Flying from Egypt to Dubai on October 13th, 2014, I was travelling with a couple friends and as it turned out we actually had a 23 hour layover in Jordan. Sure, we could have picked a different flight and arrived in Dubai sooner but this worked out perfect as it gave us a bit of time to tour around Jordan visiting Petra and the Dead Sea.
We left Cairo at 6:45AM on Monday October 13th, 2014 and arrived in Jordan at the Amman airport at 9:00AM. After getting our visa on arrival for Jordan we exited through security and headed to the car rental area of the terminal. Here, there were many companies offering car rentals. We checked out a couple companies and decided to go with Alamo National Car Rental. They charged 45 JOD (about $63 USD) to rent an automatic Kia Picanto for 24 hours. It was a very easy and hassle-free process renting a car from them. By about 10:30 AM we were out of the airport and on our way.
I had decided I would be the driver that day and driving around Jordan was actually very easy and for the most part pretty straight forward. It was a little nerve wracking driving down the highway and seeing tanks driving alongside you. This only happened a couple times but it was a little crazy to say the least. Also, driving around Jordan security was on high alert (as it should be) and there was a strong police force on patrol. We noticed a lot of people being pulled over on the highway, most likely looking for people or for drugs.
At one point, and much to my dismay, we were driving down a regular road after getting off the main highway when I noticed a police officer ahead who was waving me to pull over. I was terrified! Getting pulled over in the middle east of all places. Not something I was looking forward to. Pulling over, the cop approached the vehicle and simply looked inside and asked where we were going. I told him we were heading to Petra. Looking around the car he could see three tourists, a map and some snacks in the back seat. Definitely nothing suspicious here! He simply said “ok” and let us continue on our way. That was much easier and stress-free than I was anticipating!
After about 3 hours of driving from the airport we arrived at the entrance of Petra, one of the seven world wonders. Petra is an ancient city carved in to rock and a pretty surreal place to visit! It is no wonder that the home of this ancient civilization is one of the seven wonders. Trying to imagine how these people, way back when, were capable of digging this city out of the rock with a limited amount of tools and technology to assist them. It really makes you admire the human spirit, determination and work ethic of these previous generations. Unfortunately you cannot enter the main structure of Petra anymore because it is falling apart inside. This was a disappointment. But whatever, we still got to see this ancient city and cross another world wonder off the list.
After wandering around the city for a couple of hours we headed back to the car. We still wanted to make it to the Dead Sea before the sun went down. It was about 3:00 PM when we left Petra and headed on our way for the Dead Sea. It was supposed to take about 2 hours to reach the Dead Sea from Petra. We would arrive shortly after 5 PM and have about an hour before sunset at 6PM. it would have worked out great too, since the Dead Sea is on the west, we would be able to see a beautiful sunset over the Dead Sea.
Unfortunately, somewhere along the way we got lost in the mountains on the way to the sea. Our directions, map and Google maps were not as complete as they could be in these mountains. We missed a turn somewhere along the way that would have taken us from high up on the mountain down to the coast and the sea. We kept driving, looking for another way but none was found and in this region none of the locals spoke much English to even ask for directions. The most gutting part of the whole thing was that we could see the Dead Sea far below us from where we were up on the mountains. We tried backtracking as well but to no avail.
6 PM rolled around and the sun went down. Unfortunately we were still lost in the mountains and getting nowhere. By this point we had given up on getting to the sea and just wanted to get back to the airport. We continued driving around the mountains following what we thought was a way out and a way back to the airport. The road came to a mountain town and somewhere in this town we were supposed to turn according to our paper map and get on a highway beck towards Amman. Unfortunately the streets were not well marked in this town and combined with the lack of light, made it all the more difficult.
Another nerve wracking experience came on the road in to this town. There is a place where it gets very narrow with a rock face on the left and a sheer drop-off on the right with no guard rails. Drivers drive on the right side of the road in Jordan just like much of the rest of the world so we were on the drop-off side. The road was barely wide enough for two people to squeak past one another and here the road rules seemed to be lacking. people just came and went and did what they pleased. There was little consideration for others and everyone seemed in a rush so getting through this narrow piece of road without falling over the edge took a bit of time.
Getting in to town and not knowing where to turn to get to the highway we tried to ask for directions but again, no-one spoke English here. Finally, it seemed our luck would change! We stopped on some random side-street in this town where we saw some locals out and about. We tried asking them directions but they didn’t understand English. However, as it turned out there was an English teacher living just up the road here (and presumably one of the only English teachers and speakers in this town). One of the locals ran to grab him. The man came and told us exactly how to get on to the highway from here and head back towards Amman.
About 10 minutes later we were out of the town, on the highway and heading on our way back to the airport. It was about a 3 hour drive from here back to the airport. It was after 7pm now and after our early morning flight from Egypt combined with over 500km of driving that day, I was getting very tired. I needed to pull over on the side of the road at one point for a quick power nap. It was about 10:30 PM when we made it back to the airport. We returned the car and found a Starbucks in the airport where we put a few chairs together and slept quite comfortably for the night before our early morning flight the next day to Dubai! It was an exciting day in Jordan and quite the experience driving around a middle eastern country for the first time. I am glad we did it, if for no other reason than visiting Petra.