In April 2018, Nicole and I travelled to Jordan & Egypt. We chose Intrepid as our tour agency. It’s an Australian company that offers 1,000+ itineraries in 100+ countries covering every continent. What a great choice it was! Intrepid travel was created in 1988 by two guys from Melbourne, Australia. Our selected tour was named Jordan & Egypt Uncovered. It takes you to 13 incredible destinations across these 2 countries over 22 days. We spent 5 days in Jordan and 17 days in Egypt. The cost of the tour is 2,628 CAD / 1,998 USD / 1,617 GBP / 2,912 AUD.
All Intrepid tour guides’ across the world are locals so you will receive the greatest knowledge about the guide’s country in which you are visiting. It’s also a nice thought to think you are able to give your guide an income for them and their family which will help them to thrive in their home country.
Here’s a quick summary of the Jordan & Egypt Uncovered itinerary: Amman (1 day), Petra (2 days), Wadi Rum (1 day), Red Sea (1 day), Dahab (2 days), Cairo (2 days), Aswan (2 days), Felucca on the Nile River (1 day), Luxor (1 day), Abu Simbel (1 day), Hurghada (2 days), Cairo (1 day), Alexandria (2 days) and Cairo (2 days).
We chose to tour these two countries as I had travelled a lot of Europe and we both had a love for Egypt and its history. Nicole also wanted to visit Jordan, especially Petra. I didn’t know much at all about Jordan to begin with and I’m so glad we chose to visit these incredible places!
At the time I was in my second and last year of my Tier 5 Youth Mobility Visa in the United Kingdom and I was living on the surf coast and seaside town of Newquay in Cornwall. I got a National Express Coach from Newquay to London where I was to meet Nicole, my best friend from Melbourne, Australia. I hadn’t seen her for a year and a half since I left Australia. We had been best friends since we met in school at the age of 8 in Grade 3. Nicole was to arrive to Heathrow Airport 6 days before we were to head onto our adventure in Jordan & Egypt.
Nicole and I spent 6 days to catch up and explore some places in and around London. We stayed in an AirBnB in Soho in the heart of London’s entertainment! We visited the Harry Potter Warner Bros Studios, Highclere Castle, Bath and The Cotswolds. It was classic cold & rainy English weather in April but we made the most of it!
DAY 1: AMMAN – Jordan’s capital
It’s time for the adventure to begin! We flew from Heathrow Airport to Queen Alia Airport in Jordan. Queen Alia is Jordan’s main and largest airport and it’s 30 kilometres South of Jordan’s capital, Amman. The arrival terminal was simple and small. There was just one bag carousel and toilets opposite. We collected our luggage, got our Jordanian Single Entry Visas for 40 JOD easily enough and headed out to the arrivals lounge. We were met by a nice local man with an Intrepid Sign. The man spoke pretty good English and he led Nicole and I out of the airport to the car to drive us to our tour groups hotel.
We planned to get an early flight to arrive to Amman at noon because we would have some time to explore Amman’s city and visit the Citadel. We arrived to our hotel and met some of our other tour group members. Most of our group was from Australia as Intrepid is a popular Australian tour company. So we all good along like a house on fire! Our hotel room was just nice and basic. The staff offered us dates and mint tea when we arrived which was a lovely gesture. We had two single beds, an en-suit with shower, wardrobe, mini fridge, table & chairs. We quickly freshened up and headed out to go to the Citadel.
The walk from our hotel to the Citadel was about 30 minutes but most of it was heading up hill. Nicole and I had it up on google maps just in case we got lost. We had beautiful views overlooking the bustling, spider web like city along the way. The locals would say hello or welcome to us also! We could also see Amman’s Roman Theatre which seats 6,000 and was built around 150AD. We reached the Citadel gates and paid the fee of 3 Jordanian Dinars which is inexpensive. 3JOD is equal to 1.85CAD / 4.23USD / 3.42GBP / 6.17AUD.
At the Citadel we explored the Temple of Hercules, Umayyad Palace and the Jordan Archeological Museum. It was fortified in the Bronze Age around 1, 800BC. Today, some of the historical buildings and monuments remain standing and some have fallen and become ruins. The Citadel is located on a small mountain where you can get clear views of the large city.
We returned back to our hotel for a group meeting and then we all went out to our first dinner together. We walked to a falafel restaurant named Hashem Restaurant Down Town. We had so many different dishes come out from falafel, dips, babaganouche, chips, salads, tea and cold soft drinks. It only cost 2-3JOD per person which is super cheap!
