Highlights of Jordan

I posted my second YouTube video today and I’d love for you to check it out. The four-minute ‘GoPro Shorts’ video features some of the experiences I had when travelling on the eight-day G Adventures Highlights of Jordan tour.

The tour is marketed as ‘ideal for the traveller who is short on time but wants to soak up the colours, culture and history’ of this small Middle Eastern country. It certainly did what it said on the tin – and then some.

We explored ancient sights and lost cities, camped overnight in a Bedouin tent. We took in Petra’s fascinating history and relaxed in the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea.

Have you travelled to Jordan? Let me know in the comments below:

Gateway to India

Like many, I have spent much of lockdown dreaming of not only when I can travel again, but where I will travel too. Stunning images of destinations near and far have filled my Instagram feed; Turkey, Greece, Hawaii, Vietnam, Australia. Although unlike ‘before’ many of the images are from locals rather than tourists and I have to say, I’m rather enjoying seeing a destination from a locals perspective. It’s refreshing for my explore page to be filled with authentic images rather than those that are staged for the ultimate amount of likes and comments.

One destination that has come up, again and again, is India. A destination that has been pretty low on my travel bucket list, until now. The India that is my imagination; colourful, chaotic and exotic exists alongside tigers, temples, palaces and bazaars. However, it’s the everyday side of India that has caught my imagination; here are the Instagram accounts of some of my favourite locals:

Harswaroop captures a different view of the Pink City with the intricate beauty of this doorway found in the capital of India’s Rajasthan state. Jaipur evokes the royal family that once ruled the region and the City Palace and Hawa Mahal (Jaipur’s most-distinctive landmark) dominate social media feeds. However, it’s the marvellous doors of the inner courtyard of the City Palace that caught my attention. Pictured here is the Lehariya Gate, the vivid green represents the green of Spring season and is dedicated to Lord Ganesha.

Jalebis, captured by Shourya, is a sweet snack found all over India and are made by deep-frying maida flour batter in pretzel or circular shapes, it’s then soaked in sugar syrup, and can be served warm or cold.

Located in Kolkata, the Mallick Ghat Flower Market is the largest in the whole of India. The flower market is over 130 years old, and people travel from all over the city and suburbs to sell flowers here. It is primarily for people who want to pick up flowers for temple offerings and prayers. This image, captured by Jyoti, captures the organised chaos of the market perfectly.

This image from Ashwani highlights just one of the many modes of transport available to locals in India. Captured in Kolkata, the capital of India’s West Bengal state, this bus transports locals daily from their homes to their place of employment.

Dhobi Ghat is Mumbai‘s 140-year-old, open-air laundromat and it is estimated that each day over half a million pieces of clothing are sent here from hotels, hospitals, and homes, for the over 200 traditional laundrymen to wash. It’s an impressive operation and one that warrants hard work, which Navya has captured well with this photo.

Khari Baoli Wale, located in Delhi, is the largest spice market in the whole of Asia. Narrow lanes, covered by hessian sacks, are packed with huge parcels of herbs and spices. Electric red chillies, vibrant yellow turmeric and bright green cardamoms are just some of the spices included in the eye-catching displays. However, there is more to the market than large crowds and an overwhelming abundance of smells, like the sunset from the market’s rooftop as captured by Deepak.

It’s hard not to visit the Taj Mahal and capture an ‘Instagram’ photo. Other than the fact that it wasn’t, the building was built for Instagram. I’m sure, like mine, that your feed is filled with the signature image of the Taj Mahal – tourists sat on the iconic bench in front of the Taj Mahal. While that’s great and a must-do, it’s so refreshing to see a different angle of the Taj Mahal, like this one from Romita from North East India. The lighting cast on the exterior of the building is perfect, and the detail featured shows off the immaculate building, built to serve as a memorial for Shah Jahan’s third wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child in 1631.

Thanks to these locals, India has made it’s to the top of my list of planned travel destinations for 2021. Being such a large country, I know I won’t cover it all. If you’ve made it to India before, where do you recommend I don’t miss? Let me know in the comments below!

To the moon and back

Jordan. The name of a culturally rich Middle Eastern country, filled with landscapes the colour of honeycomb, but also that of my obnoxious ex-boyfriend.
I had the preconception that the highlight of my trip to Jordan would be Petra, one of the most precious cultural properties in the world. However, I walked away at the end of my eight-day journey with a greater comprehension for the land that I had explored, and an altogether disparate highlight.

As I step off the plane in Amman I am greeted by a surge of dry heat, one that every Brit takes pleasure in when arriving in a foreign land. The short journey from the airport to the city is filled with hillsides blanketed in box homes in various hues of ecru. But Amman is just the starting point of my small group tour. From Amman, we journey to the ruins of Jerash, Jordan’s largest Roman site, and to the famed Dead Sea, where we have time to float in the therapeutic waters. From here we head further south, to Petra, home of one of the seven new wonders of the world.

