Traveling from Macedonia to Jordan always seemed like a very far and expensive destination to me, but some time ago, I decided to explore all the possibilities of how to get there. When I discovered that there was a very good and affordable connection from Sofia to Israel, which is a border country with Jordan, I immediately got the idea for my next journey. From Tel Aviv to the border in Eilat/Aqaba, it takes only 6 hours by bus.
Jordan is a monarchy and has a king, and you should be prepared to see images of the king everywhere around you, starting from the office at the border.
The most interesting part of this trip was that it was impossible to find precise visa information and tax costs for Macedonian citizens, so we took a risk and went for it. We crossed the border at the Eilat – Aqaba border crossing, and once we crossed, everything became clearer. Visa for Macedonian citizens is obtained at the border, and if you stay at least two nights in Jordan and enter Petra, then you don’t have to pay anything except for the exit fee from Jordan (10 JD). It was a relief to hear this because, based on what I had read earlier, it seemed like there was a fee of about $90.
As in most Arab countries, people were a little bit intrusive here as well. After taking our first step out of the border, we were immediately approached by dozens of taxi drivers who wanted to take us to the city. We had one crazy situation where we ended up at an improvised bus station to catch a mini-bus to Petra, and we found ourselves surrounded by a crowd of people “fighting” over who would take us in their bus. The prices they quoted were very high, so we decided to seek help from a girl who had just exited a taxi. However, the men around her surrounded her, and she couldn’t answer our question. It was evident that women don’t have a lot of rights in this country, and their place in society is defined by the men around them. Despite this, we had no other choice but to go with the guys and managed to negotiate a good price, traveling from Aqaba to Petra for only 4 JD.
An interesting thing about the transport here is that you need to bargain all the time, and it can get confusing as one man arranges the price, another drives, and a third collects the money, sometimes telling you different prices. However, we were determined to stick to the agreed price and not be swayed. Patience is key in such situations, and we had to exercise a lot of it. Along the way, the police stopped our bus a few times, and it was unsettling to notice that the first time, they only asked for passports from the male passengers, further highlighting the gender roles and inequalities present in their society.
Compared to the Israelis, the people here seem to be nicer and kinder, even if they can be pushy sometimes. We had really pleasant experiences with the people here, especially with the Bedouins who go out of their way to make you feel comfortable. They even continued our tour and took amazing photos just to see a smile on our faces. The Bedouins are honest, smiling, and seem genuinely happy to be born in the desert and living their lives in harmony with nature. Like goats climbing the rocks, they know every part of the desert and its rocks.
These people create a sense of security that, for a moment, we found ourselves following them and climbing the steep rocks with them. Almost everyone here speaks English, at least at a basic level, even the people who still live in caves. Everyone we met on the road asked us where we were from and welcomed us with big smiles.
During the bus journey from Ma’an to Petra, we had a heartwarming experience. Two girls sitting in front of us suddenly opened a box of chocolates and served them only to us. We don’t know why, maybe because it was the first day of the New Year or maybe because we were foreigners, but we truly appreciated their kind gesture.
Humus, Falafel, Kebab, vegetables, and tasty bread – you will find a great variety of food everywhere, and prices range from 1.50 JD and up (1 Jordan Dinar = 1.20 €). My advice is, when you visit Petra, bring your own drinks and food, as the restaurants around the site and inside can be quite expensive. There are a lot of mini markets in the city where you can find almost everything you need. The only thing to be aware of is that there are no written prices on anything, so be sure that as foreigners, there might be a special price for us.
The first impression when you arrive in the city of Petra is, “Where the hell are we?!?” It really looks ruined and abandoned, and to make it worse, there was a storm and a lot of rain, not a good beginning at all. But thanks to God, the next day, which was dedicated to the Petra site, was great. I advise you to stay at least one night in Petra so you can enter the site early in the morning and avoid the crowds. The entrance ticket for one day is 50 JD, and for two days, it’s 55 JD. This is the most expensive wonder of the world.
Three times a week, there is also a spectacle called “Petra by night,” where the entrance, the Siq, and the Treasury are illuminated with candles. You will sit on the ground, drinking mint tea, while the Bedouins tell you stories about the place. This pleasurable experience will cost you 17 JD and lasts about two hours. When you visit Petra, prepare to walk a lot, at least 24 km. I advise visiting Petra in the fall or spring because walking in the middle of the rocks and sand during the summer must be very difficult. The lost city looks really magical, and here we finally said, “This is the Petra that we were looking for.” It feels like you are in a movie where time has stopped years ago, so it’s no wonder why a lot of movies were filmed right here.
After the entrance, the road first leads you through the Siq, a huge red-pink canyon, and then suddenly the Treasury will magically open in front of your eyes. Here you can climb to the very top and have a wonderful panoramic view. The road to the top is really adventurous, and if you want to arrive fast, you should definitely take a guide to show you the short way.
After the Treasury you can visit the Theater, the Royal Tombs and you can finish your walk with a visit of The Monastery, to arrive there you should pass “only” 800 stairs, many horses and donkeys. Yes, the main transport here are horses and donkeys, and they are really expensive, but if you want to move to a certain place in the site without walking, it’s the only option. Poor donkeys, they were all very sad and tired.
On the way to the monastery we saw many crazy things, such as people still living in a cave, and they parked their jeep in the other cave. People who sell some weird coins and stones, but most people here sell scarves and magnets. Behind a rock that had a wonderful view over the Monastery we met one local guy, who asked us first where we are from and after he told us his philosophy about life, how he is chilling on this rock with beautiful view and he concluded his conversation with this phrase: “no wife no headache” 🙂 Another local guy told us that he moved to one of the caves here and he was very happy to stay here, he doesn’t have electricity, only water, but he also had a mobile phone with internet. Lot of stories, but the best way to understand all of these stories is to come and visit Petra. I really hope that one day you will have the opportunity to see this wonder of the world that will definitely leaves you speechless.
- WADI RUM
Have you ever watched the movies Lawrence of Arabia, The Martian, or Transformers? If the answer is yes, then you probably know that they were filmed in this desert. Only one hour and a half from Petra, you will arrive in Wadi Rum, a small village, and a huge desert. Rocks, sand dunes, canyons, bridges, and Bedouin camps – from one wonder of the world, we jumped to another one. When the weather is warmer, it’s also nice to spend one night in a Bedouin camp. But since it was winter and the temperatures at night were going below zero, we decided not to stay overnight in the desert and just take a few hours jeep tour.
The initial price for the 2-hour jeep tour was 35 JD, but we managed to get it for 30 JD, and the tour ended up lasting 3 hours. Again, it required a lot of patience and the ability to bargain. This place, once again, left us speechless, so I will not write anything more; you can read the story from the pictures. And yes, this place is on planet Earth.