Other activities to do in Amman is to visit the Roman Ampitheathre (2JOD), Jordan Museum (5JOD), King Abullah Mosque (2JOD), Bethany Baptism Site in Madaba (12JOD) or Jerash Roman Ruins (10JOD)
DAY 2: MT NEBO, the dead sea & KERAK CASTLE
We departed Amman and travelled by mini bus for 1.5 hours to Mt Nebo. It’s a very well-known biblical site. It costs 2JOD to visit. It was at Mt Nebo where Moses could see the Promised Land. It’s believed that Moses died at the age of 120 and is also buried in the area also. Mt Nebo has stunning views over the Dead Sea, Jericho, Jerusalem and the border of Jordan and Israel.
The Moses Memorial Church is situated on the summit of this mountain. 4th century foundations and mosaics were found here many years ago and so a church was built around them to protect and preserve. So today they are one of the most well preserved mosaics in Jordan!
After Mt Nebo, we made a pit stop at the local Madaba Handcrafts & Arts Centre where we got to see the staff creating some of the beautiful mosaics. You can buy these crafts too! Our next stop was at The Madaba Map which was crafted in 560AD. The map shows 157 biblical sites from Egypt to Palestine in Greek. The map has more than 2 million pieces and it’s found inside St George’s Church is Madaba.
We got back on the mini bus again for another 30 minutes to head to the lowest point on earth, The Dead Sea! It’s 420 metres below sea level and it’s so salty that no organisms can survive in it hence the name. To visit this famous salty lake it costs 8JOD which is a little dear but it’s a must do! First, we had a fantastic buffet lunch in the restaurant overlooking The Dead Sea. At the beach we paid a couple of Jordanian Dinars to be covered in nutrient rich mineral mud which is believed to have healing properties. The density of the water only allows you to float and not swim. It was my strangest experience ever. I’d be floating on my back and if I moved slightly I’d flip over and be face down in the water trying to turn back over!! Be careful of getting your eyes wet, it stings like a bitch!
The next stop was at Kerak Castle which is an hours drive from The Dead Sea. There’s a lot of history that comes from Kerak. It’s an impressive seven level crusader fortress which stands on the side of a cliff and has views over Wadi Kerak and The Dead Sea. There’s so many passageways, tunnels and rooms to explore with great look out points along the way. 12th century battles took place here between the Crusaders and the Muslim armies. The entrance fee is 2JOD. After Kerak we drove through the evening for 4 and a half hours to Petra.
DAY 3: PETRA
I’ve written a separate post on Petra because there’s so much to talk about! Check out the link!https://whenlovecrossesoceans.com/2019/08/14/petra-jordan/#more-148
DAY 4: WADI RUM
From Petra we drove 2 hours to the extraordinary desert of Wadi Rum. Our tour group went on a 4 hour Jeep safari in the desert where you can see huge sandstone mountains and the orange and red sands! We made some pit stops along the way to trek through some mountains to see ancient inscriptions on these beautiful rocks. Our tour guide translated and explained the meanings of the drawings and symbols. Our desert camp was amazing too! It was my favourite place where we stayed in Jordan and it was also the most delicious dinner too.
Nicole and I had a hut to ourselves with 2 single beds, table and extra blankets inside. The huts and the blankets are made out of camel hair! There’s bathrooms a minute walk from our huts and a large communal tent in the center of the camp for where we eat. Outside of the large tent is a huge rug with cushions and chairs to soak up your surroundings and have some laughs with our guide and tour group.
Our dinner was cooked in an earthen oven (cooked underground) by the local Bedouins (‘Desert Dwellers’ in Arabic). There was a range of meats, rice, vegetables, salads and dinner rolls. I think almost everyone in our group went back for seconds the food was so amazing! We then rugged up for a cold night in the desert and walked 5 minutes to a lookout to see the sunset over the desert. It was the perfect end to our last night with our amazing tour guide before we headed onto our next journey in Egypt.
DAY 5: AQABA
At the Wadi Rum desert camp we had a lovely breakfast and then got ourselves ready to drive 1 hour to Aqaba. We were going to board a ferry to cross the Gulf of Aqaba to arrive to Egypt on the other side! We had lunch in Aqaba and we were guided through the city and along the water. We then arrived to the ferry terminal. From this point we said goodbye to our tour guide as our Egyptian tour guide was to meet us on the other side. The ferry journey can take 2.5 or up to 5 hours. It can also be delayed or cancelled due to weather conditions. It’s also recommended to take sea sickness tablets to prepare for rough conditions.
