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Amman, the capital city of Jordan, and the beautiful orange desert of Wadi Rum.

sunny 25 °C

When I announced to my friends & family that I had booked a trip to the Middle East they freaked out! I cant even count how many emails & facebook msgs I received from people telling me I'm crazy to go (cuz I was going solo, just me & my blonde hair), and "Don't you know its not safe?!" This all coming from people who have never actually been there, and most of whom aren't travelers at all. They just see 'scary' things happening in the Middle East, and then assume the WHOLE Middle East is the same - a scary war zone. Well, I'm here to tell you guys that its not true. Unfortunately the news/media wants us to believe one thing, but in reality its another. Also, It may seem like I book my trips on a whim, but I plan each one out for at least a year, reading blogs and msging the bloggers personally with questions, plus reading guide books, etc. If someone who has been there and had first hand experience traveling within a country I plan to visit tells me its not safe, I will listen ... but people who don't ever travel or leave their couch ... not so much. I also keep an eye on the news as well ... but just because something is happening in Syria doesn't mean it affects Jordan in anyway. Google Jordan. Right now. Do it. Nothing bad comes up about this country. Ever.

But since this was my first time to the Middle East, and even though I knew enough not to believe all the crap exaggerated in the news, I still decided to do a 6 day tour of the country with Geckos Tours for only $525 tax inc. Cant go wrong with that price! All my accommodation was inc, as was all breakfasts, transportation, and admission to the sights. The only extras were the other meals and a few optional activities. Joining a tour gave my mother a bit of peace of mind, knowing that I wouldn't be on my own. And if by chance something does happen, the tour is rerouted to avoid the 'danger zone'.

Jordan was the 3rd country of my 5 country / 5 week trip. I flew to Amman, Jordan from Istanbul, Turkey. I read a ton of travel blogs regarding Jordan ... and all said the same thing - that Jordan was safe and super friendly! And they were right, I had nothing to worry about at all!

I arrived in Amman one day prior to my tour beginning. Right off the bat I noticed how friendly the people were ... the customs official was laughing & joking with me! That definitely never happens in other countries, lol! People in the airport were all friendly & helpful leading me to where I could find a taxi. Driving to my hotel, I noticed the city is modern, clean, and people actually drive between the lines!
The next morning I wandered around Amman, solo. If you had told me yesterday, or any other day of my life, that on this day I would wander around a Middle Eastern city alone, and end up befriending a local Jordanian man and hanging out for hours, I would've laughed at you! But that's exactly what happened today!

My new friend Muhammad
I was walking around taking a few photos and trying to find my way to the Roman Amphitheatre. A local man noticed me wandering and waved. I waved back, and then decided to approach him and ask him directions to the amphitheatre. He didn't speak much English, and I only know 3 words in Arabic, and so instead of him just pointing randomly, he actually led me all the way there! A 20min walk through the streets, side-streets, up & down flights of stairs, and bazaars of Amman to get there. Through his bad English and my charades, I discovered that he was actually an of-duty police officer, had been married for 4yrs, and had 2 kids and his name was Muhammad. When we arrived at the amphitheatre he climbed to the very top with me. We sat up there taking in the view over the city.
Then we climbed down, and 2 Palestinian men on vacation in Amman wanted to take a photo with me (as I was the only blonde woman for miles), lol! They spoke great English and we joked around for a bit, and they translated a few things to my new friend. Then he led me all the way back to my hotel! We had spent about 3hrs hanging out at this point. I was thinking to myself how much I should tip him, when he shook my hand and said "Thank you for coming to Jordan, I hope you enjoy your trip", and walked away. That would not have happened in any other country - people want tips for everything! But not in Jordan. Here, the people are truly grateful that you have traveled to their country :) Everywhere I went people where saying "Welcome", rather than "Hello".

