Jordan Day 13 by Maia Coen

If you hate sand Jordan is not the place for you.  Or rather the desert in Jordan is not for you.  We headed out for our Bedouin desert camp today.  We stopped at a view point to take pictures of the valley of Petra from above.  The wind was fiercely strong and we were all holding on tightly to our hats and even bracing ourselves so we weren’t pushed around.  We lined up to take a group photo and as the camera went off a tour member’s hat went flying off his head and down the brambly hill.  We all thought that hat was long gone and started to head back to our bus when our security guard jumped over the fence and climbed down after it.  He retrieved the hat and returned it; all while wearing dress shoes.  That got a round of applause.  Another drive ensued with our first Wadi Rum viewpoint rest stop and then lunch.  After lunch it was time for the desert.  We loaded into our jeeps and set out.  Now, when I heard jeep I thought of open roofed, open windowed, safari like vehicles.  But no, these were completely roofed and windowed cars with iPhone chargers and seatbelts.  We left the paved road and crossed over onto the sand.  The sand here is very red, and so are the cliffs.  Everything has that same red tint like Petra.  The cliff faces are all so tall I felt like an ant.  We stopped many times along the way to view and photograph various impressive geologic formations.  You can see in the pictures how incredible these natural structures are.

One stop was an immense red sand dune.  I was ecstatic since I had been unable to make it to Namibia.  This was like a little taste of the Namibian desert for me.  I enthusiastically started my trek up the hill.  Here’s where all the sand comes in.  My feet sunk down into the sand and my shoes were quickly filled.  It was quite a work out trying to make my way up.  I had to take very large steps and extract my feet from the sand for each one.  By the time I made it up to the top I was breathing hard.  But the view was magnificent.  I felt like I could see the whole desert.  The wind blew and little bullets of sand attacked my face and arms and I had to close my eyes.  When the wind finally died down I quickly started down.  As I walked down the dune I started to gain momentum and I began to run.  I ran faster and faster and flew down the sand.  I jumped and leaped and made it to the bottom feeling happy and filled with adrenaline.  Unfortunately right before this stop I had put sunscreen on so I came out of that excursion coated in sand.  I had been meaning to exfoliate my face anyway.

We continued on for only about five minutes before stopping again.  We got out and headed towards some more rock faces.  These ones were different looking from the others.  Instead of looking like many layers of different red sediment these looked like cliffs that had been slathered in cake batter that was dripping down the face.  There was another siq like the one in Petra but much smaller and more intimate.  There was old graffiti on the canyon walls.  We had a few more photo stops including one completely dedicated to photographing baby camels.  Apparently this is the time when the camels are born so there were lots of infant camels stumbling around.  We found three of them with their mothers.  The babies were white rather than yellowish brown and looked much fluffier than the adults.  It was a very cute photo stop.

Our last stop before camp was a natural rock bridge, like those you see in Utah.  Except we could climb this one.  My dad, ever the daredevil, started climbing.  A few others from the group followed and the security guard went on up, again in his dress shoes.  The top of the arch is a very thin piece of rock stretching from one side to the other.  It was a precariously thin bridge.  My dad went out and stood on it and threw his hands up in the air for photos.  Show off.

When everyone was down we loaded into the very comfortable jeeps again and drove about 20 minutes to camp.  The camp was very nice – rustic but comfortable.  There were about 30 raised tents in a square with a dining tent and bathroom facilities on one side.  We were the only ones there.  We dropped our bags off and headed to the communal dining tent.  Outside our Bedouin hosts laid out cushions in a circle for us to sit on.  They passed tea around and everyone was in a great mood.  It was one of those great travel experiences you just know you’re going to remember forever.

After a little downtime the group headed out onto some nearby cliffs to watch the sunset.  We sat and chatted and watched the sun sink from the sky.  It was not the most magnificent sunset but the golden light on the surrounding red mountains was beautiful, the company was good, and the destination was perfect.  All that made it one of the best sunset’s I’ve ever seen.  Dinner was served when we returned to the camp.  They used a ground oven so we all gathered around to watch them dig it up and find out what we would be having for dinner.  They pulled out the first layer that contained potatoes and onions.  Then they lifted the tray higher and another layer emerged containing delicious looking and smelling chicken.  There were salads, soup, and pitas to go with it.  We sat on long benches with cushions inside the dining tent and enjoyed the meal.  I thought it was the best meal of the trip.  I’m sure it was largely due to the fact that it was such a change from the overcooked grilled meat of Egypt.  But I think it also had to do with the way it was cooked and the atmosphere of the camp.  Sometimes the best meals are not actually about the taste of the food but about the experience.

My dad and I commandeered some cushions from around the fire and brought them right outside our tent.  We lay down and looked up at the stars.  It was one of those skies that went on forever.  It was the kind of sky that had new stars in it every time you looked up.  The kind you never see when you live in the city.  The kind of sky I’m going to remember.  We stayed like that for a while, just lying there staring up at the sky.  I wanted to savor the moment since I’m not likely to be seeing stars like that again any time soon.  This truly was one of those travel experiences that people go searching for.  And I got it.