A Travellerspoint blog

Afterthoughts

Traveling in Arab World

Four months ago, I read an article on Wadi Rum in a Canadian travel magazine called Outpost. Almost instantly, I was lured by the natural wonders of this region and started to research for travel opportunities.

To some, traveling alone as a single female in the Arab world may seem daunting, given the western interpretation of how women is treated in Islam religion. Nevertheless, except the rather annoying hassles in the major Egyptian tourist towns, I found that most Arab men are in general very respectful of the opposite sex. And vice versa. After a few street pursue, love manifestations and marriage proposals, I learned quickly that polite and honest refusal is the best way to turn down a request and gain a friendship.

For most part, I felt quite comfortable doing shopping in markets or walking aimlessly on the streets and most uncomfortable in touristic sites. Occasionally, some curious and innocents stares do make me feel a little self-conscious. To start with, it is very unconventional for a muslim woman to travel by herself in a foreign country, especially if she is married. Understandably, while most locals have seen western female, rarely do a single asian female picking fruits in the market or wandering in their neighborhood. More than a few times, groups of teenagers followed me for quite a while. Finally, one courageous soul came forward and talked to me, I would in turn satisfied their curiosity by introducing myself with my broken arabic or even exchanged emails. From feeling a bit odd in the beginning, now I feel completely delighted and privileged to be asked for photographs or invited for chai (tea). What is better to break the cultural stereotype by talking to strangers, even if you only know a few arabic words and they only know a few English words? Sometime, a smile and a laugh can transcend borders.

So here are my final thoughts and impression on each country I visited on this trip:

Egypt is magical by itself with its amazing history, civilization and architecture. The genuine hospitality of the Egyptian Bedouins breathe life into the beauty of the sand dunes in the western desert and all the oasis. Each temple along the Nile is an open pictorial encyclopedia. If you observe and listen closely, you may hear the stories on the wall being told by the artist and workers who preceive their pharaohs as god. Felucca ride was a test of strength. The coptic churches and submit to Mt Sinai introduced me to more Christian history to come. Dehab, by the Red Sea, has some of the best corals and most polite shopkeepers.

Syria is definitely the hidden gem in this region. With Damascus as capitals of many ancient civilizations in the past, the old city, souq Hamadiyas and Uyammad Mosque contrast sharply with the boutiques, banks and restaurant frequent by the young and well-dressed, who too often overdose on Hollywood movies, Egyptian/ Lebanese pop and hip hop music. However, still locals in smaller towns like Hama or Homs will go out of their way to make sure your stay in their country is smooth and pleasant. One man changed his route just to make sure that I get off at the right minibus station and paid for my ride. Many other hailed down and bargain a taxi ride for me in my neediest moment. Roman architecture in Bosra and Palmyra and Apamea rival the ones in Greece.

The difference between rural and urban life is most noticable in Turkey. The best example is the all-male teahouses in the rural Muslim town Derinkuyu and the hippies Starbuck overlooking the mighty Bosphorus in trendy Bebel. The only thing they have in common is the excessive cigarette smoke. With architectures like the Topaki Palace, Aya Sofya and Blue Mosque, no wonder tourists flock to Istanbul to indulge in the Ottoman treasures.

So yes, I'm saving the best for last. Needless to say, Jordan is the highlight of my trip. And Wadi Rum is undoubtedly its soul, whispering with its seducing desert language at nights. From the moment I stepped on the bus leaving Wadi Rum, I yearned to go back for its silence and beauty. For two weeks, I slept under magnificent rock formations, watching desert foxes dining on our leftover, counting stars next to mountains illuminated by the full moon. My heart would melt, next to the fire even on cold nights, to the intoxicating allure of the Bedouin culture. Waking up to a sea of orange sand and the sound of camels is only possible in an arabian dream. I felt privileged to help prepare meals, wash dishes, dig toilets, pick firewood and load supplies to the 4x4 day after day. I felt rejuvenated to play football games, feed the goats, toss around under the blanket before sleeping with the children, watch women make bread and breastfeed. Time flies. Now only pieces of memories remain. Even without showers and flushable toilets, I was in a state of trance.

From children screaming hello on the rooftop to riding 'Summer' to submit the mountain behind the Treasury, Petra, the rose city, is another unforgettable town. It is here that I had the best family-cooked meal, the most amusing dance performances by an Bedouin elder, the coldest night in the warmest stable.

