Here’s what we did day by day:
Flight from Paris to Amman. Inside customs we used an ATM to get cash (dinars) and had no issues. Right outside customs in the airport we each bought a SIM card for our phones. There were two different mobile companies so we got one of each. There wasn’t too much difference in the price/service, and we each had pockets where one of us had reception and the other didn’t. Our taxi ride from the airport to the hotel was dark and we were unnecessarily nervous about our first time in the Middle East. Driving past an IKEA was somehow reassuring; it reminded me that the city was full of average people with average bookcases.
Eat all the food. Hummus, fuul, falafel, pita, cucumbers, tomatoes, haloumi, zaatar and baklava for days. Toured the Citadel and learned about all the cultures who’d used that site from 40,000 BC until the present. The Roman Temple of Hercules, Byzantine Basilica and Amayad Mosque were all amazing. We then walked to the amphitheater and through winding neighborhoods.
Day 3 and 4
We rent a car! We went for the smaller company, Monte Carlo, and they were very friendly, affordable and safe feeling. Justin drives us south to Madaba to visit some more religious sites. We see the oldest known map of the holy land; a mosaic tiled floor. Driving south we came upon a massive canyon we weren’t expecting. In my head I just imagined sandy deserts, but Jordan is full of sheep at pasture, rocky canyons and cliffs, and even forests in the north. We drive the Desert Highway south to Dana and stay at a tiny little hotel that feels very Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros. We spent the next full day exploring the surrounding nature reserve.
Day 5 and 6
Drive farther south and stop at Shobak castle for a bit of climbing around before we end up in Petra where we spend all the following day as well. It’s amazing. Stay with a local Bedouin from AirBnB.
Day 7 and 8
We drive to Wadi Rum. It’s a beautiful expansive desert we’d planned on exploring for a few nights. We’ve already been roughing it for a week and staying with hosts, and we decide somewhat sheepishly that we’d prefer a private room with a western shower and not having to talk to anyone for a night or two. Drive south to Aqaba and get our first not-twin bed, some alcohol and watch the sun set over the Red Sea, Egypt and Israel. We spend the next day exploring Aqaba, the hotel pool and buying spices as souvenirs.
Day 9 and 10
Drive north on the Dead Sea Highway, stopping at Lot’s Cave, the museum of the Lowest Place in the World and Mount Nebo. Drive past sheep, goats, donkeys, camel and people living in goat hair tents. Spend two nights in Madaba, driving do the Dead Sea on the full day to float and soak up the salty goodness. Went to a formal restaurant in Madaba for our one fancy meal.
Drive to Jerash to discover the gladiator show is canceled indefinitely. We’re pretty worn out at this point so have a sit down lunch and then head to a mall in Amman for some slow indoor wanderings. We spend an entire hour exploring a grocery store. As we went through customs at the airport leaving, one man said “you’re from America? Please tell everyone there how beautiful Jordan is and to visit soon!” oozing pride and eagerness to share his country. It is beautiful!