Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wadi Mujib

So my roommates and I rented a car yesterday, and had originally planned to drive to Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve, about an hour south, and hike in the early afternoon and then return to Amman in the late evening. By the wording of that sentence, you've probably guessed that the day didn't turn out as planned. Picking up the car took longer than expected, we took a less-than-efficient route out of the city, and, let's just say, Jordanian villagers' version of giving directions consists of some arm flailing and deceptively confident advice to keep going "dughri, dughri, dughri" ("straight" in Arabic). Rather than ending up at waterfalls by the sea, we found ourselves driving miles and miles through the mountainous desert. Not quite what we intended...

Desert driving
...but it was pretty, and there were some perqs along the way. For instance, we saw signs for the tombs of the companions of the Prophet!

"Tomps." Love the hopeless P-B confusion.
Driving through the Mujib desert, we came across a man selling jewelry on the side of the road. When we stopped to ask for directions, he told us "dughri," and clearly didn't know what he was talking about. But he offered us Bedouin tea and yummy cookies, so we sat on the couches and enjoyed the refreshments and soaked in the scenery, before continuing our drive in the wrong direction.

The nice man that fed us and tried to sell us jewelry.
Tea and cookies in the desert!
Eventually, we came across somebody who spoke enough English to laugh at us when we told him where we wanted to go. He said we needed to go due west. But if we wanted to stay on major roads, we'd first have to go north to Madaba or south to Karak, either of which route would take almost two hours. We must have looked pretty pathetic, because he then told us there was a shortcut, but we'd have to take smaller roads connecting villages, and he warned us that all the signs were in Arabic and we'd probably get lost. So we took it as a challenge. After a small accidental detour to what is supposedly a "castle" (read: two pillars and some rocks on a hilltop), we found our way. By that time, it was late afternoon, so we regrouped and agreed on a change of plans: since we were only a few miles from the Dead Sea, we'd spend the night there, then do the hike in the morning.

The Dead Sea. A happy sight after miles and miles of dry desert.
So we booked a hotel room at the Holiday Inn. Imagine a Holiday Inn in the US -- but ten times nicer. Countless pools. Several restaurants. Massive breakfast. Private beach space. Etc. After checking in, we headed downstairs and spent the afternoon sunning ourselves by one of the pools, and waited until the sun had almost set to swim in the Dead Sea (maybe you think 90 degree water sounds pleasant, but after a 100+ degree day, not so much...).

Pool area at the Holiday Inn
The sting of the salt gets old, but I don't think I could ever get tired of this view. 

Dead Sea shore
Post-swimming, we enjoyed dinner at a fancy Thai restaurant. So nice to have a break from traditional Middle Eastern food! (There is such a thing as wayyyy too much hummus.) After getting a good night's sleep and doing what three poor students do to a breakfast buffet, we headed to Wadi Mujib Nature Reserve around 8:30 am. Because it's Ramadan, there was almost nobody there -- it was just us and a small group of archaeology students from Stanford. We quickly signed a liability form, grabbed some lifejackets, and started the hike. 

My roommates and I before beginning the hike. Still dry!
Because the hike is through a canyon river that leads to a waterfall, we couldn't take our cameras with us. But I snapped one shot at the very beginning. It felt like we were in Jurassic Park!

The beginning of the hike
It's an out-and-back walk through the canyon to a 20-meter-high waterfall. It's a bit of an adventurous journey. Not a crazy, daredevil adventurous, but probably not the kind of thing you could just grab a lifejacket and go off and do in the US without guide supervision. Climbing little waterfalls with ropes. Navigating the current. Etc. But I loved the freedom of it. A great escape from the city.
A stolen picture of the canyon. 
Even if I had a picture of the waterfall, it wouldn't do the moment justice. Really an amazing experience. We stayed there for what might have been an hour, lying on our backs, letting the water wash over us. On the way back (downstream), there are sections where you can just float on your back and let yourself be carried downstream, like in a lazy river.
Post-hike. Soaking wet!
After changing into dry clothes, we headed back home to Amman, stopping along the way for some photo ops by the sea.

Now I'm back home. Sitting up on the roof of my apartment building, listening to an unusually beautiful call to prayer cutting through the buzz of traffic, the constant hum of the rooftop AC units, and the chirping of a few birds that decided Amman would be a great place to live. Enjoying the gentle breeze on a blazing hot afternoon, grateful for a still, quiet moment after an eventful weekend. Back to reality, homework to do...

A quiet Ramadan afternoon on the roof

(Update: It was a quiet moment until a fight, probably traffic-induced anger exacerbated by fasting-induced hunger, broke out on a nearby side street. Probably 20 men in the street screaming at each other. All the neighbors came out on their balconies to watch. A real spectator sport!)

1 comment:

  1. Amazing. We just googled the waterfall to see it—so SUPER amazing.