Middle East Trip: From Amman to Petra, Jordan

This article is part 15 of 17 in the series Middle East Trip

8-9 January 2012

Stepping my foot in an airport named after the late Queen of Jordan, Alia al-Hussein, brings back a lot of childhood memories. This is the airport where I used to stay countless of hours on transit with my family on our way to other Middle Eastern countries. In the 90’s — long before the existence of budget airlines — Jordan used to be a getaway to neighbouring countries as its national carrier offered one of the best and cheapest price compared to other airlines. My family took advantage of it to travel to Palestine, Turkey, and Syria. Today, the fare of Jordanian Airlines may not be as cheap as Air Arabia or Fly Dubai, but it is still comparably cheaper than Emirates and the likes.

Besides getting worn out and old, Queen Alia International Airport has not changed much. The visa section and the place where we used to wait for taxis were still very much fresh in my mind. Except this time I am not taking a taxi, but a bus. By the time I wait for the bus, it’s already 10 PM. I glance around for a sign of tourists. There are few foreigners waiting for the same bus – most of them traveling alone like me. I see a woman in her 40s or 50s taking her passport, which turns out to be a UN blue passport. Dang, I wish I own that passport! It will make my life easier. I see other travelers, who seem to be too busy to start a conversation with. So I just sit down on an empty seat, alone. It feels weird to be alone after weeks of being surrounded by generous and friendly locals. CouchSurfing is a life-saver, indeed!

Off to the City of Amman

After 30 minutes waiting for the bus, we are finally heading for the city center. Amman is similar to Jeddah in so many ways. The roads, flats, and houses have a strong resemblance of Gulf cities I have visited. Compared to Amman, Jeddah is more modern and developed that Amman, with many modern high rise buildings and luxury malls around the city. The familiar feeling I have towards this city makes me feel at ease for being a lone traveler in the middle of the night. Well, at least I can speak the language! I should not be worried at all.

The bus stops by the side of a huge road with fast moving vehicles passing by. It does not look like a terminal bus to me, nor does it look like an official bus stop. But I agree to get off anyway as I do not seem to have a lot of choices.

As soon as I get off the bus, I am stormed with many taxi drivers who are offering me with crazily expensive prices to go to my hostel. I try to slash the price to half with no success. I keep on walking a few meters forward until I realize that there are only one or two taxi drivers left waiting for me to take their offer. I want to walk a bit further but it does not seem to be a good idea as I have no maps and no slightest knowledge where my hostel is actually located. Is it far from here? Is it a walking distance? No idea!

Lo and behold, I see a lone backpacker passing by, trying to get a taxi as well. I quickly call and ask him if he wants to share the ride with me. Since he is still looking for a place to stay, he agrees to follow me and probably stay at the same hostel. Alhamdulillah! At least I only need to pay half of the price!

Wadi Musa: The Gateway to Petra

The next day, on Monday morning, when most of the population of Amman is still asleep, I take the first bus to Wadi Musa, a small town next to the Rose City of Petra. I can’t hide my excitement that I am going to meet my travel mates again. My friend Asti has joined Ikmal and Nabilah in Egypt and the two of them (except Nabilah who flew back to Malaysia) has taken a ferry from Egypt to Jordan to meet me. Since I do not have a working phone with me, we have agreed to meet at the entrance of Petra.

Wadi Musa itself looks like a dead town, built mainly as a stop over place for tourists who want to visit Petra and Wadi Rum. As there is nothing much to see around the town, I go to the entrance of Petra and wait in front of the ticket counter. After waiting for almost an hour, a shop owner allows me to use his mobile phone to call my friends to make sure that they are in the right direction. Thankfully, they are! Less than an hour later, they arrive and we scream with joy 🙂 . I cannot believe that we are reunited again after almost two weeks! Most importantly, I can actually survive traveling alone despite some hiccups.

Our backpacking adventure still continues for another week before we go our separate ways. The rough plan is to couch surf with a bedouin in Wadi Musa, explore Petra, and hopefully visit Jerusalem by the end of the trip.

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