You can't do that in MoabThe Delta check-in agent at Pittsburgh's airport was shocked that anyone would want to go to Jordan. For fun. She kept asking if my friends and I worked there or had family in the Middle East. We told her we wanted to go desert hiking. She goes, "You can't do that in Moab?"
We have since returned from Jordan, which is the most hospitable developing country I've ever visited. Every day we fielded dozens of strangers' invitations in for tea, smiled when they'd cheer "Obama" when we told them we were from the U.S., and ate copious mezza of hummous, tabbouli, baba ganouj, foul, and pita. Upon learning that some in our group love the local dish "mansaf," our cab driver on the way to the airport the last night lamented our departure, because he wanted us to come have mansaf with his family. He may also have been hoping to marry Amy to his oldest son, that part was a little unclear.
Petra, the partially excavated city of the ancient Nabataeans, beat Machu Picchu in archeological scope and lack of tourists (at least on the alternate hike into the ruins we took). We hiked and camped in the Wadi Rum desert for three days, with part of the group on camels, and part walking. Our gracious guides at Wadi Rum Adventures cooked feasts for lunch and dinner (including veggie bean dishes for me), and made the sand hiking look effortless. We stargazed and sang Bedouin songs at night.
The snorkeling at Aqaba, along the Red Sea, is some of the best I've ever seen, and Rani, our host at the Bedouin Moon Hotel was incredibly helpful. He called all of the hotels in Downtown Amman before we headed there to work out a deal (which ended up being far cheaper than anything in our Rough Guide). Eilat, Aqaba's sister city in Israel was also gorgeous, but waaay more ritzy. Although the Israeli border guards were pretty jovial when we interrupted their dinner (and again, there was talk of marrying Amy off).
I can't extol the virtues of Jordan enough. People everywhere kept saying "welcome" and parents would nudge their children toward us, prompting them to welcome us, too. It's as if there were some giant tourism campaign and everybody was in on it. Merchants would ask about my family, not in an effort to bilk me or sell trinkets, but because they genuinely cared. Oh, and the whole not having vowels thing was pretty fun, too. Made for some amusing signs.
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