Trip to Wadi Hidan

This past Saturday, I went on my last trip outside of Amman to Wadi Hidan, a wadi located near Madaba. A few of my friends and I from CLS went with a tour group, Jo Hiking. The cost for this hiking group included the transportation to and from the wadi, guides, photography, and lunch, so it was a pretty good deal.

We met at a hotel in Amman (there were other people who went on the trip too, so we totaled about 14 people) and then took a bus to Wadi Hidan, stopping along the way for a quick breakfast.

At about 10:30 we started our hike. Wadi Hidan is a hike that focuses on swimming, so for a lot of it, we were swimming in deep beautiful clear-green water, with tall rocky cliffs on either side of us. The wadi also had many areas where we had to jump off ledges into the water, slide down waterfalls, and climb down the sides of the slippery rocks using ropes– good thing we had guides with us to help us through it all!

The second half was the “harder” half, though personally I thought the first half was harder since it involved more heights. The second half was mainly climbing over rocks to make our way through the wadi. We ended by looking over a huge waterfall that let out over a gorgeous area of water surrounded by hanging trees. It truly looked like something from a fairytale. We couldn’t keep going because only professionals can climb down the waterfall, so we turned around and climbed the rocks to get out of the wadi and then started the long walk back to the bus by walking on the rocks that overlooked the wadi.

We got back to the bus at around 8 PM, thoroughly exhausted, and ate a quick dinner (that was supposed to be the lunch). The walk, though, was beautiful, and I loved the views the whole time. The only issue was that the guides said they were providing lunch, but they did not tell us that the lunch was given at the end of the hike once we got back to the hike, so no one ate a large breakfast and no one brought snacks or a large amount of water. The hike was supposed to end at about 3 pm, and we were all very hungry and thirsty by then (because they did not tell us to bring food for the hike), so when we got back at 8 without really eating all day and with limited water, we were quite exhausted and very dehydrated. Well besides the tour group’s not-amazing planning, it was a wonderful day and I got the visit the last wadi on my to-do list in Jordan. Though I am still partial to Wadi Hessa as my favorite wadi ever, Wadi Hidan was still quite beautiful.

Speaking of, from the wadis I have seen, here is my list of my rankings of the wadis I have visited in Jordan:

1. Wadi Hessa

2. Wadi Mujib

3. Wadi Rum

4. Wadi Hidan

Even though Wadi Hidan was last, it was still so amazing– it is basically a list of beyond perfectly beautiful to perfectly beautiful because all the wadis here have wow’d me so much.

Wadi Mujib

Today my friends and I went to Wadi Mujib, which is listed as one of the best things to do in Jordan as it is known for its natural beauty. Wadi Mujib is a wadi near the Dead Sea, so we took a bus from Amman to the Dead Sea and then got a taxi to take us from a spot at the Dead Sea to Wadi Mujib (there are not buses that go to Wadi Mujib). We opted to not do the longer guided route because the entrance fee with a guide is very expensive, so we haggled a lower student entrance fee, put on the mandatory live vests and were on our way!

Wadi Mujib was gorgeous. My photos cannot capture its true beauty (and the last 2 photos are of the Dead Sea) and I could only take limited photos because I wrapped my phone in about ten ziplock bags so that it would not get water damaged. A lot of the wadi involved swimming and full immersion in water, so everything we were carrying got completely soaked– thank goodness for my plentiful ziplock bag protection!

A lot of the route was quite challenging and involved climbing up small waterfalls using ropes, shimming up slippery rocks, and sliding down steep tall rocks in waterfalls. Luckily there were some ropes provided to help with the process, but many parts were quite challenging and daunting. I was glad for the challenge though, because it showed me that I can handle this type of physical and mental challenge!

At the end of the wadi is a huge waterfall (if one has a guide, one can actually go up the waterfall) so we hung out there for a bit and ate lunch before heading back. Heading back was a little more difficult because its easier to climb up a rapid than to slide down the rocks to descend, but we made it in one piece!

I probably enjoyed Wadi Hessa more, even though it was far longer and more challenging because it had similar landscapes to Wadi Mujib as well as more landscapes that were all in all, more breathtaking. I also liked how natural Wadi Hessa is– though Mujib is also natural, there are clear manmade constructions, like the ropes attached to rocks, some stairs at some parts, and nails attached to some rocks to keep them in. Wadi Hessa seemed almost unexplored and untouched, which added to its awe.

Overall, though, I had a wonderful time at the gorgeous Wadi Mujib and a great last day of my long weekend. Time for school tomorrow though; can’t believe I only have two weeks left in Jordan!

