Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Jordan Family Trip

February 19, 2022. 


We had planned to go over the Christmas break but with the rise in Omicron cases and a sense that the risks outweighed the benefits at the time, we decided to postpone it until Sportlöv (Sports Holiday week for all kids in Swedish schools).
Why Jordan, everyone asks. What's your connection to Jordan? Well, in a nutshell, we wanted to go somewhere that would expose the kids to a very different place than they've ever experienced. That's it. Nothing more. We looked at the map, narrowed our options based on what we would consider as a max flight time and that was it.
After receiving our 4 negative PCR results on Thursday afternoon (a small miracle in itself!), we packed our bags and set our alarm clock for 3:15am the next morning in order to catch a taxi to get a train over the Öresund bridge to Kastrup Airport. We were really lucky because the next day the bridge was closed to trains for a few hours due to high winds.
With all our forms, Covid tests and visas all printed and organized, the journey was noneventful but long. We had a 6 hour layover in Frankfurt and then another longish ride to our hostel in downtown Amman. After dropping our bags off we ventured out for a quick bite to eat.
The onslaught of sights, sounds and smells was intoxicating! It reminded Matt and I of Cairo, Nairobi, Marrakesh or even Urumqi.
First impressions from the kids:
Nobody signals or seems to stay in their lane. air pollution is a lot worse than in Lund, everybody honks their horn for no reason, people use cash a lot more here, and chicken schwarmas are ten times better here than anywhere else!
After having been awake for 18+ hours, we fell into our beds at 11pm, trying to ignore the incessant honking just outside our 4th storey room. More than anything we were thankful we could rest our tired bodies and not need to set an alarm clock for the next morning...
.....only to be woken up at 4:40am by the sounds of the call to prayer booming out of the loudspeakers outside. So what better time than the present to give an impromptu Islam 101 lesson to the kids.
Today we wandered over to the Roman amphitheatre, climbed up to see the city from the Citadel, wandered around some of the souks, ate at Amman's most famous falafel house and basically walked around saying "look at this ______" and "omg look at that _______" (insert random objects, people, animals, etc.)
Tai had a bird poo in his hair, Aila was given an impromptu magic show by a street vendor, Matt had to use a toilet where he had to hunch over because the ceiling only went up to his chest, and most surprising to me, I started to cry when I stepped foot into the Roman amphitheatre.
The sheer size and scale of the monument just overwhelmed me at that moment. With my mind quite preoccupied lately with what was happening back in Ottawa with the 'Freedom Convoy' and the fragile state of Russia and Ukraine, the moment I stepped into a place that was built in the 2nd century AD just made me pause hard. How can something so immense and impressive not leave a lasting impression? We are only on this planet for such a short time, why can't we be better at being kind to each other?
Tonight we're staying at the Dead Sea. Tomorrow we try to swim in it without getting any in our eyes.

When in Frankfurt...

Sunrise from the plane 🌄✈️

Downtown Amman

View from our hostel balcony.

Morning at hostel after a fitful sleep.

Machine that makes falafel, the little soft clouds encrusted in a crispy skin and tastes just like heaven. 

There's no menu here. Everyone gets the same thing. There's a no-fuss plastic tablecloth and once you're done eating, the staff collect everything by picking up the four corners of the table cloth and Chuck it in the bin to be sorted later. A new plastic tablecloth is set down immediately for the next impatient customers. Brilliant.

The Citadel

View overlooking Amman from the Citadel.

Look who we saw when we wandered the streets!

Sunset at the Dead Sea.

February 20, 2022.

