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The Calm Eye of the Middle East

Our Wildland Adventures Jordan tour group hikes into the back side of Petra  early in the morning before hardly any other day tourists can manage the hundreds of steps up from the main entrance. Arriving to Petra on the ancient trail by foot is spectacular! 
Happy Holidays, Wildland friends and family! I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving and survived the various Black Friday/Local Saturday/Cyber Monday events.

I must confess to being slightly out of the loop, having just returned from Wildland Adventures’ inaugural departure of our Bedouin Trek to Petra! I was fortunate enough to join 6 of our most intrepid travelers as well as Wildland president, Kurt Kutay, on the 6 day, 50-mile journey from the Dana Biosphere Reserve south to the “back door” of Petra, entering the site at the awe inspiring Monastery.
Timing is everything. We arrive early to the Monastery, spend the entire day hiking and exploring the magnificent site of Petra, and then we walk through the siq and past the famous Treasury building at the end of the day when there are hardly any other tourists and you have peace, quiet and great photo opps!
Between Kurt and myself, you will all be hearing a lot about our trip to Jordan, but for the time being, let me share my first impressions. This is by no means a comprehensive review of a very, very rich and full adventure… that will come in time. Rather, think of this as an overview, and introduction of coming attractions: 

Jordan is utterly lacking in natural resources. While neighboring countries are rich in oil, Jordan has none. What the Jordanian government does have is a dedication to the free public education of its people, with literacy rates averaging 90%. English is taught from grade 6, and it’s not at all unusual to find excellent English speakers in all walks of life, from bustling city sidewalks to rustic countryside olive presses to Bedouin children herding goats across a timeless landscape.

Given the dearth of resources, Jordan capitalizes on its tourism opportunities, of which there are many! Of course everyone is at least vaguely familiar with the fabulous Treasury of Petra, courtesy of “Indiana Jones.” And you might also recognize the surreal red desert and mountain ranges of Wadi Rum from “Lawrence of Arabia.” But there’s so much more. The ancient city of Jerash challenges Ephesus in Turkey for the most well-preserved Roman ruins outside of Italy...or perhaps even within! The “City of Mosaics,” Madaba, is the site of the first map ever created of the Holy Land, a brilliant 6th century mosaic occupying the floor of the modern St George’s Church. Looming over this landscape, Mt. Nebo is a tranquil, cool oasis of meditative peace. The place where the Christian Bible tells us Moses finally saw the “Promised Land” but was denied entry by God. The so-called “desert castles” of eastern Jordan are beautifully preserved hunting lodges and bathhouses from the 8th century, some featuring whimsical frescoes, still perfectly intact, still rich in color, texture, and scenes of a life long ago. Overlooking the capital city of Amman, the Citadel high atop a hill boasts the immense Ummayad Palace and evocative Temple of Hercules, constructed in 720ad. If after all these antiquities, you then consider the vast nature reserves such as Dana or Azraq, and family or honeymoon playgrounds such as Aqaba with its excellent SCUBA facilities and the Dead Sea with its curative waters, there is something spectacular for everyone in Jordan!

On more personal levels, I discovered just how connected the world truly is when upon my arrival to Amman on Monday 5 November, the hotel elevator was papered with announcements of “Election Night” parties and the featured wine of the month was a cabernet sauvignon from Chateau Ste Michele. It’s enough to make a Seattle girl ask “Where am I…really??”

I also realized that even a full burqa cannot disguise a young woman’s flirtatious sideways glance at a beloved companion, and a smile can be easily read even when the mouth itself is out of sight.

And above all, after this, my second trip to Jordan, I am more convinced than ever that this stable, calm kingdom, so often in the eye of political storms that drown out calmer discourse, is one of my favorite places in this fabulous world of ours. Stick around for further explanations of why that should be…my jet lag is clearing and I am ready to talk Jordan!
Wildest regards,
Sherry Howland
Got questions about a trip to Jordan? Ask Sherry
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