I know, it’s long overdue… My bad. Even I can’t believe it’s already been a year since I went. I could still remember riding the hilly roads of Amman, climbing the rocky steps of the Lost City of Petra, and accidentally swallowing salt from floating in the Dead Sea… It seemed like it was only yesterday that I packed my insufficient amount of winter clothes inside my luggage and embarked on a holiday adventure to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
It all started three years ago when my cousin, Ate Rissa, extended an open invitation when her husband (a.k.a. my cousin-in-law – and yes it is a thing), Kuya Aaron, got assigned to work at the U.S. Embassy in Amman. Shortly after, Ate Rissa followed him there and together learned to live the Jordanian way.
From time to time, my cousin would ask me when I’d plan to come to Jordan since they were only going to be there for two years. At first, I was supposed to come during the 1st week of December 2015, but the timing wasn’t on my side having just transferred to a new job and my work visa under process… Although a year later, the situation turned out to be the complete opposite – having had my work anniversary a few weeks back and also having remaining vacation days to use up before 2016 ended. So I told my cousin, booked my ticket, and prepared for my six days in Jordan.
To remember each day that I was there would be quite difficult being that I’m writing this entry one year after. So I’ve decided to recollect moments instead…
It had been months since I saw Ate Rissa and Kuya Aaron since their trip to the U.A.E. earlier that year. Coming out of the airplane, I followed the crowd of passengers to immigration where I claimed my visa upon arrival. The visa fee was waived since I took my cousin’s advice and got a Jordan Pass online. The pass also let me visit a majority of the country’s attractions for free, including a one-day pass to Petra.
After immigration, I got my only checked-in luggage from the baggage claim and exchanged my U.S. Dollars to Jordanian Dinars before meeting my cousins at the arrivals area.
Greeted with warm tight hugs from the both of them, my body was later shocked by the winter air the moment we got out of the airport. Realizing it’s been so long since I’ve experienced less than 10 degree Celsius weather, I embraced the cool breeze and had a catch-up with Ate Rissa and Kuya Aaron in the car while on our way to Jerash.
The Roman Ruins
Known to be the one of the best-preserved Roman municipalities in the world, I was excited to enter Jerash’s massive complex of ruins. Having it been mid-December, the place wasn’t as crowded – most probably because of the gloomy weather. Unbothered by the cold air and damp grounds, my cousins (who by now have become regulars to the place) and I went around the different sites of the ancient town – from reminiscing our childhood at one of the amphitheaters to having some tea outside of Artemis’ Temple.
We covered the majority of the city for a good 2 hours despite the cold getting to our nerves.
The Hot Wine & the Purple Door
It was the season to be jolly… Ate Rissa and Kuya Aaron tagged me along their dinner date at the Four Seasons Amman with their friends, Molly and Memo where we had some scrumptious French bread and some quick bites (nuts and I felt like there were burgers, but I’m not sure haha). Alongside dinner, we had some hot wine. At first I thought it was soup because it came in a white bowl which was actually a mug. Not much of a wine drinker, I channeled my inner oenophile and took my first sip of what was literally Christmas in a cup.
Right after dinner, Molly (who had a pretty important – and awesome – role in the hotel) took us to the place’s exclusive ‘only for rich and important people’ bar and lounge. Getting in was simple, all you needed was this special card to unlock this slightly out of place purple door… Not a big deal (though Molly mentioned that the card was given to high-roller guests, so there’s the snag). The lounge was dark yet gave a very mellow atmosphere. Once we got shown around, we ended the night with some drinks custom-made by the bartender (fun fact: he based our drinks just by looking at us!)
The Lost City (w/ Eskimo Joe, Karen, and Linda)
We woke up extra early to make the most out of our day in Petra – it was around a 3-hour ride from Amman. Warm clothes and comfy shoes on (and peanut butter packed), we got in the car and drove south.
Making it before noon, Ate Rissa and Kuya Aaron decided that we do the trails that would lead us to the main sites, the Siq, the Treasury, and the Monastery. Sounded exciting (and easy) the first time they mentioned this, but boy was I wrong…
While other tourists rented a donkey or a camel for the trail, we walked and hiked… a whole lot. Bare in mind that it wasn’t just flat land; there were steps, rocky & hilly terrain and paths to conquer. There came a point where it was so cold that I couldn’t feel my ears and my legs were so tired that they felt like Jell-O on the way up to the Monastery. But we seized this day to the best of our abilities and the views were definitely worth it. I may have been out of breath from all the cardio, but the scenery provided by Petra’s mountainous landscape was just spectacular. Ate Rissa and Kuya Aaron said that we were able to do the trails in record time (if I could remember right it was around 4 hours) – so yey us!
