We met up at the south bus station with Piotr and Ania early Saturday morning for a bus to Wadi Rum, a beautiful desert area in southern Jordan. Since no buses were going direct to Wadi Rum, we boarded a bus to Aqaba, which dropped us off along the desert highway 15 km from Wadi Rum. After a little negotiating, we found a driver willing to take us to Wadi Rum for a reasonable price. Wadi Rum has a nice visitors center, and here you can chose from a variety of jeep and camel safaris through the area. We decided on a 5-hour tour to all the main sites.
I woke up on Saturday refreshed and eager to see Petra. A convenient minibus direct to Petra left at 8:30am, and we arrived into the nearby town at around 10:30. Upon arrival, we found a nice, clean, inexpensive hotel recommended in one of the guide books. The best part was the free shuttle between the hotel and the Petra entrance gate that saved us both time and money. As we settled in to the hotel, my stomach had butterflies of anticipation for what I would soon see. I had been dying to see Petra for a long time, and now I was halfway across the globe, just minutes from the entrance.
We grabbed an early bus from Petra to Amman, which took a little less than three hours after which we jumped stations to take a bus to Jerash. Located northwest of Amman, Jerash is home to one of the largest and best preserved Roman cities. Among the many sites are a large hippodrome for chariot racing, two well-preserved theaters, an impressive center square lined with columns, and a half mile of paved road with groves still visible from chariot wheels. In all, we spent a couple hours viewing the main sites, and I’m very glad we made the trip. One of the best parts was the 45-minute bus ride from Amman to Jerash. The countryside was beautiful, with many hills and valley. At times I felt like I was driving through the European countryside with fertile valleys filled with a spattering of rustic farmhouses and a patchwork quilt of carefully tilled land. But my favorite sight of all was the pine trees—tall and straight and green, just like home. There are no pine trees in Egypt.
As the airport shuttle drove us out of Amman, I couldn’t help but notice how much nicer Amman is than Cairo. Cleaner, less crowded, and expanding, Amman is a welcome relief from the hectic life of the Egyptian capital. The taxis are new, clean models rather than the 1985 Fiats running around the streets of Cairo, spewing all kinds of toxic chemicals into the air. Stoplights, new skyscrapers, a minimal military presence, taxis with meters. All of these sights are microcosms of the tremendous economic, social, and political difference between Egypt and Jordan.
Interestingly, though, as I sat on the plane with my friends, waiting to return to Cairo, I thought of only one thing: I’m glad to be coming home.