Trip to Aqaba

This past weekend, some of the CLS participants and I went to Aqaba for the weekend. Aqaba is a city in Jordan located at the northeastern tip of the Red Sea. In fact, from our hotel, we had a clear view of both Palestine and Egypt on the other side of the Red Sea! Our trip was amazing as Aqaba’s beaches are gorgeous.

We left for Aqaba Thursday evening after school and got there by bus from Amman. The bus that goes this route is actually quite nice, with air-conditioning and a few TVs from the ceilings. As it was Ramadan, people did not eat until the sunset, so it was such an interesting experience to break the fast with everyone on the bus (they even sold some food on the bus). A passenger on the bus walked around to give each person a date (one eats a date at the start of iftar), so it was such a pleasant group experience.

We got there in the night (it’s about a 4 hour drive to Aqaba) and went to a restaurant to eat some dinner before going to our hotel. Our hotel was quite cheap, and the accommodations reflected a bit of the price, BUT we had a wonderful view of the beach, as we were situated right on the beach! We hung out on the beach a bit before going to bed.

The next morning, we made some phone calls and got a deal at another hotel with a private beach. We made a few stops at some local shops to pick up some breakfast (as nothing is open during the day during Ramadan– the main souk was completely deserted!) and then headed to the beach.

The beach was so beautiful! There was a pool that overlooked the beach so we switched between swimming in the sea and pool. The water in the sea was so clear; it was amazing! In the afternoon, we went snorkeling which was so so so amazing because once one swims father out, the floor suddenly drops, and one can just see bright blue deep water as far as one can see. It was overwhelmingly beautiful.

The next day, we went to a public beach and got snorkeling gear once again. We went to see the “Japanese Gardens”, which is along the coast. It has its name because the floor is covered with different plants and fish, so it looks just like a garden. This was absolutely stunning as well. Some Jordanians started talking with us and then gave us a tour of the poisonous fish in the Red Sea (I guess good to know..?) as well as showed us a sunken tank. Not only did we also get to see an eel, but they dove down to pick different things deep in the sea and I touched various fish as well as snake skin. The craziest part was when they brought an octopus and I held it and put it on my head!!! The weirdest (and of course most fashionable) hat I’ve ever worn!

We finished the evening by eating iftar at Lebnani Snack (a Lebanese fast food place). Outside of the restaurant they were giving out free juice for people to take to break the fast and the policemen were even handing out little boxes of dates!

All in all, I love Aqaba. It is very walking-friendly as the main roads have sidewalks that are not broken or have trees planted in the middle of them (unlike the obstacle courses in Amman) and the people were so friendly. An overall great trip!!

Turtle Watching!!

This title is a little deceptive since there ended up not being turtles involved, but nonetheless, seeing turtles was our original intention.

This happened about a month ago and I’m super lazy and all, so I just got around to writing about this trip. But as always, better late than never! This trip was to the area near the city of Sur (in the Sharqiyah Region of Oman– ie: Northeastern Oman on the coast of the Gulf of Oman) to go see turtles (or as we found, a lack thereof).

We left Friday night after dinner because a) the turtle watching tours occur either late at night or at sunrise and b) we were too cheap to rent rooms in hotels, so we figured driving through the night would be the cheapest (and most fun) option.

The drive to the turtle watching reserve was an adventure in and of itself. We booked ourselves a tour (5 riales each) at a reserve called Ras al Jinz (located at the easternmost point of the Arabian Peninsula) and used google maps to for directions. The directions were pretty good until the end, when we were told to make a turn off the road and behind a Mosque. We then started driving through the sand (note, this is the middle of the night and it looked like a scene from a horror movie where the monster attacks the people in the middle of the wilderness). As I scrolled to the final destination listed on google maps on my phone, I realized that it stopped in the middle of the beach, ways away from the reserve. We decided to follow the signs on the road pointed to the reserve instead, a call we probably should have made at the beginning. Our next adventure occurred as we neared the reserve and pulled over next to a car with two Omani men to ask for directions to the reserve (just to make sure we were going the right way). They told us that we were close and that they would take us there, but that we had missed a turn and had to go back a little bit. We were about to follow them but then we looked up and saw a sign for the reserve a few feet away for the entrance to the reserve. So I’m not really sure where the Omani men were planning to take us…

Anyway, it was about 2 AM now and the tour started at 6 AM so we had some time to kill. We wanted to go hang out on the beach for a while, but could not go on the beach at the reserve (people pay to camp near the beach there) and they kindly offered to let us stay in the parking lot, but instead we drove back a little bit in the direction we came from and stopped on an empty beach. We spread out a blanket and hung out there for the next 4 hours (the sky was so clear and I saw my first shooting stars!). We also found a lot of crabs and had fun playing (errr chasing) them.

