Last Friday we turned towards the east of Jordan, driving on route 40 into the desert towards Saudi Arabia and Iraq: We wanted to discover the Nature Reserves of Shaumari and Azraq.
Our first stop was one of the desert castles: Qasr al-Kharaneh. One of the oldest castles in the desert. Not very appealing from the outside, just a block in the middle of nowhere it offers an interesting maze when entering: rooms following rooms, followed by another room. After exploring the castle we hit the road once more.
We stopped at the Quseir Amra, an old bathhouse, but we didn’t enter. Continuing towards Shaumari Wildlife Reserve. It was completely empty, I think because of Ramadan. We only saw one tourist, but not even a guard at the cashier or anything. They welcomed us when we reached the visitor center. We were offered hikes, bikerides or a jeep tour. We finally went for the Jeep tour for one hour, which was 10,4JOD for us as students (normally 13JOD). As soon as we left the entrance area we already saw two Oryx. We were super excited and watched them for a while. But then our guide spotted a bigger herd so we moved on. We passed by a station for falcons, caught from illegal hunters which were in a programme to be reintroduced to the wild. As well as some cages for predators which also were to be freed after healing some injuries. Then we reached to a vulture for some birds, which names I forgot! They were breading them also to be saved from extinction. Moving on to the big herd, where we spotted three brown baby Oryx, apparently something which happens not too often because the parents are very protective and keep them away from the humans. While moving on we got to taste something like a “Sauerrampfer” and smelled a plant whose tea apparently makes you sleep really well… I wonder what kind of plant that is! 😉 And then we spotted two Onagers, the Arabian Zebra more or less, with only a few left in the world. They look like Donkeys, but with brown and white colors. Super shy so we only saw them from a distance, but they where watching us carefully. On the way back we saw quite a few Oryx again. And we arrived really happy to have been able to see all the animals. Maybe they will start a night tour, so you can get a chance to see the predators (wolf, hyaena and caracal. But since they are so shy, they are not sure yet, also they want to guarantee that they don’t get too familiar with the humans and stay wild.
So we moved on towards Azraq. Where we had the same when we reached, no one there, but at least someone at the Reception, to explain to us our options: Either do the small hike on our own or get a longer, guided hike. We chose the guided hike, which was supposed to be 3,7km (it was not, it was about 2km). But it was really interesting since some of the migratory birds where still there and we got to see quite a lot of different kinds. Unfortunately we didn’t see the buffaloes, but it was amazing to sit in the hide-outs and just watch what’s going on in and around the water. I caught a bird catching a snake out of the water with my camera (see the pictures).
After finishing our hike, we drove back from the other northern highway number 35, passing by the castle of Qasr Al-Hallabat, which was a lot to explore and offered several stone arches, carvings and mosaics. We stayed there until sunset, which was mind-blowing, the sky seemed to be set on fire.
All in all a long day: starting at 8am, returning at 8:30pm to Amman, driving and walking around in the desert, while you are not allowed to drink and eat in the streets and public places. And I was fasting (well I was drinking). So Henna and me were really looking forward to dinner and Kepi Cafe, who only after checking their menu and having hungrily decided on food telling us, that they didn’t serve food anymore, because they were serving all day long (in Ramadan?!). Anyways so we moved on to Oliva, for my exception of the week: Pizza Vegetariana, with a Rocca Salad as a starter shared with Henna. Then we went to Lisa’s place for a short visit and good bye to Michael, who was about to return to Germany. A friend of her came, bringing Donuts for desert. And we sat together for some time chatting and drinking tea. Then they two dropped me home: A very adventurous ride, with the driver on her phone, smoking cigarettes and taking the wrong turn several times, but I was just focussing on the city at night, enjoying passing by some places I had never seen before because of our detours.
This weekend was just amazing. I fell in love! With the nature reserve Dana.
Dana is a biosphere nature reserve in the middle of Jordan. Not too far away from Petra. I had it on my must go and visit list, but it was more of a coincidence I ended up there this weekend. And also the drive of Henna, who really wanted to go there. Thanks to her for pushing me to go! Henna and me were planning our trip, when we found out that two more colleagues (Katharina, Svenja and Anne) were planing on going as well. So we decided to share the expenses of the car and go together.
On Thursday after our Arabic mid-term exam (for which I didn’t learn at all because I was packing for the trip) we went to the Kempinski, where we were to meet with the others and pick up the car. After some chaos because one of us couldn’t find her phone, we were finally good to go (after finding the phone). So we drove towards Dana. A road which has become quite familiar to me, the highway in direction of Wadi Rum (my second love here in Jordan). After passing through the outskirts of Amman, Henna found the perfect words: “This really looks boring”. So after some time of driving through boring desert, we took a right and were on our way to Dana. Just after a few kilometres the landscape changed drastically: It was green farmland all around us. And when we reached Dana there were trees around and mountains. We drove to our check-in point, where we were welcomed with tea. After sorting out how to go to the camp in the evening we left for an afternoon hike. We were on a one way route and planned to return. But then we became adventurous and went cross-country down the mountain. It was more challenging than expected and at some point I was holding the rock I was holding on to in my hands and watched myself sliding down for a few meters. Luckily I only got a scratch. When we finally arrived down the valley (wadi) we had to climb the opposite mountain to get back to our car. Turning around and taking a break on the way up, we look and the steep wall we were facing and asked us how the h*** we had managed to come down this way. It was really interesting to see one side being really rocky with a lot of cliffs and the other side just like a hilly green slope. Reaching the top and returning to our car we passed by a camp which seemed really nice. I’m keeping it in mind in case I should return to Dana to stay there. Then we passed through a village where we bought falafel sandwiches in a store, which we had further on our way at at viewpoint watching the colours of the sky change after the sun had set. We returned to Dana village in the dark. Since our camp was a little bit outside but the road looked really nice, we decided to try to drive: it didn’t work out! We ended up accepting a ride by our hosts who had some to see where we were because we should have arrived earlier. Then we reached our camp (Dana eco-camp) and had a nice welcome tea and chatted while the others had dinner. After a hot and nice shower it was time to go to bed.
The next morning I woke up to the rooster and the donkey having a fight about who could cry louder. I cuddled in my bed within my beduine style tent. But finally I got up to go for breakfast. We enjoyed the food with a great view. Eager to get going we rushed our hosts to drive us back to the village (I didn’t know that we could have just started to hike down the valley from the camp at that moment!) So when we reached the village, we went to the visitor center after saying goodbye to our friends who wanted to do another hike around Dana. We agreed that they would pick us up the next day around 4pm, if we shouldn’t have a connection. And off we went. Reaching the visitor center, where a very nice lady told us that we should just take the road down from the center of the village and we didn’t need to show our reservation (which included the entrance fee to Dana). So back we went, almost passing by our car. After the last houses our descent started, we had to go down about 900m. And most of them very steep in the beginning, luckily it was a serpentine road. But the rubble was really annoying. But as we found out later, very helpful: When we reached easier terrain, we both got too distracted by the nature and stumbled several times. But don’t worry, actually it’s really a good hike. Nothing really difficult included. So we passed through an ever-changing nature. We were so impressed. Really enjoyed walking for such a long time and started to get the hang of it, when it suddenly was over. We reached Feynan Lodge after a total of 5hours hiking around 2:45pm, 2 tea-stops with Beduins, one in the open between his herd of sheep and goat, one in a family tent surrounded by curious children, practising their English with us, one photo-shoot break, meeting a friend from the mystic earth festival and a detour trying to walk beside the river which only worked out for a 100m before we got more or less stuck on the goat path we were on and climbed up to the “proper” trail again. When we reached the Lodge we were warmly welcomed and guided to our super fancy and romantic room, which kept both of us speechless. We took a shower and then went down again to chill in the hammock. We were thinking about joining the “Beduine experience: Bread baking”, but then we decided to be lazy and just enjoy the atmosphere of the place. Also we planned to join the sunset hike, which started at 5pm. Because of feet were really enjoying the fresh air we decided to do it barefoot. It worked out pretty well and I realised how much I missed being in the nature, really touching it. The sunset was very nice and we enjoyed another cup of tea, prepared by our guide Suleiman, before returning back to the Lodge. We reached just in time for dinner. The whole place was lit with candles and it was even more romantic than our room. The food was really tasty and a offered a huge selection of different dishes. Since it was a buffet we got to try everything we wanted. After dinner the programme continued: Guided star gazing, a refreshment of everything I learned by my amazing teacher Mrs. Firnhaber in my first school. One of the staff Hani, who I had talked to earlier, was also there and since his English was very poor I was forced to use my very few to non-existing Arabic and I realised that I really should be more around people who don’t speak English. Ali our star-guide helped me out with the word “drink” “yeschrab”. Since I couldn’t convince Henna to sleep on the roof-top we went back to our room to go to bed in our comfortable beds. Knowing we didn’t need to wake up early because we had reached our friends and agreed that they would come so we can do a hike together the next day around 11am, I really slept well.
So the next morning we enjoyed our breakfast and then were just relaxing, playing with the cats, exploring the building (which has a really nice architecture btw) and chatting with Suleiman and Ali. I enjoyed watching the everyday life at the lodge, being a little jealous of the staff working in this calming environment. When our friends finally reached, we got ready and then left towards Wadi Ghuweir (or Ghawyr or however). Luckily we had gotten a duster instead of our limousine, so we could go all the way until the entrance of the Wadi. Again we walked through a completely different nature, which was changing from a pretty open river bed into a canyon we had to climb. We went on for 2 hours into one direction. Passing by some donkeys who were with some Beduins who offered us tea which we refused, hoping we would get until the hanging rock. Also we passed by some local tourists, who were obviously surprised to see us, but even more delighted. After passing them, we found a nice spot for our lunch break, where we had food to then return. We wanted to make the sunset at the salt mines of the Dead Sea. Again passing by the tourists, reaching the beduins, who really insisted on us riding their donkeys. Which we refused again and again, until we finally understood that they were asking if we had seen the third donkey. Unfortunately we hadn’t. Then we reached the car, where we all realised that we were pretty exhausted. Walking around 10-15km every day on very uneven ground to say it nicely. So we embraced the break and the car, enjoying fruits and nuts. Having a beduin, who apparently stayed at the camp we parked our car at, explain that some of our nuts were green humus (chickpeas). After our rest and meeting the beduins with the donkeys again (they hadn’t found the third one and supposed he ran home), we left towards the Dead Sea highway. Again the landscape was completely different. This time we were driving passed sand dunes. And then by something which really looked like you’d image the Savanna to look like. With not much petrol left we reached a station, where we refilled. We just missed the sunset, while looking for a place to reach down to the salt mines. So we decided to just continue driving back home to Amman. We reached after a short dinner break for our driver and I was luckily dropped directly at my place!
Thanks to all of you for the amazing weekend.
And especially for driving at this “not too well done” roads. 😉
Yesterday we went on a hike to Ajloun – the place to be during spring. Here the nature of Jordan really comes to life. Amazing flower meadows, green trees and bubbling rivers. We left from our apartment in Ajloun around 10am and reached to Souf at about 11am. Since we were in the electric car of my flat mate, we couldn’t just go anywhere. And this is another story proving the helpfulness of Jordanians: There is a Nissan Leaf group and Dareen found this lady who was willing to let us charge our car at her home. Not knowing us, never seeing us before. And not only that: When we arrived Dareen explained our plan to go to Ajloun castle, so she just took the 5! of us, half the way towards our destination. She dropped us in Ibbin, where some boys, who we asked how to go to Ajloun just organised a van for us. He took us to Ajloun castle for only 4JOD. That’s where we started our hike. It was a beautiful circular trail, which ended again at the castle. We actually wanted to walk back to Souf, but unfortunately some of us had blisters, so we decided to have a tea and called our “driver” who took us back to Souf for 6JOD. And then we drove back home to Amman. Went to books@cafe to celebrate the day with a decent glass of wine.
Thanks for sharing the photos to Nora, Henna and Dareen!
(I just realised that maybe I should’ve published this at the end of my stay… anyways…)
I want to take some time to thank all the people in my life who are supporting me and my path. Even if my decisions sometimes don’t seem easy or logical to them, I know that they will always be by my side.
… my family who are letting me go. Knowing that it’s not easy to let the youngest leave, I really appreciate that it’s ok when I am gone for sometime. Even if it’s a hard time and every now and then I wish I could be with them. But it gives me a lot of comfort to have this assurance that it is ok go choose my own path and follow where it leads me. Being abroad I have to think of my nephews every now and then, who asked: “why do you have to leave for that long time?”. That’s actually a good question, which I should really take some time to think about. They mean so much to me. Each one in my family with their own special feature. One who is super caring and comforting, one who is philosophising about the world, one who is creatively reflecting our society, one whose kindness wants to save the planet, one who is a sunshine every day, one who is incredible athletic, one who is a craftsperson and one who spreading warmth everywhere.