City of Amman from the Citadel
The best falafel and hummus in Amman, Hashem Restaurant
Jerash, Jordan’s largest and most interesting Roman site
Floating in the therapeutic waters of the Dead Sea
An all over mud mask at the Dead Sea
Mount Nebo, where Moses was granted a view of the promised land

We arrive at the entrance to Petra just as the sun is rising and embark on a journey that takes us between narrow gorges the colour of caramel. Our guide, a local man named Zuhair, tells us tales of bygone times; of the Nabateans, the Arab Bedouin tribe that once called Petra home. “And, if we all jump here at the exact same time, you’ll see the ground shake. 1, 2, 3…” We all jumped. Nothing. “Now look up” proclaims Zuhair. I don’t know why we all fell for such foolery, or even believed that we could make the ground move; but there, highlighted by the first rays of the day’s sunshine, the Treasury of Petra. As if in unison, a sound of awe comes from the group.

At this time of the morning, before the swarms of tourists arrive, the Treasury is peaceful. I take time capturing different angles of the magnificent facade before breaking away from the group. I settle myself in a quiet corner and observe the comings and goings happening around me. Bedouin men at work, shopkeepers setting up their stalls, tourists taking selfies, camels yawning.

The first rays of sunlight hitting the treasury
Close up of the Treasury facade
Looking back at the Treasury
The entrance to Petra at sundown

We venture deeper into Petra, past bazaars selling souvenirs; frankincense and traditional Jordanian scarfs. Past coffee houses serving fragrant Bedouin Coffee and Limonada, a Jordanian drink made of lemon juice and fresh mint leaves.

Following Zuhair’s recommendation, myself and a number of the group decide to take on the Monastery route. It doesn’t take long for us to realise that climbing an uneven, ancient rock-cut path, made of more than 800 steps, in the intense midday heat is a bad idea. The route is long and taxing, however, this soon slips my mind as we turn the final corner and are met by the impressive and imposing facade of the Monastery.

The impressive facade of the Monastery
The Cave Bar at the Monastery, a welcome respite from the sun
The Monastery route
Sunset over Petra from hotel rooftop

My Lonely Planet guidebook had somewhat prepared me for the beauty of the Treasury, with its ornate carvings and intricate detailing; but standing here in front of the 48-metre high exterior of the Monastery, I am blown away. At first glance, it looks much like the Treasury, just less ornate. However, the shapely curves, in varying shades of butterscotch, and the enormity of the rock-cut Nabataean tomb leave me speechless. I had found the highlight of my trip to Jordan, or so I thought.

The next morning we leave the ancient town of Petra and head south towards Wadi Rum. We exchange our minivan for several 4×4 vehicles and head out into a vast landscape of ancient river beds and stunning rock formations. We climb burnt orange sand dunes and visit landmarks made famous by blockbuster movies.

Wadi Rum 4×4
Wadi Rum 4×4
Climbing a sand dune, Wadi Rum
CEO Zuhair and Bedouin guides, Wadi Rum
One of the many naturally formed arches, Wadi Rum
Climbing one of the many naturally formed arches, Wadi Rum

We journey further into the desert. In the distance, we spot the silhouette of a group of Bedouins and their caravan (group) of camels – our final mode of transport for the day. I inelegantly mount one of the larger camels in the group and hold tight onto the reins, leaning back, waiting for the inevitable. The camel forces himself up off the ground, tipping me gently forward and then suddenly jerking me back, all before throwing me forward again – it’s an awkward affair!

The sunsets in a blaze over the sands as we reach our destination, an isolated Bedouin camp, just in time for dinner. We dismount our camels, deposit our belongings in the goat-haired tents that we will call home for the night, and head towards the traditionally decorated central tent. Dinner has been prepared in a customary fashion – underground in an earth oven. We gather around as a three-tiered grill, arranged with various kinds of meat and vegetables, is pulled from a hole in the sand.

Camel ride through the Valley of the Moon, Wadi Rum
Camel selfie, Wadi Rum
Setting sun casting long shadows across the desert
CEO Zuhair and myself, Wadi Rum

Our group fills their plates, and slowly their tummies. The hum of conversation fills the tent, and soon the space around the campfire. Members of the group share stories of their individual travel experiences and we discuss our day exploring the ‘Valley of the Moon’.

As the fire loses its light, the sky darkens and the stars come out in an abundance. I spot the Ursa Major and Northern Cross constellations and as my eyes adjust, the dusty white Milky Way is smeared across the sky. I stand in awe – the view is simply breathtaking. In the clear air of the desert, feeling a thousand miles away from the rush of everyday life, I make a decision to not sleep in the stifling hot tent made of goats-hair, but to sleep under the stars. It is then, as a shooting star passes overhead, and my eyes fall heavy that I know that this is my highlight of Jordan.

Traditional Bedouin dinner
CEO Zuhair sleeping under the stars, Wadi Rum
Isolated Bedouin camp, Wadi Rum
Packing up camp after a night under the stars, Wadi Rum

Now, when I utter the word ‘Jordan’ I no longer think of my obnoxious ex-boyfriend, but of an inspiring country. One filled with inspirational treasures, stunning desert landscapes, delectable dishes and some of the most kind-hearted people I’ve met while travelling.

Sunset in Amman on the final night of the tour

Notes: I discovered Jordan as part of a small group adventure tour with G Adventures. Highlights of Jordan is an eight-day guided tour with a maximum group size of 16. As a solo female traveller, I found this the best way to explore the country while not missing any of the key attractions. Prices start from £879 excluding flights. This is not a sponsored post. All thoughts and images are my own.

Let me know if you’ve ever been to Jordan or if you’re considering it!

G Adventures group with CEO Zuhair