Simply.Just.Walking

peace is every step

Category: Jordan (page 1 of 3)

Dana Biosphere Preserve

Two hours south of Amman and close to King’s Highway lies the Dana Biosphere Reserve. My son Lorenz and his wife Ale joined us for a two day hiking experience.

For the Wadi Dana trail (16km), we started in the almost abadoned 15th century village of Dana (1700 m), and walked down  to Feynan Ecolodge (50 m below sea level). At the start, heavy  mist covered the valley, wonderful relief from the burning sun.

 

Birds were chirping, a sound not so common anymore in Jordan. The area is home to 180 species of birds and 600 species of plants. Mammals like ibex, foxes and wolfes live here.

Having lunch under a shady tree

The area of the preserve is rich in copper. 6000 years ago, copper mining started in the valley. Over 100 archeological sites document this history. The Jordan government does not allow copper mining anymore.

 

A taxi picked us up from Feynan Ecolodge. We were told that it is a two hour car drive to come  back to Dana Guesthouse (the place we were staying overnight.

Feynan Ecolodge, reachable only by 4WD

However, the car soon had a problem. It only  could only drive in the 4th gear without stopping. This worked OK in the Wadi Araba, the flat desert although there was no airconditioning and it was very hot. But as soon as we started to climb up to Dana, the car completely broke down. We had to get out and wait for a replacement.

With a sip of Whiskey, we enjoyed the sunset and the view to the Dead Sea. It took almost an hour for the next taxi to arrive.

The next day, we decided to hike the Al Ghuweir trail, a trail leading along a riverbed and through a Siq. Lorenz drove with his 4WD from Shobak castle down a windy, steep road to the entrance of the trail.

Soon the trail narrowed into the Siq. The shade was such a relief from yesterday!

We were prepared to swim through part of  the Siq, but there was no water at all. At one point, a rope was leading over a rock to the lower part. The place was described as the “waterfall”. Anna-Sophie climbed down and went farther into the Siq.

We had lunch and ate for desert a melted Austrian Zotter chocolate. Yummy!

In the evening, we picked up my car at the Shobak visitor center. After we drank tea with mint and sugar, the peope of the visitor center showed us typical Bedouine objects.

Between Petra and Wadi Rum

 It would take 6 days of hiking from Petra to Wadi Rum. Anna-Sophie and I hiked part of the trek for one day. We started in an area where heavy fighting took place between Israel and Jordan in 1967. A cemetery of fallen soldiers was speaking of this

 

We hiked down into a wadi with hardly any path visible. The uneven ground was scattered with many rocks and boulders and required utter attention. Our Bedouine guide Yusuf was looking for a dry stick for me to use as a staff. It helped. He could not speak English, but pointed to many interesting sites and plants.

 



In the middle of nowhere, a Beduine family guarding their goats invited us for tea. They were extremely nice and welcoming. When I asked if I can take a photo, they posed with their weapons.

 

Farther down the valley, we passed some places with water still in the creek.


Our host picked us up in the evening. He prepared  a typical Jordanian meal for us consisting of pieces of lamb, tomatoes, onion, potatoe, garlic and coreander. It was delicious!

Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum, the biggest Wadi in Jordan, is located in the south of Jordan and dedicated as a World Heritage site. Because of it’s beauty, Anna-Sophie wanted to do some hiking in it. We were picked up by Obeid at the visitor center, a Bedouine owning the Bedouine Life Camp. We spent two nights in his camp, a wonderful experience!
We slept outside our tent under the bright milky way and the Andromeda galaxy. Our dinner called Zarb was prepared in a cooking pit. For centuries, the Bedouines cooked their food underground in earthen ovens.

Obeid inviting us to dinner

A year ago, I had a very unpleasant experience on a camel ride. The camel threw me off. In order to overcome my fear of camels, I decided to ride a camel again. We started at 6 am in the morning, just before sunrise.

This time, an experienced Bedouine was  leading the group of camels, which were connected by a rope. They were calm. Anna-Sophie was riding on a mother camel with the baby trotting close by.

We hiked through a wadi close to the visitor center. The newly married son of Obeid was our guide. It was hard to walk in the sand, the sand was constantly filling my shoes. When it was cooler, I took off my shoes and walked barefoot. It is not the Bedouine way!

 

 
Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon,  is 278 sq mi. One has to use a camel or 4-wheel drive to get around. Obeid’ s son was driving us to different places.

At the place where the movie of Lawrence of Arabia was filmed in 1962, we stopped for tea. Down below you see Obeid’s son.

 


We also saw Nabatean petroglyphs and the place where Lawrence of Arabia lived for a while.

 

 

Three days hiking in Petra and surrounding

The area my daughter Anna-Sophie and I are hiking in is the cradle of Western civilization.  9000 years ago, people started to cultivate the land and domesticate plants and animals.The land was fertile with lots of trees and water. Now it is desert caused by constant exploitation of the resources.


Bayda, a Neolithic settlement near Little Petra. The settlement is as old as Jericho and is considered one of the earliest farming settlements in the Middle East.

A Neolithic house. At nearly 40 degree Celsius, this house had a fresh breeze and felt cool.

For three days, Anna-Sophie and I hiked different trails in Petra and Little Petra. In Little Petra, our Beduine guide Khaleb showed us many over 2000 year old water cisterns carved into the rock, water canals and tombs. They were done by the Nabateans.

 

We walked through narrow passages, over ancient stairs and steep smooth rocks. The red sand stone reminded us of Arizona. Our  guide showed us a carob tree. The dried pods, also known as St. John’s bread, tasted delicious!

In the photo below, you see a Bedouine who had used the traditional eye make up called Kohl to protect his eyes from ailment. Kohl is made by grinding a mineral called stibnite. It is the same the Egyptians used.