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Meet our new friend!

Right before 6, the sun started to rise and it was one of the most magical moments I have ever experienced: being on the eastern most part of the Arabian Peninsula (i.e. being one of the first people to watch the sunrise), on a gorgeous beach with our new crab friends (and human friends, so that’s always good), as the Adhan (call to prayer) played on the mosque behind us. I have no words to describe this moment besides “magical”.

We then went back to the reserve and joined the other large groups of tourists there to see the turtles. A bus took us down to a gorgeous beach and a guide informed us that he was on the lookout for turtles.

Unfortunately, we did not see any turtles (the man promised us that they were there the night before— though I suspect they might always say that). I do not, however, regret the trip, because the beach was gorgeous, I got to collect some shells for my collection, and our crab friends were also present on this beach. One of my friends and I climbed some rocks on the edge of the beach and sat on the top of them to get a fantastic view of the beach as the sun rose. It was absolutely stunning.

The ride back was tiring (considering the all-nighter we had just pulled) but the drive was lovely because it the road ran along the coast. Oman’s natural beauty is stunning and I am so glad that I got to experience more of it with this amazing turtle-less trip.

Spring Break

I haven’t written a blog post in a while, and I’m sorry about that! I have been pretty busy, but luckily today was a bit more low-key, so I’ll try to update my blog a little bit. Last week was Spring Break, and it was my first Spring Break in a while not with my friends at the beach! Actually, I did spend many of my days this past week at the beach with friends, but this break was definitely very different from my past vacations on the beach in Florida. At first I was not looking forward to my break at all because my break does not align with my host family’s vacations (so they worked and went to school last week) and I was afraid that I was going to be under home arrest for 10 days (since I cannot drive here, no one would be home, and there is no public transportation). Alhumduhlillah, we talked to the man who drives us to school, and he agreed to take us wherever we wanted any day for 5 riales each day ($13, but since I went with Anna and Liz, we got to split the costs amongst ourselves). This development certainly made my Spring Break amazing!

  • Thursday I went to Mac’s house and slept there. Though I have to say that my life reached a low when I went to bed earlier than her 4-year-old host brother.
  • Friday Mac, Kirby, and I took part in another modeling photo shoot (for a different salon). Again we got lots of Arabic makeup and hairstyles! It was only for head shots though, so unfortunately, we did not get to wear elaborate outfits. I am still waiting for the photos from the photoshoot!
  • Sunday I met up with Anna, Liz, and Kirby, and we went to City Center (our favorite mall in Muscat) and hung out there during the day. Since I don’t really go shopping very much here in Oman, and I am a (since Oman, recovering) shopaholic, it was lots of fun to go shopping. Though I have to say, due to my lack of shopping, my shopping stamina and interest has gone down tremendously!
  • Monday I hung around my house and caught up on some homework and reading. In the evening, I went to the US Ambassador’s house to celebrate the first night of Passover! I’m going to write a separate blog post on this experience.
  • Tuesday we had plans to all go to Wadi Al Shabb together, but these plans fell through, so I hung out in the house and finished more homework and watched a movie.
  • Wednesday Liz, Anna, and I went to Shatti Al-Qurum (the beach area with restaurants that we so love) and we hung out in a cafe, went for a long walk on the beach, ate lunch, and then walked some more on the beach. The weather was beautiful and the beach was gorgeous; it was overall an amazing day.

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  • Thursday I went to Oman Dive Center with Anna and Liz. Oman Dive Center is the beach area that our program took us to on our first day in Oman. It is a gorgeous private beach that is visited mostly by expatriates, allowing us to be able to wear bathing suits and swim. There is also a pool, so that is fun too. We hung out there in the morning and swam, ate lunch, and then swam a bit more until our hurried departure when I had an allergic reaction and had to go to the hospital. I’ll write a blog post about that as well. No worries though, I’m fine now!

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  • Friday was our last AMIDEAST excursion. We went snorkeling and it was a wonderful trip! We met up (all the NSLI-Y and YES girls) and first went on a small motorboat to see dolphins. We had to go out in the water for a bit to see them, but we finally spotted a few of them and got to go pretty close! Then we went to a calm area of the water that has a lot of fish and we got to go snorkeling, aka, I got to check off an item on my bucket list that I have wanted to do for a long time! The water was so clear and we got to see gorgeous fish—even parrotfish! Then we went for a late lunch (by late, I mean late… it was 4 PM) at a yummy Turkish restaurant before heading home. It was an amazing day!
  • Saturday I hung out at home and finished up some reading and homework. My Spring Break was already over!