3 days at the Dead Sea, Petra, and Wadi Rum

Written by Ian Edwards (Gonzaga University) Student Correspondent CET Jordan, Summer 2017

On our final CET-sponsored weekend excursion, all the students boarded a massive bus before spending 3 days at the Dead Sea, Petra, and Wadi Rum. We all got an early start on the day, got on the road and headed to the Dead Sea.

As we showed up to the Dead Sea around 10am on a Thursday, we were initially the only people on the beach. We all waded in and floated in the ultra-buoyant water, which was unlike anything we had ever experienced before. Although the incredibly high levels of salt in the water may be the source of swimmers’ ability to float effortlessly on the surface, it also can be a source of great pain. Several students with pre-existing scratches and scrapes found themselves dealing with a fair amount of stinging upon entering the water, and others were unlucky enough to get Dead Sea water in their eyes, which typically required an escort to shore and a healthy dose of Aquafina directly onto their eyeballs. After a couple hours at the Dead Sea, we all boarded the bus once again and prepared ourselves for a five-hour bus ride south towards Petra.

After arriving at our hotel in the town of Wadi Musa on Thursday night around 6pm, I immediately remembered that I had forgotten to grab my shoes early that morning as I walked out of our apartment in Amman to board the bus. Therefore, I had some errands to run in Wadi Musa. After walking around a bit with some friends, we parted ways and I hailed a cab and asked the driver where I could find a pair of cheap running shoes to use in Petra and Wadi Rum that weekend. Luckily for me, the driver could not have been friendlier – he asked what size shoe I wore, whether I wanted new or used shoes, and what my budget was before taking me to a small clothing store in a trash-filled back alley behind a local mosque. Not only did he take me to the store, he actually went in with me while the store owner found a pair of neon green knockoff Yeezy’s in just my size. The store owner made conversation as I tried the shoes on, and would eventually invite me to join him in his store that night for coffee. After all was said and done, my driver took me back to the hotel and we parted ways just in time for dinner.

The next day, we woke up at 5:30 to get a head-start on exploring Petra. This early wake-up call, though initially extremely taxing, turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we were able to start our exploration in relatively mild weather, whereas we left around 5 hours later feeling exhausted in near-unbearable heat. The amount of walking I did in those 5 hours in Petra was the greater than that of any other full day in Jordan, and it included climbing seemingly-endless staircases up mountains as well as traipsing through desert valleys in search of Qasr al-Bint. We saw the remains of mind-boggling architectural feats from the Nabataean era, a sacrificial alter atop one of the tallest mountains in Petra, the remains of a massive Lion-shaped fountain carved into the side of a mountain, and a room in which fourteen previously-occupied tombs that had been excavated less than fifteen years earlier covered the entire floor. After just 5 hours in Petra, it was impossible not to feel that we had not had enough time to explore the ancient city, but our time in Wadi Rum would more than make up for any lack of time in Petra.

When we arrived in Wadi Rum, we all climbed in the beds of pickup trucks driven by our Bedouin guides. We left the parking lot and our guides showed us several rock formations including canyons, massive rock arches, and small mountains in the middle of the desert. The small mountains we climbed were dwarfed in comparison to the massive mountains jutting up seemingly out of nowhere from the sand with jagged rocks and sheer cliffs. We were told that The Martian was filmed in Wadi Rum, and it was easy to see why. The landscape truly felt otherworldly and was the most awe-inspiring location I’d ever been. The vast desert and massive rock mountains seemed to go on forever, and I’m sure all of us could’ve spent days exploring the area. However, after spending the night in tents and enjoying a meal with our Bedouin hosts, we returned to Amman following an incredibly long bus ride.