The day started off with the most incredible breakfast. Jordanian food is delicious and we try to be lagom about it, but it's just SO good.
Unfortunately there was a 🚩 down at the Dead Sea at our resort which meant swimming wasn't allowed. The wind was too strong and the fetch across the sea was considerable.
We went in to our ankles and then retreated to the heated pool. Disappointed, we made plans to come via the Dead Sea on our way back to the airport and fingers crossed swimming will be allowed.
As we were driving along the coast we suddenly saw a group of tourists down below at the sea. It looked like they had found a relatively sheltered bay and they were in there - floating! Seizing the moment, we made a quick decision and turned the car around immediately. We changed into our (wet) swimsuits, hiked down the cliff and cautiously went into the water.
There were quite a lot of pebbles and rocks which we had to gingerly navigate. The salt deposits underwater were like hard loofah sponges and felt a bit like sandpaper.
Floating after having eaten a ginormous breakfast didn't seem quite right and seemed to defy logic, but it was definitely a cool experience.
Unfortunately Tai cut his feet on the salt deposits which was absolute agony for him. We patched him up as best as we could but because we were literally just on the side of the road with no facilities we couldn't rinse off like you normally could at a hotel or day beach.
Luckily we had several bottles of fresh water in the car we poured over ourselves just to relieve some of the salty sting on our skin. We had a 3 hour car ride to go before our next destination so we had to just grin and bear it. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right?
The ride was spectacular. The landscape, the canyons and desert. The little villages and flocks of sheep everywhere. The beautiful mosques and fantastic fields of wind turbines and solar farms.
We arrived in Wadi Musa just as the sun was setting. We are staying in a place just steps away from the entrance to Petra. Tomorrow we go exploring.
Off to bed at a decent time tonight and best of all, I just came back from the most incredible Turkish bath experience and am in post-hammam heaven. Sleep will be no problem.
Goodnight y'all.

Our drive today.

We did indulge in the heated pool on-site

Slow start to breakfast...

Second course: coco pops.

Third course

Ending the breakfast extravanga meal with a sugar high.

At the resort the waves were pretty wild, so no swimming allowed. 😔

Steep climb down to the Dead Sea from where we parked the car at the side of the road.

Cautiously entering the Dead Sea.

Look Ma, no hands!

Amazing salt deposits.
Our own little beach.

Mansaf for dinner, a traditional Bedouin meal. YUM!

February 21, 2022.

Petra is one of the 7 Wonders of the World, and there is no denying it deserves that title.
We were blessed with the absolute perfect day to explore this 2200 year old settlement. Sunshine, warm air and cool breeze.
27,000+ steps walked today, about 19 km. And that's Matt-steps, according to his watch.
After seeing the Treasury, the kids were determined to climb to the Altar of Sacrifice viewpoint. From there we took the hiking trail back down along the canyons and ridges.
The kids were absolute troopers and were the ones charging ahead and leading the way. Is this the point in my life where they tell ME to hurry up?
I don't know how many times we said "Wow!" or "look at that!" Hundreds probably. You have to see it to believe the sheer beauty of this place. And even then, I know we barely scratched the surface since the area is so humongous.
We went back to our hotel mid afternoon to have a rest before returning to experience Petra By Night. It is offered only 3 times per week where the path is lined with hundreds of candles lighting the way to the Treasury. A show is performed as you sip some tea, and afterwards you walk back through the candlelit path, refreshed and full of peace.
There are too many things I want to say but I simply don't have the words. These pictures I chose out of the MANY I took today will have to suffice.
Tomorrow we have an early start as we make our way south to Wadi Rum to catch our Jeep tour for some desert exploration and camping trip.

You can spend a week here and still not discover everything.

On the way back for a rest before returning for the Petra By Night experience, Aila got a little ride.

Due to COVID and it being winter, the crowds were sparse.

After walking down this winding canyon floor, you turn the corner and get a small glimpse of the Treasury. Prepare to be amazed.

Two Indiana Jones trying to find the way out.

Altar of Sacrifice viewpoint

Petra by Night: music, storytelling and mint tea. Oh and a million stars 🌠

1500+ candles are lit along the path as you walk in silence towards the Treasury.

February 23, 2022.

The desert can be a harsh, hostile and unforgiving environment.
But with the right planning, trustworthy transportation (motorized or four-legged) and a knowledgeable guide, the desert can be the ultimate playground.
And play we did!

No desert trip is complete without some sort of breakdown. It wasn't a Land Rover, but a Land Cruiser. Still, there were issues with the braking cable. In the end our guide Hamed had to get a new jeep so we could continue on our day.

Tai waiting for the day's rush hour to pass before making his move.

This girl climbs everything.

2500 year old rock carvings.

A pre breakfast climb at our camp. Can you spot them at the top? Below was our covered jeep for the excursion.

Tai was waiting for this moment all day: sandboarding!! It did not disappoint.

Learning how to write our names in Arabic.

Hamed cooked us a delicious veggie stew lunch and mint tea.

Hamed making us our sunset cuppa.

And to think this magic happens every night 
Warming up in the communal tent with sweet mint tea and biscuits.

Cooked underground to perfection!

MishMish, her new bestie.

Led by our guide Ahmed, we had the privilege to ride on Susu, Fufu, MishMish and Mango. Definitely the highlight for the kids!