Experiencing Israel and Jordan
Israel & Jordan in 14 Days
The question I’ve been asked most often – both before I left and since I’ve returned from my trip to Israel and Jordan is: “Is it safe?”. I can honestly say that it is. Yes, there is a heavier police and military presence in both countries than we are used to here in Canada, but that is unfortunately the way of our world now-a-days!
The small group trip I participated in was a National Geographic Journey by G Adventures which had a number of unique experiences and fantastic inclusions. It is an intense trip, full of multi-level discoveries and discussions focusing on the history, culture, religion as well as political, social and geographical complexities of the region. The days were full, as we packed in so many sights with a week in each country.
Some highlights for me were:
The old city, with its four Quarters: Armenian, Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Having a dual narrative walking tour (Palestinian and Israeli guides) for our time here meant learning about the history and cultures from two perspectives, which was amazing. Contrasts between the areas were remarkable, walking the streets that I’ve learned about from a young age brought history to life, seeing the devotees going about their daily lives was moving. We spent four nights in Jerusalem, with day trips to Bethlehem and Nazareth – and I could go back and spend more time there, as there is so much to see.
We had a Palestinian refugee camp visit – which isn’t something that is on the regular itinerary for most people visiting Israel. During our brief visit, we spoke with some local teenage boys about what it was like to grow-up and live in the camp, what their dreams and hopes for their future are. Afterwards, we visited a Palestinian home for a home-cooked meal – an unusual opportunity and not something you could do on your own!
We visited the Yad Vashem Memorial (Holocaust) where we spent half a day. It gave us a sobering view into the history and lives of Jewish people over the years. The video-recordings of survivors of the Holocaust were especially moving, and brought their experiences to life in a way that you don’t get from just reading about it.
Floating in the Dead Sea
Floating in the Dead Sea was a bizarre experience. You really do float in the weirdest way, its almost impossible to put your feet down once you are floating! I made the mistake of trying to flip onto my stomach in the water (rather un-gracefully) and was rewarded with the saltiest water in my mouth and nose – which burned like crazy! In Israel, we visited the Dead Sea during the holiday of Eid (the Festival of Sacrifice, the second most important festival in the Muslim Calendar). This meant that the beach at the Dead Sea was full of Muslim families spending time together during their holidays – quite the cultural experience!
Jordan and first stop, Petra
Petra is a must see for anyone heading to Jordan. As one of the “New 7 Wonders of the World” and a World Heritage Site, it is awe inspiring. An early morning wake-up call to beat the crowds into the site meant we arrived at the Treasury before anyone else. Even having seen many pictures in the past it didn’t disappoint and was amazing. Petra is a massive area and we spent a full day hiking around the site on some of the less travelled trails to viewpoints. Another highlight is the Monastery, an 800 step climb up to it in the heat of the day is hard, but there are lots of places to stop along the way and get some shade and a rest, with the local bedouin ladies offering tea and cold water. The hike is definitely worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat!
Wadi Rum in the Jordanian desert is also a great experience and we spent the night in a tented camp. Taking a walk at night with a local bedouin was a great inclusion, having our food cooked under the sand, the 4×4 jeep drives that we took to see the sunset and an early morning camel ride made the time go by far too quickly.
Last Few Days
We saw so much more than this – many historic sites like Jerash, Masada, and stayed at some truly unique places. Two nights were spent at a Kibbutz resort on the Sea of Galilee in Israel – which was also a fantastic experience. On the Friday evening we were able to participate in some family time of games and community as the locals and other guests spent an evening together on the grounds of the property. I would highly recommend both countries as incredible places to visit. If you have more time, you can easily fill it with an extension of extra days in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Amman or even a return trip to Petra.
December 8, 2016