It is getting more and more difficult to find ways to fill my time. I still have about a month before I can return to Turkey and traveling here in the Middle East is limited to just a few countries. So I get to spend a lot more time that usual for me waiting around to go to the next place. I think I could have stayed in Mitzpe Ramon for a long time. The hostel there was a lot like staying at your uncle’s place, it felt like a home. I did a few more hikes in the desert and then it was time to leave.

I caught a ride with another traveler who had rented a car. We drove down along the Egyptian border and then finally into Eilat. The drive through the Negev Desert was pretty incredible with the usual overwhelming scenery. The way the mountains started to get bigger near the border was a nice way to end the short trip. I came to Eilat to cross over into Jordan but also because the diving is pretty reasonably priced and supposed to be pretty good. The hostel I was staying at recommended Shalumit Diving and after a little research they seemed to be good. I did four dives in total, all from shore as it seems boat diving doesn’t really exist around here. The first dive was a purposefully sunken ship and the other three coral gardens. The diving was certainly not mind blowing but it wasn’t bad either, it fit the price pretty well so I can’t be disappointed. The dive company though was really great, instead of anything fancy it was just some rusting old vans that took us out to the sites and off we went.

Eilat was pretty boring though so as soon as I could I crossed over into Jordan and shared a taxi with a Polish family to Petra. Petra is one of those unique, over the top, world heritage sites that ranks with the Forbidden City, The Pyramids or Angkor Wat. Once I was settled into my hotel/hostel I tried to decide the best way to tour around. The tickets for the area are ridiculous, 50JD or about US$80. If you stay more than one day though the price only goes up a little. So I decided to spend the extra $15 and stay for four days. This was a good choice as the park is massive. The first night they had candles lighting part of the park for tourists. So I walked down the Sique to the treasury at night to watch the short show the local Bedouins perform for the tourists. Afterward, I had tea in one of the tents with some of the locals and then left after the candles were removed. Walking alone through the Sique with only a full moon to light the way was an incredible experience. I doubt many tourists ever see Petra this way and it was certainly one of those odd confluences of circumstance that make traveling worth it. The remainder of the time in Petra I did a lot of hiking around the different Nabataean temples and graves and through the many canyons. Petra is a truly remarkable place, it was especially made interesting by the lack of tourists there, as everywhere in the Middle East at the moment. This did, however, make the local Bedouin tribe much more aggressive trying to sell you things.

I headed down to Wadi Rum after Petra. Wadi Rum is a huge canyon in the desert that has large sand stone formations made from white and red sand. The white sand is a newer deposit and has eroded first, but now the red deposits are eroding. This makes for a breath taking desert landscape that shifts from white to red depending on what dune you are on. Some other travelers and I made a four wheel drive tour with our camp, Finding Bedouins. The tour lasted all day and took us all over the place. The scenery is stunning in a way that is absolutely peaceful. Its easy to sit for an hour and take in the tranquility, its so quiet here that you can hear the flapping of bird’s wings as they fly by, but mostly I just hear ringing in my ears all the time.

I realized though how difficult it was to get to Amman from here and one of the people at the camp had a car and was heading that way. So everyone staying in the camp decided to chip in for gas and take the convenience over the adventure. We drove the King’s Highway through some of the more scenic parts of Jordan. There are some huge land features like canyons and a few crusader castles along the way. At one point we stopped and had coffee with a man who lives by the side of the road. He was a lot of fun and took us to a dry water fall that was probably a 200 foot drop. We spent the better part of an hour rolling boulders off the dry falls and listening to them crash seconds later in the bottom. Eventually though, we made it to Amman.

I’m not really sure why I went to Amman in hind-site. I guess I thought I should see the capital and the Roman ruins around it. Really though, the capital is just a huge concrete city complete with all the noise of a capital. The first night, we went to the one part of town where the bars exist to have a nice dinner and a drink. The irony was thought that most of the bars didn’t serve alcohol. I guess this isn’t so ironic really, since this is a devout Muslim country. Eventually after walking up and down the entirety of Rainbow Street though we found a Carlsberg sign on a wall and sure enough, their was diluted, flavored ethanol inside. The evening finished after several bottles of wine and a shisha (known here as a hubley-bubley) or two. The next day the travelers from Wadi Rum all left and I stayed a few more days.

The first site that I saw that was kind of interesting was a Roman Amphitheater. I’ve seen a lot of these, but the reason this one was worthy of note was that it was located in the center of town. That made it especially unique since it spilled right into the main square. Then up on top of a hill, still in the middle of town sat the old Roman city. It had a nice museum and some not-so stunning views over the concrete homes, all of which are topped with generations of rusting satellite dishes. I also took a day trip up to Jarash. These are the largest Roman ruins on the Arabian Peninsula. The sight was pretty impressive, but having been to so many ruins from the Roman times it was hard to really get into it though. The temples must have been massive at the time though. One thing I did see though that I had never seen before was a quadroped, which is a gate where two roads come together.

I decided though that Middle Eastern city life was not for me and as fast as I could I went back to the serene desert-scape of Wadi Rum. I came back to the same camp as the owner Audah and his Finnish fiance are such great hosts. I spend my time now looking at the desert and thinking a lot and helping around the camp. I make some small hikes and do a little work for myself. The internet is not so good here, but that’s OK as this gives me lots of time to drink tea with the Bedouins and learn about their lifestyle. Also there is a fresh group of tourists every night, so I am always meeting new people.

I’ll stay here for a few more days and then it is off to Egypt. There is a ferry from Aqaba in the south to the Sinai. This seems the most convenient so I avoid the borders of Israel and all the questions and fees that go along with it. I think I will stay in Dahab for some time diving some more. Then off to some more dive sites around the Red Sea and finally end up in Cairo to see the Pyramids. Depending on the time I will head back to Turkey or find somewhere else to stay a week or so.

I finally figured out what it was about Jerusalem that made it so much more interesting. After seeing Petra, I realized the Jerusalem is still alive. Unlike Angkor Wat or an ancient Roman city, or Petra, Jerusalem is still fully functional, no imagination required, the other cities are dead. It is sort of like seeing a part of a whale skeleton fossilized in the desert versus swimming with a whale in the open sea. Anyway, I’m also doing well, aside from just traveling. I’ve started looking at the job market to slowly think about reintegrating into the society of the stationary. Sometimes I feel a bit stale compared to when I was a fresh grad but I don’t think that’s really the case. I also can’t wait to get back to my dear Slick and get her repaired and ready to go for the voyage back to the US.