Written by Mimi Yu, (American University) Alum CET Jordan, Fall 2015
Although my entire semester in Jordan in the fall of 2015 was amazing, one of the most memorable weekends during that semester was that of the long trip over fall break. It was a whirlwind weekend of long bus rides, visiting breathtaking historical landmarks, and spending time with our classmates, local roommates, and language partners. Despite the fact that the busy schedule allowed for me to sleep only five hours each night, I was lively and energetic throughout the weekend, due to the exhilaration of seeing Jordan’s most beautiful sites with my own eyes.
On the first morning, we hopped on the bus at 8 to go to the Dead Sea. I slept for most of the trip, so the two-hour drive zipped by and before long, we were pulling up by the beach. The sea was such a unique experience; because the water was so salty, it made us all float. I couldn’t even stay vertical, and I kept falling onto my back or my stomach! After floating around and taking many photos, we paddled to a shallower area of the sea, where we found a lot of the Dead Sea’s famous mud. We scooped the mud all over ourselves and posed for photos. Afterwards, we all played in the beautiful hotel pool and ate lunch.
We headed back onto the bus, where we had quite the party! Our local roommates and language partners knew how to have the most fun; they blasted music over the bus speakers, and at first it was just the Jordanians dancing in a row in the aisle of the bus. But, after one song, they pulled me into the aisle too! By the end of the song, most of the Americans were dancing alongside the Jordanians to the beat of popular Arabic songs. The party and dancing made the two hours just fly by; we were dancing, singing, clapping, and laughing as the bus zipped through the desert, making sharp turns and making us all crash into the windows, which made us all laugh and clap louder!
We then stopped at Kerak Castle for about half an hour. We climbed to the top of the ruins and sat there for a while. It was great to have some peace and quiet and just imagine who lived in the castle long, long ago, and what they did. Did guards walk past the wall I was sitting on? Where did the kings and queens live? It was wonderful to just think of all the feet that had walked on the same path I was walking on. After that, we returned to the bus and drove to Petra. When we arrived at our hotel for the night, I was delighted, as the hotel was just a five minute walk from Petra itself!
The next morning, we gathered for breakfast and then walked to Petra together. Petra was absolutely breathtaking; the rock formations were just so beautiful, and again it was so incredible to think about how the people who lived there long, long ago had carved and shaped the rocks into a livable environment. There were so many animals there; donkeys, horses,
dogs, cats, and of course camels! After a few hours of walking, climbing, and exploring Petra, we returned to Al-Khazneh, the grouping of beautiful columns Petra is famous for. At Al-Khazneh, I managed to take a number of selfies with camels before I asked, using the dialect vocabulary I had been learning in class, how much it would cost for me to sit on a camel for a few minutes just for photos. The man leading two camels informed me it would be only 2 dinar, so I gladly hopped onto the camel and handed my camera to a friend to snap photos of me. I had so much fun with the camels in Petra, especially since they seem to always be smiling!
After we returned to our hotel for lunch, we hopped back onto the bus for our last destination: Wadi Rum. When we arrived, there were a few 4×4 Toyota trucks waiting for us – the ones common in America, with the flat-bed backs, except the Bedouins had turned the back into an open-air seating area, with a roof made of blankets. Six of us got onto each truck, and off we went! We sped through the desert with thrilling speed, and it was such an exhilarating experience; the truck was completely open-air, without a barrier between us and the wind. We stopped at several giant rock formations, which we hiked up–barefoot!–and took photos together at the top. We then stayed there to watch the sunset.
After 3 hours, we drove to our campsite for the night. The Bedouins cooked us a traditional Bedouin dinner in an earth oven, or “zarb”, underground. We excitedly watched and cheered as our hosts dug giant pots of chicken out of the “zarb” and brought them to the eating area. We were served amazingly delicious “dajaj” (chicken), “khubs” (bread), “shorba” (soup), and “fool” (beans). I was completely stuffed, but that didn’t stop me from going back for seconds! That night after dinner, they brought out instruments and played and danced and sang, as the stars twinkled around us. Manal brought out marshmallows, chocolate, and crackers and told us to teach our new Jordanian friends how we Americans make s’mores, which we were happy to do! Afterwards, the Bedouins served us Arabic tea and brought out shisha. It was the perfect ending to a whirlwind of a weekend; I just looked up at the beautiful night sky, with more stars than I had ever seen in my life, and just breathed in the moment.