Amman is the capital city of Jordan and as per some old biblical dictionary it means a city perched atop 7 Hills. As I drove from the airport to my hostel in downtown, this fact became apparent as I came across several viewpoints which offered a panoramic view of the entire city. My stay was booked at The Boutique Hostel (nothing Boutique about it though) in downtown Amman. It was a small house managed by a helpful but shrewd Palestinian owner. The itinerary for the day was to visit the Roman Theater and the Citadel. Both nestled inside the city limits. I got my directions from the hostel manager and decided to walk (walking is the best way to explore any city).The entire downtown Amman is filled with shops that sell everything, from classy leather jackets and boots to the boring electronics to the much hyped dead sea cosmetics. People are warm and friendly. Infact, I was approached by many of them as they instantly recognized the traveler with a camera and the fact that he also looked Indian. Questions pertaining to Salman Khan, Katrina Kaif, Sachin Tendulkar, Mumbai, Delhi were asked and offers made to buy discounted products from their shops. I only asked further directions to the Roman Theater.Unfortunately, the Roman Theater was closed due to severe flooding that had taken place due to torrential rains (something that is least expected in a desert) and I also came to know that the next place I planned to visit was supposed to be closed for the day in the next 15 minutes. I immediately rushed to my next destination, not wanting to miss out and have nothing to speak about my first day as a solo traveler. Upon my arrival at the Citadel, several tour guides offered an extra hour of sight-seeing beyond the closing time so that I could see the entire place, for an extra 20 JD. Well, it was totally worth it. The majestic sun was calling it a day, the city was turning into a burning red rose and I was on top of one of the 7 hills of Amman surrounded by history and roman architecture.I walked back to my hostel (atleast 4-5 kms) and upon my return, I got to meet my room mates – an Indian, a friendly Taiwenese man and an aloof Japenese teenager. Pranav had arrived two days back in Amman and was still to explore the many tourist destinations of Jordan. Being Indians, we bonded quickly and even faster we made plans about the places to visit for the next day. Pranav and me had booked a tour guide who would pick up from our hostel and take us through the King’s Highway to visit the Moses Burial Ground, the Dead Sea, Panorama and the Ma’in Hot Springs. King’s Highway is the one of the oldest trade routes in the middle east, offering scenic spots of the entire country side of Jordan and connecting all the major tourist spots. Its runs like a snake carved through mountains and has no speed limits. Going up and down the hills, it offers some great sights for photography.
From Aqaba, we again set off on an amazing jeep tour into the Wadi Rum desert. And as we reached Petra, we knew it was the perfect place for a history-lover like me. As a young boy, I often imitated the adventures of Indiana Jones and now I was breathing amongst the walls that had once stood for the Last Crusade! So without further adieu, we delved our curious and excited foot steps into the carved pink sandstone and soon made our grand entrance, through the winding canyon of Siq, finally to the legendary Al Khazneh (The Treasury). Walking past the stone-resurrected tombs and narrow gorges amidst the rocks that have withheld a metamorphosis with the passage of time. And finally we got lucky for our first glimpse!Marked in every corner by its history of Bedouin culture, yet it reeks of the once effluent Pharaoh's lavish interests. So as we headed out, content with ourselves of the historical essence our trip had brought on, we realised it was just impossible to stay in Petra for just a day. To get the feel of the ruins that shaped history, we decided we'll stay on and explore more. So in the coming days came the Roman Theater and the Royal Tombs and the magnificent show that we are glad we didn't miss- Petra by Night. And with the visit to the Mountain of Aaron, our trip came to an end.
Known for the crusaders walking down this beautiful maze of stone vaulted halls and endless pass ways, one can only realize the primeval stories each of these stones and rock depict. How drenched they are into history. Just a simply walk down to this beautiful town of Jordan was enough to relive the agelessness it devoured.
7. Watch Biblical history unfold – The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Umm Ar-Rasas ( East Jordan) is on the east of Madaba and it had been mentioned in both the Old and New Testament. Known for its spectacular ruins of churches and beautiful stone arches, it also has some very beautiful, well preserved mosaic floors.
It is the city on the shores of Mediterranean Sea. It borders Saudi Arabia on one side and Israel on the other. And if you take a boat ride in the sea 10 mins, into that one can easily see Egypt. It is famous for shopping and beaches. Temperature here in general is 5-7 degrees higher than Amman. It city has beautiful corals underneath its water one can enjoy Glass bottom ride, snorkeling, scuba diving etc.
Jerash is considered one of the largest and most well-preserved sites of Roman architecture in the world outside Italy. Within the remaining city walls, archaeologists have found the ruins of settlements dating back to the Neolithic Age, indicating human occupation at this location for more than 6500 years.It is known for the ruins of the Greco-Roman city of Gerasa, also referred to as Antioch on the Golden River. Entrance costs 10 Jordanian Dinar (JD, as of April 2016) for all foreign visitors, which includes the Jerash Archaeological Museum.