As for safety ... well obviously I felt safe otherwise I wouldn't have gone off with Muhammad. Jordan just has some unfortunate neighbors that make it into the news far too often, such as Israel, Syria, Egypt & Saudi Arabia. But none of what is happening in those other countries has leaked into Jordan at all. Had I known it was going to be like this, I wouldn't have bothered signing up for the tour, I would have traveled here solo like I do most other countries. Actually, I did know it was going to be like this, tons of travel blogs told me so ... but I just couldn't believe that a country could be so friendly, and that a country in the Middle East could be so safe. But I'm telling you it is, so if you've dreamt of coming here, don't hesitate any more! Its one of my favorite countries for sure :)

Ok, so now for the tour. Since I was traveling solo, I was paired up with another solo woman. Had there been no other solo women, I would've had a room to myself at no extra cost. You can pay extra to guarantee a private room, but it nearly doubles the cost of the trip. I ended up being paired up with a woman from South Africa (my favorite accent). We got along great, she is just like me - would rather stay up til 1am talking about traveling, rather than partying all night.

One day 1 of the tour we had a quick tour of Amman, with a stop at the amphitheatre (but not enough time to climb to the top and actually enjoy it, so I'm glad I came here the day before with Muhammad), and King Abulla I Mosque (which is across the street from a Coptic Christian church). Our guide, Suhaib, said Jordan is a peaceful country because it tolerates/accepts all religions (evidence of this was clear with the mosque & church being across the street from eachother) unlike a lot of neighboring countries who constantly have Holy wars due to everyone thinking their religion is superior to the next person's.

It took 4hrs to drive from Amman to Aqaba on the Red Sea. We traveled in an 18 seat bus, but there were only 9 of us, so everyone got their own row :) The first 2hrs of scenery were ... well ... nothing. Quite literally. I live in Saskatchewan, and I thought this was the most boring, flat place on earth. But at least we have trees. For 2hrs I didn't see anything. No trees, not even weeds. Just dirt. We did however get to see a man and his herd of camels crossing the street!
Look at the baby camel! I didnt know camels could be that color!
At the halfway point we stopped for lunch. The second half of the drive was a lot most scenic as we entered the beautiful mountains. They glowed orange in the sunlight, and changed to red, pink and purple as the sun slowly set. We had a quick stop at a lookout point, and then quickly got back on the bus again to try to make it to Aqaba in time for the sunset.

My Geckos Tours group, minus the guide (he was taking the photo). I would like to point out that of the 9 people in the group, 5 were solo travelers, plus 2 couples. My friends/family think I'm such a weirdo traveling this world alone, but in reality solo traveling is more common that people think. Solo travelers out-numbered the couples on this trip :) (singles on the left, couples on the right)
But sadly we missed it by about 5min! The sun sets at 430pm here in November!!
The next morning was an optional snorkel/dive tour in the Red Sea. I had a migraine so I passed. I wont write about Aqaba as I didn't actually get to experience it :( After everyone returned from the Red Sea, and ate lunch, then we hit the road in our bus and headed to the orange desert of Wadi Rum! Admission to the national park, and a 4x4 ride into the dunes was all included in the tour price. The vehicles were actually just old pickup trucks with benches in the back and old blankets for roofs, lol! We were split into 2 groups and put on 2 4x4s. Suhaib tied my sarong on my head like a traditional Jordanian headdress, and away we went!
I LOVE deserts! I have seen many, but they are always awesome no matter how many times you see them! And Wadi RUm is fabulous cuz it has mountains too! We stopped at the 7 Pillars of Wisdom for a photo op.
Next stop was a sand dune, where we were given time to all climb to the top for awesome views!
Look at the top right of this photo - you can see tiny people on top of the dune.
I love the orange sand!
Views from the top.
We arrived at a Bedouin camp where we had the option of taking a camel ride (this was one of those things that costs extra). We all said no - I think we'd all done it before elsewhere. I know I had. Another great thing about Jordan is that the locals dont hassle you to buy stuff. They ask you once if you would like a camel ride, you politely decline, the end. Now if this was Mexico ...
Near the camp there were 2100yr old rock carvings! Cute little camels :)
Next up was another Bedouin camp where we were served some yummy tea! Sage, cardamom, and cinnamon, delicious :)
And lastly, we stopped at a cliff to climb to the top to watch the sunset :)
My roommate Leonara enjoying the sunset.
It was a long ways down! Everyone else climbed up & down the cliff no problem. I on the other hand have fractured both of my ankles in the past, so they are now weak and roll easily. I thought for sure I was going to sprain an ankle ... But I made it!
Thats it for the fabulous Wadi Rum! I hope I have inspired you to travel to the Middle East! I absolutely enjoyed my time in Jordan, and not once felt unsafe. Even with my blonde hair uncovered. Jordan is more modern than you think. In the big cities a lot of women dress just like Western women - jeans & tshirts, heads uncovered. Its not until you get out into the country-side where woman are a bit more conservative. But not once was I harassed for what I was wearing. I was only smiled at and welcomed to Jordan dozens of times :)

