At the end of March I spent just over a week in Jordan. It was a fantastic trip because the country boasts many amazing sights and it is possible to achieve a great deal in a short amount of time.
We started our journey on the shores of the Dead Sea, a body of water with a salinity of 33.7% – that is 8.6 times saltier than the ocean! Due to this high salt content, swimming in the Dead Sea is a unique experience as you literally float like a cork! The wind was very strong while I was “swimming” and it whipped spray off the tops of the waves and into my eyes… the stinging sensation that ensued was also a very memorable experience!
Our next stop was Petra, an ancient city that I have wanted to visit since Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade came out in 1989! Petra was the capital city of the Nabataeans and is staggeringly old having been established sometime around the 6th century BC. The buildings at Petra are colossal and have been carved straight into the rose-coloured sandstone cliffs.
We only had one full day at Petra and I wanted to make the most of it… in typical fashion I insisted on getting up before dawn in order to make the most of the day. The entrance to the ancient city is through a narrow gorge called the Siq. As I wound my way through this deep gorge, all of a sudden I turned a corner and found Petra’s most famous monument, the Treasury (Al-Khazneh), towering in front of me. It was a sight that took my breath away. The canyon was still quite dark but I had lugged along my tripod and was able to photograph the Treasury before the hordes of tourists arrived.
I spent the rest of the day hiking around exploring as many of the archaeological sites as possible. Every rock face I came across had a tomb or shelter carved into it. The natural swirls and colours of the sandstone were more beautiful than any man-made painting or wallpaper.
For sunset I headed up to the “Monastery” which is about an hour’s climb from the city centre. This is Petra’s largest monument and dates from the 1st century BC. I wanted to photograph the Monastery from a slightly unusual viewpoint so I scrambled up a nearby mountain in order to get the following shot:
In total I spent 12 hours hiking around Petra with around 20kg of camera gear. By the end of the day I was exhausted, my legs were cramping and my back was in spasm. In hindsight I should have spent longer at Petra!
Our next destination was the Dana Nature Reserve. March is a very special time of year to visit Jordan because many of the wild flowers are out in bloom. We trekked into the reserve through Wadi Feinan, a beautiful lush valley. At one point we came across a camel browsing amongst the flowers… it was the final element I needed to complete my picture of this blossoming paradise.
In addition to extraordinary natural beauty, Dana also boasts some impressive archeological sites. Copper has been mined here for over 6,000 years and some of the oldest mineshafts in the world still exist today. Exploring these ancient mines was quite an adventure and I enjoyed meeting some of the cute residents.
Next stop was Wadi Rum, an area made famous by T. E. Lawrence A.K.A. “Lawrence of Arabia”. It is hard to describe Wadi Rum more eloquently than Lawrence does in his book, Seven Pillars of Wisdom:
The crags were capped in nests of domes, less hotly red than the body of the hill; rather grey and shallow. They gave the finishing semblance of Byzantine architecture to this irresistible place: this processional way greater than imagination…Our little caravan grew self-conscious, and fell dead quiet, afraid and ashamed to flaunt its smallness in the presence of such stupendous hills.
On arrival I was delighted to find the desert covered in a carpet of pretty little purple flowers. I had a field day as I ran around taking photographs of the delicate flowers against the quintessential desert backdrop. The flowers are only out for a few weeks each year so once again I had been very lucky with my timing.
We spent a magical two nights camping in heart of Wadi Rum. The desert gets terribly busy during the day as many visitors come on day trips from Petra or Aqaba. However, we found that at dawn and dusk we had the desert to ourselves, and this is when I captured many of my favourite images.
We finished the trip with a couple of nights by the Red Sea for some well-earned relaxation and a bit of scuba diving.
I would thoroughly recommend a trip to Jordan… There are few countries of comparable size that offer such variety, so much history and such astonishing natural beauty.
For more pictures from my trip, have a look at the Jordan tag.