One had to admit that nowaday, too often the image of Middle East focuses almost exclusively on the negative portrait of Islamic traditionalist ideology and the action it takes to achieve its goal. Rather, too little is focused on the impressive landscape, history and nature of most muslim people. The perfect match between the land and people are often overshadowed by the complicated and conflicting balance between politics and religion.

Islam is a relatively new religion. Like its predecessor Christianity and Judaism which takes more than a millenium of warfare to evolve into what it is today, Islam is still going through phases of identification, interpretation and revolution. Mohammad's revelations in Medina and Mecca in the 7th century had led to many different schools of thoughts over the centuries and sadly, was also used by many to gain power in the name of God. With the de-colonization of most Arab countries after WWI, nationalism flourished and faded. Muslims are forced to face with the materialism and demoralization of the western culture. Is unity possible? Can the Palestinian cause be the catayst?

No matter what the history books will record, it is not the politicians, but the people who had the final say. With the selflessness and diversity of Islam and the genuine nature of most Muslims, may there be the day when lives cease to sacriface and peace come to this region to embrace all who believe in humanity.

Posted by shinenyc 22:31 Comments (0)

Touristic Istanbul

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I scrabbled through thousands of passengers at the huge Ankara bus station after 11pm and got myself a bus to Istanbul. The cost doubled this way but I had no choice. After a sleepless and freezing night, I finally arrived at my friend's flat in the trendy town of Bebel in Istanbul. Finally, a day of rest. I did nothing except walking along the mighty Borphorus river that divides Europe and Asia, taking photos of fishermen and exotic cars. I sipped my first Starbuck hot chocolate in months. Welcome back to the Starbuck society with a Starbuck generation.

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The modern tram system took me downtown early next morning. Two feline friends ran toward me when I walked towards the Topaki Palace the next morning between Roman grave stoneyard. I sat down for some purry cuddling that really warmed me up on this cold morning. The Harem, where the Sultans and his Corcubines reside, and various exhibitions are impressive proof of the opulent Ottoman empires.

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By the time I left the Topaki Palace, busloads of tourists had swallowed up Aya Sofya Square in Sultanahmet. I squeezed myself inside the Aya Sofya and managed to admire this great Byzantine architecture triumph. Built by Emperor Justinian around 530 AD, Aya Sofya is a church in the Byzantine period, then mosque during the Ottoman era, now a museum, protected by yet another feline in front of the spotlight shining on the mihrab.

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Hungury and exhausted, I sat in the courtyard of the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (Blue Mosque) to watch families and tourists. School children and young couples came over and asked me for photographs, a first in Turkey, after many from Egypt, Jordan and Syria. What a difference of friendliness between ordinary locals and tourist shop or hotel keepers. My perception of Turkey was renewed in this Islamic countyard.

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Among the many underground water storage area in this area, the Basilica cistern is one of the most magnificent constructions built by the Byzantine emperior Justinianus I around mid-550 AD. It has 336 marble columns raising out of water and capacity to hold 100,000 tonne of water. Fish swim freely in this impressive hugh 'tank' and Medusa's heads were put upside down underneath one column to prevent people who look at her turning into stone, according to ancient belief.

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My last destination of the day is the Cagaloglu Hamam, with news article from every corner in the world posted outside this 300 years old bath house. Advised as 'One of the 1000 things to see before you die', I walked into the empty reception area and was a bit shocked by the skyhigh prices on the service list. A complete service with scrubbing and massage costs $50 and pay ahead! Another tourist trap. How can a local possibly afford this?

I reluctantly paid, went into the lady's section and undressed myself in my very own room with locks. Then an old lady brought me into the famous but old steamy room with ottoman-styled faucets and sinks around a giant marble slab in the middle. After splashing water on myself for 20 minute, admiring the interior and imagining the old days where public can enjoy this beautiful bath, the old lady came back and asked me to lay down on the marble for the scrub and massage. Although she was very professional, the entire procedure took only 30 minute and I couldn't help but think that I could have had a equally enjoyable experience in a less expensive price somewhere else. I paid for the location and location is what's sell, to tourists, at least nowaday in Istanbul and in all modern cities.

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Posted by shinenyc 18:04 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Cappadocia Blue

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I secretly hope that my impression of Turkey would change after my encounters in the first 24 hours. When I was offered a private tour by the guidiance of the Open Air Museum for a ridiculously low price and invited for drinks alone by my hotel owner after watching the Whirling Devils on the next day, both were in their late 40s or 50s, I was left feeling quite cynical.

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Putting cautions aside, I chose to join others on tours for the next 2 days. The regional tour started out with Derinkuyu, one of the underground cities in the Anatolian plateau 50 kms south of Goreme. Once inhabited by over 20,000 Hittites in 8 levels of narrow tunnels, it had a cross-sized church, school with private study rooms, olive press room, crematory and 15,000 ventilation ducts. Some sections can be closed off by circular stoned doors of more than two feets in depth. After the Assyrians, Persians, Romans and Byzantines ruled this area over thousands of years, these cities are used by early Christians to hide from invaders until Christianity was allowed after Muslim took control in the 11th century.

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After lunch at a cave restaurant in Avano catered to group tourists, mostly older japanese and korean in this case, we were taken to a pottery and a jewelery store in Uchisha. I dragged myself through these tourist traps until we were taken to the Fairy Chimneys. These unique conical rock formation caused by the different rate of wind and water erosions on the top volcanic layer of basalt and softer bottom layer of tuff. Plenty of caves are visible and used by early inhabitants for religion and other purposes. The day ended with a chilly hike through the mountain opposite the Rose Valley which turned into a beautiful sea of soft orange during sunset. We drove through vast empty lands with occasional petrol stations before reaching Goreme.

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I woke up early next morning in my cave room expecting to see sunrise. To my complete surprise, the town below me had already turned bright white and snow is still falling softly. To hike or not to hike? I wondered back to sleep for another hour. The man who arranged my hiking tour seem to care less about the weather condition, but more to make a few bucks by stuffing me with a group of young Koreans from another agency, even if it means that all the spots are the same as the previous tour except the Ilhara valley. On top of that, I was told that my overnight bus reservation to Istanbul was not made on time and all buses were full.

To make up for my disappointment over this arrangement, my driver took me into a smoky, local cafe with only Muslim men playing cards and games while others went inside the underground city in Derinkuyu. I was greeted by many stares initially but everything goes back to normal after a few seconds.

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As a hiker, I put my hope on the Ilhara valley. Fortunately, the slope downhill was paved with concrete steps and walking on slippery snow along the icy river bank was more scenic than I thought. After only a few kilometres, we were treated with a simple lunch in a small restaurant and then taken back to Goreme after dark, leaving me just enough time to climb uphill to my hotel to check out with a hugh bill and rushed down the slippery slope again with my backpack, despite of the previous promise of a ride by the hotel management. They did, however, manage to make a last minute reservation for a bus to Ankara for me. 'Adjust your expectation of hospitality here, you are just another tourist to them,' I kept telling myself.

Posted by shinenyc 12:27 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Cold Turkey

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If being stranded by a deserted highway intersection at midnight in 0 degree or pulled off the hillside by someone demanded a wet kiss after a short tour did not dempen your impression in a country (where you don't speak a single word) in the first 24 hours, it will definitely make you redefine how rough your tolerance level can go when backpacking alone as a single woman.

After boarding a 5am bus from Aleppo, Syria and waiting for 5 hours to board another bus from Antanlya, Turkey to Keryseri, I was told to get on another bus supposedly going to Goreme, a town in Cappadocia area written on the ticket. That was around 11pm. I dozed off on this bus after a while and all of a sudden, the bus attendant woke me up and told me to get off the bus because this is my stop, I looked outside the window only to realize this is a highway intersection. I used my broken turkish to ask for my hotel ('otel' in turkish) and he pointed at a direction. I was deserted on the highway in a nearby town called Neveshir at midnight half awake on my first night in a country not knowing a word of the language.

I picked up my backpack and walked toward the direction where the bus attendent pointed at but there is nothing but a residential area. My brain was blank for a moment trying to stay calm and formulate a safe plan for the rest of the night. Trying to walk on a slippery icy surface carrying 30lb of lugguage on your shoulder is difficult enough, let alone you are completely lost in a foreign country. Most houses have turned off their light already at this time, I sat on an intersection with my guide book trying to phone a hostel in Goreme (where I thought I was) and hope that they will come pick me up. The call did not go through.

When an old Mercede drove pass, I had no choice but hope for the best. I waved at it and fortunately, it backed up and a woman face emerged from the open window. Since I had no idea of what she was trying to say, I pointed at the map in my guidebook. When she realized that I did not understand, she talked to her husband who was driving, turned back to me and said 'otel', then put her hands on her cheek to signal 'sleep', and told me what I thought to be 'tomorrow' 'Goreme'. At this point, the rear window lowered and a boy signaled me to get inside the car so they can take me to a nearby hotel. I was speechless. The next morning, I took a taxi to Goreme, 20 minute away.

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After checking into a hotel with my own cave room in Goreme, I went to explore the Open Air Museum. This historic area was inhabited by hedites many centuries ago who built many churches inside stone caves. Many paintings are still clearly visible nowaday. After the museum, I walked alone in a nearby area with many caves in beautiful eroded rock formation. While I was having a private moment inside a small cave, a middle-aged man, the guide, appeared outside. He introduced himself and volunteered to show me around. Although I had second thought, I went along thinking what would happen in an open area, right? Not exactly.

After showing me many more hidden churches and houses in this area for the next hour speaking turkish to me the whole time, I thanked him and started to walk away. He grasped my arm at this point and tried to pull me away and point at a cave, then signaled that I should give him a kiss. I tried to pull my body away but his hold was strong. When he showed me his wedding ring and then his tongue, 'running' is the only thought in my mind. I managed to pull myself away from his arm, and run I did. He gave up after my rude gesture. Should have never taken up his guiding service in the first place, right? Sometimes, to assume that any friendly person is out to take advantage of you when travelling seems a bit prejudice especially after the exceptional hospitality that I had received from the last 2 months. It must be a preview of the complexed world I had to go back to. A bit of adjustment in human nature will be necessary.

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Posted by shinenyc 10:21 Archived in Turkey Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

'Welcome to Syria!'

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This is the phrase that I heard over and over again on almost any streets in every town in Syria. 'Welcome' is also the answer to most questions especially when my knowledge in arabic language is only 'shew shew' (very little).

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To most westerners, Syria is not always high up on their travel destination list. However, to those considering coming to the middle east, Syria is not only a hidden gem with ancient ruins that rivals those in Athens and Rome, but also people that is tremendously friendly and ready to led a helping hand to anyone. A single woman backpacking through middle east may seem daunting to most people, but in Syria, it is almost certain that when one need help, it is literally everywhere.

I took a shared taxi to cross the border from Amman to the outskirt of Damascus, a city that claimed to have the longest inhabited city in the world. Like any other cities, tourists are target of overcharging. My taxi driver drove his car into the narrowest alley inside the famous 'Old City' only to find my hostel closed. He then took me to Al Haramine, another budget hotel on a street under construction with a 2-feet sidewalk and 3m dirt hole in the middle. It takes skill to carefully balanced myself with my heavy backpack to get into this otherwise lovely hotel. The high pressure hot water showers are the best I have taken for the past two months.

The next day, a local friend of another friend of mine took me to Maloula and Sednaya, two Christian towns less than an hour away from Damascus. We visited a few churches including Monastry of Theka who escaped from her Roman father's disapprovement of her Christianity belief. Supposedly the story goes like this: the mountain opened up for her to bypass and the wheat fields at the exit grew miraculously fast to led her father's soldier believe that she had passed for months and stopped the chase. The siq for her escape now is the proof to Christians nowaday.

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At night, I visited the huge Umayaad Mosque inside the old city and let myself soaked in the atmosphere of the famous souq Hamadeyi, a street with thousands of stores, in other word, the ancient solution of shopping mall.

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We took a bus from Sweida and rented a car to drive to Bosra, a huge ancient city built with local black basalt stone, located more than an hour south of Damascus. The Roman theatre here is perhap one of the largest in the world and definitely very impressive due to its sheer size and dark color.

Posted by shinenyc 13:45 Archived in Syria Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

A taste of Silk Road

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I took a bus from Damascus to Homs and visited the Kraz de Chevaliers, the most complete Crusader's castle in the world. Located on top of a mountain and around surrounding villages, it had almost 2000 soldiers and hundreds of horses in its glory time around 1200.

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After a short stop, I jumped into a packed minibus for a freezing journey to Palymra, a city where queen Zenobia had made famous during the Roman period. Tower tombs, oasis and magnicent Roman architecture with eastern influence is not the only attraction. Most syrian bedouins also resides here in the eastern desert and provide great hospitality.

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Another bus took me from Palmyra to Hama, a relaxing city with norias (waterwheels) and artist galleries inside the small old city alleys. A father with his baby chatted with me while I did my sketch of the waterwheels after sunset.