We had dinner in the city and all dropped dead the moment we got home.
The Rainy Day
There was a day that rained pretty hard. Ate Rissa and Kuya Aaron went to work while I did some work of my own in the form of e-mails and follow-ups. Ate Rissa came home early to keep me company and that was the day where we really caught up and had deep conversation; from serious stuff like politics and world problems to just talking about our family and plans for the future.
I remember going with her to buy some beef patties for our dinner (este cheeseburgers with sweet potato fries). Then later that night, with Kuya Aaron back from work, we had some wine while playing some Mario Kart on their Nintendo Wii (with our adorable pooch spectators, Niko and Riley).
Evenings at home would be more or less similar to this, and I didn’t mind at all. They were the best.
The Eccentric City of Amman
The city wasn’t perfect. It had a lot of traffic, confusing driver behavior, and stressful road conditions while I was there.
Despite this, Amman had one of the most intriguing city landscapes that had left a strong imprint in my memory. I realized this most when Ate Rissa and I went to the Citadel, which was located at a fairly high point within the city center. Looking out at the city you would first say that this place had too many people living in it. Though from this panoramic view, I learned to appreciate the city for what it was. It may be chaotic and unorganized to some degree, but this sight is something that you won’t see anywhere else.
If you look closer you’ll see an unconventional kind of energy flowing along the city’s veins. Amongst other places, Ate Rissa and I went downtown and to Rainbow Street; we would have some food (and coffee), do some errands, and shop. It’s in these moments where you see and feel the atoms of the city move and jolt up close – through its people, culture, and life.
The Mud Monster & the Saltiest Sea
Last but not the least was going to the lowest point on Earth to float in a highly iodized body of water mid-December.
We got access to the Dead Sea via a beach resort that also had pool access… but that wasn’t what we were there for. Ate Rissa and I walked towards the beach and assessed the conditions in front of us…
“One other tourist is here. The sun is making the cold bearable. There are also chairs that we can borrow.”
Wanting to get over the thought of me swimming in the winter weather, I took off my layers and headed to the calm water. Having been to the Dead Sea on numerous occasions, Ate Rissa sat this one out and instead became my photographer/videographer.
The Golden Rule of the Dead Sea is to come in slowly and float with your back facing the water – never the front. This is to avoid getting salt anywhere near your face – because it does sting and swallowing the water is not recommended (trust me on this). Another essential tip to the Dead Sea experience would be covering yourself with mud, letting it dry for 10 minutes, and then soaking it all off in the salty water. If you want a natural skin exfoliation experience, this is the place to go!
Floating in the Dead Sea was a surreal experience. I tried to put down my feet but the water made it really difficult. The water wasn’t that bad as well, if I could recall it was perfect once my body temperature adjusted to it.
The Amman Office
Prior heading to the airport, I decided to visit my company’s Amman office to meet the team and get a little work done before my flight. Everyone was so accommodating – they offered me breakfast, a tour of the office, even made me part of one their group meetings while I was there. The energy reminded me of what we had in the Abu Dhabi office. At the end of the visit, the whole office and I got to take some photos together before leaving for my flight. I know it’s already been a year but I’ll never get tired of saying, “Thank you for the love, Lamsa’s Amman Team”!
I wish I could’ve talked about this more sooner; there were so many moments made in Jordan that I wished I took more footage and account of. This trip happened before the thought of me making a blog even materialized. Though I may have been very amateur about it before, the trip was unquestionably one of those that inspire me to be the person that I am and striving to be.
To be honest, Jordan was never on my list of place to visits initially. Though since the opportunity came, I told myself why not – it was a chance for me to spend time with family that I haven’t had quality time with since forever. I didn’t regret a single moment of this trip one bit.
P.S. On the 1st anniversary of the Jordan trip, I’d like to thank my Ate Rissa and Kuya Aaron for being amazing. That trip wouldn’t have been what it was without you two. Love and miss you both! I’ll see you… in Paris! 😉
Here’s a throwback video of the trip: