Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Jordan on my Mind

I was recently reminded of a trip I took to Jordan in 2003 by a book I read called Naked in Baghdad. It was written by Anne Garrels, an NPR correspondent. She was in Baghdad during the runup to the war, and left via Amman just about the time I arrived there, I believe. She survived the shelling of the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad and a lot of other scary incidents.
My original plan had been to go to Iraq, but on arriving in Amman I quickly changed my mind. The closest I had ever been to the front lines in wartime was covering a hostile corporate takeover--what exactly had I been thinking?
I took advantage of being in Jordan to tour that small country at a time when prices were low and there were very few other tourists around. I enjoyed my stay at the Hisham Hotel in Amman, a homey place in a leafy setting near the French Embassy. When I returned to the hotel after a trip down south, they remembered me and had even kept a phone message--that's the kind of place it is. I paid around $40 for a room with continental breakfast. The rate now (from is around $105. The Hisham is within walking distance of the Roman Theatre downtown, one of Amman's few historical attractions.
Petra, the ancient Nabatean city featured in an Indiana Jones movie, is the undoubted highlight of the country. It is a huge site with many ancient buildings (the Treasury is the most famous,) and it would take a long time to see it all. Still, you can get a good idea of the place in two or three days, especially if you make use of the donkeys and horses that are for hire. A ticket for three days admission costs about $85. You can reach Petra by air-conditioned JETT bus from Amman for about $11.
I was one of a handful of guests at the Edom Hotel, a modern place in Wadi Musa very close to the Petra main gate. A room cost about $45 with breakfast, as I recall. It was exciting waking up to the call to prayer (live, not pre-recorded) from a nearby mosque. The rate at the Edom seems not to have changed much, according to Next door, the Movenpick is the best hotel in Wadi Musa and a worthwhile splurge at least for a meal. Rooms start at about $140 per night.
If you are an animal lover, stop and visit the Brooke Hospital for Animals near Petra main gate, where veterinarians care for the working animals of the region for free. I'll be writing more on this pleasant Middle Eastern country--while prices have risen in the past 8 years, it is still cheap compared to many other places in the world.

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