The next day started in Aqaba, the port sister city to Eilat, where Moses and his people were said to have been lost for 40 years in the desert on his way to the Promised Land. Close to Wadi Rum, Aqaba is in the middle of Jordan’s golden triangle of tourism.
The seven pillars of wisdom that have nothing to do with wisdom
Our first stop of the day was to a viewpoint over the Seven Pillars of Wisdom. Originally known as Jabal al-Mazmar or The Mountain of the Plague, it became famous through Lawrence of Arabia’s book of the same name. The book is an autobiographical account of his life during the Arab Revolt in 1916-1918. Funny enough, this rock feature nor the desert has nothing to do with the book’s name. It’s just opportunists trying to make some money.
The main event was a little further down the road, where we all shuffled off our giant tourist bus and onto the back of Jeeps. Wind whipping through our hair, we set off into the desert, where I immediately felt trivialized by the breathtaking landscape.
A Jeep ride to remember
Known also as the Valley of the Moon, this desert has been a Hollywood favorite as it has been used in both the Martian, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Lawrence of Arabia, among others. Its surface is said to mirror that of the moons. It’s been inhabited by humans since prehistoric times.
But this desert is not like other deserts. It’s not just sand dunes. It’s not just rocks. It’s a landscape like nowhere else in the world. It’s filled with mystery and wonder, both from its past and religious significance. The rusty sand contrasts brilliantly with blue sky and the rock formations jut out to create a stunning landscape.
I sat at the top of the dune just sitting in wonderment about the world around us. It’s unbelievable to think of Moses leading his people through the desert and Lawrence of Arabia racing through the desert on horseback.
We also visited the Um Fruth Rock Bridge, a natural arch that would feel right at home in Utah’s Arches National Park. The bumpy Jeep ride back was over all too soon and our adventure at the greatest desert in the world ended on a high.
Politics uniting two strangers who live across the pond
My seatmate back on the tourist bus was a British gentleman who was infinitely more informed about American politics than I was. We had a lively conversation about a number of divisive topics facing America right now, and I was lucky enough to ask him his thoughts on Brexit. He had initially voted in favor of it and was saying how ‘stay or go’ choice initially given to the British public was really not the right one to be given.
We then shifted our conversion to the failing American political system. It was funny, discussing American politics in Jordan. Our Jordanian tour guide spoke with great pride about the success of Jordan in remaining at peace in this highly contentious region. His description of the country made me liken its status to that of Switzerland, neutral and protected by all major powers. And I felt that safety net to some extent, especially when comparing it to the previous day’s tour through Egypt. We didn’t have any checkpoints or any soldiers with guns checking our passports. The country has done remarkably well in positioning itself around countries taut with tension.
Closing out a much-too-short trip to Jordan
It was a quick trip to Jordan that left me hungry for more. While I saw what many would say are the highlights, I missed out on the authentic experience of getting to know the locals. It didn’t help that my mom kept mentioning how her trip with my sister a few years ago was far superior, having traveled with an incredible local guide that had given them insight into life there.
But alas, I can’t complain too much from my birds-eye view on that oversized tourist bus. Jordan was a beautiful country that I am grateful to have seen. I recommend it to anyone. I just may try and convince you to never ever, ever take a “Fun” Times tour.