A delicious drive through Jordan
In the beginning of April 2019 we took an eight day trip to Jordan. This was my first time in any of the middle eastern countries and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I heard a few things about their fantastic cuisine, wonderful and friendly people and the amazing sites to visit.
Since my interest include visiting old temples, eating great food and enjoying wine, Jordan seemed to fit me pretty good. We already planned this little trip around a few days in Petra which obviously is the main tourist attraction. However, since we would be driving I was sure that we would come across some less known places.
The only accommodation we booked in advance was the first night in Amman. We were hoping to pick up the car from some place in Amman. This plan was quickly changed due to the extreme traffic in the capital and we decided to head back to the airport the next morning and drive out from there. We spend a day and evening in Amman, strolling down a few streets in the center and try some nibbles here and there. We ended up dining at the great Jafra Café where we enjoyed chicken and lamb cooked in clay forms. This was a great first dinner in Jordan but more to come during our stay. After the dinner we went for a walk and come across a nice little bar, situated above the city center with great views of the city and the approaching night.
The next morning we enjoyed a great breakfast including fresh fruit, omelette and Turkish coffee. We spent the following few hours visiting the old roman amphitheatre and the surrounding neighbourhood. Before we went to pick up the car at the airport we went shopping for for some locally produced products. Saffron and different mixes of spices was available in an abundance. So was an array of products produced with salt from the Dead Sea; soap, lotions and much more.
We picked up a Chevrolet from the airport and downloaded a GPS map and drove off towards the little town of Madaba. Luckily and surprisingly, we got on small road route which was very peaceful and relaxing. The green fields and open areas was unexpected and challenged my perception of Jordan. It was remarkably green.
Madaba is a town of some 60,000 people. One of the main attractions here is the Greek Orthodox Basilica of Saint George which is seated in the center. The church is surrounded by a few small streets where tourists can enjoy a handful of restaurants, cafes and souvenir shops. We checked in at the Madaba 1880 Hotel just across the street from the Basilica and went out to find a place to eat. The Haret Jdoudna Restaurant served an outstanding menu in an open and traditional setting. The experience was great and the food was presented in an authentic way that takes your mind back a few decades if not half a century or more. Perhaps timeless is a better description.
Before we drove towards the Dead Sea, we did a small detour to Mount Nebo and viewed the promised land. The site is set over 700 meters over the sea and on a clear day, which this wasn’t, viewers should be able to see as far as Jerusalem. However, we could enjoy a great view of the northern part of the Dead Sea and the River Jordan with surrounding villages to the north.
The road leading down to the Dead Sea from Madaba wiggles through a dramatic landscape. Once arrived at the level of the Dead Sea you can enter a few upscale beaches. The public beach had an entry fee of about €25 per person. This included access to the Dead Sea and the possibility to enjoy a clay treatment for a cost of €5 and a restaurant serving an expensive buffet. After a few hours we decided to head back to Madaba for the night and dine there again.
The 220 km drive from Madaba to Petra along the Desert Highway takes about 2.5 hours. Unfortunately, the Desert Highway was under refurbishment large part of the route which caused a delay of a few hours. We managed to arrive in the late afternoon, checked in to our hotel which was located a few kilometers from the town center and took a walk down towards the center. It was time for some Mansaf which is the traditional dish of Jordan and made up of lamb cooked in Jameed, a dried and fermented form of yogurt, served with rice. The most appealing place to try this dish for us in the town center was the Al-Wadi Restaurant. After this satisfying experience we decided to check out the entrance of the Petra historical site where we heard a cave bar was located. After a few bottles of the well-priced Jordanian wine, the cold desert evening air reminded us of the warm hotel room and the busy day we would enjoy the next day.
The Nabataean city of Petra is one of the seven wonders of the world and dates back to approximately 300 B.C. This rare and astonishing carved city is breath taking. And a good hike! The whole area cover some 260 square kilometers on an elevation of 800 meters above the sea. Although the spectacular scenery is energizing, the midday heat, the altitude and the distance can be a bit rough. From the entrance to the Monastery, via the Treasury and most of the other carved buildings, and back one should count on spending about 6-7 hours if not more. We finished the day grinning at the setting sun having knocked of yet another one of the seven wonders. Just a few ones left now.
We were continuing south in the desert. The next stop was Wadi Rum and a few days in a Bedouin camp. We looked forward for peace and quite, the starry desert night sky and the possibility for a chance to eat some goat meat. The camp manager picked us up by the entrance of the Wadi Rum national park and we drove in his four wheeler for approximately 45 minutes. Arriving at the camp, we were impressed by the surrounding scenery of the dramatic cliffs and the red sand. The tents of the camp was modern yet authentic. The camp staff of four people were extremely welcoming and polite. There were a few hours left before the dinner would be served so we took our binoculars and water and went for a little hike.
There wasn’t any goat being served during our few days in Wadi Rum. However, they did cook the food for at least three hours buried in the sand near the dining tent every night. The plates were generously handed out with both chicken and lamb with rice and vegetables. The night was arriving and we enjoyed some Bedouin tea while gazing at the stars in the deep blue sky above the Wadi Rum desert.