Alex Johnson, a junior at Creighton University, participated in AMIDEAST, Amman’s semester program during the spring 2011 session. This is an excerpt of his longer blog post on the program excursion to Wadi Rum and Petra. It was originally posted by Alex on April 27, 2011.
Wadi Rum was amazing. It reminded me of the American southwest (even though I have never been there). Desert and mountains of sandstone surrounded you. We took a tour first, which consisted of us riding in the bed of a pickup that was fitted with seats. We made a few stops for some scenic views and to take a camel ride. The last stop was at the camp of Laurence of Arabia, if you don’t know who he is I would recommend looking him up because he is quite the cool guy. The ride ended at the Bedouin camp we would be spending the night. And although I’m sure this was a bit of a tourist Bedouin camp it still seem quite authentic to me if that counts for anything. There they served us all tea and we sat under a cover of a cloth fastened to a large sandstone and wooden supports. After the tea we were had ‘free time’. We split into a few groups with several people headed to climb up a little sandstone, myself included. We found a sandstone mountain that looked ripe for climbing and the eight of us stared up. To make it up about 20 feet was easy and quite safe. After that however things changed, certain places were steep and finding foot and hand holds became a harder. At that point half of our group decided to make their way back down while myself and three others kept going. I didn’t think we would go much further; it was just that competitive spirit in me that kept me going without asking any questions. Of the four of us I was the always the last in the group, which worked out quite well, I had no experience in climbing and some, possibly all, of the other people with me had climbed before. With me being last I was able to watch them and discover what they used a foot and hand holds (I was quite bad at discovering them myself). Because it was sandstone there were hand and foot holds in many places but we also learned quickly that we had to test each hold. Once you put a good amount of weight on some they would crumble, and if you were using it to support yourself you would quickly find yourself it a not so fun situation. It took about an hour and a fair amount of risk (or at least what seemed risky to me) but we made it to the top. It was a great feeling and looking down I was really amazed that I was able to do it. We took some pictures and they began our way down. The way down was, in my opinion, a bit harder and a lot scarier, but we all made it down with nothing more than a few scrapes and cuts.After getting back to the ground we walked around and did a few easier climbs until sunset. After sunset we headed back to camp for dinner. The dinner was amazing, it was cooked under the sand; they would have a covered pot about two feet deep filled with chicken, potatoes, and tomatoes. They would put hot coals at the bottom of the pit, place the pot on top of the coals, and bury the pot in sand. When it was time to eat they would dig out the pot and bring it into the tent. We would put all the cooked vegetables and meat over rice and some bread it was a delicious meal. The tent we ate in had a nice fire going in the middle and as we were eating our hosts played traditional songs. At one point our hosts got up and danced with one of the students and our program director. After a filling dinner we headed out for a night trek in the desert, it was a peaceful and relaxing walk. I returned to the camp and spent some time with the Bedouin and some other students in the dinner tent as they played music and talked with us. They had set up group tents for everyone, one for boys and one for girls, to sleep in but I decided to bring my mattresses and blankets outside to sleep under the amazingly bright moon and stars. It was a cold night and I didn’t get a lot of sleep but I still really enjoyed it. The next morning we work up around seven and had a light breakfast and they got back into the trucks and headed back to the visitor’s center to get back on our bus. Then it was off the Petra.Petra was an amazing ruin. It is an ancient Nabataean city carved into rock, and many people are familiar with the ruins because of the numerous movies it has been featured in: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Arabian Nights, Passion in the Desert, and Transformers to name a few. The city was very large and it was hard to imagine any civilization carving a city like this into rock, even if the rock was sandstone. There was a lot of interesting history I would suggest you look up if you are interested but I won’t write it out here. After seeing the first half of the city our group ate a great lunch at a tourist restaurant. We then had two and a half hours to see what we wanted. There were a few sites that we had not seen yet and with the time limit we had to split up into groups and choose one of the remaining sites. I opted to see the “The Monastery” and “the view from the end of the world”. The Monastery was a larger version of “The Treasury” (the Treasury is what is often featured in movies) but it was much less detailed. It is important to note out that the name the Treasury does represent its actual function; it was just a name given to it based off a myth which stated that the vase at the top of the ruin was filled with Egyptian gold. That myth did more damage than just a false name though, there are several bullet marks on the ruin because of treasure hunters trying to shoot it open and get the gold. The view from the end of the world was amazing and well worth the trek, after making it up to the view we all sat down and talked for around a half hour, it was a fun time. Overall Petra was a great site, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I’m sure I would have because I was so tired from the night in Wadi Rum but it was still a great time.