve and finishes at the Dead Sea!  Sounds like the perfect day to us; trekking, adventure and stunning scenery. I can tell you now... we did it, it’s possible, we trekked through the nature reserve and swam in the Dead Sea as the sun set, it was an incredible day and cost only £/JD 12 but only with a bit of luck.

Stock up in the bakery on I Yarmouk in Madaba

Stock up in the bakery on I Yarmouk in Madaba

 

What To Prepare

It’s worth noting this is quite an adventurous route and requires some trekking experience, as well as being well-prepared and some common sense. You’ll be walking across Jordan’s rugged desert terrain with no guidance, roasted by the midday sun with only the continuous view of the ever enlarging Dead Sea as your guide. Be aware that you could be walking anywhere between 4 and 6 hours so you should be quite fit and happy to walk in the sun all day. 

You’ll need to run out and grab some supplies before you leave, all our supplies and water cost just £/JD 3.50. We use water purifying tabs to clean the local water, it’s cheaper and reduces our use of plastic. 

Firstly, download Maps.Me.

Ensure Jordan has been downloaded. Mark the following points ‘Mukawir’ ‘memorial for John the Baptist’ and ‘Herodus Spring’ (coordinates: 31°35′50.1″N 35°33′34.86″E).

Water - prepare 2 litres per person 

Food - Jordanian bakeries are perfect for cheap goods, we bought flat breads and sweet foods. We picked up hummus, crisps and fruit from a local shop. 

 

Equipment

  • Sun cream - high SPF, we had 50.
  • Walking boots
  • Clothing - that will protect you from the sun, so long sleeved tops and trousers, buff for your neck
  • Hat
  • Walking poles (optional but useful)
  • Swimming trunks
  • Light towel 

 

How To Start The Trek

This trek is best started from the busy city of Madaba, and 27km south of there at the top of a mountain is a village called Mukawir.  The day rate for a taxi is £/JD 40 but you can avoid paying that much by getting a one way Uber to Mukawir for around £/ JD 8. The Fortress of Machaerus is a local attraction and it’s also the treks starting point, luckily Uber will automatically set this as the destination as the site itself is quite popular. The journey takes around 30 - 40 mins. We arrived just after 9am.

 

The Fortress Of Machaerus

The fortress is worth visiting before you start the trek, especially if you have an interest in biblical references. It was a battlement used for spotting invasions and may have been the place where John the Baptist was beheaded! Duelling factions eventually destroyed the fortress, whose crumbling remains are still visible now.

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Starting The Trek To The Dead Sea

To visit the fortress you’ll need to walk up pathed route to the top. To start the trek you’ll need to walk back to the bottom again but you should look out for well trodden animal path in the rocky terrain. Follow the path with you eyes first, it should lead to the next mountain (named Qullat al Mashnaqah) due west from Machaerus. If you can see a path tracing the mountain to the west jump over the wall and follow the path to the top of the mountain.

The Fortress of Machaerus

The Fortress of Machaerus

Here is some general advice for following the route. There are several routes used by farmers, their herds and also roaming goats. The goat tracks are tight and generally trace higher terrain, which are more treacherous and best avoided. For the most part, the route is an easy walk and is well trodden. We followed a goat track following a locals advice and it quickly became slippery, steep and dangerous, if you approach similar terrain you are on the wrong path and should turn back.

Views from Mujib are stunning

Views from Mujib are stunning

 

Trekking From the Qullat al Mashnaqah to the Dead Sea

It’s worth noting that we walked the wrong way down the right-hand side of Qullat al Mashnaqah mountain based on the (incorrect) advice of a local farmer who wanted to help us. He rang a friend to give us directions in English but directed us towards the bottom of the Wadi where there was no actual path. We ended up wasting 1.5 hours following his advice and basically rock climbing a dangerous goats path. So, getting advice from locals might not be that useful. I’m sure these guys walk these paths everyday but they’re too dangerous for trekkers who aren’t experienced climbers. You can easily avoid this by simply climbing up over the top of mountain, the trail is pretty easy to spot.

 

Once you’ve reached the top of the mountain the journey down is actually quite easy as you’ll have two paths to choose from. One is a walking route that contours the edge of the peaks, the other is a wide dirt path set back from the edge. We took the wide dirt road path because you can’t get lost on a road, right? You actually can’t, the route down is very easy but just watch out for loose stones and your ankles. Another benefit, you won’t meet any cars on this dirt road and it’ll take you through some incredible terrain. We stopped at many points to take in the rugged scenery and enjoy a picnic. You’ll also be walking ever closer to the Dead Sea and this a perfect gauge to work out how long you’ll have left. Our entire walk took 6 hours but 1.5 hours was added due to the wrong path at the start. 

Rocky... bring your boots! 

Rocky... bring your boots! 

 

Walking The Road To Herodus Springs

When the dirt road finally joins a tarmac road you’ll be close to the sea but you’ll need to navigate down some springs to join the main road, this is where the common sense comes into play. It’s not far so we’re sure you’ll find a route down, we found a well trodden route close to where locals were bathing in some springs by looking for heavy footprints in the ground.

Walking the hot dusty road was the only snag of the day

Walking the hot dusty road was the only snag of the day

Frustratingly, much of the Dead Sea in inaccessible due to government fencing, we guessed this is part of their border controls from Israel. You’ll need to walk down the hill to reach road ‘65’ and then north to Herodus Spring. We won’t lie, walking alongside a busy road for 3km is not the best. Some armed guards at an army checkpoint were especially interested in how we got to the road without a car, few people do this walk it seems. Continue walking until you spot big holes cut into the fences and then further on a whole section of the fence has been removed so cars can park near the springs and the Dead Sea. We were so happy to see local families down by the sea enjoying the beach. This spot was definitely a locals place to bathe but it was also pretty secluded and barely busy with no more than 3 families visible from the shore. Floating in the Dead Sea after 6 hours of trekking was the perfect end to the day. Don’t forget to rub some enriching salty mud into your skin for the perfect spa treatment, never has my skin felt smoother!

Bathing in the Dead Sea

Bathing in the Dead Sea

 

Getting back to Madaba

I’m sure you’ve been wondering how we got back to Madaba for free. Well, we were ready to pay for either a yellow private taxi, a white shared taxi or a local mini bus. But before we could hail any of those, a kind Jordian man named Musa and his friend Hasan stopped and offered us a journey, we offered him money but he didn’t want any because he was heading to Madaba anyway. This encounter turned our amazing day into an unforgettable one. Musa kindly offered us tea at his house and we had the privilege of meeting his son too. After two cups of sweet Jordian tea, some laughs and an amazing sunset across their veranda. Later, Hasan drove us back to our hotel in Madaba. What a day. One of our favourite from our entire 9 months on the road. 

Musa, his son and Hassan

We finished off our cheap day by eating in the local kitchen of Abu Yousef found on the back street behind the famous Haret Jdoudna restaurant. Our meal was just £2/JD for hummus, meat and tomato, huge breads, pickle dip and fresh onion chilli and tomato. Fresh, tasty and cheap. 

 

Our day at the Dead Sea was so memorable, trekking unmarked routes through a national park, floating in the salty water and our ad hoc journey home with friendly Jordanians. The perfect low cost day out in the Middle East. 

 

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