Jordan; A Jewel Within A Crown of Thorns

Nestled inbetween counties torn apart by war and political unrest, Jordan truly is a jewel within a crown of thorns with its rich history, culture, dramatic yet beautiful landscapes and some of the friendliest and welcoming people you’ll ever meet.

If you enjoy a fast paced holiday, want to see ancient ruins whilst learning the history of the land, eat amazing food until you’re fit to burst, then hike wonders of the world and stunning landscapes, then Jordan is the place for you.

Now, before I go on, I want to share my number 1 tip for Jordan… get the Jordan pass before you go. It costs 70JD which is around £77 and gives you access to most of Jordan’s top attractions including entry into Petra which alone is 50JD. The pass also covers your visa fee when entering the country. You can pay a little extra for the pass which gives you a 2 day pass to Petra. Petra is such a huge site so if you have the time I would advise doing this. I’m a keen hiker so can get around pretty quick but 1 day for me wasn’t enough. There are also options to add on entry to Bethany which I would advise doing if you’re planning a trip there. You can find the Jordan pass on the link below.

What Jordan has to offer

  • Beaches

Aqaba in the south of Jordan is perfect for those of you that want to relax and catch a few sun rays. The beautiful beaches overlook the Red Sea with views of Egypt and Israel. As well as relaxing on the beach, many of the resorts offer water sports including scuba diving around the coral reef. I didn’t have time to dive but managed to take a glass bottom boat tour, where I really enjoyed seeing the coral but it made me feel sad at the amount of litter thrown in there.

**Top Tip** if you want to sunbathe, I would advise doing so in one of the resorts. Although Jordan is pretty westernised, you should still be respectful of the local community if you want to lay around in swimwear.

  • Markets

For the shopaholics out there, you’ll be pleased to know there will be ample opportunities to shop with quirky bustling markets and boutiques dotted around the place. I explored a market in Aqaba and particularly enjoyed the spice stalls where I picked up some lemon salt and Jordanian tea (a must try). There are plenty of places to pick up souvenirs from your trip but animal lovers be warned.., you will see animals waiting to be slaughtered as well as slaughtered animals. I know not everyone wants to read that but I personally found that quite hard to see so thought it only right to share my full experience.

**Top Tip** Try the spices in the market before you buy, they are so delicious! Also go in there prepared to haggle and you’ll grab yourself a bargain.

  • History

For the wannabe historian/archaeologists or for those interested in seeing/learning about ancient history you have the Greek and Roman remains of Pella, Umm Qais and Jerash. Not to mention the Nabataean Kingdom of Petra, one of the wonders of the world and an absolute must see whilst in Jordan.

Whether you are religious or not, it’s very interesting learning about Biblical times and seeing some of the places referred to in the bible as well as seeing views over the Holy Land. You can also visit Bethany which is the claimed baptism site of Jesus.

**Top Tips** take appropriate clothing. Walking boots or at a minimum trainers are required as there will be a lot of walking in gravely and sandy areas. I’d also recommend taking a backpack and layers. I visited in February and had beautiful sunshine, rain and even snow so its good to be prepared.

  • The Desert

Visiting Wadi Rum (Valley of the Moon) for me, was the best part of my tour around Jordan. If you want to follow in the footsteps of Lawrence of Arabia, enjoy being outdoors and taking a jeep safari through the sand dunes, or simply just be, and watch the beautiful sunset behind the dramatic landscapes or taking a camel trek to watch the sunrise, then Wadi Rum is the place for you.

For the more adventurous or people wanting to connect with the nature around them, you can even stay overnight in a Bedouin Camp at Wadi Rum. Enjoy a traditional evening meal and dancing followed by camp fire stories and gazing at the infinite, beautiful stars. Just unreal 😍

**Top Tip** the desert gets cold at night so take layers. I shared my hand warmers when sat around the camp fire to other members of the group, it really does get cold! See the link at the bottom of this page for my preferred choice.

I would also have your sunglasses to hand regardless of the sun. When the wind picks up it blows the sand around and you want to avoid getting it in your eyes.

  • Relaxing

After a few days of exploring, why not take yourself off to the Dead Sea for a mud treatment and let the tranquility take over you by floating weightlessly on the water. This is a truly unique experience and another must do when in Jordan.

**Top Tip** Take some beach shoes that you can wear in the sea. The sea bed is made of very hard and scratchy salt so if you don’t want to cut your feet up, wear the shoes!

Another way to relax after walking all day is to visit one of the Turkish spas. There is one on the same road as the entrance to Petra so after walking for miles I took myself off here with a couple of gal pals.

**Top Tip** The massages can be pretty handsy so if you don’t like bein nude in front of other people and being massaged pretty much all over then this is probably not for you.