Next up is PETRA - my whole reason for visiting Jordan :)

Posted by ChantelleS 16:56 Archived in Jordan Tagged cliffs desert sand rock dune jordan wadi rum bedouin Comments (0)


Sand dunes, camel trekking, chameleons & many other desert critters

sunny 22 °C

At the southern edge of Swakopmund is Desert Xplorers. From there I rented a camel and went on a short trek into the desert. For $300 Namibian Dollars ($37 Canadian) I rode a camel for 45min in to the desert. (There were various options for shorter / longer treks too).
My grumpy camel!
A hug made him happier :)
If you've never rode a camel before, its definitely something to cross off your bucket list, but let me warn you, it'll be the most uncomfortable ride of your life!
Another day I went on a 4x4 jeep safari, booked threw Living Desert Tours. I did the half day tour for $600 Namibian Dollars ($75 Canadian). My guide was Chris, who was fantastic, and an expert on all things desert-y.
The Namib Desert is massive. Over 2000km long! A single dune can be up to 32km long & 980ft high!!!! I would have really loved to have gone to Sossuvlei (where those really, really big dunes are), but only having 3 days here, I only had time to visit the 'small' dunes of Dorob National Park (the outskirts of the Namib, between Swakopmund & Walvis Bay). If you've never seen sand dunes before, the 450ft tall dunes here are still incredibly impressive!!
'Road' through the dunes.
This is Chris with a Horned Adder, an incredibly venomous snake!
I cant remember the name of this dune beetle, but it stands on its head in the early morning so that the dew runs down its back and into its mouth. Clever.
An itty bitty Shovel Snouted Lizard
Scrub Hare. We also saw a jackal, but I didnt get a photo of it.
My fave desert discovery was this pregnant Namaqua Chameleon!!!
Curly chameleon tail :)
Chris put a worm in his hand, and the chameleon climbed right in! A completely wild chameleon! We also got to see her change from light pink to dark grey right before our eyes! Amazing!
Then Chris put a second worm in his other hand so we could watch her super long, super fast tongue in action!
Then he put the chameleon back on the sand, and placed another worm a few feet away, and we watched as she stalked her prey, lol.
Her tongue was just too fast! i couldnt capture it!
Chris had an amazing way of finding creatures out in the desert! When you look at the the dunes, all you see is sand. But we'd be driving along in the jeep, and all of a sudden he'd slam it into park, jump out, run up a dune and start digging, and voila ... an adorable Palmetto Gecko!
He even got his very own photoshoot :)
I absolutely love the patterns & ripples in the sand!
We made a stop at the base of a 450ft sand dune, took off our shoes, and all ran to the top!
Views from the top ...
Our last stop was atop a dune overlooking the Atlantic Ocean ... world's biggest beach thats for sure!!! You can barely see the road, but that is the hwy from Swakopmund to Walvis Bay, and onward to the airport. Quite a scenic drive with sand dunes & ocean the whole way!
That's it for Namibia. Three days is most definitely not enough time. I only saw a tiny portion of this amazing country. Some day I hope to return and see the massive dunes at Sossuvlei, Fish Canyon, visit the Skeleton Coast, hike in Spitzkoppe, and go on safari in Etosha. Still so much to see & do there!

Posted by ChantelleS 21:25 Archived in Namibia Tagged desert wildlife sand safari lizard dune jeep gecko chameleon Comments (0)

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