Photograpy and thoughts from a life worth living. Currently traveling indefinitely through SE Asia, the Mediterranean region, Europe, India, and more. Contact me via the links below! Photos shot with Ricoh GR and GoPro Hero 3+ Black.
Wadi Rum, Jordan. In the northern Arabian Desert lies the Valley of the Moon, a stunning lunar-esque landscape that has been inhabited since prehistoric times by the Nabataeans and now predominantly by the Bedouins. Over the past few years eco-tourism has hit it’s stride here, and today group tours of the gorgeous valley via jeep or camel and overnight camping trips have become a major source of income for the local population. It’s easy to see why more people are adding this beautiful place to their Jordanian experience - I’ve never in my life seen stars that come close to what can be seen here in the open desert and the day tours of the landscape are breathtaking. The unbelievable night sky, coupled with the hospitality of the Bedouin people and serenity of camping in the middle of nowhere make for one of the best experiences I’ve had anywhere.
The best budget option for an overnight stay is to book a tour with Salem’s family, recommended to us by our hotel in Petra (Saba’a) and one I highly recommend as well. They’re fantastic. Visit their website or Facebook page for details and click here for more Wadi Rum posts!
Wadi Rum, Jordan. I’m at a loss for words when it comes to describing this fascinating place, which hosts some of the most extraordinary desert scenery in the world. While made famous by the exploits of Lawrence of Arabia and various films using it’s backdrop, these red sands maintain a stillness and portal to the past that I’ve simply never found elsewhere. The sandstone rock formations and arches formed over thousands of years are out of this world and are somehow made more beautiful as the colors change with the angle of the sun. Sunrises and sunsets glow as well as you’ll ever witness, and the night sky is quite possibly the best I will ever see for the rest of my life. On this night, the shining Milky Way stretched from one end of the new moon sky to the other with no light pollution whatsoever - I’ve never seen anything like it, let alone imagined ever seeing so many shooting stars at once. I’ve seen to a lot of top destinations, but a short stay here rightfully nears the top of that list and has pushed my trip over the edge in the best way possible. I need to find my way back to Wadi Rum immediately.
Wadi Rum, Jordan. Camels have roamed these lands for thousands of years, being a vital piece of survival for every desert dwelling population that called these lands home in the past. The animal is depicted on Nabataean drawings in various canyons, rock faces, and caves that span the landscape, some believed to be up to 2,000 years old.
Petra, Jordan [4 of 4]. Seeing this vast landscape takes time, and most of it is spent climbing the stairs and steep pathways that wind up the cliffs to sprawling vistas and sacred places of the past, like that of the High Place of Sacrifice that reigns over central Petra. Towards the end of the main road through the city, an arduous hike up the mountain will lead you to the Monastery, the second most well known structure and the largest carved building in Petra that puts the facade of the famous Treasury to shame. Crawling a bit higher will give you sweeping views of the Monastery below and what spans endlessly beyond the Petra grounds in all directions. Fortunately the tops of most of the cliffs seen here can be reached if you have the energy, and many of the climbs will yield unrelenting views of the ancient city and the beautifully empty Arabian desert that surrounds it, which are in a class of their own.
Petra, Jordan [3 of 4]. The “wildlife” of Petra. While most are owned and used primarily for tourism purposes, there is no shortage of life here in the desert. Camels and donkeys help to carry paying tourists around and roam the sites with the goats when free, while stray dogs and cats hunt for new friends willing to supply tummy rubs and part with their leftover lunch scraps. I’m sure there are a fair amount of desert swelling reptiles, birds, and native species in the mix as well!
Petra, Jordan [2 of 4]. After the famous entrance through the Siq to the Treasury, Petra continues in remarkable fashion. The path widens into the Street of Facades, a lane of towering tomb facades and caves on each side leading closer to the heart of the city where a 7,000 seat Nabataean/Roman Theatre adorns the hillside. Across the street and carved high into the cliffs, the Urn Tomb and the spectacular Royal Tombs come into view, each larger than the one prior. Once in the city center, stopping to explore large sites that continue to be excavated such as the Greek-influenced Colonnade Street, the Great Temple, and the only structure that has withstood previous earthquakes and flooding, the massive Girls Palace are well worth the time. Again, the scale and beauty of everything is astounding. One could spend a week or more here scrambling around the vast landscape without seeing everything, as the list of noteworthy temples, tombs, palaces, churches, hikes, viewpoints, and unassuming ruins and caves simply never ends; and the history behind it all is enough to keep you here for as long as you can stand the heat of the desert.
Petra, Jordan [1 of 4]. While it can be said about a lot of places, the phrase “impossible to put into words” surely is one accolade that is fitting for the ancient city of Petra. The scale and beauty of this place are unlike anything I’ve ever seen or imagined, and trying to comprehend its magnificence during the height of the Nabataean control of the silk, spice, and caravan trade can only begin to start by seeing it in person. With thousands of hand carved cave homes and tombs dotting each and every cliff face and endless sandstone temples and palaces of all shapes and sizes that never seem to end, Petra should be at the top of anyone’s destination list - not only for it’s beauty but for it’s fascinating history as well. The main passage into the site is a winding narrow gorge over 1km in length with walls reaching up to 180 meters high, called the “Siq,” that eventually ends in front of the city’s greatest monument - the Treasury (Al Khazneh). It’s a magnificent entrance; just try to imagine a trader travelling to a distant land land and weaving through 1.2km of menacing canyon only to be spit out in front of such an enormous and elaborate structure carved 42 meters high into a wall of rock! Even for tourists today, of course, the site is astounding. With proper acclaim attributed; however, visitors quickly realize this first stop is only the beginning of what’s to come, as there is much more to this Wonder of the World than the often-seen postcard imagery of the main attraction. In short, Petra is the most impressive place I’ve ever been.
"Little Petra." We arrived late in the day to the nearby town of Wadi Musa and decided, as a quasi-appetizer to the real site, to first head over to the lesser-visited area of Siq al-Barid a few kilometers away. Touted as Petra’s little cousin, it was a fantastic warm-up to the larger site as we had most of the area to ourselves and were free to scramble around and rock climb on our own for quite some time as the sun was disappearing behind the mountains. If you have the time, the views and serenity of this peaceful spot are definitely worth adding to your Petra experience.
The Dead Sea. Nothing beats the strange feeling of literally floating on water while reading a book with no need for a raft or any effort whatsoever. This otherworldly place was a bucket list activity for me, and one that truly offers an experience you can’t find elsewhere. We skipped the exorbitant prices charged by lakeside resorts for showers, pool access, and other amenities and instead opted for the free public beach - a small, barely accessible area that is unfortunately strewn with trash yet offers access to the same unique waters. At 427 meters (1401 ft), the lake’s shoreline is earth’s lowest point on land, the sea itself is the deepest hyper-saline lake in the world, and with 34.2% salinity is one of the saltiest known bodies of water on the planet. The greasy water, shoreline salt deposits and crystals, and mineral enriched mud renowned for its usage in dermatology and health research make for a simply fantastic experience, with added points for views of Israel and Palestine across the pond.