… my bffs, who I have known since I was 5. I miss that we don’t live in the same city anymore. I know that it has been a long time, since you left our city. But still I only really realised now, that it would have been amazing to be in the same city together all along the way. The good thing about this is, that I know no matter where we all are once we get back together it will always be as if we were never apart. Except for the fact that we are more grown up now and taking wise decisions. (Most of the time… )
… this very special woman who I would have never met, if it hadn’t been for the refugees coming to Austria. (Thanks to all of you as well) We can steal horses together (that’s a very literal translation from German, which basically means your partner in crime). But we actually can ride them at least. I admire her strength and power, she is a woman who knows what she wants to achieve in life. I love her honesty and directness. And also her gang who are the most chilled and easy going I think I have ever met in my life.
… and some more women who inspired me a lot and who I am really happy to have in my life. Sharing different phases more intensely with each other, some less, but always keeping in touch, knowing there is a special bond.
… my gemeinsam leben crew, who is working on our co-living project while I am abroad and whom I can’t wait to get back together with to just go out there and find a place which can become our home. Where we can start to build our little paradise filled with all our dreams and our vision.
… my co-students and all the people who I met during my exchange, for helping me to open my horizon once more. For being supportive when homesickness is kicking in or when it was just a shitty day or the deadlines are piling up and you still need to take a break.
… my partner, who is waiting for my return at home. I really salute to his coolness of letting me go for half a year since we haven’t been together for very long. His calm steadiness is a real support in any situation I’m facing. Not only here in Jordan, but also at home. Even if it sometimes drives me crazy that someone can be so pragmatic and cool-headed, it’s just what I need to calm down (most of the time).
… and there are just so many amazing people in my life, to whom I want to show some appreciation, that I am now facing the same challenge while giving thanks in my master thesis. Which ended up in saying thank you to everyone who helped me in the process of writing it. Which makes me consider to delete all what I just wrote and just go with a huge THANK YOU to every soul in my live, who is making my journey colourful and shining.
شكر SHUKRAN! ❤
Yesterday I was walking towards Al Webdeih to meet a friend, Karam, who left for the U.S. tonight, to say good bye. I encountered a very different way of herding the sheep… I love how the animals are just a part of the city here! I think we could learn a lot from this implicitness of the animals rights to roam around freely!
To stay in shape and to explore the city, I decided to walk to uni as often as possible… According to google maps it’s a 56 min walk… 4km long, going 97m up and 155m down… I usually take between 42 and 45 minutes! For you I documented the way with pictures:
But let me also tell you about the sounds: Leaving my place almost every time I can hear the elevator going up or down… Reaching the street there is the construction site to my left, but I don’t pass it… usually there are some cars on the street… When I reach the small roads the sounds of the street seem to be far away… sometimes the wind is very strong… coming out of this canal there is a street where I can already hear the children play… walking down the next street the chicken cackle and the cats scratching in the container looking for food… when I reach down minimum one taxi has passed me honking (asking if I want a ride) … the last bit of the street I can always hear water burbling … the street there is never dry … finally at the big road I’m usually overwhelmed by the speed the cars pass by … after managing to cross the big road I reach my favourite part … before the petrol station is a shop for cars which is always surrounded by the strangest animals, so I can hear sheep moan, chicken cackle and turkey gobbling … Then passing the mosque I sometimes ran into to call of the Muezzin (which is really super loud) … Then uphill most of the time I get lost in my heavy breathing … which is forgotten as soon as I reach the top where I ran into social life around a few shops it’s always busy with people chatting… the last part from the second circle to the first circle I don’t have to focus on my way that much anymore because the side walk is better so I get to enjoy the music I listen to (a friend created a playlist for me which I love!) … then there is the busy rainbow street with all the tourists, which I try to pass as quickly as possible … still I usually get at least one “welcome to Jordan!” … then after passing by the man who is parking the cars for the customers of “Sufra” (I think it’s a really fancy restaurant – there are always diplomats car in front) … I turn left and I’m again in a quiet street … which I just walk down greeting the construction worker and the salesmen who just opened a new shops next to the final stairs, which I have to go down to reach to my university …
I just realised that there is a lot more to add – so I will update this gallery every now and then! So this are the pictures I took today (27th of March 2019):