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On route from Hama, I visited yet another ancient city called Apamea (Afamia) and Cities of Dead. Although I was honestly a bit 'ruined out' at this point, the history and architecture never failed to impress. My friendly taxi driver, Jihad, let me drive his taxi through the Bedouin villages. The stare from Bedouin women and children from the villages almost made me uneasy at times, I must represent all 'Asians' to them.

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My last stop in Syria is Aleppo, the second largest city. The main attraction here is the citadel in the city center. With an impressive entrance and settings inside like a maze, locals and tourists climbed through walls to get the best views for the city. A group of boys followed me for a while before getting up the courage to ask for photos. I gladly accepted the opportunity. Another local merchant showed me an old insane asylum and soap factory in the old city before inviting me for tea. Just one of the many encounters and invitations from people in the country of the Silk Road, one with a modern soul formed by millions of anicent history.

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Posted by shinenyc 09:20 Archived in Syria Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Summer of Wadi Musa

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Summer is one of the thousands of Arabian working horses in Petra. She is also heavily pregnant with twins, a rarity for horses, for the last 6 months. Fortunately, she has a very loving owner in Wadi Musa, the village in close proximity to Petra. Unfortunately, she is also in danger of losing both of her babies because one of them is diagnosed 'dead' under ultrasound. Fortunately, if operation can be carried out to remove the dead fetus, both the live fetus and the mother will be saved. Unfortunately, the cost is sky high. An almost impossible price for her owner.

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There are millions of horses, donkeys and mules that work for the extremely poor population in this world. On average, one animal supports about 20 people. In countries like Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India etc, the recent oil hike means families cannot afford to use vehicles to transport their goods. As a result, horses and donkeys carry an impossible amount of goods and building materials such as bricks and steel bars walking through wet and mountainous terrain for long hours with minimum rest and food. Combined with their bad diet and improper treatment by their owners, most working animals end up having bodily injuries and internal diseases, sometime collapse to death. Heartbreaking stories are all too common.

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The Brooke Animal hospital set up by Princess Alia in Petra is one of the many Brooke clinics in the world originated by a British woman who saved thousands of carriage horses after WWI in Cairo. Nowaday, it focuses on educating owners on mutual respect for their animals and providing free medical treatment. For more information, please visit The Brooke website - http://www.thebrooke.org/.

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I came back to Wadi Musa after hearing this bad new and give support to my Bedouin family who had generously allowed me to stay with them, provided me with fabulous food and warmth in the cold nights. Together with her owner, we brought Summer to the clinic for antibiotic to treat her congestion. Because of her poor appetite, we bought apples, fresh green vegetatable and even bread to provide extra diet on top of dry hay. We also cover her stable with extra layer of wood chip from local carpenter to make sure she can sleep warm every night.

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It only took me two days and $26 to visit this historic Nabatean town. But time and money can never measure the friendship and hospitality that the local people provides. Over 30 tour buses transport more than 1200 tourists in one hour in this small town. Hundreds of these horses, donkeys and camels carry them through the Siq and up the monastry in the scorching summer heat and freezing winter days. If all tourists can spend a bit more time to understand the local culture and show their appreciation by making a minimum donation to these charities, these animals will have a much brighter future. How much do we really care for the poverty in this world?

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If you would like to help Summer's operation, please leave me a comment. With hope, I sincerely wish Summer can deliver a health baby this summer.

Posted by shinenyc 12:10 Archived in Jordan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Blibical and Wild Jordan

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As if I had not done enough trekking in Wadi Rum, my next stop is Wadi Dana, another great trekking destination north of Petra. Dana village is an ancient site protected by the Jordanian government. The entire village is built with stones and resembled any village mentioned in the bible. I was especially delighted to see donkeys and horses roaming freely in the rubbles of the stone houses, streets and aisles.

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The trek from Wadi Dana to Wadi Fenan was fairly easy, although steep at time and very rocky, not my ideal trail choice. This nature reserve are active breeding ground for protected animals such as caracat, nubian ibex, african gazelle and various birds, although sightings of their night hunters are very rare.

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After spending a night with a family in Griegra village, another Bedouin village close to the Dead sea. I headed north on the Dead Sea Highway and passed through numerous checkpoints in close proximity to the Israel border. After a short visit to the Wadi Mujib, another nature reserve close for winter, I visited Bethany, the site on Jordan River where Jesus baptised by John at age 30 before going into the wilderness. Although Jordan river is now quite polluted and muddy as ever, its reed banks had not lost one bit of its blibical aura. A family with two young girls all got baptised with a priest in the river right across from Israel territory when I arrived. A few gorgeous feline residents guarded the border with an equally gorgeous Jordanian soldier.

