The Middle East does not exactly come across as the most stable area in the world, but Jordan has managed to remain a relatively peaceful country, offering plenty of archaeological and natural wonders.
I rented a car and drove as follow: Amman ➜ Wadi Musa via King's Highway ➜ Wadi Rum ➜ Dead Sea ➜ Amman.
Wadi Rum is a series of valleys accentuated by a maze of monolithic rockscapes dramatically rising up from the golden desert floor. It was used as a setting for the film "The Martian", so the landscape is as close to Mars as it gets. We spent the night in a traditional Bedouin camp, before embarking on a desert jeep safari the next day.
Petra is an ancient city carved from the cliffs about 2,000 years ago. It was originally a base for trading goods between East and West. As the trade route dried up, Petra was abandoned. It was found much later by the Bedouins, who now live in the nearby village (Wadi Musa) to preserve the site.
A local bedouin offered to take us see the sunset at Little Petra, a much less touristy part of Petra. We jumped in his rundown car which the bedouin jokingly kept calling the Ferrari. It looked like it had just survived a hurricane. En route, the Ferrari got stuck in rocks so we had to abandon it. It was almost night time and we were too far out to head back, so we ended up sleeping in a makeshift camp on top of a cliff under the stars, with the occasional lizard or scorpion for company.
Our first stop in Petra was the Monastery, which was either a temple or a tomb. There are way too many monuments in Petra, so we just skipped to the main attraction, the Treasury. Built as a tomb for a king, it's called the Treasury because the bedouins believed that the urn carved above the entrance contained treasures. The urn, in fact, is riddled with bullet shots inflicted by tribesmen who tried to loot it, which turned out to be just solid rock. Less than 10% of Petra has been uncovered, yet it's already very vast. For those who don't like to walk, local bedouins were offering donkeys and camels as "air-conditioned taxis". "In Europe it's ladies first, in Petra it's donkeys first" said a bedouin, rushing past with his mule.
The Dead sea is a lake about 400m below sea level. Its water is 33% salt meaning fish and plants can not live in it (hence its name). Due to the high salt content, the water is very dense and you cannot sink in it no matter how hard you try. Going underwater is a no-no. An American tourist opened his eyes under the water, and he couldn't see for a half an hour after.
I made the mistake of going there in August, at 1PM. The temperature was a roasting 52°C (126°F), understandably the beach was deserted. I couldn't wait to jump in the sea to cool down, except the water was warm. To add a particularly sour cherry to that bitter cake, my knee had fresh wounds from the day before, so the salty water was burning like hell.
A city built over many hills, in Amman you can find Roman ruins and a hubbub of mosques, souqs and coffeehouses.
Driving on the King's highway
From Amman to Wadi Musa (Petra) is the King's Highway. The drive along that route is very scenic.