4. Byzantine and back – Umm Qais ( North Jordan, Romans favourite and Site of the famous Miracle of the Gadarene Swine), Pella ( North Jordan famous for remains of Bronze and Iron Age cities, Byzantine ruins etc) and Madaba (Central Jordan) are equally impressive. Madaba has the oldest known map of the Middle East in form of a spectacular Byzantine mosaic laid on the church floor.
After visiting the church at Mount Nebo I headed towards the ancient town of Madaba. Madaba is the city know for its Byzantine and Umayyad mosaics. I chose to visit St George's Church &amp; the floor has a mosaic map of the holy land, been protected in bits and pieces.Before viewing the map, take a look at the full-size replica in the ticket office, making it easier to spot the details that you want to focus on in the church. There is a beautiful market around the church shops selling souvenirs of all shapes and sizes.
Wadi Rum Village
Wadi Rum is an expansive red desert where The Martian was shot to replicate Mars. Far away from the hustle bustle of city, it promised me a chance to look at a starry sky and see some shooting stars. Over here, I found my tour companions were an american dude, a Brazilian chick and a Brazilian hippie dude. We did not need many introductions, we were just travelers. It did not count where we came from, what we did. We were just people lost in the moment, ready to explore the desert and see what it had to offer. Our tour guide took us to different view points which involved a lot of hiking. All of us had a simple Bedouin lunch and I personally waited for the night. By late afternoon we had reached the camps where we were supposed to spend the rest of the night. I was fidgety waiting for it to be dark.By now, I had already told my Brazilian hippie friend about the hashish and we decided to roll two thick joints mixed with tobacco. The Bedouins laid out the dinner and set up a bonfire for us to keep warm in an otherwise cold night. We were joined by people from other nearby camps for the dinner and all of us sang and danced together. I took an early break from the drama as it was something else that I seeked. “A Million Stars”.I stepped out of the camp and walked far away into the darkness, with my held up high, trying to spot the stars. And the dream came true. However cold it might have been, I did not need anything to keep me warm as I was covered by a blanket of million stars (it might have been just an edge of the milky way, but for me it was the path to infinity). Quickly, me and Pedro set up my camera and took some snaps of the milky way. We lit up the the joints we had rolled and like two perfect hippies, we trolled over all the nuances of working a dead end job and how traveling was the holy grail. Pedro showed me how to spot the shooting stars and from there on I was able to spot one every 5 mins. We spoke at great lengths about traveling across S. America and Astronomy. I was still unhappy about the photos we had taken earlier of the stars and I decided to stay a little longer in the cold taking somewhat perfect photos of the milky way. (Pardon me, but I know I have a long way to go before I master night sky photography.)I sat there alone for about 2 hours in the cold, my feet were numb, I couldn’t feel my nose and hands, and I was just wearing a jacket in almost close to zero temperature. Took as many photos as I could and decided to call it a night. Now, only one last thing that remained was to meet an old colleague friend from Jordan.I arrived back in Amman the following day in the evening and decided to take in much needed rest after spending the last night in extreme colds. Pedro and me decided to visit the much famous cafe culture of Amman during the night. First we decided to buy some souvenirs to take back home.The entire downtown has small cafes placed in every nook and corner which serve sheesha, tea and snacks. I visited the Hashem Restaurant (oldest restaurant in Amman) first to try out some local dishes like the Falafel, Pita bread and Hummus. Pedro and me together later went to a nearby cafe to try the lemon mint sheesha and lemon mint cooler. We dined on authentic dinner food like shish tawouk (chicken kebabs), chicken kofta and mensaf (mutton rice).Near to midnight, my old colleague friend from Jordan, Hasan Qandil, joined me in downtown and we spoke about the old days talking about Schlumberger, India and Jordan. He took me to this super famous dessert join where we tried Kanafeh (most Jordanian desserts look similar to the Indian Desserts and i had noticed this particular joint had 10-20 people waiting in que every evening). Kanafeh is like the Indian halwa with a lot of cheese and melted sugary syrup. FOOD ORGASM!All in all, though the Jordanian people did not impress me, I fell in love with the Jordanian food. This was the end of one week of adventure, a trip of a lifetime (of course I am never traveling to Jordan again) and the first solo traveling-wala-trip.The first day I remember calling my mom and telling her how I wished I was traveling with friends and how that would have helped me have fun on my vacation. But, 5 days later I knew I had more fun traveling alone, visited way more places, soaked in way more culture and history, tried new delicacies, all while making new travel friends (aka Living the Hippie Traveler’s Life).And, wait it gets better, the next stop was at Indonesia in Gili Trawangan (Gili Tralalala .. it makes you lazy enough not to say the whole name) and that was going to be one hell of a party and I was gearing up for another adventure.This post was originally published on 'The Indian Abroad'.