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Best of Jordan in Five Days – Part I

June 9, 2012

It has been…

Five days of rocky outcrops, jagged horizons, dazzling sunsets, Hollywood movie set-like sights and nature hikes.

It has been…

Five days under the stars.

It has been…

the most incredible collection of days I have ever experienced.

Here are some stories.

DAY ONE – CRUSADERS + NATURE

The inside of Karak Castle.

On Monday, the group traveled via the big yellow zoo-bus about 55 miles outside of Amman to Karak Castle, a crusader fortress built in 1142. This stronghold holds its own against the landscape that rises to meet it, built high above the southern city of Karak.

Inside the castle is a labyrinth of countless rooms and stone enclaves to explore. I felt like I was ten years old again, poking through every room and “hallway” I passed and imagining what  might have happened there when it was the most important fortress in Transjordan.

Following high times at the castle, the bus (and we) headed to the Dana Biosphere Reserve, Jordan’s largest protected area in the country. After a carb-heavy lunch and a guided hike, we made our way down to our camp in a valley of the reserve.

Me and Mr. Kauffman with the beautiful landscape behind us.

I suppose I shouldn’t write this, since it’s my job to do these very things, but my photographs and words cannot do this camp and the area surrounding it justice. I have very few photos because of the sweet freedom I felt being separated from my Mac for the first time since coming to Jordan – I didn’t want any devices to encumber my experience.

Away from the main area of the camp and sitting out on a jutted rock, sandstone and granite mountains rose around me on all sides. The view in front of me was expansive, an unending number of snaggy peaks  in the distance.  At times, the wind thundering in my ears at the high elevation was the only sound I could hear. Peace.

A couple of local boys overlooking the cliff.

Hanging in Dana – this was right before I broke into “Proud Mary,” echoing across the valley.

DAY TWO – PETRA

Visually, this was the pinnacle of the trip. Petra — in the governate of Ma’an — is about 170 miles south of Amman. After passing through the gates to enter this ancient city built by Nabateans in 6th century BC, I walked into Bab Es-Siq – the Gateway to the Siq. Walking through this valley felt like I had landed on the set of a Hollywood blockbuster, with enormous rocks, caves and tombs rising up on either side of the dirt path.

The Siq.

I felt like I was on the movie set of The Goonies as I wound around the Siq, a towering gorge with narrow paths that led to the most famous monument in Petra – the Khasneh.

The Khasneh – I’m at the bottom just there to give some scale. IN-credible.

After the Khasneh, I continued on through the rest of this city built on the riches of caravan trade routes. I could have spent days exploring different areas of Petra, but a small group of my classmates and I kept mostly to the main path, trying to reach Ad-Dayr, The Monastery, in time to make it back to the gates before dark.

The path leading out of the Khasneh and onward.

A child drops down from the rocks to sell some postcards.

Along the way, we met some children selling postcards and rocks. I couldn’t be sure, but it’s highly likely that these Bedouin children lived in one of the hundreds of caves throughout this city. Though it was abandoned by the Nabateans, there are still many people who have made their homes in the landscape.

They may look sweet….but one of those cherubs tried to rip my camera out of my hand until I held them off with some gum.

A home in the landscape.

Keeeeep going.

Ad-Dayr was equally impressive, maybe even more so because after climbing a nearby summit to take photos, we watched a man do handstands on the edge of the top, middle tower. After performing his antics for a stomach-dropping handful of minutes, he ran down the left side of the mountain, leaping from rock to rock until he hit the ground. Incredible.

The black spec at the top is a Bedouin man doing a handstand. Holy frick!

As we descended, full of wonder and an overwhelming sense of peace, Matt and I talked about how magical the experience was. Then we remembered that we had to fact check for our story before editing with the boss. Oh, journalism.

Descending a mountain and reporting at the same time, what talent!

Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop

My favorite part of the hike was the descent. Though at first we cursed being left by the first half of group (they had all of our water), it was the perfect time to be walking. Hardly a soul passed us as we made our way down the 1,000 steps to the Monastrary. Albeit the  birds, we had stretches of nearly complete silence. The colors of the stone surrounding us changed with the dipping sun to deep-rosy reds. Donkeys passed us on the narrow path, carrying supplies for the shops along the way.

Surreal. Enchanting. Magic. A common theme of all of the beautiful places we visited in the past five days. I just wish I had more time.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. gtabeek permalink
    June 9, 2012 11:08 am

    I search for words…incredible is top of the list….amazing just doesn’t seem to totally describe it except to say what an amazing adventure!

  2. treehouseview permalink
    June 9, 2012 11:48 am

    All of this sounds so beautiful. I wish I could see it!
    Nancy Dillon

  3. June 10, 2012 7:42 am

    You’re pictures are stunning. And props to you and Matty K for reporting in Petra, I’m thoroughly impressed.

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  1. Best of Jordan in Five Days – Part II « Melissa Tabeek Blogging Through Jordan.

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