  • Dining

Now for the foodies out there, trust me, you’ll be in heaven in Jordan as the food is just amazing. You can find the usual takeaways, even a KFC here and there but dining out in Jordan is very much a social event and sampling a local Jordanian restaurant is a must. There is food to cater for meat eaters and vegetarians and no matter what you order, you’ll always seem to get a traditional starter of pitta breads, hummus, multiple salads and dips. The fresh fruit drinks are also to die for. I found the food here very reasonably priced considering you always get a Mezze starter (which always filled me up.) The most I paid was 13JD which equates to about £13. For lunch I had falafel wraps with a drink and fruit and that was around 5JD.

Alcohol is also served in Jordan. It isn’t served in every restaurant BUT there are liquor stores wherever you go.

**Top Tip** seriously get stuck into some traditional food, it’s some of the best I’ve ever eaten. With things like Mansaf, Maqluba, fresh fish of the day and a sharing Mezze to name just a few, trust me, there’s bound to be something on the menu that you’ll love.

I’ll be honest, I’m not really one for a package holiday, however, as much as I wanted to explore Jordan, I did have my reservations given its geographical location but how wrong could I be?! I always felt safe here, even when alone or getting taxis. The below is the itinerary I covered, I will cover each thing in more details in future posts.

Day 1: Fly to Aqaba followed by a traditional evening meal.

Day 2: Exploring the coastline of the Red Sea before driving up the Wadi Arabia road to Amman.

Day 3: A day of ruins with a morning visit to Pella, one of the most ancient towns in the world followed by an afternoon visit to Umm Qais, a member of the Decapolis and the centre of Greek culture in the region.

Day 4: A morning visit to Jerash, The Jewel of the North and one of the most preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside if Italy. In the afternoon we headed over to Bethany followed by the Dead Sea.

Day 5: A beautiful drive along the 2000 year old Kings Highway took us firstly to Madaba,’The City of Mosaics’ before proceeding to Mount Nebu known as the burial place of the Prophet Moses. We then stopped at Kerak to explore the spectacular Crusader Castle built in the 12th century AD and situated 1000 meters above sea level.

Day 6: The one we were all waiting for, a full day in The Rose Red City of Petra. The ancient Nabatean city is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and an absolute must see whilst in Jordan.

Day 7: Enroute to Wadi Rum we took a stop at Little Petra, which was the entry and exit point for the trade routes followed by a stop at the Seven Pillars of Arabia which is where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. Last stop was Wadi Rum which is home to several Bedouin tribes and was a perfect last night under the stars in Jordan.

Day 8: A sunrise camel trek in the desert before heading back to Aqaba to take a glass bottom boat tour to see the Coral Reef followed by some last minute shopping in the markets.

I felt very lucky actually as my tour guide for the week, Eddie, had an in depth knowledge about the history of Jordan as well as where to go for food/shopping. He gave us all some very useful tips. Here are just a couple:

  • Don’t talk about religion or politics
  • Do talk about the water shortage, the deficit and Azuz (a small child that is the butt of many jokes.)

I took the below picture of Eddie in Wadi Rum. He loved it so much I traded my lens ball with him for a beer!

Things To Pack

Clothing for every type of weather. It’s better to pack layers so you can add or remove as necessary.

Sensible walking boots as you’ll probably cover every terrain imaginable.

Camera and equipment. I always carry mine on me as you just never know when the perfect picture opportunity will arise.

Hand/foot warmers. TRUST ME, these are a godsend as the desert gets freezing at night. These particular ones are tried and tested by myself and literally last all night.

Beach wear with suitable shoes for the Dead Sea. I would recommend wet shoes with a rubber sole and NOT flip flops.

A sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. As well as the cold, it will also get very hot. The sunglasses will also help keep the sand out of your eyes in the desert.

A power bank to charge your phone. If you have a similar itinerary to mine and use your phone to take photos, then you’ll probably need a recharge at some point. I use the one below which gives me about 5 charges.

A sturdy rucksack to put your water bottle/flask in plus all over the above! I use the one below as it comes with a detachable day bag. I always take my stainless steel cutlery set as shown below, you never know when you’ll need them. The set does come with a set of straws but again it cant hurt to take some extra with you in case you can’t wash them. These ones are stainless steel so reusable and more environmentally friendly. When you’re off the beaten track and buy a drink, it’s more hygienic to drink from one of your own straws rather than the can/bottle.

I truly loved this country and the time I spent there. I really hope to go back to explore further but until then, Jordan, keep shining.

Cat x

P.S. Sign up to my blog for more in depth details about all the excursions I went on and please drop me a message for any questions about this amazing place!

The American Adventure

Firstly, I would like to start by introducing myself. My name is Cat Fox, I’m 32 years old and I’m from sunny Sheffield 🌞 in the UK. I am by no means a writer but in fact a full time civil servant and a wannabe full time traveller/blogger.

