By Juhi Bansal
Let me begin with a disclaimer: it’s not how I want you to plan your Jordan trip at all. Infact, whenever you do, I urge you to plan a longer vacation in this beautiful country. For us, the trigger was simply the fact that we were so close to the border, especially to Petra that we couldn’t not do this. So, only if you’re in a situation like ours or have a long layover, check out a list of things you should do when in Jordan for the weekend.
We drove to the Arava border from Eilat in a mini bus full of tourists. Here are some things to keep in mind.
Indian passports are eligible for a visa on arrival in Jordan. However, if you’re travelling from Israel (like us), please make sure you have a multiple/ double entry visa to Israel if you plan to fly back from Tel Aviv.
Border crossing & charges
Border crossing is fairly easy. The Jordanian staff makes you feel extremely comfortable. However, don’t take their friendliness for lax attitude. They are extremely watchful of miscreants and the immigration process may take several minutes to an hour.
The border fee is USD 65 and the visa on arrival fee is USD 60 per person.
Just about anything short of a bikini works. The guidelines by tour companies say modest clothing but all my co-travellers wore what they would wear anywhere else and no one batted an eyelid. I of course took the advice too seriously 😉
Oh by the way- Petra is our sixth “seven wonders of the new world”!
Start with Petra of course. While it does not need an introduction, here’s a little bit about one of the seven wonders of the new world. Petra is believed to have been settled as early as 9,000 BC and believe me when I say this. It IS magical! From the moment you enter the lost city you’re lost in its grandeur. How can something man-made (that too several thousand years ago) be so meticulously planned and executed! The only other place that gave me this feeling was “Machu Picchu”.
Petra is about a 2 hour drive from the border. While it is largely barren land on the way, you do see some beautiful views of the “wadi” every now and then.
You need anywhere between 4-8 hours depending on how much you plan to see in Petra. Some co-travellers even stayed the night and went to Petra again next day. It’s a bit of walking especially from the entrance to the first site. You may want to hire a horse-cart for some of the distance. We did a mix of the cart and walk. Some sites that you may want to spend time at are walking the Siq, the Treasury (or the Khazneh), the Obelisk Tomb, the theatre etc. If you like us don’t like guides much, just download the app and tour Petra at your own pace.
Glamping in Wadi Rum
After Petra you will be mighty tired. You may want to head to the closest city Aqaba for a quiet night in. Or, if you’re game for the real deal- may I suggest you to stay the night in the majestic Wadi Rum in a Bedouin camp. Most camps are replete with basic requirements along with tent-stays, shared bathroom facilities and community dining halls. However, you can always upgrade to a cottage and make it a “glamping” experience.
Dinner in the camp is an experience as well. But, more on the food later. Also, I highly recommend stepping out, laying on the sand and watching the stars.
Desert Safari in 4×4
Most camps will offer this as a part of the stay package. You’re taken deep inside the wadi in a 4×4 vehicle with your driver stopping at strategic points so you can take in the glorious view or just lay on the sand. I was expecting a safari like the one in Dubai but it is anything but that.
Coffee in a Bedouin camp
You can ask your driver to stop at a Bedouin camp on the way back from the safari. The Bedouin people are known to be extremely warm and hospitable. We were offered the traditional Jordanian coffee (black and sweet) and some baklava. A teenager sat outside playing music and there were a few antique things on display and sale. The tent is beautifully set up and makes for a great stopover after the safari.
After the safari, you can head back to the city of Aqaba for some sight-seeing or beach time and shopping. Do bear in mind that the Jordanian weekend is on Friday and Saturday, you may find most shopping places closed.
While it is a pretty relaxed itinerary for two days, if you had just about 4 days extra I would suggest including the following in your schedule in Jordan:
City stay in Amman (I am definitely going back for this)
Tour to Jerash
Swimming in the Dead Sea
Shopping in Jordan- what?
Traditional eye liners! Jordanian women take pride in their kohl streaked eyes. You’ll find many a local brands selling these eyes liners.
Hand painted ceramics
Dead Sea products
Spices like Za’atar. We are big fans of the spice and bought some to take home
Bedouin tribal Jewelry
This was my favourite. Such beautiful designs- every piece is a must-own.
Food in Jordan
48 hours means you will get to have atleast 6 meals if not more in Jordan. Make sure you use them efficiently by trying some lipsmacking local foods. Here are my top picks:
Let me get hummus, falafel, tabbouleh and labneh out of the way first. We are big fans and OD-ed on them. Rest assured you will get plenty of these wherever you eat.
However, there are some things that you may need to order or keep a look out for in community meals. Here’s a few:
Foul or ful
While it is a gravy made of fava beans, it comes very close to a soupy rajma curry. Try it with rice or pita.
The husband introduced me to manakish more than a decade ago and I’ve beena fan since. But, you must try the local version whenever you visit- topped with lots of Za’atar and halloumi cheese. Akin to a pizza albeit without the tomato sauce and mozzarella, you’ll never have enough.
Sweets like baklava and hareeseh
I tried hareeseh for the first time in Jordan. It’s a mix between sooji and coconut barfee (these being the two main ingredients), however, it tastes like nothing you’ve tried before (in a good way).
Rice cooked with lentils and garnished with pine nuts.
For non-vegetarians there’s a plenty of options like koftas, shawarmas, shish kebabs etc.
Of the 2 days that we spent in Jordan, almost every waking hour was a lesson in glorious history, culture or gastronomy. However, I feel like I cheated on Amman and that’s why I am going to go back to the beautiful country super soon to spend some time in the capital.
Iy had a lot of fun in Jordan!