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Dead Sea, the lowest point on earth (400m), is where Amman beach is located. A handful of tourists stripped off in the cold weather and floated themselves in the saltest sea on earth. I, however, prefered to simply wet my feet in the waves and walked along the hard salt structure formed on the shallow edge.

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After a short stop at Mt Nebo where Moses is supposed to be bured, I finally made myself to the capital of Jordan, Amman. Old downtown Amman is a sea of beige houses built on steep mountain sides. Traffics are not as chaotic as Cairo but crossing the streets still takes some courage.

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I visited the Roman theatre and Citadel during the wet and cold afternoon and settled down at Wild Jordan, a real refute for nature-lovers in this busy city, high above downtown, for afternoon tea and some leisure reading. I then spent the next hour walking through lines of stores trying to find my way back to the cold room in my hostel.

Posted by shinenyc 13:22 Archived in Jordan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bedouin in training

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After a few days in Petra, I headed back to Wadi Rum for New Year Eve. It was a great feeling to come back to see my friends in this beautiful landscape. The night was quite uneventful, as compared to a large party set up by another travel agency for over 400 tourists. Nevertheless, it was exactly what I'd like to be - a peaceful and serene beginning to encounteract with a turbulant 2007.

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The next few days, I did some scrambling and trekking with another group of tourists from the UK. At the same time, I also helped Simone, our wonderful Bedouin chef and Salim, his assistant, to cook, wash dishes, clean up the old campground and prepare the new ones everyday. Digging a hole in the rocky desert floor for toilet is never so much fun. This background training allowed me to gain more insight into the modern life of Bedouin tourism business, and a deeper respect for these hardworking souls of the desert.

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After a few days of training, I moved from my nomadic life to stay with a Bedouin family in the rum village. A family of 6, Hader, his wife and their 6 children, welcomed me with their generous smiles, food and great hearts. We herd and fed goats, camels and played football. Aliya, the youngest daughter, learned to use all the buttons in my camera in no time by watching. She and her sister, Najee, and their siplings soon learned to take videos and direct their own movies. It is life at the simpliest and happiest.

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After two weeks in this Bedouin land, I left with a great sense of appreciation, belonging, and a broken heart.

Posted by shinenyc 12:49 Archived in Jordan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The real wonder of Petra

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For the first time, Petra, is chosen to the included in the New Seven Wonder of the World. Built by the Nabatean over 2000 years ago under Roman influence, Petra can be compared to ancient Egyptian temples built around the same era. Most buildings in this ancient city are carved out of mountains.

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Walking through the siq, created by tectonic forces thousands of years ago instead of water erosion, one cannot help but built up an excitment for the sight of the Treasury. Unfortunately, its fame had also brought in busloads of tourists from all over the world.

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I bought myself a 2-day pass. On the first day, a beautiful female arabian horse, Summer, brought me to the top of the mountains around Petra where I can look down at the siq and escape the noise of the tourists. I then walked pass the Royal Tombs and the City Centre and started a short 25 min hike up to the Monastry, which measure higher and talled than the Treasury. Quite exhausted, I shared my lunch, chicken kabab, with two kittens at the viewpoint overlooking mountains and the Araba desert 0that stretch all the way to Israel and Palestine. A bedouin guide led me up to the top of a tomb opposite the Monastry where I can sit quietly and draw. By the time I walked down from the Monastry and went through the Great Temple and Royal Tombs, the sun had almost completely set - a perfect moment to have the entire siq by myself in the dark.

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This night, I was invited to dinner by a Bedouin family from Wadi Masu (Valley of Moses) and spent the cold night next to the fire. On the second day, I ride Summer, again, with her kind Bedouin owner, Shadi, to the top of the Treasury which has a breathtaking view of the entire Petra city and stopped by the Obelisk at the Sacred Hill.

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Late afternoon, I visited Little Petra, a site with vast network of channels (also built by the Nabateans) leading water from top to bottom of beautiful sandstone mountains down to many underground resevoirs. Last by not least, I took a sidetrip to the Shobak Castle, built by King Baldwins around 1100AD but overtook by a Mumlak. Exhausted after two full days of sightseeing, I retired back to my hotel and prepared to go back to Wadi Rum for New Year Eve.

To truly appreciate a landscape, we must include its inhabitants. To truly understand oneself, we must open our minds to all cultures.

Posted by shinenyc 14:49 Archived in Jordan Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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