I have recently returned from a 5 week American adventure which took me from the sunny west coast of California and then across to the east coast which was also surprisingly sunny given the time of year!

This was my first solo trip and I survived! Yessssss! To be honest though… I more than survived, I felt liberated from the usual constraints of everyday life, a feeling I think I’m now addicted to.

To explain a little as to why I did this trip now, especially for someone who is taunted by anxiety on a daily basis, I’m going to go off on a tangent, a little.

Basically, I love music 🎶🎶. I love to play, sing, go to gigs and festivals and I can’t think of a better feeling than the euphoria thousands of people create when all singing along to their favourite band… talking of which, one of my favorite bands and the band that has pretty much been the soundtrack to my life since 2004 is, The Killers.

I have said since 2004 that one day I wanted to see them play a home gig in Las Vegas, so when the band announced a tour last year I was alllll over those tickets. I was FINALLY in a position where I was actually able to go ❤❤❤ Vegas baby!!!

So anyways…. Back to the trip. I now had my dream gig tickets along with the want to travel America so that was it really. I’m the kind of person that once I get an idea in my head, I have to make it happen.

I started to look at the route I wanted to take as well as blagging the time off work (winner!) but then came the tricky part, trying to persuade people to come with me…. I hate going to the supermarket alone let alone going travelling alone!

As much as people liked the idea of my trip, it was MY dream, not theirs and I began to realise that I can’t spend my life waiting around for people. If I want to do something I have to get out there and do it because truly, life is too short.

So that was it, I found my flights and after hovering over the buy button for around 10 minutes with the nerves in the pit of my stomach (and my friends shouting, “just press the damn button”) I did it, I actually bought the flights. That was it…. No going back. Although the nerves were still there I also had an overwhelming feeling of excitement…. I was going to America… on my own!

The rest of the planning was a bit of a blur but to keep the anxiety levels down I made sure I had all my accommodation and transport booked prior to leaving. Also making sure I had enough cash in the bank to buy a ticket home should I absolutely hate it… like that was ever going to happen! 😂

That was it, my trip was booked. San Francisco, Yosemite National Park, L.A., Las Vegas, Lubbock TX, Bandera TX, San Antonio TX, New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Niagara Falls ON.

All I had to do now was get on the plane (I’m terrified of flying) for my first solo flight. And well…. I did it. As soon as we took off I felt like all my worries flew away as well, I felt nothing but excitement. Whatever was going to happen was going to happen and I would just deal with it as I went along.

Skip ahead 2 months and I’m now sat on my sofa dreaming of the adventure I had. From the sunsets on the Californian coast, the sounds of the slammer in Alcatraz, the shear beauty of Yosemite, paddle boarding in L.A, seeing the vastness of the Grand Caynon and watching The Killers play Vegas. Horse back riding in the Texan hills, seeing the liveliest city of the dead during Mardi Gras in New Orleans (as well as seeing someone literally come back from the dead 💀- freaky), seeing Alligators in the Louisianna swamps, playing on Jerry Lee Lewis’s piano in Sun Studio, Memphis (then crying like a little girl), having a holiday romance in Graceland. Hearing all the music in Nashille and then power walking around Washington D.C., running up the steps from the Rocky film in Philadephia before hitting the bright lights of New York, eating choc chip ice cream under the Brooklyn Bridge in the crazy heat before going to the breathtaking cold of Niagara Falls and seeing the frozen falls.

This is not to mention all the wildlife I was lucky enough to see (Coyote, Dolphins, Sea Lions, Water Hogs, Racoons, Alligators, Turtles) as well as the crazy and wonderful people I met along the way. Some of which I already have plans to see again.

This truly was the time of my life and I would switch this comfy sofa in a heartbeat to be sat back on those stinky Greyhound buses (that’s a blog for another day).

I’m not saying all this was easy, in fact Texas almost broke me and I even had to change accommodation in New Orleans as the first one was so grotty. But I felt so care free on my adventure that fixing a few bumps in the road really didn’t phase me.

I had my friends at the end of my phone if I needed them and my America survival kit ( an amazing Christmas present from a friend) which contained 3 journals (also Christmas gifts!). One of the journals I took with me on my travels to document my journey – my memory is shocking so this way I could read back over the things I might have forgotten. Bullet journal writing is all the rage in L.A. so I thought, when in Rome ‘n’all that. This way, I could document what I had done each day along with my achievements.

Like I said above, I truly believe life is too short so if you want to do something, make it happen don’t let your fears hold you back and DO NOT wait for other people. Go have an adventure and enjoy life!

For me, the thought of not living life to the full is scarier than all the things that I could let hold me back, so I plan on carrying on with the adventure and you can keep up with me on here 😁.