The next day, our hike in Petra started at 6 am. For the first 3 hours we walked with the guide Jusuf. He told us that at one time, 60 000 people lived in this place. It was a -trading center for incense, cardamon and amber. Camel caravans stopped here on their way to Damascus and India. Two major earthquakes ( 4th and 6th century) destroyed the water system, the people left and the place was abandoned.

Siq into Petra

 


Petra is one of the Seven Wonders of the World and was founded about 312BC. The city declined when the Nabateans lived unter Roman rules, mainly because the main commercial routes became sea-based. However, the latest research shows that the final abandonment of the city happened by a big flash flood.  Buildings and the water system were destroyed. Many meters of white sand from the nearby mountains still are covering the ancient Roman road. The last inhabitants left the city in 551 AD after a major earthquake destroyed the rest.

In the evening, we walked up to the monastery and continued the path in the direction of Little Petra. Our host, Shady, waited for us at the road that hardly can be called a road – luckily, he had four wheel drive.


Anna- Sophie, fascinated by a white blooming flower.

 

 

 

 

Over centuries, the area was invaded by different peoples- Romans, Crusaders, Saladin, Mamluks  and Osmans. Each civilization left a footprint. We were told that the most destructive footprint for the environment was done by the Osmans who cut all the trees down in order to build a railway. This lead to the desertification of the land.

We visited Shobak Castle, built by the crusaders. The whole area is called Shobak meaning forest. Only a few trees are left. A tunnel with 365 stairs cut into the rock led down to a well. At the end, we had climb up an about 10 m vertical shaft to the surface. The well still had water.

 

Shobak castle with visitor center in the front

 


Anna-Sophie climbing out of the deep shaft

Petra, the Ancient City of the Nabateans

Walking through the 1,2 km long narrow Siq with its 600 feet high vertical walls to the major sites of Petra is already an experience of its own. The former sacred way into Petra is spotted with niches for Gods. A sophisticated water system can be seen all along the way.

This mysterious rock ( Djinn block) stands guard in front of the entrace to the Siq.
The Siq was created once by tectonic forces which tore apart a single huge rock. On the left side you can see the carved out channel of the water way.
Part of a statue of an Nabatean trader with his camel.

The carved out tomb for the Nabatean king Aretas III (100 BC) with its Hellenistic facade is a masterpiece of craftsmanship.

There are about 500 registerd tombs in Petra. 2 major earthquakes (4th and 6th century) destroyed the city of Petra. Bedouine tribes used the site for centuries and could keep it a secret until the beginning of the 19th century.
The Romans also left their footprints in the city by building many public buildings.

This typical Bedouine music instrument is the forerunner of the violine.

Theater carved out of the red lime stone seating 3000 people.

Many Bedouines live from offering camel and donkey rides. I decided to walk the path to the monastery. My left side of the body was still hurting from the fall the day before and also I lost trust in the camel.

Path up to the monastery

High up in the cliffs stands the monumental tomb called Monastery. The crosses inside are indicators that it was once used as a Byzantine church.


From the highest point one could see into Palestinien and Israel territory.

Wadi Rum and the Camel Adventure



img_2071Wadi Rum is located at the southern part of Jordan near the Red Sea.  It is famous for its magnificent desert landscape with red rock formations and narrow canyons called Siqs. Over 30 000 petroglyphs decorate the red sandstone cliffs, a place inhabited by humans since prehistoric times. About 5000 Bedouins live now in this area, sharing their traditional life with the tourists visiting their camps.

 

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Instead of hiking, we used a 4WD Toyota Pick up Truck to discover the area. A 25 year old Bedouin was driving it.  It was an adventure by itself, as he was driving through the deep, red sand with an incredible speed.

 

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Wadi Rum is blessed with many wells and water holes in the rocks, which makes life in the extreme summer heat  possible.

 

img_9447Entrance of a narrow Siq in Wadi Rum

Walking through deep sand is like walking through deep snow – slow and exhausting.  It was great to have tea every so often  in the Bedouine tents.

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This photo is of Mohammed Mutlak Camp, where we stayed overnight. Despite sitting with the Bedouines beside the fire pit and smoking Shisha, we ate the traditional Bedouine barbecue called zerb. It is food cooked in an oven buried in sand.

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Zarb, the traditional Bedouine food.

The next morning, I decided to ride on a camel back to the village. It was supposed to be a 2 hour ride. One of the camels just recently won  the race of all the camels in Wadi Rum.

 

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The race camel was supposed to stay in the camp, but the group of camels did not want to be separated. Two strong men where holding the camel back when the little boy (maybe  10 years old) and I were riding out of the camp. Only after several meters, my camel made a wild jump and threw me out of the saddle.  I was falling into the soft sand,  just an inch away from a large rock. I was increadible thankful for that soft landing.

Wadi Attun; the Hot Spring Trail

In the middle of the desert, in a relatively unknown wadi near the Dead Sea, a small creek made the canyon into a little paradise.

The wadi is surrounded by steep, red cliffs and winds up to higher grounds. It was not always easy to find the way over the high boulders and through the dense vegetation of desert grass and high reeds.

Often, the fast flowing water was cascading down into small basins, which would usually be perfect to cool down.


However, the water was too warm to be refreshing, as hot springs were feeding the creek.



Hot water rushing down a waterfall.


The sharp edges of  palm tree leaves were scratching our arms and legs.


A group of teenagers led by two coaches were climbing up the waterfall with a rope. Lorenz looked for another path, but the terrain was too steep, so we had to turn back.

The way down the wadi was as beautiful as the way up.


Some of the water of the creek was reaching the Dead Sea, quite a rarity.

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