Every summer, my parents would take our family on vacation to far off places like Finland or Kenya. During these years, I developed a love for travel – waking up in new cities, wandering foreign streets and experiencing different cultures. Eventually post-college, the real world came calling and these trips became a thing of the past.
In the back of my mind, I knew that at some point I’d set off on one last grand adventure. So after several years of long nights and little sleep, I sold my company, put my belongings in storage and headed out to see the world. For three months, I backpacked the globe, spending most of my time in South America, Asia, and the Middle East. Of the fourteen countries I visited, one of my favorites was Jordan.
Due to the conflict in Syria, the Jordanian tourism industry has predictably suffered. What I found was an incredible country with warm and welcoming people and a fraction of the normal visitors. While in Jordan, the majority of my trip was spent in two areas: Wadi Rum and Petra.
Let’s start with Wadi Rum. It’s a vast desert about four hours from the international airport in Amman and the best way to get here is to hire a private driver. Jordanian public transportation is notoriously suspect and while the roads are good, I didn’t feel comfortable driving. I arranged a ride through the Bedouin Camp Rum Stars, which was easy and stress-free.
Arriving in Wadi Rum was like stepping onto Mars. The red desert stretches as far as the eye can see, broken only by jutting rocks, mountains and the occasional camel. I spent two days here with Rum Stars. The first day, I hopped in a vintage truck with my guide and we set out to see the well-known sites. We climbed giant sand dunes, wandered through canyons and watched the sunset over the desert before finally arriving at camp for the night. After sleeping under the stars and eating a hot breakfast, I set off to climb the Burdah Rock Bridge. By the end of the hike, my guide was calling me brother and treating me like family. Before I left Wadi Rum, we exchanged headscarves, and then I was off to Petra, a two-hour drive away.
It’s hard to describe Petra. There are so many parts I loved that I’m not sure I can do the experience justice. If you make it here, go early. Walking down the Siq and in front of the Treasury alone is a surreal feeling – I can’t imagine doing it with the normal mid-day crowds. After the Treasury, I met a young local who guided me high above the city onto the surrounding cliffs. He took me to a shop perched above the Treasury where I sipped black tea and snapped photographs. From there, it was off to the Monastery, a long hike to the other side of the complex. My only disappointment at Petra was seeing the mistreated animals -small tired horses shepherding lazy tourists up steep inclines. If you’re here, my hope is that you’ll heed the signs and avoid partaking in this activity. Besides that, this place exceeded my expectations. I ended up watching Indiana Jones after just to relive the experience.
My best advice for traveling through Jordan is to just do it. It’s scary to travel to the Middle East right now, but there’s danger everywhere. If you use common sense and have an open mind, you’ll give yourself a chance to see a country filled with warm people and incredible landscapes at a fraction of normal prices.
A few things I loved about Jordan:
William Cebron is an entrepreneur and freelance photographer based in Venice, CA. His love of travel has taken him to six continents and over sixty-five countries. Follow his adventures on his website here or via Instagram at @wcebron