Our ferry was suppose to depart at 8pm but it was delayed till 11pm. This was also the only place where we felt unsafe and uncomfortable. There were about 300 people in the very large terminal and only 12 of them were women. All eyes were on our tour group. We found a separate area where no one else was and our tour group can all sit down together. We ended up putting a suitcase upside down, a few of us sitting on the floor and playing multiple games of poker to kill the 3 hour delay. If any of us women in our group needed to go to the toilet at least 4 of us would go together. The toilets are also a hole in ground!
Finally we board the ferry. Since the ferry terminal was a horrible experience I thought this ferry would be even worse thinking there’s going to be hundreds of men crammed onto it. However, we went up the escalators into the ferry and it was like being on an airplane. The seats were lovely and spacious, there’s a cafe on board, TV’s all around and it was very clean! It was very important for everyone in our tour group to line up straight away on the ferry at the border security window to get your passport stamped. They will check that you already have your Jordanian Visa and they will give you your Egyptian Tourist Visa if you don’t have one yet. Now onward to Egypt!
I will post about my time in Egypt soon!
The April temperature in Jordan is really quite perfect. With an average of 24°C/74°F, a high of 30°C/86°F and lows of 17°C/63°F. There’s 9 hours of sunshine. Sunrise is around 6am and sunset just after 7pm. There’s the lowest chance of rain in April with usually 1 rain day and only an average of 1mm will fall. The sea temperature is always great around the Middle East with an average of 21°C/70°F. Temperatures drop quite dramatically at night too especially in the desert.
What to WEAR
Packing for the Middle East was difficult for me. I hadn’t travelled to many highly religious countries and I definitely hadn’t visited places where it’s recommended that women cover up. I already had a medium sized travel backpack which I knew would be perfect for this trip. I’ve always had a knack for packing extremely light too which is also a bonus especially if you’re going to be carrying it on your back to and from places. I found that shopping at thrift stores was the easiest place to find light weight pants, t-shirts and shirts. Always make sure to try on the clothes to double check that the materials are not see-through! Comfortable closed shoes are a must and slides or sandals are great too. It will definitely be cold at night especially out in the deserts and along the beaches so a warm jumper, thermals and scarf will be a safe idea.
I purchased a hijab (headscarf) online prior to arriving to Jordan and it arrived within a week which is great. There’s different materials and colours to choose from and they come with pins to style the hijab. Since we were in a tour group of 15 people it was obvious we were tourists. There’s so many tourists that visit Jordan so it’s normal for the locals to see us tourists without headscarves. Our tour group actually only wore headscarves in Jordan & Egypt when we were going into a mosque. Us ladies wrapped a light weight scarf over our hair and wrapped one end around our neck. Buying a light weight scarf from a thrift store would be the best choice for a hijab!
WHAT TO BRING
Travel backpack, day pack or handbag that zips up, camera, phone/camera chargers, reusable water bottle, hat, sunscreen, handheld fan (a must especially when inside tombs!), light weight, comfortable & respectful clothing, hijab/head scarf, comfortable shoes, sandals/slides, swim suit (one piece recommended), small sized towel, Jordanian Dinars, USD for emergency money and an adapter (Jordan plug sockets are either a 2 or 3 rounds pins = Type C, D, F and J. Most of these are used through out Europe). Jewelry and make-up is best left at home!
1JOD = 1.85CAD / 1.41USD / 1.14GBP / 2.05AUD
It’s wise to bring some USD cash in case of an emergency. It was quite hard to find some ATM’s in Amman that would let us get cash out even though we had Visa Debit, MasterCard or Travel Card etc. However the Bank of Jordan and Arab Bank ATM’s seemed to be the best. I exchanged GBP for Jordanian Dinars before this trip so I was prepared for ATM’s to not support my HSBC Debit Card. I brought 100 JOD with me to Jordan and I only used an ATM once in Amman while in Jordan for 5 days. It seemed to be an inexpensive country. Most of the entrance fees were only a couple of JOD, the local cuisines were great for the price and the amount of food and 1 litre bottles of water costed between 0.50-1 JOD.
You can receive your Jordanian Single Entry Visa when you arrive to the Airport in Jordan. This visa is valid for 1 month. It will cost 40JOD so it’s definitely worth getting Jordanian Dinars before arriving to Jordan instead of using airport ATM’S. It was super fast and easy to go through border security at Queen Alia Airport in Amman. The tourist visa just looks like 2 stamps from a post office!